1 in 5 State Legislators Nationwide New on the Job in 2011
CSG Sees Opportunities and Challenges
LEXINGTON, Ky.--Next year, one out of every five state legislators nationwide and in the U.S. territories will get the title of "newbie" or "rookie," according to the latest evaluation of the Nov. 2 election from The Council of State Governments.
Sure, a 20 percent turnover rate for state legislators each election cycle is typical, according to David Adkins, CSG executive director and CEO, but this year's election was historic. The turnover rate for state legislators reached 30 percent after last week's election.
"Part of the reason for this high turnover can be attributed to term limits, but perhaps most telling is the fact that this year Republicans contested 800 more legislative seats than they did in 2008," Adkins said. "Republican legislative numbers will grow in every region of the country as a result of the 2010 election. It was not a good year to be an incumbent and the strong Democratic gains of 2006 and 2008 were largely reversed by this year's results. You would have to go back to 1928 to find a year in which more state legislative seats were occupied by Republicans."
There are approximately 1,610 new state legislators in 2011, or roughly 21 percent of all state legislators nationwide and in the territories, according to CSG. Last week, nearly 82 percent of all legislative seats were up for election. Compared to 2008, which saw 79 percent of all seats on the ballots, the number of new legislators in 2011 will be around 5 percent more than what states experienced in 2009 when nearly 1,250 new legislators took office.
"From a policymaking standpoint, it represents both an opportunity and a hurdle. There seems to be such a backlash against incumbents, though this may have manifested itself best at the federal level," said John Mountjoy, CSG director of policy and research. "From an opportunity standpoint, there is a reinvigoration of new blood in state houses--new ideas, fresh perspective. On the other hand, experience counts for a lot when you are talking about policymaking and the decisions facing state leaders are not easy by any measure."
This election cycle was big for Republicans--19 state chambers flipped in party control and overall more than 50 percent of state legislators in 2011 will be Republican.
"Their challenge will be to balance campaign promises of budget cuts and fiscal austerity while somehow managing to maintain programs that constituents depend on," Mountjoy said. "Frankly, the current math simply doesn't work and entitlement reform, getting a handle on federal mandates and reining in pension shortfalls are but a few of the fiscal challenges."
The Council of State Governments is our nation’s only organization serving all three branches of state government. CSG is a region-based forum that fosters the exchange of insights and ideas to help state officials shape public policy. This offers unparalleled regional, national and international opportunities to network, develop leaders, collaborate and create problem-solving partnerships. Learn more at www.csg.org.