By Karen Shanton
Three states emerged from the 2012 elections with both a veto-proof legislature and divided government (government in which the governorship and upper and lower legislative chambers aren’t all held by the same party). On Thursday, Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee cut that number to two. By officially switching allegiances to the Democratic Party, the former Republican-turned-independent joined his state’s General Assembly on the left side of the fence. That leaves just Arkansas and Missouri–which both have Democratic governors and Republican veto-proof legislatures–in the club.
Chafee’s realignment, and the attendant drop in the number of states with veto-proof legislatures and divided government, drew our attention to some recent trends in partisanship in the states. For most of the past decade, the total number of states with veto-proof legislatures hovered around 12-14 and five to seven of these 12-14 had divided government. Following the 2010 elections, however, the total number of states with veto-proof legislatures shot up. Twenty-three states emerged from the 2010 elections with veto-proof legislatures and 25 had veto-proof legislatures after last year’s contests. The number of states with both veto-proof legislatures and divided government, on the other hand, dropped well off. In both 2011 and 2013 (post-Chafee realignment), just two states fit both descriptions.
There was also a noticeable change in the partisan make-up of these state governments. Prior to 2010, states with Republican governors and Democratic veto-proof legislatures outnumbered states with Democratic governors and Republican veto-proof legislatures in every biennium, by an average of five and a half to one. Since 2010, the number of states with Republican governors and Democratic veto-proof legislatures has dropped to (and held steady at) zero.