Extreme Policies in the States Shows That Gridlock Is Good

November 2nd, 2014

The Times, focusing on the lack of gridlock in many state houses controlled by a single party, illustrates why divided government and gridlock is good.

The trend toward one-party control of statehouses has made the states a testing ground for party policies in an era of gridlock in Washington.

Colorado, dominated entirely by Democrats, approved limits on ammunition magazines, background checks on private gun sales and in-state college tuition for some illegal immigrants, and expanded mail-in voting. Wisconsin, held solely by Republicans, sharply limited collective bargaining rights for most public sector workers, reduced early voting and expanded school vouchers. In both states, recall elections followed, and in Wisconsin thousands of protesters marched for weeks around the Capitol, while some counties in Colorado called for secession.

“The last two years were the most active policy-making years in states in years,” said Tim Storey, an elections analyst at the National Conference of State Legislatures. “And in some places I think voters may be saying, ‘Well, wait a minute, I think we need divided government or maybe some more balance here.’ ”

Using Colorado as an example, gridlock and divided government forces compromise:

In Colorado, where the Democrats won full control in 2012, there has already been fallout. Two Democrats were removed in recall elections in 2013, cutting the party’s hold on the State Senate to a single vote, and Gov. John W. Hickenlooper, a Democrat, is fighting for political survival in a tight race with Bob Beauprez, a Republican. In the State Senate, Republicans have targeted eight seats in the hope of gaining some say — though by no means complete control.

“It shortens the rudder,” Senator Bill Cadman, the Republican minority leader, said of the prospect of divided government. “You can’t take massive turns in extreme directions when the legislature’s balanced.”