By Christopher W. Larimer, University of Northern Iowa Professor of Political Science.
As mentioned in my previous blog, state legislatures have not only become more polarized, but the issues they take up are also more “nationalized,” meaning the focus of state legislatures tends to correlate with those issues garnering national attention and debate.
In a study of state legislatures from 1991-2010, Richard Burke finds that as states become more nationalized (as measured by the correlation between statewide vote for president and votes in state legislative races), there is a decrease in the number of bills introduced in state legislatures on issues relating to education, transportation, and county and local issues. Of note, Burke finds that among Republican controlled legislatures, as nationalization increases, there is an increase in the number of bills relating to abortion (compared to non-Republican controlled legislatures).
Republicans in Iowa are now in their fifth consecutive year of unified control of state government. As reported by KWWL and in the Iowa Capital Dispatch, Republicans in the Iowa House have reintroduced a bill calling for amending the Iowa State Constitution to restrict abortion rights. The legislature and governor are also working on numerous bills relating to education, tax cuts, and other issues, but if you are wondering what state legislatures will focus on this spring, look to the national conversation.