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Powerful supermajorities elected to statehouses

Associated Press Modified: November 19, 2012 at 3:16 pm •  Published: November 19, 2012
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Indiana Democrats acknowledge there is little they can do.

"It's deeply troubling that my party has fallen in this position and left our state, in my view, so ill-represented," said Democratic Rep. Ed DeLaney of Indianapolis. "It's a huge challenge."

Republican supermajorities in both North Carolina chambers are likely to push for income tax cuts and sweeping education changes, including broader merit pay for public school teachers and expanded tax credits for parents who send their children to private schools. Also on the agenda: a photo identification requirement for voting that was vetoed in 2011 by Democratic Gov. Beverly Perdue.

Deflated Democrats, who haven't been so shut out of control in more than a century, hope new Republican Gov. Pat McCrory will at least consider their concerns.

"We'll go forward. We have no choice," said minority whip Rep. Deborah Ross.

In Missouri, House Speaker Tim Jones wants to advance an agenda that includes tax cuts, business incentives and education reform. The new GOP supermajority could trump any objections by Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon, who vetoed some previous business-backed bills.

"The governor will need to understand the importance of true, actual negotiation during the legislative process," Jones said.

Yet a supermajority is not a guarantee of success. With larger numbers can come more individual agendas and internal tensions.

"A very large majority ends up becoming factionalized," said Charles S. Bullock III, a longtime political science professor at the University of Georgia who teaches legislative politics. There are "people who are vying with each other, looking down the road to the next election."

Kansas is a good example of that. Republicans there gained a supermajority in both chambers in the 2010 elections but remained divided in conservative and moderate camps. They took their battle to the ballot box this year and conservatives prevailed — giving them a likely hold on 27 of 40 Kansas Senate seats and as many as 75 of 125 House seats.

After enacting massive tax cuts in 2012, some Kansas conservatives now are looking forward to trimming government and possibly pursuing more tax cuts.

"What we know from history is we can expect some overreaching of lawmakers using their newfound political might to shove things down the throat of the minority — to pass laws that are more extreme than they would have passed in the old days," Kousser said.

In California, Democrats are looking forward to having things their way. Republican Assemblyman Jim Nielsen predicts an "unprecedented spending and taxing binge" as the new Democratic supermajority attempts to reduce some of the state's recent deep budget cuts.

California Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg has outlined an agenda that includes changing the tax code and ballot initiative process and perhaps asking voters to legalize same-sex marriage.

"We will exercise this new power with strength, but also with humility and with reason," Steinberg said.

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Associated Press writers John Hanna in Topeka, Kan.; Tom LoBianco in Indianapolis; Sean Murphy in Oklahoma City; Gary D. Robertson in Raleigh, N.C.; and Don Thompson in Sacramento, Calif., contributed to this report.