Midwestern Legislatures Seeing Uptick in GOP Control

May 1, 2017

The 2017 Iowa legislative session was historic in the sense that Republicans held a state government trifecta for the first time in 20 years, and the session carried some major themes including labor issues and family planning services.

On this edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with statehouse reporters across the Midwest to see what plans and proposals are being considered in their neck of the woods, as well as the political dynamics of their chambers after the 2016 election.

Wisconsin, Indiana, and Nebraska's state legislatures are under GOP control, although Nebraska operates under a nonpartisan system where candidates don't campaign under political parties. While states like Illinois and Minnesota have largely voted Democrat in the past, they had an increase in Republican turnout last election.

Minnesota has "become progressively more purple," says Brian Bakst, a political reporter for Minnesota Public Radio. "The Republicans took control of the state senate in the last election by a single seat. Few people saw that coming because the Democrats have had such a grip on that chamber over the years, and the Republicans expanded their majority in the house. It was the first time in memory where they actually gained seats in a presidential year, where they're usually a bit handicapped going into the election year because turnout by Democrats is stronger in the presidential years."

Guests this hour include: Shawn Johnson, capitol bureau chief for Wisconsin Public Radio; Fred Knapp, reporter with NET in Nebraska; Brandon Smith, statehouse bureau chief for Indiana Public Broadcasting; Brian Bakst, political reporter for Minnesota Public Radio; Brian Mackey, state government and politics reporter for Illinois Public Radio.