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Going into the election, the GOP controlled about two-thirds of state legislatures

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

OK. We're going to get down to the state level. Going into yesterday's election, the GOP controlled about two-thirds of state legislatures around the country. NPR's Laura Benshoff is here to talk about whether that changed, if at all, and what it means.

Hey, Laura.

LAURA BENSHOFF, BYLINE: Hello.

MARTIN: All right. Any big upsets in these races?

BENSHOFF: Yeah. As you said, the GOP had control of about two-thirds of state chambers, and they control a few fewer now. Democrats have picked up houses in a couple states. In Michigan, they flipped both the House and the Senate. This is according to the Democrats in Michigan. And this is a big deal. It's been decades since the Senate chamber there was out of GOP hands. And you'll remember that there's also a Democratic governor, Gretchen Whitmer, in Michigan who just won reelection herself yesterday. And she's been this target of protests over the last few years, people coming to the Capitol when she issued stay-at-home orders. It was very antagonistic.

But now with her party in control of the state government, Whitmer is going to have a new environment, where Democrats may actually be able to enact their agenda. That's also the case in Minnesota now. It's another place where a chamber flipped. The Senate there switched from red to blue. So now Democrats control - boom, boom, boom - House, Senate, governorship. On the other side of the coin, the GOP made a play to flip some chambers in its favor in Colorado and Maine. But it doesn't look like that's happened.

MARTIN: So slim margins are hard to govern through - right? - if you control the legislature by just a narrow percentage. Let's talk about supermajorities, where a veto-proof majority effectively gets to cancel out the governor. Did we see any of those form or break up this cycle?

BENSHOFF: So the GOP was really looking to make one of those happen in Wisconsin. They have a huge advantage there in the state legislature, but they did fall short in the assembly. That's what they call the statehouse in Wisconsin. And that's significant because this is another place where you had a kind of embattled Democratic governor, Tony Evers, who just won again reelection last night. And during his first term, he vetoed more than 140 bills. If a supermajority had been attained there by the GOP, he would have lost the ability to do that.

On the other side, Dems won a supermajority in the Vermont state Legislature in both chambers. There is a GOP governor there that they can now override. And a third place where this was sort of in play was in North Carolina. There was the thought that if there was a big enough red wave, Republicans could come through and just steamroll the Democratic governor, Roy Cooper. It does not look like they have made that happen. So he will live to veto again.

MARTIN: State legislatures have a lot of control over big issues these days. Abortion has been kicked to the states - and how elections happen. How did these results that we're seeing thus far affect those particular issues?

BENSHOFF: You know, those trifectas that I talked about - states where you have the governor, statehouse and state legislature in one party - they can really push through their agenda, whatever that party's agenda is. And so it could be abortion. It could be voting. So, for instance, if North Carolina had gotten a GOP supermajority, they could - we could have seen a change in abortion rights there. In Michigan, the flip side could now happen with the Democrats in power. So what your life and your choices look like - it can be really different depending on where you live in this country.

MARTIN: NPR's Laura Benshoff.

We appreciate your reporting this morning. Thanks, Laura.

BENSHOFF: Thank you, Rachel.

(SOUNDBITE OF MOTHER FALCON'S "WALTZ") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Rachel Martin is a host of Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.
Laura Benshoff
Laura Benshoff is a reporter covering energy and climate for NPR's National desk. Prior to this assignment, she spent eight years at WHYY, Philadelphia's NPR Member station. There, she most recently focused on the economy and immigration. She has reported on the causes of the Great Resignation, Afghans left behind after the U.S. troop withdrawal and how a government-backed rent-to-own housing program failed its tenants. Other highlights from her time at WHYY include exploring the dynamics of the 2020 presidential election cycle through changing communities in central Pennsylvania and covering comedian Bill Cosby's criminal trials.