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State Legislative Developments

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Party Control of State Legislatures in 2011 - NCSL

The reality of a divided Capitol Hill became apparent when the 112th Congress took up legislation last month to repeal the newly-enacted health care reform law.  But control is more one-sided in many states, and that could mean movement for some HR issues.

State-level gains in the November elections have tipped the balance significantly in favor of Republicans, who now control both chambers in half the country. [See map above compiled by the National Conference of State Legislatures.] That shift means HR needs to keep an eye on what’s happening in the states— particularly where one party controls the legislature.

Media attention following the elections was focused on the GOP capturing the U.S. House of Representatives. What was largely overlooked was the Republican roll across states.

Republicans now control both chambers in 25 state legislatures, while Democrats control a majority in 16 states. Eight legislatures remain divided and one is unicameral (Nebraska).

As SHRM tracks state legislative activity with its Legislative Tracking System, some interesting trends are appearing that merit the attention of HR practitioners. 

In GOP-controlled legislatures, measures that are beginning to move deal with such issues as mandating certain (or all) employers to use the federal government’s E-Verify system in hiring, as well as proposals to prohibit employers from enforcing no-weapons policies on company property (including parking lots).

In legislatures controlled by Democrats, the focus is on legislation that would prohibit the use of credit checks in the hiring process, as well as proposals mandating certain employers to provide paid sick leave to their employees.

In contrast, employment discrimination is a topic surfacing in a number of states, regardless of which party controls the legislature.

SHRM works closely with state councils in coordinating advocacy activities on state legislative and regulatory matters.  As measures begin to advance in the legislatures, HR practitioners should be ready to advocate and educate their elected officials on how these matters might affect local workplaces.   

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