One party held complete control of government in 30 states after last year’s elections, John Gramlich reports at, and they moved in markedly different directions during the 2011 legislative sessions.

Most of the shift in power went to Republicans, who control the governorship and both legislative chambers in 19 states plus Nebraska, with its unicameral and officially non-partisan legislature. Led by party conservatives, the GOP passed huge spending cuts to balance budgets in Florida and Texas; enacted abortion restrictions in Alabama, Kansas and Oklahoma; and put restrictions on the rights of public employees in Indiana, Ohio and Wisconsin.

Meanwhile, many of the 11 states controlled entirely by Democrats took a different course. To mitigate budget cuts, they raised taxes in Connecticut, Illinois and Maryland. Connecticut and Maryland extended in-state college tuition to undocumented immigrants. And Vermont passed a first-in-the-nation single-payer health insurance plan.

Dan Smith, a political science professor at the University of Florida, said the divergence between Republican- versus Democratic-run states underscores the importance of state-level elections. “This is the two Americas in stark contrast.”

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