Capitol Ideas

Capitol Ideas is a periodic listing of story ideas and background information from new NCSL research. For more information or interviews, please contact NCSL's Press Team.

New Laws Ring in the New Year

A host of new laws ranging from fresh drinking water for students in California to outlawing K2 in Illinois become effective Jan. 1, 2011. State constitutions or statutes usually establish when laws go into effect. Not all laws passed by state legislatures become effective on Jan. 1. Sometimes, an effective date is written into the specific piece of legislation. This is not an exhaustive list, but a sampling of some new state laws effective on New Year’s Day. More

Top 11 issues of 2011: Fourth consecutive year fiscal conditions will dominate legislative sessions

NCSL's Top 11 of 2011 is an annual list that examines the pressing topics on state legislative agendas. State budgets top the list for a fourth year in a row, followed by pensions, business development, health reform and higher education. This list is not reflective of every issue legislatures will grapple with during the upcoming year, but rather an overview of some of the top issues expected to cross state lines and be dominant themes next year in state legislative sessions. Take this list to your own state lawmakers and see if they agree, or use this list to explore what the Top 11 issues might be in your state in 2011. More 

Redistricting Commissions:  Legislative Plans

Twenty-one states have a redistricting commission that draws up the plan, advises the legislature on drawing up the plan or acts as a backup if the legislature fails to draw up the plan for legislative districts in the coming year. The U.S. Constitution requires all local, state and federal legislative districts to be redrawn after a census is taken to make the districts roughly equal in population, guaranteeing that each person’s voice is equally represented in legislative bodies. It’s a constitutional principle known as “one person, one vote.” The new data released by the Census Bureau last week showed more congressional seats for the South and the West, and fewer for the Northeast and the Midwest. More

Lawmakers' Concerns Over K2

Synthetic Cannabinoids—commonly known as “Spice,”,“K2” or “Genie”—are drawing attention in state capitols across the country. In 2010, at least 11 state legislatures  passed measures to outlaw use of these drugs. State lawmakers are acting quickly to curb the growing availability and use of these substances by passing laws to designate certain synthetic cannabinoids as schedule I controlled substances and outlaw their possession or distribution. More