The eventual result, which both sides say was crafted through an open subcommittee process, has been the passage over the past two years of bipartisan legislation that makes the Hawkeye State one of the nation’s healthcare leaders: Nearly 100 percent of all children in the state now have healthcare coverage and prescription drug costs have been reined in while providing more coverage options for businesses and families.
State officials from both parties say such gridlock breakthrough enables them to outstrip their counterparts in Congress in getting things done. They say their achievements can teach Washington, D.C., a few things about bipartisanship and, in the process, potentially help defuse the voter anger enveloping the nation.
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The Democrat-versus-Republican skirmishing that holds up major federal legislation is less of an obstacle in statehouses, clearing a path for innovative bills on issues that have immediate and direct effects on constituents’ lives. The result is that state lawmakers are shaping the legislative landscape of American life more than at any time in the past half century, say political observers. And they’d probably have even more clout if they weren’t in such dire economic straits.
States often are described as legislative “laboratories of innovation.” Their willingness to experiment and cooperate, say experts, has become especially critical as the country seeks a way out of the economic crisis and as the public mood toward government has soured.