JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- There's a new superpower growing in the Great Plains and the South, where bulging Republican majorities in state capitols could dramatically cut taxes and change public education with barely a whimper of resistance from Democrats.
Contrast that with California, where voters have given Democrats a new dominance that could allow them to raise taxes and embrace same-sex marriage without regard to Republican objections.
If you thought the presidential election revealed the nation's political rifts, consider the outcomes in state legislatures. The vote also created a broader tier of powerful one-party governments that can act with no need for compromise. Half of state legislatures now have veto-proof majorities, up from 13 only four years ago, according to figures compiled for The Associated Press by the National Conference of State Legislatures.
All but three states – Iowa, Kentucky and New Hampshire – have one-party control of their legislatures, the highest mark since 1928.
The result could lead to stark differences in how people live and work.
"Usually, a partisan tide helps the same party across the country, but what we saw in this past election was the opposite of that – some states getting bluer and some states getting redder," said Thad Kousser, an associate political science professor at the University of California-San Diego who focuses on state politics. As a result, "we'll see increasing policy divergence across the states."
Democrats in California gained their first supermajorities since 1883 in both the Assembly and Senate. Republicans captured total control of the North Carolina Capitol for the first time in more than a century. The GOP set a 147-year high mark in the Tennessee statehouse and won two-thirds majorities in the Missouri Legislature for the first time since the Civil War.
Republicans also gained or expanded supermajorities in places such as Indiana, Oklahoma and – if one independent caucuses with the GOP – Georgia. Democrats gained a supermajority in Illinois and built upon their dominance in places such as Rhode Island and Massachusetts.
If the parties make full use of their enlarged majorities, residents of similar-sized cities in different parts of the country could soon experience a virtual continental divide in their way of life.
In one state, businesses could pay little to no taxes, the result of policies intended to spur hiring. Public schools might function at a basics-only level, with parents free to use public money to send their children to private schools. Only the poorest of the poor adults could expect medical care from the government.
In another state, residents would pay higher taxes, and the government would inject billions of dollars into public education with the goal of creating a highly skilled workforce to attract businesses. A social safety net would exist for the poor, including working adults not even considered to be in poverty.
States already have different approaches to taxes, the economy and care for the poor, but they have been tempered by compromise. Now the middle ground may begin to disappear in favor of stark extremes.
Supermajorities can allow lawmakers to override governors' vetoes, change tax rates, put constitutional amendments on the ballot, rewrite legislative rules and establish a quorum for business – all without any participation by the opposing party.
In Indiana, the new Republican supermajority can now pass bills even if House Democrats repeat the walkouts they've held the past two years to protest the consideration of so-called right-to-work laws limiting union powers. In Oklahoma, Republicans are expected to use their huge majorities to move to slash state income taxes after efforts last year fell short.
Indiana Democrats acknowledge there is little they can do.
"It's deeply troubling that my party has fallen in this position and left our state, in my view, so ill-represented," said Democratic Rep. Ed DeLaney of Indianapolis. "It's a huge challenge."
Republican supermajorities in both North Carolina chambers are likely to push for income tax cuts and sweeping education changes, including broader merit pay for public school teachers and expanded tax credits for parents who send their children to private schools. Also on the agenda: a photo identification requirement for voting that was vetoed in 2011 by Democratic Gov. Beverly Perdue.
Deflated Democrats, who haven't been so shut out of control in more than a century, hope new Republican Gov. Pat McCrory will at least consider their concerns.
"We'll go forward. We have no choice," said minority whip Rep. Deborah Ross.
In Missouri, House Speaker Tim Jones wants to advance an agenda that includes tax cuts, business incentives and education reform. The new GOP supermajority could trump any objections by Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon, who vetoed some previous business-backed bills.
"The governor will need to understand the importance of true, actual negotiation during the legislative process," Jones said.
Yet a supermajority is not a guarantee of success. With larger numbers can come more individual agendas and internal tensions.
"A very large majority ends up becoming factionalized," said Charles S. Bullock III, a longtime political science professor at the University of Georgia who teaches legislative politics. There are "people who are vying with each other, looking down the road to the next election."
Kansas is a good example of that. Republicans there gained a supermajority in both chambers in the 2010 elections but remained divided in conservative and moderate camps. They took their battle to the ballot box this year and conservatives prevailed – giving them a likely hold on 27 of 40 Kansas Senate seats and as many as 75 of 125 House seats.
After enacting massive tax cuts in 2012, some Kansas conservatives now are looking forward to trimming government and possibly pursuing more tax cuts.
"What we know from history is we can expect some overreaching of lawmakers using their newfound political might to shove things down the throat of the minority – to pass laws that are more extreme than they would have passed in the old days," Kousser said.
In California, Democrats are looking forward to having things their way. Republican Assemblyman Jim Nielsen predicts an "unprecedented spending and taxing binge" as the new Democratic supermajority attempts to reduce some of the state's recent deep budget cuts.
California Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg has outlined an agenda that includes changing the tax code and ballot initiative process and perhaps asking voters to legalize same-sex marriage.
"We will exercise this new power with strength, but also with humility and with reason," Steinberg said.
Associated Press writers John Hanna in Topeka, Kan.; Tom LoBianco in Indianapolis; Sean Murphy in Oklahoma City; Gary D. Robertson in Raleigh, N.C.; and Don Thompson in Sacramento, Calif., contributed to this report.
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2012 -- Barack Obama
U.S. President Barack Obama waves to supporters following his victory speech on election night in Chicago, Illinois on November 6, 2012. (JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)
2008 -- Barack Obama
Nov. 4, 2008: U.S. president-elect Barack Obama waves at his supporters during his election night victory rally at Grant Park in Chicago. (JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images)
2004 -- George W. Bush
In this Nov. 3, 2004 file photo, President George W. Bush and first lady Laura Bush salute and wave during an election victory rally at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Washington. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, File)
2000 -- George W. Bush
U.S. Republican presidential candidate and Texas Governor George W. Bush casts his vote in Austin, Texas on November 7, 2000. (PAUL RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images)
1996 -- Bill Clinton
President Bill Clinton, wife Hillary and daughter Chelsea wave to supporters in front of the Old State House during an election night celebration in Little Rock, Ark. on Tuesday, Nov. 5, 1996. (AP Photo/David Longstreath)
1992 -- Bill Clinton
Bill Clinton and Al Gore celebrate in Little Rock, Arkansas after winning in a landslide election on November 3, 1992. (AP Photo)
1988 -- George H. W. Bush
President-elect George Bush and his family celebrate his victory on November 8,1988 at the Brown Convention Center in Houston. (WALT FRERCK/AFP/Getty Images) <em><strong>CORRECTION:</strong> An earlier version of this slide was titled "George W. Bush." It has been fixed.</em>
1984 -- Ronald Reagan
President Ronald Reagan gives a thumbs-up to supporters at the Century Plaza Hotel in Los Angeles as he celebrates his re-election, Nov. 6, 1984, with first lady Nancy Reagan at his side. (AP Photo/File)
1980 -- Ronald Reagan
President-elect Ronald Reagan and wife Nancy wave to well-wishers on Tuesday, Nov. 4, 1980 at Century Plaza Hotel in Los Angeles after his election victory. (AP Photo)
1976 -- Jimmy Carter
Democratic presidential candidate Jimmy Carter embraces his wife Rosalynn after receiving the final news of his victory in the national general election on November 2, 1976. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
1972 -- Richard Nixon
U.S. President Richard M. Nixon meets at Camp David, Maryland, on November 13, 1972 to discuss the Vietnam situation with Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger (L) and Maj. Gen. Alexander M. Haig Jr.(R), Deputy Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs. (Photo by AFP PHOTO/NATIONAL ARCHIVE/Getty Images)
1968 -- Richard Nixon
President-elect Richard M. Nixon and his wife, Pat, were a picture of joy at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York, Nov. 6, 1968, as he thanked campaign workers. At left are David Eisenhower, Julie Nixon's fiance, Julie and her sister Tricia at center. (AP Photo)
1964 -- Lyndon Johnson
President Lyndon Johnson proves he's a pretty good cowhand as he puts his horse, Lady B, through the paces of rounding up a Hereford yearling on his LBJ Ranch near Stonewall, Texas, on November 4, 1964. (AP Photo/Bill Hudson)
1960 -- John F. Kennedy
Caroline Kennedy peeps over the shoulder of her father, Senator John F. Kennedy, as he gave her a piggy-back ride November 9, 1960 at the Kennedy residence in Hyannis Port, Mass. It was the first chance president-elect Kennedy had to relax with his daughter in weeks. (AP Photo)
1956 -- Dwight D. Eisenhower
President Dwight D. Eisenhower and Vice President Richard Nixon salute cheering workers and Republicans at GOP election headquarters in Washington, November 7, 1956, after Adlai Stevenson conceded. (AP Photo)
1952 -- Dwight D. Eisenhower
President-elect Dwight Eisenhower and first lady-elect Mamie Eisenhower wave to the cheering, singing crowd in the Grand Ballroom of the Hotel Commodore in New York City on Nov. 5, 1952 after Gov. Adlai Stevenson conceded defeat. (AP Photo/Matty Zimmerman)
1948 -- Harry S. Truman
U.S. President Harry S. Truman holds up an Election Day edition of the Chicago Daily Tribune, which, based on early results, mistakenly announced "Dewey Defeats Truman" on November 4, 1948. The president told well-wishers at St. Louis' Union Station, "That is one for the books!" (AP Photo/Byron Rollins)
1944 -- Franklin D. Roosevelt
President Franklin Roosevelt greets a young admirer as he sits outside his home in Hyde Park, N.Y., on election night, November 7, 1944. Behind him stands his daughter, Mrs. Anna Roosevelt Boettinger and the first lady, Eleanor Roosevelt. (AP Photo)
1940 -- Franklin D. Roosevelt
American President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1882 - 1945) speaking to a crowd of 25,000 at Madison Square Garden in New York on Nov. 8, 1940, before his sweeping re-election for a third term. (Photo by Fox Photos/Getty Images)
1936 -- Franklin D. Roosevelt
The Republican Governor of Kansas and presidential candidate, Alfred Landon (1887 - 1987) greeting the American President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1882 - 1945) (seated) prior to the presidential elections. Future United States President Harry S. Truman can been seen in the background. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)
1932 -- Franklin D. Roosevelt
Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt of New York at his Hyde Park, N.Y. home November 6, 1932, seen at the conclusion of the arduous months of campaigning following his presidential nomination in Chicago. (AP Photo)
1928 -- Herbert Hoover
President-elect Herbert Hoover is seated at a table with wife, Lou, and joined by other family members on Nov. 9, 1928. Standing from left: Allan Hoover; son; Margaret Hoover, with husband, Herbert Hoover, Jr.,at right. Peggy Ann Hoover, daughter of Herbert Hoover Jr., sits with her grandmother. (AP Photo)
1924 -- Calvin Coolidge
U.S. President Calvin Coolidge and first lady Grace Coolidge are shown with their dog at the White House portico in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 5, 1924. (AP Photo)
1920 -- Warren Harding
Senator Warren Harding, with wife Florence and his father George, shown on Aug. 27, 1920. (AP Photo)
1916 -- Woodrow Wilson
Surrounded by crowds, President Woodrow Wilson throws out the first ball at a baseball game in Washington in this 1916 photo. (AP Photo)
1912 -- Woodrow Wilson
Woodrow Wilson (1856 - 1924), the future American president, casts his vote while Governor of New Jersey, on Nov. 14, 1912. (Photo by Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)