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NACDS: Republican wave extends to state level

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ARLINGTON, Va. — The November midterm elections, which resulted in Republicans taking control of the Senate, also saw “significant Republican gains in state legislatures,” according to an analysis of the results by the National Association of Chain Drug Stores.

Three state legislatures and four governorships swung to Republican control following the election.

With victories in the governor’s races in Arkansas, Illinois, Maryland and Massachusetts (all states that previously had Democratic governors), Republicans will hold at least 31 of the nation’s 50 governorships as of the beginning of 2015, according to NACDS.

One governor’s race, in Vermont, will be decided by the state legislature in January because none of the candidates received a majority of the votes. And in the Alaska governor’s race, independent candidate Bill Walker defeated the incumbent Republican governor Sean Parnell.

“Many individuals characterized the results of the 2014 midterm elections as a Republican wave — and if that term is appropriate for the federal elections, it also pertains to results at the state level,” said NACDS president and chief executive officer Steve Anderson. “It also is worth noting that the last two midterm elections have reflected the historical trend that the party not in control of the White House made gains in the state legislatures and in the U.S. Congress.”

With the shift toward Republican control, Republicans are now the majority political party in 30 state legislatures, while Democrats control 11 legislatures and eight are in a “divided” control situation. Nebraska has a unicameral form of state government.

Anderson also noted that, beginning in 2015, 47 pharmacists will hold office in 25 state legislatures across the nation, including 37 Republicans and 10 Democrats. Georgia and Mississippi have the most pharmacists serving in the state legislature, with four each.

One of the key pharmacy issues on a state ballot in November was a referendum on pharmacy ownership in North Dakota. The current law, which requires that pharmacies be majority-owned by registered pharmacists, will remain in effect, as a referendum to change this law failed by roughly a 59%-41% margin, according to NACDS.

Looking at the key issues at the state level next year, Anderson said NACDS will focus its efforts on behalf of community pharmacy to address what it expects will be the most critical issues, including Medicaid expansion, immunization policy and biosimilar legislation.

Anderson also noted that, as of late November, there were departures of state Medicaid directors in Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska and Wisconsin. This is a situation that bears watching during the search for successors. “Many states with changes in party control will have a slower start in the New Year as they inaugurate new governors, and as legislators work to organize new chamber and committee leadership,” Anderson added.

Among the individual races at the state level, there were a handful that produced outcomes that might have implications for community pharmacy next year. For example, Iowa state Sen. Jack Hatch, a Democrat, lost in his bid to unseat the incumbent governor. He also will no longer hold his seat in the Iowa Senate or continue in his former post as chairman of a key subcommittee with oversight of many pharmacy issues.

“Chain pharmacy has enjoyed an effective working relationship with Sen. Hatch, so that is a potential loss,” Anderson ­explained.

On the positive side, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, a Republican, won re-election. His “blueprint” for undertaking an effort to reform the state’s health care system “has been useful in highlighting the important role of pharmacies and pharmacists in modern benefit designs,” Anderson said.

Also, Massachusetts elected former Harvard Pilgrim CEO Charles “Charlie” Baker Jr. as its new governor. Baker has demonstrated “his expertise in health care” and it is expected that he will seek to “reform government operations,” ­Anderson said.

In North Carolina, Republicans will once again control the Senate, with a 36-16 supermajority, and the state House, with a 74-46 supermajority. However, three legislators who have seen supportive of pharmacy issues in the state lost in their re-election bids, including House Commerce Committee chairman Tom Murry, a pharmacist.


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