State legislatures, poised to enter what is expected to be a volatile year with redistricting and tax and budget issues at the top of their complicated agendas, will seat more Democrats when most return to session next month.

But the increase in Democratic seats as a result of last month's off-year elections was far less steep than it has been in past years, according to a study of election results conducted by the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL).

Democrats gained only 45 new seats, according to the preliminary election results, down from the 200 seats they picked up in 1982 and 1986 and the 300 seats they gained in 1980 and 1984.

Democrats, however, still control the vast majority of state chambers. In 31 states, Democrats control both the House and Senate, as opposed to only five cases of dual GOP control.

The Arizona, Montana, Nevada and Washington state senates and the Indiana and Kansas houses all shifted into Democratic control. In Arizona, the governor's race will not be decided until a Feb. 26 runoff, but Kansas's new governor, Joan Finney, is a Democrat who unseated Republican Gov. Mike Hayden. Nevada Gov. Robert J. Miller (D) was reelected in November, Montana's Gov. Stan Stephens (R) and Washington's Booth Gardner (D) remain in office for another four years.

Republicans gained a majority in the Oregon House, but the state elected a Democratic governor, Barbara Roberts.

The NCSL analysis also shows that several states -- Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Kansas and Missouri among them -- suffered a higher than usual defeat rate for incumbents. There was no single theme to these losses, and in some states, the voters split tickets freely, awarding a governor's seat in Illinois to Jim Edgar (R), for instance, while depriving the GOP of five seats in the state House.