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Nearly 2,400 state lawmakers return to work this week

The state Christmas tree outside California’s Capitol building. (Rich Pedroncelli/AP)

The new year brought with it a number of laws — some quirky, some unprecedented — that were introduced, debated and ultimately passed in 2013. Now the process starts all over again.

This week marks the first wave of new sessions for the year, with 15 state legislatures reconvening. That means 2,398 lawmakers will get back to work to hammer out new policies and fix broken ones, according to legislator data from the National Conference of State Legislatures. An additional 746 lawmakers in four other states — Michigan, New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania — also return to work this week, but legislatures in those states meet throughout the year.

Three sessions begin on Monday, followed by six on Tuesday and ten on Wednesday. By the end of the month, 37 legislatures will be in session. Only four — Montana, Nevada, North Dakota and Texas — are not scheduled to convene at all this year. And seven meet throughout the year, according to the NCSL: the four mentioned above and Massachusetts, New Jersey and Wisconsin.

The three states where legislatures reconvene on Monday are California, Idaho and Indiana. (The rest are listed at the end of the post.) Here’s a brief tour of some of the issues they may take up:

• Joel Fox, who founded the California politics and business blog Fox&Hounds, predicts next year’s hot topics for the state include, but aren’t limited to, implementing the new health-care law and pressure to raise taxes and increase spending. “The anti-tax side will be playing defense in 2014,” he predicts. Two giant infrastructure projects with multibillion-dollar price tags may also see movement this year: a $68 billion high-speed rail system and a $25 billion. State pollster Mark DiCamillo told public radio’s California Report that voters’ attitudes about the state economy are improving as well. “What that probably means is more money for popular programs – the K-12 schools, higher education, and so on – which have been severely cut in the past five years,” he said.

• In Idaho, where the legislature reconvenes on Monday, Gov. Butch Otter (R) said he plans to propose a five-year education plan incorporating 20 recommendations from a task force he convened. The Senate president told local reporters that he expects to push prison reform, while the House speaker pointed to the education task force’s findings as “a driver this session.”

• In Indiana, FOX59′s Dan Spehler reports that a same-sex marriage ban that has to pass both chambers to make the state ballot will be a key part of the 2014 legislative session. Gov. Mike Pence (R) is pushing a phase-out of the state’s business personal property tax and a $400 million infrastructure investment, according to Indiana Public Media. Education policy will also be big in next year’s legislative session, according to Fox59.

The six sessions reconvening on Tuesday are in Kentucky, Mississippi, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Vermont.

The ten that reconvene Wednesday are: Colorado, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New York, Virginia and West Virginia.

Niraj Chokshi is a general assignment reporter for The Washington Post.

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Republicans debate tonight. The South Carolina GOP primary and the Nevada Democratic caucuses are next on Feb. 20. Get caught up on the race.
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Republicans caucus in Nevada.

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