A glance at Republican legislative hotspots
Monday, April 18, 2011
Republicans have moved quickly to convert November election gains to legislative advances in the states. A look at some GOP successes, and setbacks, in the first months of the new order:
Republicans control the Legislature for the first time since 1874 and have moved quickly to squeeze teacher and state-employee groups that have traditionally supported Democrats. Budget cuts that eluded fiscal conservatives before have passed, and state agencies have started layoffs.
With two-thirds majorities in legislative chambers and a GOP governor, Republicans have passed immigration, abortion and gun rights laws that would not have been possible under Democratic former Gov. Janet Napolitano.
Elections gave Republicans a one-seat majority in the state House but the party has been able to do little with it. Attempts to push an Arizona-style immigration crackdown and to weaken public sector union bargaining fizzled, and the tea party movement is on life support.
Conservative advances are under way on abortion, unions and more, with Republicans holding almost all levers of power. Gov. Rick Scott signed a merit-pay law for teachers that also ends tenure for new hires. Many abortion measures have been introduced, some likely to become law, and legislation is moving to force Medicaid recipients into managed care. Legislation would strip unions of their bargaining rights if they fall below a certain level of membership, weaken public sector unions and strengthen Florida’s ability to challenge federal decisions.
After major GOP gains, legislators approved new abortion restrictions and are moving for more on that front. Kansans will have to show a photo ID at polls. A bill has passed to shift toward 401(k)-style pensions for teachers and government workers, a plan opposed by unions.
A plan that would introduce the nation’s broadest use of school vouchers could be on track for enactment by the Republican governor. Bills banning abortions after 20 weeks and requiring doctors doing abortions to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital are moving; before, Democrats stopped them. This after Republicans regained House control and added Senate seats.
For the first time, Republicans control both chambers of the Legislature and the governor’s office. Swift action has followed to reshape the civil justice system, eliminate collective bargaining rights for municipal workers in seven cities and overhaul pensions to make state workers pay more and work longer.
Republicans made Michigan the first state to lower the number of weeks the unemployed can get state-level jobless benefits, to 20 weeks from 26 next year. They also enacted laws giving state-appointed officials emergency powers to manage the finances of struggling communities and schools. This means they can toss out union contracts. The party gained control of the state Senate and the governor’s office and built their advantage in the House in the November elections.
Republicans control both legislative chambers for the first time in 38 years but Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton stands in the way. Both chambers have passed legislation to eliminate racial integration aid for city schools, remove some people from public health care programs, and slash projected spending on local governments, higher education and social services for the disabled and elderly. The GOP is also going after abortion rights and public worker benefits. Republicans can bypass Dayton on some measures by asking voters to approve constitutional amendments next year. They are expected to place a proposed ban on gay marriage before voters.
Democrats are putting up little resistance to Republican initiatives they once tied in knots. At their lowest numbers in decades, Democrats decided not to hold up a bill that would tighten restrictions on late-term abortions and to let other GOP priorities come to a vote. Republicans beefed up their legislative majorities but still face a Democratic governor.
Huge gains in House elections have set loose a conservative tide stirred by the tea party, social conservatives and libertarians. Republican leaders are struggling to keep the action on core priorities, such as state spending cuts and natural resource development, as some newcomers push to nullify federal laws, create armed citizen militias, allow hunting with spears, force FBI agents to get a sheriff’s OK before arresting anyone and link state coffers to gold and silver. Popular Democratic Gov. Brian Schweitzer says such ideas are “kooky.” He threatens to veto a GOP budget that would abandon about $100 million from Washington for programs such as food stamps.
The Republican governor and large GOP minorities in both chambers are standing for deep cuts to education and social programs, and against proposed tax increases. They also want to end collective bargaining in local government and school districts.
Now with supermajorities in both chambers, Republicans have the votes to override vetoes by Democratic Gov. John Lynch if they all stick together or draw some Democratic support. Many conservative fiscal and social initiatives are in motion. Among them: a parental notification abortion bill and right-to-work legislation, both passed by the House. Both chambers have branched out from budget issues, passing bills to expand the right to use deadly force in self-defense.
New Republican Gov. Susana Martinez has not tried to follow her party’s playbook on public sector unions, voter identification or more in dealing with state Democratic majorities. And a centerpiece of her agenda, a proposal to stop issuing drivers licenses to illegal immigrants, failed.
Republicans took statehouse control for the first time since 1870 and moved fast out of the gate on abortion limits, charter school expansion, medical malpractice limits, expanded gun rights and more. They are pushing legislation to require photo identification to vote in person. But they face a Democratic governor who appears disinclined to let those steps become law, except perhaps the malpractice limits and gun-rights liberalization.
Bills that would have met a quick death under Democratic control have advanced under Republican majorities — none more apparent than the new law to curtail the collective bargaining rights of more than 350,000 public workers. In a dramatic turnaround, Republicans won all five statewide offices and regained control of the Legislature. Gov. John Kasich scored his first legislative victory in February with passage of his plan to hand over job creation functions to a nonprofit corporation from the state government. Among several abortion measures in play, a House panel passed a bill that would impose the strictest abortion limit in the nation, outlawing the procedure at the first detectable fetal heartbeat. A bill to require Ohio voters to show a photo ID before casting an in-person ballot whizzed through the House, on to an unclear fate in the Senate.
The sweep that gave Republicans control of the executive and legislative branches for the first time in eight years has breathed new life into long-stalled initiatives, chief among them school vouchers and limits sought by business on lawsuits. Gov. Tom Corbett also has shaken the status quo with calls to slash spending for state-supported universities by half and to save $1 billion in support for public schools. Corbett is sticking to his no-new-taxes pledge while finding the state government $4 billion short of balancing its budget.
Republicans gained legislative and executive control together for the first time since 1869 and Democratic opposition has vaporized. The GOP is advancing photo ID requirements to vote, tougher immigration enforcement, lawsuit damage caps, limits on teachers’ union rights and more.
Republicans are breaking loose a variety of long-bogged conservative initiatives, thanks to their largest majority ever in the House and a strong hand in the Senate. Success is finally expected in enacting a law requiring voters to show photo ID. GOP Gov. Rick Perry put curbs on illegal immigration, strengthened property rights and additional abortion restrictions on a legislative fast track. Still, not all Republicans are on the same page. Competing versions of legislation that would require women to have a sonogram before an abortion have passed but internal GOP wrangling has slowed the process.
Despite having almost two dozen more legislators, many supported by the tea party, the majority Republicans have shied away from conservative touchstones on immigration, gun rights and more.
Republicans enacted abortion-clinic restrictions so stringent that most of the state’s 21 abortion clinics will have to close. Because of a deft maneuver by Republicans who control the House, the legislation bypassed the Democratic-controlled Senate committees where abortion limits usually fail, won approval on the Senate floor on a tie-breaking vote by the Republican lieutenant-governor and was signed into law by GOP Gov. Bob McDonnell, a career-long foe of abortion rights.
Republicans have a brimming conservative agenda in motion behind their historic and wildly contentious law curbing union rights in the public sector. A bill to require photo ID at the polls appears to have more chance of becoming law here than in many other states where Republicans are pushing it. Republicans are expected to pass immigration controls similar to Arizona’s, and a range of long-established Democratic priorities is imperiled. Legalizing the carrying of concealed weapons is expected to come up. Republican Gov. Scott Walker has proposed ending early release for prisoners for good behavior. He also wants to end mandatory insurance coverage for contraceptives. A two-decade-old law requiring communities to recycle also might be overturned.
Associated Press writers who contributed to this report include Errin Haines in Atlanta; Randall Chase, Dover, Del.; Andrew DeMillo, Little Rock, Ark.; David Klepper, Providence, R.I.; Brian Witte, Annapolis, Md.; Ben Neary, Cheyenne Wyo.; Kristen Wyatt, Denver; Evan Berland, Columbia, S.C.; Peter Jackson, Harrisburg, Pa.; Glenn Adams, Augusta, Maine; Paul Queary, Seattle; Martiga Lohn, St. Paul, Minn.; Lawrence Messina, Charleston, W.Va.; Rik Stevens, Albany. N.Y.; Mike Glover, Des Moines, Iowa; Roger D. Alford, Frankfort, Ky.; Phillip Rawls, Montgomery, Ala.; Josh Loftin, Salt Lake City; Ann Sanner, Columbus, Ohio; and Cal Woodward, Washington.