Republicans to target unions, expand state’s school choice
Republicans are poised to use their newly attained capitol dominance to make Missouri the 27th right-to-work state prohibiting mandatory union fees. That is unless Kentucky’s recently crowned GOP majorities can beat them to it. The race to expand right-to-work laws is just one of several ways that Republicans, who strengthened their grip on power in the November elections, are preparing to reshape state laws affecting workplaces, classrooms, courtrooms and more during 2017.
As President-elect Donald Trump leads an attempted makeover in Washington, Republican governors and state lawmakers will be simultaneously pushing an aggressive agenda that limits abortion, lawsuits and unions, cuts business taxes and regulations, and expands gun rights and school choice. Republicans will hold 33 governors’ offices, have majorities in 33 legislatures and control both the governor’s office and legislature in 25 states - their most since 1952. Democrats will control both the governor’s office and legislature in only about a half-dozen states; the rest will have politically divided governments.
“Really, the sky’s kind of the limit,” said Sean Lansing, chief operating officer at Americans for Prosperity, the conservative group bankrolled partly by billionaire industrialists Charles and David
Koch. “It’s really the best opportunity in quite some time to accomplish a lot of big ticket items - not just in one or two states, but in five, 10 or 15.” Democrats did make some gains in the recent elections, most notably by defeating Republican North Carolina Gov Pat McCrory and winning both chambers of the Nevada and New Mexico legislatures. But in all three of those states, Republicans still control at least one branch of government.
Resigned to get steamrolled
While officials in Democratic strongholds such as California and New York pledge a vigorous fight against Trump’s agenda, some Democrats elsewhere seem resigned to get steamrolled on policies they long have opposed, such as right-to-work laws that undercut the financial strength of unions, a traditional Democratic ally.
In Missouri, term-limited Democratic Gov Jay Nixon previously vetoed a right-to-work measure passed by the Republican-led Legislature. But he’s being replaced Jan. 9 by Republican Gov.-elect Eric Greitens, who promised to sign a right-to-work law. GOP legislative leaders have placed it atop their agenda. And their ranks are strengthened following a campaign season in which businessman David Humphreys poured more than $12 million into Missouri candidates and political committees that backed right-to-work. “Oh, it’s going to happen,” said Senate Minority Leader Gina Walsh, a retired union laborer who is president of the Missouri State Building and Construction Trades Council. She added: “I’m not willing to lay down on it yet, but I’m also a realist.”
Assuming right-to-work will become law, Missouri AFLCIO President Mike Louis already is preparing for the next battle. He has filed several versions of a proposed initiative petition that would ask voters in 2018 to approve a constitutional amendment reversing right-to-work by ensuring that unions can negotiate contracts requiring that employees pay fees for their representation.
Republican Kentucky Gov Matt Bevin also hopes to sign a statewide right-to-work law in 2017, now that Republicans who already hold the Senate also have won control of the House for the first time in nearly a century. A dozen Kentucky counties already have passed local rightto-work laws. Right-to-work supporters also are targeting New Hampshire, where Republican Gov.-elect Chris Sununu will be paired with a GOP-led Legislature. And collective bargaining restrictions for public employees could be on the agenda in Iowa, where the Republican governor will work with a Legislature that will be under full GOP control when lawmakers reconvene in January. — AP