Wisconsin Lawmakers Battle Over Union Contracts


Democrats will hold the Wisconsin governorship and both houses of the legislature for a few more weeks. Republicans take complete charge after that. The pending switch in power has led to a fight: Should state employee union contracts be approved before the switch or after? Despite objections from incoming Republican governor Scott Walker , Democrats are moving forward with plans to approve the contracts in a lame-duck legislative session, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports . Republicans argue that their electoral wins give them the right to make the decisions, while Democrats note that the contracts in question run only through the end of the current budget biennium on June 30, 2011. The contracts haven't been released publicly-despite Republican calls for transparency-but they reportedly do not include pay raises. The unions still have to vote on some of the contracts, which they're expected to do next month.

Republicans in Arizona this year approved the nation's most controversial immigration law, SB 1070, then won big electoral victories. The question now is what they do for an encore. According to the Arizona Daily Star , one Arizona legislator, Jack Harper , is pushing for a new law to organize and fund a volunteer civilian militia that could patrol the border and handle other tasks such as responding to natural disasters. Harper, a current senator who will be a newly elected member of the Arizona House of Representatives, won passage of a similar bill in 2007, but Governor Janet Napolitano, a Democrat, vetoed it.  Jan Brewer , the Republican governor who succeeded Napolitano, is closely identified with SB 1070, but she isn't eager to pursue Harper's concept, which  could involve sending some Arizona Public Safety employees to the border. "It's pretty obvious that the state doesn't have a whole lot of money," the Star quoted Brewer as saying. "There's probably no way we're going to be able to afford anything like that." Arizona Republicans are talking about other steps to go beyond this year's immigration law, including challenging birthright citizenship for children of illegal immigrants.

As Texas Republicans discuss making their state the first to opt out of Medicaid in favor of a state-funded alternative, a key legislator says doing so would likely mean fewer people would receive needed care. The Houston Chronicle reports that at a Tea Party meeting, House Appropriations Chairman Jim Pitts responded to a questioner who asked if a friend on Medicaid would be denied treatment under the opt-out plan. "If we did exactly what we're doing today, we wouldn't be throwing him out in the street," Pitts said. "But if we have any savings in getting out of Medicaid, we will have to throw some people out in the street." Texas Republicans have chafed at health care decisions coming from Washington, but should they try to go it alone, they won't have an obvious way to replace the more than $16 billion coming annually from the federal government for Medicaid. One factor making savings difficult: Texas already has asome of the most restrictive eligibility standards and most limited Medicaid benefits in the country.

Florida governor-elect Rick Scott 's transition chair is an immigrant from India and a lawyer at a top D.C. law firm. As a lawyer specializing in health care litigation, Enu Mainigi knows Scott from the governor-elect's days as a health company executive and has long been one of Scott's most trusted advisers. She helped introduce him to key Republican strategists prior to the campaign, helped him select Jennifer Carroll as his running mate and is now shaping his new administration. Mainigi, 40, served as student body president at Harvard Law School and is a partner at Williams & Connolly. "She succeeds at everything she does," her brother told the Orlando Sun Sentinel . "She's always been like that."


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