Republican legislative hotspots in the Midwest

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:


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.


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.


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 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.

Published: Tue, Apr 19, 2011