A new year brings a new legislative sessionMichigan Republicans are pushing Gov. Scott Walker out of the national anti-union spotlight.
By: By Matt Pommer, Superior Telegram
Michigan Republicans are pushing Gov. Scott Walker out of the national anti-union spotlight.
The GOP-controlled Legislature, acting in a lame-duck session, has passed legislation to make Michigan a right-to-work state. The Republican governor quickly said he’d sign it.
The law, which would prohibit mandatory union dues payment, is a major blow to the strength of private-sector labor unions. Federal law allows state-by-state decisions on the dues and union shop questions.
Walker repeatedly has said right-to-work legislation isn’t on his agenda. But he likely would sign such legislation if it were sent to him next year by the new Republican-controlled Wisconsin Legislature.
In 2010, candidate Walker promised to create 250,000 additional jobs if elected governor. The effort is lagging behind with the next gubernatorial election just 21 months away. It will be a key topic for the 2014 election.
The business community will be certain to sense an opening and whisper that new manufacturing jobs might go to Michigan or Indiana (another new right-to-work state) unless Wisconsin acts.
Shortly after Walker took office in 2011, the GOP-controlled Legislature passed his proposals to undercut collective bargaining by public employee unions. More importantly, the legislation effectively reduced compensation for public employees by $800 million through changes in fringe benefit contributions.
Public employees mounted a recall effort earlier this year. Walker won by a substantial margin.
Slashing compensation, gutting public unions and winning the recall election put Walker in the national political spotlight. Some pundits were suggesting he might be a potential national candidate. Walker has been a featured speaker at conservative meetings across the country.
Wisconsin Republicans solidified their control of the State Capitol with new legislative districts that seem to guarantee they’ll be in control for the rest of the decade. The GOP has also been busy trying to scale back voter participation. Pending in the courts is a requirement that voters have a photo ID in order to get a ballot. That would make it more difficult for the poor or disabled to vote.
Apparently not satisfied, Walker is pushing to end same-day registration for Wisconsin. Wisconsin has allowed same-day registration at the polls for the last 36 years, and the percentage of people voting has been among the top two or three on election days.
In a speech to conservatives in California, Walker said same-day registration has created “real problems because the vast majority of these states have poll workers who are wonderful volunteers who work 13 hour days and who in most case are retirees,” suggesting too much is asked of the poll workers, particularly those who are older.
“It would be much easier if registration was done in advance of Election Day. It would be easier for our clerks to handle that,” he continued. Municipal clerks across the state are annoyed the governor hints that their polls workers can’t manage the situation.
The Republican efforts to reduce voter turnout (in the name of “reform,” of course) has drawn little editorial-page support. Most editors use their pages to urge citizens to get out and vote.
One tidbit to add to the matter: the governor’s son registered to vote on Aug. 14 — this summer’s primary Election Day.