GOP wastes little time taking on Dem interests

GOP wastes little time taking on Dem interests
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Elections have consequences, and in the early days of legislative sessions in states across the country, Republicans are busy taking aim at Democratic interests, moving to undercut the political power and influence of groups that provide millions in campaign contributions and thousands of volunteers to Democratic candidates.

In November, Republicans won control of governorships and state legislative chambers in key states, handing the party total control of all levers of state government in 24 states. Those include states like New Hampshire, Kentucky, Missouri and Iowa, where Democrats had maintained footholds until this year.

Republicans have wasted little time in moving on high-priority legislative goals that those remaining Democratic bulwarks had blocked.

In Kentucky, Gov. Matt Bevin (R) signed Republican-backed legislation over the weekend that made the Commonwealth the 27th right-to-work state, allowing workers to opt out of paying mandatory union dues. 

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The race to become the 28th right-to-work state is a fierce competition between New Hampshire and Missouri, where legislators are fast-tracking proposals. Republicans captured the governorships of both states in November, succeeding Democratic governors who had blocked those measures.

“We want to continue to make our business environment more competitive,” said New Hampshire state Sen. Jeb Bradley, the Republican majority leader.

Other aspects of union power are under assault: Republicans in Kentucky have also targeted prevailing wage laws, which require firms that win government contracts to pay employees higher hourly rates. In Iowa, Gov. Terry Branstad (R) has made a priority of taking on collective bargaining rules.

A handful of states are moving to cut off funding to Planned Parenthood, the women's health network that provides abortion procedures, among other medical services. Texas has moved to block the group's funding through the state Medicaid program, while Iowa legislators plan to take up a similar proposal this year.

The Obama administration told state Medicaid directors in April that blocking funding through the state-based program was likely illegal. Planned Parenthood has sued Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana and Texas over their plans to cut funding. 

At the federal level, House Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanHow the Trump tax law passed: Dealing with a health care hangover Dems fight to protect Mueller amid Rosenstein rumors Jordan wants Rosenstein to testify before House Judiciary Committee MORE (R-Wis.) said this week the Republican-controlled Congress would include a provision to strip funding from Planned Parenthood in its bill rolling back the Affordable Care Act.

Republicans in a few states are moving to overhaul medical malpractice cases, taking aim at trial lawyers who represent a significant funding source for state and national Democrats. 

In Kentucky, state Sen. Ralph Alvarado (R), a doctor, has introduced legislation that would create a panel of medical providers who would weigh the merits of any malpractice claims before those claims could be filed in court. A similar version had passed the Republican-led state Senate in earlier years, though it died in the state House, which was run by a Speaker who was himself a trial lawyer.

Michigan's Republican-controlled legislature passed a law in December that closed a loophole that allowed patients to sue for higher damages. Missouri Republicans, too, plan action on tort reform.

House Republicans in Washington are also considering some measure of tort reform, potentially as part of the ACA repeal measure. Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.), President-elect Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump: Dems playing destructive 'con game' with Kavanaugh Several Yale Law classmates who backed Kavanaugh call for misconduct investigation Freedom Caucus calls on Rosenstein to testify or resign MORE's nominee to lead the Department of Health and Human Services, is a major proponent of overhauling medical malpractice rules.

Trump won November’s election with a narrow majority of the Electoral College, while losing the popular vote to Democratic nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonSenate panel subpoenas Roger Stone associate for Russia probe Webb: The new mob: Anti-American Dems Clinton to hold fundraiser for Menendez in NJ next month MORE. Republicans hold a slim majority in the Senate, and they lost seats in the House in November's elections.

But in the states, Republicans added to the total number of legislative seats and governorships they control. The party also picked up executive offices in a number of states. Those results, legislators say, give the GOP the mandates they need to move aggressively on items long on their wish list.

“What we were hearing was that people want to elect people that have bold ideas, but then they expect solutions,” said Linda Upmeyer, the Republican Speaker of the Iowa state House. “They see [Republicans] as more likely to change some things they are frustrated by, and I think first and foremost our job is to find solutions.”

Since President Obama took office, Republicans have captured control of 27 state legislative chambers and almost 1,000 legislative seats previously held by Democrats. The GOP controls more than 4,100 state legislative seats across the country, more than at any other time in the party's history.