Governors in the news: Republican executives are pursuing similar plans across the land

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February 2, 2011

Touchstones of Democratic governance are on the table with the GOP in charge. What's not on the table? The Governor's good silver

By Eileen McGuire-Mahony

Republican Governors begin halting Obamacare in the wake of Court ruling

U.S. District Court Federal Judge Roger Vinson's finding that the federal health care reform law is unconstitutional has led to at least two states stopping efforts to implement the bill. Florida's Rick Scott shut down all aspects of the government healthcare program already in place, saying he wasn't going to spend any more money until the law's status was clear.[1] Wisconsin's Attorney General, J.B. Van Hollen, advised his fellow Republican, Governor Scott Walker, that “the federal health care law is dead — unless and until it is revived by an appellate court”.[2] Some GOP Governors, like Georgia's Nathan Deal, expressed an unwillingness to halt anything until a decision is final. Across the aisle, Democratic Governors were more likely to more pushing ahead with implementing the expansion of government's medical role, with Peter Shumlin of Vermont insisting he will continue “full speed ahead” until a Court stops him.

Getting serious about deficits, new governors are facing off with unions

Iowa, Ohio, and Wisconsin have a few things in common. All three ousted a Democratic governor in 2010 and chose a Republican to take over. And all three could be changing much more. If Governors Terry E. Branstad, John Kasich, and Scott Walker have their way, the strength of unions among government workers could be substantially weakened. The three men number among politicians who campaigned on cutting generous pay and benefits for state workers, dual sources of envy and economic pain for voters. The states they govern stand out among the Midwest for relatively high rates of public sector unionization.[3] Union strength is still in decline nationally, but private sector unions have absorbed most of that drop. Their state employed counterparts still have about 36% representation and take home paychecks that Republicans argue are unsustainable. However, if early skirmishes are any sign, curtailing union influence is going to be a hard fought war.


Republicans in several states are spearheading attacks on public school tenure

Perhaps emboldened by November's wins, five governors, Nevada's Brian Sandoval, Indiana's Mitch Daniels, New Jersey's Chris Christie, Florida's Rick Scott, and Idaho's Butch Otter, are taking on one of American public policy's oldest sacred cows – tenure for public school teachers. The near impossibility of firing a tenured teacher, regardless of conduct or poor performance, and abysmal academic numbers from students, have rankled GOP politicians for years. Tenure was an early 20th century policy, meant to protect educators from falling prey to sexism and racism, or from being forced out to accommodate a political bosses' crony. Over time, it has evolved into what critics say is a job for life after only a few years.[4]

Governor Sandoval of Nevada pointed to his state's last place ranking in high school graduation. Rick Scott, Florida's new firebrand, flatly told press, “Good teachers know they don’t need tenure”, a clear signal to teacher's unions who effectively killed an anti-tenure bill last year. Idaho also plans to phase out tenure while Indiana is espousing a gentler law, one which would keep tenure but strip away many associated guarantees. Teachers' unions were undeniably upset, worrying the highly paid teachers will be fired without cause and blaming governors for trying to fire state employers instead of concentrating on hiring better teachers in the first place.

Sous Chef to the Governor of Pennsylvania may be getting used to prison food

With the economy what it is, voters haven't been looking kindly at governors who maintain private staffs. Now, governors themselves may have pause. Michael Yancy, who spent eight years as the second in charge of the gubernatorial kitchen while Ed Rendell was in office, has been arraigned for allegedly stealing some 100 pieces of sterling silver from the Governor's mansion.[5] Police believe Mr. Yancy took advantage of the chaos as the mansion transitioned from the Rendell Administration to that of his successor, Republican Tom Corbett, to steal $15,000 worth of silverware. A Lebanon pawn shop owner turned him in when he came in for the ninth time trying to sell silver pieces; many of the allegedly stolen items were defaced to remove the “Executive Mansion” stamp. Mr. Yancy is on unpaid administrative leave from his job while police investigate.