Tag Archives: governors

GOP governors who turned down Medicaid money have hands out

Republican governors who turned down billions in federal dollars from an expansion of Medicaid under President Barack Obama’s health care law now have their hands out in hopes the GOP-controlled Congress comes up with a new formula to provide insurance for low-income Americans.

The other GOP governors, such as Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who agreed to expand state-run services in exchange for federal help — more than a dozen out of the 31 states — are adamant that Congress maintain the financing that has allowed them to add millions of low-income people to the health insurance rolls.

With Congress starting to consider plans for annulling and reshaping Obama’s overhaul, Republican governors and lieutenant governors from 10 states met privately for more than two hours last week with GOP members of the Senate Finance Committee and raised concerns about how lawmakers will reshape Medicaid.

“They’re worried about how it all works out,” Finance panel chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said after the session in a Senate office building.

GOP senators and governors stressed the need for giving states more flexibility to shape their Medicaid programs. That’s a change that worries Democrats, who say some states would inevitably end up covering fewer people or offering skimpier benefits.

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson said governors could find savings by being allowed to impose “work incentives” for some beneficiaries.

Kasich suggested shifting people who earn just above the poverty level from Medicaid to the online exchanges that Obama’s law created for buying coverage.

“I think they understand this is not simple and I think they know they have to get it right,” Kasich said.

A chief worry by governors was whether states that accepted extra federal money to expand Medicaid to more people would lose that extended coverage.

Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said afterward that “it ain’t going to happen,” though he did not detail how.

In a letter he carried to Capitol Hill, Kasich warned that repealing Obama’s law without an alternative in place could interrupt health care coverage for hundreds of thousands in Ohio and urged he “be granted the flexibility to retain the adult Medicaid coverage expansion.”

Ohio has added roughly 700,000 recipients to the program since the law took effect in 2013.

Unlike Kasich, 19 Republican governors — including Scott Walker of Wisconsin — defied the Affordable Care Act’s mandate that states open up Medicaid to more people.

It was a major expansion of the state-federal health insurance system whose primary purpose has grown in its 52 years from backstop medical assistance for the poor to the go-to program for closing gaps in private health insurance system.

In the three years since the Affordable Care Act went into effect, Medicaid enrollment has grown by about 18 million people, to roughly 75 million, according to the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Walker, seeking to win over conservative voters for his failed presidential bid, notably turned down more than $500 million for his state.

But with Republicans, backed by President-elect Donald Trump, pursuing repeal of the law, Walker and other GOP governors now are asking specifically for the Medicaid money and fewer rules for spending it.

On average, the federal government’s contribution accounts for 56 percent of a state’s Medicaid budget, making the financing terms under the health care law much more generous.

Republicans have long sought block grants or lump-sum payments for health care. The money has helped them maintain their budgets, while the relative lack of heavy regulation has allowed governors freedom to experiment with social services policy.

“Now that Barack Obama is no longer going to be at the White House, it is going to be much more palatable for Republican governors to seek additional funding,” said Ron Pollack of Families USA, a leading advocate for Obama’s law.

All Democratic governors in office when the law took effect in 2013 agreed to the expansion. Even Republican governors in 11 states agreed to expand Medicaid, some with specific waivers that still allowed them to claim the federal reimbursement.

Now, Republican leaders in states aren’t just asking for money they turned down. They’re asking to change the formula to get back what they lost.

The federal Medicaid formula is based in part on how many enrollees a state had as of 2016. By last year, Michigan, for instance, had added 630,000 recipients since accepting the Medicaid expansion.

But Medicaid in Kansas grew at a far slower rate, given Gov. Sam Brownback’s opposition to the federal law. Now, he wants Congress to change the formula to benefit his state.

When refugees arrive in U.S., here’s what they can expect

The Obama administration has announced plans to steadily increase the number of refugees accepted in the United States for the next two years.

Those fleeing Syria and other war ravaged countries whose claims have been investigated and who have been invited to live in the United States are considered refugees.

Refugees and migrants fleeing Syria and others countries often arrive in their new homes with little or nothing. Here’s a look at what they can expect when they arrive in the U.S.:

HOW MANY PEOPLE:

Currently 70,000 refugees from around the world are allowed to come to the United States. The U.S. will accept 85,000 people in 2016 and 100,000 in 2017. People fleeing Syria will account for much of the increase, though not all.

Although more than half of U.S. governors have objected to plans to resettle Syrian refugees in the United States, with some declaring that they won’t allow resettlement in their states, the federal government controls resettlement programs. State authorities have no legal authority to bar refugees from moving to their jurisdictions.

HOUSING AND FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE:

Upon arrival in the United States, each refugee is eligible for a $1,975 arrival and placement grant that is managed by one of nine refugee resettlement agencies working with the federal government. At least $1,125 of that grant must be spent on housing, including a bed for each person, basic furniture such as a couch, kitchen items including dishes and silverware, and weather-appropriate clothing. The remainder is used to cover additional costs for the aid agency.

Low-income refugee families with children may be eligible for temporary assistance for needy families, a welfare program in which state rules govern eligibility and the amount of money families receive, for up to five years. Immigrants without children or otherwise not eligible for the temporary assistance program qualify for the refugee cash assistance program run by the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement. Eligibility for that program lasts eight months.

Elderly, blind or disabled refugees may be eligible for cash assistance through the Supplemental Security Income program for up to nine years.

HEALTH CARE:

Low-income refugees may be eligible for Medicaid for up to seven years. While immigrants to the U.S. are not generally eligible for Medicaid, refugees invited to move to the U.S. are exempt. Each state determines which refugees meet the eligibility requirements. Those who don’t qualify for Medicaid can receive refugee medical assistance for up to eight months.

WORK:

Refugees must register with the Social Security Administration after arrival and are almost immediately eligible for a work permit. Social services, including job placement programs, are available to refugees for up to five years.

OTHER ASSISTANCE:

Low-income refugees may also be eligible for food-assistance programs.

Some governors push back against McConnell letter to defy EPA

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s call for governors to defy proposed federal rules to limit pollution has been met with mostly silence, but leaders in downwind New England states and drought-stricken areas in the West are pushing back.

The Kentucky Republican wrote to all the nation’s governors in March after the Environmental Protection Agency proposed a rule to limit carbon pollution from existing coal-fired power plants. McConnell said he thinks the rule is illegal and, if enacted, would hurt the U.S. economy and kill energy jobs.

Democratic Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin was blunt in his response to McConnell.

“I disagree,” he wrote. “Climate change is real. It’s a threat to humanity. We should be working harder to address it, not rolling back efforts to do so.”

New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan, also a Democrat, pointed to efforts there, including the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, as ways to trim carbon emissions and urged McConnell to reconsider his opposition to the EPA’s rule. Because of prevailing weather conditions, states in the Northeast and New England are “downwind” of coal-fired power plants in the Midwest and have blamed carbon emissions and other pollution for environmental ills including acid rain.

“I respectfully disagree with your letter and would ask that states in the Midwest (and Kentucky) follow the science and take a more active effort in reducing harmful emissions, including CO2 emissions – particularly emissions generated through coal-fired power plants,” Hassan wrote.

Aides to Republican governors in Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, Tennessee and Wyoming say they have not responded to the letter; some say they won’t. The same is true for Democratic governors in California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Montana, New York, Pennsylvania, Washington and West Virginia.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, a Republican eyeing a presidential run in 2016, opposes the EPA rule and his state has joined a lawsuit challenging it.

“If enacted, the EPA’s Clean Power Plan would be a blow to Wisconsin residents and business owners, and I join business leaders, elected officials, and industry representatives in opposing this plan,” he said in comments opposing the rule.

In California, Gov. Jerry Brown didn’t reply to McConnell but said on “Meet The Press” that climate change linked to carbon emissions is the culprit in the state’s multi-year drought and other extreme weather.

“That’s why to have the leader of the Senate, Mr. McConnell, representing his coal constituents, putting at risk the health and well-being of America, is a disgrace,” Brown said. “There is no doubt that into the future we’re going to have more problems and we have to do something. President Obama is taking some important steps. And to fight that, it borders on the immoral.”

In his letter, McConnell said states should refuse to submit compliance plans to Washington.

“Don’t be complicit in the administration’s attack on the middle class,” he wrote.

McConnell had no immediate response this week to the governors’ reaction.

House Republicans have also criticized the rule, a key element of President Barack Obama’s strategy to fight climate change. Rep. Ed Whitfield of Kentucky drafted a bill allowing governors to veto compliance with the federal rule if the governor determines it would cause significant rate hikes for electricity or threaten reliability. That bill also would delay the EPA’s climate rule until all court challenges are completed.

A group of Democratic U.S. Senators on Tuesday drafted their own letter to the governors, urging them to comply with the EPA rule and pointing out that McConnell’s home state is already drafting a compliance plan.

“His is not the voice from ahead saying the trail is not safe; his is the voice obstinately staying behind saying, `Let’s not even try,'” the senators wrote.

A spokeswoman for EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said the agency fully expects states to develop their own plans to comply with the rule.

“At the same time, EPA has an obligation under the Clean Air Act to develop a model federal plan – something that many states have asked EPA to do so it can provide an example for states developing their own plans,” said Liz Purchia.

Tennessee governor to lead GOP Governors Association

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam has been elected as the next chairman of the Republican Governors Association.

The second term governor will take the reins from New Jersey’s Chris Christie, who has been on a victory lap at the group’s annual meeting in Florida this week after Republicans did especially well in the midterm elections.

Several more high-profile candidates, including Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, took their names out of the running as they consider potential presidential runs.

And with only three governor’s races on the calendar in 2015, the position is less of a platform than in busier years.

New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez will be vice chair of the organization, the group also announced.

Haslam will have big shoes to fill. The group raised more than $100 million during Christie’s tenure, setting a record and helping the potential 2016 candidate lay the groundwork for a presidential campaign.

In a statement, Christie praised Haslam as “a strong leader among leaders.” Haslam “emerged as a true pioneer when he took office, and his commanding victory this past election shows that his reform-driven approach is working for Tennessee,” Christie said.

Haslam told reporters before the vote that he was “interested and willing to serve if elected” chairman – a position it seemed nobody had wanted to fill.

Christie said after the vote that he’d asked Haslam last week if he would consider taking the job and then recommended the pick to his fellow governors, who voted unanimously in favor.

“I’m gratified that they accepted my suggestions and I’m thrilled that Bill’s the guy,” said Christie, who added that he was ready to pass the baton. “I’ll kind of miss it, actually. I enjoyed it. But I’ve had enough.”

Haslam told reporters that, if elected, he hoped to maintain the RGA’s momentum after Republicans scored a series of unexpected wins this cycle, including the governors’ mansions in Maryland and Massachusetts.

His focus, he said, would be on raising money, finding quality candidates and making sure the RGA continues to be a place where Republicans can gather to share ideas.

Haslam is known to be far more soft-spoken and mild-mannered than his predecessor and has been described as the “anti-Christie,” a contrast he embraced.

“Obviously we’re different personalities, different leadership style. But I have a great appreciation for what he’s done,” Haslam said.

Midterm Elections: On the ballot in 50 states

A to W: A state-by-state look at what is topping the ticket in the Nov. 4 election:

ALABAMA — Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions has no opposition for a fourth term. Republican Gov. Robert Bentley is favored for re-election to a second term. Republican Gary Palmer is poised to win the state’s one open House seat.

ALASKA — Sen. Mark Begich, a Democrat, tries to fend off Dan Sullivan, an ex-State Department appointee in George W. Bush’s administration, in a race that could tip the balance of power in the Senate. Dogged by an Alaska National Guard scandal, incumbent Republican Gov. Sean Parnell faces an uphill battle against a combined independent-Democratic ticket.

ARIZONA — Former ice cream chain CEO Doug Ducey is in a difficult-to-forecast governor’s race against Democrat Fred DuVal. Republicans hope to gain two House seats in swing districts.

ARKANSAS — Two-term Democratic U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor fighting for third term against Republican rival and U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton in heated and expensive race. Republican Asa Hutchinson running against Democrat and fellow ex-congressman Mike Ross in open governor’s race that national GOP figures have targeted after eight years under a popular Democratic incumbent.

CALIFORNIA — Democrat Jerry Brown is pitching a water bond and a rainy day fund as he seeks re-election to an unprecedented fourth term as governor over former U.S. Treasury official Neel Kashkari. Special interest groups have also poured millions of dollars into three toss-up congressional races.

COLORADO — Democratic Sen. Mark Udall and Republican Rep. Cory Gardner are in a fierce race, as are Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper and Republican Bob Beauprez. Democrats are targeting one House Republican, Mike Coffman.

CONNECTICUT — Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy is in a tight race against Tom Foley, the Republican businessman he narrowly defeated in 2010, as Democratic incumbents in all five U.S. House districts look to hold off GOP challengers. ßß

DELAWARE — Democratic U.S. Sen. Chris Coons seeksßa full six-year term after defeating tea party activist Christine O’Donnell in a 2010 special election for Joe Biden’s former seat. Republicans try to keep the lone statewide office they hold and to gain another as well.

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA — Democrat Muriel Bowser is favored to continue her party’s winning streak in the race for mayor of the heavily Democratic nation’s capital, despite a stronger-than-usual general election challenge from independent David Catania.

FLORIDA — Republican Gov. Rick Scott is in a tight battle with Democrat Charlie Crist, who was a Republican when he was elected to the office in 2006. Amendment 2, which would legalize medical marijuana, needs 60 percent approval to pass, and it is going to be close. Only two of the 27 congressional races are expected to be competitive – one is held by a Republican and the other a Democrat.

GEORGIA — Republican David Perdue and Democrat Michelle Nunn are competing for an open U.S. Senate seat, while Gov. Nathan Deal, a Republican, faces a challenge from Democrat Jason Carter, a state senator and the grandson of former President Jimmy Carter.

HAWAII — Sen. Brian Schatz appears to be in a safe seat for Democrats in President Barack Obama’s native state; fresh off a stunning upset in the Democratic primary, state Sen. David Ige is favored to replace unpopular Gov. Neil Abercrombie but faces a tough fight from Republican James “Duke” Aiona.

IDAHO — Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter is favored to win a rare third term but faces stiff competition from Democratic businessman A.J. Balukoff and Libertarian attorney John Bujak. Congressional GOP incumbents Sen. Jim Risch and Reps. Mike Simpson and Raul Labrador are expected to sail to victory.

ILLINOIS — Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn is facing a tough challenge from wealthy GOP businessman and first-time candidate Bruce Rauner for control of Obama’s home state.

INDIANA — GOP Rep. Jackie Walorski is favored to hold the seat Democrat Joe Donnelly gave up in 2012 for a successful U.S. Senate bid.

IOWA — The race for U.S Senate remains tight between Republican Joni Ernst and Democrat Bruce Braley while Republican Terry Branstad is expected to cruise to easy re-election as governor.

KANSAS — In a race crucial to GOP hopes for Senate control, Republican U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts is in a too-close-to-call match with independent Greg Orman. For governor, tax-cutting Republican incumbent Sam Brownback gets a stiff challenge from Democrat Paul Davis.

KENTUCKY_ Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes says the election is a referendum on Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell, the minority leader. McConnell says the election is a referendum on Obama. Voters will decide who is right.

LOUISIANA — The only Democratic statewide elected official, Sen. Mary Landrieu is threatened in her bid for a fourth term by national Republican efforts to oust her and retake control of the Senate. This race is expected to go to a Dec. 6 runoff between Landrieu and her main GOP challenger, Rep. Bill Cassidy.

MAINE — Democrat Mike Michaud would be the nation’s first openly gay governor if he can unseat Republican Gov. Paul LePage. GOP Sen. Susan Collins is expected to cruise to a fourth term.

MARYLAND — Democratic Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown and Republican Larry Hogan are in a competitive governor’s race in a state where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans 2-1. Congressional incumbents are not facing any stiff challenges.

MASSACHUSETTS — Democrat Martha Coakley, battling to become the first woman elected governor, is locked in a tight race with Republican Charlie Baker, who is trying to return the office to GOP hands for the first time since Mitt Romney left in 2007.

MICHIGAN — GOP Gov. Rick Snyder is in a tight race for re-election with Democrat Mark Schauer. Democratic U.S. Rep. Gary Peters is favored to win the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by mentor Carl Levin.

MINNESOTA — U.S. Sen. Al Franken and Gov. Mark Dayton are favored to keep top statewide seats in Democratic hands, but the party’s lock on state government is tenuous. The GOP is seen as likely to take the state House.

MISSISSIPPI — Six-term Sen. Thad Cochran won a tough Republican primary and has ignored two challengers, Democratic former U.S. Rep. Travis Childers and the Reform Party’s Shawn O’Hara; one Democrat and three Republicans in the House are safe.

MISSOURI — Only statewide office on the ballot is auditor, with the incumbent Republican facing two third-party candidates. Four ballot measures include one that could end teacher tenure, while local legislative races could give GOP veto-proof majorities in the Capitol.

MONTANA — GOP Rep. Steve Daines is expected to win Sen. John Walsh’s seat after Walsh dropped out in August over plagiarism revelations.

NEBRASKA — Republican Ben Sasse should easily win an open Senate seat in conservative Nebraska, but Democrat Brad Ashford and incumbent Republican Rep. Lee Terry are in a close race for an Omaha-based House seat.

NEVADA — GOP Gov. Brian Sandoval eyes an easy lopsided victory amid a Republican early voting wave that has nervous Democrats scrambling to catch up. 

NEW HAMPSHIRE — Former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown is hoping to oust incumbent Democrat Jeanne Shaheen to secure his comeback to Washington from a second state.

NEW JERSEY — Republicans are trying to keep the 3rd Congressional seat in an open race between self-funded Republican Tom MacArthur and Democrat Aimee Belgard, whose campaign has been supplemented by independent spending from national groups.

NEW MEXICO — Republican Gov. Susana Martinez is leading Attorney General Gary King in pursuit of second term. Republicans are looking to reclaim a legislative chamber for the first time since the Eisenhower administration.

NEW YORK — Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo remains a heavy favorite in polls, while a series of close races will determine whether Republicans keep majority control of the state Senate.

NORTH CAROLINA — Democratic incumbent Sen. Kay Hagan and GOP challenger Thom Tillis are battling down to the wire for the Senate seat in a key swing state; polls indicate a virtual dead heat.

NORTH DAKOTA — Republican U.S. Rep. Kevin Cramer appears headed to re-election, while Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring, one of three people who sits on a panel that regulates oil, is in a tight race with Democratic challenger Ryan Taylor.

OHIO — GOP Gov. John Kasich is headed to a big re-election victory in what could shape up as a good day for Republicans across the state.

OKLAHOMA — Both of Oklahoma’s U.S. Senate seats are on the ballot, and Republicans are heavy favorites to retain both. Republican Gov. Mary Fallin is expected to return for another four years.

OREGON — Sen. Jeff Merkley and Gov. John Kitzhaber, both Democrats, are likely to be re-elected, but a ballot measure to legalize marijuana could go either way.

PENNSYLVANIA — Democrat Tom Wolf appears poised to send Republican Gov. Tom Corbett to a historic defeat, making him the first incumbent to lose in the four decades since Pennsylvania’s chief executive was allowed to run again.

RHODE ISLAND — Democrat Gina Raimondo and Republican Allan Fung are in a close race for governor, while twice-convicted felon Buddy Cianci is attempting a comeback as Providence mayor.

SOUTH CAROLINA — Republican Nikki Haley is expected to easily win re-election for governor, increasing her national visibility in the Republican Party. Republicans Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott also are on track to retain their U.S. Senate seats.

SOUTH DAKOTA — After the U.S. Senate race tightened up due to an infusion of outside advertising money and nagging questions about his leadership as governor, Republican Mike Rounds has regained his status as front-runner over Democrat Rick Weiland and independents Larry Pressler and Gordon Howie.

TENNESSEE — Republican Lamar Alexander is favored for a third term in the Senate, but spending hold off long-shot Democrat Gordon Ball. Republican Gov. Bill Haslam is cruising to a second term against Charles V. Brown, a Democrat who has mounted no organized campaign.ß

TEXAS — Republican Greg Abbott is heavily favored over Democrat Wendy Davis to become Texas’ first new governor since 2000. Democrats are unlikely to end a 20-year losing streak in statewide races.

UTAH — Republican Mia Love could become the first black female Republican in Congress. Interim Republican Attorney General Sean Reyes is likely to earn two more years in office.

VERMONT — Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin is expected to be the top vote-getter in the election, but the race will be decided by the Legislature if his vote total doesn’t reach 50 percent.

VIRGINIA — Sen. Mark Warner has maintained a consistent lead over GOP challenger Ed Gillespie in polls. Dave Brat, who defeated then-U.S. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in June primary, aims to win general election.

WASHINGTON — Voters decide whether to increase the number of background checks on gun sales and transfers conducted in Washington state.

WEST VIRGINIA — Republican Shelley Moore Capito is favored to defeat Democrat Natalie Tennant for retiring Sen. Jay Rockefeller’s open seat, with two congressional contests and control of the Democratic state House of Delegates still up in the air.

WISCONSIN — Republican Gov. Scott Walker is in a tight re-election bid against political newcomer Democrat Mary Burke, two years after his recall victory and with a potential 2016 presidential bid at stake.

WYOMING — Republican Sen. Mike Enzi and Rep. Cynthia Lummis are cruising to fourth terms. GOP Gov. Matt Mead is poised for a second term.

Scandals won’t go away for Walker, GOP governors

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker suffered a defeat six weeks before Election Day.

On Sept. 24, a three-member panel of the Seventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that a federal judge erred when he halted a second “John Doe” investigation into possible illegal coordination between Walker’s recall campaign and more than two dozen conservative groups.

The unanimous ruling meant the Republican incumbent headed into the final month of campaigning against Democrat Mary Burke with the possibility that the investigation into possible campaign finance violations might resume.

In overturning the injunction that halted the probe, the appeals court said the federal court system is the wrong venue for the case. The questions in the case belong before the state courts, according to the ruling.

In fact, there is a case in the state courts. A state judge stopped the investigation in January, denying requested subpoenas. That order is on appeal before the Wisconsin Supreme Court, which hasn’t decided whether to take it.

Walker said the federal ruling didn’t matter because the investigation remains blocked in state courts. “The Friends of Scott Walker campaign was not party to the federal lawsuit, but today’s ruling has no impact on the fact that Judge Peterson shut down this investigation in January,” a statement said.

Burke, in a press statement, said Wisconsinites “deserve answers to the questions raised by this investigation, which at minimum are very disappointing, and are potentially criminal.”

An attorney for the prosecutors investigating the case, Douglas S. Knott, said the appeals court decision “confirms that the rich and powerful are not above the law.”

The ruling from the appeals court came as Walker was named to the list of “Crooked Chiefs” from American Bridge 21st Century. In late September, the progressive group that researches GOP candidates, released “Crooked Chiefs: An Overview of the Scandals Facing Nearly Half of GOP Governors.”

Republican governors nationwide are facing corruption charges or other scandals that involve allegations of investigation cover-ups, accepting illegal gifts, cronyism and pay-to-play schemes.

The report explored scandals tied to Govs. Rick Scott in Florida, Nathan Deal in Georgia, Terry Branstad in Iowa, Sam Brownback in Kansas, Paul LePage in Maine, Rick Snyder in Michigan, Brian Sandoval in Nevada, Susan Martinez in New Mexico, John Kasich in Ohio, Tom Corbett in Pennsylvania, Rick Perry in Texas, Chris Christie in New Jersey and Walker, who saw six close associates charged under the first secret John Doe investigation. That probe focused on Walker’s time as Milwaukee County Executive and found that Walker employees were engaging in campaign activities while working at taxpayer-funded jobs.

The investigation revealed a secret email system used by the Walker administration and also embezzlement from a veterans’ charity.

The second John Doe investigation, the one bounced out of the federal courts and pending before the Wisconsin Supreme Court, is focused on Walker’s recall campaign and spending by outside, conservative groups on the governor’s behalf.

Dems seek to elect more women governors in 2014

The Democratic Party claims to be the natural home for women. The numbers tell another story when it comes to the nation’s governors.

Republicans, four women: Jan Brewer in Arizona, Susana Martinez in New Mexico, Mary Fallin in Oklahoma and Nikki Haley in South Carolina. Democrats: Maggie Hassan in New Hampshire.

For the GOP, often accused of waging a “war on women,” this advantage offers a powerful tool in the competition for female voters.

“We have to show the fact there is no war on women,” said Haley, who is in her first term. “The more Republican women out there, the better our case is.”

Democratic leaders, backed by national women’s groups, are trying to turn it around in gubernatorial elections next fall that feature no less than six high-profile female candidates. Their goal is to give Hassan, who faces re-election in 2014, some company.

“My mother always used to say if you want something done, ask a busy woman,” says Rhode Island’s treasurer, Gina Raimondo, a 42-year-old mother of two young children who began her campaign last week. “People in Rhode Island want someone who’s going to do something.”

Raimondo is a leading contender in a crowded Democratic primary to succeed Lincoln Chafee, the Democratic incumbent who’s not running for a second term.

In Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Texas, there also are strong female candidates.

Gender is not a central issue in theses contests, but the Democratic women are using their backgrounds to help distinguish themselves.

Several candidates interviewed by The Associated Press said that the real-world stresses of raising families help them connect with voters while shaping priorities on issues such as health care, education and jobs.

In some cases, they’re up against male incumbents who elevated women’s issues by backing conservative social priorities on abortion, contraception and “equal pay” legislation.

In Pennsylvania, Democratic U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz charges that Republican Gov. Tom Corbett has “almost been dismissive of women,” particularly on issues such as “access to family planning and reproductive rights.”

Corbett has drawn criticism for cutting education, and like other Republican governors, he has supported legislation requiring women to get ultrasounds before having abortions. That idea never became law, but Corbett did say that women should close their eyes if they felt the procedure was too obtrusive.

“It is important for us in Pennsylvania to see a new and different kind of leadership that will move the state forward. It may well take a woman to do that,” Schwartz told a recent gathering of Pennsylvania politicians in New York City. She’s considered the early front-runner in the primary.

In state and national elections, women are a powerful voting bloc.

In presidential races, a Republican candidate has not won a majority of women since 1984. In the 2010 congressional elections, however, exit polls found that women voted for Republicans and Democrats almost evenly, helping to propel the GOP to the U.S. House majority.

Since then, Republicans have suffered from several self-inflicted wounds. For example, in 2012, Republican Senate candidate Todd Akin of Missouri suggested that women’s bodies could prevent impregnation in cases of “legitimate rape.”

A report from the Republican National Committee this year detailed the scope of the problem. “Women are not a ‘coalition.’ They represent more than half the voting population in the country, and our inability to win their votes is losing us elections,” it said.

Republicans such as South Carolina’s Haley are in a unique position to balance damage done by party leaders elsewhere.

“Women can’t help it when men say ignorant things,” she said. “What we can do is try to make sure we continue to refocus people on what’s important and back on the issues.”

Haley, Martinez and Fallin are running for re-election in 2014. Brewer hasn’t decided whether she will challenge term limits set in the Arizona Constitution.

Democrats lost two female governors in recent years, when President Barack Obama appointed Arizona’s Janet Napolitano and Kansas’ Kathleen Sebelius to his Cabinet.

None of the Democrats’ 2014 female candidates are considered sure bets.

In Republican-friendly Texas, Democratic strategists are skeptical about the chances of state Sen. Wendy Davis, who developed a national following after her filibuster of a Republican-backed abortion bill.

Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley is trying to become the state’s first female governor elected in a general election. Raimondo and Schwartz are trying to become their states’ first female chief executive, as is Wisconsin businesswoman Mary Burke.

Burke is the likely challenger for Republican Gov. Scott Walker, who has pursued social conservative priorities on women’s issues as he weighs a 2016 presidential bid.

“There are a lot of areas where women in the state aren’t getting a fair shake,” Burke said.

Burke cited Walker’s repeal of legislation designed to deter employers from wage discrimination based on age and gender. Walker also signed into law legislation that singled out abortion clinics in requiring their doctors to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals, which would reduce the number of abortion providers.

Good government group says Walker among the worst governors

The good government group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington on July 17 released its report naming the “Worst Governors in America,” which included Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.

CREW said it examined the job performance of the 50 governors for “shady and unethical conduct” to compile the study. The organization looked at:

• Corruption: Has there been outright corruption? Did a governor violate state ethics laws or campaign finance laws, or did the governor use his or her position to influence the awarding of state contracts?

• Transparency: Did a governor block access to records that state law deems discoverable? Did the governor oppose legislation to make public records more accessible or promote measures to make government less transparent? Did the governor take steps to foil transparency?

• Partisan politics: Did a governor appear to put partisan politics above the interests of the citizens of his or her state?

• Pressuring public officials: Has a governor attempted to pressure or intimidate other state officials in an inappropriate manner?

• Cronyism: Did a governor abuse his or her position to reward family, friends or major donors with state employment or other benefits?

• Self-enrichment: Did a governor use his or her position for personal financial enrichment?

• Scandal: Was a governor involved in a personal scandal that clearly distracted from his or her ability to govern effectively?

• Mismanagement: Did a governor fail to discharge his or her duties responsibly and in the public interest?

“CREW’s research reveals many state leaders aren’t always looking out for their constituents’ best interests,” stated CREW executive director Melanie Sloan in a news release. “It seems some governors are more interested in what their states can do for them rather than what they can do for their states.”

The report divides the “worst” governors into three tiers — those who are the absolute worst, those whose conduct raises serious questions about their leadership and those who engaged in some troubling conduct.

The six worst, according to CREW, are Walker, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal, Maine Gov. Paul LePage, Virginia Gov. Robert McDonnell, Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Florida Gov. Rick Scott.

The middle six are Kentucky Gov. Steven Beshear, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez and North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory.

The governors CREW says are worth watching are Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder.

Sloan said, “The problem of our elected leaders using their positions to benefit themselves, their families and their friends goes well beyond the Capital Beltway. Some of those named in this report could give Boss Tweed a run for his money.”

In its profile of Walker, CREW said the Republican governor:

• Violated the Wisconsin Constitution and state law by tracking down state senators to force a vote on a measure backed by his campaign donors to eliminate collective bargaining rights.

• Faced a wide-ranging investigation by the Milwaukee County District Attorney resulting in embezzlement charges and campaign finance-related charges against his aides.

On the Web…

CREW’s profile for Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.

Hundreds of new laws take effect in states

Early July is about more than fireworks, cookouts and long weekends. It’s also about hundreds of new laws in the states.

Around the nation, July 1 marked the start of new fiscal years and the date recently passed legislation goes into effect, although states often mark their independence by enacting new regulations on their own calendars.

The laws and effective dates vary somewhat from state to state, but an overview of legislation set to hit the books on July 1 shows that state lawmakers took positions on the following five topics of national debate:

• GUNS: State legislatures across the U.S. discussed gun laws in the wake of mass shootings that shocked the nation in 2012. Most efforts to pass restrictions faded amid fierce opposition. Only a handful of states enacted new limits, some of which went into effect on July 1. Among them Colorado is notable for requiring background checks for private and online gun sales and outlawing high-capacity ammunition magazines. At least 18 states, however, have gone the other way and loosened gun laws. Kansas laws set to take effect will allow schools to arm employees with concealed handguns and ensure that weapons can be carried into more public buildings.

• TECH: Dozens of states examined technology laws. Recently passed legislation in eight states will prevent businesses from demanding passwords to social media sites as a condition of employment. The law in Washington state also stops employers from compelling workers to add managers as “friends” so their profile can be viewed. Four states updated tech laws to allow drivers to show proof of car insurance on an electronic device, such as a smartphone.

• CARS: A handful of states have restricted cellphone use while driving. Starting on July 1 in Hawaii and West Virginia motorists must put down hand-held devices. Meanwhile, in South Dakota beginning drivers face similar restrictions. Utah also enacted limits for newbies with a law that has already taken effect. A few states have banned texting while driving. Other state laws affecting drivers will make it illegal to smoke in a car with a child, raise highway speed limits, crackdown on drunken drivers and raise gas taxes.

• ABORTION: Nationally, state lawmakers proposed more than 300 bills that would have restricted abortions, according to the American Civil Liberties Union. At least 13 state legislatures passed new limits, though two are waiting for governors to sign off. Notably, a bill that would have closed almost every abortion clinic in Texas was dramatically defeated by a Democratic filibuster and a restless crowd in late June. The Texas governor, however, ordered another special legislative session to push the bill through. North Dakota has passed the nation’s strictest abortion law, which takes effect in August, banning abortions after six weeks of pregnancy.

• DRONES: An Idaho law that took effect this week forbids anyone from using an unmanned aircraft for spying on another. Virginia has passed a ban preventing authorities from using drones for the next two years, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Four other states approved anti-drone regulations, though legislation aimed at law enforcement in Texas isn’t effective until fall.

Not all of the measures taking effect were matters dominating national political discussion. The following five examples of recently approved legislation show state-level updates can cover a variety of topics:

• SEXIST LANGUAGE: Washington lawmakers continued their multiyear effort to make the state’s laws and rules gender neutral. The final measure approved by the Legislature this year has terms like “ombuds” and “security guards” replace “ombudsman” and “watchmen.”

• JACKPOT: Wyoming residents might soon consider 7, 1 and 13 as lucky numbers. A Cowboy State law that kicked in on July 1 calls for the state to establish a lottery for the first time, leaving a dwindling list of only a handful of states without such a prize drawing.

• ELECTION DAY DRINKING: Kentucky has lifted a ban on election day drinking. It was one of the last states with Prohibition-era restrictions on the sale of alcohol while polls are open.

• EDIBLE LANDSCAPING: Maine lawmakers this session have directed officials to plant edible landscaping, such as fruit trees or berry shrubs, around the Statehouse.

• TANNING: Dozens of states this year considered keeping minors out of tanning beds. New Jersey and Nevada restrictions kicked in July 1, and an Oregon limit takes effect in January. The home of MTV’s reality series “Jersey Shore” and its famously bronzed cast, however, took the law beyond sun lamps to block anyone younger than 14 from getting even a spray tan.

Right-wing Republicans are reshaping the nation state by state

State by state, Republicans are moving at light speed on a right-wing agenda they would have had no hope of achieving before the big election gains of November.

The dividends are apparent after only a few months in office, and they go well beyond the spending cuts forced on states by the projected budget deficits and Tea Party agitation. GOP governors and state legislators are bringing abortion restrictions into law from Virginia to Arizona, acting swiftly to expand gun rights north and south, pushing polling-station photo ID laws that lower Democratic voter turnout and taking on public sector unions anywhere they can.

Democrats find themselves cowed or outmaneuvered in statehouses where they once put up a fight. In many states, they are unable to do much except hope that voters will see these actions as an overreach by the Republicans they elected – an accidental revolution to be reversed down the road.

A veer to the right was in the cards ever since voters put the GOP in charge of 25 legislatures and 29 governors’ offices in the 2010 elections. That is turning out to be every bit as key to shaping the nation’s ideological direction as anything happening in Washington.

A close-up review of the first wave of legislative action by Associated Press statehouse reporters shows the striking degree to which the GOP has been able to break through gridlock and achieve improbable ends. The historic and wildly contentious curbs on public-sector bargaining in Wisconsin, quickly followed by similar action in Ohio, were but a signal that the status quo is being challenged on multiple fronts in many places.

The realignment in Florida has produced a law imposing more accountability on teachers, along with 18 proposed abortion restrictions, some bound to become law. Immigration controls are motivating lawmakers far from borders, constitutional amendments against same-sex marriage are picking up steam, Michigan is shortening the period people can get jobless benefits and Indiana may soon have the broadest school voucher program in the U.S.

At least 20 states are going after public-sector benefits, pay or bargaining rights.

In Virginia, right-wing Republicans used a deft legislative maneuver to enact a law that will close the state’s 21 abortion clinics. In Missouri, a presidential swing state where Republicans are at their strongest numbers in decades, a tax cut sought by business for 10 years has been given final legislative approval and Democrats are putting up little resistance to Republican priorities they once tied in knots.

“You can’t get up on every issue when you’re in the minority,” said state Sen. Tim Green, a Democrat from St. Louis. “So you pick the ones you’re most passionate about.”

In North Carolina, where Republicans won control of both legislative levers for the first time since 1870, the party has secured approval in at least one chamber for charter school expansion, limits on damages in medical malpractice suits and a bill that would create separate crimes for the death or injury of a fetus at any stage of development. Republicans have made unexpected progress in giving gun owners more rights to carry concealed pistols. North Carolina is also among nearly a dozen states where an initiative to require photo IDs at polls is getting traction. Democrats and civil libertarians worry photo ID rules would suppress minority and legal immigrant voting.

Conservatives welcome the pace and breadth of it all. “When you have one side that’s been put out in the legislative wilderness, there’s a lot of pent-up ideas that are going to move quickly,” said Dallas Woodhouse, director of Americans for Prosperity in North Carolina.

Even solidly Democratic Vermont is coming up a paler shade of blue as legislators seek cuts in spending on the elderly and disabled after shelving a plan to raise taxes on the rich. The squeeze on state budgets and the shaky economy are forcing lawmakers of both parties to rethink the usual partisan prescriptions.

“In the context of that kind of a fiscal reality, I think agendas become a little bit more polarized and opportunities for finding the kind of adjustments on the margins become less and less,” said political scientist Philip Russo of Ohio’s Miami University.

In bellwether Ohio, new Republican Gov. John Kasich burst out of the gate with a plan, now law, to hand over job creation functions from the government to a nonprofit corporation whose board he chairs. Bills that would have met quick death under Democratic control have advanced under Republican majorities – none more apparent than the law to curtail the collective bargaining rights of more than 350,000 public workers.

Democrats in Ohio are complaining about “one-party rule” and want buyer’s remorse legislation that would help voters recall lawmakers who are doing things they didn’t elect them to do. Their chances of getting it are close to zero.

So is a conservative tide sweeping the nation?

If so, historian Doris Kearns Goodwin sees it as a tide that can wash out as fast as it rushed in.

Sitting in the State Room of the Statehouse in Columbus, Ohio, where she had come for a historical event, Goodwin said declining party loyalty has accelerated shifts in public opinion and swings of the pendulum. She recalled the Democratic statehouse gains of 2008, the year of Barack Obama.

“We thought in 2008, many pundits did, that that meant a progressive era was coming in; now everybody’s talking about a conservative era in the states and maybe in the nation,” she said.

“When one whole party comes in, and they come in having been out before, there’s that flush of victory that makes them think this is our time, whether they’re Democrats or Republicans, to get through what we want to get through.”

In South Carolina, where Republicans are fashioning further restrictions to one of the country’s toughest immigration enforcement laws, Democrats have mostly dropped the delaying tactics they once used with relish. The Democratic opposition has essentially vaporized in Tennessee, Kansas and Oklahoma, too.

In Oklahoma, where the GOP controls both chambers and the governor’s office for the first time in history, Republicans are making sweeping changes to the state’s civil justice system, shoring up the state’s pension system by making workers contribute more and work longer and aiming to eliminate bargaining rights for municipal workers in the state’s seven largest cities.

“They’re power mad,” said Democratic lawmaker Richard Morrissette of Oklahoma City. “They weren’t out there campaigning on the idea of consolidating power. They know they have control of the House, the Senate and the governor’s office, and they’re ramming this stuff through just because they can.”

If Republicans are overreaching, it’s also true that voters did not elect them to govern like Democrats.

“All this should come as no surprise to people,” said New Hampshire GOP lawmaker Gene Chandler. With supermajorities in both chambers, giving them a stronger hand against a Democratic governor, GOP legislators in the state have passed bills to shift more public employee pension costs to workers and opt for spending cuts over tax increases. They’ve also approved legislation to expand the right to use deadly force in self-defense.

It’s not all coming up tulips for the Tea Party or the social conservatives, however. New Mexico and Utah are among Republican-led states where governors are bypassing the GOP playbook. The Tea Party movement is in tatters in Colorado and not much better off in Alaska.

In Montana, Republican leaders are struggling to keep their eye on the big picture – cutting spending, developing natural resources – while the swollen GOP freshman class peppers the debate with calls to nullify federal laws, create an armed citizen’s militia, legalize spear hunting, force FBI agents to get a sheriff’s OK before arresting anyone, and more.

“Stop scaring our constituents and stop letting us look like buffoons,” veteran Republican lawmaker Walt McNutt told the aggressive newcomers.

Gov. Brian Schweitzer, not one of the Democrats to roll over, came up with a cattle brand that reads “VETO” and seems itching to use it. “Ain’t nobody in the history of Montana has had so many danged ornery critters,” he said.