By Josh Goodman, Stateline Staff Writer
The only thing that prevented a controversial bill to create a teacher merit pay plan from becoming law in Florida this year was the veto pen of Governor Charlie Crist. With Crist gone, nothing is likely to stop the legislation next year, the Orlando Sentinel reports. Governor-elect Rick Scott is sympathetic to the favored causes of conservative education reformers, including private school vouchers and charter schools. He's also expected to look more favorably on the legislation that Crist rejected, which would have linked teachers' pay to test scores. The bill also would have made it easier for teachers to be fired. While the legislation is expected to be back, it could return in a modified form that reflects this year's heated debate. "We found out in this past session that you can't push something through so quickly that has such an impact on the educational system and not bring everyone to the table and allow them a voice," state Senator Mike Fasano told the Sentinel.
Fights over business tax incentives have led to intra-party squabbles for Republicans in Missouri and South Carolina in recent years. Arizona could be next, thanks to the views of Russell Pearce, the state's new Senate President. Pearce, like some conservatives, thinks that luring specific businesses with tax breaks violates free market principles. "I don't like government picking winners and losers," Pearce told Capitol Media Services. "I think it's immoral when you give government that kind of power." Business interests in Arizona and elsewhere lobby for both low tax rates and special help for specific companies. Tax incentives aren't the only issue on which Pearce breaks with business groups, which are traditional allies of his fellow Republicans. Business groups also are wary of his efforts at stricter immigration enforcement.
State Representative Gene Chandler has served in the New Hampshire legislature for nearly 30 years. In that time, he's served in a variety of leadership roles, including as House speaker. But it's not clear whether that history is an asset or a liability as he tries to win the speakership once again, the Concord Monitor reports. For one thing, Chandler pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor in 2005 for violating disclosure rules. What's more, his leading rival, Bill O'Brien, may be more in touch with the younger generation of House Republicans. He's won the endorsement of the Republican Liberty Caucus, a key conservative group in the state. Despite the reelection of Democratic Governor John Lynch, Republicans will have wide leeway to shape policy in New Hampshire for the next two years, thanks to their veto-proof majorities in both houses of the Legislature.
Arkansas Republicans have more seats in the state Legislature than they've had since Reconstruction. They plan to use their new clout to push for tax cuts, the Arkansas News Bureau reports. For his part, Governor Mike Beebe, a Democrat, is proposing a cut in the sales tax on groceries. But Republicans are interested in looking at cutting other taxes too, including the capital gains tax. Republican lawmakers also are hoping to have their views heard on ethics reform, which is expected to be a major source of debate in the upcoming session. Democrats continue to control both houses of the Arkansas Legislature, but Republicans added 16 seats in the House and 7 in the Senate.
Given that Terry Branstad already has served as governor of Iowa once before, he probably wouldn't have much trouble filling his new administration with his old deputies. But he's decided to find some new blood, too. The Quad City Times reports that Branstad has picked David Roederer and Jeff Boeyink to lead his transition team. Roederer is a former Branstad chief-of-staff. Boeyink, on the other hand, has never served in government, although he does have plenty of political experience as a former executive director of the Iowa Republican Party and, more recently, as Branstad's campaign manager. Come January, Boeyink will be Branstad's new chief of staff. Branstad's previous stint as governor lasted from 1983 to 1999.