Elephant Race: Analyst Ranks ’16 GOP Candidates

AGreg Valliere of the Potomac Research Group recently ranked the likelihood of 10 Republican hopefuls for the 2016 candidacy for President. Business Insider offers a summary for each candidate, but here’s the list. (And you’ll notice our governor made the list — and some in the media speculate he has a much better shot than that.):

10. Mike Pence
9. Scott Walker
8. Rick Santorum
7. Paul Ryan
6. Chris Christie
5. Mitt Romney
4. Ted Cruz
3. Rand Paul
2. Marco Rubio
1. Jeb Bush

Does Wisconsin Illustrate Fading Role of Unions?

Wisconsin public sector unions don’t like the rules that emerged from a legislative battle earlier this year. As a result, many failed to file for recertification. A professor and former legislator terms it: "Welcome to the future Wisconsin." Stateline reports:

Major unions in Wisconsin have opted to allow their official collective bargaining status to lapse rather than file for “recertification” under controversial new rules enacted earlier this year.

The decision raises serious questions about the relevance of state workers’ unions in Wisconsin politics and governance. Wisconsin has long been a union stronghold — and was in fact the first state to require collective bargaining for state workers. That changed when Republican Governor Scott Walker and the state legislature re-wrote bargaining rules, triggering protests that captured national attention for weeks.

The new law allows unions to retain official collective bargaining status if they undergo an annual vote of represented workers to determine that they still want the union to represent them in formal talks with the state. That’s a high hurdle. For one thing, holding an annual election is an expensive proposition for a union. And in order to prevail, unions must receive votes from a majority of represented workers, not just a majority of the votes cast.

The deadline to recertify passed last week. While some small unions filed paperwork, unions representing the majority of state workers allowed the deadline to pass without filing with the state as required by the new law.

“I think the passing of the deadline was a major moment and now we can say, ‘Welcome to the future Wisconsin,’” Mordecai Lee, a professor of governmental affairs at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and former state legislator, told Reuters.

The decision not to subject themselves to the recertification process indicates that unions are betting that, under the new rules of the game, the costs of collective bargaining may outweigh the benefits. Those unions that do successfully pass the recertification test will only be able to negotiate over salary increases to keep pace with inflation — they can’t negotiate over not workplace conditions, benefits or more significant salary bumps, as they could before. At the same time, the resources available to state unions have diminished because unions are no longer allowed to take automatic deductions from represented workers’ paychecks. All contributions are voluntary.

The Associated Press reports that while union leaders have refused to say how many members are voluntarily continuing to pay dues, layoffs of union staff have already begun. The Wisconsin Education Association Council, the statewide teachers union, has laid off 42 people — 40 percent of its staff.

Train Travel Proponents Have Something to ‘Rail’ About

Mention the word "rail" and let the discussions begin:

  • I edited some transportation copy yesterday for our next BizVoice that, of course, includes rail — along with highways, air and ports — as critical to Indiana’s infrastructure for moving commodities and finished products.
  • Add "light" in front of the "rail" and you have many wondering how cities, like Indianapolis, could be even better if there were efficient public transportation measures in place. Opponents rightfully point out the heavy investment needed to make such efforts a reality.
  • Switch light to ‘high speed" and the controversy soars to an even higher level. The very brief history lesson is Europe thrives on moving people quickly and effectively; the U.S. lags way behind and appears destined to remain that way.

The latest on the high-speed front, courtesy of Stateline.org:

Congress on Tuesday (April 12) revealed the details of the federal budget deal reached by Democrats and Republicans late last week, and a clear loser is high-speed rail.

Funding for the program, a priority for President Obama, was slashed dramatically in the agreement announced by the administration and GOP House Speaker John Boehner. Not only does the deal eliminate all financing for high-speed rail this year, it takes back $400 million of the $2.5 billion that Congress authorized for it last year, The New York Times reports.

"The cuts will not bring the rail program to a halt, as there is still unspent rail money that can be used on new projects. But they leave the future of high-speed rail in the United States unclear, to say the least," The Times says. "Roughly $10 billion has been approved for high-speed rail so far, but that money has been spread to dozens of projects around the country. If Congress does not approve more money, it is possible that the net result of all that spending will be better regular train service in many areas, and a small down payment on one bullet train, in California."

High-speed rail has been a favorite target for congressional and state-level Republicans who see it as a waste of money. The opposition in the states has been led by three GOP governors who rejected funding for projects in their states: Rick Scott of Florida, John Kasich of Ohio and Scott Walker of Wisconsin.