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Political Scene

- - Tuesday, December 28, 2010

UNIONS

Indiana GOP leaders eye right-to-work law

INDIANAPOLIS | Bills filed in the Indiana House that would ban workers from being required to pay union dues could spark a debate so divisive that Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels wants to avoid the issue.

The so-called right-to-work legislation has been filed by Republicans who gained a House majority in the November election. Labor Committee Chairman Doug Gutwein of Francesville says he supports such a law, but doesn't know yet whether the committee will consider it.

Democratic Rep. Dennis Tyler of Muncie tells the Courier-Journal of Louisville, Ky., that he thinks such laws drive down wages and that Democrats will fight it.

Mr. Daniels says he thinks the proposal has merit, but worries that bringing it up could hurt the chances of action on other issues during the legislative session that starts next week.

DISTRICT

D.C. mayor-elect invites public to inauguration

The public is being invited to attend the inauguration of Vincent C. Gray as the sixth elected mayor of Washington.

Several inaugural events will be held Sunday at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Northwest Washington and all are free.

The day will begin with a prayer service at 8 a.m. Mr. Gray's inauguration and a swearing-in ceremony for D.C. Council members will be held at 10 a.m. Tickets are not needed for either event.

There will also be a black-tie gala at 7 p.m. featuring D.C. artists Chuck Brown and Raheem DeVaughn, along with the Style Band and the Yvonne Johnson Trio. Tickets for that event are required and will be available at the convention center on Tuesday to Thursday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. There are 7,500 free tickets available.

ALASKA

Palin e-mails won't be released 'til May

The Alaska governor's office says it needs until May 31 to release potentially thousands of e-mails sent and received by former Gov. Sarah Palin.

By that time, more than 2 years will have elapsed since media outlets, including the Associated Press, requested the e-mails. Mrs. Palin has been out of office since July 2009.

A work plan submitted to the new attorney general, John Burns, says the Department of Law plans to assign two people to review the records full time, including a former assistant attorney general with whom the department will contract. According to the plan submitted by public records officer Linda Perez, the cost will be $120,000.

Mr. Burns' predecessor had granted extensions in the past.

NEW YORK

Green, Conservative parties ready newfound clout

ALBANY | The new year will bring a stronger voice for conservatives, once on New York's endangered list, and for liberals with an environmental bent after gains they made in the November elections.

The big winners were the Green Party, which will be listed on ballots for the next four years, and the Conservative Party, which seized the No. 3 spot on ballots, behind Democrats and Republicans, also for the next four years.

A party needs to tally at least 50,000 votes in the governor's race to be guaranteed a spot on ballots and avoid having to petition for them.

Many political observers had written off the Conservative Party as the blue state approached a 2-to-1 enrollment advantage for Democrats. Yet the Conservatives tallied 232,263 votes on their ballot line for Carl Paladino, the Republican candidate they endorsed in the governor's race.

"It certainly is a stronger position," said state Conservative Party Chairman Michael Long. "We moved up, and the Working Families Party moved up. I would give them credit ... . The reason we moved up is because both parties represent something."

It's the first time the Conservative Party is on the top rung of minor parties since 1998. In New York, all major and minor party votes for a candidate are added together, giving minor parties more clout than in many other states.

The Green Party pulled 59,928 votes. Their effort was led by the strong performance by the party's candidate for governor, Howie Hawkins, in the only debate of the campaign. An eye-catching TV and Internet ad had New Yorkers asking, "Where are the [expletive] jobs?" Ralph Nader, the consumer advocate and former Green Party presidential nominee, also stumped for Mr. Hawkins in New York.

WEST VIRGINIA

Senator: Update miners' families

CHARLESTON | Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV is asking the Obama administration to update the families of miners killed in West Virginia's Upper Big Branch mine explosion on the government's investigation.

The West Virginia Democrat says families of the 29 miners haven't been briefed since September. He says in a letter to U.S. Labor Secretary Hilda L. Solis that that's too long.

Mr. Rockefeller also wants an update.

The April 5 explosion was the deadliest at a U.S. coal mine since 1970. The Labor Department's Mine Safety and Health Administration is conducting a civil investigation, while the Justice Department is conducting a criminal probe. Mine owner Massey Energy has denied doing anything wrong.

The Labor Department said it intends to meet with the families after the holidays.

NEW HAMPSHIRE

Senator-elect hires chief of staff

CONCORD | A man who once served as former Oregon Sen. Gordon Smith's chief of staff has been hired for the same position by New Hampshire Sen.-elect Kelly Ayotte.

John Easton, who served as Mr. Smith's chief of staff for seven years ending in 2009, comes to Mrs. Ayotte's staff from a bipartisan public-affairs firm in Washington.

Mrs. Ayotte, a Republican and the former New Hampshire attorney general, defeated Democratic Rep. Paul Hodes in November. She will replace Republican Sen. Judd Gregg, who did not seek re-election.

From wire dispatches and staff reports