As Sessions Begin, Jobs Not A Priority For Conservative Legislators

This week, state legislatures across the nation are starting to convene for new sessions following an election dominated by voter concern about jobs and the economy. Yet if the first bills being proposed by newly elected conservative state lawmakers and governors are any indication, job creation will end up on the back burner. 

The Associated Press reported this week that despite election season rhetoric on the importance of economic issues, the new leaders of Wisconsin's state legislature are focusing instead on real conservative priorities -- disenfranchising voters, attacking stem-cell research, and loosening restrictions on carrying guns in schools:

Wisconsin Republicans promised the next two years would be all about jobs, jobs and more jobs. But they kicked off their first day in complete control of state government Monday by circulating bills on voter registration, all-terrain vehicles, stem cells and self-defense....

"We are seeing a blatant bait-and-switch that ignores job creation and focuses on right-wing social issues," state Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Madison, said in a statement. 

The new legislative leadership in the Badger State is also considering so-called "right-to-work" legislation (reportedly being pushed in multiple states by the American Legislative Exchange Council) that would cripple the rights and job security of workers. Wisconsin's new governor waited only a few hours after being sworn in to join the multi-state lawsuit attacking the health care law in one of his first official acts, despite the fact that repealing the law would explode the federal budget deficit. Even before he was sworn in, Gov. Walker had already cost his state jobs by indicating he would refuse hundreds of millions in federal funding for high-speed rail -- funding that ended up going to other neighboring states.

Wisconsin is no outlier. As they prepare to take power in many states, conservatives across the country are hard at work demonstrating that job creation and economic development are not true priorities. In North Carolina, they are preparing to destroy their state's public financing system and reward their big campaign donors. In Minnesota and many other states, they are planning to make it harder for already disenfranchised communities to vote in future elections. In Kansas, they are launching new attacks on reproductive rights. In Iowa, they are considering the impeachment of Supreme Court justices for having the temerity to rule in favor of same-sex marriage. And in at least a half dozen states, anti-immigrant lawmakers plan to introduce bills to repeal the 14th Amendment of the Constitution that guarantees citizenship to children born in this country.

For many newly-elected and newly-empowered state legislators and governors, creating jobs will not be job one in 2011.