Tag: Scott Walker

States Pursue Tort Reform to Boost Economy, Jobs

Legislatures across the country are working to enact civil justice reforms to improve their business climates, attract investment and encourage job creation. A round-up:

TENNESSEE

Gov. Bill Haslam of Tennessee included a package of reforms in his legislative recommendations, calling for a $750,000 cap on non-economic damages, such as pain and emotional suffering, and limiting punitive damages to $500,00. The bill also discourages venue shopping.

The bill (SB1522) was heard in committee on Wednesday, and the media predictably highlighted the comments of former Sen. Fred Thompson, hired by the trial lawyers to lobby against the bill. A new business group, Tennesseans for Economic Growth, has formed to promote the reforms. From its release:

“Our current civil justice system in Tennessee is seriously flawed because it threatens current business owners and jobs creators with unlimited exposure to litigation,” said Doug Buttrey, who has been named Executive Director of TEG. “This flaw in our civil justice system also puts Tennessee at a competitive disadvantage when it comes to attracting new businesses and jobs, especially since our state is one of the few in the Southeast which has yet to rein in lawsuit abuse through tort reform.”

“Tennesseans for Economic Growth believes it is critical that every citizen has access to the civil courts and that medical expenses be fully compensated. It is equally critical that damage awards do not spin out of control and become beyond reason,” Buttrey continued.

Doctors are also advocates for the reforms.

WISCONSIN

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker made tort reform the keystone of his early legislative efforts, winning passage of a package of civil justice improvements during the special session. (Shopfloor, Jan. 28, “Gov. Walker Signs Tort Reform Package in Wisconsin.” However, union groups have turned the April 5th Supreme Court race into a referendum on Gov. Walker’s collective bargaining reforms, and the trial lawyers are joining in the hopes their hand-picked candidate will overturn the tort reform law from the bench. (See our Point of Law post, “Wisconsin Supreme Court election: a referendum on tort reform, too.“)

OKLAHOMA

In Oklahoma, long-frustrated reforms now appear headed for passage in the Legislature and signing into law by new Gov. Mary Fallin. Last week, the major measure, passed the House by a vote of 57-40, the State Chamber of Oklahoma reports: (continue reading…)

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Union Solidarity Involves Jamming D.C. Traffic During Rush Hour

Sundry labor and leftwing activists marched through downtown Washington, D.C., this evening, blocking main streets right in the heart of the evening commute. There were a few hand-drawn signs expressing solidarity with union employees in Wisconsin, many professional signs from the Amalgamated Transit Union, and some posters from the Socialist Workers Party The Socialist Worker.

We took these photos a little after 6 p.m. at the corner of 13th and F Street, NW, a major bus and traffic route.

How does making it difficult for people to get home build sympathy for organized labor?

UPDATE (7:40 p.m.): According to various union tweets, the protesters first made a scene at a fundraiser for the Wisconsin GOP then spread their disruption to K Street. (araw 6:20pm via TweetDeck : RT @thinkprogress: Large protest of Wisconsin GOP’s DC fundraiser now marching toward K Street http://yfrog.com/gzynetoj)

Hope they had a parade permit.

UPDATE (9:15 a.m., Thursday): And the protesters took over the building atrium. In some respects, you have to admire the willingness of the protesters to pay the consequences for their actions, committing trespass and then spending the night in jail for the crime.

What? They weren’t arrested? Well, then, their protest lacked moral purpose and was just a PR stunt, wasn’t it? If you’re only willing to make others sacrifice for your cause …

(Hat tip: Gateway Pundit, which reports that that the awful Medea Benjamin of the Marxist group, Code Pink, took part.) UPDATE: Oh yes, here she is. Given the tenor of the times, the anti-war groups have to diversify into labor politics.

UPDATE (11:35 a.m.): Amy Ridenour at her National Center Blog contrasts blogging coverage in a post, “Screw the Workers, We’re Here to Help Them”:

Compare the coverage of a union protest in the unabashedly left-wing Talking Points Memo (TPM) website with that in the National Association of Manufacturers blog.

NAM was concerned about the impact the protest had on workers trying to get home during their evening commutes. TPM didn’t even mention the impact of the event on uninvolved parties, 99 percent of whom almost certainly were tired workers.

We walk by the corner of 13th and F every evening on the way to the Metro. It’s a stop for numerous commuter buses, some with routes that take an hour or more.

UPDATE (1:25 p.m.): In Milwaukee, Wisc., a union organizer tells protesters, “Be careful DO NOT OBSTRUCT TRAFFIC! We want to gain support from the commuter community! Let’s make this line long and thick.” The message went out via the state university’s e-mail system.

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Taxes ARE a Competitive Factor for Manufacturers

Gov. Jack Markell of Delaware writes about state competitiveness and what’s needed to attract businesses in a Washington Post op-ed today, “Taxes are the wrong focus for economic growth. He raises many serious points toward which manufacturers will be sympathetic:

[Where] will the innovation come from if we don’t make necessary investments in federally funded research? Who will take innovation to market if we don’t help millions of workers retool their skills with appropriate job training? How will we get these new goods to market cost-effectively if we don’t improve our infrastructure? These are precisely the investments other nations are making. We must, too.

The NAM’s Manufacturing Strategy for Jobs and a Competitive America argues for the same priorities, among others. We’re with him.

Gov. Jack Markell of Delaware

Indeed, Gov. Markell, a Democrat, is a friend to manufacturing, and his State of the State address in January was right on the mark on how to encourage business.

Still, it seems to us that the Governor is offering a false dichotomy: tax competitiveness versus the other factors like R&D, skills and infrastructure. When Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin pounced on Illinois’ decision to raise income taxes by inviting companies to relocate to his state — a story Gov. Markell begins his column with — Gov. Walker was not just telling business he was going to keep taxes under control, he was sending the message that Wisconsin was going to put its entire house in order. A state that can’t balance its budget without a major tax increase is unlikely to set the other policy priorities needed to create a positive business climate.

The other consideration that Gov. Markell does not address is that competitiveness is really a global issue today. States continue to battle each other to attract business, but the real fight is on the country-to-country level.  Taxes are so critical in this competition,  and the United States is so far behind.

In the Tax Foundation’s latest Fiscal Fact, Scott Hodge reports, “Countdown to #1: 2011 Marks 20th Year That U.S. Corporate Tax Rate Is Higher than OECD Average“:

There is increasing recognition in Washington that the U.S. corporate tax rate is out of step with the lower tax rates of most industrialized and emerging nations. Indeed, 2011 marks the 20th year in which the U.S. statutory tax rate has been above the simple average of non-U.S. countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

It is now well known that with a combined federal and state corporate tax rate of 39.2 percent, the U.S. has the second-highest overall rate among OECD nations. Only Japan, with a combined rate of 39.5 percent, levies a higher rate.

As Gov. Markell points out, other countries’ governments are spending in critical areas like R&D, infrastructure and skills training. But here’s the point: They’re doing so even with corporate tax rates lower than in the United States.

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It’s Secretary of Labor, Not Secretary FOR Labor

Washington Examiner editorial, “It’s time for Labor Secretary Solis to go,” following her inflammatory remarks at last weekend’s meeting of the Democratic National Committee:

Nothing wrong with Solis speaking at the DNC, of course, as she is a former Democratic representative from a California district. The problem is that her DNC remarks made clear that Solis labors under the flawed assumption that she represents only the steadily dwindling sliver of the American work force that is still unionized. As a result, Solis is leaving the other 90 percent of American workers high and dry.

Here’s the key passage from Solis’ remarks at the DNC on public employee protests in Wisconsin and Ohio that points to her fractured understanding of whom she represents: “The fight is on. We work together. We help those embattled states right now where public employees are under assault.” She called members of the protesting public employee unions “our brothers and sisters” and pledged to help them against Republican Govs. Scott Walker of Wisconsin and John Kasich of Ohio. With those remarks, Solis effectively put the federal government in the de facto position of aiding protesters opposing governors doing what they were elected to do less than five months ago.

The Examiner also publishes a special report today with two commentaries on organized labor.

UPDATE (4:55 p.m.): More labor agitation from the Secretary, reported by The Examiner’s Byron York.

Labor Secretary Hilda Solis took part in a Communications Workers of America conference call Wednesday night in which she expressed her strong support for unions fighting Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s proposed budget.  “Let’s keep fighting,” Solis told CWA president Larry Cohen and thousands of CWA shop stewards listening to the call…

On more than one occasion, Solis referred to herself as part of the pro-union, anti-Walker cause.  “I say let’s keep fighting,” Solis said, “let’s stand up for all workers, and let’s mobilize and do what we do best, and that is to make sure that the American public understands that union rights are no different from human rights.”

The audio is here, courtesy of the Communications Workers of America, which trumpeted the call here.

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Labor Secretary Solis: ‘The fight is on!’ Against Whom, Exactly?

The taxpayers of Wisconsin? Governors and legislators who seek to balance their state budgets? People who disagree with lawmakers who flee their responsibilities as elected officials?

Byron York, Washington Examiner, “Labor secretary steps out in Wisconsin union fight“:

President Obama is staying mostly quiet about the union battle going on in Wisconsin. His labor secretary, Hilda Solis, is not.

“The fight is on!” Solis told a cheering crowd at the Democratic National Committee’s winter meeting over the weekend in Washington. Giving her support to “our brothers and sisters in public employee unions,” Solis pledged aid to unionized workers who are “under assault” in Wisconsin and elsewhere….

But is it the role of the secretary of labor to take sides in a fight that pits public employee union members against workers and taxpayers who support Walker’s reforms? After all, the Labor Department mission statement says its purpose is “to foster, promote, and develop the welfare of the wage earners, job seekers, and retirees of the United States.” It doesn’t say anything about unionized wage earners, job seekers, and retirees.

Guess we now have a good idea of what Vice President Biden, Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis and the AFL-CIO’s Richard Trumka were chatting about last week in their White House get together: Messaging.

More …

Do we understand, then, Secretary Solis, that the Administration will now push for collective bargaining for federal employees? If it’s a right …

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Misdirection and Attacks Amid the Union Protests

From AP, Nevada, “NV Rally Supports Fight vs. Wis. Anti-Union Bill“:

CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) – More than 100 protesters turned out in Carson City to support thousands of public workers who’ve set up camp at the Wisconsin Capitol to fight Republican-backed legislation aimed at weakening unions.The Nevada Appeal of Carson City reports protesters waved signs in front of the Legislative Building on Saturday and chanted “Money for Kids, not for Koch.”

We can imagine the exchange.

Hey, you here for the protest? Great! Now take this sign and chant along with us.

OK. Sure. Who are the Kochs?

Doesn’t matter. Just wave the sign.

Um, all right. Boo, boo!

If ever you want to see a cynical PR campaign in operation, take a look at the coordinated rallies in state capitals organized by the labor unions. All around the country, unions protested Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s efforts to control state spending by limits on collective bargaining for public employees.

There was a consistent talking shouting point: Unions built the middle class! In New Jersey, New York, Tennessee, even at the Oscars, the rhetoric was all the same.

It’s misdirection.  AFSCME and the SEIU did not build the middle class.  Even if one agrees that industrial unions contributed to rising private sector wages in the 1950s, the growth of American middle class had next to nothing to do with public sector employees and collective bargaining. Those unions took off with the explosion of state and local governments in the ’60s and later.

The rallies also featured a consistent target: Charles and David Koch of Koch Industries. Labor’s modus operandi requires picking a target to attack, personalizing their campaigns by demonizing an individual, or in this case individuals. You fire up the troops and discourage a more reasoned discussion of the issues. This time the target is the Kochs. (continue reading…)

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Friday Factory Tune: Mathilde

In salute to new Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who is driving a strong agenda for jobs, manufacturing and economic growth, we offer this video from another great Scott Walker from the Midwest. It’s the pop Scott’s performance from the “Dusty Springfield Show,” Sept. 19, 1967.

The video is Walker doing one of the Jaques Brel numbers he liked to cover, “Mathilde.” His version of another Brel tune, “Jackie,” is excellent.

As Scott Engel, the performing Scott was an Ohio-born teen star who emerged as a Walker in Los Angeles and then England as part of the hugely successful Walker Brothers (“The Sun Ain’t Going to Shine Anymore.”

Since then, he’s become idiosyncratically reclusive, or reclusively idiosyncratic, with a fair documentary done about his life, “30 Century Man.” The hipster like him, probably more than they like Gov. Walker.

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Gov. Walker Signs Tort Reform Package in Wisconsin

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who took office just this month, has an early victory in his effort to improve the state’s business climate, the major tort reform package introduced in the special session of the Legislature he called to pass jobs and economic growth bills. He signed the bill, SB1, in the governor’s conference room on Thursday.

From The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel story, “Walker signs bill limiting court awards in injury cases“:

“This is a balance we are trying to create, to make sure certainly those who do damage and do harm are rightfully going to be penalized, even when this act becomes law,” Walker said. “But for those who have been . . .  threatened with frivolous lawsuits, particularly for small business, they’re going to receive relief today because . . .  we move forward in cutting back on frivolous lawsuits and out-of-control lawsuit abuse in the state of Wisconsin.”

Credit also goes to the state Senate and Assembly, which passed the legislation.

Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, an effective and energetic supporter of the legislation hailed the bill’s signing. “These reforms will add certainty, fairness and predictability to our legal system,” said James A. Buchen, WMC vice president of government relations. The key provisions, according to WMC: (continue reading…)

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Wisconsin Assembly Passes Tort Reform Package, Sends it to Gov. Walker

From Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, “WMC Hails Legislature for Passage of Common Sense Legal Reforms“:

MADISONWisconsin’s largest business group Friday hailed the Wisconsin Legislature for swift final passage of common sense legal reforms that will improve the state’s business climate. We look forward to Governor Scott Walker signing his reforms into law.

“The swift, decisive action on common sense legal reforms is sending a message from Platteville to Wall Street that Wisconsin is open for business,” said James A. Buchen, WMC vice president of government relations. “With other states raising taxes, and passing other anti-business legislation, Wisconsin can stand apart and encourage businesses to create jobs.

The Assembly vote Thursday was 57-36 along party lines to approve without amendment the Senate’s version of the bill . The Senate passed the bill on Tuesday,19-14, also with Republican in support and Democrats opposed.

The WMC identified the most important legal reforms for manufacturers.

  • Adoption of various changes to product liability law to bring Wisconsin in line with other states and assist Wisconsin manufacturers and small businesses.
  • Requiring expert witnesses to base their opinions on sound science and well-established theories.
  • Elimination of the “risk contribution” theory in manufacturing lawsuits. The Wisconsin Supreme Court created the standard allowing plaintiffs to sue any lead paint manufacturer that sold paint in the state without proving which product caused the harm.
  • A cap on punitive damage awards. [Twice economic damages or $200,000, whichever is larger.]

The State Bar of Wisconsin, which opposes several major provisions, has done a credible job reporting on the legislation’s passage. See “Assembly sends omnibus tort reform bill to governor.”

The civil justice reform package was one of five jobs-oriented bills new Gov. Scott Walker introduced upon taking office and for which he called a special session of the Legislature to act upon. See the Jan. 4 news release, “Governor Walker Releases Five Pieces of Legislation to Get Wisconsin Working.”

More coverage …

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Tort Reform Package Passes Wisconsin Senate

The Wisconsin Senate on Tuesday passed SBJR1, Gov. Scott Walker’s tort reform package, by a vote of 19-14. Republicans voted for the bill, Democrats against it.

In a news release, Sen. Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) cited major provisions of importance to manufacturers:

  • Manufacturer protection: forcing lawsuits for legal damages to prove that the defendant actually manufactured the product that caused the damage;
  • Punitive damage reform: Sets a cap on punitive, noneconomic damages, which are currently unlimited. Recovering for actual economic damages is still allowed and uncapped;
  • Frivolous lawsuit reform: punish and ultimately prevent lawsuits with malicious intent or the sole intent of harassing a defendant.

This bill sets specific standards for improving the state’s tort climate, giving business greater confidence that they can thrive in Wisconsin instead of worrying about frivolous lawsuits and trial attorneys chasing the deepest pockets.

Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce issued a news release before the vote, urging passage. More from WisPolitics.com.

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