Isn't it always the case? The new guy/gal on the block is the one getting all the attention.
North Carolina's newly minted Senator Kay Hagan is targeted for heavy lobbying over two high-profile issues on their way to showdown Senate votes soon--the first on children's health care, and the others before too long on labor organizing rights.
Democratic leaders in Congress are pushing for early passage of an important bill to expand the Children's Health Insurance Program for the children of low-income working families. This is the legislation twice vetoed by the shameless George W. Bush, and which helped cement his reputation for ethical and political cluelessness.
The U.S. House just passed the bill again today (January 15), and Barack Obama has already expressed his hope that it will be one of the first pieces of legislation presented for his signature.
Normally, this is an item which would be universally considered a no-brainer for any progressive or moderate Democrat. (I still think it is.) However, Senator Hagan is high on the opposition lobbying target list because of the bill's finance mechanism: an increase in the federal excise tax on tobacco.
Some "conservatives" and business lobbyists are bemoaning that approach, as well as the fact that the bill would permit (not mandate) states to remove restrictions on coverage of the non-citizen children of LEGAL immigrants. (Some folks just seem to have no working human decency at all.)
Both of those issues have been higher-profile disputes in tobacco-manufacturing and "conservative" North Carolina than in most of the country. Thus, opponents target our new North Carolina Senator.
Let's return the favor. Let Senator Hagan's office know that we look for her leadership in supporting the immediate expansion of health insurance for children of working families. I'd hope that she will take that position in any case, but let's make sure that she can point to overwhelming constituent support for doing the right thing.
Less immediately on the horizon, but already in lobbyists' talking points, are two major labor-law proposals which stalled over the last two years under lame-duck Bush. One, the "Public Safety Employer-Employee Cooperation Act", would require cities and towns to collectively bargain with labor unions representing public safety employees (law enforcement, fire, emergency medical services, corrections). (At present, North Carolina and Virginia are the only two states which PROHIBIT local governments from negotiating with labor unions.)
The other labor organizing bill, the "Employee Free Choice Act" (a.k.a. Card Check) would permit unions to organize a workplace via persuading a majority of employees to sign cards supporting the union as their collective bargaining agent. At present, the only way for a union to force an employer to bargain with it is to win a secret-ballot vote supervised by the National Labor Relations Board, a far longer and more difficult process.
Both proposals have majority support in the House, and the only hope for opponents to block the bills lies in holding at least 41 votes in the Senate to maintain a filibuster. Opponents of labor organizing have targeted Hagan as a key to their hopes in this regard.
Senator Hagan: Welcome to the Senate!