Contrast this with the states, who are getting things done -- some better than others. America is at its most prosperous and productive when there is limited government, less spending, less taxes, less dictation from Washington, and less encroachment into the states.
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Legislature could tip hand on Medicaid expansion Monday
House and Senate committees studying the expansion of Medicaid in Florida could make recommendations before Tuesday’s start of the 2013 legislative session.
Rep. Richard Corcoran, the Land O’Lakes Republican who is chairing the House committee, said earlier this week he remains "skeptical" about adding roughly 1 million Floridians to Medicaid. "There’s clearly cost issues, you’ve seen that through the testimony," he said. If the Democratic caucus holds strong in the House, they would still need 17 Republicans to support Medicaid expansion to get a bill passed. So far only one, Rep. Mike Fasano of New Port Richey, has pledged to cross party lines.
The House and Senate committees are meeting jointly Monday to hear from Amy Baker, the state’s chief economist, and a representative from the National Center for Policy Analysis, a "free-market" think-tank that has been critical of Medicaid expansion. Then, each panel will meet separately to discuss options and try to reach, if not a consensus, at least a conclusion that the majority supports. Indications are the Senate committee is leaning toward embracing Medicaid expansion in some fashion while the House committee appears opposed. Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, said that if the House opposes an expansion, senators would insist on an alternative that expanded access to health insurance.
Lawmakers see health insurance exchange in new light
About 800,000 Arkansans currently lack health insurance. If the state were to opt for adding people earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level to the Medicaid rolls, as was originally proposed under the federal Affordable Care Act, state officials say between 150,000 and 250,000 Arkansans above the poverty line likely would buy private insurance through the exchange. If Arkansas chooses the new option — which has generally been better received in the Legislature than the first option — the number of people who would use the exchange to shop for insurance plans is estimated at between 400,000 and 500,000. That should make the exchange even more beneficial to consumers, according to state Insurance Commissioner Jay Bradford.
Brewer’s plan for education performance funding advancing
Critics including the Arizona Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union, suggest that the model could hinder the improvement of low-performing schools. That’s because some of the funding would come from money reallocated from all districts and charter holders. “I think that any time you talk about a funding model that takes away resources from a school that’s already having problems you’re not going to have a solution that actually works,” said Rep. Chad Campbell, D-Phoenix, the House minority leader. The governor’s proposal is contained in SB 1444, authored by Sen. Kimberly Yee, R-Phoenix, which was awaiting action by the Senate Rules Committee after winning endorsements from the Education and Appropriations committees.
Senate education panel takes up voucher issue
Senate Education Committee chairman Gary Stevens, R-Kodiak, said his panel would take a look at the issue, even though Senate President Charlie Huggins, R-Wasilla, pulled SJR9 from a Senate Education Committee referral while Stevens was out of town and without advance notice. Senate majority leaders have said SJR9 involves a legal issue and that the measure could be heard by the committee if “significant education issues arise” during the legislative process. Stevens said he has not encountered a “more momentous education issue” during his 13 years in the Legislature and told his fellow lawmakers that he will evaluate vouchers whether or not SJR9 is placed before his committee.
Corporate tax bill passes state Senate
Bill earns near unanimous support, slew of cosponsors
Bill sponsors Sens. Cathy Giessel R-Turnagain Arm and Dennis Egan D-Juneau and Reps. Shelley Hughes R-Wasilla and Scott Kawasaki D-Fairbanks say it is time to update C corp income tax brackets to bring them in line with 30 years of inflation. The top tax bracket is raised from $90,000 to $222,000. The bottom tax bracket is raised from $10,000 to $25,000. An amendment to SB7 by Sen. Bill Wielechowski D-Anchorage dropped the tax liability for C corps netting $25,000 or less to zero. Sen. Giessel said several of her constituents who are business owners approached her about the "burden" of Alaska's tax structure. “The impact of the bill is that your local restaurants, construction companies, tourism businesses and other retailers will be able to keep more of their profits so that they can grow their enterprises,” Giessel said. Proponents give the example of a C corp with net income of $550,000 would pay nearly $6,000 less per year than its current $47,000 tax liability. A C corp that nets $45,000 would see its $1,250 tax liability cut in half.
Senate votes 34-0 for open teacher contract talks
A bill mandating open teacher contract talks cleared the Senate unanimously, reflecting a rare point of agreement between the education union and school boards on a remnant of the failed "Students Come First" overhaul. Friday's vote was 34-0, sending the proposal to make collective bargaining talks public and require school board officials to post notices of upcoming negotiation sessions to the House.
The bill would also make all meeting minutes and contract offers subject to state open records laws. Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna's Students Come First law died on Nov. 6 at the polls. But foes and supporters alike of that overhaul said this measure, included in that package, should be preserved. The Idaho Education Association union supported the legislation, as did the Idaho School Boards Association.
House committee supports bill calling for innovative charter schools
Bill sponsor Rep. David Lifferth, R-Eagle Mountain, said the goal is to get charter school applicants to think outside the box and that the list of new charter schools is not inclusive. “We've gotten pretty good at cookie-cutter charter schools that are just like public schools,” Lifferth said. “Charter schools should be laboratories of innovation.”
Gov. Robert Bentley says bill will help schools, political fallout will pass
Sen. Hank Sanders, D-Selma, former longtime chairman of the Senate’s education budget committee, said the governor betrayed state School Superintendent Tommy Bice by signing off on a substitute bill without consulting Bice or the state Board of Education. Bice had been a key advocate for the flexibility bill but withdrew his support for the bill after the tax credit plan was added. “The governor didn’t talk to the state superintendent of education,” Sanders said today. “He didn’t talk to the state board and he’s the chairman of the board. That’s a betrayal.”
Bentley said today he did not consider that a betrayal. “I think we have to do something about failing schools in this state,” Bentley said. “I put the welfare of the education of the children of this state above even a relationship with superintendents or anybody else. I never felt like it was a betrayal of any confidence or any relationship or anything else with the superintendent.”
Corbett, Sebelius to discuss Medicaid expansion
If Pennsylvania chooses to expand Medicaid under the law, an additional 643,000 adults would qualify for the benefit, according to the Department of Public Welfare. In recent days, the Republican governors of New Jersey and Florida have announced they would accept federal money to expand the program. Under the health care law, the federal government would pay the full cost of expansion for three years and then 90 percent of the cost.
SD lawmakers propose economic incentive plan
Senate Republican Leader Russell Olson of Wentworth said Republicans and Democrats have worked for the past two months to find a compromise plan, a contrast to the gridlock in Washington where the two parties are unable to reach agreement on budget cuts and other issues. "We decided at the very beginning of the legislative session that there were certain things we wanted to work on jointly and come together to do what's best for South Dakota and take the politics out of the conversation," Olson said. "This is really the way government ought to work," House Democratic Leader Bernie Hunhoff said. House Republican Leader David Lust of Rapid City said South Dakota needs to come up with an incentive package to compete with nearby states that offer substantial deals to attract new industrial projects and help existing businesses expand.
ND House votes to expand Medicaid
State, federal officials to weigh health exchange at hearing
Last year, lawmakers passed House Bill 1297, which prohibits the state from establishing its own exchange, but allows the state Insurance Department to continue regulating health insurers and the Health and Human Services Department to set eligibility requirements for the Medicaid program, which would expand under the Affordable Care Act. Earlier this month, Gov. Maggie Hassan sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services asking to form a partnership to run the state's exchange. Under the arrangement, the state would have oversight of the companies in the exchange and what policies they offer and over the federal "navigators" to help individuals and small businesses wade through the health insurance options to find the best fit.
Iowa Senate advances Medicaid expansion, but no deal near with Branstad
Senate File 71 was approved on an 8-5 vote in the Senate Human Resources Committee with all Democrats in support and all Republicans against. The measure now moves to the Senate floor, where approval appears likely, although Republican-led House has no plans to consider it. The Iowa Department of Human Services estimates between 110,000 and 180,000 Iowans would be added to the expanded Medicaid program under the Senate Democrats’ plan, which would operate under President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act.
Indiana senators approve Medicaid expansion
Federal government would shoulder cost
Kansas House panel votes against expanding Medicaid
Brownback did not include any funding for expansion in his proposed budget. Rep. David Crum, R-Augusta, said the state already has “pretty robust” coverage for kids through Medicaid and CHIP. The expansion, he said, would increase coverage for adults without children. “We’re not going to have any impact whatsoever on our children who are already receiving Medicaid services,” he said. Crum said the United States has avoided feeling the pain of its expanding deficit. Rep. Pete DeGraaf, R-Mulvane, said the resolution sends a simple and clear message that could help Brownback tell officials in Washington that states need more options beyond expanding or not.
Christie adds New Jersey to the Medicaid expansion list
Missouri House committee rejects Medicaid expansion bill
Rep. Jay Barnes, R-Jefferson City, is expected to file a Medicaid bill today that will give a clearer picture of their plan moving forward. After more than an hour and a half of testimony, the House Government Oversight and Accountability Committee voted 5-2 against the Democrats’ bill, which would have expanded Medicaid eligibility to thousands of Missourians under an optional provision of the federal Affordable Care Act. Several representatives from health care and business advocacy groups spoke in favor of expansion during the hearing. One person spoke against it. Supporters say expansion will help create jobs in Missouri, provide health care for the poor and keep rural hospitals that will lose other federal dollars afloat.
Senate OKs bill restructuring oil tax
The prime sponsor of SB2336, Sen. Dwight Cook, R-Mandan, outlined the bill to members of the chamber. SB2336 requires annual recertification of wells on stripper well properties. It also changes the definition of a stripper well as a well producing 40 barrels of oil per day. The bill also requires that a well drilled and completed after June 30, 2011, would not be exempt from the oil extraction tax. Any well on a stripper well property exceeding 150 barrels of daily production, according to annual certification by the state Industrial Commission, wouldn’t be eligible until it meets stripper well qualifications.
What drew the sharpest debate was the portion of the bill that would change the state’s oil extraction tax rate. If the state reaches 1 million barrels per day for three consecutive months, the oil extraction tax would drop from 6.5 percent to 4.5 percent on the first day of the next quarter. The drop from 6.5 percent to 4.5 percent would kick in on Jan. 1, 2017, if the 1 million barrels per day level wasn’t reached by that date.
House finance committee advances bill aimed at preventing voter fraud
The bill approved Monday would also and require ballots to include information about voter fraud and its consequences. Supporters say the bill is necessary because of past problems with voter intimidation. They say the proposal could help protect the democratic process. County clerks from Maui and Kauai say the bill would impose an administrative burden on their offices. They say state law is already consistent with federal law regarding voter fraud.
Miss. House OKs list of tax breaks for businesses
But Ways and Means Committee Chairman Jeff Smith, R-Columbus, said he’s not trying to deplete the state coffers by pushing for tax breaks. He said that when businesses get incentives, they create jobs, the economy expands and the state collects more revenue. “Do you think that when we take something out of the general fund we’re not expecting to get something back?” Smith told the House. “Come on, folks. Y’all are good business people.” Smith said the Senate rejected several tax incentives that the House passed in 2012. One of the few that passed both chambers and was signed into law last year was an inventory tax break that was “as weak as a popcorn poot,” Smith said.
Branstad tells feds Iowa won't expand Medicaid
Governor instead presses health secretary for a federal waiver to continue IowaCare
But in an interview Saturday with the Associated Press, the governor said he again rejected an expansion, and pressed Sebelius instead for a federal waiver to continue IowaCare, a health care program that provides limited benefits to 70,000 low-income adults in the state. That program is set to expire later this year. “I am very comfortable that we have made the right decision and we are going to continue to pursue this waiver and we’re working with them on a partnership exchange, and that’s what I told Secretary Sebelius,” Branstad said between sessions of the National Governors Association meeting in Washington. “We are interested in making Iowa the healthiest state. We have kind of set our direction.”
Sequestration could slow oil and gas leases
The BLM released the information in a statement. Melodie A. Lloyd, a BLM spokeswoman in Billings, said no specific information was available for Montana and that the figures are for all BLM-managed land in the nation. The BLM shares revenues generated from both of these programs with local and state governments. Development of oil and gas as well as coal on federal lands will slow down because of cuts in programs that issue permits for new development, plans for new projects, conduct environmental reviews, and inspect operations, the BLM said. Leasing of new federal lands for future development also will be delayed, with fewer resources available for agencies to prepare for and conduct lease sales.
Scott Walker's budget proposal could increase charter school growth
One of them was not allowing public schools to spend more money for operations in the next two years than they're spending now. I was betting Walker would back a modest increase, at least in line with increased state aid for schools. By not increasing what is called the revenue cap on schools, Walker effectively proposed using increased education aid for property tax relief, not education. That would mean putting public schools statewide in increasingly tight circumstances. Will Republicans in the Legislature accept that or moderate it? A big question for the coming months.
Another Walker proposal would allow launching private school vouchers in as many as nine more cities in the state (Milwaukee and Racine have them now). It's very controversial and we'll talk about it in coming weeks. But Walker's budget proposal also includes important charter school changes. Those have gotten less attention, so let's focus on them here, mostly in the form of a primer on charters.
Beebe: Meeting with HHS chief on Medicaid expansion productive
“I had a productive meeting Friday afternoon with Secretary Sebelius,” Beebe said in a statement. “I presented her with the ideas raised by our legislators, particularly the option that at least some of the potential Arkansas expansion population would be able to obtain private insurance coverage through our exchange. The secretary has given me feedback, which I will share with legislators, concerning the choices available to Arkansans as our state moves forward.”
After Florida Medicaid Reversal, Hints of Compromise in Texas
State Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, has a slightly softer stance. “I’m opposed to any expansion of Medicaid that doesn’t give Texas the flexibility that we want,” said Nelson, chairwoman of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee. She remains a fierce critic of federal health care reform. “But if we could design a program that we could live with, I would suggest we take it to the federal government and say, you know, consider this,” she said.