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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Iowa Senate advances version of education reform with more money and more options for schools
Unlike the House, it maintains the governor’s call for minimum starting teacher salaries of $35,000 and requires districts to adopt new “career pathways” for teachers to earn more money by mentoring their peers. When the House approved its version of the reform last month, it set minimum salaries at $32,000 and made the pathways optional. “The bottom line is that, unlike the House, we are staying with the governor’s original vision,” said Senate Education Committee Chairman Herman Quirmbach, D-Ames. “We want every school district to begin to have activities and to use the (career pathways) model along these lines.” The Senate version, Senate Study Bill 1228, won approval in Quirmbach’s committee on Thursday afternoon ahead of a key legislative deadline. It’s now ready for debate on the Senate floor.
House signs off on second charter schools bill
The bill governs how outside groups would be supervised if they move to open alternative schools. It also creates contractual benchmarks for charter schools, to demonstrate that they are flourishing and accountable to the state. Proponents argued opening charter schools offers more school choice to Idaho families.
Pingree Republican Rep. Julie VanOrden said charter schools can often serve struggling students better than their public school cousins. Moscow Democrat Rep. Shirley Ringo said the measure could result in waves of new schools _ and more hands in the state's public education funding pot.
Kansas casts eye on teachers unions
The battle over teachers unions has marched its way across the country. Ohio. Michigan. Wisconsin. Idaho. And now it’s in Kansas, greeted by Republican Gov. Sam Brownback and his conservative allies in the Legislature. Lawmakers are moving to undercut the tenuous power of teachers unions by barring them from using voluntary paycheck deductions for politics. And they’re going after teachers’ ability to bargain collectively on key issues — hoping to give cash-strapped school districts new flexibility and leverage in contract talks.
UPDATE Bills on voter ID, change in school elections advance
A Bureau of Legislative Research report submitted Wednesday said implementing the measure would cost $300,000 for hardware, supplies, installation and training. The annual cost after that was projected to be negligible and any cost would be absorbed by the secretary of state’s budget. The cost projection matched exactly the projection that King gave last week.
State Senate passes education reform bills
Democrats were supportive of some of the measures and aspects of others but said they wanted to give reforms enacted in recent years a chance to work before making more changes. They also argued that school funding should be addressed before additional reforms are passed. "We do need to identify low-performing schools and we do need to help them improve," said Sen. Rosemary McAuliffe, D-Bothell. "But we need to make sure the funding is there." Among the bills passed is one that would require third-graders with inadequate reading skills to repeat a grade, attend summer school or otherwise improve their reading before enrolling in fourth grade. The measure would also authorize K-3 teacher training to help improve students' reading.
Business leaders testify in support of plan to cut R.I. corporate tax
Fewer than 10 percent of companies pay the corporate tax. Many are the state's largest employers. Most companies pay the state corporate minimum tax of $500. Chafee and other state leaders have said reducing the corporate tax -- the state's third largest source of tax revenue -- represents an important step in making Rhode Island more competitive and business-friendly.
Christie touts business tax breaks
Both bills, which would essentially broaden the qualifications for companies to receive grants from programs such as the Economic Recovery Growth Plan (ERGP) and Grow New Jersey, could come before Senate and Assembly committees next week. Lesniak is chairman of the Senate Economic Growth Committee. The legislation would simplify the state’s incentive programs, consolidating the five major ones to just two, and would give central and south Jersey a better shot at getting such monies, Coutinho said.
Christie, during a 40-minute address at the NAIOP New Jersey’s annual public policy meeting at the Edison Sheraton, outlined what he considered to be his administration’s successes, including the creation of 103,000 private-sector jobs since February 2010. He also lauded Karen Franzini, former head of the state Economic Development Authority, for her success reaching out to businesses.
Arizona House approves new business tax credits for insurance companies
House Speaker Andy Tobin, R-Paulden, said the legislation would help fill a need of firms that need capital to grow. As crafted, if the investments are successful the first $50 million would repay the state treasury for lost revenues. The carrot for the insurance companies is that they would share in any profits above that amount. The measure now goes to the Senate. A vote on a separate and more expansive tax break for businesses which had been scheduled for Monday was postponed.
Chafee takes budget proposals to voters
Governor Chafee is taking his proposed corporate income tax cut straight to the voters with a series of town hall-style meetings. The independent governor plans to meet with residents and business owners Tuesday in Cumberland to discuss ways he wants to help the state's business community. He held a similar meeting in Johnston last week.
Chafee's $8.2 billion state budget proposal includes a call to reduce the state's corporate income tax from 9 to 7 percent over three years to give Rhode Island the lowest corporate income tax rate in New England. State lawmakers are now reviewing the budget proposal.
Arizona assessing feds’ cuts; Brewer still confident about budget
But Gov. Jan Brewer’s office said the $8.9 billion budget she proposed in January is still viable, even as the state deals with the loss of up to $140 million a year in federal grants over the next decade and braces for the long-term effect of cuts to federal jobs, primarily in the defense industry. Democrats have a different take: They say the federal cuts and their ripple effect on the economy strengthen the case for expanding Medicaid, because expansion would draw $1.6 billion in federal funding to the state budget. The differing opinions reflect the divisions that have formed around the still-unresolved fiscal 2014 budget and highlight the uncertainty of what the federally mandated sequester cuts actually mean.
EPA won't appeal Fairfax County creek ruling
The ruling will save state taxpayers an estimated $300 million in costs, said Cuccinelli, who joined Fairfax County and Virginia Department of Transportation officials in filing the lawsuit last year. "This EPA mandate would have been expensive, cumbersome, and incredibly difficult to implement," Cuccinelli said. "And it was likely to do more harm than good, as its effectiveness was unproven and it would have diverted hundreds of millions of dollars Fairfax County was already targeting for more effective methods of sediment control."
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.