The State Government Leadership Foundation (SGLF) firmly believes that real government reform, innovative policy changes, and the big ideas that will solve America's problems are going to be found in state capitols and not Washington, D.C. As has been the case for several years, there is grid-lock in Washington, and Federal government spending and regulation are out of control, while our country's problems continue to be unaddressed by Washington.

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.

SGLF will promote innovative reforms advocated by our conservative elected leaders and defend them when the special interest proponents of the status quo attack these elected leaders. SGLF is dedicated to educating policymakers and the public about the benefits of smaller government, lower taxes, balanced budgets, and efficiency in governing.

SGLF is a 501 (c)(4) social welfare organization and is a strategic partner to the Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC) - home to the Republican Lieutenant Governors Association, Republican Attorneys General Association, Republican Legislative Campaign Committee, and the Republican Secretaries of State Committee.

Tax-credit bill clears House

Written by John Lyon for Arkansas News on March 25, 2013Economic Prosperity
LITTLE ROCK — A bill that proposes to use tax credits to encourage investment in small businesses cleared the House on Monday. House Bill 1832 by Rep. Darrin Williams, D-Little Rock, and Sen. Jonathan Dismang, R-Searcy, titled the New Market Jobs Act, passed in an 85-0 vote and goes to the Senate. The bill would authorize the creation of community development entities, or CDEs, and allow them to sell insurance premium tax credits to insurance companies. The CDEs would use the proceeds from those sales to raise capital and invest in businesses located in low-income communities.

The money would have to be invested in the first year, but the tax credits would not go into effect until the third year. They would expire after seven years. For every dollar a CDE receives, it would have to invest $1.50. No one spoke against the bill on the House floor. When it was in committee, Grant Tennille, executive director of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, testified that there is some risk involved in the proposal because if a business fails to create promised jobs, the state has no way to recover its money. He said the AEDC was neutral on the bill. Williams told House members Monday that the bill has been amended to require an economic analysis before any investment is made to determine whether jobs would be created as a result of the investment. He said he believed the bill would be good for Arkansas.
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Echoes of TennCare feed Medicaid misgivings

Loss of federal funding hurt TN finances

Written by Erik Schelzig for The Associated Press on March 25, 2013Health Care
Proponents of expanding Medicaid in Tennessee say the financial support from Washington is a deal too good to pass up — federal funding for 100 percent of the expansion costs for three years and at least a 90 percent match after that. But Tennessee is approaching the carrot warily partly because of its experience as a pioneer in expanding Medicaid to cover the uninsured in the 1990s. Federal funding for that expansion was cut after the White House and governorship changed hands.

The ballooning expenses for TennCare, Tennessee’s expanded Medicaid program, strained state finances and set off incendiary fights over taxes that reshaped the state’s political landscape. That history is one reason Gov. Bill Haslam is among the last Republican governors to decide whether to expand Medicaid. He has said he will make his recommendation by the end of the month — though he acknowledges that it’s far from certain that lawmakers will approve his choice. “A lot of people say the governor should never propose something that he or she can’t pass, but I haven’t thought of that,” Haslam told reporters at his most recent public appearance last week. “We haven’t made the call, but if we decide to do it, obviously there’s a lot of selling to do.”
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Alabama Legislature: Medicaid overhaul on tap;state hopes to save money by delivering health care using for-profit companies

Written by Kathy Wingard for Associated Press on March 25, 2013Health Care
The Alabama Legislature is set to begin work on an overhaul bill that will change Medicaid to a managed care plan by 2017. The plan that will be introduced to House and Senate committees is the result of a 14-month effort by the 33-member Alabama Medicaid Advisory Commission formed by Gov. Robert Bentley in late 2012. The effort represents a major restructuring of how Medicaid works. Presently, Medicaid is administered by the state and is a not-for-profit entity. The managed care option offered by the commission would turn over delivery of health care to for-profit companies. Those companies would operate in up to eight regions of the state. Those regions would be determined by an actuary.

The Alabama Medicaid Agency now pays a provider a set amount for each service rendered, also called “fee-for-service.” The state is looking to provide a new structure that will allow for a predetermined amount of money per patient annually to be paid to a “regional care organization” that will then provide and pay for all Medicaid services. The regional care organization or an alternative provider would be the administrator in charge of delivering health care within a region. The state agency would pay the administering agency between $300 million and $500 million per year to care for all of the Medicaid patients’ needs in their region. If they can do that and have money left over, they would make a profit. The government hopes profits would provide incentive to keep the population healthier.
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Votes on school vouchers, TennCare draw near

Legislature heads for heated finish

Written by Chas Sisk for The Tennessean on March 25, 2013Education Reform
TennCare and school vouchers. For two of the biggest issues facing the Tennessee legislature, the next few days may be decisive. Republican leaders are pushing for a quick close to this year’s legislative session, setting up what could turn out to be a make-or-break week for some of the biggest issues facing state lawmakers. The timetable may strengthen the hands of conservatives on some issues while weakening them on others. Democrats complain that Republicans are working at “lightning speed” to pass radical legislation. Some Republicans also say they may be working too quickly.

The state Senate and House plan to close up shop for many of their legislative committees and subcommittees this week, the first step in wrapping up business for the year. Many have scheduled exhaustive final meetings, in which dozens of measures could be heard from early morning until late in the evening. The aim is to meet a target set by Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey and House Speaker Beth Harwell of sending lawmakers home as soon as mid-April, two weeks earlier than last year’s close and two months earlier than in 2009 and 2010. They say a shorter session will save money and force lawmakers to prioritize. “No matter what day we adjourn, there is always a critical week,” Harwell said. “We made a commitment to the people that we would work efficiently.”
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Medicaid expansion in trouble in Mich. Legislature

Written by David Eggert for The Associated Press on March 24, 2013Health Care
Lansing — Rep. Matt Lori found himself in an unusual position when shepherding through a $15.3 billion health budget that pays for Medicaid, the health insurance program for the needy. The Republican chairman of the House health budget subcommittee favored GOP Gov. Rick Snyder's proposal to make hundreds of thousands of more residents Medicaid-eligible under the federal health overhaul. But he left Medicaid expansion out of the spending bill last week because it lacks enough backing among Republicans. "We're trying to build enough support to get it done," said Lori, of Constantine. "People just need to be educated on the whole thing. It's very complicated."

Nearly seven weeks after calling for Medicaid expansion, Snyder and advocates representing businesses, health care interests and low-income residents have yet to persuade the GOP-controlled Legislature. They have two months until a self-imposed June 1 budget deadline. The recent legislative defeat of another component of the federal health law — partnering with the U.S. government on an insurance market — is not a good sign. Some Republicans say they are open to changing course on Medicaid, though.
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Editorial: State House should embrace Senate’s education-reform ideas

The Senate Majority Coalition has been aggressive on education reforms, building a strong link between state spending and student outcomes.

Published in The Seattle Times on March 24, 2013Education Reform
A SHAKE-UP of legislative leadership in the state Senate improved the quality of conversation around education and produced a package of substantive reforms. Some of the drama from years past of suppressing good ideas has been replaced with thoughtful and bipartisan cooperation. House Democratic leaders are considering Senate-passed reforms. Before the fragile cooperative spirit dissipates, lawmakers should remember the important linkages between reforming Washington’s K-12 system and investing more in it.

Sen. Steve Litzow, R-Mercer Island and chairman of the Senate K-12 Education and Early Learning Committee, moved worthy bills through the Senate. Among them is a bill to provide academic support for students in kindergarten, first and second grades as a way to keep students on track for reading proficiently by third grade; one to automatically enroll high-school students in advanced classes, and another to end the harmful practice of indefinite suspensions. Plenty of Democratic senators voted for these measures. They should walk over to the House and urge their compatriots to pass sound policies. Sen. Rosemary McAuliffe, former chairwoman of the Senate Education Committee, offered a legislative plan to better track the effectiveness of educational efforts. It passed unanimously.
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Medicaid expansion in doubt in Michigan

GOP-led Legislature opposed, but may change course

Written by David Eggert for The Lansing State Journal on March 23, 2013Health Care
Rep. Matt Lori found himself in an unusual position when shepherding through a $15.3 billion health budget that pays for Medicaid, the health insurance program for the needy. The Republican chairman of the House health budget subcommittee favored GOP Gov. Rick Snyder’s proposal to make hundreds of thousands of more residents Medicaid-eligible under the federal health overhaul. But he left Medicaid expansion out of the spending bill last week because it lacks enough backing among Republicans.

“We’re trying to build enough support to get it done,” said Lori, of Constantine. “People just need to be educated on the whole thing. It’s very complicated.” The 2012 Supreme Court ruling that upheld most of the federal health law gives states the option to accept Medicaid expansion, refuse it or postpone a decision. Nearly seven weeks after calling for Medicaid expansion, Snyder and advocates representing businesses, health care interests and low-income residents have yet to persuade the GOP-controlled Legislature. They have two months until a self-imposed June 1 deadline. The recent legislative defeat of another component of the federal health law — partnering with the U.S. government on an insurance market — is not a good sign. Some Republicans say they are open to changing course on Medicaid, though.
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Lawmakers won't tackle Medicaid in 2013 session

Written by Associated Press for Idaho State Journal on March 23, 2013Health Care
Expanding Medicaid to cover more low-income Idaho residents could save state and local taxpayers tens of millions over the next decade, according to a state-financed report released this week, but lawmakers won't tackle the issue during the 2013 session due to end next week. House Speaker Scott Bedke said there isn't enough time left, even though he thinks the potential merits of expansion shouldn't be overlooked. It could mean some $478 million in county property tax reductions for Idaho residents through 2024, according to the report from the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare.

"We are going to be done by Friday," said Bedke, R-Burley. "I don't think we can give that issue the proper vetting it deserves." Part of the holdup is, Republicans exhausted considerable political capital on another key provision of President Obama's overhaul when they passed a state-based health insurance exchange, after a combined 16 hours of debate in the House and Senate in which backers of the bill were accused by some foes of acquiescing to federal intrusion into Idaho. Consequently, GOP appetite to tackle Medicaid expansion, a provision of the 2010 federal law that the U.S. Supreme Court left to states to decide, is limited especially given the bruising debate sure to accompany it.
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Teachers will soon get graded

It's just one of many changes ahead as wyoming works on education accountability.

Written by Aerin Curtis for The Wyoming Tribune Eagle on March 23, 2013Education Reform
CHEYENNE -- Students soon won't be the only ones getting report cards in Wyoming. Rather than getting letter grades, Wyoming schools and school districts, teachers and administrators will earn a score in terms of expectations and performance n exceeds expectation, meets, partially meets or doesn’t meet expectation. The grades are part of the ongoing work of establishing the Wyoming Accountability in Education system. Already a work-in-progress, the last pieces of the system are set to be running by 2017. “We fund schools better than probably anybody in the country, and (we) don’t think we’re getting the results,” said Sen. Hank Coe, R-Cody, co-chairman of the Legislature’s Joint Education Interim Committee and a member of the Select Committee on Education Accountability. “We’d like to have the best (kindergarten-12th grade) system in the country.”

Most of the work is being done by the Wyoming Department of Education, its appointed director and the Wyoming State Board of Education, with input from school districts, local boards of trustees, consultants and advisory committees. Two bills that recently passed in the Wyoming Legislature continue the process of establishing the accountability system in the state’s public schools. “Ultimately what we’re going to try to achieve through the process is to be able to tie achievement to teacher, administrator and superintendent performance,” Coe said. “We do that on an individual basis with the students.” The system is designed to be implemented in two phases. The first examines student work and district achievement in four separate areas: achievement, growth, equity and readiness, interim director of the Wyoming Department of Education Jim Rose said.
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Governor acts on K-12 measures, will amend school takeover bill

Written by ANDREW CAIN for The Richmond Times-Dispatch on March 23, 2013Education Reform
Gov. Bob McDonnell will tour Petersburg’s Peabody Middle School on Monday, the same day he plans to announce his amendments to a bill that would allow a new statewide school division to take over struggling schools. McDonnell on Friday announced his actions on a series of bills in his K-12 agenda that passed the legislature. For example, he signed legislation that extends the probation period for new teachers to up to five years, states that a teacher can be fired after at least one unsatisfactory evaluation, and changes the provision for a three-person grievance hearing panel to a single hearing officer.

In January, the state teachers association and McDonnell’s administration struck a compromise on the legislation. “This major reform ensures that underperforming teachers are not tolerated, and that a longer probation period is put in place,” the governor’s office said Friday. McDonnell proposed a 2 percent pay raise for instructional staff but made it contingent on passage of the contract and evaluation measure. McDonnell also has signed a measure to enable the Department of Education to assign schools grades of A to F. The McDonnell administration said the report cards “will make school performance clear and easily communicated to the public.”
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South Carolina jobs expected to increase

Gains in construction, health likely to fuel hiring

Written by David Dykes for The Greenville News on March 23, 2013Economic Prosperity
In the last year, manufacturing companies have given the state’s employment a lift, but economists and jobs experts believe gains in 2013 will be widespread, with sectors such as health care and even construction, hard hit during the recession, also providing momentum. In the Upstate, Greenville and other counties should benefit from gains in information technology and administrative services employment, said Dean Jones, director of the Greenville County Workforce Development program.

Some gains in construction, retail and other industries will be cyclical, he said. And some companies are hesitating to hire workers until lawmakers in Washington, D.C., work through federal budget issues, Jones said. “But I’m going to say that we’re going to see a pretty steady growth over the next year,” he said. At League Manufacturing in Greenville, company officials have hired a packaging engineer and two production workers since December. That brought the work force to 21, and the company expects no additional hiring before early in the fourth quarter, said Barbara League, the chief executive officer.
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State House GOP wants new balanced budget amendment

Written by Mike Riopell for The Daily Herald on March 22, 2013Economic Prosperity
SPRINGFIELD — As the state remains about $9 billion behind in paying its bills, House Republican Leader Tom Cross and other GOP lawmakers are calling for a more stringent balanced budget amendment to the Illinois Constitution. The proposal would cut off paychecks for lawmakers and statewide officials if the Illinois Auditor General determines the budget is unbalanced.

"The goal here is to put the pressure on us," Cross said. Other payments that aren't considered absolutely necessary would be cut off, too, but some questions remain about what exactly that entails. In addition, Democrats who control the Illinois House and Senate might be unlikely to go along with the proposal.

The Illinois Constitution already has a balanced budget provision of sorts, but the state has managed to accumulate huge loads of debt anyway. Lawmakers have until May 31 to approve a budget and are working through the details now. Saturday begins a two-week break in their annual spring session in Springfield.
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Coastal states want more offshore drilling revenue

Written by ANDREW RESTUCCIA for Politico on March 21, 2013Energy & Environment
Sens. Mary Landrieu and Lisa Murkowski expressed confidence on Wednesday that their legislation to funnel more royalties from offshore energy production to coastal states can win congressional approval. “We’ve built a bill that we believe can actually get to the finish line,” Landrieu (D-La.) said. "We have purposefully expanded this legislation to bring in a coalition of members — to gain their support. We know that in this day and age, it’s a 60-vote world in the United States Senate,” Alaska’s Murkowski , the top Republican on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, told reporters.

The bill, officially unveiled on Wednesday, would give 27.5 percent of revenue from offshore energy development — including oil, gas, wind and others — to coastal states, plus another 10 percent if the state creates a clean energy or conservation fund. The legislation, known as the Fixing America’s Inequality with Revenues Act, also addresses onshore renewable energy on federal lands, giving states half of the revenues collected, the same ratio as for oil, coal and natural gas.
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Republican State Attorneys General and the EPA

Written by Ammon Simon for The National Review on March 20, 2013Federal Overreach
The 2012 election cycle provided many conservatives with a harsh reminder that they cannot always look to Washington for solutions. For the next four years, at least, the most meaningful victories are likely to originate in state capitals or come to fruition after major legal confrontations initiated by state attorneys general who believe the Obama administration has exceeded its authority under the U.S. Constitution.

During President Obama’s first term, a majority of states challenged the constitutionality of Obamacare, successfully rolling back the coercive element of that law’s Medicaid expansion, and now, eleven state attorneys general are suing to invalidate the most constitutionally offensive portions of the Dodd-Frank law. And the strategy of challenging federal overreach seems to be paying off. Last August, the EPA suffered a significant defeat in federal court at the hands of Republican attorneys general who argued that the EPA’s cross-state air pollution rule exceeded the agency’s statutory authority.
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Voucher program heads to state Supreme Court on Tuesday; no immediate ruling expected

Written by Lauren McGaughy for The Times-Picayune on March 18, 2013Education Reform
Gov. Bobby Jindal's voucher program will be tested Tuesday as a case brought against the 2012 education overhaul, known as Act 2, by teachers unions and local school boards reaches the state Supreme Court. In November, a Baton Rouge area district judge ruled the program's funding mechanism unconstitutional, after which the state appealed. The case will be heard sometime after 2 p.m. at the Louisiana Supreme Court building located at 400 Royal Street in New Orleans. Lawyers representing both sides will have 30 minutes each for oral arguments. The court has 30 days to issue a final decision, so an immediate ruling is not expected Tuesday.

Jindal remained confident on Monday, saying his administration was "looking forward to a successful appeal, and we fully expect to prevail based on firmly established rules for interpreting the Constitution and the authority of the Legislature." Judge Tim Kelley of the 19th District Court of Baton Rouge said in a Nov. 30 ruling the diversion of funds from the Minimum Foundation Program (MFP) -- the formula under which per pupil public education funds are calculated -- to private schools and institutions was unconstitutional.
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High court to consider Arizona’s voter-registration rule

The Supreme Court will hear arguments on a law requiring Arizonans to prove U.S. citizenship in order to register.

Written by By JACQUES BILLEAUDJESSE J. HOLLAND for The Associated Press on March 17, 2013Election Law
WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court will struggle this week with the validity of an Arizona law that tries to keep illegal immigrants from voting by demanding all state residents show documents proving their U.S. citizenship before registering to vote in national elections. The high court will hear arguments Monday over the legality of Arizona’s voter-approved requirement that prospective voters document their U.S. citizenship in order to use a registration form produced under the federal “Motor Voter” voter-registration law that doesn’t require such documentation.

This case focuses on voter registration in Arizona, which has tangled frequently with the federal government over immigration issues involving the Mexican border. But it has broader implications because four other states — Alabama, Georgia, Kansas and Tennessee — have similar requirements, and 12 other states are contemplating similar legislation, officials say. The Obama administration is supporting challengers to the law. If Arizona can add citizenship requirements, then “each state could impose all manner of its own supplemental requirements beyond the federal form,” Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr. said in court papers.
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Eye on Boise: Private school tax break plan heads to House vote

Written by Betsy Z. Russell for The Spokesman-Review on March 17, 2013Education Reform
BOISE – Sen. Bob Nonini, R-Coeur d’Alene, says he believes his bill to provide $10 million a year in tax credits for scholarships to private schools would prompt 2,622 Idaho students to transfer from public to private schools, plus another 465 kindergartners to enroll in private rather than public schools. “That’s a total savings to the state budget of $3.3 million,” Nonini told the House tax committee Friday, saying each child who switches “will accrue a $4,251 savings into the state budget.” House Bill 286 would grant the tax credits to corporations or individuals who donate to organizations that provide the scholarships.

Nonini calculated that public schools would get $11 million less in state funding through the average daily attendance formula due to the switch, though that would be offset by an estimated $8 million in tax credits, his calculation for how much of the $10 million is likely to be used. Committee members had lots of questions about Nonini’s calculations but finally voted 12-4 in favor of the bill Friday. That moves it to the full House.
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Health law may squeeze Mass.

Written by Robert Weisman for The Boston Globe on March 16, 2013Health Care
State business and government leaders say federal rules stemming from the national health care overhaul threaten to drive up insurance costs in Massachusetts, a state widely viewed as a model for the sweeping legislation signed by President Obama in 2010. Under the new regulations, Massachusetts health insurers will have to set premium rates for small businesses and individuals once a year rather than quarterly, as they do now. The rates also would be issued six to 18 months prior to taking effect. Insurers say that means premiums would have to be more expensive to hedge against unforeseen events — such as an influenza outbreak — that may crop up before rates can be adjusted again.

The change, which affects about 720,000 small business employees and self-employed workers, is meant to bring Massachusetts in line with national policies governing how and when insurance is purchased. “It’s federal bureaucrats who have no idea how the Massachusetts market works,” said Lora Pellegrini, president of the Massachusetts Association of Health Plans, a trade group for state health insurers. “There will be a major disruption in the small group market.”

For some in Massachusetts, the new US rules — handed down by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Feb. 27 — are another affront to a state that pioneered expanded access to health care and has been working to rein in costs. Last year, the federal government put in place regulations that ended a Massachusetts discount for small businesses that banded together to buy coverage.
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Voter Registration in Supreme Court Spotlight

Written by Jake Grovum for Stateline on March 15, 2013Federal Overreach
A key provision of the two-decade-old National Voter Registration Act hangs in the balance as the Supreme Court on Monday hears a challenge that, if successful, could make registering to vote more complicated. The justices will once again weigh states’ rights against voting rights as the court hears the challenge, brought by the state of Arizona, against a provision of the voter registration law that is credited with streamlining the country’s voter registration process.

The case centers on a dispute over Arizona’s voter-approved Proposition 200, which was enacted in 2004 and requires voters to prove their U.S. citizenship before registering to vote. The law contradicts the federal measure, and the clash has grown to incorporate the broader arguments over state control of elections featured prominently in recent court battles over voter ID requirements and a challenge to the Voting Rights Act.

The Arizona case differs from the voter ID cases, however. It focuses on a requirement that voters show certain identification prior to registration, rather than voting. The Supreme Court has upheld voter ID requirements to be constitutional. It also doesn’t directly involve the Voting Rights Act. At issue is the question of how much proof a voter should be required to show before registering, and whether the state can go above and beyond the federal statute. The Arizona law requires voters to show documents such as a driver’s license, birth certificate, naturalization papers or passport. Federal law requires states to use a simple form that asks voters to verify their citizenship under penalty of perjury.
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Public lands legislation puts federal control in cross hairs

Written by Brian Maffly for The Salt Lake Tribune on March 15, 2013Federal Overreach
The anti-federal theme that characterized much of the 2013 session reached far into the natural resources arena. The Legislature passed several bills and resolutions affirming state and local "sovereignty" over public lands, forests, water rights, endangered species and law enforcement. Rep. Mike Noel’s HB155, aka "the sheriff’s bill," would bar employees of federal-land management agencies from acting in a law-enforcement capacity except in emergency situations. The Kanab Republican also sponsored HB382 designating a "grazing zone" over Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. It overwhelmingly passed, while a Senate resolution calling for protecting Greater Canyonlands was referred to interim study.

Rep. Ken Ivory, R-West Jordan, claimed the U.S. Forest Service is twisting ranchers’ arms to get them to sign over their water rights. His HB166 and a companion resolution affirm ranchers’ right of access to public lands to develop their water rights. Other popular measures took aim at the Endangered Species Act, which one lawmaker condemned as "a federal tool that hurts us." The Legislature reauthorized a $300,000 appropriation to keep wolves out of Utah. SCR3 asks the feds to hand Utah prairie dog management to Iron County and HCR7, insists no private land be designated as critical habitat for the Gunnison sage grouse.

The Legislature also passed HB164, which would allow county authorities to "mitigate" national forests they deem a threat to public safety. Thursday evening the House concurred with a Senate amendment on the bill.
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Senators preparing for oil tax bill vote

Democrats mount last-ditch 'resistance'

Written by MARK D. MILLER for Juneau Empire on March 15, 2013Energy & Environment
A proposal to reduce oil production taxes in Alaska — a move proponents argue is needed to make the state “competitive” with other major oil-producing jurisdictions, and which detractors deride as a “giveaway” to oil companies with no guarantee of increased oil production — is set to come before the Senate as early as Monday. The Senate has yet to debate Senate Bill 21, the oil tax reform proposal. The bill was not read on the Senate floor Friday.

The latest version of S.B. 21 from the Senate Finance Committee includes provisions raising the base production tax rate to 35 percent and then lowering it to 33 percent by 2017, instituting a $5 per barrel production allowance, creating a 20 percent gross revenue exclusion for new oil, and removing the progressivity mechanism, which results in oil companies paying a larger share to the state when oil prices are high, from the tax structure. The state take is slightly progressive, but generally flat, as oil prices increase under the bill.
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NJ proposes tougher rules for jobless benefits

Written by Associated Press for NorthJersey.com on March 15, 2013Economic Prosperity
TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — Labor Department officials in New Jersey are taking public comments Friday on a proposed rule change regarding unemployment benefits. The new rule clarifies the responsibility of the jobless to actively look for work and allows benefits to be suspended for any week in which a claimant doesn't seek a new job. Residents receiving unemployment benefits would be required to report to the Division of Unemployment Insurance at specified times, as they do currently, and register for work.

Residents could register for work online from home or a public library, or at a county-run career center. The proposed change is designed to curtail unemployment fraud. The first testimony was by a representative of the New Jersey Business and Industry Association. The business group supports the change.
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Mo. Senate passes union paycheck deduction bill

Published in The San Francisco Chronicle on March 14, 2013Labor Reform
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Missouri Senate has approved legislation requiring public employee unions to seek annual consent to automatically deduct fees from members' paychecks. The bill also would require the unions to seek consent for spending members' fees on political contributions.

Public safety unions representing first responders would be exempt and not have to seek consent from members under the Senate bill. The Senate voted 24-10 along party lines Thursday to send the measure to the House. Republicans supported the bill, while Democrats voted against it. The House on Wednesday passed a similar measure that would only require consent to spend dues on political contributions.
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Kansas Senate debating union paycheck deductions

Written by The Associated Press for Kansas City Star on March 14, 2013Labor Reform
TOPEKA — A bill prohibiting public employee unions in Kansas from deducting money from members’ paychecks to help finance political activities is advancing in the Legislature. The Senate was scheduled to debate the measure Thursday. The GOP-dominated chamber is expected to pass it.

Supporters of the bill say they want to prevent public employee unions from funneling money deducted from members’ paychecks to candidates or causes opposed by those members. They also contend that state and local government agencies processing payrolls shouldn’t be entangled in such transactions. Opponents argue there’s no need for the legislation because union members must agree to any deductions. Public employee unions say the measure is meant to hurt their fundraising and is another politically motivated attempt by many Republicans to undermine groups that overwhelmingly support Democrats.
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Legislature has chance for landmark educational reform

Written by Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves for The Hattiesburg American on March 14, 2013Education Reform
Gov. Phil Bryant laid out a bold education reform package for the Legislature, calling this the “Education Session.” Both the Senate and House quickly took up the mantle by passing his Education Works Agenda establishing literacy standards for kindergarten through third-grade students, raising the requirements to enter a teaching program and improving graduation rates.

Gov. Bryant, Speaker Philip Gunn and I have worked closely together to create the best foundation for changing the quality of education, and legislators are in the final stages of passing education reform. The Senate and House are close to an agreement allowing school choice for parents and students through public charter schools with one important difference: Deciding where the schools should be allowed to operate.

The Senate and House agree school boards in A- and B-rated school districts can veto a public charter school application and deny giving parents educational choice. Both chambers agree public charter schools need only approval from the state authorizing board to operate in D- and F-rated districts. The primary difference is whether school boards in C-rated districts can block public charter schools in their community, in spite of parents’ demand for school choice.
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