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Jindal administration begins renewed push for education overhaul, starting with teacher tenure
Now, Jindal hopes breaking up Act 1 into multiple bills and re-passing them during the upcoming legislative session will serve as a backup plan in case the state Supreme Court upholds Caldwell's previous ruling. Senate Education Chairman Conrad Appel, R-Metairie, who spearheaded the overhaul effort last year, filed the first of these bills Wednesday. Senate Bill 89 is a carbon-copy of the teacher tenure portion of Act 1 passed last year. "This is really just an insurance policy in case the court doesn't rule in time," Appel said. If the Supreme Court fails to hand down a ruling on Act 1 before the mid-session, Appel said the Act 1 education overhaul provisions would be pushed -- this time in four separate bills. Three House members will file the other three Act 1 bills in the coming weeks.
State senate committee scales back school voucher proposal
Bill no longer qualifies all low-income kindergartners for tuition aid from state
Indiana senators scaled back a plan to expand the state's private school voucher program Wednesday to ally fears about its costs. The revised House Bill 1003 no longer allows any incoming kindergartener who meets income limits to use state tax dollars to pay private school tuition. They still must attend a public school for at least two years. The amended bill passed the Senate Education Committee 8-4.
But the amended bill adds a new wrinkle by making eligible any low income student living within the attendance boundary of a school that received a F on its state report card. "Crafting legislation is sometimes the art of compromise," said Sen. Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville. Kenley had objected to the original bill over worries that it would result in large costs over time. Kenley said making all students start school at kindergarten to obtain a voucher for private school would cost an estimated $7.8 million the first year and likely each subsequent year. Over 12 years, the cost to the state could add up to $200 million a year, he said. Instead, Kenley proposed keeping the public school attendance requirement but made a new exception for poor kids who live in the attendance zone of a F school. The amended bill allows them to use vouchers for private school starting at kindergarten.
With Vouchers, States Shift Aid for Schools to Families
In Arizona, which already has a tax-credit scholarship program, the Legislature has broadened eligibility for education savings accounts. And in New Jersey, Gov. Chris Christie, in an effort to circumvent a Legislature that has repeatedly defeated voucher bills, has inserted $2 million into his budget so low-income children can obtain private school vouchers. Proponents say tax-credit and voucher programs offer families a way to escape failing public schools. But critics warn that by drawing money away from public schools, such programs weaken a system left vulnerable after years of crippling state budget cuts — while showing little evidence that students actually benefit.
Walker, Barrett support Milwaukee start-up model
The plan, which will be formally announced Thursday morning, involves a systematic method of encouraging entrepreneurship. Rather than fund individual unrelated startups, the goal would be to create an environment that fosters long-term growth. That would involve connecting planners, investors, academics and entrepreneurs, in part so the new businesses can support one other and so the community can contribute by providing the skilled employees necessary to work in those companies. "We have growing companies that need skilled workers, and Milwaukee residents who need jobs," Barrett said in a statement. "I am proud of this partnership and pleased that Milwaukee is leading the way."
The Walker-Barrett collaboration comes two weeks after they supported a construction project downtown that would free up land for development.Walker has been struggling to deliver on a campaign pledge to create a quarter-million new jobs before he launches his 2014 re-election bid.
Missouri House approves tax breaks for businesses
Throughout the session, lawmakers have cited recent income tax cuts and aggressive business incentives in Kansas as a reason for Missouri to reciprocate with its own tax breaks. Missouri's western rival again appeared to be a motivating factor in Wednesday's House votes. "I am tired of hearing about Kansas," said Rep. Vicki Englund, a Democrat from St. Louis County who supported the two new business incentive bills. The House passed legislation, 126-26, creating a tax credit for so-called "angel investors" in high-tech, startup businesses — something that the Angel Capital Association says already exists in Kansas and about half of all states. The Missouri bill would provide up to $6 million annually of such tax credits beginning in 2014. The House passed legislation, 128-25, authorizing state and local sales tax breaks for large "data centers" that house computer servers vital to many online businesses. Similar incentives already exist in about a dozen states, including Kansas and many of Missouri's other neighbors. The House plan would waive taxes on the purchase of computers, equipment, materials and utilities used by the data centers.
Indiana Court Upholds Broadest School Voucher Program
The Indiana case has received national attention because the program has wide eligibility. Middle-class families are allowed to participate in Indiana, while in most states, such programs are limited to low-income families or those in failing schools. Jeff Reed, spokesman for the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, said 530,000 Indiana students qualify for vouchers. The Milwaukee Parental Choice Program is the nation’s largest in terms of actual enrollment. That program, enacted in 1990, had 24,027 participants this school year, Reed said. The Indiana program has 9,000 students actually enrolled.
McDonnell signs bill requiring photo ID for voting
“These efforts have made our electoral system less subject to fraud, but we must continue to look for ways to further address any vulnerabilities in our system,” the executive order states. The Senate bill “continues that mission, providing a process for individuals to obtain free photo identification cards and requiring that acceptable identification with a photo of the voter be provided on Election Day in order to vote.”
Senate approves Medicaid expansion plan
Move sets up showdown with Branstad, whose alternative 'Healthy Iowa Plan' will likely pass House
“Iowans get the biggest bang for their tax dollar by expanding Medicaid,” Jochum said. Jochum was supported by Sen. Jack Hatch, D-Des Moines, who complained an alternative proposal by Branstad, a Republican, will lead to many Iowans seeking costly health care in emergency rooms. He described Branstad’s proposal as inefficient and remarked, “The governor’s plan limits patient access.”
UPDATE House GOP leader: Decide on health care expansion in special session
Talking to reporters at the Capitol, Westerman said he does not believe the Obama administration will be able to answer every question and approve every waiver related to the so-called “private option” for expanding health care coverage before the end of the session. Legislators are scheduled to conclude regular business no later than April 19 and formally adjourn the session no later than May 17. “There’s no conceivable way to implement and get all the approvals and waivers that would be necessary for the private option. So my position, and I believe the position of the caucus, will be that we do not pass an appropriation for a program that hasn’t even been established yet and doesn’t have all the details worked out for it,” Westerman said.
Tax-credit bill clears House
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.
Echoes of TennCare feed Medicaid misgivings
Loss of federal funding hurt TN finances
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.”
Alabama Legislature: Medicaid overhaul on tap;state hopes to save money by delivering health care using for-profit companies
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.
Votes on school vouchers, TennCare draw near
Legislature heads for heated finish
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.”
Medicaid expansion in trouble in Mich. Legislature
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.
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.
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.
Medicaid expansion in doubt in Michigan
GOP-led Legislature opposed, but may change course
“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.
Lawmakers won't tackle Medicaid in 2013 session
"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.
Teachers will soon get graded
It's just one of many changes ahead as wyoming works on education accountability.
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.
Governor acts on K-12 measures, will amend school takeover bill
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.”
South Carolina jobs expected to increase
Gains in construction, health likely to fuel hiring
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.
State House GOP wants new balanced budget amendment
"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.
Coastal states want more offshore drilling revenue
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.
Republican State Attorneys General and the EPA
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.
Voucher program heads to state Supreme Court on Tuesday; no immediate ruling expected
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.
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.
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.