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.

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 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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School flexibility: Alabama Supreme Court clears the way: Bentley can sign tax-credit bill into law

Written by Rick Harmon and Brian Lyman for The Montgomery Advertiser on March 14, 2013Education Reform
Republicans celebrated Wednesday’s Alabama Supreme Court decision lifting Montgomery County Circuit Judge Charles Price’s temporary restraining order — a move that will allow Gov. Robert Bentley to sign a bill that gives students in failing public schools tax credits to transfer to non-failing public schools or private ones. Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh called the Supreme Court ruling “a loss for activist judges and status quo union bosses, but a major win for parents and children trapped in failing schools across the state.”

House Speaker Mike Hubbard, R-Auburn, said, “While the enemies of education reform will continue to file baseless actions and fight the changes that our public education system desperately needs, today’s unanimous decision is a great victory for students, parents and educators alike.” And Lt. Gov. Kay Ivey applauded the court for upholding the “separation of powers, a fundamental doctrine of our republic which is crucial to the successful operation of state government.”
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Idaho House panel backs state insurance exchange

Written by Associated Press for The Idaho State Journal on March 12, 2013Health Care
The House Health and Welfare Committee backed a state-based, nonprofit insurance exchange Thursday, conceding that it wasn't a perfect solution, but it was better than merely accepting a version run from Washington, D.C. The 10-1 vote sets the stage for long and spirited House debate; two weeks ago, the Senate debated for about six hours, before passing a similar measure.

Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter backs this plan for a state-designed online marketplace for individuals and small businesses to buy insurance, arguing that it keeps Idaho in control and will be less expensive than a federal exchange. Under President Obama's 2010 health care overhaul, exchanges will be required starting Jan. 1.

Lawmakers on the panel agreed with the Republican governor, saying they believe defaulting to the federal version _ as governments in about 25 GOP-led states have _ will leave Idaho without a seat at the negotiating table. "Idaho should be a leader," said Rep. Christy Perry, R-Nampa. "Idaho is not giving into ideology here... I think Idaho is taking a stand and protecting its citizens rather than just handing everything over to the federal government."
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Gov. Robert Bentley backs changes for state's Medicaid program

Written by Kim Chandler for on March 12, 2013Health Care
MONTGOMERY, Alabama -- Gov. Robert Bentley said he will support the recommendations of his Medicaid commission to overhaul the way the state delivers services in the healthcare program for the poor. “We now have a chance to turn Alabama Medicaid into a program that provides better care while making more efficient use of taxpayer dollars,” Bentley said.

Bentley said the proposal will end Alabama Medicaid Agency’s fee-for-service model in favor of a network of locally run managed care networks. State Health Officer Don Williamson called the plan “potentially the most important health transformation” the state has seen. “It’s built on the idea, instead of paying for visits and volume, we pay for outcome and quality. This is an ambitious undertaking,” Williamson said.
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Senate passes permitting bill

SB27 allows the state to take over dredge-and-fill permits from federal government

Written by Becky Bohrer for THE ASSOCIATED PRESS on March 12, 2013Energy & Environment

JUNEAU — The state could move toward taking responsibility for dredge-and-fill permits from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers under a bill passed by the Alaska Senate on Monday. SB27, one of several bills related to permitting that have been proposed by Gov. Sean Parnell, passed 15-2. It now goes to the House.Parnell has billed SB27 as a way to limit “federal overreach” in Alaska.

The bill would allow the state to evaluate the costs and consequences of assuming primacy for the dredge-and-fill permitting program. It also would allow the departments of Environmental Conservation and Natural Resources to take “reasonable steps” to assume primacy. The benefits, according to a briefing paper from the departments, would include involvement of fewer agencies, state management of water and land-use priorities and funding stability. The paper says the Corps has seen a recent cut in staff and is facing additional cuts when it will need to prepare large environmental reviews and permit “many state projects” from large state capital budgets the last few years.

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Education bill clears Senate Education Committee

Written by Dave Boucher for The Charleston Daily Mail on March 12, 2013Education Reform
CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin and supporters of his education initiatives won the first round on Tuesday as the Senate Education Committee approved a moderately altered version of his massive bill. Union officials promised the war against the "teacher-bashing bill" was far from over.

Senators reviewed a revised bill Tuesday during the committee meeting, and a majority approved the legislation on a voice vote. The new measure is 189 pages -- 10 more than the original bill -- and includes several compromises, said Senate Education Chairman Bob Plymale, D-Wayne. Those changes came after discussions with unions and the governor's office, he said. "We met with the constituency groups to try to look at the issues they had," Plymale said. "Whether we agreed with all the issues or not, they had some very valid issues that I thought needed to be addressed and we probably addressed 17 or so of those."

Hallie Mason, Tomblin's policy director, said the bill still accomplishes the governor's goals. "It's a much stronger bill. As we move forward to work through the legislative process, we'll see where we go from here; there may be additional changes. But I've been pleased with the opportunity to work through the bill," she said.
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Panel introduces revised education tax credit bill

Written by Dave Boucher for The Charleston Daily Mail on March 12, 2013Education Reform

A measure giving tax credits to individuals or businesses who donate to private and religious schools has been introduced in a House committee. The House Revenue and Taxation Committee voted on a party-line, Republican-led vote Monday to introduce the legislation that offers tax breaks to people and companies that give scholarships to students attending private schools. The bill provides an estimated $10 million yearly in tax credits to donors.

Coeur d'Alene Republican Sen. Bob Nonini said his proposal gives more financial support to private school students and could save the state an estimated $5.8 million annually by lowering enrollment in the state's public schools.

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R.I. Senate leaders submit legislation to improve business climate

Written by Philip Marcelo for The Providence Journal on March 12, 2013Economic Prosperity
PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- Senate President M. Teresa Paiva Weed and other Senate leaders Tuesday discussed a package of recently introduced bills they say will help improve Rhode Island's business climate. The proposals -- a number of which have been proposed over the years -- cover a range of topics from economic development planning to workforce training, education, health, energy and tax policy.

They come in response to "Moving the Needle," a January report by the Senate and the Rhode Island Public Expenditure Council, a business backed research group, that focused on how the state could raise its low rankings in national business surveys.
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Senate panel rejects Medicaid expansion in Florida

Written by Tia Mitchell for The Miami Herald on March 11, 2013Health Care

TALLAHASSEE -- A Florida Senate committee voted Monday against Medicaid expansion, joining the House in rejecting Gov. Rick Scott’s proposal for a three-year trial covered entirely by federal funding. Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, said Florida should pursue a program that is stronger than Medicaid, which he described as flawed and costly.

“Why in the world would we take the federal government’s position when they promise that they’ll pay for Medicaid expansion when we know that they will be unable to keep that promise in the long run?” Brandes said. The conversation now turns to what Florida can do for roughly 1 million uninsured people who will still draw down billions of federal dollars.

Cost will be the focus, because even if the federal government pays for everything in the first three years, the state’s share will eventually rise to 10 percent. “I oppose the Washington plan, and I want a Florida plan,” said Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, who chairs the committee, which talked about creating a program to use the federal money to purchase private insurance policies for those who qualify. The Senate select committee on the Affordable Care Act voted along party lines, 7-4. Democrats said they were willing to explore alternatives, but unsuccessfully urged colleagues to embrace expansion as a backup.

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Time to Make Union Representation Voluntary

Written by James Sherk for SGLF on March 11, 2013Labor Reform

Time to Make Union Representation Voluntary
James Sherk - The Heritage Foundation

Edward Savarese learned the hard way how inefficiently the government operates. The rookie 5th grade teacher in Clark County, Nevada excelled in the classroom. He won recognition as one of his district’s “New Teachers of the Year.” But a month later the School Board laid him off because he lacked seniority.

Unlike the private sector, many state and local governments base layoffs on seniority. Government raises typically have little to do with performance. Pension costs have driven many cities into bankruptcy. These policies hurt taxpayers, communities, and diligent workers. Poor union contracts drive much of this dysfunction.

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Walker signs mining bill into law

Legislation eases permit process, may create jobs

Published in The Post Crescent on March 11, 2013Energy & Environment
MADISON — Gov. Scott Walker signed Republicans’ polarizing mining bill into law Monday, completing a months-long, all-out campaign to jump-start a giant iron mine in far northwestern Wisconsin.

The legislation will dramatically reshape Wisconsin’s mining regulations to ease the permitting process for the open-pit mine Gogebic Taconite wants to dig just south of Lake Superior. Environmentalists maintain the measure guts the state’s environmental protections, but Republicans say it will help create thousands of jobs.

“This will do tremendous good for the people of Iron County,” Walker said after he signed a copy of the bill at Joy Global Inc., a Milwaukee facility that makes mining equipment. The county has the state’s second-worst unemployment rate in the state. Gogebic Taconite President Bill Williams didn’t immediately return a telephone message Monday.
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House panel OKs teacher contracts bill

Written by Associated Press for The Idaho State Journal on March 09, 2013Education Reform
A disputed measure pushed by the Idaho School Board Association that gives school districts more leverage in contract talks with teachers has passed a House panel. The bill advanced on a party-line, Republican-led vote by the House Education Committee Friday gives school boards power to end contract negotiations by June 10 if talks with their local teachers union stall.
Debate on the proposal became spirited, with school boards arguing they need deadlines to set their annual budgets. The Idaho Education Association teachers union says the measure inappropriately undermines teachers' collective bargaining abilities. The proposal would be limited to just a year, a concession aimed at giving stakeholders an opportunity to study its success. Eagle Republican Rep. Reed DeMordaunt said he's forming a legislative task force to carry out that evaluation.
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