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.

Public opinion turns against labor unions in California

Written by David Siders for The Sacramento Bee on December 13, 2013Labor Reform
Public support for labor unions has plunged in California, with more voters for the first time saying they do more harm than good, according to a new Field Poll. A plurality of registered voters – 45 percent – now feel that way, compared to 40 percent who say they do more good. The poll registers a dramatic, 10 percentage point change in public opinion from two years ago, when voters rated labor unions far more positively. The measure follows heated controversies around public pensions, municipal bankruptcies and political campaigns involving organized labor – one of the most influential forces in California’s Democratic politics. “It seems like they keep winning the battles,” Field Poll director Mark DiCamillo said. “The question becomes, ‘Are they moving the public in the direction where they may lose the war?’” DiCamillo attributed declining support for labor unions to growing concerns about public pension costs and, in the densely populated San Francisco Bay Area, frustration around recent transit strikes.
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Boeing to shift research jobs to Missouri, Alabama, S. Carolina

Written by DAVID A. LIEB for Associated Press on December 12, 2013Economic Prosperity
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Boeing announced Thursday that it is shifting hundreds of jobs to Alabama, Missouri and South Carolina as part of a restructuring of its U.S. research operations over the next two years. The Chicago-based aerospace company said the reorganization will result in fewer research jobs in Washington state and California and is being undertaken to better meet the needs of its commercial airplane, military and space and security units. The announcement comes as those same states, and several others, are competing to assemble Boeing's 777X passenger plane — a much-sought-after facility that could generate thousands of jobs. Boeing spokesman Daryl Stephenson said the restructuring of the company's research operations has been in the works for several years and is unrelated to the new airplane or Boeing's contract negotiations with a Seattle area machinists union.

The research restructuring will add 300-400 employees each in the St. Louis area, Huntsville, Ala., and North Charleston, S.C. Research jobs will decline by 800-1,200 in the Seattle area and by 200-300 in southern California, the company said. The restructuring is to start early next year and be complete by 2015. After the changes, Boeing will still have about 4,000 employees in its research and technology operations, but they will no longer be concentrated predominantly on the West Coast. The Seattle and St. Louis sites will have the most employees, and each site will have specific research tasks. The Alabama site is to focus on simulation and decision analytics and metals and chemical technology. The southern California location is to focus on flight sciences, electronics and networked systems. The St. Louis site is to conduct research on systems technology, digital aviation and support technology, and metallic and fabrication development.
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DELBERT HOSEMANN: Mississippi Voter ID is free for the asking

Written by Delbert Hosemann for The Sun Herald on December 11, 2013Election Law
The majority of Mississippi voters cast a ballot in favor of a constitutional photo identification requirement. As Secretary of State and Chief Elections Officer for the state of Mississippi, the Mississippi Legislature has tasked our agency with implementing Voter ID. While the vast majority of us have one of the many forms of acceptable photo ID, there are some Mississippians who lack proper identification. We need your help identifying those individuals prior to the June 3, 2014, Primary Election. Any registered voter who lacks an acceptable photo ID is eligible to receive a free Mississippi Voter ID card, and we are committed to ensuring those individuals have one prior to the June 3 Primary Election.

The Secretary of State's Office has worked with multiple state agencies to facilitate the Voter ID requirement. Our office worked closely with the Mississippi Department of Transportation to provide free transportation to any individual who needs assistance obtaining a Mississippi Voter ID card. We have worked with the Mississippi Department of Health's Office of Vital Records to provide a free verification of birth record if an individual has no other means to verify their identity to receive a free Mississippi Voter ID card. The Mississippi Department of Public Safety has also provided invaluable input in facilitating this requirement. Voting is the key to our democracy. We are committed to ensuring everyone who is qualified to vote has the opportunity to cast a ballot. We encourage you to call our office at 1-855-868-3745 or visit our website at MSVoterID.ms.gov for more information. We look forward to working with you to implement the constitutional photo identification requirement and appreciate your help in the process.
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Lawsuit challenges vouchers for NC private schools

Written by Jane Stancill for Charlotte Observer on December 11, 2013Education Reform
RALEIGH The battle over private school vouchers in North Carolina is headed to court. On Wednesday, 25 plaintiffs filed a lawsuit in Wake County Superior Court, calling the state’s voucher program an unconstitutional assault on public education. The diverse group includes parents, teachers, clergy and well-known names such as Mike Ward, former state schools superintendent, and Judy Chambers, the daughter of the late civil rights lawyer Julius Chambers. Sponsored by the N.C. Association of Educators and the N.C. Justice Center, a left-leaning advocacy group, the lawsuit seeks an injunction to stop the tuition grants before they start in 2014. At issue are the “Opportunity Scholarships” passed into law this year by the legislature, which will provide $4,200 in taxpayer dollars for low-income students to attend private schools starting next fall. The General Assembly appropriated $10 million for the scholarships in 2014-15. Supporters argue that the program provides school choice to poor families whose children are stuck in low performing public schools.
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Iowa business interests push tax changes

Written by Rod Boshart for WCF Courier on December 11, 2013Economic Prosperity
DES MOINES | Iowa’s big-city business leaders Wednesday called for a simpler, flatter income tax and a higher gas tax to help fix roads and bridges. Leaders of the Iowa Chamber Alliance, representing business interests in the state’s 16 largest urban areas, say Iowa’s complicated income tax system for individuals and corporations is hard to explain to businesses looking to locate in the state. Deteriorating infrastructure also hurts business recruitment efforts, the said in outlining their priorities for the 2014 legislative session. “Iowa’s road system requires immediate attention,” said Kelly Halstead, economic development director for the Greater Fort Dodge Growth Alliance. She said her nonpartisan group supports new or alternative sources of revenue, including a fuel tax increase.

Alliance leaders also said they support efforts to simplify and reduce income taxes, allowing businesses and individuals to choose to file under the current system or to use a filing alternative that would be simpler, with lower rates and fewer deductions. Steve Firman, director of government relations for the Greater Cedar Valley Alliance and Chamber in Waterloo-Cedar Falls, said Iowa ranked 40th among states in the Tax Foundation’s 2014 tax climate comparisons because it’s difficult to explain the complexity of federal deductibility that skews Iowa’s true rates. “In economic development, if you’re explaining, you’re losing,” Firman said.
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Colorado's health exchange finds new worries as deadlines loom closer

Written by Michael Booth for The Denver Post on December 09, 2013Health Care
Colorado's health exchange board expressed new worries Monday that end-of-the-year deadlines may leave some consumers without insurance coverage after Jan. 1. Even a recent uptick in enrollments has created problems for users of the exchange, where Coloradans may shop for health insurance under the new health-care law. The Connect for Health Colorado exchange is celebrating 1,000 new enrollments a day, but the high volume and long questions have pushed waiting times in the call queue to 25 minutes or more.

Board member Steve ErkenBrack said during a meeting Monday he worries about late-coming consumers who won't hear back about Medicaid or private insurance subsidies before Jan. 1, when their existing policy might expire. ErkenBrack pushed the board to seek waivers from the federal government on the Medicaid "denial" step. ErkenBrack, who heads Rocky Mountain Health Plans in Grand Junction, also suggested the board and insurers could allow consumers sign up for policies now with an "escrow" account, then revert to Medicaid if they learn later they qualify for the free state-federal insurance. That would bridge any coverage gap with private policies that expire Dec. 31.
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McDonnell proposes $38 million for mental health

Written by Julian Walker for The Virginian-Pilot on December 09, 2013Health Care
In the wake of a recent tragedy, Gov. Bob McDonnell has proposed $38 million in additional mental health funding, some to increase patient capacity at Williamsburg's Eastern State Hospital, and created a new task force to recommend improvements for Virginia's mental health system. McDonnell announced those steps Tuesday morning during a State Capitol news conference held weeks after the son of state Sen. Creigh Deeds stabbed his father before taking his own life at their Bath County home last month.

Austin "Gus" Deeds, 24, reportedly received a mental health evaluation hours before that violent domestic episode but was released without further treatment when no hospital beds were found to accommodate him by the time an emergency custody order he was held under expired. The governor's proposals include extending the maximum duration of such orders from six to eight hours; increased funding so temporary detention orders for longer care last 72 hours instead of the current 48 hours; and money for expanding crisis intervention services to assist in holding people while placement is sought.
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Latest Texas, EPA Battle: Cross-State Air Pollution

Written by Neena Satija for The Texas Tribune on December 09, 2013Federal Overreach
Texas Attorney General and GOP gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott’s battle with the Environmental Protection Agency continues Tuesday morning in the U.S. Supreme Court, when his office will argue against a proposed federal rule to limit the effects of air pollution across state boundaries. The rule itself — which would identify Texas and 26 other “upwind” states as significant contributors to air pollution in “downwind” states, requiring the group to further cut emissions — is not in question. The high-court justices will only consider how the rule should be implemented, and a judgment in the case would, at most, delay — not stop — the EPA’s 15-year effort to address cross-state air pollution.

But delaying the Cross State Air Pollution Rule, also known as the “transport” rule, is “what the opponents of the rule are after here,” said David Spence, a professor of business and law at the University of Texas at Austin. A federal appeals ruled against the transport rule last August, and the EPA is now appealing that decision. The rule is the latest in a series of EPA attempts since 1998 to address air quality problems in some states that originate beyond their own borders. Each of the EPA's efforts thus far has been challenged in court.
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Assembly committee to release Common Core report

Committee to release report on Wednesday

Written by The Associated Press for Channel300.com on December 09, 2013Education Reform
A report on recommendations for changes to the Common Core education standards in place in Wisconsin is scheduled to be released and voted on this week. A special Assembly committee created by Republicans earlier this year to study the standards plans to release its report on Wednesday and then vote on it Thursday. Tea party conservatives have been loudly criticizing the standards that are designed to improve instruction in math and English. Critics said the standards are weak, creating a national curriculum and the government is collecting too much information about students, and But backers said the voluntary standards in place in 45 states are a vast improvement over what Wisconsin previously had and that concerns are overblown.
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Scope of NC Medicaid overhaul proposal changes

Written by GARY D. ROBERTSON for Associated Press on December 08, 2013Health Care
RALEIGH, N.C. — Several months ago, Gov. Pat McCrory's administration proposed a dramatic overhaul of what he's repeatedly called a "broken" Medicaid system — one beset annually by hundreds of millions of dollars in shortfalls. "Medicaid continues to be over budget and costs keep growing," said Mardy Peal, an adviser to state Health and Human Services secretary Dr. Aldona Wos. "It is clear to all of us — beneficiaries, providers and taxpayers — that Medicaid is an urgent and crucial matter before us."

But after criticism of the initial plan by medical providers and legislators, Wos' department has a scaled-back approach. Officials unveiled it to a small advisory panel meeting last week for the first time to try to build consensus on reform among lawmakers, the agency and interest groups. The updated plan is designed in part to allay concerns that the management of Medicaid could wind up in the hands of a few for-profit companies and would dismantle successful programs. The two representatives of the General Assembly — the body expected to have the most say on a final product — serving on the advisory group aren't settled yet on whether a wide or narrow path to stability in the $13 billion Medicaid program is best. Sen. Louis Pate, R-Wayne, said he believes fellow Republicans in his chamber largely are more inclined to accept a broader Medicaid overhaul, citing how the program's financial troubles have prevented spending on other priorities, such as salary raises for teachers.
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A tax cut in North Carolina, but first, new paperwork

Written by David Ranii and Virginia Bridges for The Charlotte Observer on December 08, 2013Economic Prosperity
The most significant overhaul of North Carolina tax law in a generation takes effect in a few weeks, ushering in sweeping changes that include more take-home pay and a broader sales tax that includes movie and concert tickets. But first comes the paperwork. Most taxpayers are being asked to complete a new form this month, a direct consequence of the new income tax system. It’s a complication – some would say hassle – for employees and employers alike that is drawing complaints even from some who cheered when GOP lawmakers pushed through a new tax bill and Gov. Pat McCrory signed it into law in July.

The new law lowers individual income tax rates to a flat 5.8 percent in 2014 and eliminates dozens of deductions from state returns. The change means employees must fill out a revised form – the equivalent of the federal W-4 – that will determine how much state income tax is withheld by their employer. Those who receive pensions and annuities must also complete the new forms. George Ports, senior executive at CAI, a human resource management firm with offices in Raleigh and Greensboro, said employers have been calling and asking: “Is this for real?”
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One year later: How has right-to-work changed Michigan?

Written by Lindsay VanHulle for The Lansing State Journal on December 07, 2013Labor Reform
A year after right-to-work laws were approved with the promise of radically changing Michigan’s business climate, little has actually changed. And, any changes likely won’t be realized for years, if at all. While proponents trumpeted the laws as necessary to draw companies to Michigan, there are no examples of businesses that have done so because Michigan now is a right-to-work state. And organized labor, whose leaders blasted the legislation as a union-busting attempt in the state that gave birth to unions, has seen far fewer defections among its members than originally feared.

To be sure, some union members have bolted and more could follow, since right-to-work provisions don’t take effect until current contracts expire. But leaders say the defections are just a fraction of total membership. Most workers, they contend, are choosing to stay with their unions. “When you’re dragged to the edge of the cliff, you get serious and you scratch and you fight really hard,” said Ray Holman, legislative liaison for United Auto Workers Local 6000, which represents nearly 17,000 state employees. “The people have been very supportive. I think in some ways (we) have encouraged or inspired people to think about what it means to be in a union and what it means to have a strong collective bargaining team.” Over five days in December 2012, the GOP-controlled Legislature and Republican Gov. Rick Snyder rushed a set of bills known as right to work into law during a lame-duck session, making Michigan the nation’s 24th right-to-work state. In effect since March, the laws — one each covering private- and public-sector employees —make it illegal to force workers to pay union dues as a condition of employment.
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Legislators deciding election issues

Measures would increase rules for absentee ballot voting, mailings

Written by JIM PROVANCE for The BLADE on December 06, 2013Election Law
COLUMBUS — Voting advocates on Thursday urged Gov. John Kasich to veto bills headed for his desk that they argue could make it more difficult to cast a ballot and be sure it was counted. The Ohio Senate has gone home for the year, but the state House of Representatives is expected to return next week to consider several election-related bills passed by the upper chamber. The measures would increase the information voters must provide to obtain absentee ballots and prohibit mass-mailing of absentee ballot applications to registered voters by any public official other than the secretary of state — and even then, only when the General Assembly appropriates funding. Another would reduce the number of days for absentee voting by mail or in person to eliminate the so-called “Golden Week,” in which would-be voters could register and then immediately cast a ballot. Yet another would increase information sharing among governmental entities, such as death certificates and driver’s license information, for cross-referencing with the state’s voter-registration database and change the formula to require fewer voting machines.
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Idaho governor defends openness, goals of Common Core

In an online chat, Otterr and panelists say education reform will raise the bar for Idaho schools.

Written by BILL ROBERTS for The Idaho Statesman on December 06, 2013Education Reform
Gov. Butch Otter sought to calm concerns Thursday about changes in education that could come from his task force for improving public schools and he lined up solidly behind Common Core, a key element in his plan to revamp education. As part of a live, two-hour chat on the Idaho Statesman's website, Otter and members of his task force took questions from the public. Panelists were Linda Clark, Meridian School District superintendent; Rep. Reed DeMordaunt, House Education Committee chairman; and Boise parent Mike Lanza.
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Colorado's health-care exchange says members signing up at record pace

Written by Michael Booth for The Denver Post on December 05, 2013Health Care
Connect for Health Colorado exchange officials said Thursday they are signing up new members at a quickening pace that is "breaking records each day." The exchange, criticized for falling far short of its own enrollment projections, said it saw more than 1,000 new members sign up for health insurance on Wednesday. Officials said the total was the latest in a series of daily records; the exchange had been hoping people who previously set up accounts would finish their shopping and enroll in a plan for 2014. The previous high mentioned in the exchange's last news release was about 600 signups in a day.

The exchange is where Coloradans seeking insurance can shop for it under the new health-care law. It is separate from the troubled federal site that some states are using for enrollments. Exchange officials are releasing numbers more frequently now as their results improve. Previously the enrollment updates had been about every two weeks. Projections by the exchange staff and consultants put the mid-range of 2014 enrollees at 135,000 Colorado members; the total at the end of November, the second full month of enrollments, was about 10,000, well short of the lowest-case scenario for that month. The operating budget for the exchange, after federal grants are scheduled to taper off, relies on per-member fees to raise some of the revenue.
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Pence seeks pre-K vouchers, road money in 2nd year as governor

Written by Tom LoBianco for The Associated Press on December 05, 2013Education Reform
INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana Gov. Mike Pence will seek to expand the nation's broadest school voucher program to disadvantaged preschool-age children and increase access to charter schools in his second year as governor. Pence also says he plans to seek new money for roads and push for a series of economic measures, including eliminating the personal property tax for businesses and altering regulations to attract more companies to the state. Pence outlined his agenda Thursday at a legislative conference organized by the Indianapolis law firm Bingham Greenbaum Doll. He has said previously that he plans to spend his second session with the General Assembly pushing for a range of issues broadly focused on improving Indiana's economy. Pence had moderate success pushing through his initiatives during his first legislative session this year.
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Bipartisan Idaho school reform bills unveiled

Written by Betsy Z. Russell for The Spokesman-Review on December 05, 2013Education Reform
BOISE – In a rare moment of bipartisanship on school reform in Idaho, Democratic state lawmakers unveiled four far-reaching bills Wednesday, and GOP state schools Superintendent Tom Luna endorsed them. “This isn’t a partisan issue,” said Sen. Elliot Werk, D-Boise. “We all know that we need to work together. The public expects us to work together.” Within hours, GOP Gov. Butch Otter and House Speaker Scott Bedke, R-Oakley, also had encouraging words about the bills, which would enact the 20 recommendations from a task force that Otter appointed to chart the future of education reform in Idaho. Those items range from restoring $82 million a year in operational funds cut from the schools in recent years to new ways to determine when students should advance to the next grade.

Luna said, “This is a huge step forward, as it creates the bipartisan support for education reform that we’ve wanted, but it’s been elusive.” Luna’s Students Come First school reform laws, which included rolling back teachers’ collective bargaining rights and a new focus on online learning, passed the Legislature without a single Democratic vote. Voters resoundingly rejected the laws in the 2012 election. Otter, who had backed the rejected laws, then appointed a 31-member task force drawing from all sides in the education reform debate, and it proposed the 20 recommendations, which backers call a strategic plan for the future of education in Idaho. Among them are a teacher career ladder that would bring big pay increases along with a new tiered licensing program, and stepping up classroom technology, teacher mentoring and training, and advanced opportunities for students.
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Business tax cut tops Pence legislative agenda

Written by Dan Carden for The Times of North West Indiana on December 05, 2013Economic Prosperity
INDIANAPOLIS | Ignoring data showing that Indiana's decade of trickle-down prosperity policies haven't improved the income, health or quality of life for most Hoosiers, Gov. Mike Pence promised Thursday to deliver still more business-centered programs in the upcoming legislative session. "I think a rising tide lifts all boats," Pence said. "So we're continuing to promote policies that will encourage investment and jobs." The top item on the Republican governor's Roadmap 2014 is eliminating the business personal property tax, which would sap another $1 billion a year from cash-strapped schools and local governments already forced to cut services due to the $950 million annual impact of property tax caps.

Pence said Indiana's tax on business equipment, which 38 other states also impose, is an impediment to companies considering relocating to the state, and eliminating it will further improve Indiana's already top-rated business tax climate. "I truly do believe that by phasing out the business personal property tax in the state of Indiana we will ensure that Indiana remains in the very forefront of the competition to attract new investment and jobs," Pence said.
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Alabama House Republicans release "Commonsense Conservative" agenda for 2014 session

Written by Mike Cason for AL.com on December 05, 2013Economic Prosperity
MONTGOMERY, Alabama --- The Alabama House Republican Caucus today released its 2014 legislative agenda, which House Speaker Mike Hubbard of Auburn said would help businesses and the state’s economy. Several of the bills are intended to streamline or reduce taxes, according to summaries of the bills released by the caucus. The caucus dubbed the nine-bill package the "Commonsense Conservative" agenda. The 2014 session will be the last regular session of the four-year term. Republicans have controlled the Legislature since winning filibuster-proof majorities in 2010. Before that, Democrats had controlled the Legislature for more than 130 years. Hubbard said next year’s agenda would be a strong complement to bills the Republicans have passed during the term. “We’re not done building,” Hubbard said. “We’ll continue that in the next quadrennium. But for this quadrennium, it’s a perfect way to cap it off.”
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Otter Asks Health Insurers to Reinstate Coverage

Written by Mychel Matthews for Magicvalley.com on December 04, 2013Health Care
BOISE • Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter asked Idaho health insurance carriers Tuesday to consider reinstating coverage for individuals and small businesses whose policies were terminated as a result of President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act. “I’ve been hoping and waiting for this announcement,” said Kim Martin, health insurance agent for Select Health, Blue Shield and Pacific Source in Twin Falls. Soon after the launch of the ACA — commonly known as Obamacare — insurance carriers sent thousands of cancellation letters to customers whose policies did not meet “essential health benefits package standards” slated to be required of all plans on Jan. 1. In response to public outcry, Obama gave individual states the option of allowing carriers to temporarily reinstate those policies. Otter’s announcement came as a huge relief to Martin, who said about 60 percent of her clients received cancellation letters. “It’s pretty hard right now,” she said. “I’ve got some really scared people who don’t want to be without insurance.”
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Lawsuits by Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, others challenge Obamacare subsidies

Basic structure of health care exchanges, subsidies and penalties are under attack in lawsuits that are moving through courts in Oklahoma, Washington, D.C., Indiana and Virginia.

Written by Chris Casteel for News OK on December 04, 2013Federal Overreach
WASHINGTON — As President Barack Obama this week launched a new campaign to defend the Affordable Care Act, a federal judge here heard arguments in a lawsuit nearly identical to the one filed by Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt that would, if successful, deal a crippling blow to the law. U.S. District Judge Paul L. Friedman promised to make a decision as soon as possible in the case, one of four that raises the same basic argument that Pruitt made first in his Oklahoma lawsuit.

That argument is that the Internal Revenue Service went far beyond the plain language of the Affordable Care Act to grant subsidies, based on income, to people who buy insurance on exchanges. Those subsidies can trigger penalties for employers and individuals. One section of the law says that the subsidies, in the form of tax credits, are available to people who buy insurance “through an Exchange established by the State.” However, 34 states, including Oklahoma, refused to establish their own exchanges, and the federal government has had to set up exchanges in those states to sell insurance policies. The IRS, in writing a rule to implement the law regarding subsidies, made no distinction between state-established exchanges and federal ones.
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McCrory: More diverse energy sources ahead

Written by Associated Press for The Winston-Salem Journal on December 04, 2013Energy & Environment
DURHAM - North Carolina is poised for an economic boost thanks to laws authorizing fracking and by opening the door wider to more alternative energy production, Gov. Pat McCrory told state business leaders Wednesday. Pushing ahead on his “all of the above” energy strategy, McCrory also said President Barack Obama's administration keeps dragging its feet on re-opening the process to recommence energy exploration off the Atlantic coast. The federal government has decided not to open exploration in new waters through at least 2017. “ We have to get into the exploration business in North Carolina,” McCrory told participants in an energy conference organized by the North Carolina Chamber. “We've waited far too long to begin that process and we've wasted a lot of time and we need to get that process going.” Stokes County is one of a small number of counties statewide that have a reserve of shale gas underground that could attract drillers for fracking purposes. The highest concentrations, according to state geologists, are in Lee, Moore and Chatham counties.
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Texas reports record monthly oil production rate

Published in The Houston Chronicle on December 04, 2013Energy & Environment
HOUSTON (AP) — Texas has reported that it produced oil at a record rate in September, more than doubling the rate of less than three years ago, according to totals compiled by the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The totals show Texas produced crude oil at the rate of 2.7 million barrels per day during September, the highest average since federal officials began keeping monthly records in January 1981 and a 30 percent increase over September 2012, the Houston Chronicle (http://bit.ly/1jj834y ) reported. That still fell short of the record rate of 3.4 million barrels per day reported to the Texas Railroad Commission in 1972, when the state's oil production peaked, the Chronicle reported.

The Texas oil boom started in 2008, when new technology reversed decades of decline. Hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling renewed old fields and opened new ones. Leading the way in the new Texas oil boom have been the Eagle Ford Shale in South Texas and the Permian Basin in West Texas, which each saw production rapidly expand to more than 1 million barrels of crude per day. Texas accounted for 35 percent of the U.S. crude oil production in September. That ranks Texas as one of the world's 15 biggest oil producers, comparable to such producers as Venezuela, Kuwait and Nigeria, the Chronicle reported.
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JUDGE CLEARS WAY FOR DETROIT TO PURSUE BANKRUPTCY, HANDING LABOR UNIONS HUGE DEFEAT

Written by Becket Adams for The Blaze on December 03, 2013Labor Reform
Dealing a major blow to labor unions, a judge ruled Tuesday that Detroit can move ahead with its bankruptcy filing. “This once proud and prosperous city can’t pay its debts. It’s insolvent. It’s eligible for bankruptcy,” Judge Steven Rhodes said in announcing his decision. “At the same time, it also has an opportunity for a fresh start.” The bankruptcy, which aims to address the city’s $18 billion in long-term liabilities, means unions, pension funds and retirees stand to take a loss with the rest of the city’s creditors.

Rhoades said he believes bankruptcy will allow Detroit to recover and move forward. “The city of Detroit was once a hard-working, diverse, vital city, the home of the automobile industry, proud of its nickname the Motor City,” he said adding Detroit’s many problems including double-digit unemployment, “catastrophic” debt deals, vacant homes, massive public safety issues and population loss. The judge did not approve a specific bankruptcy plan for the city. Rather, he gave Detroit officials the green light to pursue that option, despite massive pushback from major labor unions.
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Branstad to push EPA on renewable fuel standard

Written by ROD BOSHART for The Sioux City Journal on December 03, 2013Energy & Environment
DES MOINES | Gov. Terry Branstad is expected to testify Thursday at a federal hearing on a plan to cut the amount of ethanol required to be blended into gasoline. The hearing, in suburban Washington, D.C., is being organized by the Environmental Protection Agency. The department proposes to reduce by almost 3 billion gallons the amount of biofuels required to be blended into gasoline in 2014. Iowa is the nation's top ethanol maker. Under the Clear Air Act, the EPA has the authority to reduce overall blending requirements. Branstad, a Republican, is defending the current levels of ethanol and biodiesel in the nation's fuel supply. He also has criticized Democrat President Barack Obama for campaigning in support of ethanol as a green energy alternative but then allowing the EPA to ease the requirements. Branstad said Tuesday he plans to testify at the EPA’s public comment session in Arlington, Va. During a news conference, he said the EPA change could push the price of corn below the cost of production, drive down farm land prices and cut the demand for machinery.
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