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.

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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State releases oil tax regs

http://juneauempire.com/state/2013-12-03/state-releases-oil-tax-regs#.UqeG9_RDt9s

Written by Becky Bohrer for ASSOCIATED PRESS on December 03, 2013Energy & Environment
JUNEAU — The state has finalized rules to help determine what oil qualifies for special tax breaks under Alaska’s new oil tax law. The law championed by Gov. Sean Parnell and passed by the Legislature earlier this year is aimed at spurring more production. Alaska relies heavily on oil revenues to run state government, but oil production has long been on a downward trend. The law, much of which takes effect Jan. 1, sets a base tax rate of 35 percent and provides a capped, per-barrel credit that the Parnell administration expects will apply to the vast majority of the legacy fields.

It also provides more generous tax breaks for so-called “new” oil. How best to define new oil was a sticking point during the legislative session. Metering would be used to calculate one of the most contentious types of oil that qualifies for tax breaks: oil coming from acreage that’s added to existing producing reservoirs. Companies seeking a tax break for this type of oil would be responsible for the metering. Mike Pawlowski, oil and gas program director for the state Revenue Department, said Monday that metering is a “very objective standard” that also provides transparency and predictability for the companies and the public. An earlier proposal also would have allowed companies to use an alternative methodology, but he said that left more discretion up to the department to decide what qualifies. Separate meters would not be required for each well. Audit master John Larsen said the state would prefer companies aggregate wells from the expanded acreage and run them through a single meter for efficiency’s sake.
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GOP pushes performance-based teacher furloughs in Pennsylvania

Written by Karen Langley for Pittsburgh Post Gazzette on December 03, 2013Education Reform
HARRISBURG — Currently, state law allows teachers to be laid off only for reasons related to declines in student enrollment or changes in the organization of a school or district. And when a school district does furlough teachers, it must choose who to let go only by seniority. With the support of the Corbett administration, several House Republicans have proposed changes to the furlough rules. The House Education Committee on Tuesday heard testimony about proposals to add “economic reasons” as a cause to furlough teachers and to allow performance to be considered in selecting who loses their job.

The proposals build on a teacher evaluation system, new this school year, through which student performance counts for half of a teacher’s rating. Previously, teachers were assessed only through classroom observation. The changes to furlough rules are opposed by teachers unions, while education reform groups have registered their support. Carolyn Dumaresq, the acting education secretary, said in written testimony that the administration of Gov. Tom Corbett believes districts should be allowed to furlough for economic reasons and that furlough decisions should be based on teacher performance.
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Legislature Passes Fix For $100B Pension Crisis

Written by Sean Powers and Jeff Bossert for Willradio.tv.online on December 03, 2013Economic Prosperity
The Illinois Legislature has approved a historic plan to eliminate the state's $100 billion pension shortfall, considered the worst in the nation. The House voted 62-53 Tuesday in favor of the plan, which the Senate approved just minutes earlier. It now goes to Gov. Pat Quinn, who has said he will sign it. Legislative leaders say the plan will save the state $160 billion over 30 years by cutting retirement benefits for hundreds of thousands of workers and retirees.Ahead of the vote, House Speaker Michael Madigan defended the pension plan, saying it is not a one-sided bill.

“There will be changes here, much needed changes," Madigan said. "This bill is a well thought out, well balanced bill that deserves the support of this body, the state Senate, and the approval of Governor Quinn.” Republican House Minority Leader Jim Durkin also stressed the importance of passing the pension overhaul. “I think it’s ironic today that the Detroit bankruptcy judge as it was mentioned earlier did rule that the city of Detroit is eligible for bankruptcy protection," Durkin said. "Our failure to act and to move in a positive manner like today could ultimately put these systems in the same position as the city of Detroit and shame on us if that occurs.”
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Michigan Chamber: Right to work sent message state is competitive, but economic impact uncertain

Written by Melissa Anders for Michigan Live on December 02, 2013Labor Reform
LANSING — Michigan improved its economic competitiveness last year but still remains in the bottom half compared to other states, according to a new ranking from the state chamber. Growth in jobs, personal income and economic output helped Michigan rise to 39th most competitive out of 50 states in 2012, up from 47th in 2011, according to a study conducted by Northwood University for the Michigan Chamber Foundation. “Michigan has a lot of reasons to celebrate in the last couple of years, especially in the last year,” said Northwood's Tim Nash, who credited a “much more friendly business environment” thanks in part to improved business tax and regulatory environments. While Nash and chamber officials said improved tax and regulatory climates led to overall economic improvement, the state's ranking in the categories of “state debt and taxation” and “regulatory environment” actually fell a few spots. They said that could be from other states moving up faster than Michigan.
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As state shifts to Common Core, students have to dig deeper into subjects

Written by JENNIFER CHAMBERS for THE DETROIT NEWS on December 02, 2013Education Reform
In Kelly Bender’s first-grade classroom in Troy, every school desk is empty and students are on the move. Some are taking places on colorful pieces of classroom carpet, math boards on their laps and dry-erase markers in hand, trying to solve single-digit subtraction problems. One stands at a Smart Board, drawing “math mountains” to solve an 8 minus 5 problem. Others take turns at the interactive whiteboard to create circle drawings or write out a numeric equation to explain the answer to a math problem. Different approaches, but the students have one thing in common: They are solving problems under Michigan’s Common Core State Standards, a set of rigorous goals in math and English for students in grades K-12.

They were approved by the State Board of Education in 2010. School districts across Michigan have spent the last three years integrating the standards into their curriculums. Over the summer, lawmakers hit the pause button on Common Core by blocking funding for the new fiscal year, stepping into a nationwide controversy over the standards sparked by those who consider Common Core a federal intrusion into local education matters. Lawmakers resumed funding in October, but asked state education officials to report to them their research on state assessment options aligned to the standards. The report is due today. Lawmakers will need to approve an appropriation to pay for the test selected by the state.
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ObamaCare's Next Legal Challenge

The law says subsidies can only go through state-run exchanges.

Written by SCOTT PRUITT for The Wall Street Journal on December 01, 2013Federal Overreach
As millions of Americans see their health-insurance premiums increase, have their coverage dropped as a result of the Affordable Care Act, and are unable to use the federal exchange, Oklahoma has sued the Obama administration. The Sooner State and several others are trying to stop the government from imposing tax penalties on certain states, businesses and individuals in defiance of the law. If these legal challenges are successful, the deficit spending associated with the new health-care law could be reduced by approximately $700 billion over the next decade. While the president's health law is vast and extraordinarily complex, it is in one respect very simple. Subsidies are only to be made available, and tax penalties for not signing up for health insurance are only to be assessed, in states that create their own health-care exchange. The IRS, however, is attempting to enforce tax penalties in all states—including Oklahoma and the majority of the other states that have declined to create their own exchanges. Citizens and businesses in these states must use the federal exchange instead.

The distinction is critical, because under the terms of the law it is the availability of government insurance-premium subsidies that triggers the penalties against businesses if they fail to provide their employees with health insurance that the administration deems acceptable. This is a huge problem for the administration, which desperately needs to hand out tax credits and subsidies to the citizenry to quash the swelling backlash against the law. When Oklahoma first raised this challenge in 2012, many experts predicted that the Sooner State would "go it alone" in pursuing this legal strategy. Not so. In Indiana, the state and 15 school districts have filed a lawsuit against the IRS, the agency that collects the penalties. Business owners (who, like the state of Oklahoma, would be subject to penalties as employers) and individuals in Virginia and the District of Columbia have done the same. In the D.C. lawsuit, the presiding judge recently rejected the Obama administration's attempt to have the case dismissed, as the judge in the Oklahoma case did in August.
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Voter ID Gets Another Day in Court

Written by THE EDITORIAL BOARD for The New York Times on November 30, 2013Election Law
A federal trial in Milwaukee on Wisconsin’s 2011 voter ID law concluded recently, and the verdict, when it comes, will help define the future of the Voting Rights Act, which has been in question since the Supreme Court gutted a core provision, Section 5, in June. This case could also set an important precedent for lawsuits recently filed against similar laws in Texas and North Carolina. The Wisconsin law, which is now on hold, is among the strictest in the country. It requires a voter to show poll workers government-issued photo identification, like a driver’s license or passport.

The law’s challengers, which include the A.C.L.U., the League of United Latin American Citizens, the League of Young Voters and several private citizens, sued under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. That section, which survived the Supreme Court’s ruling, prohibits state and local governments from imposing any “voting qualification or prerequisite to voting” that has a racially discriminatory effect. The test is whether a law causes minority voters to have “less opportunity than other members of the electorate to participate in the political process.” The plaintiffs presented substantial evidence that the Wisconsin statute had precisely that effect.
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Largest N.J. insurer axes minimal health plans

Written by LINDY WASHBURN for NorthJersey.com on November 27, 2013Health Care
Ninety thousand New Jersey residents next year will lose their low-cost bare-bones health plans issued by the state’s largest insurer – forcing them to purchase new Obamacare policies, possibly with subsidies, or pay a fine. The announcement by Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey came just 90 minutes after Governor Christie said he would leave the decision about whether to renew all kinds of canceled health policies to the insurers, which President Obama said earlier this month they could do with state approval. Calling the Affordable Care Act “a mess,” Christie said, “New Jersey has decided to let the free market dictate the way forward.”

The most popular type of coverage for people who buy their own insurance — a so-called basic and essential plan — would have to be redesigned to do away with its $600 annual limit on preventive care, $700 limit on visits to doctors for illness and $500 limit on outpatient testing, according to the state Insurance Department. Such a redesigned plan “would cost substantially more,” Horizon said in a statement. “We do not consider that a viable option for our individual members.”
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EPA preparing to unleash a deluge of new regulations

Written by Michael Bastasch for The Daily Caller on November 27, 2013Energy & Environment
Happy holidays from the Obama administration. Federal agencies are currently working on rolling out hundreds of environmental regulations, including major regulations that would limit emissions from power plants and expand the agency’s authority to bodies of water on private property. On Tuesday, the White House released its regulatory agenda for the fall of 2013. It lists hundreds of pending energy and environmental regulations being crafting by executive branch agencies, including 134 regulations from the Environmental Protection Agency alone.

The EPA is currently crafting 134 major and minor regulations, according to the White House’s regulatory agenda. Seventy-six of the EPA’s pending regulations originate from the agency’s air and radiation office, including carbon-dioxide-emission limits on power plants. Carbon-dioxide limits are a key part of President Barack Obama’s climate agenda. The EPA is set to set emissions limits that would effectively ban the construction of new coal-fired power plants unless they use carbon capture and sequestration technology. Next year, the agency will move to limit emissions from existing power plants — which could put more older coal plants out of commission.
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Voter ID cards are just months away in Mississippi

Written by NIRAJ CHOKSHI for The Washington Post on November 26, 2013Election Law
Implementation of Mississippi’s new voting requirements will begin with months to spare before its next election, according to a state official. Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann told the Associated Press that Mississippi will soon start issuing free voter identification cards to eligible residents who lack a government-issued photo ID. Issuance of the cards is expected to begin in early 2014, months before the U.S. House and Senate primaries in June. Mississippi was among the handful of states that were able to proceed with new voting requirements without federal approval, following a summer Supreme Court ruling that invalidated part of the Voting Rights Act.

A total 34 states have passed some form of voter ID law — controversial requirements that vary from state to state — according to the bipartisan National Conference of State Legislatures. Some require photo IDs, some do not; some require IDs to vote while others provide alternatives. Opponents of the laws say they disproportionately affect women and erect what some say are too-high hurdles to vote, disenfranchising vulnerable groups like minorities and the poor. Proponents say they’re necessary to prevent fraud. Studies have found little evidence of the kind of fraud that has prompted voter ID laws, but a year-old Pew study found broad support for such requirements.
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Nevada money aimed at attracting federal drone program

Written by SEAN WHALEY for LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL on November 26, 2013Economic Prosperity
CARSON CITY — Nevada is preparing to get into the drone business. The state Board of Examiners will be asked Dec. 3 to approve a request from the Governor’s Office of Economic Development to use $1.46 million from a legislative contingency fund to oversee the start-up of an unmanned aerial vehicle program in Nevada. The funding request is contingent upon Nevada’s designation as a national test site for the drone program. The states winning out in the competition are expected to be notified by the Federal Aviation Administration by Dec. 31. There are 25 finalists for six sites.

If approved by the Board of Examiners, the funding request will go to the Legislature’s Interim Finance Committee on Dec. 9 for consideration. The 2013 Legislature set aside $4 million for the economic development office to assist in drone test site development efforts. Gov. Brian Sandoval, a member of the Board of Examiners, pushed for the funding in the 2013 session, noting that Nevada has been hosting military drone operations for years. If Nevada is selected, Sandoval said the designation could bring thousands of jobs, generate $125 million in annual state and local tax revenue and have an overall economic impact of $2.5 billion.
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No Nebraska counties will impose sales tax in 2014

Written by GRANT SCHULTE for The Associated Press on November 26, 2013Economic Prosperity
The only Nebraska county with a sales tax will end it next year, state tax commissioner Kim Conroy said Tuesday. Dakota County is planning to stop its half-cent sales tax in 2014, because a voter-approved referendum has helped pay for a new jail and law enforcement center. Joan Spencer, an assistant to the Board of Commissioners, said the county started collecting sales tax money for the project  Jan. 1, 2005. The  tax generated $7.8 million to pay off 10-year bonds. Spencer said the county paid off the bonds early, so the tax no longer was necessary.

Nebraska has 93 counties and 530 cities. As of Jan. 1, the state will have 208 cities that impose  local option sales taxes, ranging from a half-cent to 1.5 cents per dollar. Seward is among the cities planning to raise their sales taxes to 1.5 percent next year. But Dakota County is the only county statewide to levy a sales tax, according to the Nebraska Department of Revenue. Local-option sales taxes are more common among  cities; counties mostly rely on property taxes and, to a lesser extent, the inheritance tax and fees. The Dakota County sales tax has applied only to unincorporated areas and in cities or villages that didn't already have a sales tax, Conroy said. The sales tax did not apply to South Sioux City or the village of Jackson, because both levy sales taxes of their own.
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Idaho jobless claims drop to lowest since 2006

Written by The Associated Press for The Idaho Statesman on November 26, 2013Economic Prosperity
BOISE, IDAHO — Idaho's unemployment insurance claims dropped to their lowest level since 2006, a year of strong economic growth that preceded the deep recession that began in December 2007. The Department of Labor said Monday it paid 7,462 regular benefit claims during the third week of November, 14 fewer than that week in 2006. The amount paid was still 23 percent higher than 2006, however, because the average benefit is $25 higher this year at $255, reflecting benefit increases over the past seven years. Through the third week of November, the total regular benefit payout was $108.1 million, compared to $91.3 million through the same 47 weeks in 2006. In addition to regular unemployment benefits, the department paid $585,000 in federally-financed extended benefits to 2,500 long-term unemployed workers. Those end Dec. 31.

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Tracking the abysmal success rate of the federal health-care exchange

Written by JOSH HICKS for The Washington Post on November 25, 2013Health Care
The Affordable Care Act gave states the option of creating their own online health-insurance exchanges or defaulting to a federal site to help uninsured Americans obtain coverage before the law’s individual mandate kicked in. Generally, the states whose political leaders opposed the health-care legislation refused to develop their own exchanges, leaving uninsured residents to seek coverage on the federal site. With some well-documented technical problems plaguing the federal exchange, those resistant states are now faring worse on average than their compliant counterparts in terms of enrollment numbers. The Post used data from the Department of Health and Human Services to create an interactive graph that illustrates the numbers, including eligibility rates, application totals, and success rates for those who have tried to enroll through the various exchanges.
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In 16 states, unemployment is at its lowest in at least four years

Written by NIRAJ CHOKSHI for The Washington Post on November 25, 2013Economic Prosperity
Unemployment reached multi-year lows for about a third of states last month, but a full jobs recovery is still not here. Sixteen states saw the jobless rate in October fall to its lowest level in more than four years. In all but two, October unemployment was at its lowest level since late 2008 or the early months of 2009. In Minnesota, unemployment hasn’t been this low since January 2008. And it’s been more than a decade since North Dakota saw an unemployment rate of 2.7 percent as it did in October. (The last time was August 2001.) In all, unemployment dropped from September to last month in 39 states. And only three states—Arkansas, Oklahoma and Ohio—saw nearly two-year highs.

But the situation isn’t as rosy as those statistics suggest. The jobs recovery still pales in comparison to the recoveries following the 1981, 1990 and 2001 recessions, according to data from Doug Hall, director of the Economic Analysis and Research Network at the Economic Policy Institute, a think tank focused on the needs of low- and middle-income workers. Unemployment had nearly or fully recovered this many months after the start of the three other recessions, as depicted in Hall’s chart below. In the aftermath of the Great Recession, however, it remains high relative to where it was at the start.
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Q&A: Sorting Out the Controversy Over Canceled Insurance Policies

Written by Michael Ollove and Christine Vestal for Stateline on November 22, 2013Health Care
As even casual observers know at this point, the Affordable Care Act is complicated by a combination of partisan politics, hobbled government websites, misinformation and the byzantine practices of the insurance industry. So it is with President Barack Obama’s seemingly straightforward request that consumers should be allowed to renew health insurance policies that their insurance companies canceled as the ACA required. Turns out, the president’s request is not so straightforward at all.

That is why, a week later, many state officials and insurance carriers are still wringing their hands over whether to comply with Obama’s request. Already, there have been some paradoxes. Some states that have always been on board with the president’s health reforms, such as Washington and New York, have declined the administration’s request and will not allow renewals of insurance policies that do not meet ACA standards. Meanwhile, other states that have been resolutely opposed to the president all along, such as Mississippi and Oklahoma, were already allowing those renewals.
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Montana unemployment rate falls to 5.2 percent

Written by Associated Press for Missoulian on November 22, 2013Economic Prosperity
HELENA – The state Labor Department says Montana’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate fell to 5.2 percent in October, after holding at 5.3 percent since July. The national unemployment rate was 7.3 percent in October. Labor Commissioner Pam Bucy says Montana added over 750 jobs in September, but lost 57 in October. The state has added 1,722 jobs since October 2012. Montana’s unemployment rate was as low as 3.1 percent in late 2006 and rose as high as 6.8 percent in the second half of 2010. It has been on a downward trend since mid-2011.
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Some Michigan teachers protest union's actions

Written by Gary Heinlein for The Detroit News on November 21, 2013Labor Reform
Lansing – — On the eve of the Legislature’s Thanksgiving break, three teachers went before a Senate committee to accuse their union of deception and intimidation. “I just felt I needed to say something because I felt there was something unfair going on,” said Novi special education teacher Susan Bank regarding her unsuccessful effort to stop paying dues under the state’s new right-to-work law to the Michigan Education Association. “People are very intimidated by union goings-on.” Her testimony at the Nov. 13 meeting came during the first of several right-to-work-related hearings slated for a new committee whose chairman said will explore other issues but is vague about what they will be.

A spokesman for the state’s largest teachers union argues the organization is complying with state law, which allows it to set membership rules. For four decades, the MEA has required members seeking to resign to do so between Aug. 1 and Aug. 31, and the right-to-work law doesn’t change the situation, said Doug Pratt, the union’s public affairs director. “It says we can have our own policies as to membership,” Pratt said. “The August window has existed for more than 40 years.” State Sen. Arlan Meekhof, R-West Olive, the Senate’s majority floor leader, said the four-member Senate Compliance and Accountability Committee will look into rights violations resulting from misapplication of new laws.
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Medicaid expansion compromise unlikely

Written by SARAH PALERMO for The Concord Monitor on November 21, 2013Health Care
Republican leaders yesterday shut down the possibility of a compromise on Medicaid expansion being reached before a special session ends today. With no deal in sight by yesterday afternoon, “there are too many moving parts to try at the 11th hour and 59th minute,” said Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley of Wolfeboro. “There’s been an opportunity lost in the special session, I’m afraid,” he said. Gov. Maggie Hassan, a Democrat, said she was open to continuing negotiations but was told by Republican leadership that those efforts would be to no avail. “I got told today this is too difficult and nothing is happening at the moment,” she said in a meeting with reporters.

The two sides differ on the question of when and how the state should expand the program, which is authorized by the federal Affordable Care Act. The federal law contains full funding for three years of health coverage for all adults ages 19-64 earning less than 138 percent of the federal poverty limit, or about $16,000 for a single person. That funding would gradually drop to 90 percent by 2020 and thereafter, though Republicans doubt any of the federal funding promises can be met and fear the expansion will expose the state to millions of dollars in liability. About 58,000 people in the state would be eligible. Democrats want to use the federal funding to offer premium assistance starting Jan. 1 to people with access to insurance through their employers, and give the rest of the eligible group coverage through the state’s managed care Medicaid program from Jan. 1 until January 2016, then move people onto the private insurance bought on the federal insurance marketplace.
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EPA doesn’t rule out state carbon tax option for power plants

Written by Ben Geman for The Hill on November 21, 2013Federal Overreach
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) isn’t currently ruling out the idea of allowing states to meet planned climate regulations for existing power plants by imposing state-level carbon taxes. The concept of giving states that option is experiencing a little boomlet. Brookings Institution economist Adele Morris this month pitched it to the EPA, and it has also garnered coverage in The Washington Post, E2-Wire, and The Daily Caller. E2-Wire asked the EPA if the rule they’ll propose in draft form next June might give states that option. The EPA declined to address the idea head-on, noting the agency is gathering input from a range of sources to inform the carbon rules for existing plants.
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Insurance commissioners raise concerns about healthcare fix with Obama

Written by ROBERTA RAMPTON AND LEWIS KRAUSKOPF for Reuters on November 20, 2013Health Care
(Reuters) - State insurance commissioners told President Barack Obama on Wednesday that his effort to stem a wave of insurance cancellations caused by his signature healthcare law could lead to higher premiums. Obama met with representatives from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners to discuss the "fix" he came up with last week to calm the uproar surrounding millions of cancellation notices sent to holders of individual health insurance policies no longer legal under the healthcare law, known as Obamacare.

While taking responsibility for the troubled rollout of his law and apologizing for the promises he made that were not being kept, Obama sought last week to address the problem of canceled plans by giving insurers the option to extend them By one year, even if they did not meet minimum standards under the law. The insurance market in the United States is heavily regulated at the state level. While individual state commissioners have no legal obligation to go along with Obama's wishes, the White House move effectively put the onus on them for cancellations caused by the administration's law.
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In wake of West, Dewhurst orders committee to examine regulatory requirements for ammonium nitrate

Written by James Drew for The Dallas Morning News on November 20, 2013Energy & Environment
AUSTIN – Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst on Wednesday assigned a Senate committee to examine the regulatory requirements for the storage of ammonium nitrate, in response to April’s explosion in West that killed 15 and injured more than 300. Dewhurst said the review, which could result in recommended legislation, would include the roles of the Office of the Texas State Chemist and the state Department of Insurance. The Dallas Morning News reported Nov. 3 that a state law designed to keep ammonium nitrate secured from would-be terrorists sets a lax standard for keeping Texans safe. Rep. Joe Pickett, the El Paso Democrat who is chair of the House homeland security committee, has said he’ll introduce a bill next year that might take enforcement of the law away from the state chemist and give it to the State Fire Marshal’s office, which is housed in the state insurance department.

Reached for comment, State Chemist Timothy Herrman said in an email: “We are prepared to operate under the laws and obligations set forth by the state, in the future as we do, today.” The assignment to the Senate Agriculture, Rural Affairs, and Homeland Security Committee came as an “interim charge” – which is a research assignment that committees receive leading to the next legislative session. Dewhurst also told the committee that in the aftermath of the West explosion, he wants it to probe the role of state and local governments in recovery operations. That work will include identifying “essential personnel and resources needed to increase existing response capabilities, Dewhurst’s office said.
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EPA proposes new deadline for air cleanup plans

Written by The Associated Press for Anchorage Daily News on November 20, 2013Energy & Environment
FAIRBANKS, Alaska — The Environmental Protection Agency has proposed a new deadline for Alaska to develop a plan to clean up Fairbanks air that's been deemed dangerous to breathe. The federal agency on Tuesday proposed that the state formulate a plan by Dec. 31, 2014, to address a chronic winter particulate problem in Fairbanks with, which can cause health problems for the young, the elderly and the weakened. The state missed a 2012 deadline for a plan, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported (http://bit.ly/1iv32FG ). "EPA's proposed rulemaking that's now giving firm and clear deadlines for State Implementation Plans to be submitted," said Cindy Heil of the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation. "If this new rule passes, we're not late."

The proposed deadline is a response to a lawsuit by the Natural Resources Defense Council, which claimed the EPA was lax with its air pollution requirements. Heil said the state expected the deadline change. "We're looking to meet this one, and that's what we're focused on — continuing to do our regulation proposal and release our air quality plan in the spring," she said. "But this clarifies the rules and the deadline, and we're still supposed to show attainment by the end of 2015." Missing deadlines could mean serious sanctions. The federal government could withhold money for highway projects, set strict requirements for new power plants or impose a federal attainment plan.
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