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.

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 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 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 ( ) 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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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

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 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 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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