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.

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 ( ). "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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Wisconsin Supreme Court to consider two voter ID cases

Written by Patrick Marley for The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel on November 20, 2013Education Reform
Madison — The Wisconsin Supreme Court agreed Wednesday to take up two separate cases over the state's voter ID law, which has been blocked since shortly after it took effect in 2012. The move by the high court cancels oral arguments that were to be held next month before the District 2 Court of Appeals in Waukesha in one case. In the second case, the Supreme Court is agreeing to review a decision by the Madison-based District 4 Court of Appeals. The Supreme Court's action comes six days after the Republican-run state Assembly voted to soften the voter ID law in hopes of overcoming four legal challenges. The state Senate is also controlled by Republicans, but leaders in that house have said they want to see how courts react to the cases before deciding whether to tweak the voter ID requirement.

The short orders issued Wednesday by the Supreme Court put the two state cases before it and clear a path for decisions to be rendered by June. No one dissented in the decisions to take the cases. Meanwhile, two other challenges are being considered in federal court in Milwaukee. A two-week trial in those cases wrapped up last week, and U.S. District Judge Lynn Adelman is expected to issue a written ruling early next year on whether the law is constitutional and in keeping with the federal Voting Rights Act. The law would have to overcome all legal challenges for the voter ID requirement to be put back in place. "I am very pleased the court has agreed to take these cases and I look forward to defending the law," Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen said in a statement.
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In Nashua, a new era for teacher evaluation

Written by Barbara Taormina for The New Hampshire Union Leader on November 20, 2013Education Reform
NASHUA — School officials have spent a lot of time looking at more effective ways to evaluate students, and they are also looking at a new way to evaluate teachers. Superintendent Mark Conrad and Nashua High School South art teacher Robin Peringer met with the Board of Education’s Human Resources Committee on Wednesday to report on an ongoing teacher evaluation pilot program involving 50 teachers. While more detailed evaluations that include student test scores and other assessments are required for schools districts that received federal school funding, Conrad said the new evaluations are more about helping teachers become better educators.

Under the current system, administrators and teachers agree on a date and time when principals will visit a classroom for about 40 minutes. Principals then provide each teacher with a narrative evaluation and possibly some suggestions on how to improve. Under that type of system, which Conrad called a dog and pony show, most teachers, nationwide, have been rated highly effective. But with the new system now being developed, principals and other evaluators will make six short unannounced visits to classrooms to observe teachers. And rather than recording their ideas and impressions, evaluators will use a rubric that defines standards and performance levels. Teachers will receive a numerical score — 1, 2, 3 or 4 — for every three-year evaluation period.
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Pa. Senate approves $2.3B for roads, bridges, transit

Written by Amy Worden for The Philadelphia Inquirer on November 20, 2013Economic Prosperity
HARRISBURG - In a single afternoon, the state Senate on Wednesday did what the House had agonized over for months: approved a $2.3 billion transportation funding bill to repair aging highways and bridges, and bolster mass transit across the state. The vote cements a major victory for Gov. Corbett by delivering the biggest transportation spending plan in 15 years, one to address critical infrastructure needs while creating tens of thousands of jobs. "This legislation is key to the success of Pennsylvania and health and welfare of the region," said Sen. John Rafferty (R., Montgomery), chairman of the Transportation Committee. The bill now goes back to the House for a pro forma vote Thursday afternoon. It could be signed by Corbett the same day.
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Wisconsin crowdfunding bill opens early stage investing to average citizens

Written by MIKE IVEY for The Capital Times on November 20, 2013Economic Prosperity
Crowdfunding — the idea of getting lots of people to donate small amounts of cash for a particular project or organization — has been around since long before the Internet. The concept has been used for everything from public radio pledge drives to helping families with medical bills. With advances in technology, however, crowdfunding has become a popular way to raise money for just about any purpose, from an art project to a video game startup. To date, there have been two distinct ways of using electronic crowdfunding. One is using websites like Kickstarter or Indiegogo, where people funding an idea get something in return for their money. For example, the developers of Pebble Smartwatch raised more than $10 million by offering investors the first batches of watches once they were manufactured, and at a discount.

The other type of crowdfunding is aimed at more serious investors who are looking to take an equity stake in a company. Platforms like CircleUp offer legitimate businesses a way to do an initial public offering, where the public can buy stock in a new venture. But regulations from the Securities and Exchange Commission limit equity crowdfunding activity to “accredited investors,” defined as individuals with a net worth of $1 million or more (not counting a primary residence) and income of at least $200,000 annually or $300,000 for a couple.
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DOJ 'Abandons' Suit Against Louisiana School Voucher Program

Written by MICHAEL WARREN for The Weekly Standard on November 19, 2013Federal Overreach
The Obama administration's Justice Department has dropped a lawsuit aiming to stop a school voucher program in the state of Louisiana. A ruling Friday by a United States district court judge revealed that the federal government has "abandoned" its pursuit of an injunction against the Louisiana Scholarship Program, a state-funded voucher program designed to give students in failing public schools the opportunity to attend better performing public or private schools. "We are pleased that the Obama Administration has given up its attempt to end the Louisiana Scholarship Program with this absurd lawsuit," said Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal, a Republican, in a statement. "It is great the Department of Justice has realized, at least for the time being, it has no authority to end equal opportunity of education for Louisiana children."

But the legal battle over school vouchers in Louisiana isn't over. The Justice Department is still requesting the court allow a federal review process of the program. Earlier this year the Justice Department had sought the injunction against the program because, its petition argued, moving children out of certain school districts in Louisiana may have been in violation of a standing federal desegregation court order from 1975. According to that existing injunction, the state could not send public money to private schools in those school districts "in ways that further or support discrimination or segregation."
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Assembly GOP passes new voter ID law

Written by Gilman Halsted for Wisconsin Public Radio on November 18, 2013Election Law
The Republican majority in the state Assembly has passed a voter ID bill they say will withstand any legal challenges. But Democrats call it an attempt to suppress the vote of low income voters who often vote Democratic. The current voter ID bill is tied up in a federal court battle in Milwaukee, with closing arguments expected soon. Republican backers of this new bill, however, says it should insure that photo IDs will be required for most voters in the 2014 fall elections. The author of the bill, Republican state Rep. Mark Born, says it's needed to prevent voter fraud. “We're bringing this forward to make sure that we can have a fair and reasonable and accountable system, to make sure that every eligible voter can vote once in Wisconsin and prevent even one illegal vote.” The bill make exceptions for people who can't afford to buy a photo ID by requiring them to sign an affidavit saying they are indigent. Democratic opponents of the bill call that a demeaning process that will discourage poor voters from coming to the polls.
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EXCLUSIVE: New SC medical database could improve care, reduce costs

Written by ANDREW SHAIN for The State on November 17, 2013Health Care
COLUMBIA, SC — A consortium of S.C. universities and hospital systems has started using a database with medical information on millions of patients statewide that they hope can develop better — and less expensive — treatment plans. The $15 million Clinical Data Warehouse is housed at Clemson University and operated by Health Sciences South Carolina in Columbia. Money for the project came from the Duke Endowment, which has given the group $31 million over the past decade. The warehouse has operated since September, but a group of three research universities and three hospital systems will unveil the project to the public Monday. Doctors and university researchers hope using the data, which belongs to 3.2 million patients who have been through 25.3 million medical diagnoses since 2011, can help change how South Carolinians receive medical treatment before they fall severely ill. “It’s a complete shift,” said Tripp Jennings, systems vice president for Palmetto Health in Columbia, one of the partners in Health Sciences South Carolina. “Our history has been sick care. Now, we’re really trying to get to health care.”
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D.C. insurance commissioner fired a day after questioning Obamacare fix

Written by Aaron C. Davis for The Washington Post on November 16, 2013Health Care
A day after he questioned President Obama’s decision to unwind a major tenet of the health-care law and said the nation’s capital might not go along, D.C. insurance commissioner William P. White was fired. White was called into a meeting Friday afternoon with one of Mayor Vincent C. Gray’s (D) top deputies and told that the mayor “wants to go in a different direction,” White told The Washington Post on Saturday. White said the mayoral deputy never said that he was being asked to leave because of his Thursday statement on health care. But he said the timing was hard to ignore. Roughly 24 hours later, White said, he was “basically being told, ‘Thanks, but no thanks.’ ”

White was one of the first insurance commissioners in the nation last week to push back against Obama’s attempt to smooth over part of the botched rollout of the Affordable Care Act: millions of unexpected cancellations of insurance plans. In persuading Congress to vote for the health-care overhaul, Obama had promised that Americans who liked their insurance plans would be able to keep them. When that turned out to not be the case, Obama apologized last week. And to stem growing bipartisan dissent, he announced Thursday that plans slated to be canceled next year to comply with the legislation could be extended for one year.
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House Republicans pressure EPA to drop coal-plant carbon rules

Published in FoxNews on November 16, 2013Federal Overreach
Republican leaders on the House Energy and Commerce Committee are calling on the Environmental Protection Agency to withdraw its proposal to impose carbon dioxide limits on power plants. Committee leaders sent a letter to EPA director Gina McCarthy on Friday, asking her to withdraw the proposed regulations, arguing that the agency is trying to "impose standards beyond the scope of its legal authority." In September, the EPA released a proposal to set emissions caps for new coal-fired power plants that would likely require the industry to use carbon-capture technology, which involves burying the carbon underground. Critics argue the technology, which is still under development, is too expensive, not commercially available and poses serious safety risks. The agency maintains the technology has been “adequately demonstrated” based on three government-funded projects. The lawmakers argue the EPA is prohibited by law from using the projects to justify its proposed regulations.
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Many state businesses have made arrangements for next year's health care coverage

Many of those who might have faced canceled policies to their plans — because the policies didn't meet new standards under the health reform laws — renewed coverage early to take advantage of a grace period.

Written by Paula Burkes for The Oklahoman on November 15, 2013Health Care
Many people and small businesses in Oklahoma won't sweat the details of President Barack Obama's transition relief aimed at helping people and companies from losing health coverage. Thanks to negotiations between the Oklahoma Insurance Department and the state's biggest insurers, many of those who would have faced canceled policies to their plans — because the policies didn't meet new standards under the health reform laws — renewed coverage early to take advantage of a grace period, ending Dec. 1, 2014. Oklahoma City-based Amundsen Food Equipment, which employs 25, already agreed to pay 5 percent more to renew its plan for a 14-month period, President Cary Amundsen said.

“Our people like our plan, and love that we pay for most of the premiums. But we've made known to them that if and when the premiums go dramatically up as predicted, the company will be forced to increase employee participation rates or possibly drop the company-funded plan altogether,” he said. Likewise, employee benefits consultant Cher Bumps said she's moved many group plans to a Dec. 1 renewal versus Jan. 1, so they can defer for 11 months the estimated increased costs of 20 percent to 50 percent. However, employers starting Jan. 1 will have to pay about 3.5 percent more in premiums to fund fees and taxes under the Affordable Care Act, she said.
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States Insist on Third Grade Reading Proficiency

Written by Adrienne Lu for Stateline on November 15, 2013Education Reform
Educators have known for decades that learning how to read by the third grade is a critical milestone for children. Students who fall too far behind by the third grade rarely catch up. One recent study found that students who don’t read well by the third grade are four times more likely to drop out of high school. Despite progress in some states, only 35 percent of fourth graders across the country are proficient in reading, according to the most recent National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), released earlier this month.

“I think it’s an outrage,” said Carol Rasco, chief executive officer of Reading is Fundamental, a children’s literacy nonprofit organization that distributes millions of books to needy children every year. “To me, that’s an emergency. It’s a crisis.” States across the country appear to agree. About 30 states have adopted measures to try to meet the reading milestone, according to Ralph Smith, managing director of the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, a collaboration of nonprofits, foundations and communities. Last month, the National Governors Association released a report urging governors to take five policy actions to improve reading by the third grade.
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SC governor receives report on regulatory review

Written by BRUCE SMITH for Associated Press on November 15, 2013Economic Prosperity
A panel reviewing the approximately 3,000 regulations that South Carolina's state agencies use has presented its report to Gov. Nikki Haley. Haley received the report, which includes an executive summary and 2,000 pages of appendices, on Friday. She told reporters on the Isle of Palms she will spend the weekend plowing through the report of the Regulatory Review Task Force. Haley created the 11-member group by executive order this year and told the panel to review state regulations to determine which can be tossed out and which need to be changed. Haley said one thing is clear and that's agency regulations are made much too easily. She would like to see state lawmakers vote on each individual regulation so they have a better idea of what the rules are for.
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Pension rates to ease

VRS to vote today; rise for two local counties likely less than forecast

Written by MICHAEL MARTZ for Richmond Times-Dispatch on November 14, 2013Economic Prosperity
Local governments will likely get a welcome surprise when they receive their biennial notice of pension rates for their employees next month — a reduction in what they’ll have to contribute to local retirement plans for the next two years. Or, in the case of localities such as Chesterfield and Henrico counties, the rates will be lower than they expected a year ago, while slightly higher than what they’re paying now. The Virginia Retirement System board of trustees is expected to vote today on contribution rates for 583 local pension plans, covering almost 150,000 active and retired employees of counties, cities, towns, and political subdivisions as small as local housing authorities. On average, those rates will go down to 9.91 percent of payroll, compared with 10.63 percent currently paid and 11.11 percent that VRS predicted a year ago.
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Despite union vote, Washington state's tax incentives keep it competitive

Written by BRAD SHANNON for The News Tribune on November 14, 2013Economic Prosperity
State lawmakers’ quick passage last week of what might be the biggest-ever corporate tax incentive was intended to be one-half of a two-part deal to keep Boeing Co.’s 777X jet production in the Northwest. Today that $8.7 billion package stands alone. The deal sealer — an extension of Boeing’s contract with its machinists — died Wednesday in the union’s resounding rejection of a contract that would have fundamentally changed worker pensions. Now what? The only certainty seems to be that Washington is no longer assured of winning the 777X production or a new carbon-fiber wing fabrication plant. On Thursday, Boeing began exploring its options around the country, while saying it will still consider Washington. The setback is prompting questions about last week’ hastily called special session and where the machinists’ vote leaves the state.
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Boehner draws another hard line on immigration reform

Written by Luke Russert and Carrie Dann for NBC News on November 13, 2013Immigration & Homeland Security
House Speaker John Boehner says he will not allow any House-passed immigration legislation to be blended with the Senate’s sweeping reform bill, further quashing the chances of comprehensive immigration reform legislation being signed into law anytime soon. “We have no intention of ever going to conference on the Senate bill,” Boehner told reporters Wednesday. Immigration reform advocates had hoped that a “conference”- or legislative negotiation – between House and Senate lawmakers could incorporate ideas from both chambers into compromise legislation that might be palatable to those who say a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants – or at least legalization – is essential to fixing the country’s broken immigration system.

But some conservatives had been pushing against House passage of any immigration legislation, arguing that Senate Democrats would use the conference to inject more liberal policies and then force Republicans in the House to stomach changes they say are unfair to those who came to the country legally. The GOP speaker has pledged for months not to bring the Senate “Gang of Eight” bill, passed with bipartisan support in the upper chamber this summer, up for a vote. That legislation would allow for a lengthy path to citizenship for most undocumented immigrants – something that many Republicans decry as “amnesty" that could hurt job-seeking Americans.
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Fewer than 400 Utahns able to shop Obamacare exchange

Affordable Care Act » Secretary Sebelius pledges to have the Web portal working ‘‘for most users’’ by the end of the month.

Written by Kirsten Stewart And Matt Canham for The Salt Lake Tribune on November 13, 2013Health Care
Roughly 106,000 Americans have been able to find coverage on the Affordable Care Act’s online health exchange — including 357 Utahns, the Obama administration revealed Wednesday. Thousands more — 975,407 in the U.S. and 9,318 in Utah — have completed applications and received a determination about their eligibility for subsidies, but have not yet picked a plan. An additional 396,261, including 4,816 in Utah, have been deemed eligible for Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

The figures are numerical proof of the technical problems faced by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in launching the Affordable Care Act marketplace. Nearly 75 percent of those able to pick a health plan did so through state-run exchanges. Utah’s exchange for individuals and families is run by federal officials. Even saying that 357 Utahns picked a plan through is a stretch, said Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, who noted the administration is counting both those who paid for the first month of their insurance and those who didn’t.
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Only 346 Oklahomans have selected an 'Obamacare' health insurance plan

Written by Jaclyn Cosgrove for NewsOK on November 13, 2013Health Care
Only 346 Oklahomans have selected a health insurance plan over the past month through the federal health insurance marketplace, according to federal government data released Wednesday. The marketplace, available on, was created through the  Affordable Care Act, also referred to as “Obamacare.” On Wednesday, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released the first month of data for the Health Insurance Marketplace initial open enrollment.
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Health insurance cancellation notices go out to 8,800 in W.Va.

Written by Zack Harold for The Charleston Daily Mail on November 13, 2013Health Care
CHARLESTON, W.Va.--About 8,800 West Virginia residents stand to lose their health insurance because of the Affordable Care Act's new requirements for insurance plans. The health care reform law, passed in 2010, requires U.S. citizens to enroll in health insurance but also includes a list of requirements for health insurance plans. Insurance providers must cancel or change plans that don't meet those requirements. Policyholders are eligible for new plans through the government's health insurance marketplace, although that website has suffered crippling technical problems since its launch last month.

Policy cancellations largely affect individuals who purchase their own health insurance plans. According to the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy, the state Offices of the Insurance Commissioner have received about 8,800 discontinuation notices for individual insurance plans. Most of those people -- about 8,600 -- are insured through Highmark West Virginia. President Obama, in his attempts to sell the Affordable Care Act to the American public and lawmakers, frequently insisted people who liked their current health care plans could keep them.
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Cuomo to decide on expanding tax credits for film industry

Written by Tom Precious for The Buffalo News on November 12, 2013Economic Prosperity
ALBANY – Upstate is pitted against upstate over expanded tax breaks for the movie industry, a controversy that has put Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo in the referee’s seat, with a decision due today. At issue is whether to allow another 14 counties – in addition to the 40 counties approved in March – to offer extra state tax breaks to help lure film companies to economically battered upstate regions. Critics say the bill not only changes the intent of the tax credit effort approved just seven months ago, but also undermines the upstate economic development purpose by including counties close to New York City – such as Rockland and Putnam. Film companies based in New York City will be happy to use the tax credit to shoot in those nearby counties rather than pay for lodging and other costs of filming in, say, Buffalo.

“If the other 14 counties get this, a lot of films will slip away. It will be a watered-down program that doesn’t meet its intended purpose,” said Tim Clark, commissioner of the Buffalo Niagara Film Commission. The film tax credit program, like other economic development efforts over the years, is engaged in an old New York plot: What’s good enough for one region of the state must be good enough for everyone. As part of this year’s budget, lawmakers approved an extra credit – 10 percent atop the existing 30 percent – that film companies can get from the state for labor costs associated with shooting or doing post-production on a movie in New York State. A $5 million total annual cap was placed on the additional credit program, which was available to counties in Western, Central and Northern New York.
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New Michigan Senate committee to probe whether teacher unions adhere to right-to-work

Written by Kathleen Gray for The Lansing State Journal on November 10, 2013Labor Reform
A new state Senate committee formed this week will look at how teacher unions are complying with Michigan’s new and controversial right-to-work law. Sen. Arlan Meekhof, R-West Olive, was one of the sponsors of the right-to-work law and is distressed that some teachers have had a hard time quitting their unions — as the new law allows. “I heard from a teacher from my district who said that the union was making intimidating moves towards her, including attacking her credit,” when she wouldn’t pay her union dues, Meekhof said.

So he lobbied for the creation of the Senate Compliance and Accountability committee that will look into how teachers are being affected by the law. He is the chairman of the new committee. Othere members are state Sens. Jack Brandenburg, R-Harrison Township, Tonya Schuitmaker, R-Lawton, and Hoon-Yung Hopgood, D-Taylor. Democrats and officials with the Michigan Education Association call the committee a politically motivated exercise meant to beat up on unions. “It’s a political witch hunt,” said Robert McCann, spokesman for state Sen. Gretchen Whitmer, D-East Lansing. “And it’s a pretty questionable use of the Legislature’s time.”
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