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.

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 ( ). "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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