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.

Obamacare website: 6 biggest contractors

Written by Chris Isidore for CNN on October 21, 2013Federal Overreach
It cost the federal government more than $300 million for outside contractors to set up the Obamacare website that has had so much trouble in its first three weeks of operation. Most of that money has gone to six prime contractors that together have received more than $200 million in taxpayer funds, with the biggest single contractor receiving $88 million. Overall, the government has spent $394 million setting up the website and the exchanges through which the public can buy health insurance, according to a report earlier this year from the General Accountability Office, a government watchdog. While not all the money went into the troubled websites, most of it did.

The largest contractor is CGI Federal Inc., the U.S. unit of a Canadian firm CGI Group (GIB). It received $88 million through last March 31. Its original $93.7 million contract runs through December, with three one-year option periods still possible. A company spokeswoman said the terms of the contract prevent it from speaking about the details of its work. Quality Software Services Inc. received $55.1 million to set up the data hub, according to the GAO report, while National Government Services Inc. a unit of WellPoint (WLP, Fortune 500), received $31.6 million for a consumer call center and providing premium aggregations. Neither company responded to a request for comment.
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School voucher enrollment goes up 38 percent despite lawsuits, budget fight

Written by Danielle Dreilinger for The Times-Picayune on October 21, 2013Education Reform
Despite legal and fiscal uncertainty, enrollment increased in Louisiana's school voucher program this year: 6,751 students compared with 4,876 last year at this time, or a 38 percent increase, according to state data released Monday. Satisfaction with the schools appears to be strong as well, with many returning schools doubling or even tripling their voucher enrollment. Vouchers, officially called the Louisiana Scholarship Program, allow low-income students to attend participating schools at taxpayer expense. All the schools so far have been private or parochial with the exception of one Opelousas public school. Students must be either coming from C, D or F schools, or entering kindergarten. The program began as a New Orleans pilot in 2008 and is in its second year of statewide operation.

Eric Lewis, Louisiana director of the Black Alliance for Educational Options, said he was excited to see the increase. He said he was hoping for even more participants, but thought the enrollment looks good considering "all the debate that's been out there." Indeed, the voucher program has been a target of litigation in Louisiana as it has in many other places. Sign-up for this school year opened as the state Supreme Court was about to consider the constitutionality of the program. The justices ruled in May that vouchers could not be funded by siphoning money from a budget reserved for public schools, forcing Gov. Bobby Jindal to request a separate $40 million-plus line item from the Legislature.
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Matthew Tully: Here's why school vouchers are a good idea

Written by Matthew Tully for Indianapolis Star on October 20, 2013Education Reform
Assuming you had options, would you send your son or daughter to a school that didn’t educate them well? My answer to that question would be an emphatic “hell, no,” of course; and I’m fairly certain most other parents would say the same thing, and they’d say it just as emphatically. After all, it has to be a heartbreak to feel forced by geography or income to send children to a school that doesn’t meet their academic or social needs, or that doesn’t ensure they are growing and developing to their full potential. It’s a simple question: Would you send your kid to a school that didn’t work for them? It seems to me that question alone is what the debate about vouchers should center on.

So, yes, I’m fine with the huge growth in vouchers in this state. As The Star reported recently, Indiana is growing its low-income voucher program faster than any state in the nation. Indiana education officials report that enrollment in the program more than doubled this school year and now counts roughly 20,000 students. That’s 20,000 kids whose families de­cided to send them to schools that better met their needs, that better fit their personalities, that better addressed their unique strengths and weaknesses, and that they believe give them a better chance at receiving the education they deserve. That’s a lot of kids whose families have made clear that they want and expect better. Good for them.
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Offshore fracking is on the rise in Calif.

Written by ALICIA CHANG and JASON DEAREN for Associated Press on October 19, 2013Energy & Environment
LONG BEACH, Calif. – The oil-production technique known as fracking is more widespread and frequently used in the offshore platforms and human-made islands near some of California’s most populous and famous coastal communities than state officials believed. In waters off Long Beach, Seal Beach and Huntington Beach – some of the region’s most popular surfing strands and tourist attractions – oil companies have used fracking at least 203 times at six sites in the past two decades, according to interviews and drilling records obtained by The Associated Press through a public records request.

Just this year in Long Beach Harbor, the nation’s second-largest container port, an oil company with exclusive rights to drill there completed five fracks on palm tree-lined, human-made islands. Other companies fracked more than a dozen times from old oil platforms off Huntington Beach and Seal Beach over the past five years. Though there is no evidence offshore hydraulic fracturing has led to any spills or chemical leaks, the practice occurs with little state or federal oversight of the operations. The state agency that leases lands and waters to oil companies said officials found new instances of fracking after searching records as part of a review after the AP reported this summer about fracking in federal waters off California, an area from three miles to 200 miles offshore. The state oil permitting agency said it doesn’t track fracking.
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Taking of case by U.S. Supreme Court offers hope for relief from EPA

Written by The Oklahoman Editorial Board for The Oklahoman on October 18, 2013Federal Overreach
The U.S. Supreme Court decided this week to look at a case that has the potential to shorten the ever-expanding reach of the Environmental Protection Agency. Justices agreed to weigh in on the case brought by the state of Texas, and joined by 11 other states including Oklahoma. At the heart of the matter is whether the EPA has the authority under the federal Clean Air Act to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from sources such as power plants. A 2007 Supreme Court ruling allowed the agency to regulate carbon dioxide from “mobile sources” such as automobiles. Under the Obama administration, the EPA has passed rules to apply those regulations to “stationary sources” such as new or expanding industrial facilities. A separate piece of the Clean Air Act already covers those sources. Pollution limits were set by Congress when it wrote the Clean Air Act, which became law in 1970. The EPA rewrote the thresholds as they related to greenhouse gases, despite not having that authority. The agency sees the limits as workable, but as The Wall Street Journal noted, the rule “could cost the economy $300 billion to $400 billion a year.”
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Wyo. high court to hear fracking disclosure suit

Written by Mead Gruver for Bloomberg on October 18, 2013Energy & Environment
CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — The Wyoming Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments Nov. 20 over whether the public has the right to obtain lists of chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing or if those ingredients are corporate trade secrets that may be shielded. The Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission adopted its first-in-the-nation fracking chemical disclosure rule three years ago. The rule requires companies that frack in Wyoming to provide the commission with lists of the chemical ingredients in the fracking fluids they use. The idea is that if groundwater pollution ever occurs near an oil or gas well, the commission — which oversees oil and gas development in Wyoming — would be better able to determine if fracking played a role.
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TN Supreme Court upholds voter ID law, says it's not an undue burden

Lawmakers have authority to take steps to guard against fraud

Written by Chas Sisk for The Tennessean on October 18, 2013Election Law
The Tennessee Supreme Court upheld a 2011 law requiring photo identification at the polls, ruling that lawmakers had the authority to take steps to guard against fraud. The court ruled unanimously Thursday against the city of Memphis and two voters in Shelby County who had argued the ID requirement placed an unfair burden on the poor, elderly and others who lack driver’s licenses. Chief Justice Gary R. Wade wrote that the U.S. Supreme Court and many other state courts have upheld similar voter ID requirements. He also said that, while instances of people impersonating voters at the polls have not been documented in Tennessee, such cases have occurred elsewhere. “Protection of the integrity of the election process empowers the state to enact laws to prevent voter fraud before it occurs,” Wade said. “It is within the authority of the General Assembly to guard against the risk of such fraud in this state, so long as it does not do so in an impermissibly intrusive fashion.” Secretary of State Tre Hargett said the unanimous ruling shows the photo ID requirement did not harm voters, despite complaints from a small group of Tennesseans.
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Companies find a new way to fight fraudulent lawsuits

Written by Tiger Joyce for Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on October 17, 2013Legal Reform
A federal judge in Wheeling, W.Va., last month stiffened the punishment for two prominent Pittsburgh personal injury lawyers and a discredited radiologist who, a jury found last December, had promulgated fraudulent asbestos lawsuits against CSX Transportation, the freight railroad company that employs nearly 1,000 Pennsylvanians and more than another 31,000 Americans. The federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act under which CSX brought its table-turning landmark lawsuit against the fraudsters allowed U.S. District Judge Frederick Stamp to triple the jury's original award for damages to nearly $1.3 million. Judge Stamp also may yet require former law partners Robert N. Peirce Jr. and Louis Raimond and creative X-ray reader Ray Harron to pay all or much of the $10 million CSX says it has spent on legal fees and court costs.

Meanwhile, smaller businesses and larger companies that are frequently targeted by meritless or fraudulent lawsuits have begun to look to CSX's aggressive RICO lawsuit as a new model for punishing those who audaciously perpetrate this kind of costly fraud on our courts. I say "costly" because every dollar companies spend defending themselves against bogus lawsuits is a dollar they will not spend creating jobs and investing in new technologies and growth opportunities. In addition to inflating prices for goods and services, as litigation costs are inevitably passed on to consumers, such lawsuits also clog court dockets, waste precious, taxpayer-provided court resources and delay court cases for those who have suffered real injuries.
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Assembly passes $100 million property tax cut, sends bill on to Walker

Written by SCOTT BAUER for Associated Press on October 17, 2013Economic Prosperity
MADISON, Wis. — The Wisconsin Assembly, on a broad bipartisan vote Thursday, approved a $100 million property tax cut a week after Gov. Scott Walker proposed it, clearing the way for it to be signed into law by the end of the week. The measure sped through the Legislature with little opposition, allowing for the cut to be applied to tax bills mailed to homeowners in December. The amount of the cut will vary widely across the state but for the typical homeowner it will amount to just $13 this year and $20 next year. Even under the cut, property taxes are still projected to increase by $11 — from $2,943 to $2,954 — in two years for the median-valued $148,000 home. Walker and Republican backers defended the cut, as modest as it may be, as the right thing to do given the state's growing budget surplus.
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Consumers Still Face Problems Accessing Health Insurance Exchange

Written by Jim Burress for WABE on October 16, 2013Health Care
Those attempting to buy a health plan through Georgia's federally-run insurance exchange continue to encounter problems. Michael Lappin of Atlanta is in that group. “It breaks some of my excitement about it," the mortgage broker says. Since the exchanges went live Oct. 1st, Lappin estimates he's spent about three hours on the site trying to shop for a policy. “Most of the time it’d kick me out and say it could not create an account," he says of his initial attempts. "And I’d have to start all over again, which was the most frustrating part.” Lappin says he's since been able to create an account, something he sees as a sign of progress.



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Indiana manufacturers win partial victory as US Supreme Court agrees to review emission limits

Written by Maureen Groppe and Richard Wolf for Indy Star on October 16, 2013Federal Overreach
WASHINGTON — Indiana’s manufacturers and utilities won a partial victory Tuesday when the Supreme Court decided to look at one aspect of the Environmental Protection Agency’s power to regulate greenhouse gases. The court accepted six petitions — including one filed by Indiana and several other states — that sought to roll back EPA’s regulatory clout over carbon dioxide emissions from power plants, refineries and factories. That could signal the court’s dissatisfaction with a 2012 ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit that affirmed the agency’s authority under the Clean Air Act.

“Whether the EPA exceeded its regulatory authority under the statute Congress passed is an important legal question that 12 states, including Texas and Indiana, asked the United States Supreme Court to decide, so we are pleased that the nation’s highest court has accepted this case for hearing and will give the states the opportunity to be heard,” Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller said in a statement. Environmental groups were pleased with the court’s refusal to consider broader issues, including EPA’s auto emission standards and its basic determination that greenhouse gases pose a threat. The justices limited the case to one question: whether EPA’s regulation of motor vehicle emissions triggers the new permitting requirements for stationary sources, such as power plants.
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UPDATED: Hassan to call special session for Medicaid expansion vote

Written by GARRY RAYNO for The New Hampshire Union Leader on October 15, 2013Health Care
CONCORD — Lawmakers are expected to meet in November to decide whether the state expands Medicaid eligibility to low-income adults, after the Commission to Study Medicaid Expansion unanimously approved its final report Tuesday. The report recommends the state expand the Medicaid program to low-income adults up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, but makes expansion contingent on federal officials approving the use of private insurance. Today, Gov. Maggie Hassan will ask the Executive Council to approve the special session.

House and Senate leaders say the commission’s work is the framework for lawmakers to reach compromise on a plan that will expand health insurance coverage to the state’s low-income adults, yet guard against runaway costs for taxpayers. The New Hampshire plan would have the state expand Medicaid eligibility in order to maximize the available federal money, while using private insurance to cover as many newly eligible people as possible. “I fully agree with the commission’s recommendation that New Hampshire should move forward with expansion prior to Jan. 1 — after which we will begin to lose hundreds of thousands of dollars per day that we can never recover,” Hassan said. “After consulting with Senate President Morse and Speaker Norelli, I am confident that a November special session will allow for thorough consideration and enactment of a New Hampshire plan for expansion in time for federal approval before Jan. 1.”
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N.H. lawmakers taking up Medicaid expansion question

Written by NORMA LOVE for The Associated Press on October 14, 2013Health Care
State Rep. Marjorie Porter sympathizes with people who would benefit from New Hampshire expanding Medicaid because she still owes medical bills from the four years when she was uninsured. “It was very difficult to get the care I needed,” said Porter, a Democrat from Hillsboro. After much angst, a special panel is poised to issue a report tomorrow recommending that New Hampshire add an estimated 49,000 poor adults to the state’s Medicaid program. But the panel’s vote is far from the final word on a subject that next enters the give-and-take of political legislative wrangling between Democrats, who favor expansion, and Republicans, who want much greater use of private insurance than the panel is recommending.

Tom Bunnell, policy consultant for the nonprofit Voices for Health, said that while politicians debate expansion, the people who would benefit will continue to seek care from clinics and hospital emergency rooms. “I don’t think there’s any other choice for people,” said Bunnell, whose group advocates for access to affordable care. Porter said she knows what it’s like not to have a regular doctor to oversee her asthma treatment. She said clinics sometimes told her to go instead to a hospital emergency room for treatment. In July, she finally got coverage through her husband’s retirement plan and could afford to have a pulmonary test done that otherwise would have cost her several thousand dollars. The test led to better treatment of her chronic illness. “I couldn’t have done that before,” she said. State Sen. Nancy Stiles, a Hampton Republican who brokered a deal with Democrats to move forward with expansion, won support for expanding the program to poor adults if those with jobs are required to keep their employer’s insurance when it’s cheaper. That requirement will require a federal waiver that Stiles and others believe will be approved.
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Guest opinion: New EPA rules would cripple Wyoming coal industry

Written by TRAVIS DETI for The Billings Gazette on October 14, 2013Energy & Environment
Last month saw the Obama administration announce the latest salvo in its aggressive campaign against coal and the American consumer in the form of overly stringent emission standards on new coal-fired power plants from the Environmental Protection Agency. The proposal will require new coal plants to limit emissions to 1,100 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt hour, about 700 pounds less than most modern-day units. To achieve this standard, utilities will be required to implement costly and largely unproven carbon capture technology — technology that is simply not yet viable. In effect, the EPA, at the president’s direction, has placed a de facto ban on the construction of new coal-fired plants. It has essentially eliminated coal as a future source of electricity for our nation. The implications of this are enormous. Coal accounts for nearly 40 percent of America’s electricity generation, and the question of what will make up the megawatt difference once existing plants are retired has largely gone unanswered. But aside from this problematic scenario, there will be real and tangible effects for every Wyoming citizen.
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School voucher numbers soar for Indiana

Written by The Associated Press for The Tennessean on October 14, 2013Education Reform
INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana could soon become the nation’s leader for use of school vouchers if unprecedented growth in the state’s school choice program continues. The Indiana Department of Education reports that more than 20,000 students have signed up for the three-year-old voucher program for the 2013-14 school year. That’s more than double last year’s number. The numbers put Indiana second in the nation for use of the vouchers, which give qualifying families public money to offset tuition costs at private schools. Milwaukee has more than 24,000 students enrolled in its program, while Ohio has just under 16,000. But both of those programs grew slowly over the course of many years, The Indianapolis Star reported. School choice advocates say they aren’t surprised by Indiana’s rapid growth, especially in Indianapolis. Marion County accounted for 30 percent of all voucher students statewide last year. “The growth in Indiana’s voucher program is amazing, but not totally unexpected given the quality of the non-public schools in and around Marion County,” said Robert Enlow, CEO of the Indianapolis-based Friedman Foundation, which advocates for vouchers nationally.
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Obamacare: Enrollment still tough for many in N.J.

Written by Dan Goldberg for The Star-Ledger on October 13, 2013Health Care
Kevin Burke tries twice a day to purchase health insurance. He’s tried during the morning, he has tried during the evening. Time and again healthcare.gov, the gateway to the online insurance exchange created by the Affordable Care Act, has stymied Burke’s efforts. Since its launch on Oct. 1, the federal government’s website has been inaccessible to millions. Federal officials have blamed overwhelming demand and technical errors for the glitches that have kept people from creating accounts, logging on or shopping on the exchange. Burke, 44, of Upper Freehold, is looking for a health insurance plan for his wife and two children. He and his wife have each started their own business and are living off savings. They are paying $1,322 per month for health insurance but the Burkes hope they will qualify for federal subsidies that will reduce their monthly premiums. “That would give me a longer leash on my business,” Burke said. The staff members at Saint Peter’s University Hospital in New Brunswick are meeting with a lot of potential consumers. The hospital offers information about the new law and tries to help people enroll, but, so far, their efforts have been hampered by the website’s inconsistent performance.
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Health plan sign-ups on the rise in Michigan

Written by Jeff Karoub for The Associated Press on October 13, 2013Health Care
Detroit — Amid the problems and political finger-pointing since the launch of online health care exchanges, Adnan Hammad sees progress. The community health director at the Dearborn-based nonprofit ACCESS said his staff has helped hundreds of people enroll in plans under the federal health care overhaul and educated thousands about the options. That’s despite technical problems that have plagued the site and frustrated consumers in Michigan and across the country since its Oct. 1 debut. Glitches and delays persist, but they began easing in the second week of the marketplaces — envisioned as a 21st century portal to a health care law designed to provide insurance for people who can’t get coverage on the job. Technical problems with the overloaded website frustrated consumers for days.

The exchanges launched as the federal government partially shut down. Republican leaders had demanded that votes to reopen the government be tied to dismantling President Barack Obama’s health care law and cutting federal spending. “I’m not a politician. … I’m just seeing it from the human side,” said Hammad, whose organization is one of four in Michigan sharing $2.5 million from the federal government to help people sign up for insurance. “It is just an exciting time for us to actually see all those families and children come to our doors and leaving happy … saying, ‘Hey, I’m going to have health insurance now.’” Hammad said things have steadily improved and ACCESS has boosted the hours of the workers dubbed “navigators” to keep up with demand.
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States back off from enacting immigration laws

After a flurry of local activism in recent years — much of it inspired by Arizona's controversial enforcement law — lawmakers are waiting on the federal government to take the lead.

Written by Cindy Carcamo for The Los Angeles Times on October 12, 2013Immigration & Homeland Security
PAYSON, Utah — There's a good chance that the fresh tart cherries Southern Californians find at their grocers originated from Robert McMullin's orchards at the base of the Wasatch Mountains. The third-generation farmer provides 90% of the fresh sour cherries found in Southern California. The hard-to-find fruit is prized by bakers and cooks. McMullin shook his head when he recalled how much fruit went unpicked during this year's July harvest. "We lost $300,000 on that deal because we didn't have enough guys to pick," he said. McMullin's plight illustrates how stalled efforts to revamp immigration laws have hit farmers nationwide. He relies on a federal program that brings in legal workers from Mexico to work his groves, but the program, which he calls expensive and inflexible, can't always meet his needs. The system needs streamlining, he said.

A state guest-worker program that was supposed to go into effect this summer in Utah might have helped McMullin and other farmers searching for workers. But lawmakers delayed the program for two more years because they wanted to see whether Congress would pass an immigration overhaul first. Utah mirrors a national trend of states holding back on passing immigration laws in hopes that the federal government will act on the issue, according to a study released this fall by the National Conference of State Legislatures.
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Ohio nears Medicaid expansion

Controlling board to mull Kasich’s request Oct. 21

Written by JIM PROVANCE for The Blade on October 12, 2013Health Care
COLUMBUS — Instead of 132 lawmakers, six apparently will decide whether roughly 275,000 more Ohioans will be added to the Medicaid rolls under the federal health-care law. For eight months, Gov. John Kasich’s Medicaid expansion plan has gone nowhere with fellow Republicans, but on Friday he took steps to bypass the General Assembly and ask a bipartisan, mostly legislative panel to accept nearly $2.6 billion in federal funds to pay for it. The Ohio Controlling Board, which usually moves state funds around and gives one last look at already-approved grants on the way out the door, will consider the request Oct. 21. The vote would allow Ohio to expand income eligibility for the federal-state health insurance of last resort to those earning as much as 38 percent over the federal poverty level. That’s roughly $32,000 a year for a family of four.

The panel consists of four Republican and two Democratic lawmakers plus one Kasich appointee. Assuming the two Democrats join Mr. Kasich’s board president in voting “yes,” the governor still would need one Republican vote. “The controlling board has the authority to adjust federal appropriations levels,” said Greg Moody, director of Mr. Kasich’s Office of Health Transformation. “[Medicaid Director] John McCarthy has submitted a request to the controlling board that would allow a federal appropriation at a level that would allow us to receive and expend money. We believe the only remaining action is to extend coverage.” The state is asking for $561.7 million in federal funds for the period between Jan. 1 and June 30, 2014, and $1.99 billion for the year ending June 30, 2015. The expansion is expected to draw a total of $13 billion in federal funds to Ohio over the next seven years.
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The most tax-friendly states for business

Written by Charley Blaine for USA Today on October 12, 2013Economic Prosperity
Taxes are necessary for a functioning government, but according to one group, many states are crippling regional business growth with tax structures that are too expensive or complex. The Tax Foundation's 2014 State Business Tax Climate Index graded all 50 states based on more than 100 measures that reflect how competitive a state's tax policies are to both large and small businesses. The report considered state income, corporate, property, sales, and unemployment insurance tax policies. As was the case last year, Wyoming had the best business tax climate in the country, while New York had the worst. Based on the Tax Foundation's report, these are the most tax-friendly states for business. As might be expected, several of the states rated best for business have among the lowest corporate tax rates in the country. However, several states with much higher corporate tax rates are also among the most tax-friendly for business, according to Tax Foundation data. Alaska and New Hampshire, for example, had the first- and second-highest corporate tax collections per capita in fiscal 2011, respectively, but they still made the list.
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Scott Walker announces $100 million in property tax cuts

Written by MARY SPICUZZA for The Wisconsin State Journal on October 11, 2013Economic Prosperity
Wisconsin homeowners would get $100 million in property tax cuts under a plan unveiled Thursday by Gov. Scott Walker and Republican leaders. If passed, the legislation would lower taxes on a typical home by about $13 for the December tax bill and $20 the following year. Walker made the announcement three days after Madison School Board member Mary Burke said she would challenge the governor in 2014 as a Democrat. Walker, flanked by Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, and budget committee co-chairwoman Sen. Alberta Darling, R-River Hills, said he was calling a special legislative session to take up the bill, which he hopes to have on his desk for his signature as early as next week. That would mean passing the Joint Finance Committee, the Assembly and the Senate in a matter of days. Two other measures will also be included in the session. The property tax cuts would be paid for with money from the state’s surplus, the governor said.
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Utah jobless claims rise since gov't shutdown

Written by The Associated Press for The Daily Herald on October 11, 2013Economic Prosperity
SALT LAKE CITY-- Utah's unemployment claims have jumped more than three times their normal rate as thousands of furloughed federal workers have filed for benefits since the partial shutdown of the U.S. government on Oct. 1, state officials said Thursday. The Utah Department of Workforce Services, which administers the unemployment benefits program, has received almost 7,000 claims from Oct. 1 to Oct. 7, spokesman Nic Dunn said. Of those claims, more than 4,600, or about two-thirds, came from federal workers. The Salt Lake Tribune first reported the jump in jobless claims on Thursday. If, down the road, Congress votes to approve back pay for those furloughed workers, they will be responsible for repaying the benefits, using a payment plan if needed, Dunn said.

There are roughly 40,000 federal employees in Utah, about 10,000 of whom are facing furloughs, according to Gov. Gary Herbert. Because of that federal presence, "we're definitely going to see that impact from those furloughed workers," Dunn said about the increase in claims. The first checks for those workers should arrive next week, he said. Some federal employees in Utah and around the country are required to show up for work despite the shutdown but are not being paid.
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Attorney General Bill Schuette opposing state employees' union appeal of right-to-work law

Written by Brian Smith for Michigan Live on October 10, 2013Labor Reform
LANSING -- Attorney General Bill Schuette has asked the Michigan Supreme Court to deny an application filed by the largest union representing Michigan state employees challenging the state's right-to-work law, saying a lower court decision was correct in upholding the law. UAW Local 6000, which represents more than 17,000 state employees, and other civil service unions are asking the state Supreme Court to review a decision from the Michigan Court of Appeals which found that the Michigan Legislature was within its authority when it enacted right-to-work legislation late last year. The unions have contended that the Legislature overstepped its bounds under the state constitution by applying the law to state employees, saying the constitution grants all authority to the state civil service commission to regulate state employees, including whether or not employees can be required to join a union. The Michigan Court of Appeals issued a split decision in August, with the majority holding the law "is a decision to further remove politics from public employment and to end all inquiry or debate about how public sector union fees are spent." Schuette, representing the state, Gov. Rick Snyder, three members of the Michigan Employment Relations Commission and himself as Attorney General, filed the brief Monday urging the Supreme Court not to review the decision, saying in the brief that there is "no need" to examine the ruling.
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Healthcare.Gov's Flaws Found, Fixes Eyed

Site's Design Opened Door to Bottleneck That Persists

Written by Christopher Weaver and Louise Radnofsky for The Wall Street Journal on October 10, 2013Federal Overreach
Government officials are considering rebuilding some parts of the federally run health-insurance marketplace that have been identified as the key flaws that blocked many consumers from getting coverage. Much of the problem stems from a design element that requires users of the federal site, which serves 36 states, to create accounts before shopping for insurance, according to policy and technology experts. The site, healthcare.gov, was initially going to include an option to browse before registering, but that tool was delayed, people familiar with the situation said. The decision to move ahead without that feature proved crucial because, before users can begin shopping for coverage, they must cross a busy digital junction in which data are swapped among separate computer systems built or run by contractors including CGI Group Inc., GIB.A.T +1.87% the healthcare.gov developer; Quality Software Services Inc., a UnitedHealth Group Inc. UNH -0.15% unit; and credit-checker Experian EXPGY +1.33% PLC. If any part of the web of systems fails to work properly, it could lead to a traffic jam blocking most users from the marketplace. That's just what happened: On Oct. 2, officials identified a bottleneck where those systems intersect at a software component sold by Oracle Corp. ORCL +13.21% that still hasn't been cleared. The series of decisions and technical stumbles came together like a perfect storm amid political pressure to open the marketplaces on the health-overhaul law's deadline of Oct. 1, according to the accounts of multiple people involved in the exchange and experts following the developments. As a result, many fewer people are able to navigate the marketplace than called for in the initial plan, said people familiar with the situation.
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Michigan studies plan to ease rules on air emissions

Written by Jim Lynch for The Detroit News on October 09, 2013Energy & Environment
Gov. Rick Snyder’s administration is considering major changes to the way Michigan regulates air emissions — a potentially cost-reducing initiative that pleases industry but has some environmental groups concerned about the potential health impact on residents. Last month, an air quality committee composed of industry representatives, environmental groups and state officials recommended cutting the number of chemicals subject to air emissions limitation rules by 37 percent — to 756 from more than 1,200. It’s a move state Department of Environmental Quality officials argue brings Michigan in line with most other states. The state currently tracks more chemicals than are required by the federal government — leading Michigan to share the distinction with Texas of regulating more chemicals than the rest of the states across the country. The regulatory reform also would help area industries keep up with out-of-state competition by reducing air emission costs. “Michigan and only a few other states have an open-ended definition of what’s regulated — no strictly defined list,” said Robert Stills, a supervisor with DEQ’s Air Quality Division. “Around the country, there aren’t many states with that kind of approach.”
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