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.

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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Wyoming education board stands firm on Common Core

Written by Associated Press for The Billings Gazette on October 09, 2013Education Reform
CHEYENNE, Wyo. — The state Board of Education is sticking with new statewide K-12 education standards in English, language arts and math despite critics who say the standards erode local control. "The state Board of Education's position of being in favor of the Common Core has been reaffirmed," board Chairman Ron Micheli said. "And it will stay that way until there is a change in the position of the board." Wyoming is among about 45 states that have adopted the Common Core State Standards. Members of the board heard a presentation Tuesday from Amy Edmonds with the Wyoming Liberty Group, which opposes the new standards. "We cannot afford to continue down this path of adopting every new 'it' idea proposed as the silver bullet in education improvement," Edmonds said. "Wyoming's citizens, our communities and our mineral wealth all afford us with incredible opportunities to create a system that is world class. We simply need the courage and the vision to do it ourselves." Edmonds asked the board to consider stopping the rollout or ending the use of the Common Core and returning to a system that better allows for local control.
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Oregon's health insurance exchange still can't enroll, check tax credits; browsers welcome

Written by Nick Budnick for The Oregonian on October 07, 2013Health Care
Oregon's new health exchange, Cover Oregon, remains unable to enroll people for health insurance even with agents and application assisters that were given early access to the site. And as of Monday, more than 1,300 applications to determine eligibility for federal tax credits to reduce insurance premiums remain unprocessed. Agents and application assisters won't be able to enroll people using the site until Wednesday, Oct. 9, at the earliest, a spokesman said Monday. Officials earlier hoped agents could use the marketplace to enroll on Oct. 1, a date they pushed back to Oct. 7. But Cover Oregon spokesman Michael Cox says that technical issues are still being worked out, including inaccurate readings on whether people qualify for new tax credits and other government programs, such as Healthy Kids.

Most people, those with insurance through an employer or Medicare, won't be affected by the delays to the website. But for those who buy their own policies on the individual market and who hope to qualify for new tax credits to reduce premiums, the website wasn't able to help them as open enrollment began last week. The exchanges are the focal point of the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Most individual polices go away on Jan. 1, and the deadline to enroll in policies that take effect Jan. 1 is Dec. 15. Enrollment will continue until March 31 for insurance that kicks in later next year.
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Exchange launch turns into inexcusable mess: Our view

Health sites generate more error messages than coverage.

Written by Editorial Board for USA Today on October 07, 2013Health Care
Over the first four days the new online health insurance exchanges were open last week, more than 8 million people visited them, according to the Obama administration. At the very least, this casts doubt on the Republican claim that Americans hate Obamacare and want it repealed. It seems millions of people desperately want the coverage the law will allow them to get, regardless of their medical histories. Alas, the administration managed to turn the experience for most of those visitors into a nightmare. Websites crashed, refused to load, or offered bizarre and incomprehensible choices. Even though the system was shut down for repairs over the weekend, Monday's early reports continued to suggest an epic screw-up. Why have things gone so wrong?

President Obama's chief technology adviser, Todd Park, blames the unexpectedly large numbers of people who flocked to Healthcare.gov and state websites. "Take away the volume and it works," he told USA TODAY's Tim Mullaney. That's like saying that except for the torrential rain, it's a really nice day. Was Park not listening to the administration's daily weather report predicting Obamacare's popularity? Park said the administration expected 50,000 to 60,000 simultaneous users. It got 250,000. Compare that with the similarly rocky debut seven years ago of exchanges to obtain Medicare drug coverage. The Bush administration projected 20,000 simultaneous users and built capacity for 150,000. That's the difference between competence and incompetence.
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Glitches persist on Maryland health insurance exchange

Software and servers may not be adequate, analysts suggest

Written by Andrea K. Walker for The Baltimore Sun on October 04, 2013Health Care
Technical problems continued to frustrate people attempting to access the new state health insurance exchange on Friday. The issues with marylandhealthconnection.gov, the online exchange set up under national health reform, prompted some analysts to suggest that the system's software and servers aren't robust enough. "They seem to be building this system on the go," said Robert Laszewski, a Washington-based insurance industry consultant. "It was not adequately tested, and it was not ready for prime time. That is perfectly clear." Consumers are supposed to be able to visit Maryland Health Connection, create an individual account and browse a variety of health insurance plans before buying one, much as they would book an airline flight. The exchange was created to provide a place for Maryland's 800,000 uninsured to find health coverage.

Problems began immediately after the exchange launched Tuesday, as people tried to create accounts and log onto the site. State officials blamed the account creation process, in which people were routed to a federal questionnaire to verify their identity. The system, they said, became overwhelmed when so many people tried to access it. But even after logging onto the site, many people complained about encountering error messages, frozen screens and other problems.
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Shutdown Could Cost Millions in Lost Tourism Dollars

Written by Pamela M. Prah for Stateline on October 04, 2013Federal Overreach
From the Grand Canyon to the Statue of Liberty, the closing of 401 national parks isn’t just disappointing campers, school children and wedding parties. Local communities and states are losing millions of dollars in lost tourism and tax revenue as the federal budget impasse lingers. Visitors spend about $76 million a day in communities near national parks, the National Park Service estimated before the federal government partially closed down because of failed budget talks between Congress and President Obama. The last government shutdown in 1995-1996 cost local businesses near national parks $14 million per day. The National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), an advocacy group, estimates the actual impact on businesses from the current shutdown could be closer to $30 million per day.

Approximately 15 percent of the visitors to Great Smoky Mountains National Park come in October, according to Holly Scott, the marketing director of Friends of the Great Smokies, a nonprofit organization that raises private funds to help maintain the park. Visitors to Great Smoky Mountains National Park generate an estimated $10 million in gateway communities in October, she wrote in a recent blog post. The shutdown is costing the National Park Service $450,000 a day in lost revenue from fees collected at entry stations and fees paid for activities in the park, such as camping, boat ride and cave tours.
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Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer: ACA will cost Kansas businesses, families

Written by Jeff Colyer for The Wichita Eagle on October 04, 2013Federal Overreach
Last month I testified before a congressional committee about how the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, will cost Kansas businesses and families. A recent Gallup poll revealed that 41 percent of small-business owners delayed hiring new employees because of the ACA. In Kansas, the trend is no different. When Gov. Sam Brownback and I came into office, the Kansas economy was hemorrhaging private-sector jobs. With new pro-growth policies, our economy has created 45,300 new private-sector jobs, but the ACA continues to be a major roadblock threatening small-business expansion. The economic effect of Obamacare is like ice on the wing of an airplane preventing it from taking off. It is especially damaging to those in the middle class who are missing out on new small-business jobs.

Remember when the ACA was supposed to increase competition and allow you to keep your own doctor and insurance plan? Obamacare does the opposite. Obamacare mandates that every Kansan buy a costly commercial product. And for thousands of Kansans it will be more expensive. In other words, everyone is required to buy a luxury car with air-conditioned seats. You can’t buy a small car or a used pickup without a fine. New Washington regulations mean that health insurance for many Kansans will be more expensive even if they qualify for huge government subsidies. A recent study by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius shows how Washington drives up costs. The spin headline was that the insurance plan costs in the exchanges were less than expected – but still much more than today.
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Stephen Moore: Using 'Sue and Settle' to Thwart Oil and Gas Drillers

The Endangered Species Act is being employed more than ever to block development

Written by STEPHEN MOORE for The Wall Street Journal on October 04, 2013Energy & Environment
Last week the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and an environmental advocacy group agreed to a legal settlement that will place nine species—including the Panama City crayfish, moccasinshell mussel and boreal toad—on the fast track for placement on the endangered species list. It is only the latest of many such listings. The Center for Biological Diversity has petitioned Fish and Wildlife to designate some 250 species as endangered since 2008. Many of CBD's petitions—and lawsuits—are still in the pipeline. About 97% of the species that are designated as endangered never move off the list. Next March, Fish and Wildlife will make a determination about whether to add the lesser prairie chicken, found in Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Kansas to the list.

Harold Hamm, president of Continental Resources, says that the habitat for the prairie chicken overlaps "some of the most promising land for oil and gas leases in the country." Many Westerners suspect that this environmental activism isn't only or even mostly about saving species and obscure subspecies. Instead, it is about restricting land use on hundreds of thousands of acres of private and state land. The concern is that if these species are listed as endangered, their habitat could be placed off limits for economic development.
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Oklahoma leads in manufacturing growth

Manufacturing is resurging in the Sooner State, accounting for 12 percent of Oklahoma's current economic output, Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb says at Malarkey Roofing Products on National Manufacturing Day.

Written by Richard Mize for The Oklahoman on October 04, 2013Economic Prosperity
National Manufacturing Day was an observance Friday in factories across the country, but in Oklahoma City it was more of an actual celebration. It wasn't just the green, white and black balloons, the snacks, brunch items and fine coffees, and the tour groups donning bright green hard hats and goggles for the occasion at Malarkey Roofing Products. It was the state statistics, not to mention Malarkey's own success story. Not only has Oklahoma one of the nation's lowest unemployment rates for several quarters as the national struggles to shake off the recession — and the energy business booms again in the oil patch. “Oklahoma has led the nation with the most rapidly growing manufacturing growth rate — a growth rate of 6.7 percent,” Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb said, pointing out that manufacturing accounts for 12 percent of the state's current economic output.
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No agreement among Indiana lawmakers over Common Core

Published in The Associated Press on October 02, 2013Education Reform
INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana lawmakers studying the state's use of a national set of reading and math education standards haven't been able to decide whether they recommend those be kept, changed or dropped. The six Republicans and six Democrats on the committee voted Tuesday to approve a report with no direction on how the state should proceed with the Common Core State Standards. The committee was formed after the General Assembly this spring approved a bill "pausing" implementation of the standards, which had been adopted by the State Board of Education in 2010. Committee co-chairman Rep. Robert Behning, R-Indianapolis, said a proposal to drop the Common Core and implement Indiana-designed standards has been considered by panel members, but hasn't gained enough support. Behning, who has supported the Common Core standards, said he had hoped for a consensus among the committee members. "We're not too far away from getting some agreement, but at this point in time we don't have it," he said. Some legislators have complained that Indiana has lost control over local schools by using the teaching standards developed by a national group of state school officials and since adopted by more than 40 states.

The committee's nonbinding recommendations would go to the State Board of Education, which is to hold at least three more public hearings on the standards and their future by next July. Sen. Carlin Yoder, R-Middlebury, said he wanted to see Indiana create new standards that borrow from the Common Core and the state's previous standards. "I heard from parents, teachers and community members that Indiana must maintain its sovereignty with regard to our education standards, and withdrawing from Common Core allows us to do just that," Yoder said. Republican Gov. Mike Pence supported the move to suspend implementation of the national standards for a year while the new state reviews are conducted. The Indiana Chamber of Commerce and other Common Core supporters say the state's education officials have been reviewing the benchmarks for years and that the additional review isn't necessary. They also point to organizers of the ACT and SAT exams expecting students to meet those benchmarks. Sen. Earline Rogers, D-Gary, said the debate over standards adopted under former Republican state schools superintendent Tony Bennett was politically driven and "much ado about nothing."
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N.C. governor calls voter ID suit an "overreach"

Written by Phil Hirschkorn for CBS News on October 01, 2013Election Law
North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory said he will "vigorously defend" his state's new voting reform law that is now under challenge by the U.S. Justice Department. Responding to the lawsuit calling the state's photo ID law discriminatory and regressive, McCrory said, "The federal government's action is an overreach and without merit." "This lawsuit will only result in costly legal bills and drawn out legal battles battles for both state and federal taxpayers," McCrory said. When North Carolina passed its strict photo voter ID law in July, it became the 13th state to do so in the past three years and the first since the Supreme Court in June struck down sections of the 1965 Voting Rights Act that granted the federal government de facto veto authority over election law changes in states where segregation was legal until the 1960s.

The Justice Department's civil lawsuit filed Monday in Greensboro, N.C., federal court objects not only to a new voter photo ID requirement but also to the reduction nearly by half in the number of days of early voting, the elimination of same day registration during the early voting period, and the rejection of "otherwise legitimate" provisional ballots cast in precincts where registered voters are not assigned to vote. "The Justice Department expects to show that the clear and intended effects of these changes would contract the electorate and result in unequal access to participation in the political process on account of race," said Attorney General Eric Holder in his remarks, in Washington, announcing the suit.
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Right-to-Work States Attracting More Citizens, Wealth

Eight of top 10 states increasing personal income were RTW

Written by Tom Gantert for Michigan Captiol Confidential on September 29, 2013Labor Reform
Eight of the top 10 states that saw an increase in personal income from new people coming to those states were right-to-work states, according to an analysis done by the Tax Foundation. Michigan lost $14.4 billion in personal income from 2000 to 2010 and was 45th overall. Michigan became a right-to-work state in March. Only Ohio (46th), New Jersey (47th), Illinois (48th), California (49th) and New York (50th) did worse. All six of the bottom states did not have right-to-work laws during those 10 years. New York lost $45.6 billion in personal income in that time period. Florida did the best gaining $67.3 billion in that 10-year span.

The Tax Foundation tracked people migrating from one state to another from the years 2000 to 2010. The "interstate migrants" had their income added to all the other income in that state. The state gaining that person had an increase in personal income while a state losing a person lost personal income. The figures are in 2010 dollars. Nick Kasprak, an analyst with the Tax Foundation, a nonpartisan tax research foundation based in Washington, D.C., said the analysis is based on the adjusted gross income from IRS 1040 forms. The study was not conducted specifically to address right-to-work versus non-right-to-work comparisons.
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HEALTH LAW ONLINE SIGN-UP DELAYED FOR SMALL FIRMS

Written by RICARDO ALONSO-ZALDIVA for The Associated Press on September 26, 2013Health Care
WASHINGTON (AP) — Administration officials are quietly telling key interest groups to expect initial glitches signing up online for coverage under President Barack Obama's health care overhaul. Two sources tell The Associated Press that small businesses will not be able to enroll online starting Oct. 1 when new health insurance markets go live. Instead, one of the sources, a person who was briefed on the situation, said business owners will initially have to mail or fax their information so that they can enroll. The sources spoke on condition of anonymity because an official announcement hasn't yet been made. Separately, the administration told Hispanic groups that the Spanish-language version of its healthcare.gov website will be not be ready to handle enrollments for a few weeks. An estimated 10 million Latinos are eligible for coverage.
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Greenhouse Gas Rules Still In the Works for Idaho Power's Plants

Published in Magic Valley Times- News on September 23, 2013Energy & Environment
BOISE • Proposed rules the Environmental Protection Agency released Friday to cut carbon pollution from new power plants to combat climate change won’t affect Idaho Power and its customers. The proposals apply only to new power plants. But President Obama did order the EPA to issue final greenhouse gas rules for existing plants no later than June 2015. Those rules could well decide the future sources of the electricity that lights Idaho homes and powers Idaho commerce. Idaho Power owns one-third of the Jim Bridger coal plant in Wyoming and half of the Valmy plant in Nevada. It also is part owner of a coal plant in Boardman, Ore., that already is planned for closure because of environmental costs. Idaho Power reviewed its Wyoming and Nevada coal plants earlier this year and decided to keep them for now.

“We don’t know what (the president) is proposing,” said John Carstensen, Idaho Power’s engineering project leader. “We will evaluate the rules when they come out and we understand the particulars of them.” EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said the Obama administration will begin an outreach program to hear public ideas about climate change, which she said is a public health issue as well as an environmental issue. That justifies regulating greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act, an approach the Supreme Court has upheld. “Climate change is one of the most significant public health challenges of our time,” McCarthy said Friday. “By taking common-sense action to limit carbon pollution from new power plants, we can slow the effects of climate change and fulfill our obligation to ensure a safe and healthy environment for our children.”
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Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead, congressional delegation blast EPA coal rules

Wyo. governor, delegation, blast EPA coal rules

Written by Associated Press for The Casper Star-Tribune on September 21, 2013Energy & Environment
CHEYENNE — Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead and members of the state's congressional delegation reacted quickly on Friday to new U.S. Environmental Protection Agency rules to limit carbon emissions from future coal-fired power plants, saying they would cripple the coal industry as well as clean-coal research. Meanwhile, some environmental groups point to recent unsuccessful efforts by the federal government to lease new coal tracts in Wyoming's Powder River Basin as proof the nation needs to re-examine its policies for selling public coal reserves. The EPA on Friday announced the first national limits on carbon pollution from future power plants. The agency also is developing tougher standards on existing plants as part of the Obama administration's push to address global warming.

Wyoming is the nation's top coal-producing state and draws nearly $1 billion a year from its share of the proceeds from coal production on federal lands. "This latest EPA proposal would be damaging to Wyoming, the nation's top coal supplier," Mead said Friday. "The standards for coal-fired power generation in the proposed rule are unachievable and will arrest research, development and commercialization of clean technologies." EPA administrator Gina McCarthy said Friday the proposed regulations aren't intended to damage the coal industry but would help the industry to adapt by encouraging companies to develop ways to reduce carbon emissions from burning coal.
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Common Core Standards To Change State's Education Landscape

Written by KATHLEEN MEGAN for The Hartford Courant on September 21, 2013Education Reform
A sweeping change now underway quietly in Connecticut is transforming school curriculum from kindergarten through 12th grade with the aim of raising achievement and ensuring that all students are ready for college and career. The new Common Core State Standards — a set of academic goals that were developed by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers — are driving the changes. Along with 44 other states, Connecticut adopted those standards after they were issued in 2010. The standards, however, are simply goals, and state administrators and teachers have spent many hours developing a new curriculum and training teachers in new strategies.

"We are trying to have teachers teach in a way that they were not taught themselves," said Alan Addley, Granby superintendent of schools. "That's a huge transformational change that cannot be simplified or overstated, to be honest. … It's just a huge undertaking, but it's one that we believe should happen and it takes time and resources." Michelle Puhlick, executive director of curriculum and instruction for the Hartford schools, explains the change as something as basic as how an elementary school student learns about frogs.
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Western ND oil boom boosts median income

Written by Associated Press for The Forum of Fargo-Morehead on September 20, 2013Economic Prosperity
BISMARCK – North Dakota’s unprecedented oil boom has helped boost the state’s median household income above the national average and positively impacted salaries to its sister state to the south, demographers in the Dakotas say. Statistics released Thursday by the U.S. Census Bureau show North Dakota’s median household income rose to $53,585 last year, up from $52,763 in 2011. The state’s median household income has climbed more than 10 percent since 2008, census figures show. Kevin Iverson, manager of the state’s census office, said the oil boom in the western part of the state helped bump salaries in North Dakota, which only surpassed national average in wages two years ago. “There’s nothing really surprising about the numbers,” Iverson said of the bureau’s American Community Survey. “There is a lot more people in the state making a lot more money.”

North Dakota is leading the nation in population growth and the number of residents in the state is at an all-time high, at more than 700,000 residents, according to the Census Bureau. North Dakota’s strong economy led by its booming Oil Patch in the western part of the state has attracted thousands of new residents in the past few years. North Dakota has gone from the nation’s ninth-biggest oil producer in 2006 to the second, behind only Texas. The state has some 22,000 more jobs than takers and the lowest unemployment rate in the nation, at less than 3 percent. Energy-related jobs also have helped neighboring states where businesses there are catering to North Dakota’s Oil Patch and out-of-state residents are flocking to fill unfilled jobs
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Walgreen to Shift Health Plan for 160,000 Workers

Drugstore Chain's Move Underscores Shifting Burden on Insurance

Written by TIMOTHY W. MARTIN and CHRISTOPHER WEAVER for The Wall Street Journal on September 18, 2013Health Care
Rising health-care costs and a climate of change brought about by the new federal health law are prompting American corporations to revisit the pact they've long had with employees over medical benefits. Walgreen Co. WAG -0.23% is set to become one of the largest employers yet to make sweeping changes to company-backed health programs. On Wednesday, the drugstore giant disclosed a plan to provide payments to eligible employees for the subsidized purchase of insurance starting in 2014. The plan will affect roughly 160,000 employees, and will require them to shop for coverage on a private health-insurance marketplace. Aside from rising health-care costs, the company cited compliance-related expenses associated with the new law as a reason for the switch.

Walgreen is the latest in a growing list of companies making changes to their benefits. International Business Machines Corp. IBM -0.13% and Time Warner Inc. TWX +0.23% both said in recent weeks they will move thousands of retirees from their own company-administered plans to private exchanges. Sears Holdings Corp. SHLD -1.03% and Darden Restaurants Inc. DRI -5.88% said last year they would send employees to a private exchange. Since the 1940s, health benefits have been a key part of many employees' compensation. A long trend of rising health spending and a wave of changes to the health-care system are prompting many employers to rethink their roles in financing care for employees and their dependents. Like the shift from pension plans to 401(k) plans beginning in the 1980s, the moves mark a transition in which employers are handing their workers more control over their benefits, some experts say. But as companies set their contributions at fixed amounts to limit benefits spending, workers could wind up shouldering a greater share of the burden if health costs increase.
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Colyer offers critique of U.S. health insurance reform

Written by Tim Carpenter for The Topeka Capitol-Journal on September 18, 2013Health Care
Kansas Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer traveled to the nation's capital Wednesday to express disdain for the federal health insurance overhaul causing "profound and detrimental" ripple effects through the Kansas economy. Colyer told members of a joint congressional subcommittee that muddled implementation of the Affordable Care Act signed into law in 2010 by President Barack Obama was contributing to economic malaise in Kansas, where the unemployment rate increased in August for the third consecutive month to 5.9 percent. "Wherever I go, the biggest concern I hear is the uncertainty about what the law is going to do to small business," Colyer told a joint committee on economic growth and health care. "The issues are profound and detrimental to our citizens."

In 2011, the administration of Gov. Sam Brownback rejected $31.5 million in federal funding for creation of a Kansas-designed online health insurance information exchange network. In accordance with ACA, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will impose its own version in Kansas. In addition, Brownback decided to reject expansion of Medicaid eligibility in 2014 under the law often referred to as Obamacare. The governor's decision could withhold Medicaid coverage from about 240,000 Kansans. Supporters of the national insurance reforms point to expansion of coverage to millions of uninsured Americans and the value of online health insurance markets that begin operating in October. U.S. Census Bureau data released Tuesday showed 13.1 percent of Kansans had no health insurance in 2012. That equates to 369,000 people, including 60,000 children.
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Health-Law Navigators Blasted in Republican Report

More Safeguards Needed to Protect Data, Avoid Scams as Navigators Help People Sign Up for Insurance, GOP House Investigators Say

Written by Amy Schatz for The Wall Street Journal on September 18, 2013Federal Overreach
WASHINGTON—More safeguards are needed to ensure thieves don't impersonate government-funded "navigators" and nab financial details from people trying to sign up for health insurance, according to a report from Republican House investigators. The report raised concerns that official navigators, who get federal funding under the 2010 health law, won't have government IDs or other documentation to prove they are authorized to help enroll people for health insurance. The federal government won't maintain a list of authorized navigators or helpers, making it difficult for consumers to be confident when handing over sensitive personal information such as Social Security numbers, the report said. The Obama administration is providing a total of $67 million to more than 100 community, religious and health-care groups to hire navigators who will help enroll uninsured Americans. New health-insurance exchanges created by the 2010 Affordable Care Act are set to open Oct. 1, offering coverage starting Jan. 1.

The "heightened risk of identity theft and financial loss from a poorly managed outreach campaign" is a significant concern, according to the report from the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, which is holding a hearing on the issue Wednesday. The law's backers say navigators are needed to help explain health insurance to people who haven't bought it before or don't have computer access. They also say the GOP focus on the navigators is less about protecting consumers and more about impeding efforts to implement the health law. "There is a systematic effort by some Republican state officials to obstruct implementation of the Affordable Care Act," Rep. Jackie Speier (D., Calif.) wrote along with two Democratic colleagues in a letter Tuesday that criticized how witnesses were chosen for Wednesday's hearing. Consumer-protection worries have escalated in recent weeks as reports of various scams tied to the health law have begun popping up. The Federal Trade Commission has scheduled a meeting Thursday to discuss the issue.
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Report: Southeast economy booming

Written by MATT WOOLBRIGHT for JUNEAU EMPIRE on September 18, 2013Economic Prosperity
More people live in Southeast Alaska now than ever before, and the economy is booming, according to a report from the annual Southeast Conference. The report uses 2010 as a benchmark while evaluating the region’s economic and demographic standing as of last year. It was presented at the annual conference of local leaders happening in Sitka this week. More than 74,400 people now live in Southeast Alaska — an increase of about 2,800 over two years. That figure surpasses the record set in 1997, and population isn’t the only rising figure. There are more employees than ever, and they are enjoying the highest total payroll after adjusting for inflation. Job earnings have increased about 10 percent since 2010. In the private sector, seafood and tourism industries are leading the way for the region with total earnings near $246 million and $174 million, respectively. The two sectors employ more than 10,000 of the region’s 45,996 employees. The single biggest driving employer in Southeast Alaska, however, is the government which employs nearly 14,000 Alaskans and boasts total earnings over $745 million. Combined, the three sectors make up 56 percent of the region’s employment earnings.
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Judge rules state cannot enforce parts of law limiting unions

Written by Patrick Marley for Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel on September 17, 2013Labor Reform
Madison — A Dane County judge ruled Tuesday the state cannot enforce key provisions of a law limiting collective bargaining against local government unions. But Circuit Judge Juan Colás declined to issue an injunction against the state, muddying the effect of his decision. Even before Tuesday's ruling the case was headed to the state Supreme Court. The high court will likely hear arguments this fall. Gov. Scott Walker and his fellow Republicans passed a law in 2011 all but eliminating collective bargaining for most public workers. A raft of lawsuits followed. Most of the cases have gone the state's way so far. A different Dane County judge blocked the law when it was first passed, but the state Supreme Court reinstated it three months later when it found lawmakers had not violated the open meetings law in approving the measure.

Earlier this year, the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the law in its entirety, and last week a federal judge in Madison dismissed another case brought by unions. But the unions have had success in Colás' court. In September 2012, Colás sided with Madison Teachers Inc. and a union representing City of Milwaukee employees by ruling the law violated local workers' constitutional rights to free speech, free association and equal representation under the law by capping union workers' raises but not those of their non-union counterparts. The state appealed, and the Court of Appeals asked the Wisconsin Supreme Court to take the case without the appeals court ruling on it. The Supreme Court agreed to take the case in June. Meanwhile, a dispute developed between the state and the unions involved in the case over whether Colás' decision applied to only the unions that sued or all unions in Wisconsin representing teachers and local workers. (Both sides agreed the decision did not apply to state employee unions.) Madison Teachers Inc. filed a motion with Colás asking him to enjoin the enforcement of Act 10, as the labor law is known, against local government unions.
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