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.

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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New poll shows support for voter ID continues

Written by Craig Jarvis for Charlotte News-Observer on September 17, 2013Election Law
North Carolinians continue to feel strongly that people should have photo identification in order to vote, according to new poll results released Tuesday. But there is much less support for some of the other provisions in the massive elections bill that the governor signed into law last month. The High Point University survey found nearly three-fourths of those who answered interviewers’ questions approve of the new requirement that voters show government-issued photo identification (72 percent) beginning with the 2016 elections.

Yet a majority of those surveyed – 56 percent – don’t approve of eliminating same-day registration, and 55 percent don’t think shortening early voting from 17 to 10 days is a good idea. Those changes go into effect next year. Opinions on eliminating straight-party voting, another provision in the new law, are less clearly drawn: 45 percent want it eliminated, while 47 percent disapprove of the change. Similarly, the law allows for raising the limits on campaign contributions from $4,000 to $5,000 each election cycle: Forty-six percent of respondents like the increase and 42 percent don’t. “You do have a mixed bag,” said High Point assistant professor of political science Martin Kifer. “Voter ID seems to make sense to people when they hear about it.”
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Utah finishes budget year with $242 million surplus

Budget year » Investors’ stock sell-off led to windfall; legislators have several projects already in mind for higher education, public education.

Written by Robert Gehrke for The Salt Lake Tribune on September 17, 2013Economic Prosperity
Utah finished its budget year with a nearly quarter-billion-dollar surplus in the state fund that pays for public schools and universities, revenue figures released Tuesday show. "This surplus is not only encouraging, it’s needed," Gov. Gary Herbert said in a statement. "We can now augment the critical investment we make in education and economic development." Constitutionally, Utah’s income taxes go to pay for education in the state. The huge $242 million jump in the education fund was due to "profit-taking," or investors selling off stocks to avoid increased tax rates with the expiration of the Bush tax cuts. Legislative Fiscal Analyst Jonathan Ball said that because the profits were taken in the 2012 tax year, they can’t be counted on for the future, meaning the state revenue can really be spent only on one-time needs, not ongoing expenses like salaries. Under state law, nearly half the money in the Education Fund is required to be diverted to the state’s Rainy Day Funds. That leaves $122 million that lawmakers will be able to invest in one-time education purchases.
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USA TODAY/Pew poll: Health care law faces difficult future

Written by Susan Page for USA TODAY on September 16, 2013Health Care
WASHINGTON -- Republican lawmakers have failed in dozens of attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, but a new USA TODAY/Pew Research Center Poll shows just how difficult they have made it for President Obama's signature legislative achievement to succeed. As the health care exchanges at the heart of the law open for enrollment in two weeks, the public's views of it are as negative as they have ever been, and disapproval of the president's handling of health care has hit a new high. Confusion and misinformation about the law haven't significantly abated, especially among the law's main targets.

Among the 19% polled who are uninsured, nearly four in 10 don't realize the law requires them to get health insurance next year. Among young people, whose participation is seen as crucial for the exchanges to work, just 56% realize there's a mandate to be insured or face a fine. And in the states that have refused to participate in the insurance marketplaces — defaulting instead to the federal exchange — knowledge about the Affordable Care Act and support for it are notably lower than in states that are setting up their own exchanges.
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California businesses work to adapt to health care law

Written by Christopher Cadelago for Sacramento Bee on September 16, 2013Health Care
Neil Crosby, director of sales for Warner Pacific Insurance Services, had surpassed 500 when he lost track of the number of presentations he has given on the new federal health care law. Addressing apprehensive audiences, Crosby tests their understanding of the challenges businesses face as they scramble to digest and meet the requirements of the Affordable Care Act. When he asks whether there is anything that requires them to provide health care for their workers, they reply, “Yes.” “Actually, there isn’t,” Crosby said in a recent interview. “But, if you have 50 or more employees and you don’t, you are going to eventually face a penalty.”

Two weeks before the state begins enrolling people in its insurance marketplace, businesses small and large are researching and retooling their health care offerings as they struggle to tamp down costs. Under the new law, nearly all Americans will have to carry health insurance or pay a penalty. “There are so many unanswered questions, so many provisions coming at them,” Crosby said. “They don’t know which way to turn. Some are just putting their head in their hands and saying, ‘God, can I just run my business?’”
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COMMENTARY: MEDICAID EXPANSION? NOT WITHOUT TRUE REFORM

Written by Michael Thompson for The Free Lance-Star on September 15, 2013Health Care
SPRINGFIELD—Medicaid expansion should take place only after real reforms are made to the federal health program for the poor and uncertainties surrounding expansion are eliminated, according to a public opinion survey released recently by the Thomas Jefferson Institute for Public Policy. The Jefferson Institute’s survey is made more valid when compared to recent results of a Wall Street Journal/NBC survey that found 47 percent think Obamacare is a bad idea with 34 percent thinking it is a good idea, and fully 48 percent of those currently without health insurance—those who are supposed to be helped most by this national health insurance program—also think it is a bad idea! Now let’s look at the recent survey released by the Jefferson Institute.

The Jefferson Institute sponsored this opinion survey with the Liberty Foundation, and it is the result of 1,465 telephone response surveys conducted between July 10 and July 14; the results have a margin of error of plus or minus 2.56 percent. Although focused on the six major counties that are represented by all 10 members of the special Medicaid Innovation and Reform Commission (those who will approve or disapprove Medicaid expansion by year’s end), the sampling is so large that the results likely reflect sentiments statewide according to the polling company, Magellan Strategies of Colorado. This is a well-respected polling company that is part of the polling data used by Real Clear Politics. This survey (available on the Jefferson Institute’s website) shows that Medicaid is liked by the people of Virginia and they support expansion but only under certain conditions. The results show that the voters of Virginia will accept expansion of Medicaid only after real reforms are implemented that curb waste, fraud, and abuse. Not just promises of reforms, but real quantifiable reforms. This reform-first position is in line with the mission of the Medicaid Commission, and this survey shows that the public supports this approach.
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Expanding Iowa’s Medicaid coverage to top $1 billion

Written by Rod Boshart for The Quad-City Times on September 14, 2013Health Care
DES MOINES — The cost of providing expanded, government-subsidized health-care coverage to needy Iowans is projected to top $1 billion when the Iowa Health and Wellness Plan is largely implemented by July 2015, according to budget documents prepared by the state Department of Human Services. The entire cost of the health-care expansion will be covered by the federal government until 2017, when the state begins to pick up 5 percent of the cost and then pays a 10 percent yearly match beginning in 2020 and beyond, DHS officials say. Initially, the agency estimates the total federal program cost for the expanded health care will be $324.8 million through next June 30 and almost $1.021 billion in fiscal 2015.

“It’s a large number,” said Sen. Amanda Ragan, D-Mason City, one of the architects of the bipartisan compromise approved by the split-control Legislature last session and signed by Gov. Terry Branstad. She noted the figure is similar to the uncompensated charity care that hospitals and others currently provide, which get factored into private insurance rates that consumers pay, so ultimately the hope is to contain or lower costs by getting Iowans to take more responsibility for their health decisions. “I think this is just truly a very rough estimate,” said Sen. Jack Whitver, R-Ankeny, ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Committee and an ex officio member of the Iowa Council on Human Services, who noted the question remains whether federal and state governments can afford the expansion.
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DPS Starts Saturday Hours To Issue Voter ID Cards

Published in CBS Dallas Fort Worth on September 14, 2013Election Law
AUSTIN (CBSDFW.COM/AP) — Nearly 50 Department of Public Safety offices across Texas will open on Saturdays to issue election identification certificates ahead of voting in November. The agency announced Friday that the extended hours are only for those who need an ID in order to vote on Nov. 5. The offices will not transact any other business. Texas will hold a referendum on proposed amendments to the Texas Constitution. It’s the first statewide election where officials will enforce a law requiring voters to produce a photo ID card to vote. To obtain a Voter ID, applicants must bring documentation that will verify U.S. citizenship, be a Texas resident and be 18 years old by the date of the election. If not, the state will furnish them. The law is under court challenge. Election judges will accept driver’s licenses, concealed handgun licenses, U.S. passports, military IDs or naturalization certificates with a photo. Anyone who does not have one of those documents may apply for a free election ID on Saturdays thru Nov. 2. Only certain DPS offices will open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturdays. No action is necessary for people who are registered to vote and already have an approved form of ID, such as a driver’s license
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Many fear EPA rules will hurt WV industry

Written by Dave Boucher for The Charleston Daily Mail on September 13, 2013Energy & Environment
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Few specifics are known about federal carbon emissions standards set for release next week. But reports that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency rules could harm the coal industry drew fierce responses from several West Virginia politicians and industry officials. By the end of next week, the EPA must issue proposed carbon emissions standards for newlybuilt coal-fired power plants in the country. Bloomberg News and The Wall Street Journal both reported those rules will force any new plants to use equipment that industry officials contend either does not exist or is too expensive.

There is no reason to expect the rules won't hurt the coal industry, said Bill Raney, president of the West Virginia Coal Association. "The anticipation is not very good," Raney said. "We're expecting it to be very damaging to West Virginia and the Appalachian states and coal-burning utilities." Raney again said the technology to effectively reduce emissions or "capture" the carbon isn't a feasible option for facilities in the short term. It would realistically take years to implement the technology, at a significant cost, he said.
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Kansas reports job openings increase in 2013

Annual Labor Dept. survey shows 38,000 openings

Published in The Topeka Capitol-Journal on September 13, 2013Economic Prosperity
Job vacancies in Kansas totaled nearly 38,000 in the second quarter of 2013 — an increase of 5.5 percent in the number of openings a year ago, the Kansas Department of Labor reported this week. The increased number of job openings in the department’s annual Kansas Job Vacancy Survey of Kansas employers — conducted to identify the number and types of jobs available in specific industries and regions of the state — showed “the Kansas economy steadily improves, and employers are confident enough to add employees,” Kansas Secretary of Labor Lana Gordon said in a news release.

The survey taken at the same time in 2012 showed some 36,000 job openings, the Labor Department said. The number reported for 2013 was 37,981. The largest number of job openings, the department said, was in the trade, transportation and utilities group, which reported 11,351 vacancies. Educational and health services reported 7,614 openings, while leisure and hospitality businesses reported 4,501 openings. As far as specific positions available, jobs characterized as customer service representatives listed 3,666 vacancies, while there were 3,656 openings reported for retail salespeople.
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Indiana attorney general appeals ruling that 'right to work' law is unconstitutional

Written by Tim Evans for The Indianapolis Star on September 12, 2013Labor Reform
The office of Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller today appealed a Superior Court ruling that found Indiana’s “right to work” law unconstitutional. Lake Superior Court Judge John Sedia ruled last week that the law violates a provision in the state constitution barring the delivery of services "without just compensation." Sedia, who was appointed by then-Gov. Mitch Daniels in 2012, ruled the law incorrectly forces unions to represent workers who don't pay union dues. “We don’t begrudge the right of private plaintiffs to challenge a statute, but my office has a duty to defend the policy-making authority of the people’s elected representatives in the Legislature,” Zoeller said in a statement. The state’s appeal will be heard in the Indiana Supreme Court, rather than the Indiana Court of Appeals, the statement said, because the trial court declared portions of the statute unconstitutional. The law remains intact during the appeals process, the statement said. The case is Sweeney v. Zoeller.
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S.C. attorney general promotes work opposing Washington

Written by Mary Orndorff Troyan for Greenville Online on September 12, 2013Federal Overreach
WASHINGTON – A court decision that reinstated Yucca Mountain, Nev., as a candidate for storing nuclear waste marked a legal victory for states over the federal government, South Carolina AttorneyGeneral Alan Wilson said Thursday. “I was happy when a federal appeals court basically said ... this administration ran afoul of the law by withdrawing Yucca’s application,” Wilson said at the Heritage Foundation in Washington. Wilson was one of four Republican attorneys general who participated in a panel about the battles between states and federal officials over rules and laws involving health care, energy, labor and the environment. “The federal government no longer sees the states as equal partners,” Wilson said. “That’s why we are fighting.” South Carolina was among states that filed suit during President Barack Obama’s first term when the Energy Department halted its analysis of the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste site in the Nevada desert.
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State Board of Education set to vote on revised set of Common Core standards

Written by Jan Murphy for The Patriot News on September 11, 2013Education Reform
Despite a public outcry about it moving education in a wrong direction, the State Board of Education stands ready on Thursday to vote on a set of grade-level learning goals that come with the implementation of Pennsylvania’s first-ever state graduation-testing requirement. The learning goals, called Pennsylvania Core Standards, spell out what students should be able to do at the end of each grade in math and language arts. Along with them, the proposed rules would require students, starting with the Class of 2017, to demonstrate their proficiency in Algebra I, Biology I and language arts on a Keystone Exam, or one of the other state-approved alternative assessments, to graduate.

It’s a move that the board sees as necessary to make high school diplomas more meaningful and to help standardize what students are being taught in schools, among a bevy of other reasons. But its critics, including seven people who addressed the board at Wednesday’s meeting, say it will be too costly. It’s unproven. It will lead to loss of local control over education. And it will increased drop-out rates. “What can we do as parents, taxpayers, to stop the implementation of this horrible program?” said Anastasia Przbylski of Freedom Works, a national grassroots organization battling against the adoption of Common Core standards that she said has 90,000 members in Pennsylvania.
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State could take over three more school districts

Written by Emily Lane for The Clarion Ledger on September 10, 2013Education Reform
The state may soon have three more struggling school districts to run. The Mississippi Department of Education’s Commission on School Accreditation voted Tuesday to send resolutions to the state Board of Education recommending a state of emergency be declared in Claiborne County School District, Yazoo City School District and Leflore County School District. If on Thursday the state board agrees to declare emergencies at the districts — and Gov. Phil Bryant subsequently signs off — the state would take over the districts, removing them from local control and placing them under conservatorship.

The state already has two districts under full conservatorship — Aberdeen School District and Oktibbeha County School District. Tate County School District, Hazlehurst City School District and North Panola School District are also under the state’s control, but the process began this summer to return them to local control and will be completed by July 1, 2014. LeFlore County and Yazoo districts both have schools with patterns of poor performance on state tests, labeling schools as failing. Both are on probation. Action on Claiborne County was expected after state Board of Education asked the commission to consider a takeover last month. Board members had voiced concerns that a proposed withdrawal of accreditation might fail to solve problems with the school board and superintendent. The commission agreed in all three instances Tuesday that the districts met the standards for state takeover, which are designed to ensure children receive a free and appropriate public education to which they are constitutionally entitled.
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Wyoming select education committee to talk accountability

Written by Leah Todd for The Casper Star-Tribune on September 10, 2013Education Reform
A new accountability system to track the state’s public schools, school districts and teachers will be the topic of discussion at a two-day legislative meeting in Newcastle starting Tuesday. The Wyoming Legislature’s Select Committee on Statewide Education Accountability will hear updates on the new accountability system from representatives of Wyoming’s Department of Education, State Board of Education and the National Center for Improvement of Educational Assessment. An act of the 2011 Legislature mandated the accountability efforts, which are aimed at increasing student growth, minimizing achievement gaps and ensuring all students leave Wyoming schools career or college ready.

The committee will also hear an update on the state’s most recent standardized testing results and an update from the Department of Education’s newly appointed director, Rich Crandall, regarding the transfer of duties from the elected Superintendent of Public Instruction, Cindy Hill, to a new, governor-appointed position. The transfer of duties began after the Wyoming Legislature rewrote the superintendent’s job description as part of Senate File 104, which passed the Legislature and was signed into law by Gov. Matt Mead earlier this year. The committee’s first day of meetings begins at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday in the Crouch Auditorium at the Newcastle Middle/High School Complex. A second round of meetings begins at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday in the same location.
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N.J. Governor Moves to Expand Tax Incentives; Other States Tentative

Written by Elaine S. Povich for Stateline on September 10, 2013Economic Prosperity
While states continue to question whether tax incentives do enough to boost economies and jobs, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie threw his support behind a bill to consolidate and expand the state’s main tax incentive programs. The state Assembly  Monday approved the minor changes the governor requested on an overwhelming vote. The Senate will consider the bill later this week. Christie praised its main provisions, but asked the legislature to strike a provision requiring businesses that get the tax credits to pay prevailing wages for maintenance workers at their facilities.

"This bipartisan approach will help keep New Jersey's economy growing and on the right track, and I commend lawmakers on both sides for all their hard work," the Republican governor said in a statement.He said the bill will streamline the economic development programs and “boost our economy.” While New Jersey is set on expanding the tax incentive programs, other states are questioning whether they work as advertised to increase jobs and expand economic growth. Maine, for example, has set up a task force to find $40 million in savings within the state’s tax incentives. Its first meeting is scheduled next week. Without the savings, the state faces cuts to municipal revenue sharing.
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Oklahoma Legislature passes 25 lawsuit reform bills to end weeklong special session

Written by RANDY KREHBIEL & BARBARA HOBEROCK for Tulsa World on September 09, 2013Legal Reform
OKLAHOMA CITY - The House took some persuading, and even then the Republican leadership and the Fallin administration didn't get exactly what they wanted, but a sheaf of 25 lawsuit reform bills went through the final stage of adoption by the Oklahoma Legislature on Monday to bring a weeklong special session to an end. The bills are intended to replace a single, omnibus measure enacted in 2009 and declared unconstitutional by the state Supreme Court in June. Twenty-four of the 25 bills are intended to correct the 2009 law's violation of the state's single-subject rule. The 25th and most controversial deals with the so-called certificate of merit requirement, which the court has twice thrown out on other grounds. House Speaker T.W. Shannon had to come out on the House floor to rustle up the last few votes on that one, SB 1x, as 15 Republicans joined the 21 Democrats on the floor in voting no. Three other Republicans voted "constitutional privilege," and three more were absent, leaving Shannon the bare minimum 51 votes needed for passage.

He never did get the 68 votes needed for the emergency clause, a small victory for the Democratic minority that went through the special session kicking and screaming to the end. The emergency clauses on the last three bills through the House also failed, this time because too many Republicans had left and none of the remaining Democrats cared to bail out the majority. The failed emergency clauses were the only items on Gov. Mary Fallin's to-do list not to be checked. The 21 bills with emergency clauses will become law as soon as they are signed by Fallin. The four without won't become effective until 90 days after signing.
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Indiana Right-to-Work Law Ruled Unconstitutional by State Judge

Written by Andrew Harris for Bloomberg News on September 09, 2013Labor Reform
Indiana’s right-to-work law making it a crime to charge union dues as a condition of employment was ruled unconstitutional by a state court judge. Enacted by now-former Governor Mitch Daniels last year, the measure made it a misdemeanor to require a worker to pay fees, assessments or other charges to a union or a third party to get or keep a job. Opponents called the legislation a wage-lowering union buster. State court Judge John M. Sedia in Hammond concluded it was unlawful because it forced unions to provide benefits to non-members without just compensation. “There is no court which is more loathe to declare any state statute unconstitutional than this one,” Sedia said in a Sept. 5 ruling, saying he had no choice other than to void the law. The judge delayed enforcement of his ruling during an appeal. State Attorney General Greg Zoeller’s office said today it will seek to reverse the ruling.
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