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.

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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The Latest Evidence of Voter Fraud — and Discrimination

Written by Hans Von Spakovsky and John Fund for National Review Online on September 09, 2013Election Law
Obama-administration officials and their liberal camp-followers who routinely claim there is no reason to worry about election integrity because vote fraud is nonexistent suffered some embarrassing setbacks last week. Federal law requires states to clean up their voter rolls.  In 2009, the Obama Justice Department dismissed, with no explanation, a lawsuit filed by the Bush administration asking Missouri for such a clean-up. It has since taken no action against any other state or jurisdiction since it has an unofficial policy of not enforcing this requirement. But private parties are starting to force changes. In Mississippi last Wednesday, the American Civil Rights Union won a significant victory for election integrity when a federal judge approved a consent decree in which Walthall County agreed to finally clean up its bloated voter-registration list. The county has more registered voters than the Census says it has eligible voters. The ACRU sued the county (which went for Romney in 2012) under Section 8 of the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA), which requires election officials to maintain accurate voter rolls through a regular program that removes ineligible voters.

Walthall County will have to remove felons, noncitizens, decedents, and voters who have moved away from its registration list.  As part of the consent decree, the county agreed to start checking its voter list against other state and federal records maintained by the Mississippi DMV, the state departments of vital records and corrections, the local court and local tax authority,  the Social Security Administration, and the Department of Homeland Security. The county must also notify local and federal law-enforcement officials when it finds individuals who registered or voted illegally, such as felons and noncitizens. The ACRU has a second suit still pending against Jefferson Davis County, Miss. (which went for Obama in 2012). This is the first time in the 20 years that the NVRA has been in force that a conservative group has sued to enforce Section 8, while liberal advocacy groups have filed many cases to try to stop election officials from cleaning up their registration lists, a practice which they foolishly label “voter suppression.”
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Teacher evaluations take center stage in Michigan Legislature on Wednesday

Written by Brian Smith for Michigan Live on September 09, 2013Education Reform
LANSING -- The question of how Michigan should evaluate its public school teachers will be up for debate Wednesday in a joint meeting of education committees in the Michigan Legislature. The House and Senate education committees will hear a presentation from Dr. Deborah Ball, chair of the Michigan Council for Educator Effectiveness. The council was created by legislators to make recommendations on how the state should conduct teacher evaluations, which are a key component of Michigan's waiver from No Child Left Behind requirements under federal law. Michigan lawmakers enacted the evaluation requirements as part of a package of bills that made changes to the state's teacher tenure system in 2011.

The report issued by the council earlier this summer recommended a system where direct observation of both teachers and administrators was used along with student performance to determine effectiveness. The system would apply to both teachers and principals. Sen. Phil Pavlov (R-St. Clair Township), who chairs the Senate committee, said after the report was released that the report would be a positive step for the state's public schools. "Student achievement is the top priority, and an evaluation system that supports educators and encourages professional growth will be a game changer for Michigan schools. I want to thank the Council for their dedication to this important task. Future generations of students will greatly benefit from their expertise and hard work," Pavlov said.
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Major N.J. tax break measure a step closer

Written by Maddie Hanna for The Philadelphia Inquirer on September 09, 2013Economic Prosperity
TRENTON - Accepting changes required by Gov. Christie, the Assembly passed legislation Monday that would expand the availability of tax breaks for businesses across the state, with one lawmaker calling the measure "the most comprehensive overhaul of state incentives" in New Jersey's history. The bill, which goes back to the Senate, includes perks for South Jersey: Businesses in eight southern counties would have to create fewer jobs and invest less than companies elsewhere in the state to qualify for the tax credits. Christie, who conditionally vetoed the Economic Opportunity Act earlier in the day, said he would support the sweeping bill only if the Legislature struck provisions that would require maintenance workers on qualifying projects to be paid a prevailing wage and that would give incentives to developers for repurposing health-care facilities. The Assembly voted, 70-6, to go along with Christie's changes. The Senate is to vote on the revised measure Thursday. The bill, which would streamline the state's five economic incentive programs into two, would allow small businesses to qualify for tax breaks as well as companies outside urban areas.
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In Louisiana's health insurance exchange, five companies seek to offer plans

Written by The Times-Picayune for Katherine Sayre and Rebecca Catalanello on September 06, 2013Health Care
In three weeks, millions of the nation's uninsured will be able to go online and shop for health insurance. It will mark the most visible implementation of the much debated Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act since it was signed into law three years ago. Five Louisiana companies have asked to offer dozens of plans to Louisiana residents looking for coverage in the online marketplace, often called an "exchange." But how much consumers will be asked to pay remains to be seen. To get the word out, federally funded groups across Louisiana say they are preparing to storm the state with trained counselors who can help residents enroll beginning Oct. 1, when the exchanges launch. Insurance companies Humana, Coventry, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Louisiana, Vantage and a new organization, Louisiana Health Cooperative, have applied to participate in Louisiana's marketplace and submitted as many as 90 proposed plans to the state Department of Insurance, officials said this week.
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As healthcare law rolls out, its effects will depend on your state

People living in states that back the Affordable Care Act will get substantial help unavailable to those in states that are fighting it. The law kicks in next month.

Written by Noam N. Levey for The Los Angeles Times on September 06, 2013Health Care
WASHINGTON — Colorado residents shopping for health insurance next year will be able to compare health plans using a star system that ranks insurance companies on quality. In Oregon and Maryland, consumers will save as much as 30% on some plans after state regulators forced insurers to lower 2014 premiums. Californians will get extra help selecting a health plan next year from a small army of community workers paid in part by foundations and the state. As President Obama's healthcare law rolls out next month, even supporters acknowledge there will be problems. But Americans who live in states backing the Affordable Care Act will receive substantial protections and assistance unavailable to residents in states still fighting the 2010 law. That could mean confusion and higher insurance premiums for millions of consumers in states resisting the law.

Leaders in these resistant states have not set up consumer hot lines. Several state insurance regulators are refusing to make sure health plans offer new protections required by the law, such as guaranteed coverage for people who are ill. In response to the law, Florida suspended its authority to review how much insurance companies charge consumers. "I would certainly rather be in a state that is trying than in one that is not," said Alan Weil, executive director of the National Academy for State Heath Policy. "There are going to be some big differences." The Affordable Care Act was supposed to smooth out disparities in insurance coverage and healthcare quality between states, providing all Americans with a basic level of protection.
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Oil tax bill referendum to appear on August 2014 ballot

Written by Matt Buxton for The Fairbanks Daily News – Miner on September 06, 2013Energy & Environment
FAIRBANKS — The Alaska Division of Elections has certified a referendum on Gov. Sean Parnell’s oil tax bill for the ballot next year. Elections Director Gail Fenumiai, in a letter to lead referendum backer Vic Fischer earlier this week, certified that the referendum has met all the requirements necessary to appear on the Aug. 19, 2014, statewide primary election ballot. The letter confirmed that petitioners across the state gathered 45,664 voter signatures, surpassing the 30,169 signature requirement that was based on the 2012 general election turnout. The group gathered 52,649 signatures, some of which were disqualified in the review process.

Fischer, who is a former state senator and delegate to the Alaska Constitutional Convention, applauded the step in a news release Thursday. “This is a great victory for Alaskans,” said Fischer, a prime sponsor of the repeal effort. “Alaskans deserve a fair share of the wealth generated from our oil fields. Repealing the giveaway will help ensure that.” Parnell and a newly elected Republican majority in the Legislature passed Senate Bill 21 earlier this year to cut overall taxation on oil in a bid to reverse decades of faltering production. Opponents, like Fischer, have argued against the bill, saying it gives too much away and contains no guarantees of new production. If passed, the bill would return Alaska to the Alaska’s Clear and Equitable Share, or ACES, tax, which both Republicans and Democrats agreed needed revisions.
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New Wyoming education director supports reform

Written by Associated Press for The Casper Star-Tribune on September 06, 2013Education Reform
CHEYENNE — Wyoming is on the right track in its effort to hold schools and educators accountable for the academic performance of their K-12 students, according to Richard Crandall, the new director of the state Department of Education. “I do think we need a common vision of where we want to be five years from now so that everybody can play a key role in it,” Crandall said. “I think we’ll be able to agree on that and then it’s just a matter of implementing the plan.” With the amount of money Wyoming spends on education — the state is among the highest nationally in education spending per capita — it’s proper to ask why students aren’t among the top five performers nationally in the classroom, Crandall said. The state Legislature has been working for several years on establishing the best ways to test and measure student academic performance and how to hold individual schools, administrators and teachers responsible for students not being prepared for college or careers. The effort has included requiring all 11th-grade students take the ACT test and requiring a 16-to-1 student-to-teacher ratio in kindergarten through third grades.

While some education reform measures have been implemented, others, such as how to evaluate teachers, are still being worked out by lawmakers. The Education Department is a key player in implementing the reforms. It is one of the reasons why the Legislature and Gov. Matt Mead decided to enact a law replacing the statewide superintendent of public instruction with a director appointed by the governor. The idea was to take the agency out of the hands of politicians and place it in the hands of an administrator who has a better understanding of complicated education issues. Crandall, who took over the agency Aug. 5, said in a recent interview that implementing Wyoming’s education reform will be challenging because it will take time to see results.
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W.Va. attorney general criticizes lack of health care answers

Written by The Associated Press for The Charleston Daily Mail on September 05, 2013Health Care
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Attorney General Patrick Morrisey is criticizing federal health care officials for refusing to respond to questions over a plan to hire workers to help walk people through their health insurance options under the Affordable Care Act. Morrisey and a dozen other state attorneys general sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services last month pointing out privacy concerns with the plan to hire navigators to help roll out the health care reforms. They asked for a response by Aug. 28. Morrisey's office also sent a Freedom of Information Act request to the department Aug. 21 seeking information on the program. Morrisey said Wednesday he was disappointed he hasn't received a response.

"We are very concerned about the risk of identity theft if holes in the policy aren't addressed immediately or if the implementation of health care exchanges isn't delayed to allow for better regulations, more training for consumer outreach programs and better fraud prevention," Morrisey said in a release. "We had sincerely hoped for a response from the Department to at least let us know that they were working to address our concerns." A department spokesman did not immediately return a request for comment. Navigators will provide a variety of services to those trying to choose an insurance plan under the new exchanges -- online marketplaces to purchase health insurance. Exchanges are scheduled to begin enrolling applicants Oct. 1. The navigators could have access to a variety of personal information, including Social Security numbers and tax documents. Morrisey and other attorneys general argued that the rules fail to ensure that navigators will be adequately trained to protect private information, nor do they make clear who is responsible if an identity theft occurs.
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Miss. to set up exchange for business health plans

Written by Jeff Amy for Associated Press on September 05, 2013Health Care
Mississippi Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney plans to move ahead with a health insurance exchange for small businesses after federal officials approved regulations to allow the move. The Department of Health and Human Services had proposed a rule that would have barred states that didn’t run an individual marketplace from setting up a separate exchange for businesses with fewer than 50 employees. Last week, federal officials adopted a rule advocated by Chaney that allows Mississippi to set up what’s called a Small Business Health Options, or SHOP exchange. Chaney said he’s scheduled to meet Sept. 18 with federal officials and expects to get formal approval then, with plans to roll out the new marketplace in early 2014.

Utah already has approval to run only a SHOP exchange, and Chaney said he knew of no other state besides Mississippi expected to follow that route immediately. Chaney fought for Mississippi to run the individual marketplace as well. But his effort was blocked by Gov. Phil Bryant, a fellow Republican, who opposes participation in the federal health overhaul. As a result, the federal government will run Mississippi’s individual market when enrollment begins Oct. 1.
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Mead remains uneasy on Medicaid expansion

Written by Trevor Brown for Wyoming Tribune Eagle on September 05, 2013Health Care
CHEYENNE -- Gov. Matt Mead said he still is apprehensive about plans to extend health coverage to more than 17,000 low-income residents by entering into an optional Medicaid expansion. Mead said Wednesday that he still has many of the same concerns about the expansion that he did last year. "The tough decision, of course, for all of us is whether or not we do the optional expansion," he said. "(Questions remain about) how it will be paid for by the federal government, whether they live up to that obligation and, if they fail to live up to that obligation, what would we do about it as a state and how would we address that." The optional expansion n eligibility to most adults with incomes below 133 percent of the federal poverty line n is a key component of the federal Affordable Care Act. But the U.S. Supreme Court ruled last year that states can decide if they want to extend Medicaid.

The federal government says it would pay 100 percent of the costs of the expansion group for the first three years. States would then pay 5 percent in 2017, 6 percent in 2018, 7 percent in 2019, and 10 percent in 2020 and beyond. Mead’s comments come on the heels of a recently released Wyoming Department of Health report that identifies several new ways that the state could enter the expansion. Among the choices it considered, the department recommended an option that would work similarly to the traditional expansion. However, it would offer fewer or more limited benefits that could be tailored to the new expansion group. The proposal, which is being called “Medicaid Fit,” would still require the benefits to meet the standards of a similar private insurance plan. But it would give the state additional flexibility after meeting those benchmarks. “‘Medicaid Fit’ provides a middle ground between private insurance and traditional Medicaid,” the report states.
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State OKs 11 new charter schools for Charlotte area

Written by Ann Doss Helms for The Charlotte Observer on September 05, 2013Education Reform
The Charlotte region will remain at the center of North Carolina’s charter-school boom for at least one more year, as the state Thursday approved 11 new schools to open in Mecklenburg and Cabarrus counties in 2014. The N.C. Board of Education approved 26 charters statewide, including nine in Mecklenburg and two in Cabarrus. The new schools expect to serve about 3,200 students in 2014-15, growing to about 9,900 total seats as they add grades. No other area had nearly as many. The Triangle area will get six new schools, including four in Wake County, which has the state’s largest public school district.

Charters are an alternative type of public school, approved by the state and run by independent nonprofit boards (some contract with for-profit management companies). They charge no tuition and are not limited by county lines or other attendance boundaries. Unlike regular public schools, they don’t have to offer busing or meals, and they don’t get local money for buildings. Since state lawmakers lifted the 100-school cap in 2011, the state has seen a surge of interest in charters, especially in the Charlotte region. This year 23 new charters opened statewide, including six in the Charlotte area.
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Special Session Starts Today

Written by Michael Cross for KOSU on September 03, 2013Legal Reform
State lawmakers return to the capitol today for a Special Session to fix a Comprehensive Tort Reform bill declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in June. Justices ruled House Bill 1603 passed in 2009 and signed by then Governor Brad Henry contained too many subjects and thus constituted log rolling. The Governor and legislative leaders are hoping to get through as many as 30 bills passed over the next two weeks. While it’s been seven years since lawmakers called a special session, this one wasn’t much of a surprise to political science professor Keith Gaddie.

“If you look back at the history of what the Republican legislature has been doing, this is one of the hallmark pieces of legislation that the chamber and the business community have been pushing for. Hearing that it had been overturned by the Supreme Court you had to know a special session was going to follow.” The seven to two ruling came down from the State Supreme Court just a few days after lawmakers ended the regular session. Over the past two and a half months, Senate staffers worked tirelessly to create the individual bills needed to replace House Bill 1603. Also, state leaders needed to plan the perfect time when all of their lawmakers returned from their summer vacation. Gaddie says the sooner the better as timing becomes essential.
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