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On the trail: 'Right to work' still faces long odds in the legislature
Detractors sometimes call the proposal “right to work for less,” arguing that the goal of "right to work" is breaking organized labor's clout. They also say it would allow "freeloaders" to get the benefits of union representation without paying for it. Kinder’s remarks were somewhat surprising as they defy conventional wisdom. Even though Republicans have supermajorities in the Missouri House and the Senate, most analysts assume that any right to work proposal would have difficulty getting out of the Missouri Senate. That’s because a bloc of senators can often stall or kill legislation by talking a bill to death. It’s a near certainty all 10 members of the Senate Democratic caucus would participate, and that would be nearly impossible to stop without a “previous question” motion. And the Senate hasn't quashed debate with that maneuver since 2007.
Court: Right-to-work law applies to state workers
The court's majority said legislators have broad authority to pass laws dealing with conditions of "all" employment while the panel has narrow power to regulate conditions of civil service employment. "In light of the First Amendment rights at stake, the Michigan Legislature has made the policy decision to settle the matter by giving all employees the right to choose," Judges Henry Saad and Pat Donofrio wrote, adding that legislators decided to "remove politics from public employment and to end all inquiry or debate about how public sector union fees are spent." Dissenting Judge Elizabeth Gleicher said the court's decision strips the civil service panel of its "regulatory supremacy" clearly laid out in the constitution, which allows the four-member commission to regulate "all conditions of employment" for civil service workers.
Suggestions flow as Missouri legislators weigh options for Medicaid
Medicaid pays for doctor visits, prescription drugs, nursing home care and other services for about 875,000 Missourians — low-income seniors, people with disabilities, and some families with children. Missouri’s program costs state and federal taxpayers about $8.5 billion a year. The expansion would have added working-age people who make up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, or $32,500 a year for a family of four. The federal government would have paid the tab for the first three years, with the state gradually picking up a share.
ND agency leader says new federal rules could slow oil drilling on reservation
Although that represents another record for the state, the figure is about 1 percent below what officials predicted for June and built into state revenue forecasts. “That’s close, but any time that we’re under forecast, we’re concerned and we want to make sure that our forecasts are accurate because our state revenues depend on that,” Helms said. Helms attributed the smaller increase to wet weather that prompted road restrictions to extend into mid-June, making it difficult for crews to haul water and sand needed for hydraulic fracturing. Fracking crews have been working to catch up this summer, and Helms expects larger production increases for July and August.
N.H. study commission weighs pros, cons of Medicaid expansion
The commission, which faces an Oct. 15 deadline to issue a recommendation, heard yesterday from Norton and other policy experts as it weighs the pros and cons of accepting federal money to expand the Medicaid program to cover adults who earn up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level. Under the 2010 health care reform law championed by President Obama, the federal government will pay 100 percent of the expansion’s cost for three years, starting Jan. 1, and at least 90 percent in future years. Deb Fournier, policy analyst at the New Hampshire Fiscal Policy Institute, told the commission that expanding Medicaid would add about 60,000 mostly uninsured people to the program and also provide a boost to the state’s economy.
Senate may vote on Medicaid expansion at end of month
"If you don't give people a reasonable chance to look at these different proposals and provide input, then it's not fair to the people of the state of Michigan," Richardville said. Last month, the Senate Government Operations Committee voted to send HB 4714 to the Senate floor. That plan is supported by Snyder, Democrats and the bulk of the medical and business community. But that committee also voted to send to the floor two other proposals that have not had as much debate or scrutiny. Those plans, contained in SB 422, and in SB 459 and SB 460, do not expand Medicaid, and may cover fewer people and cost more than the plan contained in HB 4714. HB 4714 expands Medicaid to some 450,000 of the state's working poor adults and includes co-pays, but also contains financial incentives to reduce out-of-pocket costs if enrollees meet certain healthy behaviors developed by the Department of Community Health.
Medicaid expansion divisive
State senator: Policy could save Ohio money
State lawmakers have been trying to find common ground on Medicaid since Republican Gov. John Kasich proposed an extension of the federal-state program in February. GOP leaders pulled it from the state budget, and the issue has yet to gain traction in the legislature. Some Republican legislators say they fear being stuck with long-term costs of Medicaid expansion and are leery of expanding government programs. Mr. Burke and Democratic Sen. Capri Cafaro asked the Health Policy Institute of Ohio to compare Medicaid spending without expansion at its current growth rate, with spending that could occur under the expansion at a yearly rate that’s similar to an average cost of medical inflation.
Missouri consumers in the dark as health insurance exchange nears
The keystone of the law — an online marketplace where uninsured consumers can buy insurance, often with federal subsidies — is shrouded in secrecy in Missouri. Unlike some states, which have released detailed information about the proposed premiums that insurers will charge for polices sold through the exchange, Missouri won’t provide any hints. Last November, Missouri voters overwhelmingly approved a law that barred Nixon from setting up the exchange without legislative or voter approval. As a result, the federal government will operate Missouri’s exchange.
Obama’s unconstitutional steps worse than Nixon’s
He continued: “In a normal political environment, it would have been easier for me to simply call up the speaker and say, you know what, this is a tweak that doesn’t go to the essence of the law. . . . It looks like there may be some better ways to do this, let’s make a technical change to the law. That would be the normal thing that I would prefer to do. But we’re not in a normal atmosphere around here when it comes to Obamacare. We did have the executive authority to do so, and we did so.” Serving as props in the scripted charade of White House news conferences, journalists did not ask the pertinent question: “Where does the Constitution confer upon presidents the ‘executive authority’ to ignore the separation of powers by revising laws?” The question could have elicited an Obama rarity: brevity. Because there is no such authority. Obama’s explanation began with an irrelevancy. He consulted with businesses before disregarding his constitutional duty to “take care that the laws be faithfully executed.” That duty does not lapse when a president decides Washington’s “political environment” is not “normal.”
Bill would place new standards and ratings on public and voucher schools
"We want parents to have the best information possible while at the same time making sure all of their choices are quality options," Kestell said in a statement. The bill would cover all schools receiving tax dollars, from traditional public schools to public charter schools and voucher schools. Work on it began two years ago with a task force chaired by Walker and state schools Superintendent Tony Evers, an ally to Democrats, along with Olsen and Kestell. But passage of the complex measure through the Republican-held Legislature is by no means guaranteed. Both Olsen and Kestell have sometimes taken more aggressive postures on overseeing vouchers than some other Republican colleagues, particularly those in the Assembly. On Wednesday, the biggest praise for the bill came from the state Department of Public Instruction led by Evers. DPI spokesman John Johnson said his agency is still evaluating the bill but Johnson found plenty to like in its approach.
Public students won't get voucher preference
The Department of Public Instruction will follow the law as written and perform a random lottery with no preference for public school children if there are more than 500 applicants, spokesman John Johnson said Wednesday. The number of applicants is expected to be released Thursday or Friday. Vouchers had been available only in Milwaukee and the Racine area until Gov. Scott Walker proposed expanding the program earlier this year. The final version as passed by the Legislature allows vouchers statewide, but places an enrollment cap of 500 students this year and 1,000 next year.
Kitzhaber signs bills to boost education
Hard work pays off as test scores for Nebraska students up in math, science, reading
The trends are all positive,” said Scott Swisher, Nebraska's deputy education commissioner. Nebraska educators are working hard to improve students' proficiency on the standards, Swisher said. State officials predicted such improvement when they rolled out the new testing regimen that became fully operational last school year. But state officials also said the trends reflect more than just districts getting up to speed on teaching the new material. Valorie Foy, the state's director of assessment, said the scores reflect student learning.
States elbow for piece of drone windfall
“We were asked: Why does the lieutenant governor travel out here?” North Dakota’s Lt. Gov. Drew Wrigley said. “I don’t look for opportunities to leave the state, but we’re here to try to impress upon people that, at the highest levels of our executive branch in our government in North Dakota, we are partnering with the stakeholders in this important initiative … Our state legislature produced $5 million just a couple months back for just the initial couple of years, to help secure the site, opening up our new test site. And if [we aren’t picked], we’re going to be very active in this arena nevertheless.” At decked-out booths across the AUVSI convention floor, state flags and helpful ambassadors beckoned onlookers to talk about their states’ geographic advantages, practical applications of drone technology and their commitments to being on the forefront of the new market.
Oklahoma Governor Calls Special Session on Lawsuit Reform
Fallin wants legislators to separate the law into appropriate bills, thus reinstating the policy without violating the single subject rule. Leaders of Oklahoma’s House and Senate encouraged Gov. Fallin to call the special session to work on restoring the legislation, according to Associated Press reports. The 2009 legislation made a number of changes to how civil lawsuits are filed and litigated in the state, including redefining what constitutes a frivolous lawsuit and strengthening summary judgment rules that make it easier for a judge to dismiss a lawsuit that has no legal merit.
NH officials told: Do not expand Medicaid
She said it would drive up the federal deficit, people with private insurance will join the state-federal health insurance plan, any future federal cuts in the program could double New Hampshire’s obligation, the program will keep growing and others states that have expanded Medicaid have seen costs escalate. “In my opinion, I don’t think there is one good reason to expand Medicaid,” Herrera said. “I would work to make private insurance more affordable or stand pat on Medicaid.” But Lynda Flowers, senior policy advisor for AARP, said expanding Medicaid to include adults, particularly those between 45 and 64 years old would reduce future costs by keeping that population healthy longer.
Oklahoma’s Challenge to Obama Health-Care Law to Proceed
A Limit on Consumer Costs Is Delayed in Health Care Law
The grace period has been outlined on the Labor Department’s Web site since February, but was obscured in a maze of legal and bureaucratic language that went largely unnoticed. When asked in recent days about the language — which appeared as an answer to one of 137 “frequently asked questions about Affordable Care Act implementation” — department officials confirmed the policy. The discovery is likely to fuel continuing Republican efforts this fall to discredit the president’s health care law. Under the policy, many group health plans will be able to maintain separate out-of-pocket limits for benefits in 2014. As a result, a consumer may be required to pay $6,350 for doctors’ services and hospital care, and an additional $6,350 for prescription drugs under a plan administered by a pharmacy benefit manager.
Holder Announces Federal Drug-Sentencing Changes Already in Many States
Beginning with the 1986 passage of the Anti-Drug Abuse Act targeting the crack cocaine epidemic sweeping American cities, Congress and state legislatures have mandated long-term prison sentences for almost all drug crimes to deter the spread of drug trafficking and addiction. Federal drug sentences begin at a minimum of five years in prison without parole, and judges have no discretion to issue lower sentences. Nearly 30 years later, drug offenders make up 47 percent of the total population in federal prisons, about 89,909 prisoners as of June 29. And according to a new report from the Congressional Research Service, only about 20 percent of those inmates were charged with high-level drug trafficking. The rest of them were convicted of drug dealing or drug possession, according to the report. The federal prisons budget has also continued to grow: The Justice Department spent more than $80 billion on incarceration costs in 2010 alone, Holder said. To stop this cycle, Holder made clear that federal prosecutors should not charge every individual accused of violating federal drug law.
North Carolina governor signs extensive Voter ID law
Democrats and minority groups have been fighting against the changes, arguing that they represent an effort to suppress the minority vote and the youth vote, along with reducing Democrats’ advantage in early voting. They point out that there is little documented evidence of voter fraud. Republicans say that the efforts are necessary to combat such fraud and that shortening the window for early voting will save the state money. They also note that, while the North Carolina law makes many changes to how the state conducts its elections, most of its major proposals — specifically, Voter ID and ending same-day registration — bring it in line with many other states. More than three-fifths of states currently have some kind of Voter ID law, and even more have no same-day registration. Not all states allow in-person early voting.
Budget Cuts Hurt Common Core Implementation
The Common Core State Standards are intended to ensure that students who graduate from high school are prepared to begin careers or enter college without taking remedial courses. Thirty-four states reported that finding adequate resources to implement the Common Core standards has been a challenge; 32 said that developing systems to evaluate how well teachers are using the Common Core has been a challenge. Twenty states said their K-12 education budgets are either lower or the same as last year, and 28 states said funding for their state education agencies is either flat or lower than last year. Of the states with flat or decreased funding in either category, 12 reported having to scale back their Common Core efforts.
Feds approve waiver of No Child Left Behind standards in Maine
No Child Left Behind, which was once again called the Elementary and Secondary Education Act under the Obama administration, has been criticized for demanding 100 percent proficiency, the failure of which would result in federal sanctions. About 67 percent of Maine’s elementary students and 48 percent of high school students have achieved proficiency in reading and math benchmarks, which have become incrementally tougher since the implementation of the act. Instead, Maine will be allowed to work toward the goal of halving the percentage of nonproficient students and raising the graduation rate at Title 1 schools to 90 percent over the next six years. Title 1 is a federal designation for schools with high levels of low-income or otherwise disadvantaged learners. There are 380 Title 1 schools in Maine, though all schools will be eligible for state and federal resources under the new system.
State-run exchange to be delayed a year
Idaho schools try to help low achievers
Idaho Core Standards, tougher requirements for what students should learn, could cause a drop in student proficiency on tests and widen the gap between struggling and successful learners. State education officials say they will put $22 million of state and private money into training teachers to help with student instruction based on the new standards, which go into classrooms this fall. Those standards cover language arts and math, requiring students to learn more deeply and focus on real-world relevance rather than memorize facts and rules. How will school districts extend their safety nets? They’ll add faculty, use more testing and set up special classes to keep students from falling behind, even as they are expected to reach for a higher bar. “(Many) kids who live in poverty ... or are underachieving will need additional quality time to catch up,” said Kathleen Budge, a Boise State University associate professor and coordinator of the college’s education leadership program.
Kinder: Right to work likely to go to Mo. Ballot
"I believe we will pass right-to-work next year and bypass (Nixon) entirely by putting it on the referendum ballot for voters," Kinder publicly declared during the conference. His comments came during a how-to session highlighting the recent passage of a right-to-work law in the historically unionized state of Michigan. Michigan became the 24th state to enact a right-to-work law last December, when GOP Gov. Rick Snyder signed a measure passed by that state's Republican-led Legislature. That came several months after Indiana also enacted right-to-work law. As lieutenant governor, Kinder is the highest ranking Republican state official and is the presiding officer of the Missouri Senate, though he can vote only to break ties and does not schedule bills for debate.