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.

How Obamacare Makes Theft Of Your Identity More Likely

Written by Patrick Morrisey for Forbes on August 25, 2013Health Care
It seems as if every day brings a new Obamacare disaster—missed deadlines, soaring costs, unintelligible bureaucratic requirements.  Now add the risk of potential rampant identity theft to the list.  Last week, the Obama Administration doled out tens of millions of dollars to “community groups” across the country, with few strings attached.  These groups — and those posing as them — could gain access to consumer addresses, Social Security numbers, and medical information.  It’s the President’s gift to some of his grassroots allies.  And it could be a bonanza for identity thieves. It’s all part of the so-called “navigator” program, where community groups will take to the phones, streets, and hospitals to sign people up for Obamacare.  But in its rush to get this taxpayer-funded marketing scheme off the ground, the Administration left consumer privacy behind.  Federal regulations governing the program don’t require these groups to do background checks to weed out criminals and would-be identity thieves. Nor do they need to be licensed, bonded, or insured– though they may choose themselves to take these steps or perform background checks.

Worse still, although the law passed in 2010, community groups seeking to become navigators received grants 32 business days before the new healthcare exchanges are set to open.  That’s not much time to screen, hire, and train thousands of new workers before they start entering people’s personal information in insurance applications.
States are scrambling to plug the hole.  State attorneys general are charged with protecting our consumers.  So together with twelve other state AGs, I’ve asked the Administration for information to better assess how we can protect our constituents from the program’s risk of identity theft.  We’re waiting for a response.
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Controversial Texas Voter ID Law Likely Enforced Next Week

Published in CBS Dallas Fort Worth on August 23, 2013Election Law
AUSTIN (AP) — Unless a federal judge intervenes, the South Texas city of Edinburg could be the first to enforce a new voter ID law next week, and lawyers will likely use the special election to gather evidence to strengthen lawsuits to block it in the future. While the U.S. Justice Department and several civil rights groups have filed federal lawsuits to block the requirement that voters produce a state-issued photo ID, no one as of Friday had asked for a restraining order to stop enforcement of the law. That means it will be in effect when early voting in the city’s special election begins Wednesday. Allowing Texas to enforce the law could be part of a larger legal strategy to defeat it in the long run.

Texas has been the center of the fight over voting laws after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June that Congress must update how it enforces the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Texas is the only state in the last three years where a federal judge has ruled the Legislature intentionally discriminated against minorities. Federal judges in Corpus Christi are hearing two cases opposing Texas’ voter ID law: One filed in June by Democratic U.S. Rep. Marc Veasey, the League of United Latin American Citizens, the NAACP and Dallas County and a new one filed Thursday by the Justice Department. Both cases will likely be combined by Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos, an Obama administration appointee.
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Attorney General to Appeal Regional Haze Decision

Published in The Ardmoreite on August 22, 2013Federal Overreach
OKLAHOMA CITY — Attorney General Scott Pruitt Wednesday announced the state’s plan to ask for a rehearing before the full Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals in Oklahoma’s Regional Haze case against the EPA. In July, a three-judge panel voted 2-1 in favor of the federal agency. “We strongly disagree with the judges’ decision and the basis for their findings. As Judge Kelly said in his dissenting opinion, the EPA misrepresented the facts, made assumptions and provided no factual support for its conclusions,” General Pruitt said. “Regional Haze is about aesthetics, not health, and states have a say in how the regulations are implemented. Part of that role is considering the cost to our consumers.”

The Regional Haze Rule under the Clean Air Act requires agencies to work together to improve visibility at national parks and wilderness areas by 2064. Oklahoma’s industry leaders, elected officials, utility companies, consumer protection advocates and energy producers spent months creating a State Implementation Plan to address the requirements of the rule in multiple parts of the state, submitting it to the EPA in 2010. The state plan accomplished the regional haze requirements by 2026, decades before the deadline, while significantly reducing the effect on utility consumers. The EPA denied Oklahoma’s plan and instead implemented its own federal plan, without following the requirements listed in the Clean Air Act. Utility officials estimated the federal plan would increase utility rates for Oklahomans by 13 percent to 20 percent over three years. The 10th Circuit stayed implementation of the federal plan in June 2012. The three-judge panel ruled on the case July 19.
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State legislation leads to boom in technical education

High schools no longer pay tuition for Washburn Tech

Written by Celia Llopis-Jepsen for The Topeka Capitol-Journal on August 22, 2013Education Reform
Seaman High School senior Tori Munsell’s school day starts much like any other student’s. The 17-year-old has three classes in the morning — chemistry, government and British literature. But in the afternoon, Munsell heads to the Washburn Institute of Technology, where she spends five afternoons a week learning graphic design. “I feel like this is going to start my career faster,” Munsell said. “I can build a portfolio.”

Munsell is one of 400 high school students enrolled at the technical college so far this semester. They study alongside high school graduates, accruing college credit before even finishing school. And under legislation passed in 2012, these students and their schools don’t pay tuition. Instead, the state picks up the tab in hopes that more teens will learn trades their junior and senior years. The idea may be Gov. Sam Brownback’s most popular education initiative. That high-schoolers should have better access to career and technical education is a rare area where many politicians, educators and businesses agree.
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Nevada AFL-CIO condemns provision of Obamacare

Written by Andrew Doughman for The Las Vegas Sun on August 21, 2013Health Care
The Nevada State AFL-CIO passed a resolution slamming Obamacare today. The union claims certain provisions of the law would destroy union health plans, making the usual staunch allies of President Barack Obama just the latest Las Vegas union to publicly condemn the health care law. Unions had originally backed the law but have grown increasingly skeptical of what union leaders like D Taylor, head of UNITE Here and former head of Las Vegas’ Culinary Local 226, called the law’s “perverse incentives” that potentially could shutter union Taft-Hartley health plans and leave workers without good health insurance. Union leaders are concerned with a provision of the law that call for the provision of health insurance for people who work more than 30-hours per week, meaning workers’ hours could be cut so that employers don’t have to provide health insurance.

“The unintended consequences of the ACA will lead to the destruction of the 40 hour work week, higher taxes and force union members onto more costly plans,” the resolution reads. The Nevada State AFL-CIO passed its resolution just hours after U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., addressed the union at its annual convention at the Excalibur. Reid made no mention of Obamacare during his brief speech and instead talked about federal transportation spending before introducing the chief of the federal Department of Labor, who also delivered remarks to the union.
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Employers dropping coverage for thousands of spouses over ObamaCare costs

Published in Fox News on August 21, 2013Health Care
Republican lawmakers are raising new concerns about ObamaCare after several large employers announced they are dropping health coverage for some employee spouses due to rising costs under the new law. Both the University of Virginia and UPS told their employees recently they are no longer offering spousal coverage to those able to obtain insurance elsewhere; meaning thousands of Americans will no longer be able to choose the benefits they prefer. UVA said Wednesday this is only one of many “major changes” coming to their health plans as a result of ObamaCare. The university says the changes are necessary because the law is projected to add $7.3 million to the cost of the university’s health plan in 2014 alone.

“The modified plan will provide new options and reward those who participate in wellness programs,” UVA’s Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer Susan Carkeek said in a press release. “But we must make adjustments or face millions of dollars in rising costs, fees and taxes that would be passed along to employees.” Similarly, UPS partially blamed the new health law for the change, which is estimated to affect roughly 15,000 employee spouses.
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Forget Congress, some states show how to pass tax reform

Written by Niraj Chokshi for The Washington Post on August 20, 2013Economic Prosperity
Love it or hate it, North Carolina this year achieved something the federal government isn’t expected to do any time soon: tax reform. While Sen. Max Baucus and Rep. David Camp, the Democratic and Republican heads of Congress’s tax-writing committees, lay the foundation for federal tax reform with their “Max and Dave” national tour, states like North Carolina have already debated and passed tax reform of their own. Chalk it up to whatever you want—an easier time getting the message across, an easier political climate, fewer vested interests or more urgency—but plenty of tax changes are underway at the state level. “We have definitely seen a number of states attempt to move and in some cases move some very divergent tax policy,” says Nick Johnson, vice president for state fiscal policy at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a Washington D.C. think tank.

Unlike the gridlocked federal legislative and executive branches, many states are under single-party control, making it easier to pass major tax changes. Legislatures in 46 states are controlled by a single party. The last time there were as few truly split states was 1944, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Even if you take into account the parties of state governors, there are 38 states with single-party control. In other words, many states have political climates conducive to getting something done, especially in places like North Carolina where Republicans took control of the legislature for the first time in more than 100 years in 2010.
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Western haze triggers battle over new pollution controls

Environment » Two sides offer different views on EPA proposal.

Written by Judy Fahys for The Salt Lake Tribune on August 19, 2013Federal Overreach
An environmental group is squaring off online with Rocky Mountain Power over plans to clean up emissions from a Wyoming Power plant. HEAL Utah says the electric company is trying to dodge pollution controls the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is proposing to clean up the air and dawdling on improvements to its renewable-energy portfolio. The group has set up a Web page encouraging Utahns to voice their support for the EPA proposal by next Monday and has developed a video, The Dirty Truth, to make its case. "Instead of doing the serious work of mapping out a clean energy future, Rocky Mountain Power is using its considerable resources to fight the Clean Air Act and to fight environmental protection," said HEAL’s Christopher Thomas. "It’s time Utahns learned the truth about this company."

Last month Rocky Mountain Power joined with other Wyoming electric providers in a Web campaign to encourage ratepayers to weigh in against the EPA plan. The controls EPA favors would cost around $1 billion and would do only a little more than Wyoming’s alternate proposal, the page says. "Rocky Mountain Power has invested $1.5 billion to comply with environmental rules at our power plants," said company spokesman David Eskelsen. "We support the Wyoming state plan for regional haze and believe EPA’s proposal is extreme and costly for little benefit. What’s more, the company is a national leader in owning wind power plants."
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On the trail: 'Right to work' still faces long odds in the legislature

Written by Jason Rosenbaum for St. Louis Beacon on August 19, 2013Labor Reform
Between three terms in the Missouri Senate and over two terms as lieutenant governor, it’s fair to say that Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder knows how the upper chamber of the Missouri General Assembly operates. That may be why Kinder’s declaration about “right to work's” legislative prospects grabbed so much attention. At a conference of the American Legislative Exchange Council in Chicago, the Associated Press quoted the Republican: “I believe we will pass right-to-work next year and bypass (Gov. Jay Nixon) entirely by putting it on the referendum ballot for voters.” “Right to work,” of course, is the shorthand supporters use to describe laws barring unions and employers from requiring workers to pay union dues if a majority vote to organize. Proponents say that companies are more attracted to states that adopt the policy.

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.
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Court: Right-to-work law applies to state workers

Written by Associated Press for Crains Detroit Business on August 15, 2013Labor Reform
LANSING – Michigan's right-to-work law applies to 35,000 state employees, a divided state appeals court ruled Thursday in the first major legal decision on the much-debated measure eight months after it passed. Judges voted 2-1 to reject a lawsuit filed by unionized workers who make up more than two-thirds of all state employees. In a state with a heavier presence of organized labor than most, thousands of protesters came to the Capitol late last year as the Republican-backed measure won quick approval in a lame-duck session. The law prohibits forcing public and private workers in Michigan to pay union dues or fees as a condition of employment, and applies to labor contracts extended or renewed after late March. It went to court after questions were raised whether it can affect state employees, because the Michigan Civil Service Commission, which sets compensation for state employees, has separate powers under the state constitution.

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.
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Suggestions flow as Missouri legislators weigh options for Medicaid

Written by Virginia Young for St. Louis Post-Dispatch on August 15, 2013Health Care
JEFFERSON CITY • Give patients with chronic diseases a health care team. Monitor a state database to spot abuse of prescription drugs. Reward pregnant teens who keep their doctor appointments. Those were among the many suggestions that flowed Wednesday to a Senate committee examining ways to improve the quality and efficiency of Medicaid, the joint state and federal health care program for the poor. The Senate hearing was one of two held Wednesday as Missouri legislators grapple with whether to expand Medicaid to cover an additional 260,000 people, as envisioned by the federal Affordable Care Act. A House committee, meeting in St. Louis, heard from a long list of witnesses who urged that the program be expanded.

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.
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ND agency leader says new federal rules could slow oil drilling on reservation

Written by Amy Dalrymple for The Forum of Fargo-Morehead on August 15, 2013Energy & Environment
BISMARCK – Proposed federal rules on hydraulic fracturing would slow oil activity on the Fort Berthold Reservation and other lands in North Dakota, the state’s top oil and gas regulator said Thursday. Lynn Helms, director of the Department of Mineral Resources, said during his monthly oil production update that proposed Bureau of Land Management rules would slow the process of getting permits and add unnecessary expenses. “It will be something we can work through over time and achieve variances to the BLM rule, but that will be a slow process,” said Helms, who met with bureau representatives this week. North Dakota oil production increased 1.3 percent in June to an average of 821,415 barrels per day, according to preliminary figures released Thursday.

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.
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N.H. study commission weighs pros, cons of Medicaid expansion

Written by BEN LEUBSDORF for The Concord Monitor on August 14, 2013Health Care
Should New Hampshire expand its Medicaid program? The commission studying that policy question yesterday heard a lot of reasons for why it should, and a bunch of reasons for why it shouldn’t. “There are both positives and negatives, and I can very easily come up with five reasons why we want to and five reasons why we don’t. . . . That’s easy for me to do,” said Steve Norton, executive director of the New Hampshire Center for Public Policy Studies. “Weighing those is the difficult part. That requires value judgments.”

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.
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Senate may vote on Medicaid expansion at end of month

Written by Chris Gautz for Crains Detroit Business on August 14, 2013Health Care
Now that the Legislature's two-month summer break is almost over, a vote on Medicaid expansion in the Senate could be around the corner. Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville, R-Monroe, said there is likely to be a vote when the full Senate returns for regular session on Aug. 27. The Senate is also in session Aug. 28. Richardville said Senate Republicans are going on a retreat in a week or so and will discuss how best to go forward. Since leaving for break without taking the vote as Gov. Rick Snyder had wanted, Richardville said he has taken quite a bit of heat for being more deliberate with the issue, but said it is one that will affect people for years and it's more important to get it right. There was another chance today to take the vote, but session lasted less than 10 seconds before it was adjourned. Richardville deflected any potential criticism for not taking the vote today.

"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.
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Medicaid expansion divisive

State senator: Policy could save Ohio money

Written by ASSOCIATED PRESS for The Blade on August 14, 2013Health Care
COLUMBUS — Projections showing that Ohio could save state and federal dollars by expanding Medicaid are just one part of a fact-finding process for state lawmakers debating changes to the health program, a key Republican lawmaker said Tuesday. State Sen. Dave Burke, who chairs a Senate Medicaid subcommittee, said the recent analysis indicates that curbing Medicaid’s cost growth to a certain rate is feasible, even when more people are enrolled. “Crafting policy about how we get there is where the cantankerous issues come up,” said Mr. Burke, of Marysville.

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.
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Missouri consumers in the dark as health insurance exchange nears

Written by Virginia Young for St. Louis Post-Dispatch on August 14, 2013Health Care
JEFFERSON CITY • You won’t find Dwight Fine’s name on the Missouri state payroll. But the retired hospital association executive has been working for state government the last three years. In health care circles, he’s known as the state’s Affordable Care Act coordinator. The Missouri Foundation for Health, a St. Louis-based nonprofit group, pays Fine’s salary and “loans” him to the state. He reports to the social services director. Having an invisible coordinator is just one example of how the administration of Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat, has walked a political tightrope as the state gets ready for a federal initiative that the Republican-led Legislature strongly opposes and state voters have weighed in against — twice.

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.
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Obama’s unconstitutional steps worse than Nixon’s

Written by George F. Will for The Washington Post on August 14, 2013Federal Overreach
President Obama’s increasingly grandiose claims for presidential power are inversely proportional to his shriveling presidency. Desperation fuels arrogance as, barely 200 days into the 1,462 days of his second term, his pantry of excuses for failure is bare, his domestic agenda is nonexistent and his foreign policy of empty rhetorical deadlines and red lines is floundering. And at last week’s news conference he offered inconvenience as a justification for illegality. Explaining his decision to unilaterally rewrite the Affordable Care Act (ACA), he said: “I didn’t simply choose to” ignore the statutory requirement for beginning in 2014 the employer mandate to provide employees with health care. No, “this was in consultation with businesses.”

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.”
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Bill would place new standards and ratings on public and voucher schools

Written by Jason Stein for The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel on August 14, 2013Education Reform
Madison — All schools funded by state taxpayers — including private voucher schools — would be held to new standards and Milwaukee's public schools would still face state intervention, under long-expected legislation offered Wednesday by two key GOP lawmakers. Work has been under way for two years on the measure, which would establish the first-ever rating for private voucher schools based on their student performance data. It comes a month and a half after lawmakers and Gov. Scott Walker expanded Wisconsin's voucher program for private schools statewide. The measure would not change the status of Milwaukee Public Schools, which under the state's current accountability system is the only district in Wisconsin so far to face corrective action. The new standards were proposed Wednesday by the chairmen of the Senate and Assembly education committees, Sen. Luther Olsen (R-Ripon) and Rep. Steve Kestell (R-Elkhart Lake).

"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.
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Public students won't get voucher preference

Written by Associated Press for Appleton Post-Crescent on August 14, 2013Education Reform
MADISON — Public schools students will not get preference over those already in private school as they compete against one another for a limited number of taxpayer subsidized vouchers available this fall, even though Republican leaders said Wednesday that was not their intent. The law passed in June by the Legislature only gives preference to public schoolstudents if fewer than 500 students apply. If more than 500 apply as expected, a random drawing will be done with the only preference given to siblings of students already in the private school.

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.
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Kitzhaber signs bills to boost education

Written by Queenie Wong for Statesman Journal on August 14, 2013Education Reform
Gov. John Kitzhaber ceremonially signed four bills Tuesday aimed at improving the state’s public education system so all Oregonians will earn a high school diploma by 2025. It’s part of the state’s goal, called “40-40-20,” that also will ensure that by 2025 40 percent of Oregonians will have a post-secondary certificate and 40 percent will hold a bachelor’s degree or higher. “The belief is that every child in this state has the capacity to learn regardless of geography, race, income or home language,” Kitzhaber told a group of educators, lawmakers and civic leaders gathered at the Broadway Commons in Salem. The four bills represent $75 million in strategic investments that will help the state achieve its education goals, he said.
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Hard work pays off as test scores for Nebraska students up in math, science, reading

Written by Jonathon Braden, Julie Anderson and Joe Dejka for The Omaha World-Herald on August 14, 2013Education Reform
It's like they've done this before. Nebraska's public school students improved their scores on the state science test during the second year of the exam, according to data released Tuesday. The gains repeat what has happened before in Nebraska's still-young testing system: Teachers get familiar with the new standards, on which the tests are based, districts align what's taught to the standards, and scores go up. School districts followed those steps in boosting their reading and math scores after those tests debuted. And public school students continued making gains in those areas as well, officials said Tuesday.

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.
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States elbow for piece of drone windfall

Written by LEIGH MUNSIL for Politico on August 14, 2013Economic Prosperity
The drones of the future could bring a windfall for the U.S. economy, boosters hope — so states are elbowing to get a taste of the action. Twenty-four states have submitted proposals to the Federal Aviation Administration to be test sites for unmanned aircraft, competing to be among six selected by the end of the year. But the test-site selection is just the beginning, officials said Tuesday at the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International conference in Washington. The unmanned systems commercial market is set to explode, they say, and states such as Oklahoma, North Dakota, New Mexico, Utah, Ohio and Idaho are jostling to position themselves to reap the economic benefits.

“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.
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Oklahoma Governor Calls Special Session on Lawsuit Reform

Published in The Insurance Journal on August 13, 2013Legal Reform
Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin has called for a special session of the Oklahoma Legislature, to begin Sept. 3 for work on lawsuit reform. Gov. Mary Fallin’s executive order calls on lawmakers to re-institute components of House Bill 1603, a comprehensive lawsuit reform package signed into law in 2009. HB 1603 was designed to reduce the number of frivolous lawsuits and medical malpractice claims filed in Oklahoma, making the state more business friendly and protecting Oklahoma physicians from frivolous lawsuits. It was passed with bipartisan support and signed into law by Democratic Governor Brad Henry. Earlier this year, the law was struck down by the Oklahoma Supreme Court for violating the Constitution’s “single-subject” rule, a prohibition on legislative logrolling.

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.
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NH officials told: Do not expand Medicaid

Written by GARRY RAYNO for New Hampshire Union Leader on August 13, 2013Health Care
CONCORD — The commission studying the possible expansion of Medicaid eligibility under the Affordable Care Act heard two sides of the issue Tuesday. While one expert told the nine-member commission that she sees no reason a state would want to expand Medicaid eligibility, others said it would save money over time through preventative care and the decline in the use of expensive emergency room services. Christie Herrera of the Foundation for Government Accountability and former Health and Human Services Task Force director for the American Legislative Exchange Council, gave the commission five reasons why New Hampshire should 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.
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Oklahoma’s Challenge to Obama Health-Care Law to Proceed

Written by Andrew Harris for Bloomberg on August 13, 2013Federal Overreach
Oklahoma won court approval to proceed with a federal lawsuit challenging tax aspects of President Barack Obama’s 2010 health-care legislation. U.S. District Judge Ronald A. White in Muskogee, Oklahoma, yesterday denied the federal government’s request for complete dismissal of a lawsuit first filed in 2011 over the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. While White tossed claims that the act’s mandatory minimum-coverage provision exceeded Congress’ powers and that a related Internal Revenue Service rule is unconstitutional as applied to Oklahoma employees, he said the U.S. must defend three counts arising from that same IRS rule. “Oklahoma challenged implementation of the Affordable Care Act after the IRS finalized a rule that would allow the federal government to punish ‘large employers’ including local government with millions of dollars of tax penalties in states without health care exchanges, which is not allowed under the health care law,” state Attorney General Scott Pruitt said in a statement yesterday.
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