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.

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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Virginia lawmakers try to enshrine right-to-work law in state Constitution

Published in Fox News on September 03, 2013Labor Reform
As Americans everywhere celebrate work by taking a day off from it, the future of worker freedom in the Old Dominion isn't set in stone. And some Virginia lawmakers want to make sure it is. Virginia has long touted its status as a right to work state, meaning a person a person can't be denied a job or fired for not joining a labor union. But the law, despite its sacred status among Republicans and many Democrats, has never made it into the safety net of Virginia's Constitution. And as disagreements over the role of labor unions highlight the 2013 race for governor, the life and death of a law can hinge on who holds power. Lawmakers say the law is strong and safe for now -- but that isn't a guarantee for future generations.

"I think it's important because the right-to-work law, as great as it is -- and I'm glad we have it -- it's statute and it's always subject to change," said Delegate Richard "Dickie" Bell, who attempted in both the 2012 and 2013 sessions to pass legislation that would begin the uphill battle of  enshrining the law in the state's constitution. "An administrative change or someone with opposing views to right to work, with the right numbers in place, could overturn it," Bell said. "I don't think that'll happen in Virginia in my lifetime, but the possibility does exist. If we make it a part of the constitution, it becomes much more permanent. And undoing it would be very difficult, if not impossible." But, nearly as impossible is etching something into Virginia's Constitution. The Old Dominion requires both the Senate and House of Delegates pass a bill in two separate legislative cycles, with an election in between those passages. Then, that bill has to go to the people for a vote at the ballot box.
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10 years on, tort reform sees suits, payouts drop

Written by The Associated Press for The News Observer on September 01, 2013Legal Reform
AUSTIN, Texas — Ten years after the Texas Legislature capped damages in the state's medical malpractice lawsuits, the number of suits and the amounts paid out have fallen sharply. The Austin American Statesman reported (http://bit.ly/15rYYMk ) Sunday that state Department of Insurance data shows medical malpractice claims, including lawsuits, resolved in a year fell by nearly two-thirds between 2003 and 2011 to 450. The average payout declined 22 percent to about $199,000. Supporters of the "tort reform" law say doctors worry less about being sued and have seen their malpractice insurance premiums fall. Opponents counter that tort reform has barred many injured by doctors from going to court or relatives suing after losing a loved one due to medical malpractice. The law took effect Sept. 1, 2003, and limited damages for pain and suffering in most malpractice cases to $250,000. Texas is one of 31 states to cap damages, though there is no limit on economic damages like reimbursement for medical bills or lost wages.
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Immigration Reform 2013: House Gang Preps Comprehensive Bill For October Push

Written by Laura Matthews for International Business Times on August 29, 2013Immigration & Homeland Security
After years of waiting and several missed deadlines, the House of Representative’s bipartisan “Gang of Seven” is ready to push its 2013 comprehensive immigration reform bill sometime in October, a Democratic staffer close to the group told International Business Times. Democratic Rep. Luis Gutierrez said earlier this week, while speaking in Republican territory in Virginia, that he’s already signed off on the measure and eager to introduce it. According to the staffer, all the Democrats on the bipartisan group support the agreement and are waiting for their Republican counterparts to sign off on it.

When the Republicans give the OK, the group will wait for the “right bipartisan moment” to introduce the bill, probably sometime in October. By that time the bipartisan group hopes Congress will be over the budget fight, with an appropriations bill passed to avert the threat of a government shutdown. “I think the work has been done,” the staffer said. “I think they’ve got a good proposal. I think they’re waiting to see whether there is any chance that a comprehensive bill is going to be looked at, or components of this bill could be looked at. But I think there are probably some additional machinations that have to happen first.”
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Right-to-Work Laws Improve Economic Well-Being

Written by By Michael D. LaFaive and Dr. Michael J. Hicks for Mackinac Center for Public Policy on August 28, 2013Labor Reform
Michigan’s right-to-work law — which took effect earlier this year — may prove to be an economic boon for the state, particularly over time. The cumulative effect of right-to-work appears to have dramatically boosted the standard of living in the states which have adopted it. Our new study assumes that growth rates in such as things as personal income, population and employment are proxies for a state’s overall well-being. We measured changes in each over time, including a 64-year sweep from 1947 through 2011 and three other distinct and smaller time periods. According to our model, states with right-to-work laws enjoyed an annual average increase in real personal income of 0.8 percentage points and average annual population growth by 0.5 percentage points compared to what they would have experienced without such laws. From 1970 through 2011, these laws also boosted average annual employment growth by 0.8 percentage points. Data in this last category is not available back to 1947.
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White House Official Says Immigration Reform Vote Not Likely Until October

Written by Elizabeth Llorente for Fox News Latino on August 28, 2013Immigration & Homeland Security
The Obama administration’s domestic policy director urged supporters of comprehensive immigration reform on Wednesday to do as the civil rights leaders of the 1960s did – not let opponents defeat them. Cecilia Muñoz, one of the most senior Latino officials in the White House, linked the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington and Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech with today’s fight for immigration reform in an interview with Fox News Latino. “Today is about celebrating how far we’ve come and recommitting to the work that is ahead,” Muñoz said, adding that just as the civil rights movement of the 1960s addressed jobs, so does immigration reform.

“Immigration reform is just one piece of the agenda,” she said, “we can now quantify what it means for creating jobs, not just for immigrants, but for the rest of us.” Muñoz, who has been a point person for Obama on immigration policy, said that significant movement on an immigration reform measure, or measures, was unlikely to happen before October. She said there are few legislative days in September, when members of Congress are to return from summer recess, and that their focus will be the debt ceiling and the budget. That is later than the August deadline that President Obama had hoped for earlier this year, expressing concern that delays could hurt the chances of an immigration reform bill passing by December.
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State employee insurance costs could increase under proposal

Subcommittee reluctantly approves plan; needs approval from full SEIB

Written by Brian Lyman for The Montgomery Advertiser on August 28, 2013Health Care
Out-of-pocket costs for state employees would increase in several areas under a plan approved by a subcommittee of the State Employees Insurance Board on Wednesday. If accepted by the full SEIB next month, state employees would see a new charge for dental services each month and increased out-of-pocket expenses for urgent care and prescription drugs.

The proposal passed the three-member subcommittee unanimously, but without enthusiasm. Reflecting divisions in the full board, subcommittee members struggled to find a balance between closing a projected deficit and keep health insurance costs reasonable. “It’s not a good day for state employees at all,” said Paige Hebson, vice-chair of the State Employees Insurance Board and a field supervisor for the Department of Rehabilitation Services, following the meeting. “I don’t feel like we won. I feel like we attempted (to reach) middle ground. I don’t think we got middle ground.” William Ashmore, CEO of the SEIB, said he expected the full board to take up the proposal within the next two to three weeks. A plan must be in place by Oct. 1, the start of the 2014 fiscal year.
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EPA to finalize regional haze plan for WY by Nov.

Written by Irina Zhorov for Wyoming Public Media on August 28, 2013Federal Overreach
The comment period closed Monday on the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed Regional Haze Plan. The plan seeks to address the issue of air pollution produced by coal fired power plants. Wyoming put together its own regional haze program, but the EPA rejected parts of it, saying it wasn't strong enough, particularly when it came to nitrogen oxide emissions at four plants. Governor Mead says EPA’s plan circumvents the Clean Air Act’s directive to let states lead the way in regional haze control. He adds that the EPA’s plan will cost more – $1.2 billion dollars in upfront costs and $170 million in annual costs. The Powder River Basin Resource Council’s Shannon Anderson says that's an exaggeration.

“Both EPA and the state of Wyoming and the utilities overestimate the costs for the pollution control technology. This particular technology that reduces nitrogen oxides is currently installed at over 200 power plants across the country, it’s widely used, it’s not cost prohibitive by any means, so we believe it’s more than reasonable to require it at Wyoming coal plants,” Anderson says. Anderson says that both the EPA and the state overestimate the cost of updating power-generating facilities and ignore another pollution source, the state’s oil and gas industry. The EPA plans to release a final rule by November 21st.
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Arizona officials take on electricity deregulation

Published in The Arizona Daily Star on August 28, 2013Energy & Environment
State officials are being told that eliminating the monopoly status of utilities that sell electricity to retail customers could either benefit consumers by providing more choices and generating competition or create turmoil putting those same consumers at risk of having to pay higher rates. Advocates on both sides of the issue spoke Tuesday during a workshop held by the state Residential Utility Consumer Office, The Arizona Republic reported ( http://bit.ly/1516Chy). RUCO advocates on behalf of consumers in Arizona Corporation Commission proceedings involving regulated utilities such as Arizona Public Service Co. and Tucson Electric Power. Under deregulation, customers can choose their power suppliers. Local utilities still use their wires to deliver power to customers' meters, for a price, but customers can buy the power from a source other than the local utility.

Some power companies support deregulation, while opponents of deregulation include APS, the state's largest utility. "The benefits are unknown but the costs and risks are very real," said Jeff Guldner, APS senior vice president of customers and regulation. The Corporation Commission is expected to hold a public meeting on deregulation by early October. Whatever it decides would have impacts outside Arizona because the state's utilities share ownership of various power plants.
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N.C. governor: Protect election integrity

Law I signed ensures North Carolina will remain a national leader in ballot access.

Written by Governor Pat McCrory for USA Today on August 28, 2013Election Law
Imagine if the Transportation Security Administration decided airline passengers no longer need a photo ID. Providing a name and destination would be good enough to board an airplane. No doubt, the public and our national elected representatives wouldn't stand for such lax protection. Similar concern has been expressed by new residents of North Carolina when they discover a photo ID isn't required at the polls. They're amazed that providing a name and address is all it takes to get inside the voting booth.

Newcomers aren't the only ones concerned. The vast majority of North Carolinians believe that photo ID should be required to cast a vote. In 2016, photo ID will be required to vote in North Carolina, just as it is today when citizens cash a check, apply for government benefits or even when buying cold remedies such as Sudafed. The need for photo ID has been questioned by those who say voter fraud isn't a problem in North Carolina. However, assuming fraud isn't a threat when multimillion dollar campaigns are trying to win in a state where millions of votes are cast is like believing oversight isn't needed against Wall Street insider trading.
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Tax credits aim to benefit Missouri youth by encouraging education

Written by Meghan Boggess for The Columbia Missourian on August 28, 2013Education Reform
JEFFERSON CITY — Youth development and crime prevention programs in Missouri will receive nearly $1 million in tax credits this year. The Missouri Department of Economic Development announced Monday that seven not-for-profit organizations will receive tax credits through the Youth Opportunities Program. The program aims to support Missouri children at a local level through projects including youth activity centers, mentoring programs and helping them graduate. The approved organizations will receive a total of $955,848 in tax credits. The program awards $6 million in tax credits each year and focuses on programs that will encourage education for Missouri youth, according to a news release. Pathways Community Behavioral Healthcare in Rolla will receive $250,000 in tax credits for 2013.

The organization, which offers resident and outpatient care for adolescents with substance-use disorders, is building a new group home that will cost $1.7 million, according to Linda Grgurich, Pathways president. The tax credit will "provide a building dedicated to youth," Grgurich said. Currently, Pathways uses two separate homes for male and female participants. Grgurich said the new home would allow for more flexibility because they won't be limited by a set number of beds in the separate girls' and boys' homes. The Boys and Girls Club of Poplar Bluff will also receive a tax credit that will fund 30 percent of some of its after-school programs. In the last three years, the group has doubled the amount of kids it can serve. Each day, on average, they are able to serve more than 400 children at six different sites. The tax credit "has been an integral part of us being able to grow our program," said Chris Rushin, executive director of the program in Poplar Bluff.
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Oklahoma house speaker expects special session on tort reform to take up to 10 days

Published in The Associated Press on August 28, 2013Legal Reform
OKLAHOMA CITY — Oklahoma lawmakers will likely take up more than two dozen bills when they convene at the state Capitol next month for a special session dealing with tort legislation, according to House Speaker T.W. Shannon. Shannon, R-Lawton, said a rewrite of the state's tort system would require 26 to 28 bills. The Journal Record reported Sunday (http://bit.ly/17VUGja ) that Shannon told lawmakers in a memo last week there's no deadline for bill introduction, though all House bills will be read on Sept. 3, the first day of the session. He said he expects the session to last six to 10 days.

Gov. Mary Fallin called the special session to restore several laws overturned by the state Supreme Court that were designed to cut businesses' legal liability costs. It will be the first special legislative session since Fallin took office in 2011, and the governor wants lawmakers to limit the session to restoring the provisions of a bill adopted in 2009 that was designed to reduce the number of frivolous lawsuits and medical malpractice claims filed in Oklahoma. The high court threw out the legislation earlier this year, finding that it violated the single-subject rule in the Oklahoma Constitution and amounted to logrolling, or the passing of legislation that contains multiple subjects.
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Health care providers weigh in on Medicaid expansion

Written by Gary Rayno for The New Hampshire Union Leader on August 27, 2013Health Care
CONCORD — The state's health care providers from hospitals to community health centers and from physicians to nurse practitioners turned out Tuesday to support the expansion of Medicaid eligibility under the Affordable Care Act. At the Commission to Study Expansion of Medicaid Eligibility meeting, the state's health care providers said expansion is a critical step to transforming the state's health care system and will provide more appropriate health care for those now using very expensive emergency room services for their health care.

The commission has heard national and state experts over the last seven weeks, but Tuesday's meeting was reserved for the state's health care providers and the public to testify about Medicaid expansion. Several hundred people were at Representatives Hall, most to support expansion. "I do not believe Medicaid expansion will solve the state's medical problems or the state's budget problems," said Claire Monier of Goffstown representing AARP-NH. "But I do believe it will help those 45 to 65 years old who do not qualify for Medicaid: those who lost their jobs and their health insurance." The battle over expansion has fallen largely down partisan lines as Democrats favor expansion and Republicans oppose it.
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Medicaid Expansion Battle in Michigan Ends in Passage

Written by Monica Davey for The New York Times on August 27, 2013Health Care
CHICAGO — The fierce struggle among Republicans over whether to make Medicaid available to more low-income people played out in Michigan on Tuesday as the Republican governor, Rick Snyder, narrowly succeeded in swaying enough conservative senators in the State Legislature to accept the expansion, which was part of President Obama’s health care law. Mr. Snyder’s preferred bill — one he had lobbied for intensely for months — initially fell short by one vote, but the governor salvaged a deal hours later. The vote in the Republican-controlled Senate was 20 to 18, with only 8 Republicans in favor. The Michigan House, which had earlier approved a similar measure, will need to vote on the Senate version before Mr. Snyder can sign the bill.

“The Affordable Care Act has probably been one of the most divisive issues that our country has faced in the last few years, and many people do have strong opinions both for and against,” Mr. Snyder said after the vote. “I just ask that all Michiganders step back and look to say this isn’t about the Affordable Care Act. This is about one element that we control here in Michigan that we can make a difference in here in people’s lives.” While the authors of the federal health care law intended to expand Medicaid, the federal and state health program for poor people, and at least initially pay for the expansion, the Supreme Court ruled in 2012 that states could opt out, setting up a struggle that has played out in the states largely along partisan lines. Like Mr. Snyder, some Republican governors have found themselves at odds with their own party’s legislative caucuses in state capitals like Lansing that are dominated by Republicans.
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Officials: With enrollment in insurance exchange set to begin, scams likely

Published in Arkansas News Bureau on August 27, 2013Health Care
LITTLE ROCK — State insurance officials on Tuesday urged consumers to be guarded with their personal information and not fall prey to those who may try to take advantage of any confusion surrounding the new health insurance exchange. The initial enrollment period for the exchange, known as the Arkansas Health Insurance Marketplace, is Oct 1-March 31. The federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act requires nearly everyone to have health insurance next year. “As a consumer protection agency, the Arkansas Insurance Department strives to raise awareness about those falsely claiming to be with the government,” state Insurance Commissioner Jay Bradford said in a news release. “I also remind Arkansas insurance consumers to be cautious of scams and protect their personal and financial information.”
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Moody’s upgrades state outlooks

Written by Reid Wilson for The Washington Post on August 27, 2013Economic Prosperity
Economies in most states have stabilized after five years of recession and recovery, inspiring new confidence in state bonds, according to the ratings agency Moody’s. In a report issued to investors last week, Moody’s upgraded its outlook on U.S. states to stable, five years after issuing negative ratings. The agency revised its ratings for six states — Washington, Minnesota, Maryland, Virginia, New Mexico and Missouri — from negative to stable as well. Improvements in consumer confidence and the housing sector indicate more stable economies less likely to be harmed by possible federal budget cuts, while strong performance in the stock market has bolstered state revenues, the report found. Moody’s projections estimate unemployment rates will fall to pre-recession levels by 2017.

State tax collections have risen on a year-over-year basis for 13 quarters, Moody’s reported, and the stock market has fueled the growth of revenues from capital gains. State tax revenues exceeded pre-recession levels in the fourth quarter of 2012, according to a Rockefeller Institute report, and 2013 revenues are likely to exceed 2008 revenues, when adjusted for inflation. Those revenues are exceeding state budget forecasts. Housing prices rose by between 5 and 10 percent in 19 states in 2012, while the states hit hardest by the recession — Arizona, California and Nevada — saw the sharpest price increases. In Arizona, home prices rose by 20.2 percent, the most robust growth in the country. Still, home prices remain 22 percent below their 2006 peak, according to Moody’s Analytics. Housing prices showed the strongest growth in the West, though prices are still declining in Northeastern states like Vermont, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Connecticut and New Jersey.
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Vote on Michigan Medicaid expansion could come today

Proposal would expand coverage

Written by Kathleen Gary for The Lansing State Journal on August 27, 2013Health Care
State senators have been bombarded with billboards, e-mails and advertising from both sides of the Medicaid expansion issue for nearly three months. And, it all comes down to a vote, perhaps as soon as today, on whether to approve a plan that would provide health care insurance coverage to 470,000 low-income Michiganders. “I’ve been getting lots of e-mails,” said state Sen. Mike Kowall, R-White Lake, who didn’t say how he was going to vote. “They’re running about 60-40 in favor of the expansion.” The issue has been bubbling in the Legislature since the spring when Gov. Rick Snyder backed the expansion. The House approved the plan in June, but the Senate decided to take up the matter when lawmakers return from their two-month summer break this week.

A Senate subcommittee moved the plan and two alternative proposals earlier this month. “That’s been the objective. The Senate Majority Leader would like to see something happen this week,” said Amber McCann spokeswoman for Sen. Randy Richardville, R-Monroe. The plan would extend Medicaid coverage to those who fall within 133 percent of the federal poverty level. Currently, most of the state’s 1.9 million Medicaid recipients are children, disabled adults and the extremely poor. The expansion would open up the program to many low-income working Michiganders who have no health insurance but who will be required to get coverage when the Affordable Care Act takes full effect next year.
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EPA settlement on Regional Haze more costly

Published in Tulsa Today on August 26, 2013Energy & Environment
Today the Oklahoma chapter of Americans for Prosperity Foundation released a study entitled: “EPA Overreach: Higher Cost, Less Energy, Greater Risk.” The study conducted by William Yeatman, the Assistant Director of the Center for Energy and Environment at the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), serves as an independent analysis of the PSO Settlement with the EPA and Sierra Club and the forthcoming cost increases to Oklahoma utility ratepayers. “The consequences of President Obama’s EPA regulatory overreach have never had a greater impact to the pocketbooks of Oklahomans than they do now,” said AFPF-OK State Director Matt Ball. “Mr. Yeatman’s independent analysis, by addressing the true costs to ratepayers of the PSO-EPA settlement, demonstrates that the heavy hand of the federal government and accounting gimmicks are no substitute for facts and respect for the pocketbooks of Oklahoma families and businesses.”
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Teachers Face More Rigorous Annual Evaluations

Written by Kathleen Megan for The Hartford Courant on August 26, 2013Education Reform
With the opening of school this week, Connecticut teachers will now face rigorous annual evaluations that link their performance assessment to student achievement. "I'm concerned. Do we have the capacity to pull off what we actually have designed?'' said Granby Superintendent of Schools Alan Addley. "We are going to do the best we can with what we have. It remains to be seen as we go through the year as to whether we can fulfill the obligation with fidelity." The new evaluation system requires a yearly assessment of every teacher and is a key element in Gov. Dannel P. Malloy's school reform initiative. It also calls for at least three observations annually by an administrator, mutually agreed-upon goals for teachers and the option for parent and student feedback. In Glastonbury, Superintendent Alan Bookman said that in the past the district did a formal assessment of tenured teachers every four years. "Now it is required every year," said Bookman. "We are concerned about the extra work and the extra load on administrative staff."

Bookman said he's sure that teachers also feel some anxiety. "I'll be talking about it to the teachers during convocation day, hopefully lowering anxiety," Bookman said. "The idea behind this is not to make people anxious about it. You give feedback so that teachers can always be improving, doing more good things for their students." Michelle Nicklas, a West Hartford teacher who helped develop that district's evaluation plan, said "teachers are very anxious, primarily because it is still an unknown." But she said she thinks the clear expectations for teacher performance in the district's new evaluation system will be useful for teachers. She said the "transparency and consistency" of the new system are a comfort, "but I'm concerned about its magnitude."
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State to consider alternative Medicaid expansion

Wyoming could follow the lead of Arkansas by adopting a premium-assistance plan.

Written by Trevor Brown for The Wyoming Tribune Eagle on August 26, 2013Health Care
CHEYENNE -- State lawmakers are exploring a new plan that could extend health insurance to more than 17,000 low-income residents. A legislative committee will meet today in Lovell to discuss a potential bill that would expand the state's Medicaid program though a "premium assistance" option. The plan would cover roughly the same population as the optional Medicaid expansion that Wyoming and several other states rejected earlier this year, but this idea would use the funds to enroll residents in private insurance plans through the new exchanges instead of allowing them to be Medicaid eligible. The model was first developed by Arkansas earlier in the year and is now being considered by several other states. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recently announced it will consider approving a limited number of these plans as demonstration projects.

Rep. Elaine Harvey, R-Lovell, who co-chairs the Joint Labor, Health and Social Services Interim Committee, said she decided to have a bill drafted mirroring Arkansas’ plan. She said she put it on the group’s agenda for today to have a preliminary discussion and see if there is interest in it. Harvey said she is “intrigued” by the plan and sees it as a better alternative to the traditional optional Medicaid expansion. That plan would have extended Medicaid eligibility to most with incomes below 133 percent of the federal poverty line starting Jan. 1. The federal government said it will pay 100 percent of the costs for the first three years. And Wyoming then would pay 5 percent in 2017, 6 percent in 2018, 7 percent in 2019 and 10 percent in 2020 and beyond.
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AG Morrisey says W.Va. not ready for health care rollout

Written by Associated Press for Beckley Register Herald on August 26, 2013Health Care
WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS — West Virginia will have a “huge problem” in meeting an Oct. 1 deadline to begin open enrollment under the new federal health care reform law, Attorney General Patrick Morrisey said. Morrisey told the State Medical Association’s annual conference on Saturday at The Greenbrier resort that federal delays will make it difficult to implement the Affordable Care Act in the state. “We are not ready to roll out the ACA on Oct. 1, let me be clear about that,” Morrisey said. The Charleston Gazette reports Morrisey cited a recent congressional report that found half of 82 federal deadlines related to the Affordable Care Act have been missed. The federal government has delayed for a year a mandate requiring large employers to offer health benefits or face financial penalties and a policy that puts a cap on patients’ out-of-pocket insurance expenses.

Morrisey said that while Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin and the DHHR are working feverishly to have a successful implementation, “they’ve been dealt an impossible hand.” “How on earth can you expect them to do really positive things when you’ve got half of the ACA deadlines (that) are not being met? This is what we’re dealing with; this is a huge problem.” Morrisey and 12 other attorneys general recently wrote to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius about their concerns with the federal program.
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