News Clips from America Votes
Thursday, June 16, 2011
COLORADO: Michael Hancock's team picks 80 to head advisory committees
The Denver Post
Mayor-elect Michael Hancock's transition committee Wednesday announced the names of more than 80 people who will head 22 committees that recommend appointments and policies for his administration.
Panels dealing with safety and the police chief will be among the most closely scrutinized following a campaign in which much attention was paid to management and performance of Denver police.
Doug Friednash, a partner at Greenberg Traurig, former state Rep. Rosemary Marshall and former Public Safety Manager Butch Montoya will head up the committee tasked with identifying candidates for police chief.
FLORDIA: Troubled Tampa Bay assisted living facility chain to lose state Medicaid funding
Carol Marbin Miller, Rob Barry and Michael Sallah for the Miami Herald
Florida health administrators are slashing hundreds of thousands in taxpayer dollars to a troubled Tampa Bay assisted living facility chain in a move that could jeopardize the homes' ability to keep their doors open.
The action by the Agency for Health Care Administration leaders to stop Medicaid dollars to the homes comes two weeks after a caregiver at one of the facilities was arrested for rape, and one month after the Miami Herald profiled the homes in a series, "Neglected to Death," which showed the state had allowed scores of problem homes to remain open — sometimes for years — despite a litany of abuses.
In a letter dated June 13, the state agency informed the owners of the Mapleway Communities chain that, starting in 30 days, they will no longer be able to bill for services under Medicaid, the state and federal insurance program for needy and disabled people. Medicaid pays for a variety of services for people with developmental disabilities at the homes.
MICHIGAN: 'Private bills' introduced by Mich. members of Congress buy time for immigrants
Marisa Schultz for the Detroit News
Washington In his first piece of legislation since taking the chairmanship of the Energy and Commerce Committee, Rep. Fred Upton introduced a bill not to repeal health care reform but rather to grant a visa to Ibrahim Parlak, a southwest Michigan restaurant owner facing deportation to his native Turkey.
It's a little known ritual by some members of Congress to sponsor private bills on behalf of individuals in their districts to help them stay in the country when traditional immigration channels have failed. Already, in the 112th Congress, 64 private bills have been introduced, 11 of which are to grant permanent residency to people living in Michigan — the most of any state except California.
Traditionally, these bills languish in Congress without passage, but their introduction alone offers relief to beneficiaries like Parlak, a Kurd who was granted asylum by the United States 20 years ago but has failed to gain citizenship. As long as legislation is pending, the bills' namesakes are safe from deportation. Rather than risking a "no" vote in Congress that would end the hope for residency, there's an advantage to inaction.
MICHIGAN: Snyder declines to sign GOP governors' letter on Medicaid plan
Paul Egan for the Detroit News
Lansing— Gov. Rick Snyder said Wednesday he is too focused on Michigan issues to join the nation's other Republican governors in endorsing a seven-point plan to improve Medicaid.
The Republican Governors Association announced on its website this week that 29 GOP governors — all but Snyder — signed the letter, which calls for more state autonomy in determining Medicaid eligibility and cost-sharing.
"Given … all the activities we have going on, I'm focused on Michigan," Snyder said during a news conference on education reform. "My role is not to be a large advocate on a national scale. I was hired to be governor of Michigan."
MINNESOTA: Dayton outlines 'painful' shutdown
Rachel Stassen-Berger for the Star Tribune
Gov. Mark Dayton on Wednesday proposed a broad government shutdown that would touch every corner of the state and reach deep into Minnesotans' homes.
The governor's proposal -- which must still be ruled on by a judge -- would maintain critical services but close all state parks, the Minnesota Zoo, the state lottery and most state road projects by July 1, when the current state budget runs out. K-12 schools, local governments and health providers would no longer receive state payments.
Despite what he said would be the vast and enormous impact of such a shutdown, Dayton said Wednesday that a short government closure "still pales in comparison" to the impact of a Republican "all cuts" budget.
NEVADA: Governor signs 4 ‘groundbreaking’ education bills
Cy Ryan for the Las Vegas Sun
CARSON CITY – Four education bills making it easier to reward high-performing teachers and get rid of ineffective teachers have been signed into law by Gov. Brian Sandoval.
The bills overhaul the makeup of the state Board of Education, giving the governor more authority and creating a new board to oversee charter schools.
Sandoval called these “groundbreaking education reform bills.”
NEW HAMPSHIRE: Lynch vetoes bill to notify parents about abortion
Kevin Landrigan for the Nashua Telegraph
CONCORD – Calling it too “unclear and too narrow,” Gov. John Lynch vetoed legislation requiring a parent be notified before a minor girl has an abortion.
The four-term, Democratic chief executive said he supports parents being involved in these difficult decisions and would sign such a law if the Legislature made the changes he wants to it.
Lynch said his most serious objection was that it lacked an exemption for victims of rape or incest, subjecting the girl to have to notify a parent who could be the abuser.
NEW MEXICO: Council mulls options for district shifts
Julie Ann Grimm for the New Mexican
Santa Fe City Council districts would have a more equal distribution of population under new boundaries being considered by city officials. Just how the districts might be reshaped remains uncertain, but a decision is due this summer.
Brian Sanderoff, president of Research and Polling Inc., on Wednesday walked city councilors through four options.
The Albuquerque firm, which has completed hundreds of redistricting plans on every electoral level from Congress to public schools, crafted the maps so each of Santa Fe's four districts would contain about 16,937 residents.
OHIO: Ohio budget conference committee gets good news on state revenues, bad news on Medicaid costs
Aaron Marshall for the Plain Dealer
COLUMBUS, Ohio — There was good news in state budget director Tim Keen's assessment of Ohio's future revenue numbers Wednesday, but it didn't exactly set off any cartwheeling in the halls of the Statehouse.
While Keen predicted that Ohio would have about $425 million more flowing into state coffers in 2012 and 2013 than Gov. John Kasich's budget estimated, he said that Medicaid caseload projections used by Senate lawmakers were too low and canceled out any extra money.
"The General Assembly has pre-spent most of the revenue I have forecast today," Keen said. More specifically, Keen said lawmakers will have only about $18 million extra to spend in the $55.7 billion general revenue fund if they use his estimates.
PENNSYLVANIA: Women disapprove of Corbett acts more than men
Laura Olson for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Gov. Tom Corbett has lost support of women in Pennsylvania.
New poll numbers from Quinnipiac University show disapproval from female voters are keeping the governor's approval rating low.
Mr. Corbett drew an overall approval rating of 39 percent, with his highest rating in the state's southwest at 46 percent. That figure has remained at 39 percent since the polling institute's first survey of his performance in February, although his disapproval numbers have since grown.
WISCONSIN: Budget passes Assembly with provisions on choice schools, broadband funds
Jason Stein, Patrick Marley and Bill Glauber for the Journal Sentinel
Madison - A private school voucher program won't expand to Green Bay and the state will not turn down nearly $40 million in federal money for expanding broadband access in rural areas, under the budget bill passed by the state Assembly early Thursday morning.
The bill passed 60-38 just after 3 a.m. on an essentially party-line vote, with the body's lone independent, Rep. Bob Ziegelbauer of Manitowoc, joining all Republicans in favor.
Under a GOP amendment to the bill, the budget also would preserve federal money for public transit, retain access to state officials' ethics statements and scale back a proposal to force local governments to use private contractors on road projects. The wide-ranging amendment also pulled several provisions into the state budget for the first time, including one to delay a provision prohibiting certain race-based mascots such as "Indians" in public schools.
MONTANA: Montana Supreme Court denies climate petition
The Associated Press
The Montana Supreme Court on Wednesday denied a petition filed by attorneys seeking state regulations to curb greenhouse gas emissions.
Siding with Attorney General Steve Bullock, justices wrote in their order that the case raised too many questions about Montana's contribution to a global problem.
"The court is ill-equipped to resolve the factual assertions presented by the petitioners," justices wrote.
IDAHO: Idaho lawmakers detail their financial interests
Erika Bolstad for the Idaho Statesman
WASHINGTON – Financial disclosure forms made public Wednesday show that Idaho's congressional delegation has a wide range of investments in land, real estate and stocks.
The forms, released annually, are meant to allow the public a glimpse at the investments, personal wealth and potential conflicts of interest of those who represent them in Congress. Candidates must also file them.
Republican Rep. Raul Labrador's disclosure forms from 2010 show he earned a $65,910 salary from his law office and a $16,990 salary from the state of Idaho. He has investments in money market funds valued between $19,000 and $112,000. He earned between $15,000 and $50,000 from the dissolution of his law firm.
OREGON: Sen. Richard Devlin accused of trying to silence criticism of union drive
Jeff Mapes for the Oregonian
SALEM -- At the behest of Service Employees International Union, Oregon Senate budget chief Richard Devlin sought to stifle criticism of an organizing drive that added more than 7,700 workers to the union's membership and turned it into the largest in the state.
During a drive to organize workers who help care for developmentally disabled Oregonians, Tualatin Democrat wrote a letter to officials who help employ the workers, warning them not to say anything even "mildly" critical of unionization. He also suggested that a successful union drive would help boost legislative support for services for Oregonians with developmental disabilities. .
Several officials who received the letter said it appeared Devlin tried to tip the scales in favor of the union's expansion. Devlin said that wasn't his intent.
MAINE: Charter schools approved by House
Rebekah Metzler for the Portland Press-Herald
AUGUSTA - The Maine House voted 89-55 on Wednesday night, after hours of debate, to allow the establishment of public charter schools. Maine is now among just 10 states that do not permit charter schools.
Public charter schools are voluntary, are required to follow state and federal academic requirements and cannot teach religious practices or discriminate against students or teachers.
Supporters say they allow for more creative approaches that can benefit students who struggle in traditional schools. Opponents say they are concerned that the quality of traditional public schools could decline as per-pupil tax money follows students who attend charter schools.