News Clips from America Votes
Friday, June 17, 2011
FLORIDA: Gov. Rick Scott suspends drug test requirement for many state employees
Katie Sanders for the St. Petersburg Times
TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott has suspended his controversial executive order requiring random drug tests for thousands of state employees, saying he will now wait until a federal lawsuit challenging the policy is settled.
The March 22 executive order had been the target of a legal challenge by the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida. The ACLU says the testing requirement is "suspicionless" and an illegal search and seizure.
In a memo to executive agency heads on June 10, Scott said he would halt the drug-testing policy while the lawsuit is pending. While Scott said he believed his order ultimately will be found to be constitutional, "it does not make sense for all agencies to move forward with the logistical issues involved in instituting the new policy."
FLORIDA: Plans to put Florida's Medicaid recipients into managed care programs get hearing
Janet Zink for the St. Petersburg Times
TAMPA — Dozens of advocates for the elderly, people with long-term illnesses and small businesses weighed in Thursday on plans to put most of the state's Medicaid recipients into managed-care programs.
"I see it as an issue with jobs," said Dan Fucarino, owner of the Carrollwood Pharmacy, at a public hearing at the Florida Department of Transportation office in Tampa.
Now, he said, most prescriptions for Medicaid patients in Florida are filled by independent pharmacies like his. He cautioned against a managed-care program that would require mail-order prescriptions or purchases at major chain pharmacies, which would hurt small businesses.
MICHIGAN: Michigan's fight against food stamp fraud nets $3.3M
Nathan Hurst for the Detroit News
Washington— Michigan's efforts to fight food assistance waste, fraud and abuse won the state a $3.3 million U.S. Department of Agriculture grant.
The award was announced Thursday by Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Lansing, who chairs the upper chamber's Agriculture Committee, which oversees the nation's food aid program.
"Michigan is being recognized for being most improved," Stabenow said. "I'm calling on the state to redirect that money to redouble our efforts."
MINNESOTA: Bachmann's 6th District in limbo
Jeremy Herb for the Star Tribune
WASHINGTON - U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann's presidential announcement on Monday leaves Minnesota Republicans in limbo over the congressional seat she could leave behind.
Bachmann said that she will suspend her congressional campaign as she embarks on a White House bid. But she's left open the possibility of returning to her House seat, and Minnesota's election law gives her until June, 5, 2012, long after the key presidential primaries.
As Republicans consider jumping into the race for a potentially open seat in the state's most conservative district, they do so knowing that Bachmann -- and the millions of dollars she raises during her presidential bid -- could return to reclaim her seat
NEVADA: Panel to probe financing of Nevada public schools
Cy Ryan for the Las Vegas Sun
CARSON CITY – A legislative study committee will be appointed to find a new way of financing Nevada public schools under a bill signed today by Gov. Brian Sandoval.
Senate Bill 11 says a “new method for funding public schools in this state is necessary to continue to improve and advance the purpose of the state’s public education system.”
The present formula was adopted in 1967. In the coming school year, the state has set an average of $5,265 per student, with $5,136 for Clark County students.
NEW MEXICO: Contract extension talks aim to head off hospital strike
Phaedra Haywood for the New Mexican
With nurses and technical workers poised to go on strike, Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center and labor union representatives Thursday apparently were discussing a temporary contract extension.
Extension of a contract set to expire this month would allow managers of Santa Fe's only general hospital and the union more time to negotiate a new deal. However, late Thursday, Shirley Cruse, the union's lead negotiator, said the union did not come to an agreement on an extension because the hospital wanted too many concessions. It was unclear if discussions would continue.
During a news conference earlier Thursday, leaders of the National Union of Hospital and Health Care Employees Local 1999 said only 20 percent of issues that need to be addressed have been discussed since talks began in late April.
OHIO: Lawmakers send Kasich bill to allow guns in bars
Alan Johnson for the Columbus Dispatch
The gun lobby flexed its muscles in Ohio yesterday, as state lawmakers sent Gov. John Kasich legislation to allow concealed-carry permit-holders to carry guns in bars, restaurants and some stadiums serving alcohol.
At the same time, a newly introduced Republican proposal would take the next step. House Bill 256, sponsored by Rep. John Adams, R-Sidney, would eliminate the need for gun permits and allow anyone who "qualifies for a permit" - but doesn't have one - to carry a concealed weapon. It also would permit firearms in colleges, churches, child-care centers and government buildings - presumably including the Statehouse.
The prospects of the new bill, which likely would have seen a quick burial in previous years, are uncertain with the current legislature.
PENNSYLVANIA: Council votes to raise property taxes 3.85%
Catherine Lucey and Jan Ransom for the Philadelphia Inquirer
In a major reversal, City Council last night opted to raise property taxes for a second year in a row to help bail out the school district, rejecting Mayor Nutter's preferred soda-tax proposal.
In a committee-level vote, Council approved a plan that would raise property taxes for one year by 3.85 percent, providing $37 million directly to the district. It also would dip into the city's surplus fund balance and raise parking- meter fees, bringing the total aid for schools to $53 million.
For weeks, Council members said there was no way they'd do another property-tax increase after raising the tax by 10 percent last year to deal with a city budget hole. But Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown said "all of us knew we had to do something. Soda fell flat. We had nine votes for 60 seconds."
WISCONSIN: Protesters lock themselves to Capitol railing
Emma Roller for the Journal Sentinel
Madison - After months of chaos within the Capitol, authorities thought they had seen everything.
But they were in for a shock Thursday when they found two protesters had affixed themselves to the railings of the Senate gallery with bike locks.
Just after the Senate convened at 11 a.m., the protesters, one man and one woman, used U-shaped bike locks to lock their necks to the railing as part of a demonstration against Gov. Scott Walker's budget. Along with the two locked to the railing, a group of protesters loudly chanted "Kill the bill."
IDAHO: Idaho budgeteers to talk education tech, ag research, endowments, roads
Dan Popkey for the Idaho Statesman
The annual summer tour of the Legislature's Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee will spend three days in Southwest Idaho next week.
The 20-member panel begins June 22 at Columbia High School in Nampa with a discussion of education spending and demonstrations of electronic instructional systems and an overview of longitudinal data. In the afternoon, they travel to Parma to visit the University of Idaho Research and Extension Center and the operations of Nunhems, USA.
On June 23, the committee meets in McCall for an update on the general fund, which was running $66 million ahead of projections at the end of May. They also will tour area schools and the McCall fish hatchery, hearing a briefing on endangered species. Budget-writers will then tour the McCall Outdoor Science School and Ponderosa State Park, where the Idaho Department of Lands will discuss state endowments.
WASHINGTON: And the budget number is…..
Chris Grygiel for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer
The state has $183 million less than it expected to pay for services through 2013. Or $600 million. Or $483 million. Take your pick. For the dozens of fans of economic forecasts and state budgets, Thursday’s meeting to discuss Washington’s economy was pretty good theater.
Arun Raha, executive director of the Economic and Revenue Forecast Council, told lawmakers they’d have $183 million less to spend because of an anticipated drop in state taxes. But some on the panel started tossing around numbers like $483 million or $600 million or several other figures.
Exasperated reporters tried to pin them down. Exasperated lawmakers and budget officials tried to explain.
OREGON: Oregon state workers storm the statehouse to protest budget cuts, ask for fair contract
Michelle Cole for the Oregonian
SALEM -- Hundreds of state workers stormed Oregon's Capitol over the noon hour Thursday to protect agency budget cuts and demand fair treatment during their current contract negotiations with Gov. John Kitzhaber.
"We're worried about our clients," said Gina Santacroce, who works as an auditor for the Department of Human Services and is a member of the Service Employees International Union, Local 503. "We're also worried about ourselves. We have given enough."
State workers agreed to take 10, unpaid furlough days during the past two year budget period. And this week Rep. Dennis Richardson, R-Central Point, introduced a bill that would require state workers to pick up part of their health insurance costs.
MAINE: Hard-fought budget sent to governor
Susan Cover for the Portland Press-Herald
AUGUSTA - The state's $6 billion budget is now in the hands of Gov. Paul LePage after it was approved in final votes Thursday in the House and Senate.
The two-year spending plan, described as "the toughest budget in recent history" by Assistant Senate Minority Leader Justin Alfond, will go into effect July 1 if it is signed by LePage. His spokeswoman, Adrienne Bennett, said the governor will read the budget over the next few days.
She emphasized his three primary areas of concern: pension reform, tax cuts and welfare reform.