News Clips from America Votes
Tuesday, June 21, 2011
COLORADO: Colorado to end fiscal year with $325 million more than budgeted
Tim Hoover for the Denver Post
The state of Colorado will end the 2010-11 budget year more than $300 million in the black, triggering the release of nearly $70 million to help offset cuts to public schools.
The economic forecast presented to the legislature's Joint Budget Committee on Monday was more optimistic than one in March, but economists warned that the health of the state's budget is far from stable and that increasing obligations probably will mean more cuts to public schools and other programs down the road.
Even so, it was the first quarterly economic forecast since the fall of 2008 that didn't immediately require additional cuts to balance the budget.
FLORIDA: Unions sue Gov. Rick Scott over pension overhaul, employee pay cut
Mary Ellen Klas for the St. Petersburg Times
TALLAHASSEE — Before state and local governments take the first dime from the paychecks of teachers, police and state workers to put in the state pension plan, three unions filed suit Monday against Gov. Rick Scott and other trustees of the state retirement plan, alleging the move is an unconstitutional violation and a taking of their personal property.
The Florida Education Association filed the lawsuit early Monday in Leon County and was soon joined by the Police Benevolent Association and the SEIU Florida Public Service Union. The lawsuit is the first in what is expected to be a series of challenges to legislation passed this year and signed by the governor.
MICHIGAN: Democrats unveil plans for redrawing House districts
Karen Bouffard for the Detroit News
Lansing— Democrats said Monday the maps they've drawn of new state House districts are more fair than those proposed by Republicans last week and don't force incumbent Democrats into head-to-head matchups.
House Democratic Leader Richard Hammel of Mount Morris said it isn't necessary to have Democrats going head-to-head in Detroit or anywhere else.
"Our maps do not have any Detroiters running against each other," Hammel said. "Around the state we don't have any Democratic members running against" members of their party.
MINNESOTA: GOP: Keep court out of shutdown
Eric Roper and Mike Kaszuba for the Star Tribune
A group of Republican senators is asking the Minnesota Supreme Court to prevent a district judge from intervening in a budget impasse that has the state within 10 days of a government shutdown.
In a brief filed Monday, the senators accuse DFL Gov. Mark Dayton and Attorney General Lori Swanson of creating a "political and constitutional crisis" with their requests that a district court appoint a mediator to help settle the dispute or a "special master" who could continue essential spending indefinitely.
The senators say both requests cross the line and would disrupt the separation of powers.
NEW HAMPSHIRE: Bishop urges Legislature to overturn abortion notification veto
Dan Tuohy for the Union Leader
Bishop John B. McCormack is urging the New Hampshire Legislature to override Gov. John Lynch’s veto of a bill requiring parents to be notified before their minor child gets an abortion.
McCormack, head of the Roman Catholic Church in the state, said the bill recognizes the importance of the constitutionally protected role that parents have in caring for their children.
“It would be a grave mistake to divest parents of meaningful input into the health care of their minor children,” he said in statement. “It is significant that in every other context of an adolescent’s life, the law assumes that parents are the natural guardians of their child’s health and best interests. Indeed, New Hampshire requires parental consent — not just parental notification — with respect to a long list of health care and non-health care matters, including tanning, body piercing, employment, and the possession and use of an asthma inhaler and epinephrine auto injectors.”
NEW MEXICO: Redistricting battles can cost state big bucks
Steve Terrell for the New Mexican
As a panel of legislators kicked off the once-a-decade task of drawing new boundaries for New Mexico's congressional and legislative districts Monday, lawyers hired by the state reminded them of a hard truth:
If redistricting ends up in court and the state loses a legal challenge, as happened 10 years ago, it could cost taxpayers millions of dollars in legal fees.
Following the 2001 redistricting and subsequent legal actions, the state had to pay $2.9 million in legal fees for various groups that sued the state, Legislative Council Service staff said. In addition, the state had to spend about $653,000 on its own lawyers.
OHIO: House-Senate budget committee faces major questions on charter schools
Aaron Marshall for the Plain Dealer
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- David Brennan has cast a long shadow over this year's state budget.
The Akron charter-school magnate who has given more than $5 million to Republican politicians dating back to the mid-'80s as he built a 31-school empire was the force behind a series of charter school amendments slipped into the GOP-controlled House's budget bill in late April, House Speaker William G. Batchelder has said.
The amendments -- which would allow for-profit operators to run schools without supervision and operators with terrible track records to open new schools -- were roundly condemned, even by advocates within the charter schools movement.
PENNSYLVANIA: Poor targeted in Pa. budget
Alfred Lubrano for the Philadelphia Inquirer
When Gov. Corbett proposed to balance the budget by cutting hundreds of millions of dollars from universities and public schools, squawks of protest erupted throughout Pennsylvania.
Neither deaf nor politically unsavvy, House Republicans listened to the noise, then came up with a new plan to restore nearly $600 million in aid to education.
So if schools are, to some extent spared, who will bear the brunt of budget cuts?
WISCONSIN: Republicans in Legislature may try to make recalls harder
Lee Bergquist and Craig Gilbert for the Journal Sentinel
Republican leaders in the Legislature said Monday they would consider introducing legislation this fall to make it harder to recall state officials.
Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald (R-Horicon) said the upcoming recall elections had launched the state Senate into "full campaign mode" and was slowing down the legislative process.
Also, Gov. Scott Walker - speaking with reporters in Washington - called the recalls a "distraction" for most Wisconsin residents
WISCONSIN: Extension of aid to jobless goes unused
Jason Stein for the Journal Sentinel
Madison - More than 10,000 out-of-work Wisconsin residents are no longer receiving an estimated $89 million in federally funded jobless benefits because state officials have not acted to renew them.
The change to state law would not touch the state's struggling unemployment insurance trust fund and would provide 13 more weeks of benefits to workers who have been without employment for roughly a year and a half.
The change in state law, which has tepid support from Gov. Scott Walker, could come before a state advisory panel Thursday. However, the Unemployment Insurance Advisory Council has done nothing, despite knowing about the issue for months.
OREGON: Oregon cities from Portland to Bend will take years to recover lost jobs
Richard Read the Oregonian
Forget about expanding Portland's economic pie anytime soon. A new report predicts the metro area must wait until mid 2014 just to recover the number of jobs it had before the recession.
Corvallis will do better, returning to pre-recession peak employment in 2013, according to the report Monday by IHS Global Insight, an economic forecasting firm. Medford will take until 2018 and Eugene-Springfield until 2019, the report said.
Metro Bend? Oregon's poster city for the housing bubble won't stage a jobs comeback until "beyond 2021," the forecasters said. They see double-digit unemployment gripping Deschutes County through 2013.
OREGON: Oregon House votes down online charter school bill; action stalled on other education bills
Jeff Mapes for the Oregonian
SALEM -- On a dramatic 30-30 vote, the Oregon House narrowly rejected a bill loosening enrollment restrictions on online charter schools Monday.
The action caused enough of a political uproar to at least temporarily halt further action on a large package of education bills, and it potentially slowed the end of the legislative session.
Legislative leaders had planned for Monday to be the day that lawmakers worked their way through an ambitious and widely varied list of 14 bills that would remake the state's educational system.
MAINE: Maine governor signs $6 billion state budget into law
Susan Cover for the Portland Press-Herald
AUGUSTA — Gov. Paul LePage ended days of speculation Monday by signing into law the $6 billion state budget for the two years that start July 1.
"It's a validation of the great work of the Appropriations Committee," said Senate President Kevin Raye, R-Perry. "It reflects the core values of (LePage's) original budget."
Raye said the budget includes "the largest tax cuts in the history of Maine," pension reform and welfare reform.
MAINE: Three groups submit redistricting proposals for Maine
Ann Kim for the Portland Press-Herald
PORTLAND — The three parties involved in a redistricting lawsuit would bring different approaches to the task of redrawing the boundary between Maine's two congressional districts before the 2012 election, a year earlier than expected.
The state, the defendant in the federal case, would leave open the details while it worked toward a resolution.
The plaintiffs, two residents of Cape Elizabeth, assume that a panel of federal judges will eventually make the decision.
The state Democratic Party, an intervenor, prefers to follow the standard procedure with a compressed timeline.
MINNESOTA: Progressive group: Klobuchar’s felony streaming bill could ‘stifle innovation, jail ordinary citizens’
Paul Schmelzer for the Minnesota Independent
As Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s bill to amend U.S. copyright law to make it a felony to stream copyrighted material online heads for a vote on the Senate floor, more attention is being paid. The nonprofit government transparency group MapLight notes that backers of the measure — which includes the Recording Industry Association of America, the Motion Picture Association of America, NBC and CBS, among others — have given more than $85 million to sitting senators in the last six years. And the progressive group Demand Progress is challenging Klobuchar’s assertion that the bill will only target “criminals” hoping to make big money from copyright infringement.
Klobuchar’s bill assigns a maximum 5-year prison term for those convicted of streaming “10 or more public performances by electronic means, during any 180-day period, of 1 or more copyrighted works” and in cases where the “total retail value” of those performances to its owner exceeds $2,500 or the value of licensing of the works exceeds $5,000. It passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday, but a vote before the full Senate has not yet been scheduled.
MICHIGAN: Snyder unveils plan to address struggling schools
Todd Heywood for the Michigan Messenger
Gov. Rick Snyder and Detroit Public Schools Emergency Financial Manager Roy Roberts unveiled a plan today to address the state’s worst performing schools.
In a press release, Snyder called the plan “dramatic.” Under the new plan, the schools in the bottom five percent of the academic progress programs will be taken over by the state Department of Education. There, the schools will be overseen by a new board made up of Eastern Michigan University officials, appointments from the governor’s office, and Roberts. The board will an 11-person board, with five of those members serving as an executive committee.
Under the plan unveiled Monday in Detroit, the new program dubbed The Education Achievement System (EAS) will pilot in only Detroit’s struggling schools. As part of the project, the schools will be run by parents, teachers and principals, according to Snyder’s press release.
INDIANA: Planned Parenthood in Indiana forced to temporarily close centers and stop seeing Medicaid patients
Ashley Lopez for the Florida Independent
As Indiana’s Planned Parenthood waits for a ruling on the injunction the organization filed against the state, the chain of health clinics is being forced to temporarily close down some of its centers and stop seeing Medicaid patients. #
The Indianapolis Star is reporting: ”Planned Parenthood plans to stop seeing Medicaid patients, lay off two sexually transmitted disease prevention specialists, and close each of its health centers for one day this week, after the donations it had been using to replace state Medicaid funding run out today.”
Planned Parenthood in Indiana has been relying on donations to serve its 9,300 Medicaid patients since state officials cut off their state and federal Medicaid funding because the organization provides abortion services. Even though, by law, public dollars are not allowed to fund abortions in the state, officials have still sought to defund the clinics.