Thursday, June 30, 2011

Today's News Clips, June 30

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News Clips from America Votes

Thursday, June 30, 2011

News Clips

COLORADO: Beltway Blog — Colorado! Are you ready for lots of 2012 TV ads?

Allison Sherry for the Denver Post

WASHINGTON — It seems like yesterday when we were hearing about GOP Senate candidate Ken Buck being “too extreme for Colorado” and (now Democrat Senator) Michael Bennet being a puppet for the Obama administration and “out of touch.”

Get ready for another round. It is starting startlingly early for the presidential election next year.

Crossroads GPS, a conservative organization, has dumped $5 million in anti-Obama ads in 10 battleground states, including Colorado, for the next two weeks. The group has pledged to raise and spend $120 million on the 2012 election, according to The Washington Post.

Read More:

FLORIDA: Florida Gov. Rick Scott, Legislature turn cost-cutting attention to law enforcement

Steve Bousquet and Emily Nipps for the St. Petersburg Times

TALLAHASSEE — After eliminating thousands of rank-and-file jobs from the state work force, Gov. Rick Scott and the Legislature are turning their cost-cutting attention to a more politically sensitive area: law enforcement.

A little-noticed bill the governor signed last month creates a task force on law enforcement consolidation — an idea likely to send shivers up the spines of police officers in a time of double-digit unemployment.

The legislation directs the task force to "evaluate any duplication of law enforcement functions," including training, legal services, cars, airplanes and the regional deployment of police officers.

Read More:

MICHIGAN: GOP redistricting plans head to Snyder; Dem challenge likely

Karen Bouffard for the Detroit News

Lansing— The state Legislature on Wednesday sent new political district maps to the governor for signing, but the final configuration of congressional and state legislative boundaries could still end up being decided in court.

The maps passed final hurdles in the Senate despite cries from opponents that they were railroaded through by Republicans who control the state House, Senate and Governor's Office. The Michigan League of Women Voters and Common Cause were among the groups to ask the GOP majority to slow down the process.

Democrats claimed throughout the review process that wildly irregular districts — especially in Metro Detroit — were engineered to protect Republican incumbents.

Read More:

MINNESOTA: Shutdown ruling takes pressure off schools

Eric Roper for the Star Tribune

Minnesota education officials breathed a sigh of relief this morning when Judge Kathleen Gearin ruled the state must make "lawfully appropriated payments" to schools during a shutdown.

Under Gov. Mark Dayton's previous plan, the state would have ceased payments to school districts altogether, forcing them to borrow funds or dip into reserves to keep summer activities afloat. Gearin's ruling restores about 80 percent of normal funding to school districts.

That 80 percent includes general education dollars, the largest chunk of the K-12 equation. Some other money will not be doled out because the funds are not already appropriated.

The Department of Education will remain largely dormant durnig a shutdown, with only six full-time employees remaining on board.

Read More:

NEVADA: Who rules Nevada’s elections? Court to decide.

Anjeanette Damon for the Las Vegas Sun

Seems there’s nothing like a deadline, or perhaps a U.S. House vacancy, to focus the mind.

That mantra apparently applied to both the Legislature — which passed a bare bones special election law eight years ago — and the secretary of state’s office, which never got around to writing regulations governing how a special election should be conducted.

Now that Nevada is facing its first U.S. House vacancy, the state Supreme Court will decide how the next representative from the 2nd Congressional District will be chosen.

Read More:

NEW HAMPSHIRE: Public employees unions ask court to block pension reforms

Tom Fahey for the Union Leader

CONCORD - Public workers unions joined the legal battle over pension reform Wednesday, asking a court to block state law that takes an extra 2 percent and more of their pay.

One day after the New Hampshire Retirement System board voted to seek a court opinion on the pension revisions that became law at midnight, unions went for a restraining order that would bar its implementation.

Attorney Glenn Milner argued in requesting the court order that quick action is the only way to prevent a permanent loss to workers.

Read More:

NEW MEXICO: Chávez running for First District seat

Luke Johnson for the New Mexico Independent

Former three-term Albuquerque Mayor Martin Chávez is running as a Democrat for the U.S. House in New Mexico’s First District, writes Albuquerque Journal.

Democratic Rep. Martin Heinrich is vacating the seat, which includes Albuquerque and its environs, to run for an open U.S. Senate seat. Former Democratic Lt. Governor Diane Denish told that she is not running. State Sen. Eric Griego, a former Albuquerque city councilman, is also running in the Democratic primary.

On the Republican side, Albuquerque City Councilor Dan Lewis has declared himself a candidate and former State Rep. Janice Arnold-Jones has formed an exploratory committee.

OHIO: SB 5 opponents make a statement in a big way

Joe Vardon for the Columbus Dispatch

They dubbed it the "million-signature march" and then delivered, literally.

We Are Ohio, the coalition leading the effort to repeal Senate Bill 5, directed a parade of thousands through Downtown yesterday that culminated in the delivery of nearly 1.3 million signatures to the secretary of state to place Ohio's new collective-bargaining law on the November ballot.

The exact signature total - 1,298,301, or an amount equal to nearly 1 out of 6 of Ohio's 8 million registered voters - obliterated the previous state record of 812,978 set in 2008 on a proposed casino for Clinton County.

Read More:

PENNSYLVANIA: Pennsylvania House passes state budget

Amy Worden, Angela Couloumbis, and Alfred Lubrano for the Philadelphia Inquirer

HARRISBURG - The Pennsylvania House on Wednesday night approved a $27.15 billion budget for the fiscal year that begins Friday, setting the stage for Gov. Corbett to sign the document into law before the official deadline.

Corbett got most of what he wanted - deep spending cuts and no new taxes on natural gas or anything else - on a day when his administration pushed through a controversial last-minute Senate measure to shift control of billions in welfare funding from the legislature to his administration.

The Republican governor is about to make history with his first budget: It will be the first in nine years to be completed on time, and the first in two decades to reflect a decrease, roughly 3 percent, from the previous budget.

Read more:

WISCONSIN: State blocks plans to apply for federal health grants

Guy Boulton for the Journal Sentinel

The state is blocking plans by the Milwaukee Health Department and University Health Services in Madison to apply for federal grants that would provide about $27.5 million for health programs designed to promote healthier lifestyles and reduce chronic diseases such as diabetes.

Dennis Smith, secretary of the state Department of Health Services, contends that the programs would duplicate services already being offered in Wisconsin.

"Why are we asking for taxpayers' money for stuff that we are already doing?" he asked. "How long have people been doing tobacco cessation, for heaven's sake? This is stuff that goes on all the time."

Read more:

WISCONSIN: Diminished, union leaders promise action

Don Behm and Jason Stein for the Journal Sentinel

As the state's new collective bargaining law took effect Wednesday, public employee union representatives said they would become more visible in their communities, speaking out on workplace issues at school board, city council, village and county board meetings, now that the law allows certified unions to negotiate only wages.

Prohibiting public unions from helping to resolve disputes over safety, seniority, hours, working conditions and other issues with human resources departments will move the discussion to public meetings, said Rick Badger, executive director of AFSCME Council 40, the union representing about 33,000 members of nearly 600 locals throughout the state outside Milwaukee County.

AFSCME Council 24 represents about 23,000 state workers, while Council 48 represents about 10,000 employees of Milwaukee County and the City of Milwaukee.

Read more:

OREGON: Oregon lawmakers debate, strike agreements as they prepare to end their session

Michelle Cole for the Oregonian

SALEM -- As the Oregon Legislature rushes to finish its 2011 session, Wednesday brought some political fireworks: Should the names of Oregonians who have concealed weapons permits be secret? Does a bill intended to cap the number of hookah lounges actually open the door for more? Should tribal police have expanded powers?

When they weren't butting heads, lawmakers crossed a number of key items off their "to do" list, including a congressional redistricting plan.

Channeling his inner Grateful Dead, Rep. Peter Buckley, D-Ashland, concluded the final meeting of the Joint Ways and Means budget committee saying: "What a long, strange trip it's been."

Read more:

WASHINGTON: McGinn offers support on gay marriage

Lynn Thompson for the Seattle Times

Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn phoned state Sen.Ed Murray earlier this week to offer his support on legalizing gay marriage in the state.

McGinn, who took part in the Pride Parade on Sunday wearing an "I (Heart) New York" T-shirt, said an interview Wednesday that marriage is a powerful institution and "gays and lesbians should be able to share in that."

In a phone call from Chicago, where McGinn is attending the Clinton Global Initiative conference, McGinn said he also thought it was important for him to tell Murray that as the leader of the city, he supports gay marriage.

Read more:

MAINE: Local pastors back marriage equality

Trevor Maxwell for the Portland Press-Herald

Two Methodist pastors from Portland are among the leaders of a national movement to officiate marriages for same-sex couples, despite the denomination's longstanding prohibition that condemns those unions and homosexuality in general.

The Rev. Allen Ewing-Merrill and his wife, the Rev. Sara Ewing-Merrill, pastors at the Hope.Gate.Way Church on High Street, signed a statement this month in support of marriage equality.

About 30 other Methodist clergy members in Maine signed the statement this month, and more than 800 have signed nationwide. If pastors follow through on the pledge in such large numbers, they could force the United Methodist Church to change its rules when delegates gather at a worldwide conference next summer.

Read more:

MINNESOTA: Bachmann’s counseling clinic takes Medicaid payments

Andy Birkey for the Minnesota Independent

The Christian counseling clinic started by Rep. Michele Bachmann and her husband Marcus has taken in $137,000 in Medicaid payments over the last several years, despite the congresswoman’s public opposition to government involvement in health care, NBC News reported Tuesday. That’s in addition to the $30,000 in state funds that the Minnesota Independent first reported last summer.

Bachmann and Associates, Inc., the family’s clinic, uses overtly conservative Christian counseling, an issue which raised questions about the clinic possibly violating the separation of church and state with the money it receives from the Minnesota taxpayers.

Read More:

FLORIDA: Progress Florida launches petition calling for Haridopolos to return book money

Ashley Lopez for the Florida Independent

Progress Florida has launched a petition aimed at state Senate President Mike Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island, asking him to return $152,000 he received from taxpayers to write a book about the “political history of Florida.”

Haridopolos assured critics that even though he received a large sum of money to write the book, proceeds would go back to Brevard Community College, which gave him the book the deal. However, according to Progress Florida, the book “has sold only 70 copies, with only $487.90 earned for Brevard Community College (as of 6/21.)”

Haridopolos, now a U.S. Senate candidate, wrote a 175-page, double-spaced manuscript for the school. The book, titled Florida Legislative History and Processes, is now being sold for $9.99 per copy as an eBook via

Read More:

COLORADO: Bennet lambastes photo ID requirements

Scot Kersgaard for the Colorado Independent

Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet today requested that the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) carefully review highly restrictive photo identification voter requirements that are under consideration or recently signed into law in several states. He said such laws could potentially disenfranchise thousands of eligible voters.

“These laws are a solution in search of a problem,” said Bennet in an email. “Instead of protecting the integrity of our voting system, many of these laws effectively disenfranchise thousands of eligible voters. Voting is integral to the strength of our democracy, and we should be working to increase voting participation, not keeping valid voters from having their voices heard.”

Read More:

INDIANA: Live Action video claims Obama admin. — not Planned Parenthood bill — is to blame for withholding Medicaid funds from Indiana

Ashley Lopez for the American Independent

Live Action, Lila Rose’s anti-abortion rights group, recently released a video that features “undercover phone calls” aimed at displaying how Indiana’s law defunding Planned Parenthood has no effect on Medicaid beneficiaries. The group is claiming that the Obama administration is exercising an “abuse of power” by threatening to withhold federal Medicaid funds from the state.

The video features recorded phone calls of women asking Planned Parenthood employees whether they (as Medicaid beneficiaries) can obtain the services they would otherwise get at Planned Parenthood elsewhere. Because the clinic lets the women know that they can get the same services at other clinics, Live Action dismisses the need for Planned Parenthood as a Medicaid provider in the state.

Read More:

PENNSYLVANIA: Pa. Senate passes bill that would appoint committee to sell off public assets of underwater municipalities

Mikhail Zinshteyn for the American Independent

A bill in Pennsylvania that would empower the governor to appoint two members to a management board that would have the authority to influence collective bargaining agreements and arbitration, and force the liquidation of public holdings, passed the state Senate Tuesday. It awaits a vote in the House as lawmakers scramble to pass the state’s budget and ancillary amendments.

Sen. Jeffrey Piccola proposed Senate Bill 1151 after Harrisburg officials balked at a list of recommendations brought to them by a state-appointed committee charged with finding cuts to a struggling city’s budget. The committee indicates in its report that Harrisburg owes $220 million despite its 2011 General Fund budget just barely exceeds $55 million.

Piccola’s plan would obviate the authority of Harrisburg elected officials, with the management board acting alone in clearing city structures and services. The state committee appeared before the Harrisburg City Council earlier in June, proposing the city outsource waste management, sell a local incinerator, raise property taxes, order public employee layoffs and negotiate contracts to freeze wages and restructure health benefits. The full 418-page document can be found here.

Read More:

PENNSYLVANIA: Finger pointing, frustration between Republicans as school voucher bill in Pa. falls flat

Mikhail Zinshteyn for the American Independent

Finger pointing and agitation is quick on the heels of disappointment following a collapse in negotiations between Pennsylvania House and Senate leaders over a school voucher bill despite Republicans controlling both chambers and the governor’s office.

The state will likely have to wait until after lawmakers return from their two-month summer recess following a last-minute failure to cobble together legislation both chambers could agree. Sen. Jeffrey E. Piccola (R), chairman of the Senate Education Committee and co-sponsor of the controversial proposed voucher legislation SB1 accused the House of being “unable or unwilling to engage in any meaningful discussions to finalize” a compromise.

That remark did not sit well with Republican Rep. Curt Schroder, who authored two bill proposals that would establish a school voucher program in the state. “All I know is that for six months [the Senate] was telling us they would send a school choice bill and they didn’t do that,” said Schroder in an interview with TAI. “Failure to do that can’t be pinned on the House. So it is beyond me as to why they’d be using that reasoning or excuse to hide behind in this instance.”

Read More:

Doing Less with More | Statement on Pa. 2011-12 Budget

The Pennsylvania Legislature has approved a 2011-12 General Fund budget that makes deep cuts to education, health care and other cost-effective local services, while cutting taxes for business and leaving most of a $650 million revenue surplus untouched.

Sharon Ward, Director of the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center, issued the following statement:

“The Legislature has adopted a budget that does less with more, cutting services to children while leaving most of a $650 million revenue surplus on the table.

“The budget reflects a set of priorities that few Pennsylvanians share. It reduces the number of teachers in the classroom, raises college tuition, and increases local property taxes in order to meet an artificial spending number.

“This budget provides tax breaks to businesses but cuts funding to homeless shelters and Meals on Wheels. It gives natural gas drillers a free pass, once again.

“Pennsylvania’s economy grew more quickly than the nation in 2010, but that growth has begun to stall. Cutting jobs and services will have a ripple effect through our communities that will make a robust recovery even harder to achieve.

“This budget fails to put people first. It continues a pattern in Harrisburg of balancing the budget on the backs of the most vulnerable and shifting more state costs onto local taxpayers. That’s bad news for middle-class families, taxpayers and the economy.”

The Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center is a non-partisan policy research project that provides independent, credible analysis on state tax, budget and related policy matters, with attention to the impact of current or proposed policies on working families.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Today's News Clips, June 29, 2011

Clips from our friends at

PRIORITIES USA UP IN IA, FLA., VA., COLO . - The Democratic super PAC Priorities USA Action will roll out an ad campaign in four general election battlegrounds today, in direct response to the $20 million blitz from American Crossroads targeting President Barack Obama. POLITICO's Maggie Haberman reports that the pro-Obama group will go up in Iowa, Florida, Virginia and Colorado: "[S]ources, who are familiar with the buy but requested anonymity, said the ad the group will air is called 'Portraits,' and will go up on a broadcast TV buy starting Wednesday morning and running through the weekend. It wasn't immediately clear what the substance of the ad will be, but television stations in those four states are expected to start receiving copies of the spot first thing in the morning."

ACU PLANTS FLAG IN ORLANDO - The American Conservative Union will announce today that it plans to hold the first regional Conservative Political Action Conference this fall in Orlando, potentially making "CPAC FL" a key stop in the 2012 presidential primaries. ACU will host the event on Sept. 23, a day after the Fox News debate in Orlando and in the middle of the Republican Party of Florida's Presidency 5 summit. The national conservative group has already invited the announced presidential candidates to participate, along with Sunshine State GOP rock stars Marco Rubio and Allen West. ACU Chairman (and former Florida GOP chief) Al Cardenas: "As we battle President Obama and the most liberal Administration in the history of our country, ACU is heading to the frontlines and taking the conservative fight directly to the states ... We look forward to hosting CPAC FL in the Sunshine State this fall, expanding the CPAC brand and further energizing the national conservative movement as we head into the critical 2012 election season."

DCCC PITCH: 'MAKE BOEHNER C RY' - The House Democrats' campaign committee will drop an eye-catching, John Boehner-mocking fundraising appeal this morning, ahead of the second-quarter FEC deadline. Writes DCCC executive director Robby Mook: "We all know it doesn't take much to make Speaker Boehner get teary-eyed. But let's give him something to really cry about ... This deadline is so huge that just last week Boehner announced he's transferring $1 million of his own Big-Oil-tainted funds to our Republican counterparts to give the false impression that they are the ones with the momentum at this critical benchmark ... We absolutely must exceed Boehner's cash infusion with over $1 million in grassroots support of our own." The second quarter is a big financial test for House Democrats, who have started to persuade doubters that the chamber is in play, but still have a long fight ahead of them.

HOUSE TALKER - NRCC VS. RED CHINA - The National Republican Congressional Committee is going on the attack today against Nevada Treasurer Kate Marshall, hitting the Democratic House candidate for supporting an increase in the debt limit that will send money to "places like the People's Republic of China." The video echoes GOP candidate Mark Amodei's first ad, which showed Chinese troops literally marching past the U.S. Capitol. The name of the NRCC's video? "Kate Marshall's Chinese Credit Card." Watch it here: ... And the Amodei spot:

DISASTROUS RICK SCOTT POLL OF THE DAY - The idea that Florida's Republican governor could drag down his party in 2012 has now caught on nationally. Yesterday, PPP served up a set of numbers that highlight just how jaw-droppingly unpopular Rick Scott is: His approval rating is 33 percent, his disapproval rating his 59 percent and his net disapproval among independents has grown to 37 points. If the 2014 election were held today, Scott would get vaporized: "[Charlie] Crist would crush Scott in a hypothetical match up, 56-34 ... Democrats wouldn't need Crist to win if Scott stood for reelection today- in a rematch of their contest last fall Alex Sink now leads Scott by a 57-35 margin."

CUT-CAP-BALANCE VIDEO -- Let Freedom Ring is out with a new video this morning in support of its 'cut, cap and balance' pledge, in which signers vow to tell their elected officials to follow a deficit-reduction approach that cuts spending, implements structural spending caps and pursues a balanced-budget amendment to the Constitution. Spoofing a horror-film trailer, blood-red ink washes over the Capitol, drips from the Statue of Liberty and floods the Grand Canyon as an announcer intones 'Congress is drowning America in a sea of red ink ... we have to stop the spending before America and it's great people are under water ... sign the pledge to save America. Together we can stop the out of control spending. Sign the pledge today.' The video was produced by Harris Media for Let Freedom Ring, which is a coalition of scores of interest groups and tea party affiliates. Organizers say the pledge has been signed by 49,000+ Americans, six presidential candidates, 12 U.S. Senators, 22 Congressmen and 25 candidates for federal office. Here's the video Twitter: @CutCapBalance

AND INSIDE THE CAPITOL -- Republican senators are promoting their balanced-budget amendment in a media availability at 11:30 a.m. Participants: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas), Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), Lindsey Graham (R-N.C.), Mike Johanns (R-Neb.), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Rand Paul (R-Ky.), and other Republican senators.


POPPING IN N.H. - ROMNEY STEADY, BACHMANN RISING - Mitt Romney is holding firm at 36 percent of the vote in New Hampshire, according to a Suffolk University poll released late last night. But the big mover in the Granite State is - wait for it - Michele Bachmann, who has risen from 3 percent support in May to 11 percent now. More: "With the exception of Romney and Bachmann, support for the 18 candidates tested remained in single digits. Tim Pawlenty slipped 3 points, to 2 percent, and Newt Gingrich was unchanged with 2 percent ... Jon Huntsman gained 4 points (4 percent), ranking him ahead of Gingrich, Pawlenty and Rick Santorum (1 percent)." and

SURGING IN GALLUP - THEY REALLY LIKE HER - The authoritative nonpartisan pollster sizes up Bachmann and finds her in a strong position as she starts this new phase of her campaign: "Her name recognition is up to 69% for the two-week period of June 13-26, having climbed from 52% in late February/early March...Bachmann's Positive Intensity Score of 24 ties with Herman Cain's as the highest such score of any candidate, and is her highest to date. Bachmann's ability to maintain her relatively high Positive Intensity Score as she has become better known distinguishes her from several of her competitors." Bachmann is on the road with a pollster of her own, the Tarrance Group's Ed Goeas.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Legislature’s New Budget

Think of the Emperor’s new clothes, and you’ll have an idea of what’s coming below.

Click here for the current spreadsheet for the state budget as negotiated among House and Senate Republicans. Democrats were not part of the negotiations. The legislature’s budget begins on page 14. Altogether, it will cost taxpayers $1,221,180 per work day to operate our legislature next year if this budget passes.

• Do you think you’re getting your money’s worth?
If you’ve never seen a state budget spreadsheet, be prepared for a wealth of information presented in a way that is efficient but largely uninformative to the eye of ordinary citizens. For example, the final column on the right gives increases and decreases but not the percentage of the increases and cuts. So have a calculator ready.

The Senate
Senators have budgeted:
• a 6.2% increase in the line item for “Senators’ Salaries,” increasing the cost from $6,340,000 to $6,734,000. Remember: These are the people who think everyone else in state and local governments should freeze their pay or take a cut.
• a 402% increase for the Senate Appropriations Committee from $498,000 to $2,498,000. There ought to be an explanation for this.
• an overall decrease of 4/10ths of 1 percent for the total Senate budget.

The House
Representatives have budgeted:
• a 44.9% increase in “Members’ Compensation,” increasing the cost from $17,656,000 to $25,584,000. Remember: These are the people who think everyone else in state and local governments should freeze their pay or take a cut.
• a 10% increase in “Caucus Operations.” This combines four line items into one. The four line items cost $75,900,000 this year and will cost $95,500,000 next year.
• an overall decrease of 7.7% for the total House budget. Before you get excited, however, most of this decrease comes not from actual cuts in expenditures but from transferring costs to other line items. See “State Government Support Agencies,” which is next.

State Government Support Agencies
These are mostly agencies that serve the legislature, such as the Legislative Reference Bureau and the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee. See page 15 of the spreadsheet. “Highlights” include:
• a 10.1% cut in the State Ethics Commission. It figures, doesn’t it?
• a 182% increase in the Commonwealth Mail Processing Center.
• a new office, the Independent Fiscal Office, that will cost $1,900,000 the first year.
• an overall increase of 97.8% for these agencies.

The Bottom Line
• Adding the Senate, House, and State Government Support Agencies, the net is a cut of 1/10th of 1 percent or $474,000.

Among the many things that are not yet known is whether the House and Senate are giving up any of their $188.5 million surplus from previous years. We’ll keep digging into the budget and let you know what else we find.

Expect some lawmakers to complain about this summary. Instead, they should complain that this information did not reach the public – or rank-and-file lawmakers – until last night.

If you have an opinion about this, one way or the other, be sure to let your legislators know it now.

To find your legislators, click here for the House web site, and click here for the Senate web site.

June 28, 2011 717-249-3300

Monday, June 27, 2011

Video: "School Choice: Taxpayer-Funded Creationism, Bigotry, and Bias"

The video below is a short preview of the 34-minute video "School Choice: Taxpayer-Funded Creationism, Bigotry, and Bias." Private schools receiving funding through "school choice" programs are using A Beka Book, Bob Jones University Press, and other Protestant fundamentalist curricula. The textbooks in these series teach that dinosaurs lived on earth with humans; deny global warming; promote hostility toward other religions and other sectors of Christianity (particularly Roman Catholicism); provide a biased and often factually incorrect version of history; and teach extreme laissez-faire economics, claimed to be biblically-based.
The full length video (embedded at end of article) focuses on the state of Pennsylvania and its Education Improvement Tax Credit program or EITC, the oldest and second largest corporate tax credit program in the country. Pennsylvania was the site of Kitzmiller v. Dover, which unfolded in 2005 in the full glare of the press. Meanwhile an end run has been made around this case and other well-publicized battles over curriculum. The EITC program, with little press or controversy, is providing taxpayer funding for private schools that have no accountability to the public whatsoever.

Taxes of all types owed by businesses to the state, are diverted to "scholarships" for private schools. In Florida, the largest of these programs, over 80% of the students subsidized by tax credits are attending religious schools, many of them using fundamentalist curricula.

-Rachel Tabachnick

Preview of "School Choice: Taxpayer-Funded Creationism, Bigotry, and Bias" from Rachel Tabachnick on Vimeo.

Chilling Al Qaeda video encourages US-based jihadists to buy guns at gun shows

Take action here: Stop the gun sale loopholes:

Al-Qaeda spokesman encourages American jihadists to buy firearms at gun shows from Fix Gun Checks on Vimeo.

Budget updates from PA Budget and Policy Center

Details are emerging on the 2011-12 state budget deal recently reached by Pennsylvania's legislative leaders and Governor Tom Corbett.

Much like earlier proposals, this budget plan includes deep cuts to education, health care and other cost-effective local services, while leaving much of a $550 million revenue surplus untouched.

The agreement, which will be voted on in the coming days, cuts the current state budget by nearly $1.2 billion, setting spending at $27.149 billion for the 2011-12 fiscal year. The new fiscal year begins on Friday, July 1.

PBPC is reviewing the line-by-line funding details now and will have a more detailed analysis tomorrow. Check our web site throughout the day.

In the meantime, you can view the line item details here.

Also, take a moment to learn how you can take action for a more responsible state budget with the Better Choices for Pennsylvania Coalition.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Rebuild the Dream Video with Van Jones

In the coming weeks, people all across the country will come together for American Dream house meetings. Let's talk about what a new American Dream looks like and commit to stand together to make it happen.

Friday, June 24, 2011

AAM on President Obama’s Advanced Manufacturing Speech

Said Scott Paul, Executive Director of AAM:

Linking manufacturers with the latest cutting-edge research at universities and federal agencies is one step in brightening the prospects for American manufacturing. But we can’t stop there.

We welcome President Obama’s support for public-private partnerships to develop new products, innovations, and processes for American manufacturing. Pittsburgh is the right place to make this announcement: home of a modern steel industry, great academic institutions, sophisticated research, a skilled workforce, and a strong industrial union.

America has been falling behind in manufacturing while the rest of the world aggressively supports its industry. We are playing catch-up following decades of neglect. The Advanced Manufacturing Partnership shows a lot of promise, but the effort will be futile unless our manufacturers also have a solid foundation of support for challenges like unfair trade practices, currency manipulation, developing a skilled workforce, and a more efficient infrastructure.

As I told told Sen. Casey (D-PA)
and other members of the Joint Economic Committee on Wednesday;

We believe, as we imagine you do, that a strong and vibrant manufacturing base is essential to our nation's economic stability, a strong middle class, and employment opportunities for young men and women across America. We also believe that our nation will never realize its full potential to grow the manufacturing sector of our economy without a robust strategy and aggressive set of public policies to complement private sector efforts by business and labor to maintain a globally competitive industry.

AAM’s book Manufacturing a Better Future for America (2009, AAM) includes a chapter on advanced manufacturing written by Carnegie Mellon University’s David Bourne. Click here to download the podcast.


The Alliance for American Manufacturing (AAM) is a unique non-partisan, non-profit partnership forged to strengthen manufacturing in the U.S. AAM brings together a select group of America’s leading manufacturers and the United Steelworkers to promote creative policy solutions on priorities such as international trade, energy security, health care, retirement security, currency manipulation, and other issues of mutual concern. For more information, please visit

Here's a way to cut $1 Trillion from the Fed Budget

Center for American Progress recently released a report entitled “Cut Spending in the Tax Code” where we identified almost two dozen different expenditures worth up to $1 trillion over 10 years that should be the first to go. These are the low-hanging fruit. For example, we identified three groups of tax expenditures as particularly ripe for the picking:

  • The more than $40 billion in oil and gas subsidies
  • The subsidy for hedge fund and private equity managers
  • The deduction for vacation home loans

There is no justification whatsoever for these tax-enabled spending programs. And there are plenty of other such spending programs in our tax code. (see table)

URGENT: Senate to vote today on $1B voucher giveaway

Worried StudentTake Action to Stop SB1- another attack on public education and local property taxes

The Pennsylvania senate is about to vote on a bill that will raise your property taxes and lower the quality of public education. I’s called SB1, and it will cost Pennsylvania taxpayers between $500 million and $4.5 billion.

The Republican leadership is trying to ram this through today. Please take action NOW before they vote on this outrageous legislation.

According to No Voucher

SB 1 will raise your property taxes. The public schools aren’t going away, and if the state takes billions away from local school boards, your local property taxes will go up.

SB 1 creates a new Harrisburg bureaucracy. The bill creates a brand-new agency in Harrisburg, with staff, offices and equipment.

SB 1 is unconstitutional. Article III, Section 15 of the PA Constitution states: “No money raised for the support of the public schools of the Commonwealth shall be appropriated or used for the support of any sectarian school.”

SB 1 is a huge unfunded liability for taxpayers. Cost estimates for SB 1 are based on just 10% of low-income families. Dr. Woodrow Sites of the PA Association of Rural and Small Schools testified that the real price tag could be more than $4.5 billion a year.

SB 1 has no accountability. SB 1 would send taxpayer dollars to private school operators with no requirement that they do a good job teaching kids. Isn’t that what’s wrong with education already? Even worse, there are numerous reports of financial fraud and other scandals in private school operations.

Take action now! Click here to tell your State Senator to vote NO on SB 1.

Clean Cars Would Save Pennsylvanians $2.4 Billion at the Gas Pump This Summer

Clean Cars Would Save Pennsylvanians $2.4 Billion at the Gas Pump This Summer

By Megan Fitzpatrick,, 215.732.5897 / 609.647.1526

With kids getting out of K-12 schools and July 4th weekend fast approaching, many families are thinking about how high gas prices will impact their summer travel plans. A new PennEnvironment report finds that more fuel-efficient cars would save every Pennsylvanian family an average of $452 at the gas pump this summer alone. The report was released as the Obama administration is developing new fuel efficiency and global warming pollution standards for cars and light trucks.

“Pennsylvanians shouldn’t have to spend their summers worrying about how they will afford to drive, let alone whether their children are breathing air pollution, and whether their beaches are safe from oil spills. President Obama should take a bold step to solve all of these problems and put cleaner cars in the fast lane,” said Megan Fitzpatrick, Federal Field Associate at PennEnvironment.

This report shows that by helping consumers burn less oil, cleaner cars would mean we burn less cash too, saving Pennsylvanians $2.5 billion over the summer. “Not only could you afford that roadtrip to the beach, but you could book a hotel and stick around for a week with the money you’ve saved.”

Based on current gas prices, Pennsylvanians are expected to spend more than $4.8 billion at the gas pump over the course of the summer. Since no relief is in sight for the price of gas and our oil consumption continues to have dire consequences for our health and environment as well, PennEnvironment pointed to reducing our dependence on oil as the only viable solution.

“In these tough economic times, it is my firm belief that we must do as much as we can to rid ourselves of foreign supplies of oil,” said Lehigh County Commissioner Percy Dougherty. “By increasing fuel efficiency and supporting cleaner cars, we can do that.”

Requiring cars and trucks to meet a 60 mpg standard would be a major step toward getting off oil and decreasing pollution, reducing Pennsylvania’s oil consumption over the summer by 630 million gallons and reducing dangerous carbon dioxide pollution by nearly 6 million metric tons.

“Dirty emissions from single-passenger cars are the major contributor to the air quality crisis our region faces. A truly clean commuter fleet is something we support, and we need President Obama to go forward with making clean cars a reality.” said Cocca, Outreach Coordinator for the Air Quality Partnership of Lehigh Valley-Berks.

Last year, recognizing the benefits of increasing fuel efficiency and decreasing our oil dependence, the Obama administration set standards for new cars and trucks built between 2012 and 2016 that will save billions of gallons of fuel.

Today, PennEnvironment called on President Obama to take the next step and move clean cars into the fast lane by making 60 miles per gallon cars the norm and not the exception to the rule.

“This summer, we should remember that clean cars could make our fun in the sun all that much better, creating huge benefits for Pennsylvania’s families, our economy and our environment,” said Fitzpatrick. “We need the Obama administration to push ahead with the clean car standards that will make these benefits a reality.”

PennEnvironment is a statewide, citizen-funded environmental advocacy group that works for a cleaner, greener future.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Today's News Clips, June 23

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News Clips from America Votes

Thursday, June 23, 2011

News Clips

FLORIDA: Office of Congressional Ethics investigating Florida Rep. Alcee Hastings

Lesley Clark for the Miami Herald

WASHINGTON — A congressional ethics panel is looking into allegations that Rep. Alcee Hastings sexually harassed a former staffer, according to a conservative group that first aired the accusations.

The Office of Congressional Ethics contacted the staffer, Winsome Packer, and is "reviewing the numerous allegations in the lawsuit," Judicial Watch attorney Tom Fitton said Wednesday.

Judicial Watch filed a lawsuit in March against the Broward Democrat on Packer's behalf. Fitton alleged at the time that Packer, a staffer on a House commission that Hastings led, was subjected to a "never ending barrage of unwanted sexual advances" and was threatened and intimidated when she tried to report Hastings' behavior.

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MICHIGAN: New suit challenges Michigan's emergency manager law

Karen Bouffard for the Detroit News

Lansing— Michigan's new emergency manager law faces a fourth challenge Wednesday with the filing of a lawsuit in Ingham County Circuit Court.

It's the second lawsuit filed to stop Public Act 4, signed in March by Gov. Rick Snyder. The law is also the target of two petition drives aimed at repeal.

The law grants sweeping powers to emergency managers of school districts and municipalities to unseat elected officials and toss out union contracts.

From The Detroit News:’s-emergency-manager-law#ixzz1Q6M3btp6

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MINNESOTA: Dayton plunges (back) into court shutdown fight

Bob von Sternberg for the Star Tribune

Gov. Mark Dayton filed a petition Wednesday morning with the state Supreme Court, asking it to toss out a brief filed Monday by a group of Republican state senators that is trying to block a district court judge from intervening in the budget crisis that could lead to a state government shutdown on July 1.

In his petition, Dayton argues, backing up Attorney General Lori Swanson, that the senators are out of line in demanding that a district court judge be prevented from appointing a mediator to sift through the disagreements between the Democratic governor and the GOP legislative leadership team.

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NEVADA: NLV City Council meets to discuss special election

Aida Ahmed for the Las Vegas Sun

The North Las Vegas City Council will meet today to discuss holding a special election in Ward 4, despite a lawsuit filed Tuesday to block the new election for the council seat.

The lawsuit, filed in Clark County District Court, seeks to halt a council-ordered re-election in one Ward 4 precinct between Wade Wagner and incumbent Councilman Richard Cherchio.

In the June 7 general election, Wagner won by a single vote, but five days later the Clark County Elections Department found one invalid vote was cast. The City Council voted on June 15 to hold a new election in Precinct 4306.

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NEW HAMPSHIRE: Budget bills pass, await Lynch’s OK

Kevin Landrigan for the Nashua Telegraph

CONCORD – The two-year $10.3 billion state budget (HB 1) and its massive trailer bill (HB 2) easily cleared the Republican-dominated Legislature on Wednesday.

Now it’s up to Gov. John Lynch to decide whether he can live with the significant cuts in spending and sweeping changes in state policies.

Debate on both budget measures was long, predictable and overwhelmingly partisan.

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NEW HAMPSHIRE: Lynch loses abortion veto battle

Kevin Landrigan for the Nashua Telegraph

CONCORD – Well into a historic fourth term, Gov. John Lynch has never failed to win a veto fight – until now.

The winning streak came to an end in triplicate Wednesday as lawmakers passed over Lynch’s objection to three state laws, including one to compel minor girls to notify a parent before getting an abortion (HB 329).

Other bills now law despite Lynch vetoes repeal the state’s minimum wage law (HB 133) and prevent local planning board from requiring that developers install sprinkler systems in one- or two-family homes (HB 109).

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NEW MEXICO: Governor to tighten oversight on immigrant driver's licenses

Kate Nash for the New Mexican

Gov. Susana Martinez is making good on her vow to administratively tighten rules for granting driver's licenses to foreign nationals.

Martinez, whose efforts in this year's legislative session to do away with the license law failed, said Wednesday the state Motor Vehicles Division will recommend changes in the documents that foreign nationals must submit as identification and proof that they are New Mexico residents.

The recommendations, which the administration says are to improve security, will go to the governor in late July, a spokesman said.

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OHIO: Ohio Senate removes controversial photo ID mandate for voters, but plans to move it in separate legislation

Joe Guillen for the Plain Dealer

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Faced with multiple legal threats, Ohio Senate Republicans on Wednesday retreated from a plan to require voters to show a photo ID at the polls as part of a sweeping election reform package.

Instead, Republicans will seek a photo ID requirement through separate legislation that appears fast-tracked for approval.

Senate President Tom Niehaus, a Republican from Clermont County, said the separate voter ID bill, which the House already has approved, could be passed in the Senate Thursday or next week.

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PENNSYLVANIA: Corbett and legislators meet through day on budget

Angela Couloumbis for the Philadelphia Inquirer

HARRISBURG - With the deadline to enact a state budget fast approaching, Gov. Corbett met with legislative leaders throughout the day Wednesday and reported progress in the slow crawl toward a deal.

"I still have confidence that we will have a budget on time," Corbett said as he emerged from the negotiating room. "We made substantial progress today."

There is pressure to reach an agreement.

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WISCONSIN: Walker fields at least 15 GOP requests for budget vetoes

Jason Stein for the Journal Sentinel

Madison - Republican lawmakers have lined up seeking budget vetoes from Gov. Scott Walker, making at least 15 requests for him to nix a range of provisions affecting craft beer brewers, credit unions and ethics statements from public officials.

That gave a few points of bipartisan opposition to provisions in the bill, though every Republican lawmaker has voted in favor of the budget, which relies on spending cuts rather than tax increases to close a $3 billion budget gap over two years.

Requests for vetoes are coming in as Walker, who holds the most powerful partial veto pen in the country, is expected to release his rewrites of the state budget within days.

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MONTANA: Governor says Republicans 'hoodwinked' Montanans on budget numbers

Mike Dennison for the Billings Gazette

HELENA — Gov. Brian Schweitzer, in the wake of last week’s news that state tax revenue this year already is $70 million higher than expected, said Wednesday that Republican legislative leaders “hoodwinked” the public by insisting that tax revenue would be lower.

The Democratic governor, at a Capitol news conference, went so far as to accuse Republicans of “deceit and fraud,” saying faulty revenue forecasts were used to justify a state budget approved by the GOP-controlled 2011 Legislature that will short vital programs.

The consequences of the pared-down budget will be higher college tuition, higher local property taxes to offset inadequate state school funding and a loss of 2,400 jobs that could have been financed by a state construction project bill, he said.

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IDAHO: Cobell tribal settlement gives Obama help for Indian votes

Rocky Barker for the Idaho Statesman

U.S. District Judge Thomas Hogan gave final approval to the settlement of a long-standing lawsuit over the federal government’s abysmal record of serving as trustee for its American Indians.

Hogan said the settlement of the Cobell v. Salazar case doesn’t make up for the losses Indians have suffered over more than a century. But the $3.4 billion settlement promises to pay up to 500,000 American Indians for mismanagement of billions of dollars in oil, gas, grazing, timber and other royalties overseen by the Interior for Indians since 1887.

Elouise Cobell, a Blackfeet Indian from Montana, who was the lead plaintiff in the class action lawsuit, will get $2 million.

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WASHINGTON: Marijuana-initiative backers say state could lead change

Lynn Thompson for the Seattle Times

Washington state would be defying federal drug laws if an initiative filed Wednesday with the Secretary of State to legalize and regulate marijuana is adopted.

But backers said Wednesday that states can take the lead in ending what they call the nation's failed war on drugs, much as individual states, including Washington, repealed Prohibition before the federal government.

"If people at the state and other states in this country say we're ready to try a rational approach to marijuana laws, the federal government has to take notice," said campaign director Alison Holcomb, who is taking a leave from her job as drug policy director at ACLU Washington.

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OREGON: Bill to transform, lower cost of Medicaid moves forward in Oregon Legislature

Harry Esteve for the Oregonian

SALEM -- With pressure mounting to adjourn this week, Oregon lawmakers took the first significant step late Wednesday to approve a bill that sets the stage for dramatic changes to the state's Medicaid system.

Known around the Capitol as health care "transformation," the bill requires the state to set up a new, less expensive medical insurance program next year for more than 600,000 low-income and disabled residents on the Oregon Health Plan. It passed out of a mere subcommittee, but in the waning days, that's tantamount to legislative leaders' seal of approval.

The bill, a top priority for Gov. John Kitzhaber, has been bottled up for weeks because of haggling over details, including whether an expected new public workforce of caregivers would be unionized. But after dozens of proposed amendments that stripped out the union language, key lawmakers signaled it has the votes to pass.

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MICHIGAN: Senate committee approves GOP redistricting map

Sam Inglot for Michigan Messenger

A Senate committee today approved the Republican redistricting map as Democrats pleaded with them to slow the process down and allow more public involvement.

The heated debate will now move to the Senate floor reports the Associated Press.

There are some ongoing discussions about the proposed maps, particularly for southeast Michigan districts, as the legislation advances to the Senate floor. But Republicans appear to be sticking to their plan to wrap up the redistricting process this month, well ahead of a Nov. 1 deadline.

Republicans say they want to wrap up votes this month in part to leave time for possible legal challenges from groups who may be opposed to the boundary changes. Democrats cautioned against a self-fulfilling prophecy on the legal front.

“If this is pushed through too fast, you’re more likely to have a lawsuit,” said Sen. Steve Bieda, a Democrat from Warren.

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FLORIDA: Scott signs ‘Choose Life’ bill into law

Virginia Chamlee for the Florida Independent

Among the bills Gov. Rick Scott signed into law yesterday was House Bill 501, a measure that redefines how money made from sales of Florida’s bright yellow “Choose Life” license plates is spent.

Funds raised through the sale of the plates have traditionally gone to individual counties — the counties that sold the most plates receiving the bulk of the funds. The majority of the money was then distributed to pregnancy centers that worked to meet the physical needs of women seeking an adoption plan for their unborn child. By law, only 30 percent or less of those funds could go toward counseling services or advertising (which many argue perform no real medical purpose).

The newly signed bill undoes that 70/30 split, allowing for any amount of the funds to go toward crisis pregnancy centers, largely religious organizations that have been found to disseminate false information.

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FLORIDA: More on Radiance Foundation’s billboards targeting African-Americans

Virginia Chamlee for the Florida Independent

In a press conference held in Oakland, Calif., on June 18, Radiance Foundation representatives and other anti-abortion activists gathered to tout a set of recently unveiled billboards that have been causing controversy across the country.

The billboards, which read “Black & Beautiful,” are decidedly less controversial than a previous Radiance campaign, which proclaimed, “Black babies are an endangered species.” Radiance unveiled the 70 Los Angeles-area billboards as part of an eight-week campaign to promote, a site devoted to “exposing Planned Parenthood.” Critics argue that the ads, and Radiance’s overall efforts, aim to associate Planned Parenthood with racism. Representatives from the foundation have touted plans for 60 additional billboards in Oakland, but did not confirm their exact location.

Activist Catherine Davis was one of the speakers during Saturday’s conference. According to the Radiance Foundation’s website, Davis leads Operation Outrage, “an ongoing effort to educate Americans about the holocaustic impact abortion has had on the Black community.”

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