Monday, July 25, 2011

Environmental Groups Respond to Corbett Marcellus Commission

(Harrisburg) – A number of environmental and community organizations gathered outside Governor Corbett’s office in the state capitol today to respond to the Governor’s Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission. Groups universally criticized the Commission’s final report, issued last Friday, as a product of its industry make-up and decried the secrecy employed to generate the final product.

"The Commission recognized the need for regulatory improvements, but in effect gave barely a nod to the serious and accelerating health and environmental problems in Pennsylvania's gas patch," said Nadia Steinzor, Marcellus Regional Organizer with Earthworks. "With strong incentives for the expansion of drilling, limited protections, and a willingness to violate the rights of landowners through forced pooling and municipalities by overriding zoning rights, the recommendations are yet another way to favor industry over citizens."

“While the Commission held their secret deliberations, the state gave out 1,720 permits to drill in the Marcellus Shale. Even though some of the recommendations recognize that residents lack the proper protections from drilling, when, if ever, will the state take action? We need a halt to the mad rush to give out permits when even industry agrees that the rules are currently lacking,” stated Myron Arnowitt, PA State Director for Clean Water Action.

Many of the environmental recommendations in the Commission report have been proposed in legislation for several years with no action taken to date. None of the drilling companies on the Commission have offered to abide by the recommendations in their own report.

“We have had information about the deleterious effects of Marcellus Shale gas drilling on our environment, health, and safety for years,” said Erika Staaf of PennEnvironment. “To delay implementing much-needed policy in order to regurgitate facts we already had at our fingertips is an abomination. It’s critical our state legislators to act swiftly to make meaningful progress to protect our drinking water, clean air, public lands and public health from the dangers of drilling.”

The environmental groups also noted a list of critical issues that the Commission ignored in making their final recommendations including: lack of a moratorium and a requirement to conduct a cumulative impact analysis, no recommendations to address the need to test drinking water supplies, nothing to address the impacts of pipelines being built throughout the state, and a complete lack of attention to the air quality impacts from gas drilling and production.

"The Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission has ignored the serious air pollution problems associated with Marcellus-related development. Well pads, compressor stations, and processing facilities are all going in largely without air pollution controls," said Jeff Schmidt, Director of the Sierra Club Pennsylvania Chapter. "The pollution from these facilities are felt by the public. According the DEP, during the last week we have been experiencing public health-threatening "Code Orange" ozone action days over nearly all of Pennsylvania. The pollution from gas drilling facilities will only make our air quality more dangerous. We must require the best available pollution controls at all of these facilities, in order to protect public health", Schmidt concluded.

The environmental organizations also noted the lack of real public participation in the process of drafting the report. “Gov. Corbett’s Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission operated at a level of secrecy that evoked memories of Dick Cheney’s Energy Task Force. We’re very disappointed that there is no opportunity for Pennsylvanians to formally comment on the final report now that it has been made available to the public. They deserve to have a real voice in matters as important as unconventional natural gas drilling,” stated Karen Feridun from Berks Gas Truth.

The next time someone says Democrats spend too much, show them this:

National Debt Graphic

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

PA #2 with most toxic air pollution from Power Plants

Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida Lead List of “Toxic 20” States with Most Toxic Air Pollution from Power PlantsWorst States: OH, PA, FL, KY, MD, IN, MI, WV, GA, NC, SC, AL, TX, VA, TN, MO, IL, WI, NH, IA

WASHINGTON (July 20, 2011) — Residents of Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida live in states with the most toxic air pollution from coal- and oil-fired power plants, according to an analysis by the Natural Resources Defense Council.

The study used publicly-available data in the Environmental Protection Agency’s Toxics Release Inventory (TRI). The analysis, entitled “Toxic Power: How Power Plants Contaminate Our Air and States” was jointly released today by NRDC and Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR).

Among the key findings:

  • Nearly half of all the toxic air pollution reported from industrial sources in the United States comes from coal- and oil-fired power plants.
  • Power plants are the single largest industrial source of toxic air pollution in 28 states and the District of Columbia.

“Power plants are the biggest industrial toxic air polluters in our country, putting children and families at risk by dumping deadly and dangerous poisons into the air we breathe,” said Dan Lashof, Climate Center Director at NRDC. “Tougher standards are long overdue. Members of Congress who consider blocking toxic pollution safeguards should understand that this literally will cost American children and families their health and lives.”

Despite the health benefits of reducing toxic pollution from power plants, some polluters and members of Congress are seeking to block EPA’s efforts to update public health protections. Last week, two House Committees voted for amendments by Ed Whitfield (R-KY)/Mike Ross (D-AR) and Cynthia Lummis (R-WY) to block for at least a year the EPA’s Mercury and Air Toxics standard. These amendments could move to the House floor as early as this week.

Meanwhile, the chairman of the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee, Fred Upton (R-MI) has vowed to block EPA’s clean air safeguards. One of the nation’s biggest polluters, American Electric Power (AEP) based in Columbus, Ohio has drafted legislation to block the EPA and has argued against EPA’s current efforts.

The states on the “Toxic 20” list (from worst to best) are:

  1. Ohio
  2. Pennsylvania
  3. Florida
  4. Kentucky
  5. Maryland
  6. Indiana
  7. Michigan
  8. West Virginia
  9. Georgia
  10. North Carolina
  11. South Carolina
  12. Alabama
  13. Texas
  14. Virginia
  15. Tennessee
  16. Missouri
  17. Illinois
  18. Wisconsin
  19. New Hampshire
  20. Iowa

The EPA estimates that the reductions of toxic pollution required by the pending “Mercury and Air Toxics” standard would save as many as 17,000 lives every year by 2015 and prevent up to 120,000 cases of childhood asthma symptoms. The safeguards also would avoid more than 12,000 emergency room and hospital visits and prevent 850,000 lost work days every year. These standards are expected to be finalized in November; the agency is taking public comments on its proposal until Aug. 4, 2011.

“Coal pollution is killing Americans,” said Lynn Ringenberg, MD, of Physicians for Social Responsibility. “It is America’s biggest source of toxic air pollution. Air toxics from coal-fired power plants cause cancer, birth defects, and respiratory illness. Just one of those air toxics, mercury, damages the developing brains of fetuses, infants, and small children. It robs our children of healthy neurological development and native intelligence.

“Poisonous power threatens the health of our kids and families. As a pediatrician for over thirty years, I urge us absolutely to support the EPA’s efforts to reduce the health threat from coal.”

The 28 states in which power plants are the leading source of toxic air pollution reported to the TRI are: Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia and Wyoming.


The EPA’s Toxic Release inventory, known as the TRI, is a national database of toxic emissions self-reported by industrial sources. This analysis compared TRI emissions from the electric utilities sector to those from other sectors and ranked sources by total emissions by sector. Releases are calculated and self-reported by covered entities. Emissions of key power plant pollutants are reported to the TRI, including mercury, hydrochloric acid, and other hazardous metals.

Top emitting power plants were identified based on toxic emissions reported to TRI. Power plant ownership information was drawn from “Benchmarking Air Emissions of the 100 Largest Electric Power Producers in the United States (2010).” Data on pollution control systems at specific plants was obtained from EPA’s National Electric Energy Data System Database v.4.10 (2010).

For the full methodology, see the analysis “Toxic Power: How Power Plants Contaminate Our Air and States,” which can be found here:

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 1.3 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world’s natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Livingston, Montana, and Beijing. Visit us at

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Members of Congress Stop in Pittsburgh for the “Speakout for Good Jobs Now! Rebuild the American Dream” Tour

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Andrew@ and the Congressional Progressive Caucus Host Event to Hear From Middle Class Workers and Unemployed

More Information at:

While the debate in Washington is all about deficit reduction, Americans outside the Beltway want to hear about the creation of good jobs. It is time for Congress to get the message.

We need a plan to put people to work and action to make the economy work for the Middle Class once more. That will only happen if the voices of America’s working families are heard in a Washington dominated by entrenched corporate interests and big money politics.

It’s time for Congress to listen to the challenges the middle class faces in rebuilding the American Dream. Deficit reduction cannot come at the expense of good jobs and hope for the future. Now more than ever, Americans are struggling to make ends meet while CEOs are being rewarded for shipping American jobs overseas.

On Monday, July 18 from 6-8 p.m. EST members of Congress and hundreds of workers will start a conversation in Pittsburgh as part of a nationwide summer tour to promote good jobs and rebuild the American Dream.


WHO: Rep. Mike Doyle (D-PA), Rep. John Conyers (D-MI)

WHAT: Speakout for Good Jobs Now! A nationwide Summer Tour.

WHERE The Kinsley Association: 645 Frankstown Ave, Pittsburgh PA 15206

WHEN: Monday, July 18, 6 p.m. – 8 p.m. EST

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Tell Pocono Medical Center to Reinstate Rafelina Now!

Tell Pocono Medical Center to Reinstate Rafelina Now!

For over a year, Pocono Medical Center (PMC) in East Stroudsburg, PA, has been illegally intimidating and harassing frontline caregivers for standing up for quality health care and good jobs in our community.

PMC’s unlawful campaign against caregivers reached a new low when the hospital illegally fired employee Rafelina Caraballo for speaking up about favoritism and mistreatment from management.

Tell PMC to reinstate Rafelina now!

Rafelina has worked at Pocono Medical Center for seven years, drawing blood for patients. A dedicated caregiver, Rafelina brings gifts to her patients on the holidays, and she was even nominated for Employee of the Month.

“Why would PMC fire someone who cares about the patients and does her job well,” Rafelina asked at a recent press conference. “What message does that send to the people in this community who depend on us?”

Rafelina Caraballo stands in front of Pocono Medical Center with her sons, from left, Albert, John, and Jeremy. PMC illegally fired Rafelina in March, when she spoke up about favoritism and mistreatment from management.

Tell PMC CEO Kathy Kuck what you think of the hospital’s unlawful actions.

The National Labor Relations Board is prosecuting PMC for more than two dozen violations of federal law, including surveillance of employees and unlawful threats. Yet PMC continues to break the law and refuses to settle a fair contract with employees.

Hospital management needs to know that our community won’t accept PMC’s mistreatment of caregivers.

Send a postcard to Kathy Kuck.

Tell her to immediately reinstate Rafelina, stop breaking the law, and work with us to settle a fair contract that ensures quality care and good jobs for the Poconos.

Thank you,

Gloria Shupp, Registration Representative
PMC Chapter President
SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania

Protect Your Care Ad to Protect Medicare

Julie doesn’t like the Republican plan to end Medicare as we know it. Their vision is to turn it into a “voucher” program and tell seniors “good luck.”

Julie asks if Republicans are looking for cuts, why are they looking at seniors?

Republicans candidates would sign the GOP budget plan to end Medicare as we know it

Today's News Clips, July 12, 2011

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News Clips from America Votes

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

News Clips

COLORADO: Denver City Council overrules voter initiative on unlicensed drivers

Liz Navratil for the Denver Post

Denver City Council members voted 9-1 on Monday night to repeal a voter-approved initiative designed in part to impound cars driven by "illegal aliens."

The repeal means that, starting Aug. 1, unlicensed drivers will no longer have to pay $2,600 in bonds and fees after police tow their cars. It will still be illegal to drive without a license, and people who have their cars towed will still pay a towing fee and a daily fee for vehicles sitting in the impound lot.

Monday's vote, the council's last before new members are sworn in July 18, marks the end of years of controversy that have ensued since 54 percent of voters passed the measure in 2008.

Read more:

FLORIDA: George LeMieux boasts big fundraising in Florida Senate race

Adam Smith for the St. Petersburg Times

It takes loads of money to win a statewide campaign in Florida, and George LeMieux is proving himself a formidable money-raiser in the crowded Republican U.S. Senate primary.

LeMieux, who served 16 months in the U.S. Senate, reported raising more than $950,000 over the past three months.

That's not nearly as much as the $2.6 million raised by Florida Senate President Mike Haridopolos in his debut fundraising quarter earlier this year — and Haridopolos added another $900,000 since April — but considerably more than the $560,000 raised last quarter by former state House Majority Leader Adam Hasner, who had been known as one of the most prolific money-raisers in the Legislature.

Read more:

MINNESOTA: Dayton offer goes nowhere

Rachel Stassen-Berger for the Star Tribune

DFL Gov. Mark Dayton said Monday he was willing to drop his call for more taxes on millionaires, but warned that the state budget stalemate will continue unless GOP leaders agree to raise more revenue and spend more money.

In a letter to Republican leaders, he said he was willing to consider sales tax changes, increasing "sin" taxes or the elimination of tax breaks to get a deal done. But he drew a hard line against cutting spending as deeply as Republicans have urged.

"I'm just offering various possibilities. I want to get this resolved. The people of Minnesota want to get this resolved," Dayton said, standing in front of the closed-down State Capitol on Shutdown Day 11.

Read more:

NEVADA: From taxes to abortion, pledges secure spot in Republican politics

Anjeanette Damon for the Las Vegas Sun

Given the shaky reputation of campaign promises, it was inevitable that some voters would ask politicians to put them in writing.

Indeed, Republican candidates are being asked to sign a litany of pledges: to declare fealty to the rights of the unborn as defined by a national anti-abortion group; to repeal the estate tax; to not — under any circumstances — raise taxes; to not raise the federal debt limit unless a balanced-budget amendment, spending caps and significant budget cuts are in place.

In Iowa, presidential candidates can pledge to stay true to both their spouse and family-friendly policies. (The pledge is based, among other things, on the misguided assumption that blacks had a better family life under slavery than in modern America.)

Read more:

OHIO: Sen. Jim DeMint says Sen Sherrod Brown is responsible for 'over $14 trillion in debt': PolitiFact Ohio

Mark Naymik for the Plain Dealer

Josh Mandel, who was elected Ohio treasurer last November, insists he’s not officially running for the U.S. Senate.

But the young Republican, whose two tours in Iraq as a Marine intelligence specialist and his fund-raising prowess has made him a top GOP political recruit, is raising money and collecting endorsements like an official candidate.

He won two endorsements recently that come with fund-raising help, one from the conservative Club for Growth and one from the Senate Conservatives Fund.

Read more:

PENNSYLVANIA: U.S. Sen. Bob Casey holds most of the cards in re-election run

Associated Press

Sen. Bob Casey Jr. might just have himself to beat next year when he seeks a second six-year term as Pennsylvania’s now-senior U.S. senator.

Casey, 51, has as close to a household name as any politician in the state, thanks in part to his father, the former two-term governor of Pennsylvania. Casey is a Democrat in a state in which registered Democrats outnumber registered Republicans 4-to-3.

And with a lengthy list of open Senate seats and potentially vulnerable incumbents spread out across the country next year, the Republican Party might have a hard time devoting enough money and resources to whomever the party nominates to challenge Casey.

Read More:

WISCONSIN: How the GOP redistricting plan protects 3 Republican state senators

Craig Gilbert for the Journal Sentinel

To appreciate how the GOP’s new legislative redistricting plan protects the party’s incumbents, take a look at three state Senate districts in southeastern Wisconsin that have a recent history of competitive elections.

These are the seats now held by Alberta Darling of River Hills, Leah Vukmir of Wauwatosa and Van Wanggaard of Racine.

All three districts voted for Democrat Barack Obama for president in 2008 (by between four and 12 points).

Read More:

WISCONSIN: Primaries will gauge voter interest in recalls

Tom Tolan for the Journal Sentinel

Voters get their first chance Tuesday to weigh in on the recall fever that's swept the state for the last four months when they vote in six primary races pitting Democratic recall challengers against "fake" or "protest" Democrats put up by the Republican Party.

As election day approached, some activity was reported in favor of the Republican-backed candidates in at least four of the districts, but Democrats said they're confident their get-out-the-vote efforts will help their candidates survive.

The election is the first one affected by the state's new Republican-backed voter ID law, so voters face some changes at polling places. They'll be asked to show photo identification but will be allowed to vote even if they don't have it, in a "soft implementation" of the new law. Next year, the photo IDs will be mandatory. Voters also will be required to sign a poll book, and anybody registering to vote will have to have lived at their current address at least 28 days, as opposed to the 10 required in the past.

Read More:

MONTANA: Environmental groups sue to halt logging project in southeastern Montana

Staff for the Billings Gazette

Two environmental groups filed suit in U.S. District Court in Missoula last week to halt a proposed logging and burning project in southeastern Montana’s Ashland Ranger District, the latest move in what has been an ongoing dispute.

“It’s almost a clone of another proposed logging project in the area that we already stopped because it was so far outside the law,” Mike Garrity, executive director of the Alliance for the Wild Rockies, said in a statement.

“We have no choice except to ask the court to halt it for the good of the forest, the water and the wildlife,” he added.

Read more:

FLORIDA: GEO Group scraps state-level PAC

Travis Pillow for the Florida Independent

Amid all the other headlines from today’s campaign finance disclosures, here’s one that’s a bit off the beaten path.

The GEO Group Inc., a South Florida-based private prison firm, has scrapped its state-level political action committee after an audit by the Florida Department of State found it was taking in contributions that exceeded state limits.

A letter from the company to state election authorities says GEO was operating as a federal committee, and was not aware that filing reports with Florida officials meant it was bound by state contribution limits, which at $500 are lower than what is allowed under federal law. Those letters and other related documents can be found here.

Read More:

MICHIGAN: Tea Party to launch ‘Vacation Liberty School’

Sam Inglot for the Michigan Messenger

The Saginaw County Tea Party plans to launch a “Vacation Liberty School” next week, calling it an outreach program for kids.

The group claims the camp will be nonpartisan but will feature discussions about religion, reports The Saginaw News.

Heather A. McLeod is the the local party’s education coordinator and feels that the program will shield kids from the “progressive agenda.”

Read More:

MINNESOTA: Dayton comes out swinging on shutdown

Jon Collins for the Minnesota Independent

After weeks of relative silence about negotiations to end the state shutdown, Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton went on the offensive Monday, announcing a statewide, weeklong tour across the state.

Dayton also released a video articulating his arguments to the people of Minnesota and submitted an op-ed to newspapers across the state.

“This state government shutdown is painful for many Minnesotans. I am often asked, ‘Why? Why are you and Republican legislators putting us through these hardships,’” Dayton wrote in the op-ed. “I believe that the future of Minnesota is at stake. Our way of life, what makes Minnesota special and successful, hangs in the balance.”

Read More:

NEW MEXICO: Wilson continues to have ‘concerns’ about Ryan plan

Luke Johnson for the New Mexico Independent

Heather Wilson, Republican candidate for U.S. Senate — and former colleague of Rep. Paul Ryan — continued to sidestep questions about his budget plan Friday in an interview with Politico:

“I’m not in the House of Representatives. This is not something that I have to vote on. I don’t agree with some of the things in his budget plan,” said the former congresswoman, now taking her second shot at the upper chamber. “There are a lot of things in there that cause some concern.”

Her primary opponent, Lt. Gov John Sanchez, has also declined to support the Ryan plan in full. The most controversial part of the plan converts Medicare into a voucher program for private insurance.

Read More:

Monday, July 11, 2011

What Have Unions Done for Us?

Great new video from

Today's News Clips, July 11, 2011

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News Clips from America Votes

Monday, July 11, 2011

News Clips

COLORADO: Public to testify on proposed Colo. Districts

The Associated Press

A Colorado panel working on the once-a-decade process of redrawing state House and Senate districts to account for population changes will be hearing public testimony.

The panel will hear from residents in several metro-area counties Monday. Those counties are Denver, Adams, Boulder, Jefferson, Arapahoe and Broomfield.

Read more:

FLORIDA: Medicaid fraud probe focuses on state lawmaker

Michael Sallah, Rob Barry, and Carol Marbin Miller for the Miami Herald

Months after Florida lawmaker Daphne Campbell promised to crack down on Medicaid fraud, state agents are now carrying out her pledge by focusing on an unexpected target: Campbell’s own health-care business.

The state attorney general’s office is tracing hundreds of thousands in payments by the state to group home companies that were run by Campbell and her husband, according to sources close to the investigation.

Investigators have gathered dozens of financial records from former owners whose facilities were managed by the couple to determine if the money was properly spent over the past four years.

Read more:

MICHIGAN: Michigan's redrawn congressional districts take twists and turns

Marisa Schultz for the Detroit News

Detroit is a metropolis that's mostly black, poor, undereducated and a Democratic stronghold.

So what does it have in common with Sylvan Lake, a lakeside Oakland County community of about 1,600 mostly higher-income whites who have college degrees and consistently vote for the GOP candidate for Congress?

Both will be in the unusual "S"-shaped 14th Congressional District that is part of new congressional district maps redrawn by the GOP. The Legislature approved the maps and Gov. Rick Snyder is expected to approve them.

Read more:

MINNESOTA: Schools face shutdown hassles

Norman Draper for the Star Tribune

The state government shutdown is creating a swarm of minor problems for Minnesota schools.

Summer make-up dates for tests required for graduation might be postponed. Approval for funding grants has been held up, and licenses needed to get some teachers into the classroom are on hold. And the Minnesota Department of Education -- used by districts as a resource for financial, health and safety, and other school data -- is largely closed.

Thanks to a judge's ruling, most state funding for schools will continue, so the bulk of services, including summer school programs, will go on as usual. Furthermore, school districts had already been making contingency plans to maintain the status quo, either by using reserves or borrowing.

Read more:

NEVADA: Democrats may have too many candidates for their own good

David McGrath Schwartz for the Las Vegas Sun

Sen. Harry Reid’s Democratic Party has done a remarkable job preventing contentious primaries over the past few elections. The reasoning: Infighting requires campaign spending on something other than defeating Republicans and leaves internal rifts.

So the congressional campaign outlook for 2012 presents an interesting math problem: For the three seats in Southern Nevada, there are five current or former elected Democrats expressing strong interest in running.

Noting that in 2012 the president will be up for re-election and there will be a U.S. Senate race to worry about, that scenario causes some party observers to worry.

Read more:

NEW HAMPSHIRE: Unexpected special election win has NH Republicans wondering

Kevin Landrigan for the Nashua Telegraph

The New Hampshire House special election on Tuesday was another embarrassing defeat for establishment Republicans.

Seabrook firefighter Kevin Janvrin won the five-way GOP primary over favored Hampton Falls businessman Lou Gargiulo by 118 votes.

A caravan of heavy hitters got behind Gargiulo, including former GOP State Chairman John H. Sununu and Executive Councilor Chris Sununu, 2010 gubernatorial nominee John Stephen and former Senate candidate Ovide Lamontagne.

Read more:

OHIO: GOP to run commercials in Ohio hitting Obama on the economy: video

Stephen Koff for the Plain Dealer

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Republican voters haven't picked a presidential nominee, but it's not too early to know what the campaign theme is likely to be. And the likely battleground states are fairly clear.

So get ready, Ohioans, because you'll see a commercial over the next four weeks that hits President Barack Obama hard on the economy. It has lots of numbers -- on job losses, unemployment, taxes, the national debt, and the cost of the stimulus and health care bills.

Visually, you'll see a train derailment, a speeding roller coaster, a car in flames (and another flying off the road into the water), a race car wreck and, as the announcer says, "left turn after left turn."

Read more:

PENNSYLVANIA: Nonunionized Pennsylvania government workers upset over paycheck imbalances

Jan Murphy for the Harrisburg Patriot-News

The paychecks of 13,600 nonunion and management state employees have remained virtually frozen since shortly after the recession began.

Meanwhile, gas prices have gone up. Utility bills have risen. Groceries cost more.

The workers had hoped that Gov. Tom Corbett would give them a raise to help with their out-of-kilter household budgets.

But they watched as some of the union workers whom they supervise received pay raises and made more money than they do.

Read More:

WISCONSIN: Was senator threatened on budget vote?

Daniel Bice for the Journal Sentinel

Aprominent business leader from state Sen. Rob Cowles' district was stunned when the veteran lawmaker explained why he voted in favor of Gov. Scott Walker's controversial budget-repair plan.

Cowles had contacted the business leader earlier this year to ask for the person's support in his upcoming recall election.

"He said, 'I didn't like this (bill) either. I didn't like being put in this position. I didn't like anything about the way it was done,' " the business leader quoted Cowles as saying. " 'But the governor's office told us if we didn't give them our support, they would run a tea party candidate against us.' "

Read More:

WISCONSIN: Hansen race takes odd twist

Lee Bergquist for the Journal Sentinel

The recall election that most people had expected in northeastern Wisconsin was a battle between a pair of legislative veterans - incumbent Sen. Dave Hansen (D-Green Bay) and Rep. John Nygren (R-Marinette.)

But Nygren failed to obtain 400 valid signatures on his nomination papers, and now David VanderLeest, a Republican activist who spearheaded the recall effort against Hansen, is running against the incumbent in the July 19 special election. Elsewhere in the state, there are two Republican primaries that day.

The election will be the first of the state's nine recall races to decide a winner. Depending on the results, the outcome is likely to be interpreted as a barometer for other recall elections.

Read More:

MONTANA: Family planning clinics operating with less government funding

Mike Dennison for the Billings Gazette

HELENA -- Family-planning clinics that serve thousands of low-income women in Montana are beginning this fiscal year with less government funding, in the wakes of cuts approved by the Montana Legislature and Congress.

"Every line item in our budget has taken a hit," said Stephanie McDowell, associate director of Bridgercare in Bozeman, the largest such clinic in the state. "We've cinched down our belt so much that we can't go any tighter."

The Republican-controlled Montana Legislature voted this spring to cut all state and federal funds for family planning clinics in Montana, totaling $5.7 million for the next two years. The new fiscal year began July 1.

Read more:

IDAHO: Dan Popkey: Sen. McGee’s leadership post looks safe

Staff for the Idaho Statesman

Sen. John McGee’s guilty plea to misdemeanor DUI last week appears to have satisfied his GOP colleagues, most of whom appear content to keep him in leadership.

Among those backing McGee is Sen. Dean Mortimer of Idaho Falls, who lost the race for majority caucus chairman to McGee in December.

“Sen. McGee did an exceptionally good job as caucus chairman this year, better than I probably could have done,” Mortimer said. “I feel comfortable right now with where we’re at.”

Read more:

WASHINGTON: Will anybody run against Maria Cantwell?

Staff for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer

Jim Brunner of The Seattle Times has a piece in the Sunday paper noting that, so far, the Republicans have yet to come up with a credible candidate to face Democratic Sen. Maria Cantwell next year.

Chris Vance, the former state GOP Chariman, told Brunner “right now, it’s very much in doubt whether there is going to be a strong candidate.”

One name mentioned in Brunner’s piece is former broadcaster Susan Hutchison, who lost the 2009 King County Executive’s race to Dow Constantine.

Read More:

OREGON: Oregon education reform bills aim to create more flexible, individualized public schools

Bill Graves for the Oregonian

In the typical Oregon public school classroom, students of the same age work at achievement levels that often vary by two or three grades, sometimes more.

That didn't make sense to Mary Folberg. When she launched Northwest Academy, a private college preparatory school for grades 6-12 in downtown Portland, she grouped students the way she did as a dance instructor at Jefferson High, by proficiency rather than age.

That's the seismic shift Gov. John Kitzhaber wants to make in the state's public school system through a package of education bills passed by the Legislature last month.

Read More:

FLORIDA: New ad from Rove-affiliated group targets Nelson

Virginia Chamblee for the Florida Independent

Another ad from Crossroads GPS, a conservative group affiliated with Karl Rove, has hit the Florida airwaves — this one directed at Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson. The ad is part of a $20 million campaign launched by Crossroads, which includes attack ads in several states. The group spent $15 million on attack ads during the 2010 election cycle.

As previously reported by The Florida Independent, an independent expenditure PAC called Priorities USA Action fired back at Crossroads with its own set of ads, which aim to “inform voters about the source of the Rove ad and the truth about the Republican plan, a Rick Scott-style budget that would slash health care for seniors and cut education for the middle class while giving tax breaks to big oil and the wealthy.”

According to The Miami Herald, the new ad begins to run on Florida television stations today and will air for two weeks.

Read More:

MICHIGAN: Underfunded, crumbling Michigan roadways continue to decline

Sam Inglot for the Michigan Messenger

An annual report from a Michigan transportation council shows that Michigan’s crumbling roadways are likely to worsen in the coming years due to lack of funding from the state, with the state’s economy suffering as a result.

The Transportation Asset Management Council releases yearly reports on road conditions and their 2010 update showed Michigan has an underfunded and rapidly deteriorating road system.

According to the Council’s website:

“The Transportation Asset Management Council (TAMC) was established to expand the practice of asset management statewide to enhance the productivity of investing in Michigan’s roads and bridges. Part of the TAMC’s mission is to collect physical inventory and condition data on all roads and bridges in Michigan.”

Read More:

MINNESOTA: Shutdown Roundup: Legislators still getting paid despite lack of progress

Sam Lane for the Minnesota Independent

Here are some of the shutdown-related news items that made headlines this weekend:

• A total of 138 of the state’s legislators have continued to receive pay during the state government shutdown, the Star Tribune reported.

Before the shutdown began, DFL Gov. Mark Dayton said he wouldn’t accept pay in the event of a shutdown. Soon after, 14 senators and 48 representatives said they’d also deny pay. That means 79 percent of the Senate and 65 percent of the House still are collecting paychecks in July, according to the Star Tribune.

• Rep. Matt Dean (R-Maplewood) wrote an open letter to Dayton, providing suggestions and solutions to the shutdown.

Dean said Dayton should abandon his calls for increased taxes. He urged the governor to call a special session and pass a “lights on” bill that would allow government functions to continue while a final bill is negotiated.

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NATIONAL: Planned Parenthood rebuts claims it misleads women, calls AUL report ‘ideologically driven’

Sofia Resnick for the American Independent

As The American Independent previously reported, anti-abortion rights group Americans United for Life (AUL) released Thursday areport of allegations against Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA), some of which date back several years. Accompanying the group’s findings is a call for Congress to begin a taxpayer-funded investigation on Planned Parenthood. AUL has accused Planned Parenthood of misusing federal funds; knowingly violating state and federal laws; and misleading women about abortion, fetal development and emergency contraceptive drugs.

On Friday, Planned Parenthood released a statement to media outlets responding to AUL’s “ideologically-driven publication.”

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