DISPATCH: Congress Cares About Frequent Fliers But Not States, Backlash Brews on Education, and More

Stateside Dispatch
Saturday, April 27, 2013

Welcome to the Stateside Dispatch, Progressive States Network's roundup of the latest state policy news. Here's what happened in the states this week:

Congress Acts to Help Frequent Fliers, Leaves States in Lurch

Late this week, the U.S. Senate approved legislation by unanimous consent that would give the Federal Aviation Administration the ability to end furloughs of air traffic controllers, hoping to end a week of delays at airports across the nation that resulted from the automatic budget cuts in sequestration. These kinds of impacts were the intentional purpose of the blunt and painful automatic cuts of sequestration, which were originally intended to be so frightening that the possibility of their enactment would force an alternative federal budget compromise. Yet while business travellers might be breathing a sigh of relief as they fly home this weekend, the intentionally painful cuts to other critical programs are still being felt by states, kids, students, seniors, and other victims of sequestration -- and the pain they are feeling may soon get worse:

More on the "preposterous legislative sideshow" surrounding sequestration. [Center for American Progress]

Cancer patients, hungry seniors, kids enrolled in Head Start, and other victims of sequestration are not seeing their cuts restored. [Huffington Post]

A critical network of gauges that helps forecasters predict floods could also be partially shut down in the coming months due to sequestration cuts. [Stateline]

That gauge program is paid for by a combination of federal, state, and local governments, and any shutdown would likely affect states routinely threatened with spring flooding. [AP]

Ten school districts in New Mexico, Wisconsin, New York, Texas, and California could also take a huge hit from sequestration cuts. [Reuters]

Eleven states are considering ending their long-term unemployment programs entirely due to sequestration. [ThinkProgress]

Twelve other programs Congress is refusing to save from sequestration budget cuts while it helps business travelers include low-income housing, student aid, child care, heating assistance, and disaster relief. [ThinkProgress]

Read PSN's roundup of state-by-state fact sheets for more on sequestration's projected impact on the states.

Backlash Brews Against Corporate Education Reform

Recent scandals in Atlanta and Washington, D.C. that revealed coordinated efforts by teachers and administrators to manipulate student test scores are shining an even brighter spotlight on the failure of standardized test-centric policies in the states. A backlash is brewing in many states as more and more parents and legislators alike start asking questions about corporate education "reform":

A "coming revolution?" Legislators and parents in various states are reconsidering standardized test-driven education reforms. [The Atlantic]

The Minnesota House passed a $15 billion education bill this week that provides free all-day kindergarten statewide and eliminates controversial testing requirements for graduation. [Star-Tribune]

The "parent trigger" bill in Florida will go to a vote in the Senate next week, as a mysterious video from an out-of-state group circulates around the state. [Miami Herald]

Former Florida Democratic Senate leader Nan Rich: the bill is really about "laying the groundwork for the hostile, corporate takeover of public schools throughout Florida" [Washington Post]

Teachers and lawmakers from both parties in Louisiana are backing a "reverse parent trigger" bill to allow parents in failing charter schools to petition to return the schools to local control. [Diane Ravitch]

After endorsing an anti-immigrant state legislator as their "Reformer of the Year" last year, Michelle Rhee's StudentsFirst chose to bestow the honor on the co-author of Tennessee's "Don't Say Gay" bill this year. [Daily Kos]

Legislators: Sign up to join the National Working Group on Public Education for more information on how you can get involved in national actions supporting public education.

Conservatives vs. Conservatives on Medicaid

With more and more sessions drawing to a close, the latest count shows 15 states that have rejected expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, 20 that have agreed to comply with the law and expand coverage, and the rest still debating expansion. In many states -- including Florida and Ohio -- that debate is playing out in a contentious intramural fight among conservatives themselves. Conservative governors supporting expansion are running into opposition from ideologically opposed lawmakers in their own party, as the political debate over Medicaid increasingly appears to be taking place entirely on one side of the aisle:

The "unexpected consequences" for states that refuse to expand Medicaid include some that could make conservative lawmakers nervous. [AP]

Florida's legislature may be running out of time to expand Medicaid. [Kaiser Health News]

A House committee in Louisiana rejected a Medicaid expansion bill this week. [The Times-Picayune]

After removing it from the budget, Ohio lawmakers may not begin to resolve their Medicaid expansion debate until the fall. [Dayton Business Journal]

Hospital executives in South Dakota are pushing their state to expand Medicaid. [Rapid City Journal]

Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe signed a "private option" compromise expansion proposal into law. [Arkansas News]

Some conservatives in Arkansas are threatening violence against Republican legislators who voted for the plan. [ThinkProgress]

Amazingly, an accidental vote may have doomed Medicaid expansion in Montana. [Washington Post]

An Arizona columnist asks the question: "why is Medicaid expansion even an issue at this point?" [AZ Central]

Reminder: Health Care Webinar Series

Reserve your spot now! Progressive States Network is hosting a series of webinars in the coming weeks and months on the challenges and opportunities facing state legislators on health care. The webinar series is designed for legislators and legislative staff and supported by The Commonwealth Fund, a national, private foundation based in New York City that supports independent research on health care issues and makes grants to improve health care practice and policy.

The next webinar is set for Monday, May 13th at 4pm ET, and will focus on setting up successful health insurance marketplaces under the ACA. Future topics will include health insurance marketplaces, what lawmakers need to know about the ACA before 2014, and improving health outcomes while saving state budgets. Register for the entire series here.

Also this week:

The Colorado Senate this week approved a resolution calling for federal immigration reform with a path to citizenship by a bipartisan vote of 33-2. [PSN]

Other bills that advanced in Colorado this week include driver's licenses for undocumented immigrants and the TRUST Act, which was signed into law by Gov. John Hickenlooper Friday. [Denver Post]

Three years after SB1070, a delegation of Arizona state and local officials went to D.C. this week to push for immigration reform. [Arizona Capitol Times]

Meanwhile, Kansas Secretary of State (and co-author of SB1070) Kris Kobach told Congress he still believes in "self-deportation." [Mother Jones]

The Minnesota House passed a tax bill this week that would create a new income tax bracket for the top 1.1% earners and raise $2.6 billion for the state. [Pioneer Press]

The U.S. Senate advanced legislation that would allow states to collect online sales taxes on out-of-state purchases. [Bloomberg]

Radical conservative tax proposals in Louisiana, Nebraska, and other states are still meeting heavy opposition. [Reuters]

Oregon's House approved National Popular Vote legislation, sending it to the Senate. [AP]

A bipartisan majority of Texas Senators passed a bill to allow online voter registration. [Burnt Orange Report]

Maine's House rejected two anti-union bills supported by Gov. LePage. [Morning Sentinel]

Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy and House Speaker Brendan Sharkey endorsed an increase in the state minimum wage to $9 over the next two years. [CT Mirror]

The largest county in New Mexico passed a minimum wage increase. [Working America]

There may be a renewed push for paid sick days legislation in California following recent victories in New York City and Portland, OR. [LA Times]

Florida's Senate passed a bill this week to prohibit local governments from enacting paid sick days laws. [WESH]

The U.S. Department of Labor told Florida in a report this week that provisions of the state's unemployment system violate federal civil rights laws and must be changed. [Orlando Sentinel]

At least seven different state and federal agencies have the authority to regulate fertilizer plants in Texas. What went wrong in West? [ProPublica]

President Obama spoke this week on the "assault on women’s rights" taking place across the states. [AP]

Legislators in California and New York are looking to buck the anti-choice trend in the states. [Bloomberg]

Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie signed a bill expanding access to emergency contraception into law this week. [Star Advertiser]

The Rhode Island Senate (including every Republican Senator) voted to approve same-sex marriage, after similar legislation had failed every year since 1997. [AP]

The Nevada Senate became the first chamber in the nation to vote to overturn a state constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. [BuzzFeed]

A state legislator in West Virginia wants to make science fiction compulsory reading in schools. [The Guardian]

Follow @PSNwire on Twitter for the latest state policy news.

Map of the Week

Map: Laws to Expand Access to Voting

According to the Brennan Center for Justice, 195 bills to expand voting rights have been introduced in 45 states so far in 2013 (while 80 bills to restrict voting rights have been introduced in 31 states). [ThinkProgress]

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Research Roundup

The "Paycheck Protection" Racket [Economic Policy Institute]
"In the spring of 2013, Missouri lawmakers are debating two bills that seek to limit the ability of state employees and Missouri workers in general to pay union dues that help fund political advocacy.... On close examination, it is clear that these bills will not create new rights for Missouri employees, and will significantly tilt the political playing field by enabling unlimited corporate political spending while restricting political spending of organized workers."

Policy Common Ground: Improving State Programs to Foster Work, Well-Being, Self-Sufficiency, and Program Integrity [Urban Institute]
"Politically diverse state governments can find common ground in a commitment to improving access to work support programs for eligible low-income families, a new Urban Institute report demonstrates."

Making Jobs Good [Center for Economic and Policy Research]
"This report evaluates the likely impact of several policies that seek to address job quality, including universal health insurance, a universal retirement system (over and above Social Security), a large increase in college attainment, a large increase in unionization, and gender pay equity."

State and Local Governments in Economic Recoveries: This Recovery is Different [Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center]
"Examining state and local finances in recent economic recoveries, we find that state and local government activity exhibited an unprecedented decline during the most recent recovery. Never before had state and local contribution to GDP been negative three years after a recession passed its low point."

State and Local Action on Paid Sick Days: April 2013 [National Partnership for Women and Families]
"In 2011, the Connecticut legislature became the first in the nation to pass a statewide paid sick days law, and Seattle became the fourth city. And in 2013, Portland, Oregon, became the latest city to adopt a paid sick days standard, with New York City expected to follow in the coming months. Legislators and advocates continue to advance proposals in Congress and about 20 other states and cities."

Executive-Pay Tax Break Saved Fortune 500 Corporations $27 Billion Over the Past Three Years [Citizens for Tax Justice]
"Earlier this year, Citizens for Tax Justice reported that Facebook Inc. had used a single tax break, for executive stock options, to avoid paying even a dime of federal and state income taxes in 2012. Since then, CTJ has investigated the extent to which other large companies are using the same tax break. This short report presents data for 280 Fortune 500 corporations that, like Facebook, disclose a portion of the tax benefits they receive from this tax break."

Email us at with research roundup suggestions.

Quote of the Week

"Good to have the state house open again and looking so beautiful #Bostonstrong"
-- Massachusetts State Senator Katherine Clark, via Twitter on Monday.



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