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The Washington State Supreme Court is holding the legislature in contempt after it failed to rewrite its procedure for school funding.  In 2012, the Supreme Court held the system of funding for education was unconstitutional and ordered the legislature to devise a new plan with a deadline for the 2017-2018 school year.  The court placed the legislature in contempt for failure to demonstrate progress in fixing that plan and is holding off on implementing punishments until the 2015 legislative session.
A federal judge in Oklahoma is the latest judge to rule on the legality of subsidies being provided by the Affordable Care Act (ACA).  Judge Ronald White ruled that the subsidies being provided to states that only have a federal exchange marketplace were an “invalid implementation” of the law.  The legality of subsidies is currently being litigated in several states and may find its way to the U.S. Supreme Court.  It is being reheard en banc by the D.C. Circuit Court after conflicting rulings.

Several states will be reinstating their food stamp work requirements after suspending them during the Great Recession.  Seventeen states will be imposing work requirements for healthy individuals who are 18 to 50 years old and have no children.  Advocates are concerned that work requirements will pose a greater difficulty for those living in areas where jobs and job training are scarce or hard to reach.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Felons Getting Closer to Voting in Kentucky

With three bills in the legislature, former felons may get closer to having their voting rights restored.  Kentucky is one of four states that require a pardon from the governor before voting rights can be reinstated.  These bills in the legislature would provide for automatic restoration after a prison sentence and probation were completed for certain kind of felons.  If the bills pass, Kentucky will join 38 states that automatically return voting rights after a felon has completed their sentence and any probation/parole.

Governor Chris Christie recently signed into law requirements that include more dashboard cameras for police cars and body cameras for police on patrol.   New Jersey will be the only state to have statewide mandates that go beyond pilot or testing phase.  The new requirements are being both praised and criticized by groups, those who support increased police accountability but also worry about the financial burden being imposed.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Governor Signs Paid Sick Leave Bill

California Governor Jerry Brown recently signed a new law making paid sick leave available to nearly all workers.  Workers will be able to receive up to three days paid sick leave, making the bill the largest in employee benefits in the nation.  The business community fought against the bill arguing the economic climate, in addition to, the increase in minimum wage and benefits would make it difficult for them to provide for their employees. 

Several U.S. states in the South are seeing definitive increases in HIV cases.   Deficient preventative services, poverty, racism and other factors are leading to the rise in HIV cases.  Additionally, a lack of access to health care resources is impacting those living with HIV and AIDS.

In one of their first meetings since the Michael Brown shooting, Ferguson city council members were met by riled community members who were demanding answers in the wake of the death of the unarmed black teen.  Audiences called for the resignation of the mayor, James Knowles III and Police Chief Tom Jackson.   The city council remained mostly silently to the questions and demand leaving the audience mostly unsatisfied but not deterred.

Although faced with opposition from the Virginia legislature, Governor Terry McAuliffe has developed a 10-point plan that will enable the state to expand health services in lieu of full Medicaid expansion.  The plan will provide coverage for 20,000 of the 400,000 individuals that would be eligible under expansion.  It will also increase coverage services for children, veterans, and pregnant women enrolled under Medicaid. 

Delaware has recently joined a growing number of states passing “common sense” legislation that would allow pregnant workers to continue their jobs with better accommodations.  The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act provides for modifications that would enable pregnant workers to keep working with consideration being given to their pregnant status.  This includes more bathroom breaks, lighter duty, and other provisions.