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As public schools nationwide embrace instruction via iPads, laptops and other technologies, many are realizing they lack the necessary broadband speed to perform even simple functions. This is crimping classroom instruction as more teachers pull lesson plans off the Internet and use bandwidth-hungry programming such as video streaming and Skype.
Some schools want to end their traditional role as polling places because of security concerns since the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, leaving their communities without easy alternatives for voting sites.
The new year brought with it a number of laws — some quirky, some unprecedented — that were introduced, debated and ultimately passed in 2013. Now the process starts all over again. This week marks the first wave of new sessions for the year, with 15 state legislatures reconvening.
On Wednesday, workers in Rhode Island will be among the few in the nation able to, by law, take several weeks of paid leave to care for a newborn, adopted or foster child, or to care for a seriously ill relative. Rhode Island, where paid family leave was approved by wide margins in the state House and Senate in just one session in July, joins California and New Jersey as the only states to offer workers family leave that is paid not by taxpayers or employers but, like Social Security, out of a pool of employee paycheck contributions.
Thursday, January 2, 2014

New year, new laws

Almost a dozen new laws will go into effect across Georgia on January 1, 2014. They range from an overhaul of the state's juvenile justice system to an updated city charter.
States in the South and West are adding population faster than the rest of the country, according to new estimates released Monday by the Census Bureau. The annual estimates of state population on July 1 shows the South added more than 1.1 million residents between 2012 and 2013, while Western states added almost 728,000 residents over the past year.
The year is starting with a social safety net disappearing for 86,900 unemployed Pennsylvanians. Congress allowed the legislation authorizing emergency unemployment compensation, the federal extension of unemployment benefits, to expire as of Monday.
More than 19,000 of the Kansans who signed up to vote to last year saw their registrations set aside because they didn't prove their U.S. citizenship to the state. Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach has a plan to make more of those voters eligible. His solution might cause even more legal problems.
The GED test, for decades the brand name for the high school equivalency exam, is about to undergo some changes. On Thursday, an upgraded GED exam and two new competing equivalency tests offered in several states will usher in a new era in adult education testing.
The end of long-term unemployment benefits this month means millions of Americans could be left without their sole source of income while they look for work. In 2013 alone, the federal aid program sent more than $25.6 billion flowing into unemployed workers' pockets and shored up states' struggling economies.