Monday, January 4, 2010
Exclusive articles on state policy, politics and trends from the staff of Stateline.org
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
State police not immune to budget cuts
By Stateline.org Staff Reports
State police agencies have been propped up with the help of federal stimulus money, but that doesn’t mean
they are immune to budget cuts. In Tennessee, 13 small counties soon could have no state troopers at all.
Pennsylvania is worried that it will not be able to replace retiring officers.
The head of the Pennsylvania State Troopers Association on Monday (Dec. 28) said the state is facing “a crisis
like we’ve never seen before,” the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported. The current state budget includes no
money for a new class of state police cadets; the troopers’ association is worried that the lack of new officers
will dramatically thin out the ranks when others retire.
“If no cadet class graduates next year, and another wave of retirements takes place in 2010, there likely would
be fewer troopers at the end of Gov. Ed Rendell's two terms in office than there were when he became
governor in 2003,” the Tribune-Review reported, citing a lobbyist for the state troopers. Among the solutions
being proposed is a $10 surcharge on traffic violations that would help fund state police training.
In Tennessee, 13 counties would have to rely on neighboring counties for police assistance if a 9-percent
budget cut proposed by Gov. Phil Bredesen (D) moves forward, The Associated Press reported.
“The Tennessee Highway Patrol has 553 road troopers this year, compared with 590 in 1977 when there were
almost 2 million fewer people living in the state,” the AP noted.
The head of the Alabama Department of Public Safety also recently pleaded for state lawmakers not to cut his
budget, which includes the state police, the Montgomery Advertiser reported. Col. Chris Murphy noted that
Alabama state police have helped reduce the fatality rate on Alabama roads by 35 percent — twice the
national average — and said budget cuts would lead to cuts in service and fewer troopers on the road.
Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Republican AGs expand health care attacks
Stateline.org Staff Reports
A growing number of Republican state attorneys general are threatening to block health reform backed by
congressional Democrats, with Florida’s Bill McCollum becoming the latest.
Initial attacks focused on a sweetheart deal for the Nebraska Medicaid program, but attention now is shifting to
one of the central tenets of the health care legislation: a requirement that nearly every American would have to
buy or otherwise obtain health insurance.
McCollum, the GOP’s leading candidate in the 2010 Florida governor’s race, said he’s concerned the proposal
would impose a “living tax,” according to the Miami Herald, because there would be no way for Americans to
avoid the expense.
The New York Times notes that conservative and liberal scholars are already debating whether the insurance
mandate would be legal, even though the congressional plan has not yet been finalized.
The conservative Heritage Foundation, for example, released an analysis earlier this month claiming the
government has never required people to buy any goods or services as a condition of lawful residence in the
But Erwin Chemerinsky, law school dean at the University of California Irvine, defended the idea in an October
letter to the Los Angeles Times.
“The reality is that virtually everyone will, at some point, need medical care. And, if a person has certain kinds
of communicable diseases, the government will insist that he or she be treated whether they are insured or not.
A tax on the uninsured is a way of paying for the costs of their likely future medical care,” he wrote.
Thursday, December 31, 2009
Weekly wrap: New year brings new laws
Stateline.org Staff Reports
New state laws that take effect across the country on New Year’s Day range from affecting the way residents
drive to whether they can marry or profit from snapping a celebrity’s photograph. As of Jan. 1, same-sex
couples in New Hampshire can marry. Thirty-nine couples had secured same-sex marriage licenses to use
sometime in 2010, The Union Leader in Manchester reported.
If you drive in the snow in Ohio, better turn on the car lights or face a fine of up to $150. A new Minnesota law
requires an out-of-state visitor wanting to use an all-terrain vehicle on state trails to buy a $20 pass.
With help from lobbying from actress Jennifer Aniston, a new paparazzi law in California will allow for civil
penalties of up to $50,000 against media that sell or buy "unlawfully obtained" photos and video of people,
including celebrities and their families, The Los Angeles Times reported.
State legislatures enacted 40,697 laws during the 2009 legislative session, according to a tally and sampling of
new laws from the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Other new state laws that NCSL says go into effect this week include:
College students in Texas will have to show proof of vaccination against bacterial meningitis before they can
live on campus. Certain dog breeders in Washington state will have new guidelines that limit the number of
breeding dogs to 50, require adequate room and exercise time and set sanitary conditions. Resident medical
students in New Mexico who chose primary care and then practice in underserved areas of the state for a
period of time will get tuition waivers. New payday loan regulations in Kentucky will restrict borrowers to two of
this type of loan totaling no more than $500 at one time. Payday loans are short-term loans that are intended to
cover expenses until the borrower’s next payday. Restaurants in California will have to use oils, margarines
and shortening with less than half a gram of trans fat per serving starting on Jan. 1, 2010. A similar provision
will apply to baked goods on Jan. 1, 2011. A new public-safety campaign in Louisiana will warn residents about
the risks of consuming seafood from China and instead promotes Louisiana seafood. Illinois drivers will be
prohibited from texting while driving, joining at least 18 other states.
Thursday, December 31, 2009
UPDATED furlough chart
STATES TURN TO EMPLOYEE FURLOUGHS
Data as of 9/29/2009
STATES WITH FURLOUGHS FOR FY '10
California put 20,000 workers on furlough for three Fridays a month, which results in a 15 percent pay cut for
employees. The state's court system is having 10 days of furloughs on the third Wednesday of each month for
the next 10 months, which will result in $90 million in savings.
Furloughed 15,500 state employees, excluding workers in the departments of public safety, parks,
unemployment and state hospitals. The furloughs will take place during four days over the next few months
and are anticipated to save the state $13.6 million.
The state is furloughing 128,000 educators on teacher planning , which will save Georgia $135 million.
To take place between Oct. 23 and May 14, Hawaii set 17 fourlough days for public school teachers, wh will
result in a savings of $117 million to the state and will cut paychecks by 7.9 percent.
Maine will close all nonessential state services for 10 days WHEN?).
Maryland is furloughing 70,000 state employees during the next few months. There is also a tentative 10-day
furlough in the works for state university employees, which could begin next month. The plan would affect
21,000 employees and would save the state $26 million.
Michigan is furloughing state employees for six days.
New Hampshire may furlough state employees for 19 days over two years, which will save the state $21
million. The government will sent 12 of the days and employees will be able to chose which other days to take
Considering furloughing 1,800 workers in the court system to help close a $400 million budget deficit.
Oregon will furlough state employees during the next two years for 10 to 14 days, depending on the amount
the workers make. The move is expected to save the state about $71.5 million.
Rhode Island would furlough 12,900 workers for 12 days, a move that would save the state $17.3 million.
In a plan that includes layoffs, Virginia will furlough its employees for a day to curb a growing $1.5 billion
Wisconsin will shut down services for 16 days, setting half of them and allowing employees to choose the other
days during which to take furloughs. The state hopes to save $225 million through the plan.
Sources: National Conference of State Legislatures and Stateline.org reporting