Capitol Comments

Arizona’s Prop 122 – allowing the state to refuse funding for federal regulations – passed on Tuesday by the slimmest of margins, garnering 51.4 percent of the vote. The broadly defined amendment now gives the state authority to essentially nullify federal regulations and mandates by declining to dedicate state resources for enforcement.

Missouri voters will vote on Tuesday on a constitutional amendment requiring school districts to implement new performance evaluations for teachers. Though individual districts would have some freedom in developing evaluation mechanisms, the proposed amendment mandates that a majority of the evaluation must be comprised of quantifiable student growth measures. In other words, Missouri teachers would be evaluated mostly on the performance of their students on end-of-year tests, a practice that has gained national traction among lawmakers and spurred criticism from teacher unions.

Arizona voters this fall will get final say on a proposed constitutional amendment allowing the state to opt out of certain federal laws. Under the proposed amendment, Arizona could decide, via referendum or legislation, that the state would not use its resources to carry out any given federal action. If such a situation were to occur, state and local governments would be prohibited from using personnel or financial resources to enforce the federal law.

The recent New York Times article entitled “Seeking New Start, Finding Steep Cost” portrays the Workforce Investment Act – recently reauthorized as the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act – in a rather negative light, claiming that “many graduates wind up significantly worse off than when they started.” After extensive review of public records and interviews, the Times article presents a compelling case for greater accountability at the federal and state level for workforce training programs.

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan released a 73 page booklet last week detailing preliminary proposals for reducing poverty rates. If Chairman Ryan – who calls the proposals a “discussion draft” – is earnest about his intent to spark conversation he has so far been successful, drawing some predictably positive and negative reviews as well as – most interestingly – pragmatic responses to the policy nuances of his plan. Receiving the most fanfare is Ryan’s plan to delegate safety net planning to the states by combining 11 programs – including SNAP and TANF – into the Opportunity Grant and allowing states to use the money to best serve their constituents.

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