Capitol Comments

In the past 12 months, parents of children enrolled in New Hampshire public schools have objected to their children being assigned to read 19 Minutes, The Hunger Games, Water for Elephants, and Nickel and Dimed, according to published news reports. The latter book, authored by Barbara Ehrenreich, refers to Jesus Christ as a “wine-guzzling vagrant” and a “precocious socialist.” The book documents her efforts to live on minimum wage as she critiques America's economic system.

Parents, who objected to what they considered graphic language in these books, sought authority from the New Hampshire legislature this year to overrule reading assignments for their children that they consider objectionable. The legislature responded.

CSG Research & Expertise in the News: 7/10-7/16, 2011

The following compilation features published news stories during the week of July 10-16 that highlight experts and/or research from The Council of State Governments. For more information about any of the experts or programs discussed, please contact CSG at (800) 800-1910 and you will be directed to the appropriate staff.  Members of the press should call (859) 244-8246.

Some observers claim federal preemption of state predatory lending laws disrupted the mortgage market and precipitated the 2008 financial crisis.  Efforts to reform the financial system emphasized preservation of States’ regulatory authority over state and national banks.  However, a federal agency recently proposed regulations that would continue to preempt state consumer financial protection laws, prompting criticism from the Treasury Department, members of Congress, and advocates of state bank supervision.        

NPR has published a story exploring the pros and cons of allowing children to join social networks like Facebook. As the article notes, most social networks have a cut off age of 13, in accordance with privacy protections mandated by the Children's Online Protection Act of 1998.  Protecting children online is also a policy priority of several state leaders, such as Kentucky's Attorney General Jack Conway.  The AG's website contains an entire section on cyber saftey, including a list of tips for parents and kids detailing proper precautions to follow when using social media.

On Thursday, Missouri became the latest state to join the Health Care Compact after the legislation became law without signature after Missouri Governor Jay Nixon allowed the bill to exceed the signing deadline.

The Pew Charitable Trusts has released a new database that allows users to interact with federal income tax expenditures, pulled from the U.S. Department of the Treasury and Congress’ Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT).  

The Title IX complaints keep coming.  This time, Idaho has been accused of violations in 100 high schools across 78 school districts.  The problem?  Not enough girls playing competitive sports.

The Carnegie Endowment’s Leadership Initiative on Transportation Solvency has a new report out this month that suggests a five percent ad valorem tax on oil up-stream and gas downstream could help cover the cost of transportation in the United States. Meanwhile, reaction to the transportation authorization proposal offered last week by House Republicans continued to pour in this week from transportation stakeholders and other interested observers. Plus there is news this week on Georgia’s regional transportation referendum and an anti-toll initiative in Washington state. And the first post-moratorium public-private partnership transportation project in Texas has attracted a lengthy list of potential suitors.

A controversial new law in Florida has prompted doctors to go to court to overturn what they call a gag on any discussion of gun ownership with patients.

The Miami Herald reports that U.S. District Court Judge Marcia Cooke is expected to rule later this summer following a hearing on July 13.

“What I need to determine, is the legislation itself an unconstitutional burden on speech?” Cooke said during a Miami federal court hearing. “What can’t you do now that you could do before?”

As President Obama and Congressional leaders continue to battle over the federal budget, namely what government programs to cut and what taxes to increase, a new computer game gives you the chance to set spending priorities for the federal government.   Players of Budget Hero quickly discover how difficult it is to achieve their policy objectives while keeping the government from going broke.