Capitol Comments

In his 2010 campaign for governor, Rick Scott promised Florida voters he would require clean drug tests before issuing welfare benefits. On May 31, he made good on that promise and signed into law HB 353.

The law, which will go into affect July 1, will require that individuals applying for the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program who test positive for illegal substances won’t be eligible to receive benefits for one year or until they successfully complete a substance-abuse treatment program. More than 113,000 Floridians received TANF benefits in the last fiscal year.

Public universities are under increased pressure to produce more high-quality degrees, even as state funding for postsecondary education tightens. Consequently, some state policymakers and education think tanks are giving performance-based funding a closer look.

Political journalist Ron Brownstein will be the keynote speaker at this year's Midwestern Legislative Conference's annual meeting, which will be held form July 17-20 in Indianapolis. The political director of the Atlantic Media Company, Brownstein is the author or editor of six books, including “The Second Civil War: How Extreme Partisanship Has Paralyzed Washington and Polarized America.”

In his keynote address to lawmakers, Brownstein will discuss the unique set of social, political, economic and policy challenges and realities that today’s policy leaders are facing. He will then moderate a panel of state experts from the Midwest who will examine the key policy issues in our region, and the role of state government in meeting these challenges.

State policymakers are encouraged to register for this year’s Midwestern Legislative Conference Annual Meeting, the premier event for state lawmakers to gather and share ideas on issues of importance to this region. The meeting will be held July 17-20 in Indianapolis.

Today, Vermont became the first state in the nation to establish a single-payer health care plan for the state. 

Upon the passing of the bill by the Vermont House of Representatives (92-49) and Senate (21-9), Governor Peter Shumlin praised the legislature for becoming "the first state in the country to make the first substantive step to deliver a health care system where health care will be a right and not a privilege."

The legislation guarantees any Vermont resident the right to enroll in a state-sponsored...

Yesterday, Texas lawmakers pulled legislation targeting Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agents who conduct invasive airport patdown searches after the federal government threatened to ground all flights out of the state.  

The bill (HB 1937), which unanimously passed the Texas House on May 13, would make it a crime, punishable by a $4000 fine and one year in jail, for TSA screeners to touch the genitals of a traveler without probable cause to believe that a crime has been committed.

According to a new report out by UBS Investment Research, as many as 450,000 state and local government employees could be laid off in the upcoming fiscal year.   This is a significant increase compared to last fiscal year’s layoffs, which totaled about 300,000 positions.

The report goes on to say that the increase is largely due to the ending of ARRA funds, including enhanced Medicaid matching rates and the education jobs...

On May 19, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie signed legislation (SB 1730) that will require public workers hired after September 1 to live within the state.  The new residency requirement will apply to all state, county, and municipal workers, including employees of public schools and universities. New Jersey is the first state in the country to pass such a law, which does not apply to current employees. 

The FBI’s annual Uniform Crime Report for 2010, in its preliminary findings, reports a 5.5% decrease in violent crime and a 2.8% decrease in property crime nationally (when compared with 2009 figures). And in 2009, these categories were down 5.5% and 4.9%, respectively.

Despite overwhelming support among Illinois legislators and lavish praise from U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, a landmark education reform bill has failed to quiet some critics.