State level is where it's at! State legislation round-up 7/28/11

It seems that everywhere you turn this week, all you hear about is the federal debt ceiling debate. If I hear "Gang of 6", "default", or "Boehner" one more time, I might explode. Take a break from the looming national crisis and brush up on the legislation that's being talked about in the states!

Arizona – Education Reform

Lawmakers and school board members have been tasked with coming up with a plan for school districts to work together, share resources, and maybe even consolidate. The goal is to present school districts with options to choose from, since each school district and each county is so different. It sounds like there’s a lot to hash out, such as sharing transportation systems, equalizing teachers’ salaries, and how best to consolidate school districts. School officials are stressing the importance of keeping the best interests of the students in mind. As long as they stick with that mentality, hopefully they’ll come up with something great!

Wisconsin – Redistricting

Many redistricting laws are floating around in Wisconsin (and pretty much every other state) and one was signed into law this week by Governor Walker. Most of the Wisconsin redistricting laws draw Democratic incumbents out of their current jurisdictions, and into predominantly Republican jurisdictions. So basically the GOP legislators who are passing these redistricting laws are choosing which Wisconsin residents will be voting for which legislators. They’re tailoring the districts and the elections to suit their interests. Who is going to stop them??

Massachusetts – Civil Rights

A comprehensive Transgender Equality Bill is still in committee in the Massachusetts Assembly, but state attorney general Martha Coakley is already showing strong support for the bill. She makes some excellent points in the letter she wrote to the chairmen of the Judiciary Committee: “Inherent in this harmful commentary is the implication that transgender individuals are sex offenders or sexually deviant persons. Not only is this characterization inaccurate, it is deeply offensive and insulting.” She emphasizes the need to expand current state law to protect everyone from discrimination and violence. Brava!

Minnesota – Budget

Not many Minnesota, democrats or republicans, are very ecstatic about the budget compromise that was reached after almost three weeks of a government shutdown. But Gov. Dayton did manage to protect Minnesotans from a lot of things that the GOP wanted to include in the budget, such as restrictions on collective bargaining and major cuts to education spending. Even though the budget isn’t ideal, props to the governor for fighting for his people.

California – Health Care

Under California’s newly instated budget, funding for adult medical centers was severely cut. Centers that provide medical care, physical therapy, counseling, and other services for the elderly will be cut from state support in December. Just this week, Jerry Brown vetoed a bill that would have created a similar program to replace these services, leaving the elderly and their families feeling “abandoned and marginalized”. It’s so sad that programs like these are some of the first to go in tough economic times. If they just legalized and taxed marijuana already, California would never have money problems every again.

Florida – Education Reform

Florida Governor Rick Scott is voicing support for education reform proposals similar to reforms in Texas backed by Rick Perry. These education reform policies would pretty much turn universities into businesses; some opponents are likening the proposed system to that of a factory. One of the things Scott is pushing for is for teacher evaluations to be almost solely based on the performance of their students. But wouldn’t that just encourage teacher-facilitated cheating? Wouldn’t teachers just lower their standards and give every student an “A”? That doesn’t sound like the right direction to be going in.