Indiana is hardly a state known for its intense culture wars and political battles. Mostly, it's known for one of the greatest sports movies of all time. But this year, Indiana is entering territory usually occupied by places like Kansas and Texas. The state legislature is not only about to pass a controversial bill to decrease union power; a measure to teach creationism has already passed out of the state Senate's Education Committee.
Wisconsin activists shocked onlookers last week when they presented more than one million petitions asking for Governor Scott Walker to be recalled. Since then, the pendulum has seemingly swung in the governor's favor: high fundraising numbers, a state of the state address celebrating his policies, and a poll showing him leading four potential opponents. But there's still a lot of time left to go: two months of verifying signatures, and then, assuming at least 540,000 are valid, an election six weeks later. If there's a Democratic primary, the process will be even longer.
Among the many policy proposals in the president's state of the union last night, you may have missed his one-liner, urging states to adopt a dropout age of 18, with a goal of reducing the dropout rate. Right now, in most states students must attend school until they are 16 or 17. However, even before last night's speech, several states were considering legislation to raise the dropout age, like Wyoming and Kentucky. Many states—19 back in 2009—already had raised the age for compulsory attendance to 18.
While around the country, many Republican primary voters are up in arms that Mitt Romney only paid about 13 percent of his income in taxes last year, in Kansas, Governor Sam Brownback is pushing a proposal that would not only benefit wealthy Kansans but raise taxes on the state's poorest residents. A new report released yesterday argues that the plan will benefit some large corporations but fail to create jobs.
The plan gets rid of a number of tax deductions—including those for home mortgages and charitable giving. It also takes away the earned-income tax credit and food-sales tax rebate. As the AP noted last week:
I imagine being an Astros fan is not that different from being an old-style, Goldwater-type Republican. One day, you wake up and realize that you don't recognize the team you've spent your life rooting fo. In the case of the Astros, it's not so much that they've played poorly but that the new owner has already cut a deal to send my beloved team to the—ugh, yuck—American League in 2014.
But it's one thing to be rich compared with the general public. Some of our readers wondered just how Romney's wealth stacks up against his would-be peers: the presidents. Turns out, were he to be elected, Romney would be among the top four richest people to become president.
Friday, the Supreme Court sent a series of redistricting maps back to the panel of federal judges in San Antonio that drew them. Today, that panel decided to speed things up. In a five-page order Monday afternoon, the panel asked all parties in the redistricting case to be ready for a status hearing on January 27—rather than February 1. The candidate filing deadline, currently set for next Wednesday, is also likely to be extended. The court explained that it will likely have to throw out the already-delayed primary date of April 3, unless all parties can agree to a set of interim maps and submit them to the court by February 6. That's about as likely as [insert your hell-freezing-over analogy here].
For those watching labor fights, the two very close, hard-fought games for the AFC and NFC championships yesterday (I'm talking football here, people), might have echoed what's happening in Indianapolis, host city to this year's Super Bowl. The battle over collective bargaining in one of the country's original manufacturing havens has already spawned teams, rules, and some hard-hitting tackles. And soon, one side may be trying for a Hail Mary.
Each Friday—well at least most Fridays—I'm going to sum up the big news happening in states around the country. To make it more interesting I'm naming a State of the Week where the biggest news came from. See something that's missing? Tell me: email@example.com or on Twitter @RaRapoport.
And this week's State of the Week is ... Wisconsin!
You might think that since the Supreme Court made a decision today regarding the ongoing Texas redistricting saga, that, well, something had been decided. But let's just be clear on what is still up in the air:
1. Whether the maps are discriminatory based on the Voting Rights Act
2. The date of the primary, currently scheduled for April 3 with almost no one believing that's a realistic date
The Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation is launching a new program that allows vehicle owners to voluntarily pay a $10 fee when they register their cars that gives them access to 30 state parks in an effort to raise money for the embattled agency.
Director Nancy Merrill hopes the idea, modeled after a successful program in Michigan, will alleviate financial pressure on her agency that has been mounting since Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter moved to wean it from taxpayer support two years ago.
Apparently California Gov. Jerry Brown missed the memo. Across the country, governors outlining educational priorities for their states have focused largely on more testing and doing away with teacher tenure. The approach is so in-vogue, it reaches across party lines. A few examples: Last week, South Dakota's Gov. Dennis Daugaard outlined his education reform package, including merit pay for high performing teachers and the right to fire those whose students fail to perform on tests two years in a row. On the east coast, New Jersey Gov.