Above the Fold 04.28.09

Missouri reps spar over $1 billion tax cut…Florida reps spar over federal stimulus…California counties spar with immigrants who need health care…New Jersey reps don’t spar with new report praising child-welfare…Penn. rep spars with lack of contracting oversight…Sec. Clinton spars with climate change…cars spar less with other cars during rush hour, report finds…Sec. Salazar spars with miners who dump near rivers…

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch is reporting a proposal for a $1 billion state income tax cut moved forward Monday. Democrats walked out of the Rules Committee meeting before the vote, claiming House rules violations, but Republican’s “retaliated by axing $31.1 million slated for a new cancer center,” because it was in one of the absent Democrat’s districts. Majority Leader Steven Tilley (R-Perryville) defended the action by saying, “My job is to represent my district. [Rep. Webber’s] job is to do the same, and he went AWOL.”

Legislators in Florida are refusing to move an unemployment insurance bill out of committee in order to accept $444 million in federal stimulus aid, the New York Times reports. “The strings attached to the $444 million are going to potentially make a bad problem worse,” said Representative Adam Hasner, the House majority leader from Boca Raton. But not everyone shares the same view. “The unemployed in Florida are being denied their share of the economic stimulus pie,” said United States Representative Kendrick B. Meek, Democrat of Miami, who accused the Legislature of putting “ideology over the people of Florida in their time of need.”

California counties across the state are cutting nonemergency health services for illegal immigrants, the Los Angeles Times reports. Officials worry, though, that the plan could backfire by making emergency rooms pay for bigger problems in the future. “This is a way for us to get through what I think is a horrible year for healthcare in California,” said William Walker, director of Contra Costa Health Services, who barred undocumented adults from county clinics last month in order to save an estimated $6 million. Other counties like Sacramento County have already cut services, while others are looking to vote on the measure within the next few months.

New Jersey’s child-welfare agency received praise for making progress in its years-long overhaul, according to an independent report. The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that the Department of Children and Families has made significant progress but that substantial works remains. The state “will need to simultaneously maintain the infrastructure improvements and accelerate the pace of improvements in direct practice with children, families, and the wider community,” if continued progress is to be made.

Freshman Pennsylvania State Representative Jim Christiana (R-Beaver) wants to create a Web site to track the state’s contracts, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports. The website would be called PennWATCH, which stands for Pennsylvania Web Accountability, Transparency and Contract Hub. “We need something seamless and very easy to use,” Mr. Christiana said. Several states are looking to put expenditures online, with a handful already showcasing systems which go back three to five years.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told a group gathered at the Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate in Washington, D.C. that the United States is ready to lead on climate change. The New York Times reports the Kyoto accord expires in 2012, but the US is ready to help craft new policy. “The United States is fully engaged and determined to lead and make up for lost time both at home and abroad,” Mrs. Clinton told delegates from 16 countries at a State Department conference on energy and climate. “We are back in the game.”

Americans drove 8.6 billion fewer miles in January and February the Wall Street Journal reports. According to the Department of Transportation, unemployment and loss of discretionary income is keeping millions off the nations highways and freeways. Rush-hour congestion in the 100 biggest cities fell nearly 30% in 2008.

Mining companies will not be able to dump their waste near rivers and streams much longer if Interior Secretary Ken Salazar gets his way. The Washington Post reports that this announcement came as the EPA said it was taking a look at a host of Bush-era regulations on air pollution. “In its last weeks in office, the Bush administration pushed through a rule that allows coal mine operators to dump mountaintop fill into streambeds if it’s found to be the cheapest and most convenient disposal option,” Salazar said in a statement. “We must responsibly develop our coal supplies to help us achieve energy independence, but we cannot do so without appropriately assessing the impact such development might have on local communities and natural habitat and the species it supports.”

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