March | April 2017



Majority of Americans Say Disaster Aid Doesn't Require Spending Cuts

Following the devastating tornadoes that hit Moore, Okla., more than 6,000 Oklahoma residents had applied for disaster assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency as of early June and more than $6.4 million had been distributed, Gov. Mary Fallin said in a press release.
In addition, the legislature passed and Fallin signed into law a bill authorizing the transfer of $45 million from the state’s rainy day account to an emergency fund, which will be used to help communities cover expenses related to the storm.
The actions came after an EF5 twister killed 24 people and destroyed more than 1,200 homes, as well as two elementary schools in Moore on May 20.
The tornado in Moore was not the only disaster to hit Oklahoma in May. Another EF5 tornado—the strongest category of tornadoes, with wind speeds of more than 200 miles per hour—hit near Oklahoma City on May 31.
A survey by the Pew Research Center and The Washington Post found that 47 percent of Americans said they paid very close attention to news about the deadly tornado. Interest was only slightly higher for the coverage of Hurricane Sandy last fall, which stood at 53 percent.
Despite harsh partisan rhetoric that has dominated national political discussions, Americans mostly agree on how the federal government responds to disasters.
According to the Pew survey, 59 percent of Americans believe federal aid for natural disasters is emergency spending that does not need to be offset by other funding cuts. That support was shared across the political spectrum—69 percent of Democrats, 57 percent of Independents and 52 percent of Republicans agreed.
Support for the emergency aid without spending cuts also crossed regional lines. The majority of survey respondents from all regions said no spending cuts were necessary. The highest support, 62 percent, came from the Northeast. Fifty-eight percent of those surveyed in both the Midwest and West agreed, as did 57 percent in the South.
West Virginia’s legislature passed a bill this session to provide free and nutritious breakfasts and lunches to all students in public schools, according to an article in The Journal. The Feed to Achieve Act, sponsored by Sen. John Unger of Berkeley, W.Va., requires all schools to maximize school meal participation to take advantage of federal money for meals. It also sets up foundations in every county to collect private donations to fund expanded meal programs. 
West Virginia is seeking to reduce its high recidivism rate with the passage of a prison overcrowding bill, a priority of Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin. According to an article in MetroNews, the legislation, which follows an assessment of the state’s sentencing laws by The Council of State Governments Justice Center, gives judges authority to release a nonviolent offender into a supervised program six months early. The program will include supervision and substance abuse treatment for inmates when they are released.
The Alabama Accountability Act provides parents a tax credit worth more than $3,500 to put toward their children’s tuition at a private school. The legislation, which passed the House and Senate after rancorous debate, allows students to transfer from failing schools, but doesn’t require other schools to admit students, according to It also enables business-supported scholarship funds that parents may use to cover the difference between the tax credits and the cost of tuition at private schools.
Alabama became the last state in the nation to allow home brewing this legislative session, reported a story on Under the new law, residents can brew up to 15 gallons of beer, cider or mead every three months. The new rules don’t apply in dry counties, however.
The North Carolina House of Representatives voted in early June to repeal a 2009 law that allowed inmates sentenced to death to use statistical data to show that race played a significant part in their trial or in the decision of the prosecutor to seek the death penalty. Those who are successful in court can have their sentence commuted to life in prison, according to the (Raleigh) News & Observer. So far, more than 150 death row inmates are challenging their sentences under the law.
The majority of information technology jobs in the Texas’ Department of Transportation have been outsourced to a Japanese company. According to the Austin American-Statesman, about 300 of the department’s 350 employees lost their jobs, but they were offered positions with the Tokyo-based NTT Data through the five-year, $190 million contract.