The WonkLine: April 18, 2011

Welcome to The WonkLine, a daily 9:30 a.m. roundup of the latest public policy news. This is what we’re reading. Tell us what you found in the comments section below. You can also follow The Wonk Room on Twitter.


Climate Change

“Residents in the Midwest and the South are cleaning up today after a series of tornadoes ripped through 14 states and left at least 45 people dead over the weekend, and states of emergency in North Carolina, Virginia, Alabama, and Mississippi.

“In a letter sent to President Barack Obama late Saturday afternoon, Gov. Rick Perry requested a Major Disaster Declaration for the State of Texas as a result of widespread wildfires and continuing fire danger across the state.”

“The same storm system that spawned more than 240 tornadoes to the South brought record rainfall to Philadelphia and other areas.”


Tax Day: The latest available data shows that the effective tax rate for the richest 400 Americans is 17 percent, “down from 26 percent in 1992.”

A U.S. Appeals court has rules that Wells Fargo “wrongly claimed $115 million in tax deductions for the 2002 tax year from transactions the court called ‘abusive tax shelters.'”

What are the 2012 GOP presidential hopefuls saying on taxes? National Journal has the roundup.


The Houston Chronicle unearths emails showing that Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX) hasn’t been telling the truth about the pressure he’s put on universities to adopts reforms that “critics say are simplistic and harmful to research institutions.”

“The Senate began its recess Friday without holding a markup on the overdue reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act,” despite the efforts of Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA).

Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ) has proposed legislation that would “eliminate tenure as teachers know it.”

LGBT Equality

The reintroduction of the Uniting American Families Act provides an important opportunity to protect same-sex binational couples from being split by one’s deportation.

A new study suggests that both gay and straight teens are more likely to attempt suicide when they live in conservative communities.

Today, the Texas Senate will consider a bill (SB 723) that would prevent transgender people from marrying people of the opposite sex.


Conservative legal scholar Doug Kmeic, who President Obama appointed as Ambassador to Malta after Kmeic supported him in 2008, has resigned his ambassadorship in response to an inspector general report revealing that Kmeic spent too much time working on religious issues outside of his job description.

Tennessee’s chief justice is speaking out against a plan to elect judges in that state, warning — correctly — that it would only give well-moneyed interest groups the power to buy elections.

The Supreme Court is widely-expected to toss out Ken Cuccinelli’s premature request to hear his challenge to the Affordable Care Act today.

National Security

A Taliban infiltrator disguised in an Afghan army uniform opened fire today inside the Defense Ministry, killing at least two before he was gunned down.

BlackBerry maker Research In Motion Ltd. confirmed yesterday that the UAE has banned use of the mobile device’s highly secure emails by individuals and businesses with less than 20 employees.

Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, son of Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi, said in an interview with the Washington Post that his father’s government has done nothing wrong and that it will not back down in the face of rebel and NATO attacks.


According to his spokesperson, Gov. Nathan Deal (R-GA) will sign an Arizona copycat immigration bill that was approved by Georgia’s General Assembly last week.

One year after Arizona’s immigration law was signed into law, Gov. Jan Brewer (R-AZ) and state Sen. Russell Pearce (R-AZ) continue to believe that SB-1070 has been wildly successful even though most of it hasn’t even gone into effect.

NPR reports that “A showdown is under way at the France-Italy border on the Riviera, where thousands of recently arrived Tunisian migrants are testing the notion of a united Europe.”

Health Care

“State lawmakers voted Wednesday to let companies from elsewhere sell insurance here, a move that could cut premiums but leave many Arizonans without coverage for some medical conditions.”

“Medical device makers are showering cash on friends in Congress and working the halls, hoping that one of five bills that would overturn the excise tax might actually make it into law.”

“As the Vermont Senate prepares this coming week to debate major health care legislation, a fight may be emerging over what conditions must be met before the state moves to a single-payer plan.”