President Obama signed a historic education bill; Connecticut lawmakers and other Democrats ratcheted up a gun control campaign, with the families of Newtown victims playing key roles; UnitedHealthcare sent another signal it may pull out of the health insurance exchanges next year; and Congress failed to reach agreement on a bill to fund the federal budget through 2016, setting the scene for more drama next week.
After the Congress approved it by lopsided votes, President Obama signed into law a new education bill that would eliminate the much-reviled Bush-era “No Child Left Behind” bill. Connecticut’s teachers unions hope the Every Student Succeeds Act, which returns authority over K-12 education to the states and local school systems, ushers in changes, especially the end of linkage between test scores and teacher evaluations. But whether the state will change its policies remains unclear.
San Bernardino, Newtown anniversary reinvigorate gun campaign
The San Bernardino shootings and the upcoming three-year anniversary of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre on Dec. 14 touched off a reinvigorated campaign by congressional Democrats to press the GOP to approve new gun control measures. Family members of Newtown victims came to Washington to help with the campaign, which features Connecticut Democrats as key players. They want Congress to expand FBI background checks of prospective gun owners to include people on terrorist watch lists and to ban purchases by those on the lists. But the political influence of the NRA is expected to continue to block those measures. With Congress unable to move on gun control, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said he would use his executive authority to check prospective gun buyers in Connecticut against the federal government’s terrorist watch lists, something New Jersey has done since 2013.
UnitedHealthcare sends another signal it may pull out of Obmacare
In a sign the health insurer is serious about pulling out of the Affordable Care Act’s state exchanges, UnitedHealthcare said it plans to stop paying commissions for insurance policies offered through those exchanges beginning Jan. 1.
North Stonington selectman weighs in on Indian tribal recognition
Nicholas Mullane, a longtime Republican selectman for the town of North Stonington, jumped into a bitter fight between congressional Republicans and the Obama administration over authority to recognize Indian tribes. Mullane testified in favor of a bill that would strip the Obama administration of that authority, saying he was concerned that leaving that power in the executive branch could open the door for recognition of additional tribes in Connecticut.