Emily Wilkins

Lawmakers Step Into Prickly Free Speech Debate

The debate over free speech on college campuses continued on Capitol Hill Thursday with yet another hearing, but lawmakers don’t appear to be in any hurry to address the flare-up with legislation.

“Universities especially should be the place where people of different views should speak, audiences can listen and many contrasting different viewpoints are encouraged,” Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., said at the hearing. “There should be some sensible ways to allow that while still protecting freedom guaranteed by the First Amendment.”

Thwarted by Congress, DeVos Seeks School Choice With Grants
She must also follow a presidential directive to fund STEM programs

Congress has blocked school choice proposals from the Trump administration, but Education Secretary Betsy DeVos may have found a way to make choice a priority by awarding grants.

McConnell Seeks Exception to Rules for School
Kentucky Republican wants to keep federal funding for home-state college

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is asking the Education Department to skirt its rules and make an exception to provide federal dollars to a college in his home state — even though a high percentage of its graduates defaulted on their students loans for the last three years.

McConnell’s move is part of a larger debate about the criteria to determine whether a college should receive federal funding or be cut off. Currently, the Education Department uses data on what is known as the cohort default rate — or how many of a college’s graduates default on their loans — to decide whether the school is a good investment for taxpayer money.

Student Loan Program About to Expire
Legislation to extend it blocked

A college student loan program with bipartisan support will expire Saturday after key Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander blocked legislation to extend it.

The need-based program will lapse midnight Saturday, depriving tens of thousands of college students of a source of financial aid that is a mix of federal dollars and college contributions.

Trump Nominees for Labor Board Could Nix Obama-Era Rules
‘This represents a huge opportunity for reform’

President Donald Trump’s nomination of two attorneys to serve on the National Labor Relations Board would give the panel a Republican majority that could roll back a slew of labor regulations.

William Emanuel of Littler Mendelson, a law firm that represents employers, and Marvin Kaplan, counsel at the independent federal Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission, have been officially nominated to fill two openings on the five-seat board.

Ivanka Trump, Senators Hope to Push Family Tax Credits
Rubio: ‘Paid family leave is a part of it’

A group of Senate Republicans met with Ivanka Trump on Tuesday to begin constructing a tax credit package that could include family leave and other child care proposals. 

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who touted paid family leave during his 2016 presidential run, said lawmakers and President Donald Trump’s eldest daughter discussed a variety of tax proposals meant to benefit families, particularly those who are low-income.

Senate Republicans Reject DeVos’ Proposed Education Cuts
‘The kinds of cuts that are proposed in this budget will not occur’

Senate appropriators told Education Secretary Betsy DeVos on Tuesday that the Education Department’s budget request was dead on arrival in Congress, with Republicans and Democrats alike defending programs the department proposes to slash or eliminate in fiscal 2018.

At the Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations Subcommittee, DeVos also clarified remarks she made in the House last month. She pledged Tuesday to ensure that federal school choice programs would require schools to follow laws for students with disabilities. She didn’t commit to any protections not in federal law.

Trump Rescinds Obama-Era Guidance on Transgender Students
Move affects pending SCOTUS case on transgender bathroom use

The Trump administration on Wednesday withdrew Obama-era guidance directing public schools to allow transgender students to use the bathroom that matches their gender identity, a move that changes a pending Supreme Court case on the contentious social issue.

A letter from the administration to the Supreme Court on Wednesday included a memo from the Education and Justice departments formally withdrawing the guidance.

Democrats Make All Night Push, But Won’t Derail DeVos’ Nomination
The president's nominee for Education secretary will get a vote midday Tuesday

Betsy DeVos is expected to be narrowly confirmed as Education secretary on Tuesday after a contentious process in which Democrats sought the one more vote they need to sink her nomination. A final vote is expected at midday.

While DeVos was expected to squeak by in the Senate, Democrats continued their last-minute push to find a Republican who would join Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska in breaking ranks with their party to vote against the confirmation.

Senate Democrats Want More Time to Question Trump’s Education Nominee
Committee members limited to five minutes of questioning

Senate Democrats are seeking to extend the five minutes they will be allowed to question President-elect Donald Trump’s choice for Education secretary Betsy DeVos during her confirmation hearing next week, arguing her nomination raises a slew of issues that need more time to be examined.

While the confirmation hearings for some of Trump’s Cabinet picks have stretched for many hours, Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Chairman Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., said he would stick to the committee’s standard of holding one round of questions during DeVos’ scheduled hearing at 5 p.m. on Jan. 17. After opening statements by Alexander and ranking member Patty Murray of Washington, the 12 Republicans and 11 Democrats on the committee will be limited to five minutes of questioning, he said.

DeVos Hearing Postponed Until Next Week
Murray says ‘jam’ of hearings caused delay

The confirmation hearing for Betsy DeVos, President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for Education secretary, has been moved to Jan. 17, a decision announced late Monday night by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

The hearing was initially scheduled for Wednesday, the same day as several other confirmation hearings and a planned marathon voting session. Democrats have also raised concerns that not all nominees have completed the process of disclosing their finances to the Office of Government Ethics, which screens candidates for potential conflicts of interest. As of Monday night, the office had not made any documents on DeVos public.

Republicans Gear Up for School Choice Legislation Under DeVos
D.C. scholarship program could be easy starter

Republican-backed legislation giving parents more control over their children’s education is expected to get a boost in the next Congress if school choice advocate Betsy DeVos is confirmed as President-elect Donald Trump’s Education secretary.

Some proposals are expected to easily pass next year, such as the re-authorization of Washington, D.C.‘s unique scholarship program allowing students to use federal funds to attend private and charter schools.

Maine’s Janet Mills is a Worthy Foil for Governor
State's AG has tangled with the man some say she should replace

In high school, Janet T. Mills memorized a speech by Sen. Margaret Chase Smith of Maine denouncing McCarthyism.  

Half a century later, the words have not left that state’s first woman attorney general.  

Flores' Top Issue Reminds Voters of Controversy
'Education is the golden ticket,' says Florida state senator Anitere Flores

When Florida state Sen. Anitere Flores is asked about her greatest accomplishments, she immediately turns to her work on education — the same issue her opponents turn to when attacking her.  

Education is one of several areas where Flores has had an impact during her dozen years in the Florida legislature. From the time she first won election as a state representative in 2004, Flores caught the attention of leaders in her party and was selected, as a freshman, to serve on the prestigious budget conference committee.  

A Career of Firsts for Illinois Chief Justice Rita Garman
From county prosecutor to top state court justice, Garman has blazed trails

After graduating from the University of Iowa law school in 1968, Rita Garman faced the first challenge of her career:  finding a firm that would hire a woman. ...
Languishing Sexual Assault Bill Gets Another Push in Senate
Legislation addresses safety of sexual assault victims on college campuses

A bill that would hold colleges more accountable for sexual assaults but that has not gained traction despite bipartisan support is getting a new push from senators, including Missouri’s Roy Blunt, the vice chairman of the Senate Republican Conference.

Since its introduction in 2014 by Missouri Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill, the bill (S 590) has been backed by Blunt and his Republican colleagues Charles E. Grassley of Iowa and Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire.

Gina Raimondo's Pension Reform Draws Cheers and Jeers
Rhode Island governor shies away from quick fixes

It’s true that Gina Raimondo is the first female governor of the state of Rhode Island, but that’s not what she’s most known for.  

What landed Raimondo on Fortune’s list of the world’s 50 greatest leaders  — which also includes Pope Francis and Amazon's Jeff Bezos — is the same as what left many retirees in her state fearful for their futures: an overhaul of the state’s pension system.  

From Top Lieutenant to Lt. Governor
Minnesota’s Tina Smith may go for the top job next

Tina Smith had never held an elected office when Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton asked her to be his running mate in 2014 – and that may have been to her advantage.

That’s because before she was Dayton’s lieutenant governor, she was his chief of staff, a role in which she had the kind of relationship with the governor that assured she’d be more than a sidekick.

Senate Confirms King as Education Secretary
Warren Votes to Confirm After Raising Questions About Student Aid

John B. King Jr. can drop “acting” from his title after the Senate voted 49-40 on Monday to confirm him as Education secretary.  

Among those voting to confirm was Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., who said last week that she could not vote for King until she received more direct answers about how he would change the culture of the department, particularly as it relates to the Federal Student Aid office.  

EB-5 Visa Overhaul Stalls Over Where to Create Jobs

A dispute over how to create jobs in rural and high-unemployment areas has delayed a revamp of a popular visa program for foreign investors known as EB-5.