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L.A. Teachers Win Smaller Classes, Better Pay

L.A. teachers end six-day strike after the majority approve contract deal. CNBC: "L.A. teachers overwhelmingly approved a new contract Tuesday and planned to return to the classroom after a six-day strike over funding and staffing in the nation's second-largest school district. Teachers overwhelmingly approved a new contract Tuesday and planned to return to the classroom after a six-day strike over funding and staffing in the nation's second-largest school district. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, accompanied by leaders of the union and the Los Angeles Unified School District, announced the agreement at City Hall a few hours after a 21-hour bargaining session ended before dawn. The deal was broadly described by officials at the news conference as including a 6 percent pay hike and a commitment to reduce class sizes over four years.Specifics provided later by the district and the union included the addition of more than 600 nursing positions over the next three school years. Additional counselors and librarians were also part of the increase in support staff. Marianne O'Brien said the need for additional support staff was one of the main reasons she walked picket lines.' This is not just for teachers. It's also for counselors, nurses, psychologists and social workers,' said O'Brien, who teaches 10th grade English. The new contract also eliminates a longstanding clause that gave the district authority over class sizes, officials said. Grades 4 through 12 would be reduced by one student during each of the next two school years and two pupils in 2021-22. Clashes over pay, class sizes and support-staff levels in the district with 640,000 students led to its first strike in 30 years and prompted the staffing of classrooms with substitute teachers and administrators."

SCOTUS Revives Military Transgender Ban

Supreme Court revives transgender ban for military service. NYT: "The Supreme Court on Tuesday granted the Trump administration’s request to allow it to bar most transgender people from serving in the military while cases challenging the policy make their way to the court. The administration’s policy reversed a 2016 decision by the Obama administration to open the military to transgender service members. It generally prohibits transgender people from military service but makes exceptions for those already serving openly and those willing to serve 'in their biological sex.' The vote to lift two injunctions blocking the policy issued by lower courts was 5 to 4, with the Supreme Court’s five conservative members in the majority. Lawyers questioning the new policy said there was no need to enforce it while the cases challenging it moved forward. 'Transgender individuals have been permitted to enlist in the military since January 2018. The government has presented no evidence that their doing so harms military readiness, effectiveness or lethality, the brief said. In granting stays of injunctions issued by Federal District Court judges in California and Washington State, the justices in the majority may have been influenced by the complaint by the administration that lower courts have been able to frustrate its policies by the issuance of injunctions applying to the entire country."

Senate Unlikely To End Shutdown

Senate leaders plan competing bills to end shutdown. NYT: "The Senate will hold competing votes on Thursday on President Trump’s proposal to spend $5.7 billion on a border wall and on a Democratic bill that would fund the government through Feb. 8 without a wall. It will be the first time the Senate has stepped off the sidelines to try to end the monthlong government shutdown. The procedural move by Senators Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, and Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, is the first time the parties have agreed to do virtually anything since the shutdown began Dec. 22. With most Republicans united behind Mr. Trump’s insistence that any legislation to reopen the government include money for a border wall and most Democrats opposed to the linkage, neither measure is expected to draw the 60 votes required to advance. That means Friday is likely to come and go without action to end the shutdown, forcing 800,000 federal workers to go without a paycheck for the second time this month. But there was hope that the votes could usher in a more cooperative phase in a crisis that has so far been marked almost entirely by partisan posturing; if both measures fall short, the votes could add new energy to efforts to negotiate a bipartisan compromise. With the shutdown now in its fifth week, the pressure is growing on both parties to reopen the government. The Republican legislation, unveiled Monday night, would provide $5.7 billion in wall funding and large spending increases for the detention and removal of immigrants, as well as three-year provisional protections for 700,000 of the young undocumented immigrants known as Dreamers and for about 325,000 immigrants mostly from Latin American countries and Haiti who have been living in the United States under Temporary Protected Status. But the measure also included several changes to asylum law, long advocated by Stephen Miller, Mr. Trump’s senior adviser and an architect of his immigration agenda, that would make it more difficult for people to seek refuge in the United States from persecution and violence at home. Among them were provisions to bar Central American children from claiming asylum inside the United States, requiring them instead to do so in their own countries, and allow any of them to be quickly sent back to their own countries. A spotlight on the people reshaping our politics. A conversation with voters across the country. And a guiding hand through the endless news cycle, telling you what you really need to know. Another revision would create a host of new grounds for deeming an asylum claim 'frivolous,' including if the migrant seeking protection was also trying to obtain work authorization, had used a fraudulent document — knowingly or unknowingly — or did not file in a timely way. Mr. Schumer rejected the plan as meant not to forge a compromise but to shift blame away from the president for the shutdown stalemate, calling the asylum changes a 'poison pill.'"

Progressives Named To House Oversight Committee

4 progressive Democrats named to House Oversight Committee. Politico: "The House Oversight Committee is adding a group of progressive flamethrowers to its ranks. Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) and Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) won spots on the high-profile committee on Tuesday, two sources told POLITICO. The new members, all of whom are freshmen except Khanna, have been critical of President Donald Trump, and their addition to the committee comes as Democrats have pledged to launch wide-ranging investigations into the president and his administration. Tlaib drew swift backlash when she vowed to 'impeach the motherf---er,' referring to Trump. Republicans have discussed a censure for Tlaib for railing against Trump. Ocasio-Cortez has also become a favorite target of Republicans for her liberal views and willingness to take on the president, particularly on social media. Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), the chairman of the Oversight Committee, dismissed concerns about the outspoken freshman lawmakers. 'If I based the choices going on the committee based on what people said or their reputations or whatever, I probably wouldn’t have a committee,' Cummings told POLITICO. 'I am excited — there were a lot of people that wanted to come on our committee.' The Democratic steering committee, which handles the committee rosters, sent a list of the new additions to Cummings, who said he approved it."

Trump's Stealth Plan To Kill Medicaid

Trump forges ahead with plan to cut care. Pacific Standard: "Just when it seemed safe to go back to the doctor, here comes the Trump administration's latest plan to gut Medicaid. Observers thought that when Democrats won back control of the House of Representatives, the Affordable Care Act and the major health-care entitlements ought to be safe from repeal. Instead, Politico reports that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma has been quietly planning to unilaterally impose spending caps on Medicaid for the states. Right now, Medicaid works by setting a fixed rate at which the federal government reimburses states based on their Medicaid costs. Depending on the wealth of the receiving state, it receives between one and three dollars from the feds per Medicaid dollar spent on individual needs. That means the reimbursement is linked to actual expenses, and while both state and the federal government regulate costs closely, there's no cap on total expenditures. Block grants, which Republicans have been trying to impose since early in the Reagan administration, estimate total expenses (by a variety of different proposed formulas) and award total funding to the states in a lump sum. The consequences of the plan would vary depending on the funding formula used in allocating the initial grants. Paul Ryan's 2017 proposal, for example, linked block grant growth to inflation. Medical costs routinely outstrip inflation, so that's a formula designed to bankrupt the program."

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