New York Seeks to Increase Development of Renewable Energy
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo used his 2012 State of the State speech to unveil two new initiatives designed to increase renewable energy capacity. The first is a plan to develop an "energy highway" system of electric transmission lines that will improve the connection between abundant energy sources in Upstate and Western New York with consumers near New York City, where energy demand is highest. The state will create a master plan outlining its transmission needs—both new transmission and upgrades to existing lines—and then issue a request for proposals seeking private companies interested in developing the new lines or performing the upgrades. The state expects that the energy highway will attract $2 billion in private investment.
The second initiative's goal is to quadruple solar energy installations by 2013. The NY–Sun Initiative will increase competitive procurement of large-scale solar energy projects and expand existing rebate programs for smaller residential and commercial systems, providing incentives for developing solar energy while minimizing the cost to customers. Other energy initiatives included in Governor Cuomo's address include expediting the development of utility on-bill financing for customers retrofitting their homes for energy efficiency and the development of a master energy efficiency plan for all state buildings.
(Contact: Andrew Kambour)
Indiana Reaches Sales Tax Agreement with Amazon
Indiana's Department of Revenue (DOR) will begin assessing and collecting sales tax from Amazon.com, Inc. in 2014 through a voluntary agreement. Indiana is the fourth state to reach this type of agreement with the company. The state expects to collect between $20 and $25 million a year in additional revenue as a consequence of the agreement. Though Amazon is the largest online retailer in Indiana, the state estimates that it could collect a total of $75 million in additional sales tax each year for transactions that occur online.
(Contact: Amanda Dunker)
Iowa Announces Education Legislative Goals
Iowa Governor Terry Branstad announced education reform recommendations for the 2012 legislative session. The legislative brief developed out of a summit held in July and a series of town hall meetings to gather public input. Proposals include:
- More stringent requirements for teachers, including selective criteria for hiring and licensure exams that contain content-specific and teaching knowledge, as well as more frequent evaluations;
- Assessment of preschool-aged children to determine literacy and numeracy skill levels;
- Replacing a current 11th grade assessment with a college entrance exam requirement; and
- Replacing seat requirements that mandate time spent in class for promotion and graduation with demonstrations of skills mastery.
Additionally, the brief proposes the establishment of a task force to study long-term issues affecting Iowa students and teachers.
(Contact: Ryan Reyna)
Report Recommends Principles to Guide Sentencing Reform in Oregon
Oregon's Commission on Public Safety has released its report to Governor John Kitzhaber recommending ways the state can revise sentencing guidelines and policies to save money and increase public safety. Governor Kitzhaber created the bipartisan commission in 2011 when the state was facing a multi-billion dollar deficit.
The commission identified several guiding principles for reform. Those principles include investing in more cost-effective programs targeted at offenders that could reduce recidivism and using evidence-based research and cost-benefit analysis to guide all future investments in public safety. The commission also suggests that judges should receive risk and needs assessment information at sentencing and be given greater discretion to fashion appropriate sentences. Another recommendation was to dedicate a portion of any savings from sentencing reforms to programs that help crime victims. A recent report by the National Governors Association, State Efforts in Sentencing and Corrections Reform, also notes the importance of reducing recidivism by targeting individual risk factors and using evidence-based practices to guide reform efforts.
(Contact: Jeff McLeod)
Michigan Helps Homeowners Avoid Foreclosure
Michigan Governor Rick Snyder signed several bills into law to improve the foreclosure process and help Michigan residents stay in their homes. When foreclosure proceedings begin, lenders must now provide written notice including a list of housing counselors so homeowners can immediately receive customized advice and assistance. Homeowners will now have additional time and mechanisms to arrange for loan modifications to make monthly payments more affordable, including interest rate reduction or principal forbearance. In addition, pre–foreclosure notices will no longer be published in newspapers, protecting homeowner from foreclosure rescue and mortgage modification scams.
(Contact: Alexandra Cawthorne)
Education Reform Gathers Momentum in Connecticut
The Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents released a package of education recommendations, less than two weeks after Governor Dan Malloy sent a letter to state legislators listing proposals and asking them to prioritize education reform. The two sets of recommendations both argue for increasing the availability of alternative school models, targeting populations in need, and increasing access to early childhood education. However, the superintendents' model calls for additional changes, including an emphasis on flexibility—access to resources year round, adaptable work schedules for different teachers and a malleable school year allowing students varying amounts of time to achieve proficiency—and replacing tenure with renewable five-year contracts based on performance. The organization also recommends consolidating the state's 165 school districts, some of which contain only one school. Governor Malloy also convened a workshop of experts, school administrators, teachers, and other stakeholders to prepare for the beginning of the legislative season in February.
(Contact: Ryan Reyna)
New Jersey Launches GrowNJ Incentive Program to Create and Sustain Jobs
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie signed legislation creating the GrowNJ Assistance program to provide at least $200 million in incentives to create and retain jobs in the state by expanding existing tax incentives to new areas. A business would be eligible for a GrowNJ tax credit if it retains 100 full-time jobs or creates at least 100 full-time jobs in an industry designated desirable by the state economic development authority and makes a capital investment of at least $20 million in a qualified incentive area.
Eligible business will receive an annual tax credit of $5,000-$8,000 for ten years for each full-time job created or retained. The program will not result in any new costs to the state because it is part of a larger set of tax credits already provided for in the state's budget.
(Contact: Lauren Stewart)
Louisiana Makes Progress on Behavioral Health Goals
Louisiana posted recordings and presentations online from a forum held last month to help providers of behavioral health care transition to working with the state through a managed care company whose contract begins in March. The company won the contract through a competitive bidding process and will provide a single point of access for children, youth, and adults whose health care funding currently comes from a fragmented collection of state and federal programs. The forum provided information on contracting and accreditation processes, performance measures, and a new electronic records system.
The contract will be administered by the Louisiana Behavioral Health Partnership (LBHP), housed within the state's Department of Health and Hospitals and responsible for improving care for people suffering from severe mental illnesses and addictive disorders. Planning for the LBHP began more than a year ago, when the state created the initiative to address low national rankings on measures including institutionalization, emergency room visits, and access to care. The state also found that while most children there have health insurance, less than 14 percent of children with mental illnesses were receiving treatment.
(Contact: Jackie Le Grand)
Tennessee Unveils Multi-Year Public Safety Action Plan
The Tennessee Governor's Public Safety Subcabinet Working Group has developed a multi-year action plan designed to improve public safety statewide. The plan has three goals: reduce drug abuse and drug trafficking, curb violent crime, and lower the rate of repeat offenders. Specific steps include:
- Developing regional alliances with other states to tackle prescription drug abuse;
- Realigning probation, parole, and community corrections under the Tennessee Department of Correction for adult felony offenders;
- Enacting tougher sentences for gang-related crimes and establish tracking criteria to determine if the tougher sentences work; and
- Evaluating realignment of resources and sentencing options in juvenile justice, with emphasis on public safety effects, costs, rehabilitation and recidivism.
The NGA Center for Best Practices provided the Governor's Public Safety Subcabinet Working Group with technical assistance in developing the public safety strategic action plan.
(Contact: Alisha Powell)
Virginia Governor Unveils Legislative Agenda for Energy
Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell has announced a series of proposals for the 2012 legislative session focused on developing new energy infrastructure, increasing access to energy from a variety of resources, and increasing the adoption of energy efficiency. The proposals include regulatory changes that would make it easier for utilities to get approval for energy efficiency programs, including marketing and customer engagement initiatives, and would expedite approval for natural gas or electricity transmission infrastructure projects. Other proposals would allow utilities to receive Renewable Energy Credits for renewable energy research & development and combined heat and power generation. Governor McDonnell also proposed bills to improve coordination between mining and natural gas operations to improve worker safety and to create an Alternative Fuel Vehicle Conversion Fund to facilitate conversion of the state's vehicle fleet to natural gas vehicles.
(Contact: Andrew Kambour)
Illinois Governor Announces Fitness Challenge
Illinois Governor Pat Quinn recently challenged residents to add one half mile of walking to their daily routine, which over a year adds up to enough distance to walk from Rock Island on the state's southern border to Chicago on its northern border. People interested in participating in the initiative, called "Walk Across Illinois", can register at a new website to log miles and track their progress across a map. Studies on pedometers suggest that tracking progress over time provides positive feedback and helps people gain confidence in their ability to achieve fitness goals. People are also more likely to develop a habit of exercising when they start with small, attainable goals. The challenge website also provides information about physical health at home and in the workplace, and state trails and walking tours. Participants who sign up and complete the challenge will be awarded a certificate of achievement from the governor. Governor Quinn completed the 167 mile walk from Rock Island to Chicago in 2001.
(Contact: Jackie Le Grand)
Report: Half of All Inmates Not Vaccinated In National Flu Program
According to a recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report, over half of all United States' jails are not included in the National Flu Vaccination campaign. Researchers following the 2009 H1N1 flu found that 55 percent of jails, 14 percent of federal prisons, and 11 percent of state prisons did not receive the H1N1 vaccine. Disease transmission is common in jails. However, most medical treatment in prisons falls under state and local corrections offices, rather than the public health departments that usually handle pandemic disease threats. According to the report, nearly 10 million people spent some portion of the year in a correctional facility, many having been exposed to disease before being released to the public. The CDC recommends that jails vaccinate inmates, and encourages further collaboration between public health and corrections officials in pandemic planning efforts.
(Contact: David Henry)
Report Provides Recommendations for Principal Professional Development
The Center for the Future of Teaching and Learning released its annual report on the status of the teaching profession in California, with a particular emphasis on the role of principals. On average, full-time public school principals worked 60 hours per week, with some principals reporting 70 hours or more. However, principals still claimed they had too little time to attend to their multiple responsibilities. The study also found that the state's principals are relatively new—53 percent of principals joined their school in the last three years while 51 percent have been on the job for five years or less. Principals reported that the most useful professional development supports are individualized and directly targeted towards their needs. The report recommends a formal mentoring program and creating professional learning communities for principals from different districts. It also recommends adding support provided to teachers to principal evaluations. For more information on how governors can help create strong school principals, please see the National Governors Association brief, State Policies to Improve the Effectiveness of School Principals.
(Contact: Tabitha Grossman)
Expenditures and Savings from Electric Efficiency Programs on the Rise
A new report from The Edison Foundation's Institute for Electric Efficiency surveyed 195 utility and non-utility energy efficiency providers—including state-level program administrators—to track the success of ratepayer-funded energy efficiency programs. The survey found that the programs reduced electricity consumption by 112 terawatt-hours (TWh) in 2010, saving 21 percent more than in 2009 and 80 percent more than in 2007. Expenditures on electric efficiency programs increased between 2009 and 2010 as well, up 28 percent to $4.8 billion. The report also found that the overall budget available for energy efficiency increased between 2010 and 2011 by 25 percent. Budgets available for energy efficiency spending increased in 37 states in 2011, including five states (Indiana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Virginia, and West Virginia) where available budgets more than doubled.
(Contact: Andrew Kambour)
Report Links Strong Economic Performance to Exports, Manufacturing
A new report from the Milken Institute evaluates and ranks 379 U.S. metropolitan areas based on their ability to create and sustain jobs, using both short term and long term measurements of employment and salary growth. In addition to ranking both large and small cities, Best-Performing Cities 2011 provides an analysis of the cities that have experienced the most improvement to their economic performance between 2010 and 2011. The report points to specific actions that contributed to those cities' improved performance, many of which are also components of state economic growth strategies. Those actions include attracting high-tech firms, building effective industry clusters, cultivating strong manufacturing cores, and promoting export-driven growth. Export-driven and manufacturing-based economies performed well due to strong foreign and domestic demand for heavy manufacturing equipment and software related products.
(Contact: Erin Sparks)
Chair's Initiative:Regional Summits on Growing State Economies
On January 24-25th, NGA will hold the third of four summits organized as part of Governor Dave Heineman's Growing State Economies Chair's Initiative. The event will take place in Seattle, Washington. The summit will provide governors and their senior economic advisors an opportunity to learn from local entrepreneurs, small business owners, researchers and other experts on what works to create high-growth innovative firms.
(Contact: Erin Sparks)