State News
Delaware Agencies Required to Seek Integrated Workplaces for Disabled Clients
Delaware Gov. Jack Markell recently signed legislation to support his initiative as NGA Chair, A Better Bottom Line: Employing People with Disabilities. The new law will help people with disabilities—including returning veterans—find work and become more competitive in the labor market. The law requires any agency serving the developmentally disabled help those using their services find work in an integrated setting. The work will be facilitated through collaboration among state agencies, particularly through shared data. Agencies are encouraged to create measureable goals and objectives to assess the implementation of the law. The law also establishes the Employment Oversight Commission to produce an annual report reviewing the goals and objectives outlined in the law.

The January 2011 Current Population Survey found that only 17 percent of people with developmental disabilities are employed, compared to 63 percent of people without developmental disabilities. Individuals with disabilities often lack financial security and must depend on government programs for support. Gov. Markell's initiative as NGA chair will work to advance career opportunities for people with disabilities so that they are not socially isolated and can work towards financial independence. This could lead to significant cost savings for the federal and state governments. As the recently appointed NGA Chair, Governor Markell will be leading a yearlong initiative on this topic.
(Contact: Rebecca Rabinowitz)

Michigan Launches Push to Reshape the State's School Finance System
A working group organized by Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder met recently for the first time to create plans to reshape Michigan's school finance system to allow money to more closely follow children and allow for a variety of choices for families. The meeting comes after Gov. Snyder called for an overhaul of the system in a special session in front of the state legislature. The working group's goal is to develop a model of proficiency-based funding—rather than basing funding on seat time requirements—in order to facilitate dual enrollment, blended learning, on-line education, and early college attendance. The working group plans to meet with groups and conduct public hearings for input on how the system should be changed, and the information they gather will be used to write the Michigan Education Finance Act of 2013. A first draft of the bill is expected to be completed in October, in time to be included in the 2013 budget.
(Contact: Emily Slack)

New Jersey Expands Drug Court Treatment Program
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has signed a bill into law that establishes a mandatory, statewide drug court program. Under the law, judges can sentence nonviolent, drug-addicted offenders to participate in a drug treatment program regardless if they apply for admission. The law also requires that those charged with a second and third degree drug offense receive information on drug addiction and treatment and that nonviolent, drug addicted offenders receive clinical assessments to determine their eligibility for drug court. Additionally, the law requires an evaluation of the drug court program that includes completion and recidivism rates, implementation costs, and any other information relevant to the success of the program.

The new law aims to lower the state recidivism rate and reduce costs. According to an October 2010 Drug Court report, the rate at which drug court graduates are re-arrested for a new offense is 16 percent compared with re-arrest rates of 54 percent for drug offenders released from prison. The report also found that the cost to house an inmate in a correctional institution is approximately $38,900, whereas the cost for an active drug court participant is about $11,379. Research suggests that drug courts reduce drug use and the chances of reoffending for offenders who volunteer to participate and for those who are automatically enrolled. Gov. Christie first unveiled his plan to expand the state's drug court program in his State of the State address.
(Contact: Alisha Powell)

Vermont Grant Supports Sector Strategies for Personal Care Attendants
Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin announced a new grant from the Department of Labor's Workforce Education and Training Fund that will help create 150 new jobs for personal care attendants and re-train current staff. Personal care attendants assist the elderly or people with medical needs with tasks such as providing meals or hygiene. The grant, announced in partnership with the Visiting Nurse Association, will enable more elderly and disabled people to remain in their homes, which can provide a better standard of living than institutions and will save the state money on nursing homes. Projections by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics indicate that employment in the field of homecare will increase by 70 percent by 2020. Vermont's Department of Labor has also partnered with the Community College of Vermont and the Visiting Nurse Partnership to design a curriculum and training program that teaches important skills for career readiness and specific skills needed by personal care attendants. Participants in the program, which is offered for free as part of Gov. Shumlin's Career Ready Program, will receive instruction in subjects such as mathematics and computers as well as on tasks such as preparing nutritious meals for their clients.
(Contact: Rebecca Rabinowitz)

North Carolina Explores Alternative Fuel Vehicles for State Fleets
North Carolina Gov. Beverly Perdue has signed a bill into law that creates an interagency task force to analyze the benefits and feasibility of the use of alternative fuel vehicles by state agencies. Eligible alternative fuels include natural gas, biofuels, and electricity. The task force will perform a cost/benefit analysis of a variety of alternative transportation fuels and vehicles that takes into account current and future projected fuel prices, lifetime vehicle costs, the availability of fueling infrastructure, environmental benefits, and agency vehicle use. That will allow the task force to determine the most cost-effective fuel or mix of fuels for each type of vehicle used by each agency. The task force will be led by the State Energy Office, with participation from the Department of Administration, the Department of Public Instruction, the Department of Transportation, and other agencies where applicable. The task force will submit its findings to the legislature by December 1, 2012.

The new law also establishes criteria by which the state may operate an electric vehicle charging station at a state-owned rest area. The Department of Transportation may operate a charging station as long as it is accessible to the public and the department has established some mechanism to recover the cost of the electricity used, a portion of the operations and maintenance cost, and other administrative costs from the user. The department may consult with other agencies and the private sector to determine an alternative cost recovery mechanism if the cost of electricity consumed by the vehicle cannot be calculated.
(Contact: Andrew Kambour)

New York Reforms Improve Cyberbullying Protections
New York
Gov. Andrew Cuomo has signed a bill into law that helps protect students from bullies who employ technology to harass their targets at a distance and outside of school, otherwise known as cyberbullying, and other types of harassment. The law requires schools to act when students experience cyberbullying that occurs on or off campus or creates a risk to the school environment and/or a student's well-being. The law also requires school districts to develop protocols to deal with cyberbullying and harassment by assigning a school official to receive and investigate incident reports; coordinate with law enforcement; develop a bullying prevention strategy; and informi all school community members of the school's policies regarding cyberbullying and harassment. Finally, the law establishes training requirements for current and new teachers and administrators to help identify and prevent all forms of harassment.
(Contact: Alisha Powell)

Connecticut Council on Developmental Disabilities to Focus on Integration
In Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy signed an executive order to create the Connecticut Council on Developmental Disabilities. The Council's mission is to fully integrate people with developmental disabilities into all aspects of the community. Fully funded by the federal government, the council will consist of 24 members including 15 people who with developmentally disabilities or are parents whose children have developmentally disabilities.
(Contact: Rebecca Rabinowitz)

Oregon Governor Establishes Domestic Violence Task Force
Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber has signed an executive order establishing a new Domestic Violence Prevention and Response Task Force. The task force will focus on developing a statewide response to preventing domestic violence, identifying and addressing existing gaps in services and system response, and identifying and implementing best practices prevention strategies. In the first year of operation, the task force will specifically address the adequacy and availability of services to racial and ethnic minorities, domestic violence in the workplace, teen dating violence, and availability and adequacy of services to minors. The 19-member group will make recommendations to the governor and to the legislature and will represent various civic groups across the state, including nonprofit organizations, the Oregon State House and Senate, the Oregon Health Authority, and Department of Human Services.
(Contact: Alisha Powell)

More Children Eating Breakfast Because of Innovative Program in North Carolina
No Kid Hungry, a program started a year ago by North Carolina Gov. Bev Perdue, is working to increase the number of children receiving free meals without losing class time. The program is a partnership between the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, the Department of Health and Human Services, and Share Our Strength. One practice used in the program provides students with breakfast bags that could be eaten in class instead of the cafeteria and grants all students in a school access to breakfast, instead of just the students who are eligible based on means testing. Another innovative practice gives families the ability to text an address to a number and receive a response with nearby food programs, which makes it easy for families to learn about available programs. The program has also increased coordination among anti-hunger groups, food banks, and faith-based organizations, leading to increased accessibility to free meals for children. Schools that participated in the pilot project had a 30 percent increase in students eating breakfast over the statewide average.
(Contact: Jackie Le Grand )

Puerto Rico Uses Public-Private Partnership for Airport Improvements
Puerto Rico Gov. Luis Fortuño has announced the use of a public-private partnership (P3) for significant capital and service upgrades at the territory's primary airport in San Juan. The Puerto Rico Public-Private Partnerships Authority (P3A) has accepted a bid from a private consortium that will direct $1.4 billion towards capital improvements at the airport over the life of the contract. Under the P3 project, the territory will grant the consortium a 40-year lease for the financing, operations, and maintenance of the airport. The terms of the lease include specific requirements for improvements in customer experience and an expansion of airline capacity. The consortium will also grant almost $1.2 billion to the Puerto Rico Ports Authority, which will allow the authority to retire debt and improve its financial condition. The lease agreement marks the first time that a contract for financing, operations, maintenance, and improvements at an existing transportation asset has been developed at an airport facility in the United States.
(Contact: Andrew Kambour)

Hawaii Enacts Law to Promote High Quality Charter Schools
Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie recently signed legislation that allows charter schools more autonomy while still ensuring that the schools are accountable for student learning and growth, organizational viability, and using responsible fiscal practices. The new law adopted recommendations from the Charter School Governance, Accountability, and Authority Task Force (video link). The law clarifies lines of authority and accountability, provides for charter school performance contracts and multiple authorizers, and removes the cap on the number of charter schools. Currently, there are 32 public charter schools in Hawaii, which is about 11 percent of the state's public schools.
(Contact: Emily Slack)
 



Other News
Cost, Fear Keep Some from Accessing Dental Care
A new report from the CDC uses the 2008 National Health Survey to examine oral health among adults. Three-quarters of adults self-reported having good or very good oral health, while only 7 percent self-reported poor oral health. About 6 in 10 adults reported visiting a dentist in the past year. Adults with Medicaid were more likely to not have visited a dentist in the past five years compared to all adults. Among adults with private dental insurance, about 10 percent reported not addressing a dental problem in the past year because of cost. Additionally, about 10 percent of adults cited fear as the reason they have not visited a dentist in the past six months, despite having dental problems such as a toothache or broken or missing fillings.
(Contact: Jackie Le Grand )

Regulatory Frameworks Support Investments in Utility Efficiency in Majority of States
The Edison Foundation's Institute for Electric Efficiency has released a summary of state regulatory structures that effect utility energy efficiency programs. The report highlights three regulatory mechanisms that are recognized by utilities as providing incentives to invest in energy efficiency: direct cost recovery, fixed cost recovery, and rewards for performance on energy efficiency. Direct cost recovery refers to mechanisms that allow utilities to recoup the costs of administering energy efficiency programs or any rebates that are part of those programs. Direct cost recovery can occur through system benefit charges, riders and surcharges, or standard rate cases. Fixed cost recovery allows utilities to recover revenue lost through the implementation of efficiency measures, and often occurs through lost revenue mechanisms and decoupling policies, which separate utility returns from electricity sales. Performance incentives provide utilities with additional revenue when certain energy efficiency goals are met and/or impose financial penalties for failing to meet energy reduction targets. In all, 47 states (plus the District of Columbia) have a direct cost recovery mechanism in place, 37 states (including DC) have or are pursuing some form of fixed cost recovery, and 23 states have performance incentives in place, with incentives pending before utility regulators in six additional states. Those figures include 14 states that have approved decoupling and 13 that have approved a lost revenue recovery mechanism.
(Contact: Andrew Kambour)

New Pension Rules May Complicate Future Budgets, Without Causing Major Disruptions
An issue brief released by the National Association of State Budget Officers (NASBO) explains that new pension rules will cause funded ratios to decrease and increase volatility in annual contributions, but that pension contributions remain a small part of the budget in most states. The rules were created by the Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB), which creates reporting standards for pension funds that most states choose to follow. The first change is that the discount rate, which represents how much money invested today is expected to earn before being paid out to beneficiaries, will be lowered for estimated unfunded liabilities. Fund managers can use an 8 percent discount rate for the proportion of estimated liabilities supported by estimated assets (and so can contribute 8 percent less today), but can only use a 3 to 4 percent discount rate for the portion of estimated liabilities that are not supported by estimated assets. While it does not increase what the plans owe retirees, the new rates will cause funded ratios to decrease. Contributions will have to increase to make up for the difference between what the plans are allowed to assume will be earned through investments under the new rule and the amount they assumed would be earned under the old rule. GASB also decided that plans should not be allowed to smooth assets based on historical performance when estimating their value over the long-term. Instead, the plans must estimate the value of their assets based only on current market prices. This change will cause value estimates to fluctuate every year according to how markets performed, which means that annual employer contributions will fluctuate much more than they have in the past.
(Contact: Amanda Dunker)

Greater Share of Population Participating in Means Tested Programs, Particularly Medicaid
The Census Bureau released a report documenting participation in government programs over time. The report describes trends and characteristics of people who have received government benefits from means tested programs between 2004 and 2007 and in 2009, such as SNAP, Medicaid, TANF, and housing assistance. Participation was measured using data from the Survey of Income and Program Participation, which can track the same people over a span of time and provides data at specific points in time. The report found that during each month of 2009 45 million people, or about 19 percent of the population, participated in one or more major means tested program. That is an increase from 2005, when 17 percent of the population participated each month. Medicaid was the most used means tested program in 2009, with almost 14 percent of the population enrolled each month. Those living in female headed households were almost four times as likely as those in a two parent household to participate in any means tested program, and a higher percentage of children under 18 participated than adults 18 – 64 and people 65 and older. Children also participated for longer periods of time. The report also provides information on participating in means tested programs by race, sex, region, and disability status.
(Contact: Rebecca Rabinowitz)

Public-Private Information Sharing is Essential to Preventing Cyber Attacks
Pre-planned responses and real-time information sharing between the public and private sector are the best ways to deter future cyberattacks, according to a new report from the Bipartisan Policy Center. Businesses can do a better job of sharing their cyber history and prevention policies with the government and the government can do a better job of providing businesses incentives to report attacks. Finding that the threat of litigation is often the driving force behind companies not wanting to share essential information with the public, the report recommends that the government consider minimizing company liabilities as they develop cybersecurity policy. Additionally, information sharing clearing houses, like Information Sharing and Analysis Centers (ISACs), provide a central location or "one-stop-shop" for both the government and business to promote best practices and provide a more streamlined data sharing center. According to the report, businesses should also protect civil liberties and personally identifying information, and that the government should modernize communications laws; tailor government messages to individual companies; and authorize the president to declare an emergency based on ongoing cyberattack. By implementing those recommendations, private businesses and the public will be able to better share information, analyze data, and develop courses of action in real time in order to quickly make executive decisions in the event of an attack.
(Contact: Carmen Ferro)

New Initiatives Announced at International AIDS Conference
The International AIDS conference has returned to the U.S. after 22 years and among the announcements made at the meeting were new partnerships between the federal government and private organizations to increase the quality of care for HIV/AIDS patients in the United States. Among the initiatives are one common application for AIDS medication assistance for patients who are unable to afford their medications. Eight pharmaceutical companies that manufacture AIDS medications have agreed to use the common application, which will reduce the number of forms patients will have to fill out to get reduced or no- cost medications if they do not have insurance. Another initiative will send text messages to HIV positive patients, focusing on southern states, to remind them about medical appointments and taking medications as prescribed. Additional initiatives will offer online education modules for medical professionals and another will look at best ways for pharmacies to keep patients engaged in their medication management.
(Contact: Jackie Le Grand)

New Report Examines the Value of Compensating Teachers for Advanced Degrees
A new report out from the Center for American Progress examines the practice of paying teachers more for earning advanced degrees and recommends that funding could be applied to compensation schemes more closely linked to teacher retention, hard-to-staff subject areas, and career ladders. The authors find that paying teachers for earning advanced degrees cost the states an estimated $14.8 billion in 2007-08, which is up 72 percent from four years prior. They propose that districts change their salary schedule from a simplistic one based solely on years on the job and advanced degree attainment to a more complex schedule that offers more pay to teachers in shortage fields (like math or special education), higher salaries to retain teachers with extraordinary instructional impact, or financial incentives to teachers who take difficult teaching assignments.
(Contact: Emily Slack)