Connecticut Creates Innovative Financing Program for Commercial Energy Improvements
Gov. Dannel Malloy signed legislation establishing the first statewide program for financing energy improvements for commercial properties that allows the loans to be repaid on property tax bills. Under the new law, commercial property owners will be able to access financing to cover the costs of improvements in energy efficiency and renewable energy systems and make repayments through an annual addition to their local property tax bills. The energy costs savings must exceed the cost of the improvements and the repayment obligation will remain with the property to encourage investments with longer term payback periods. The repayment obligation will constitute a lien on the property with precedence over all other liens except tax liens and thus require the consent of existing mortgage holders. Each participating municipality will develop the exact terms of the assessment and may provide financing support. The Connecticut Clean Energy Finance and Investment Authority (CEFIA), will oversee the state program, provide funding support and help ensure the consistency of programs statewide.
The Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) program is a variation of a residential PACE program previously authorized in Connecticut and 28 other states. Most residential PACE programs have been suspended following a directive by the Federal Housing Financing Agency (FHFA) that that prohibited Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac from purchasing mortgages with a first-lien PACE repayment obligation. Commercial PACE programs are not covered by that directive and have been established in a handful of localities in California and Colorado.
(Contact: Amanda Hoey)
Louisiana Governor Consolidates Parole and Probation Departments
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal has signed a bill that merges the duties and functions of the state's pardon and parole boards. By merging the two boards, the new law will eliminate duplicative positions and create savings for the Louisiana Department of Corrections (DOC) that will enable the DOC to focus on programs that reintegrate non-violent offenders into society. Gov. Jindal also recently signed another bill into law that expands a re-entry initiative at the court level which allows judges to sentence non-violent, non-sex offenders to participation in rehabilitation and workforce development programs outside prisons. Expanding re-entry courts will help the state reduce recidivism rates and free space in prisons for high-risk, violent offenders.
(Contact: Alisha Powell)
Hawaii Launches Alternative Certification Program for School Administrators
The Hawaii Department of Education introduced a new program aimed at creating non-traditional pathways to certification for school administrators. The Alternative Certification for School Administrator Program (ACSAP) is being launched in collaboration with Chaminade University and will be funded partially by the state's Race to the Top grant. The program will be limited to 12 candidates per year for the first two years and will cost about $900,000. New rules approved by the Hawaii State Board of Education and signed by Gov. Neil Abercrombie allowed for the creation of this alternative certification program.
(Contact: Emily Slack )
Iowa Directs Home Visiting Funds to Evidence-Based Practices
Iowa recently passed a new law that will ensure state grant money is spent on programs with evidence of past achievement and that programs receiving state funding will track outcomes. The law targets one type of program, voluntary nurse home visiting, and is based on a policy framework developed by the Pew Center's Home Visiting Campaign. The new law requires that as of 2016 at least 90 percent of home visiting dollars must be spent on programs that have a measured effect on family outcomes, for example, reductions in low birthweight babies, lower rates of child abuse and neglect, improved school achievement and more self-sufficient families. In order for the state to track progress, the programs will be required to report how state funds are spent, information on the families served, and on the overall outcomes of the program.
(Contact: Kelly Murphy)
West Virginia Establishes Task Force to Promote Natural Gas Vehicle Fleet
Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin signed an executive order establishing the Natural Gas Vehicle Task Force to assess the feasibility of transitioning the state fleet to natural gas vehicles and developing the supporting infrastructure. The task force will perform an analysis of the cost savings potential of converting gasoline or diesel-fueled vehicles to run on natural gas; analyze the potential for the state to pilot several public access natural gas fueling stations; and explore interest in public-private partnerships with natural gas producers, infrastructure developers, vehicle manufacturers, and other industry leaders to expand infrastructure. Members of the task force are appointed by the governor and must have education or experience in the natural gas industry, alternative fuels, transportation, or safety.
The task force will report on the status of their efforts to the governor on a semi-annual basis, at minimum. West Virginia is a signatory, along with governors of 12 other states, on a Memorandum of Understanding designed to increase the use of natural gas vehicles in each state's fleet.
(Contact: Amanda Hoey)
Mississippi Requires Pertussis Vaccine
Mississippi is now requiring seventh-graders be vaccinated against pertussis (whooping cough) in order to prevent the spread of the bacterial disease, which can kill young children. Mississippi is among several states that has seen an increase in incidence of whooping cough from just 6 in 2006 to more than 100 in 2010. The state Department of Health has been offering free vaccinations for children between 11 and 18 years old for the past two weeks at every county health department office to help families prepare for the new rule.
(Contact: Kelly Murphy)
Wisconsin Introduces New Online Flexible Degree Program
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker launched a new online degree initiative through a partnership with the University of Wisconsin (UW). The UW Flexible degree will be the first self-paced, competency-based, online degree program from a public university system. The new path to a degree will allow students to begin courses at any time through the year, complete them at their own pace, and receive credit for college-level competencies gained through work experience or prior learning. The new degree plan is expected to help the nearly 20 percent of Wisconsin residents that have some postsecondary credit but never completed their degree program, as well as attempt to close a skills gap between the skills needed for the kinds of jobs available in the state and the average worker's skills. The UW Flexible degree is expected to be available to students as early as this fall.
(Contact: Emily Slack)
Governor Quinn Signs Law to Increase Transparency of Pension Systems
Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn signed a new law that will increase oversight of the state's pension systems. The new law creates a state actuary to oversee the state's five pension systems. The position will be created within the Office of the Auditor General and will report to the auditor general. To strengthen accountability and transparency, the actuary will review assumptions, valuations and actuarial practices for each of the systems. The actuary will also help calculate the state's annual required contributions.
The new law is designed to ensure that all of the state's pension systems follow Illinois law when determining future contributions. Currently, each pension system submits a certification plan to the governor and the General Assembly. Under the new law, the systems will submit their proposals to the governor, the General Assembly and the new state actuary who will review the plans. The actuary will then issue a report recommending changes to the actuarial assumptions. Final certifications will be submitted on Jan. 15 of each year. The actuary will also be responsible for reviewing the actuarial practices of the systems.
(Contact: Kyle McKay)
Rhode Island Governor Signs Homeless Bill of Rights into Law
Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee signed into law the first "Homeless Bill of Rights" in the nation. The law formally bans discrimination against homeless people on the basis of their housing status. The law guarantees homeless people the right to use public sidewalks, parks, transportation, and buildings, and affirms equal access to jobs, housing and services. While other laws already guarantee many of the rights specified in this legislation, proponents claim that the new law is necessary due to widespread discrimination. A report in April from the White House's Interagency Council on Homelessness noted a "proliferation of local measures to criminalize acts of living" such as sitting, standing, or asking for money in public places.
(Contact: Alexandra Cawthorne)
Illinois Updates Good Behavior Credit Program in State Prisons
Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn signed a new bill into law intended to improve public safety and by strengthening the Illinois Department of Corrections' (DOC) ability to manage the state's prison population. The law requires inmates to serve at least 60 days in custody before participating in an ongoing DOC program that awards sentencing credits to non-violent offenders who exhibit good behavior though the successful completion of rehabilitation programs. Inmates must complete their assigned rehabilitation treatments, substance abuse treatment, adult education courses, and behavior modification and life skills programs in order to qualify for credit. The DOC also considers an inmate's prior offense and their potential for rehabilitation for qualification in the program. Additionally, inmates must pass the test of General Educational Development (GED) while in custody to be eligible for credits. Credits can be revoked if inmates demonstrate negative or violent behavior. For more information regarding how states are addressing sentencing and corrections reforms, see the NGA issue brief State Efforts in Sentencing and Corrections Reform.
(Contact: Vijay Das)
Practice Coaching Shows Promise in Improving Primary Care Quality
A Commonwealth Fund report suggests that practice coaching, also called practice facilitation, can make meaningful changes in the primary care system and in turn improve patient outcomes. The goal of practice coaching is to improve the delivery of primary care services by providing an outside expert to work with a medical practice to improve timeliness, quality of preventative care, cultural competence, and teamwork. A practice coach helps physicians and their staff gain knowledge and skills so they can continue to improve their practice after the coach is gone. Although the field of practice coaching is evolving, most practice coaches have had real-world clinical experience and have fundamental knowledge of practice improvement and organizational change.
The concept is supported by quality research. One systematic review reported that practice coaching helped primary care doctors adopt more evidence-based practices. A second study reviewed the literature on practice coaching and found promising results within several randomized control trials.
(Contact: Kelly Murphy)
U.S. Census Bureau Releases Report on State Changes in Education Funding
The U.S. Census Bureau released a report comparing local, state and federal pending across the states for the 2009-2010 school year. For the first time in 16 years, local governments paid a larger share than states – about $261 billion, compared to $258 billion in state funding. The states decreased education funding by about 6.5 percent, but overall, education funding increased across the country by a half percent and per-pupil funding rose by 1.1 percent. The gap was filled by a much larger federal contribution than is typical, which was part of the 2009 stimulus bill. That funding expired for the 2010 - 2011 school year.
(Contact: Kate Nielson)
Survey Reveals Public Complacency towards Emergency Preparedness
The Federal Signal Corporation's recently released public safety survey, Americans' Awareness and Preparedness Surrounding Emergency Situations, states that many Americans remain complacent regarding potential emergencies. The survey finds that the public is largely unaware and sometimes indifferent to their state's critical emergency communication process and notification system. For example, more than one in four respondents do not know if their community has a warning siren system. When asked about their response to emergency notifications, just under half of Americans said that they would take action during a warning of potential severe weather. Only 56 percent of respondents believe they are aware of the steps needed to respond to a disaster or crisis. That trend has occurred despite the Federal Emergency Management Agency issuing 99 major disaster declarations in 2011 that were recognized by state governors and the President.
(Contact: Vijay Das)
Early Childhood Workforce in Need of More Professional Development Opportunities
The Zero to Three Policy Center released a policy brief that focuses on strengthening systems that support professional development for the multidisciplinary infant-toddler workforce. The brief's authors found that more infants and toddlers than ever are spending some portion of their day in the care of adults other than their parents. The paper summarizes related research and offers ten recommendations. Those include promoting infant-toddler development course work at institutions of higher education and establishing state credentials across service sectors that formally recognize an individual's qualifications for working with children under 3 years. The report also recommends that policy makers encourage cross-sector professional development opportunities for adults working with infants and toddlers.
(Contact: Alexandra Cawthorne)