New Mexico Promotes Summer Food Service Program
New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez is helping publicize efforts by the state's Children, Youth, and Families Department (CYFD) to recruit more sponsors to administer and fund summer meals for children, and to expand the number of sites providing meals. Governor Martinez recently spoke on the issue at a neighborhood cultural center and screened a video produced by New Mexico Appleseed, CYFD's nonprofit partner. The federal Summer Food Service Program funds 100 percent of the meals, which are meant to fill a gap during summer when children whose families are struggling with food insecurity and hunger lose access to school meals. Sponsors can be any nonprofit, school, or unit of government and can manage meal service at multiple sites.
(Contact: Alex Cawthorne)
Telehealth Program Provides Basic Care at Home in Colorado
The Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing has announced a new telehealth program for Medicaid recipients. The program allows registered nurses to monitor vital information—including weight, temperature, blood glucose, blood pressure, pulse and lung functioning—at a patient's home and send the information to a doctor in real-time using the internet, phone, or other mobile technology. State officials say the program is expected to reduce unnecessary emergency room and hospital visits. The program is available for people diagnosed with four chronic conditions: congestive heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), asthma, and diabetes.
(Contact: Jessica Veffer)
Connecticut Governor Names Members of Recycling Working Group
Connecticut Governor Dan Malloy has named members to a new working group that will explore ways to improve the state's recycling programs and capitalize on new opportunities for capturing economic value from solid waste streams. Governor Malloy's Modernizing Recycling Working Group, originally announced this past January, will provide recommendations to help the state reduce costs and more efficiently manage waste materials. Specifically, the working group will attempt to develop policies that capture the full value of waste materials; encourage the reduction, reuse, and recycling of waste; improve the management of non-recyclable materials in a way that balances environmental protection with economic considerations; and establish sustainable funding mechanisms that take advantage of collaboration between the state, local governments, and the private sector. Members of the working group come from regional and local governments, the waste management industry, academia, and the financial sector. The working group's recommendations are due to the governor by December 1, 2012.
(Contact: Andrew Kambour)
Collaborative Process Leads to New Reading, Teacher Development Programs in Wisconsin
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker signed an education reform bill that addresses student reading ability, and the evaluation and development of teachers. The bill's provisions were based on the recommendations of two state working groups, the Read to Lead Task Force—convened by the governor and the state superintendent and composed of legislators, reading teachers, experts and advocates—and the Educator Effectiveness Design Team—which included the Office of the Governor, Office of the State Superintendent, academic researchers, and representatives from statewide organizations of teachers, school board members, and higher education.
Three major provisions directly address students' reading skills. First, the bill establishes a public-private development council that will identify successful reading programs and fund their replication in other districts. Second, the bill mandates universal screening for reading skills in kindergarten. Third, the legislation revises the reading portion of teacher licensure tests with practices modeled after those used in Massachusetts.
Additionally, the bill establishes a teacher evaluation system developed by teachers and administrators which uses a student's growth through the year and multiple measures of educator practice. The bill also creates a process to measure the effectiveness of teacher preparatory programs by reviewing the performance of recent graduates.
(Contact: Kate Nielson)
Voluntary Payment from HMOs Funds Personal Care Attendants in Minnesota
Minnesota recently announced that personal care attendants working with relatives, who received a 20 percent pay cut last year, will have their pay restored in the new budget thanks to a voluntary payment by the state's Medicaid managed care providers. Governor Mark Dayton helped negotiate the agreement last spring, which caps the companies' profits at 1 percent. This year, the plans will return $38 million to the state. About $13 million will be put in a reserve fund.
(Contact: Jackie LeGrand)
Tennessee Campaign Publicizes Consequences of Breaking Anti-Meth Laws
Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam has launched a statewide campaign to inform the public about the consequences of violating the state's anti-meth law, which increases penalties for making or using methamphetamine in the presence of children and for purchasing pseudoephedrine products for nonmedical uses. The "Meth Stops Now" campaign targets counties with the greatest number of meth labs seizures and the highest number of children removed from homes due to meth-related incidents. The campaign includes radio public service announcements, billboards, gas pump advertisements, in-store signage, informational pharmacy bag fillers, a website (www.methstopsnow.com), and bumper stickers for law enforcement vehicles. In 2011, the Tennessee Department of Children's Services removed 321 children from their homes as a consequence of methamphetamine use or manufacturing, and law enforcement officials seized 1,687 labs manufacturing methamphetamine in the state.
(Contact: Jeff McLeod)
Pilot Opens Chinese Market to More Michigan Businesses
The Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) has announced a new pilot program that helps companies in the state sell their products directly to Chinese consumers online. The Pure Michigan Export Now program is a partnership with Export Now, an export services company, and provides Michigan companies a year of Export Now's services for $1,000, two-thirds less than Export Nation's usual charge. Export Now will provide the companies end-to-end information technology and logistics services needed to easily sell goods on China's e-commerce platform, tmall.com.
To qualify for the pilot program, companies must verify that the candidate product or product line has already been sold successfully in the marketplace and demonstrate the capability to successfully run an export program by showing previous success in e-commerce and exporting. The program builds on a trade mission Governor Rick Snyder carried out last fall.
(Contact: Erin Sparks)
More Agencies to Use Zero-Base Budgeting in Maine
Maine Governor Paul LePage has signed legislation directing the Maine Public Utilities Commission and the Office of the Public Advocate to use a type of budgeting approach called "zero-base budgeting", a practice already used by some of the state's other agencies. The state Bureau of the Budget provides an overview of how the process works and sample templates on its website. Most budgets are developed using line-item or incremental budgeting, where the baseline for comparison is how much was spent in the prior year. That can make some programs or line-items sticky, continuing to receive a similar allotment each year regardless of how goals have changed. Agencies using a zero-base budget process start their budgets from scratch, which can encourage managers to reallocate funding to match current goals. The process can also encourage managers to participate more in the budget process and to be more cost conscious. More information is available in Zero-Base Budgeting: Modern Experiences and Current Perspectives, a paper by the Government Finance Officers' Association on how zero-based budgeting is commonly used and when it is most effective for helping government make rational budgeting decisions.
(Contact: Amanda Dunker)
New Jersey Creates Teacher Training Program for Veterans
New Jersey Lt. Governor Kim Guadagno, acting as governor while Governor Chris Christie is traveling overseas, has signed legislation creating a pilot program to assist veterans transitioning into teaching careers. The pilot, called the VETeach Program, is a 36-month teacher preparation program for those who served in the armed forces on or after September 11, 2001. Veterans who successfully complete the program will receive a bachelor's degree and will have the necessary prerequisites to apply for a certificate to teach kindergarten through eighth grade and certain secondary education fields. The program will focus on training veterans to teach science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) subjects, and participants will receive tuition benefits covered entirely by the federal Post 9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act.
(Contact: Alisha Powell)
Connecticut On-the-Job Training Subsidy Could Boost Hiring
Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy recently announced that 45 small businesses will participate in a new state program which provides hiring incentives. Created by last autumn's bipartisan Jobs Bill, the Subsidized Training & Employment Program (STEP UP) provides two types of hiring incentives: a scaled, six month wage subsidy and a small manufacturer training grant that provides up to $12,500 over a six-month period. Those incentives reduce some of the risk a business takes on when hiring workers with less defined skills or work experience. Businesses have reported a problem finding workers with the right skill sets in many states. In total, STEP UP will provide $20 million in subsidies and training grants.
(Contact: Garret Groves)
Pennsylvania Expands Consumer Incentives for On-Site Energy Generation
The Pennsylvania Public Utilities Commission has finalized a ruling designed to make the installation of on-site electric generation capacity—such as rooftop solar arrays—more attractive to consumers. The new rule applies to customers that use a third-party provider and buy electricity through a power purchase agreement (PPA). In that type of arrangement, a company installs, owns, and maintains the system that generates electricity on a customer's property and the customer purchases the electricity at a fixed rate. Under the new rule, customers that have a third-party PPA can also net meter their systems. Excess power generated by the on-site generation can be sold back into the electric grid, with the revenue from those sales going directly to the customer. Customers with third-party PPAs are eligible to net meter only if their on-site generation does not produce more than 110 percent of their electricity demand, a limitation which prevents fraud in the program from selling electricity for profit without actually meeting demand.
(Contact: Andrew Kambour)
Lawmakers Approve Overhaul of Louisiana Education System
The Louisiana legislature has approved Governor Bobby Jindal's proposed education reforms by passing House Bills 974 and 976. The sweeping changes, covered in a past issue of Front & Center, include:
- Limiting teacher tenure protection and linking compensation to student performance;
- Transferring hiring and firing power from school boards to superintendents;
- Expanding pathways for the opening of new charter schools; and
- Creating a statewide voucher program for certain low-income students.
All of the changes will go into effect during the 2012-13 school year, with the exception of the altered tenure structure, which will be determined by a new evaluation system set for implementation in 2013-14.
The governor's legislative agenda also includes two additional bills—one instituting a statewide oversight program for early childhood education services and the other expanding the voucher program to allow individuals or corporations to give money to third-party groups that confer private-school tuition grants.
(Contact: Kate Nielson)
Consumer, Doctors' Groups Provide Guidance on Unnecessary Procedures
A new coalition of doctor and consumer groups has released an easy-to-use set of guidelines on commonly over-used tests which expose patients to risk without improving their health outcomes, at high costs. The "Choosing Wisely" campaign created "Five Things Physicians and Patients Should Question" lists for nine different types of medical practices, including allergists, cardiologists, and general family physicians. The lists describe common situations in which what is sometimes called "defensive medicine" occurs, a tendency for patients to demand diagnostic tests in response to fear of very unlikely events and for doctors to order those tests in response to that demand and fear of malpractice suits. The lists describe the risks imposed by the tests themselves, which patients often disregard, and contrasts them with the likely benefits of the tests.
Policymakers in some states may be able to use Medicaid funding policies to create incentives for physicians to follow these types of best practices guidelines. For example, in North Carolina obstetricians are asked to limit elective deliveries as part of an effort to improve birth outcomes.
(Contact: Jessica Veffer)
Report Finds Majority of Community College Students Fail to Complete Their Degrees
An American Enterprise Institute (AEI) report found that the average three-year graduation rate for community colleges is 22 percent, with close to 400 community colleges reporting a rate less than 15 percent. In order to curb that trend, AEI recommends streamlining remediation programs so that students can earn college credits more quickly and restructuring classes to fit within a set block of time so that students can plan around fixed schedules. Additionally, the authors suggest that the use of online courses and competency-based models of education has the potential to positively influence college completion. They also point to for-profit schools, which are generating new online learning strategies and curriculum development approaches, and have higher graduation rates than community colleges in the two-year programs. The report includes state-by-state estimates of potential financial gains from increased graduation rates.
(Contact: Kate Nielson)
States' Fiscal Imbalance Continues to Grow, Despite Revenue Increases
A Government Accountability Office report finds that total state and local tax receipts reached prerecession levels towards the end of 2011, but that the states' total operating balance will continue to decline through 2060 without major policy changes. The majority of revenue growth came from income and sales taxes—property taxes grew less than 1 percent between 2010 and 2011. The authors of the report argue that the growth in state fiscal imbalances will be driven by spending on Medicaid and health care compensation for employees and retirees.
(Contact: Amanda Dunker)
Report Recommends Businesses Take a Nimble Approach to Online Security
A new report from the Information Security Forum examines the types of online security risks businesses are facing and recommends actions businesses can take to minimize those threats. Three categories of security risks are identified: planned network attacks with malicious intent; unintended consequences of greater online transparency which makes it difficult to protect privacy; and user error, often caused by the changing nature of new technologies. Within each category, the report highlights ten potential threats and recommended actions for each. The report also recommends that businesses prepare for online security threats early and often, as -planning may increase their ability to lessen the impact of security compromises later. Traditional risk management, which involves strict identification and evaluation of security risks and focused recommendations of risk-reducing measures—needs to be more nimble to effectively manage malicious cyber activity.
(Contact: Carmen Ferro)
New Report Provides Alternatives to Criminalizing Homelessness
The United Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) has released a new report outlining alternatives for measures which criminalize sleeping, eating, sitting, or panhandling in public spaces. In recent years, cities, towns, and counties have responded to an uptick in street homelessness by increasing the use of such measures and adding harsher criminal penalties, increasing criminal justice costs and adding a criminal record to the many barriers already experienced by the homeless.
The alternatives were developed at a summit held by USICH and the Access to Justice initiative at the U.S. Department of Justice in response to the 2009 HEARTH Act, which directed USICH to "develop[ing] alternatives to laws and policies that prohibit sleeping, eating, sitting, resting, or lying in public spaces when there are no suitable alternatives, result in the destruction of property belonging to people experiencing homelessness without due process, or are selectively enforced against people experiencing homelessness." The recommended alternatives are characterized by three overarching themes: creating a comprehensive and seamless systems of care; collaborating among law enforcement and behavioral health and social service providers; and using the same alternative justice system strategies that states have used in other contexts to reduce incarceration rates.
(Contact: Alex Cawthorne)
Report Highlights Efficiency Opportunities in Industrial Energy Sector
Two new reports have recently highlighted energy management in the industrial sector, providing a review of past growth in energy efficiency and projecting future growth. Industrial energy use accounts for close to one-third of all energy consumption in the U.S., making it a prime target for energy efficiency programs. The first report, from the American Council for an Energy Efficiency Economy (ACEEE) focuses on how much states, utilities, and the federal government are spending on industrial energy programs. The report's authors found that in 2010 those entities spent over $1 billion on industrial energy efficiency projects. The second report, from Pike Research, provides an analysis of the industrial energy management systems market. According to the report, the market for industrial energy management systems is growing because of energy price volatility, sustainability demands of customers, and the prospect of cost reductions through energy management that provide a competitive advantage. Both reports predict that the industrial sector will continue to be a cost-effective area on which to focus for energy efficiency programs as states increase energy efficiency goals and energy demand rises.
(Contact: Andrew Kambour)