Virginia Requires Online Course for Graduation
Governor Robert McDonnell has signed a bill into law requiring Virginia high school students to complete one virtual course to graduate with a diploma. Other states, including Idaho, Florida, Alabama and Michigan have recently adopted similar measures. The requirements are meant to help students become better prepared for the workplace. The new law will apply to ninth grade students who begin during the 2013-14 school year. It also requires graduates to earn a credential in at least one career or technical education course
(Contact: Kate Nielson)
Vermont Bill Enhances Community-Based Mental Health Services
Governor Peter Shumlin recently signed a bill that would strengthen Vermont's mental health system, shifting the care model to focus more on patient-centered, community-based treatment. The bill also aims at keeping patients in their homes and communities by preventing emergencies and crises in Vermont's population with mental health needs, and providing more flexible, local services when crises occur. The state will expand emergency mental health services offered at the local level and provide increased support for effective programs that target those with mental health conditions. The plan also calls for more psychiatric units and smaller, less- restrictive mental health placements for Vermonters in need.
(Contact: Jessica Veffer)
Governor Reorganizes Michigan Fusion Centers
Governor Rick Snyder has signed an executive order realigning the state's fusion centers. Fusion centers are an information sharing hub that allows state, local and federal officials to receive, integrate, and analyze information and intelligence. Governor Snyder's order designates the Michigan Intelligence Operations Center (MIOC) as the primary center, and makes the urban fusion center in Detroit a node managed by the Michigan State Police rather than a separate entity. Centralizing data collection in this way will bolster the ability of law enforcement to gather and share critical information across the state. Law enforcement can use that information to better predict where crime is most likely to occur and allocate resources more efficiently.
The executive order also defines the roles and responsibilities of MIOC's advisory board and adds new members. Advisory board members include representatives from law enforcement agencies, corrections, the Attorney General's office, the Department of Civil Rights and at least three members of the public with no connection to law enforcement or any level of government. One of those must be an individual representing a non-profit organization in the state which advocates from civil liberties and privacy protections. The advisory board and the state police are ordered to review the center's privacy policies each year. More information on fusion centers is available in The Governor's Guide to Homeland Security, an NGA report. NGA also provides resources on privacy policies within justice information systems.
(Contact: Jeff McLeod)
New York RFP Seeks Private Sector Input on Electricity Transmission Projects
New York's Energy Highway Task Force, created earlier this year by Governor Andrew Cuomo, has released a Request for Information (RFI) to help develop strategies for improving the state's electric transmission infrastructure. The RFI seeks input from private developers, investor-owned utilities, and the financial community to identify potential transmission projects they believe are necessary to meet the state's energy and economic development goals. Respondents are also expected to provide information related to the financing, construction, operation, and economic and environmental benefits of upgrading the state's transmission network and potential financing and project development challenges that the state could help overcome.
The Energy Highway Task Force was proposed by Governor Cuomo in his 2012 State of the State Address to help develop an upgraded electric transmission system that integrates renewable energy supplies while promoting economic development. The task force will release an Action Plan with a list of recommendations this summer, informed by responses to the RFI.
(Contact: Andrew Kambour)
Oregon Creates Foreclosure Mitigation Program
Governor John Kitzhaber recently signed a bill that establishes new protections for homeowners facing foreclosure. The legislation creates a foreclosure mediation program and requires banks to meet with borrowers who have elected to participate. It also outlaws lenders' practice of initiating foreclosure proceedings while simultaneously negotiating for a possible loan modification.
The new bill requires the beneficiary or the beneficiary's agent under a residential trust deed (in which the property is the primary dwelling of the borrower or the borrower's family) to send notice of mediation and enter into mediation with the grantor for purpose of agreeing to foreclosure avoidance measure. The law will take effect on July 12. In the meantime, the state Attorney General's office has convened a group of stakeholders to develop the specifics of the program.
(Contact: Amanda Dunker)
Problems Leading to Fatal Indiana Stage Collapse Common in Other States
An independent investigation of the 2011 Indiana State Fair stage collapse found that while overall emergency care for victims was successful, several emergency management challenges remain for the state. The report was commissioned to investigate the collapse of a temporary bandstand. The collapse, caused by a microburst of wind, killed five people and injured over forty others.
The report found that the Indiana State Fair Commission should incorporate emergency management protocols into their planning efforts for the state fair, as such protocols would clearly define leadership roles and responsibilities to respond to an incident. Those protocols should include a public safety official for the fair, a mass casualty plan for in the event of a disaster, and strict regulations for temporary structures. A survey of other states produced as part of the report found that these problems are common. Surveyed states reported exemptions for temporary structure and confusion over responsibility for inspections and code enforcements, both factors in the accident. Additionally, the report recommended official protocols for when to cancel public performances due to poor weather. Governor Mitch Daniels is holding a national meeting later this month on the safety standards recommended in the report.
(Contact: David Henry)
Washington Governor Works With Hospitals, Physicians to Ensure Fair Medicaid Policies
Governor Christine Gregoire recently announced that she would not be implementing an effort by the legislature to reduce emergency room usage among Medicaid recipients by not paying for any non- emergency care. Physicians and hospitals were opposed to the plan because they would bear the cost of treating Medicaid patients who presented with serious, but not life-threatening illnesses or injuries. For example, Medicaid would have paid for someone who came to the ER with a swollen arm that turned out to be broken, but would not have reimbursed for care if the arm turned out to just be sprained. There were also concerns that the effort could have led to a violation of the federal Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA) that requires most hospitals to treat all patients that come to the emergency room in active labor or with an injury or illness that a "prudent layperson" would consider an emergency. As a compromised cost saving measure, the state's emergency room physicians' group is supporting a budget amendment that would improve case management and coordination and follow up with primary care physicians.
(Contact: Jackie Le Grand)
Washington, Oregon Collaborate to Improve Passenger Rail Service
The Departments of Transportation in Washington and Oregon have created a new partnership to better manage passenger rail service in the Pacific Northwest under a combined corridor management authority. The two states have reached an agreement that creates a new corridor management plan for Amtrak service between Eugene, Oregon and Vancouver, British Columbia that treats the route as a single, continuous corridor rather than separate state rail systems. The agreement unifies the governance, fleet management, scheduling, budgeting and capital planning under a single authority. The states believe combined management will reduce delays and costs, improve contract management, and allow more frequent and improved service that will benefit riders in both states. The states will also work with U.S. and Canadian border agencies to help expedite a customs pre-clearance program to reduce delays at the border between Washington and British Columbia.
(Contact: Andrew Kambour)
Mississippi Allows Waiver of Out-Of-State Tuition
Governor Phil Bryant signed House Bill 1095 into law, which allows state universities to waive out-of-state tuition and attract students from bordering states. Each university is now responsible for drafting a plan that fits its needs, such as offering in-state tuition for students within a certain geographic radius or to those with high grade point averages or ACT scores. Plans must be approved by the College Board.
Non-resident students make up of 10 to 15 percent of the student body at most of Mississippi's state universities. Tuition for non-residents is $13,637 this year, as compared to $5,419 for in-state students. All Mississippi residents are eligible for in-state tuition at 14 universities in surrounding states, and students from particular counties may take advantage of this benefit at eight additional universities.
(Contact: Kate Nielson)
Maryland Hosts Pinterest Business Pitch Contest
Governor Martin O'Malley recently announced a new business pitch contest designed to highlight Maryland entrepreneurs and small business owners using Pinterest, a new social media platform on which users create bulletin-board like profiles using only images. The contest is a partnership with the University of Maryland College Park, the Future of Information Alliance, the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development and the Baltimore Angels. It asks participants to pitch their businesses in 10 images using the new social media platform, Pinterest. Boards and pins will be available for public comment. Following the public comment period, a panel of business experts will choose winners in two different categories: "Student Entrepreneurs" and "Boot Strappers." Winners will be featured on Governor Martin O'Malley's Pinterest page. First-place winners will also receive a MacBook Air and runners-up will receive iPads.
(Contact: Erin Sparks)
Evaluating State Tax Incentives for Jobs and Growth
A report recently released by the Pew Center on the States looks at the use of state tax incentives for jobs and growth and their effectiveness in delivering a strong return on investment. The authors argue that states often conduct rigorous evaluations of some incentives but virtually ignore others or assess them infrequently. Other states regularly examine their tax incentives, but not thoroughly enough. The authors further assert that if states do not base decisions on evidence, they could have less money to spend on other critical services. By not using effective incentives, they argue that states could miss opportunities to create jobs and support businesses.
The report concludes that 13 states are leading the way in generating much- needed answers about tax incentives' effectiveness. Twelve states have mixed results, and half the states have not taken the basic steps needed to know whether their incentives are effective. The study highlights a number of promising approaches states have taken to help lawmakers find those answers.
(Contact: Erin Sparks)
Study Finds Pre-K Spending Plummeted Over Past Decade
The National Institute of Early Education Research (NIEER) released The State of Preschool 2011 report, which finds that funding for pre-k programs dropped more than $700 per child over the past decade. At the same time, enrollment has increased by over 30,000 children. Additionally, only five states meet NIEER's 10 benchmarks for preschool quality standards; another 10 states met eight or nine of the benchmarks. The report provides state rankings and individual profiles. More information about state pre-k programs is available in the NGA report, Building Ready States: A Governor's Guide to Supporting a Comprehensive, High-Quality Early Childhood State Systems.
(Contact: Kate Nielson)
Combat Veterans Less Likely to Invest
A recent report from Cornell University finds that veterans who have experienced combat are less likely to take financial risks and make financial investments, making it difficult for them to build wealth and placing them at a financial disadvantage. According to the report, veterans with combat experience were 14 percent to 18 percent less likely than other veterans to invest in risky assets such as mutual funds and stocks. The report findings suggest that traumatic life experiences, such as being in combat, affects financial investment behavior. The report's authors recommend educational support to make combat veterans feel more confident in engaging in long-term investments.
(Contact: Alisha Powell)
Medicaid Strategies Can Reduce Drug Spending, but Policy Context Matters
An analysis recently published in Health Affairs suggests that some common policies meant to decrease Medicaid drug spending may be counter-productive when implemented at the same time, but that the right combination can amplify savings. The report, which used data from Michigan, examined four policies imposed on people dually eligible for Medicaid and Medicare- preferred drug lists (based first on effectiveness and then on cost) with authorization requirements for purchasing drugs not on the list, joint and multistate purchasing arrangements (pooling resources to reduce administrative costs), and maximum allowable costs (imposing a ceiling price for how much Medicaid will reimburse for a drug, which forces manufacturers to provide discounts to avoid losing market share).
Prescription drug costs are increasing for Medicaid for several reasons, including in demand towards newer and pricier drugs and increased prices for existing drugs. The four cost-containment policies examined in the report are expected to affect both. Cumulatively, the state experienced decreased drug costs and increased market share for generic and preferred drugs. However, trade-offs occurred because some policies increased prices of some categories of drugs while decreasing prices for others, and this offset potential savings for other policies which encouraged purchasing the now more expensive category. The unsuccessful policy in the report was the maximum allowable cost strategy, which reduced the price of generic and preferred drugs without saving any money because people bought more non-preferred drugs. The preferred drug list succeeded in reducing usage of non-preferred drugs, and caused a large enough shift that daily costs decreased even though prices of drugs off the list increased.
(Contact: Jessica Veffer)
Report Outlines Barriers to Renewable Technology in Heating and Cooling
A report from the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center provides ideas for state policies that would encourage the adoption of renewable energy for heating and cooling buildings. The report examines the cost effectiveness, market barriers to adoption, and environmental benefits of four renewable energy technologies: solar water and space heating; air- and ground-source heat pumps; clean, efficient wood pellet boilers, and biodiesel/fuel oil blends. The report finds that while renewable heating and cooling technologies offer a cost-effective means to reduce emissions, Massachusetts still faces several barriers that are common throughout the U.S. Those include: high up-front costs; a lack of policy support and incentives; limited awareness of the benefits to consumers; a lack of common regulatory standards; and a lack of coordination among industries. The report also provides an overview of policies and programs in the U.S. and Europe that could be replicated in order to accelerate the adoption of renewable heating and cooling technologies.
(Contact: Andrew Kambour)