State News
Oregon Approves Education Achievement Compacts with Districts and Colleges
The newly created Oregon Education Investment Board has approved partial language for the state's achievement compacts—benchmarks that will be used to measure achievement for districts, community colleges, and universities. The legislation creating the compacts, and the board, were first proposed by Governor John Kitzhaber. Each compact establishes indicators, such as number of ninth-graders passing six classes or number of students transferring from community college to four-year institutions. Schools and colleges have until July 2 to determine their target numbers for each indicator.

This initiative aligns with Oregon's 40-40-20 goal, which seeks to ensure that as their highest level of educational attainment, 40 percent of Oregonians obtain a bachelor's degree, 40 percent a two-year degree or credential, and 20 percent a high school diploma. Although there are no consequences for failing to meet the benchmarks, the initiative is designed to focus efforts and spur innovation. The indicators also provide a simpler way for the public to find out how well the state's public schools are performing.
(Contact: Kate Nielson)

Kentucky Joins Interstate Prescription Drug Monitoring Program
The Kentucky All Schedule Prescription Electronic Reporting program (KASPER), the state's prescription drug monitoring program, has entered into an agreement to share and receive prescription drug dispensing data with at least 20 other states. The agreement enables KASPER, to join the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy's (NABP) Prescription Monitoring Program InterConnect (PMP InterConnect), which facilitates the transfer of data on prescription use across states lines to authorized users.

Currently, Kentucky allows a prescriber, dispenser, or law enforcement officer from another state to register and obtain access to KASPER. However, only a limited number of practitioners register to receive the data, as they have to establish and maintain separate accounts with each individual state. Participating in PMP InterConnect streamlines the process of sharing data that monitors prescription drug use across state lines and enables Kentucky prescribers and pharmacists to more easily identify patients with prescription drug abuse and misuse problems. NABP is paying for all development and implementation costs of the PMP InterConnect, as well as five years of annual fees for each participating state prescription drug monitoring program.
(Contact: Alisha Powell)

Five States Sign MOU with Federal Government to Advance Great Lakes Wind Energy
Governors of five states have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with 10 federal agencies to identify regulatory hurdles and improve interstate and state-federal coordination around the development of offshore wind energy resources in the Great Lakes. The five states—Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, and Pennsylvania—will develop strategic plans that identify: permitting and other regulatory processes that potential developers will face, state priorities for wind energy development, and recommendations for streamlining the evaluation process for proposed projects. The federal agencies that are party to the MOU will develop similar documents. The purpose of the MOU is to prevent duplicative regulatory review and to increase regulatory certainty for states and project developers by making all state and federal regulatory requirements known as offshore wind development in the Great Lakes advances.
(Contact: Andrew Kambour)

New York Creates Unified Capital Planning Process
As part of New York's 2012-13 budget bill, the state legislature has passed a measure that will streamline the process by which the state funds infrastructure improvements. The budget bill creates the New York Works Task Force, which will oversee the development of a coordinated state infrastructure plan that combines the capital projects of 45 state agencies and authorities. The goal of the initiative is to streamline the process by which the state selects infrastructure projects, including those in the transportation, water, and energy areas, by eliminating the potential for duplicative or overlapping capital expenditures between agencies and coordinating across plans and projects across regions. The task force will oversee the selection and funding of projects, including a portfolio of public-private partnerships. The 15 members of the task force will be appointed by the governor and the legislature and come from the finance, labor, planning, and transportation sectors. Representatives of the 45 state agencies will serve as a separate implementation council.The unified capital plan is part of Governor Andrew Cuomo's broader economic development program, called New York Works.
(Contact: Andrew Kambour)

START Program Fills Commercialization Gap in Massachusetts
Massachusetts, in partnership with the Massachusetts Technology Development Corporation (MTDC), recently launched a new initiative that aims to help growing companies commercialize technologies developed under the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program. The START program will provide companies that have received Phase II SBIR funding financial support, coaching, business planning, and introductions to potential investors. The SBIR program funds feasibility studies in Phase I, technology development in Phase II, but often leaves commercialization to the private sector.

MTDC is investing $6 million in the START program over the next three years. The program consists of three stages, beginning with Stage I grants of $100,000 for 10 applicants who have won SBIR Phase II contracts. Based on the progress demonstrated over the first year, an additional Stage II grant of up to $200,000 will be awarded to five of the most promising companies. At the end of the second year, two companies will be chosen for a $500,000 investment based on growth potential. The process will be renewed annually.
(Contact: Erin Sparks)

West Virginia Governor Announces Stricter Prescription Drug Controls
West Virginia Governor Earl Ray Tomblin has signed the Uniform Controlled Substances Act, which is aimed at tackling the prescription drug abuse crisis in the state. The legislation requires new prescriptions to be recorded into a statewide database within 24 hours of being dropped off at a pharmacy, which will prevent the patient from collecting duplicate prescriptions from different doctors. In addition, the legislation strengthens consumer protections against fraudulent online pharmacies through stringent reporting requirements and criminal penalties for violations of the law. The act also imposes a yearly purchasing limit for pseudoephedrine, the key ingredient used to produce methamphetamine
(Contact: Alisha Powell)

Wyoming Shifts Head Start Office to Department of Workforce Services
Wyoming Governor Matthew Mead announced that the state's Head Start State Collaboration Office will move from the University of Wyoming's Institute for Disabilities to the Department of Workforce Services. The move will integrate the Head Start program with 'WY Quality Counts!', which focuses on collecting data and raising awareness of the importance of early childhood care. It also funds education for early childhood professionals pursuing more advanced degrees to prepare for the new federal rule requiring all Head Start coordinators and 50 percent of Head Start teachers to have a bachelor's degree. Wyoming Head Start serves over 2,500 at-risk students by offering early education and health services.
(Contact: Kate Nielson)

New Innovation Office to Improve Efficiency in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett recently announced the creation of a new office that will focus on initiatives to reduce state spending, eliminate waste, and improve service delivery. The Governor's Innovation Office will act as a clearinghouse and review recommendations by the Governor's Advisory Council on Privatization and Innovation and state agencies as well as suggestions submitted by the public through an online survey being conducted by the Team PA Foundation.

The Innovation Office will be housed within the Office of Administration and will report regularly to the advisory council on the progress of various initiatives. The director of the Innovation Office will be guided by a steering committee composed of representatives from the Governor's Policy Office, Governor's Office of Administration, Governor's Office of the Budget, and Department of General Services.
(Contact: Lauren Stewart)


Other News
New Source Provides County Level Health Info
The Population Health Institute at the University of Wisconsin recently released a new version of its website, countyhealthrankings.org. The website allows users to rank the counties within a state on a variety of health related measures, including smoking rates, ratio of primary care physicians to residents, and percentage of restaurants that are considered fast-food outlets. The website also has a section called Roadmaps to Health with tools for government and public health officials to find out more information about ways to improve health outcomes. Grants and other funding opportunities for improving health are also highlighted on the website.
(Contact: Jackie Le Grand)

Skills Gap, Geographic Imbalance Hinders Employment in Advanced Economies
A growing skills mismatch and geographic imbalance are highlighted in the McKinsey Global Institute's latest discussion paper, which explores the forces shaping new jobs, who fills them, where they are located, and what they pay. The report examines five trends which are influencing employment levels and shaping how work is done and jobs are created:

  • Technology and the changing nature of work;
  • Skill mismatches;
  • Geographic mismatches;
  • Untapped talent; and
  • Disparity in income growth.

According to the report, the result of those five trends is a jobs and employment challenge that extends beyond restoring jobs lost to recession—many of which will never return, even with robust economic recovery. The jobs that will be created will not look like those that have been lost and may not be easily filled by today's unemployed.
(Contact: Erin Sparks)

Brookings: Fewer Poor Children Ready for Kindergarten
A Brookings report determined that only 48 percent of poor children are ready for school at age 5, compared to 75 percent of children from moderate- to high-income families. The factors that make a child ready for kindergarten include physical health, behavioral abilities such as following directions, and some academic skills such as recognizing letters.

Researchers found that poor children are less successful in school both because their families have fewer financial resources and because of parental characteristics that are associated with poverty, such as less education, higher rates of single and teen parenthood, and poorer health. However, three state policy interventions have the potential to improve school readiness—expanding preschool programs, offering smoking-cessation programs to poor pregnant women who smoke, and providing nurse home visiting programs for new mothers.
(Contact: Kate Nielson)

MIT Analysis Finds Ample Underground Storage Space for Carbon Dioxide
New research from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) estimates that there is enough space for the underground sequestration of 100 years' worth of carbon dioxide emissions from U.S. electric power plants. The study focuses on the storage capability and capacity of deep saline aquifers, which lie over half of a mile below the surface and well below aquifers for drinking water. Saline aquifers had been previously underexplored due to their limited perceived commercial value. Previous estimates of their capacity, in terms of the number of years of annual carbon dioxide emissions they could hold, ranged from less than a decade to over one thousand years. The report's authors also based their estimates on new analysis of how liquefied carbon dioxide behaves when injected into saline aquifers and how the rate at which the carbon dioxide is injected affects an aquifer's capacity. The report does not evaluate the economics of capturing carbon dioxide emissions for underground storage.
(Contact: Andrew Kambour)

Community Health Centers Good Option for Low-Income
A new report from the Kaiser Family Foundation looked at the role of community health centers (CHCs) in providing health care to medically underserved communities. Nearly all patients of community health centers have income of less than 200 percent of federal poverty line and nearly 40 percent are uninsured. The majority of funding for CHCs comes from Medicaid and federal grants.

A greater proportion of CHC patients have chronic illnesses, compared to the general population. Uninsured CHC patients are also more likely to have had preventive care, such as Pap smears, cholesterol tests, and mammograms than the general uninsured population. A large majority of CHC patients report that they are satisfied with their care and would remain as patients of their CHC even if they had a wider choice of providers due to a change in insurance status. The report also concludes that money spent on CHC is a good investment, as increased hiring of professionals improves the economy of the area and there are improvements in health status for patients.
(Contact: Jackie Le Grand)