State News
Virginia Offers Veterans ID Card
Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell recently launched the new Virginia Veterans ID Card to help streamline veteran's access to services. Currently, many veterans have no other way to show their status other than by presenting their DD 214 military discharge documents. The new ID card fits in a wallet, making it much more convenient.

The new ID cards are available from the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) through a partnership with the Department of Veterans Services (DVS).
(Contact: Garrett Groves)

Contract Preferences to Create Job Opportunities for Disabled Kansans
Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback signed a bill into law aimed at creating job opportunities for Kansans with disabilities. The new law establishes preferences for state contracts to certified businesses if at least 20 percent of their full-time employees are individuals with disabilities. The businesses must also conduct their business primarily in Kansas and contribute at least 75 percent of all employees total health insurance premiums. The business' bids can be no more than 10 percent higher than the most competitive bid. Businesses would be certified by the Kansas Department of Administration to ensure they meet all the law's criteria.
(Contact: Lauren Stewart)

Assessments Could Reduce Repeat Domestic Violence Offenses in Maine
Maine Gov. Paul LePage has signed a bill into law that will help reduce repeat domestic violence offenses by increasing the use of standardized risk assessments. The new law requires law enforcement officers to use a risk assessment tool in cases of suspected or alleged domestic violence or abuse. Both the bail commissioner and district attorney will then receive a copy of the risk assessment to better inform bail conditions and sentencing. Although Maine has one of the lowest murder rates in the country, more than 50 percent of the state's murders are directly related to domestic violence.
(Contact: Alisha Powell)

Connecticut Creates Rating System for Child Care Centers
Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy signed a bill into law which creates a system to help parents assess early childhood centers. Traditional day care centers have been assessed and licensed based only on health and safety issues, but this is changing as child development experts are learning more about how critical early childhood is for later educational attainment. The new Tiered Quality Rating System (T-QRIS) will grade providers on the quality of the education offered. The program will begin in the 2012-13 school year, with full implementation occurring over the next several years. The law allocates $3 million to early childhood educators for professional development and to develop the rating system. It also includes $6 million to fund computer hardware and software at the centers.
(Contact: Kate Nielson)

Suicide Prevention Laws Target Veterans, School Districts in Alaska
Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell recently signed two bills into law that address suicide prevention in the state. The first law increases the number of members on the Statewide Suicide Prevention Council from 16 to 17. The Council helps the state craft policies related to counseling, treatment, and emergency mental health services. The increase in membership will allow for representation for members of the military.

The second law requires each teacher, administrator, counselor, and specialist employed by a school district to receive annual training in suicide awareness, prevention, and intervention. The annual training will be approximately two hours and implementation will be determined by the Alaska Department of Education and Early. Young men, Alaska Natives, and teens are particularly at risk for suicide.
(Contact: Jackie Le Grand)

Oklahoma Sets Goal for Water Conservation
Oklahoma
Gov. Mary Fallin signed a bill into law which establishes a new statewide water conservation goal: limiting fresh water consumption in 2060 to the current consumption level or lower. In order to help achieve the goal, the law creates an advisory council that will develop an overall strategy and make recommendations on improving the efficient use of current water sources, identifying new water supplies, and improving water infrastructure. The council's recommendations will focus on water conservation but will also explore expanding the use of wastewater, brackish water, and other nonpotable water sources that can be used in industrial or agricultural applications. The council will report its recommendations to Gov. Fallin and the state legislature by June 2015. The law does not change any provisions regarding water rights or existing permits to use water.
(Contact: Andrew Kambour)

Massachusetts' Pharmacists to Provide More Vaccinations
Pharmacists in Massachusetts will now be able to administer a wider variety of vaccines under new regulations released by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. Previous regulations allowed trained pharmacists to administer the flu shot, but now they can administer 10 adult vaccines—including ones for hepatitis B, chickenpox, and measles, mumps and rubella—without a prescription. State officials hope that increased availability of immunizations will increase the immunization rate among adults. The state is also working on developing a state registry of vaccinations so physicians can keep track of what vaccinations patients receive at other locations.
(Contact: Jackie Le Grand)

Kentucky Tornados Inspire Emergency Response Improvements
Kentucky Gov. Steven Beshear signed several bills into law in order to improve disaster recovery after tornadoes caused damage in the state earlier this year. One of the laws makes it easier for Kentucky to create mutual aid agreements with other states. Mutual aid agreements provide legal and logistical protection for first responders who cross state borders to assist with disaster response and recovery. For example, the law recognizes out of state licensing for emergency and medical officials. Reciprocal agreements allowing Kentucky's first responders to assist other states during future emergencies are also part of the law.

Two of the new laws provide financial assistance and consumer protection to people rebuilding after disasters. One establishes sales tax rebates for building materials needed to repair or replace damaged buildings, including schools. The other allows homeowners to cancel construction contracts when it is later determined that the repair will not be covered by insurance, which will allow people to begin planning for repairs while waiting for a response from insurance companies. Contractors must also notify customers of their cancellation rights and are prohibited from offering financial incentives against insurance policy deductibles for use of their services.
(Contact: Carmen Ferro)

Mississippi Increases Support for Dyslexic Students
Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant signed two bills that offer support to dyslexic students. One law allows dyslexic students in first through sixth grades to move to a new public or nonpublic school with a dyslexic therapist and requires early dyslexia screening. The second law creates a college scholarship program for students who plan to become dyslexia therapists.

Although estimates for the state of Mississippi are not available, experts predict that 10 to 20 percent of the nation's population suffers from dyslexia. In Mississippi, there are approximately 60 licensed dyslexia therapists and 80 students completing their studies to become dyslexia therapists, but over 150 school districts.
(Contact: Kate Nielson)

Connecticut Launches Job Match Initiative for Veterans
The Connecticut Department of Labor has launched a second project as part of its new Veterans Job Match program. The project focuses on matching qualified veterans with construction skills to construction companies with current job openings. The first project focused on manufacturing jobs. Veterans with construction experience and employers with open positions can both register for the matching program through the Connecticut Department of Labor website. The state is also holding a job matching event focused on construction on June 14th.. Once veterans register for a job event, they are emailed with further updates.

The Veterans Job Match initiative is a collaborative effort between Congressional representatives, the CT Department of Labor, the Veterans Workforce Development, the CT Office of Workforce Competiveness, the CT Department of Veterans Affairs, the CT Board of Regents for Higher Education, the CT Center for Advanced Technology, the Associated General Contractors of Connecticut, and the CT Workforce Development Council.
(Contact: Lauren Stewart)

California Approves New Building Energy Codes
The California Energy Commission (CEC) has updated the state's energy efficiency standards for new residential and commercial buildings. The new standards are expected to improve the energy efficiency of homes by 25 percent and commercial buildings by 30 percent compared to the previous energy codes. Among the changes is a requirement that all new roofs be solar-ready so that homeowners or business owners can easily install solar photovoltaic panels. Commercial buildings are also required to incorporate "cool roof" technologies that reduce the amount of heat absorbed by the building and therefore reduce the need for air conditioning. The CEC has calculated that the standards will increase the construction costs of a new home by $2,290 but will reduce energy costs by $6,200 over the life of a 30-year mortgage.

Two existing California policies are driving the improvement in building energy codes. First, the state requires that utilities use cost effective energy efficiency as the first approach to meeting electricity demand growth. Second, the state's Zero Net Energy goals require that new buildings meet 100 percent of their own energy needs by reducing the amount of energy the building uses and through on-site energy generation such as rooftop solar or geothermal heating systems. The state has set a goal of achieving Zero Net Energy in new buildings by 2020 for residential buildings and 2030 for commercial buildings.
(Contact: Andrew Kambour)

Maryland Prioritizes Social Studies through New Assessments
Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley signed a bill requiring students to pass an assessment in government to be eligible for graduation, starting in 2017. Additionally, the state school board must also adopt middle school assessments in social studies beginning in the 2014-15 school year. Social studies includes topics ranging from geography to basic financial literacy to government and U.S. history.
(Contact: Kate Nielson)
 



Other News
Report Shows Evolution in TANF Cases; Finds Modest Job Training Success
A new report, Welfare Reform: What Have We Learned in Fifteen Years?, explores the evidence on the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program 15 years after it was created by the 1996 welfare reform. The authors report that since TANF's first year, a much larger proportion of cases are child-only cases in which parents or guardians are not eligible for TANF. These cases were only about 23 percent of the total in 1996, but make up about 48 percent of the total today. The authors also report that only 27 percent of state and federal TANF funds were spent on actual cash assistance in FY2009. Cash assistance was 70 percent of TANF spending in FY1997. Noncash assistance TANF spending was used for things like transportation, child care, child welfare services, domestic violence programs, and mental health and addiction services. The report's authors also summarize evidence on the numbers of recipients who leave the program despite remaining unemployed, which may be around 25 percent of all people who leave.

The authors of the report also found that programs which combine work with skills training that targets specific industries yielded the most substantial increases in recipients' income, but evidence about what works to make families self-sufficient is scarce.
(Contact: Alex Cawthorne)

Report Examines Compliance Costs of Environmental Regulations
A report from the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) assesses the compliance costs associated with four U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations and finds that increased flexibility in compliance could save electric utilities as much as $100 billion between now and 2035. In the report, EPRI modeled the potential impacts of one published and three yet-to-be-finalized EPA rules regulating utility emissions of mercury, nitrogen and sulfur oxides and coal ash and intake of cooling water. The regulations are likely to cause a portion of power plants that rely on coal to install controls, retire, or switch to an alternative fuel source such as natural gas, depending on the economics of each individual plant.

The report explores two options for compliance: a "current course" model which assumes full compliance with all rules by their compliance deadlines (which range from 2015 to 2020) and an "alternative flexible path" which assumes less stringent requirements for the cooling water rule, additional compliance time of up to two years for the mercury, nitrogen, and sulfur regulations, and that the costs of control technologies grows at a slower rate because demand for those technologies occurs over a longer period of time. Both scenarios assume that utilities make a decision whether to retire or retrofit a plant in 2015. The report's models estimate that utilities would need to retire 61 of the 317 gigawatts (GW) of coal-fired generation capacity under the "current course", with 54 GW with an uncertain future due to other market factors, particularly the price of natural gas. Under the "alternative flexible path", only 25 GW would be retired while only 4 GW would face uncertainty. Some of the rules already allow for some flexibility with compliance: for example, EPA's mercury regulations allow states to grant a fourth year to achieve compliance, with a fifth year available in cases where electric reliability may be at risk.
(Contact: Andrew Kambour)

Guide Provides Best Practices for AMBER Alert Programs
The U.S. Department of Justice has released a new guide that compiles best practices from across the country for responding to cases of missing children through AMBER Alert, a program that helps communities coordinate their efforts to find, rescue, and return abducted children to their families. The guide explains what type of information is most critical for officers to obtain during their preliminary investigation, including descriptive information about the child, abductor, and circumstances that led to the disappearance. The guide identifies effective strategies for disseminating alerts to the public through the use of social media, websites, and posters, and explains how to ensure phone banks are set up in the ways that work best to help law enforcement receive, process, and prioritize leads. The guide also provides tips for leading an effective search and recovery effort once law enforcement issues an alert and makes recommendations for interacting with the victim's family.

The AMBER—America's Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response—Alert Program was created in 1996 after 9-year-old Amber Hagerman was abducted and murdered in Arlington, Texas. Representatives of law enforcement and the local media responded to the tragedy by developing a series of protocols to be followed after child abductions. The first few hours after a child is abducted are critical to the success of recovery efforts. Of abducted children who are killed, 44 percent are killed within the first hour, 74 percent are killed within the first three hours, and 91 percent are killed within the first 24 hours.
(Contact: Jeff McLeod)

Insurance, Medical Homes Increase Access to Health Care and Patient Satisfaction
A new report from the Commonwealth Fund examined health disparities among low-income adults in the U.S. The report looked at differences in access to preventive care for low-income insured and uninsured populations. Low-income is defined as less than 200 percent of the federal poverty line. The report also examined the role of medical homes in improving access to care among those who were insured.

Low-income adults who reported having insurance all 12 months of the previous year and a medical home had greater access to preventive care and also were more likely to report that they thought they were receiving very good or excellent care. Those with insurance but no medical home and those without insurance were the least satisfied with the quality of their health care. The report's policy recommendations for states include helping safety-net providers become medical homes by offering financial incentives and technical support.
(Contact: Jackie Le Grand)