Drug Treatment Would Be Mandated in New Jersey Proposal
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has provided $2.5 million in his 2013 budget to expand drug courts to all the state's counties, and requested legislative changes that would allow judges to sentence nonviolent drug offenders to treatment programs. Currently, offenders must choose drug court. The legislative changes would require drug offenders to undergo clinical assessments, the results of which would be shared with judges before sentencing.
Research suggests that drug courts reduce drug use and the chances of reoffending for offenders who volunteer to participate and for those who are automatically enrolled. Research to Practice, a partnership between the National Center for State Courts and the Justice Programs Office of the School of Public Affairs at American University, has created a summary of research on how to use drug courts (available here). They also provide webinars, videos of conferences and training sessions, and more research on how to target offenders, aftercare, specific substance abuse treatments, and other topics of practical importance on their drug courts website.
(Contact: Alisha Powell)
Oregon Provides Model for Advanced Directives
Oregon has recently received attention for policy improvements it pioneered in living wills, which include an improved form already given legal status by 14 other states and a database accessible to both EMTs and physicians in hospitals. Twenty other states are considering doing the same. The improvements make it more likely that doctors will be able to truly follow through on patient's requests to avoid invasive or aggressive treatment at the end of life. The form, called Physician Orders for Life–Sustaining Treatment, provides many more details than typical DNR orders. Patients make choices on the form about what types of treatment they want with the help of their physician, who then gives the document legal status by signing it. Each form is then added to a database so that it can be located in an emergency.
Without explicit direction, doctors and family members err on the side of aggressive and invasive treatment. Similarly, inaccessible forms can cause physicians to take measures such as intubation that they later learn a patient has specifically asked to avoid. Information from the dataset shows that people who used the form to ask for comfort measures but no resuscitation efforts did experience fewer hospitalizations and ER visits at the end of life.
(Contact: Jackie Le Grand)
Broader Role for Biomass Supports Rural Business, Maintains Renewable Standards
Washington Governor Chris Gregoire has signed a bill that would add older biomass–powered generators to the list of eligible resources under the state's renewable energy standard. The state's renewable energy law, initially passed in 2006, requires utilities with over 25,000 customers to obtain 15 percent of their electricity from renewable resources by 2020. The new law allows facilities in operation before 1999 that use biomass to generate on–site electrical power, such as pulp and paper mills, to receive credits that utilities can purchase to fulfill the mandate. Under the existing law, biomass and hydropower facilities in operation before 1999 were ineligible, since the aim of the law was to promote the development of new renewable energy resources. To ensure that new development continues to occur, under the new law eligible biomass facilities can only sell or transfer the credit they receive for renewable energy production to the utility that supplies their electricity normally.
Thirty states and territories have enacted renewable energy standards, all of which include biomass facilities of some kind. In Washington, biomass resources can include by–products from wood and paper manufacturing; dedicated energy crops; agricultural, forestry or yard waste; untreated construction debris; and algae–based fuels. The state's motivation for passing the law is to provide a boost to communities struggling with mill closures.
(Contact: Andrew Kambour)
More Advanced Math Requirements Could Increase College and Career Readiness
Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin has proposed mandating Algebra I and Geometry for all 9th and 10th graders and reviewing the need to require physics and chemistry in the future. Recent statewide test results revealed a decline in math scores between the 8th and 11th grades. Surveys conducted after this discovery showed that 47 percent of Vermont high schools require Algebra I, while only 31 percent require Geometry. The state is poised to take on this challenge and deliver more math instruction, and the Vermont Math Institute is providing training to 208 elementary educators.
Other states have also considered increasing curriculum standards to increase college and career readiness. Twenty–nine percent of Massachusetts districts now mandate four years of math education, and others are considering the shift. Michigan increased curriculum requirements several years ago in all subject areas including math, science, social studies, and liberal arts and the state's Department of Education produced a report (available here) summarizing research on the economic and developmental benefits of doing so.
(Contact: Kate Nielson)
Risk Based Placements Would Reduce California's Prison Costs
A recent study commissioned by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation determined that the state can safely move some inmates currently classified as maximum–security to medium– or minimum–security facilities and realize significant cost savings for taxpayers. According to the study, many inmates in California are housed in maximum–security facilities based not on their risk of reoffending while incarcerated but on the notoriety of their crimes or their ineligibility for parole. Because those inmates are not necessarily more likely to reoffend than other inmates facing long prison terms, the study concludes that the state could safely house many more of them in lower–security prisons. Moving the inmates to a lower level of security would save taxpayers money by avoiding the cost of having to build additional high–security facilities and making full use of existing capacity.
(Contact: Jeff McLeod)
Taskforce to Consolidate Obesity Prevention Programs in Tennessee
Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam announced that the Governor's Health and Wellness Taskforce will be focusing on efforts to reduce obesity and its effects on health in the state. The state struggles with high levels of obesity, associated with high blood pressure, heart attacks, strokes, Type II diabetes, arthritis, and several cancers. Diverse groups such as businesses, the YMCA, the Tennessee Obesity Task Force and local health departments have made efforts to tackle obesity and related problems, but the goal of the taskforce will be to coordinate and strengthen those existing efforts.
(Contact: Jackie LeGrand)
Kansas Amends Water Laws to Promote Conservation
Kansas Governor Sam Brownback has signed two bills that aim to reform the state's water laws to promote conservation and provide more flexibility to the state's largest water consumers, primarily agricultural irrigators. The first bill eliminates the state's "use it or lose it" policy regarding water rights. Under that policy, landowners could potentially lose water rights if they did not use their entire allocation, which discourages conservation of water resources. The second bill expands the ability of landowners to use multi–year flex accounts for managing their water rights. Those accounts allow irrigators to potentially overdraw their annual allocation as long as they withdraw less in subsequent years. Large water consumers would still have a cap on the total water they could withdraw over the life of the account, but would have greater flexibility from year to year.
Both bills were proposed by Governor Brownback in November as part of his 2012 legislative agenda. The legislative proposals arose following Governor Brownback's 2011 Ogallala Aquifer Water Summit, where citizens raised concerns about the long–term sustainability of groundwater in the Ogallala Aquifer. The aquifer is located beneath eight states, including Kansas.
(Contact: Andrew Kambour)
Maine Establishes "Business Friendly" Certification for Communities
Maine Governor Paul LePage is launching the "Certified Business Friendly Community" program to encourage business development in communities throughout Maine. Communities interested in winning the business–friendly designation will be reviewed on measures including customer service, business involvement and collaboration, input from the public, and licensing and permitting and winners will receive publicity and extra points on grant applications. The program will be administered by the Department of Economic & Community Development with existing resources.
Communities are encouraged to apply for the program, and applications can be submitted at any time to the review team. Each community will be evaluated on an individual basis. If a community is deemed a "Certified Business Friendly Community" it will receive an award of certification presented by the Governor, recognition on the State of Maine DECD website, become a key part of Maine's business attraction strategy, and receive an "Open for Business" sign that can be publically displayed. In addition, Certified Business Friendly Communities will receive bonus points in future Community Development Block Grant applications (pending program approval). Certification is for two years, and communities are encouraged to reapply. Applications can be submitted by communities, chambers of commerce, regional development authorities, trade organizations, businesses or individuals, but require the approval of the community being considered. Business Friendly Communities will be certified on a quarterly basis, beginning May 2012.
(Contact: Lauren Stewart)
Multi–Tiered Evaluations Introduce Nuance, Opportunities for Growth
Washington Governor Chris Gregoire signed a bill into law that reforms teacher and principal evaluations by expanding the state's two–tiered rating system to include four levels. The old classification graded teachers and principals either satisfactory or unsatisfactory, but the new system assesses educators as unsatisfactory, basic, proficient or distinguished. It also requires improvement. Teachers and principals with more than five years of experience who receive a "basic" rating two years in a row must increase to "proficient" or lose their job. New teachers must earn a "basic" grade in order to turn their provisional status into continuing–contract status.
School districts will begin implementing the system by school year 2013–14 and complete the process by the 2015–16 school year. The system was designed through a collaborative process between teachers, principals, administrators, researchers, school associations and legislators.
(Contact: Kate Nielson)
Missouri to Open Innovation Campuses for High–Demand Worker Training
Missouri is offering $10 million in competitive grants to cities, counties, and non–profit economic development organizations to establish Innovation Campuses, which pair local colleges and universities with area businesses to train more workers with specific skills with the intension of preparing students for career opportunities in high–demand fields. Governor Jay Nixon's administration is offering $10 million in competitive grants to cities, counties and non–profit economic development organizations to establish Innovation Campuses across the state. The grant funding will also help to underwrite apprenticeships and cover costs associated with on–the–job training for the students. Corporate partners will underwrite tuition scholarships.
Innovation Campus students will enroll in college courses while still in high school, and then participate in apprenticeships throughout their college careers. Faculty and employers will partner to provide guidance to each student. Governor Nixon's administration is supporting the UCM Innovation Campus through a $500,000 Community Development Block Grant to underwrite real–world apprenticeships and training opportunities for students at businesses like Cerner, Exergonix Inc., Sprint and DST.
(Contact: Garret Groves)
Lack of Preventive Dental Care Leads to ER Visits
The Pew Center on the States recently released a report looking at dental related emergency room visits in 24 states. Their analysis showed that in the years between 2006– 2009, ER visits for preventable dental conditions increased by 16 percent.
A large percentage of the visits were from patients enrolled in Medicaid or other public health programs funded by states. Many dentists do not accept Medicaid–enrolled children, and one study found that 56 percent of children covered by Medicaid in 2009 received no dental treatment at all. Many areas of the country also do not have enough dentists, especially in rural areas. Most ERs do not have dentists on staff, and address issues such as severe pain rather than fixing underlying dental problems. The study's authors suggest that investing in improving access to dental care, especially preventive care such as tooth sealants for children, should reduce costs by reducing hospital visits for dental problems. That might mean paying higher rates, or it might mean changing regulations to increase the types of providers and the number of settings in which dental care can be provided.
(Contact: Jackie Le Grand)
Principals' Job Description Includes Capitalizing on Small Successes
The Wallace Foundation released a report which describes the key functions of effective principals. Most variables within schools have only small impacts on learning, but principals are in a position to bring them all together to advance student achievement. Principals have five primary responsibilities:
- Create a vision for success for all students;
- Build a hospitable educational climate;
- Encourage others to become leaders;
- Improve instruction;
- Manage people, data and processes.
In order to improve school leadership and attract effective leaders, the report suggests building a pipeline whereby the job duties are clearly defined, future leaders receive high–quality training, districts practice selective hiring, and principals are evaluated and supported. States can facilitate that work through advancing aligned policies and allocating funding for training programs.
(Contact: Kate Nielson)
Variable Energy Sources Pose Technological and Strategic Challenges
A new report from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Energy Initiative summarizes the challenges created as more intermittent energy sources, such as wind and solar power, are integrated into the existing electric grid. Intermittent resources pose unique technical problems in that, unlike traditional thermal or hydropower plants, the amount of power they produce cannot be increased or decreased to match electricity demand. Instead, factors outside of operator control, primarily weather conditions, determine the maximum output they are capable of producing. Those conditions may change suddenly and the times of maximum output may not correspond with maximum electricity demand. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, nearly one–quarter of the electric generating capacity projected to be added between now and 2035 will be from intermittent resources.
The report synthesizes the issues discussed at a symposium held in April 2011 and highlights three key action areas. First, as intermittent resources penetrate the grid, existing thermal power plants will have to change how they operate to maintain reliability. That includes starting up more quickly and operating more often at partial capacity, which will likely have significant costs and require regulatory changes around how resources are dispatched into the grid. Second, management systems must be improved for the entire electric system, including the development new technology for transmission and storage, the addition of new network connections and the aggregation of power over larger geographic areas, and the addition of advanced modeling tools, sensors, and control systems that can adapt to real–time changes in power flow. Finally, current regulations and the conflict between regulations at the federal, regional, and state level are preventing intermittent resources from being adopted in the most efficient way possible. Relevant agencies will need to harmonize on reliability criteria and regulations on capacity markets, and on cost allocation for transmission and generation.
NGA recently published State Strategies for Accelerating Transmission Development for Renewable Energy, an issue brief which provides more information and some recommendations.
(Contact: Andrew Kambour)
Report Shows Exports Driving Economic Recovery
Recent analysis by the Brookings Institution indicates that exports in the nation's largest metropolitan areas are growing and creating jobs during 2009 and 2010, driving nationwide economic recovery after the recession. Furthermore, the analysis indicates that manufacturing is driving the export resurgence.
Among the findings, the report shows that export–supported jobs increased by almost 6 percent in 2010, even as the overall U.S. economy was still losing jobs in the wake of the recession. Also during 2010, the report finds that U.S. export sales grew 11 percent, which is the fastest growth in export sales since 1997. The Brooking's analysis features an interactive map of export data by metropolitan area, and state profiles.
(Contact: Erin Sparks)
Survey Finds Many Americans Not Prepared for Disasters
A Persuadable Research Corporation survey reveals that more than half of those surveyed are unprepared for a disaster and have not stockpiled emergency supplies such as water, food, first aid kits, radios, or candles. Explanations for not being prepared included the cost of emergency supplies and a lack of time. When asked how well the federal government would respond during an emergency, 28 percent of respondents are unsure if the government would be able to handle a major natural disaster in their area. Additionally, 68 percent believe the federal government is not doing enough to educate the public. Among those who think the government would be able to respond during disasters, most feel that it would take approximately one week to receive assistance.
Of those who are prepared, 82 percent are motivated to do so because they had already experienced some form of disaster. Twenty–seven percent are motivated by wanting to ensure family members are cared for. The survey analysis includes several cost–effective recommendations for improving preparedness such as purchasing one item per week or month for a disaster kit and contacting an insurance specialist to explain post–disaster financial assistance options.
(Contact: Carmen Ferro)
NGA Center Releases New Issue Brief on Top IT Actions to Save Costs
NGA Center has released a new issue brief, Top IT Actions to Save States Money and Boost Efficiency, and an accompanying white paper focus on actions states can take to improve their use of technology with little or no investment in new information technology systems. The recommendations include quick actions that require little upfront funding and can be implemented without significant policy changes, as well as suggestions for actions that will require more initial funding and policy change but will lead to lasting reform and improvement, including:
- Consolidate services and manage IT assets more efficiently;
- Use IT to better manage government revenue and resources;
- Update IT procurement procedures and requirements; and
- Go mobile and go wireless.
(Contact: Erin Sparks)