California to Deploy Targeted Mobile Alert System
The California Emergency Management Agency has entered into a public-private partnership with Sprint to deploy new Commercial Mobile Alert System (CMAS) technology, which enables emergency management officials to disseminate alerts and warnings via text messaging to wireless phones based on their specified locations. For instance, emergency information relating to localized events, such as wildfires, mudslides or floods, could be targeted to residents in specific neighborhoods or along routes where the danger is greatest. Examples include:
- Sending emergency messages to cell phones at a stadium event, informing attendees of where to go or which direction to drive in the event of a major accident or chemical spill;
- Relaying emergency information during a localized event, like wildfires, mudslides or floods, targeted to residents and non-residents in specific neighborhoods or along routes where the danger is greatest; and
- Alerting citizens in an airport or shopping mall to a suspicious package and providing information about where to move until the threat is removed.
The CMAS network will aggregate alerts from state and local emergency operations centers, as well as national emergencies, such as terrorist attacks and child abductions. All alerts will be sent over a secure interface to Sprint and other participating wireless providers. The first CMAS pilot program will be conducted in San Diego County this fall.
(Contact: Carmen Ferro)
North Carolina Develops Application to Track Parolees
The North Carolina Department of Correction has developed a new online tool that allows probation officers to view of their caseloads with a wide array of information including offenders' photos; known addresses and contacts; physical traits; previous and pending case reviews and check-ins; level of supervision required; and other information. Any offense—even a traffic ticket—is uploaded into the court system and updated daily. The software can also help track offenders with whom contact has been lost to bring them back under the appropriate supervision.
(Contact: Allison Cullin)
Vermont Cuts Costs with eProcurement
Vermont is expected to save at least $3 million annually with the recent launch of an eProcurement System for procurement and purchasing. The goals of eProcurement include increased efficiency through reduced paperwork and a greater exposure to bidders. With an eProcurement system, bid opportunities will be posted electronically and responded to in the same manner with vendors receiving automatic notification of any bid solicitation posted by the Office of Purchasing and Contracting. The first use of the system is scheduled for the beginning of calendar year 2011. Savings are estimated to be at least $3 million annually when the system is in full use.
(Contact: Erin Sparks)
Texas Announces School Savings Incentive
Texas is launching a new incentive for school districts to cut bureaucratic costs by sharing administrative services. Participating districts will receive a grant from the state for 10 percent of total savings achieved, which can be used to support classroom instruction. Districts are encouraged to create economies of scale by sharing administration for functions, such as human resources, accounting, transportation, technology or facilities with other districts or with community partners.
(Contact: Amanda Szekely)
Connecticut to Strengthen STEM Instruction in Elementary Schools
Connecticut is launching a three-year initiative to strengthen Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) instruction in elementary schools. Key strategies include:
- A training academy to prepare teachers in three districts to become Elementary Science Instructional Coaches. Coaches will model effective practices and advise on improvements in their schools' curriculum and instructional strategies.
- Graduate credits offered through Western Connecticut State University for elementary school teachers studying to become STEM instructional specialists, eventually leading to a new master's degree program in STEM education.
This initiative is a collaborative effort between three school districts, the state Department of Education, the Connecticut Science Center and Western Connecticut State University. Activities are funded with a federal Mathematics and Science Partnership (MSP) grant.
(Contact: Angela Baber)
Tennessee Launches Energy Efficiency Loan Program
Tennessee has established a new loan program designed to improve the energy efficiency of Tennessee businesses. Companies can receive loans at below-market rates for financing up to 100 percent of energy improvements, such as building retrofits, equipment replacements or upgrades, lighting upgrades and renewable generation projects. The loan program is administered by Pathway Lending, a Tennessee-based Community Development Financial Institution. Applicants must receive an energy audit or vendor proposal that details potential energy savings; the verified monthly savings will be used to determine eligibility, the length of the loan and the amount in monthly loan repayments the company will need to make. The loan program also features a Shared Savings option, which allows loan recipients to keep up to 50 percent of their monthly energy savings, rather than putting all energy savings towards loan repayments.
The program is a partnership between Tennessee, the U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. Economic Development Administration, Pathway Lending, Pinnacle Financial Partners and the Tennessee Valley Authority. Fifty million dollars in initial capital is available for the launch of the program.
(Contact: Andrew Kambour)
North Carolina Seeks Online Input for Transportation Projects
The North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) has developed an online forum for citizens to weigh in on how the state prioritizes specific transportation projects. The Citizens Connect website will allow North Carolina residents to provide suggestions that will assist in NCDOT in developing project selection criteria for the state's new Mobility Fund. As part of the law creating the Mobility Fund, NCDOT was charged with developing a specific set of selection criteria for Mobility Fund projects. NCDOT's goal is to use citizen input to inform the development of these criteria.
The Mobility Fund, a collection of unspent transportation funds and reductions in the amount of money transferred from the Highway Trust Fund to the General Fund, is expected to generate $173 million annually for the state from 2011 to 2014.
(Contact: Andrew Kambour)
New York Committee to Advise State Health Reform Implementation
New York Governor David Paterson has created a Health Care Reform Advisory Committee to help guide federal health care reform implementation in the state. The Committee will be comprised of organizations representing health care providers, consumers, businesses, organized labor, local governments, health plans and health insurers and health policy experts. The Committee will work with the governor's office to advise on reform provisions and details, including:
- Identifying deadlines for the provisions of federal health care reform and assessing the State's capacity to carry out those provisions;
- Distinguishing provisions with which the state must comply and those that are optional, and evaluating whether participation in optional programs is appropriate;
- Identifying any changes needed to state statute, regulation, policy or procedure to implement such provisions, and facilitating the achievement of such changes as necessary;
- Communicating with the federal government, local governments, other states, health care providers and other stakeholders as advisable or necessary; and
- Providing public outreach to educate individuals on the implementation of the reforms as necessary.
The Committee will also carry out targeted workgroups to focus on specific issues and invite additional organizations with expertise to participate. A series of public forums across the state will also be held to provide opportunities for further stakeholder input.
(Contact: Stephanie Jamison)
California Moves Forward on Implementing Health Care Reform
California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is expected to sign legislation regarding the implementation of federal health care reform. Senate Bill 900 would establish the California Health Benefits Exchange and outline parameters of its operation and governance structure.
The bill would require the Director of the Department of Managed Health Care and the Insurance Commissioner to review an Internet portal developed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and jointly develop and maintain an electronic clearinghouse of coverage available in the individual and small employer markets, if the federal Internet portal does not adequately achieve certain purposes.
(Contact: Stephanie Jamison)
Illinois Law Protects Consumers from Predatory Debt Financers
Illinois Governor Pat Quinn signed the Debt Settlement and Consumer Protection Act, which establishes stringent guidelines and enhances consumer protections for Illinois families seeking help to pay overdue bills. The Act also creates a fund to pay restitution to consumers who have lost money through a debt settlement provider. Major changes in consumer protection under this law include:
- Limits upfront fees to $50.00;
- Caps settlement fees at 15 percent of the savings made by the consumer;
Requires that settlement agreement fees not exceed the principal amount owed; and
Allows consumers to cancel contracts at any time and be eligible for a refund of fees
The new law provides the state the ability to deny, revoke, suspend, investigate, fine, issue administrative penalties or issue a cease and desist order to any debt settlement provider.
(Contact: Erin Sparks)
Report Finds Gains in College and Career Readiness
A new report on U.S. students' ACT test scores finds that high school graduates have made progress in becoming ready for college and careers. Twenty-four percent of ACT-tested students met or surpassed 2010 ACT College Readiness Benchmarks in all four subject areas (English, reading, mathematics and science), an increase of three perent over students' performance in 2005.
These improvements occurred even as the pool of ACT-tested students has grown and become more diverse. The highest percentage of students meet standards in English and reading, while less than half meet benchmarks in math and science. Specific findings include:
- Over half of high school graduates met ACT's readiness benchmarks in English and reading;
- Forty-three percent met benchmarks in math; and
- Twenty-nine percent met benchmarks in science.
(Contact: Amanda Szekely)
New Report Shows Progress and Challenges from Katrina
A report by the Southern Climate Impacts Planning Program indicates that the Gulf region still faces long-term recovery challenges after Hurricane Katrina, five years after the storm. The report also found that authorities in the region have improved preparation capacity related to future storms. Specifically, the report highlights that subsequent coastal evacuations, such as for Hurricane Gustav in 2008, prove that lessons learned during Katrina have greatly expanded preparedness for mass evacuations due to natural disasters. Hurricane forecasting and accurately predicting the path of a storm remains a challenge.
Findings indicate that several major challenges still remain in the region, including coordinating evacuation of felons and illegal immigrants who would rather remain in a hazard zone than risk confronting authorities in a mass shelter.
(Contact: David Henry)
Utilities Cut Capital Spending to Survive Recession
A new report on the financial health of utility companies has found that utilities weathered the recession by significantly limiting new construction and capital expenditures, but they are anticipated to resume these activities in 2011. The Fortnightly 40 Report, sponsored by Accenture, ranks the top 40 electric and gas utilities out of 84 surveyed on a variety of measures used to determine shareholder returns. The report found that:
- Utilities cut capital spending by more than 10 percent between 2008 and 2009, from $93.8 to $83.9 billion;
- The average utility ranked in the top 40 in 2009 generated $300 million in free cash, up from negative $100 million in 2008;
Utility companies that increased capital expenditures and produced negative cash flows in 2009 fell in the rankings; and
Companies that have increased their share of revenues from unregulated resources have moved up in the rankings in the last four years.
Despite the downturn in utility spending over the last two years, the report's authors anticipate a rebound for 2011. The report forecasts an increase in capital spending for 2011 due to increased economic stability and electricity consumption in 2010, along with an expected decrease in regulatory uncertainty in Federal energy policy.
(Contact: Andrew Kambour)
Report Details Characteristics of Young Children in Immigrant Families
The Urban Institute recently released a report describing the characteristics of young children growing up in immigrant families. The study examines immigration trends, the impact of children living in immigrant families on schools and the parental and family characteristics of young children in immigrant families. The report notes that almost one quarter of all children, eight years old and younger, have immigrant parents. Ninety-three percent of young children of immigrants are U.S. citizens.
Key findings from the report include:
- Children of immigrant parents enroll in preschool at lower rates than do children of natives;
- Approximately half of young children in immigrant families have at least one parent who is a U.S. citizen.
- Approximately 26 percent of all children, 8 years of age or younger with an immigrant parent(s), live in California.
(Contact: Linda Hoffman)
Report Examines State Practices in Medicaid Enrollment
The Kaiser Family Foundation released a new study, Optimizing Medicaid Enrollment: Spotlight on Technology - Louisiana's Express Lane Eligibility, the first in a Spotlight on Technology series profiling several states' innovative applications of technology to Medicaid enrollment efforts. The series illustrates a range of approaches that states can adopt to improve their systems now and prepare for the expansion of Medicaid under health reform. This piece examines how Louisiana uses "express lane eligibility" to increase and streamline the enrollment of low-income children in its Medicaid program.
(Contact: Caryn Marks)
Thirty-Five States Have Adopted Common Academic Standards
As of September 8, 2010, as many as 35 states and the District of Columbia have adopted the Common Core State Standards. Those states are: Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Wisconsin, West Virginia and Wyoming.
The NGA Center and the Council of Chief State School Officers released the Common Core State Standards in June. The standards define the knowledge and skills students should gain in K-12 education to graduate high school fully prepared for college and work.
(Contact: Stephanie Shipton)
New NGA Center Report Highlights State Clean Energy Actions
Between 2008 and 2010, states continued to lead the nation on a path to a cleaner and more secure energy future – especially in the areas of energy efficiency and clean electricity. The NGA Center has released a new report, Clean and Secure State Energy Actions: 2010 Update, that examined clean energy activities in all 50 states, as well as the territories and commonwealths, broken down into seven categories:
- Energy efficiency;
- Clean electricity;
- Alternative fuels and vehicles;
- Lead by Example initiatives;
- Greenhouse gas emissions;
Clean energy research, development and demonstration; and
Green economic development, a new category in this edition.
The report documents each state's actions, highlighting those that have occurred since July 2008. An accompanying web page allows users to see the data from the report in additional formats, including a clickable map.
(Contact: Sue Gander)
State Alliance for e-Health Meeting
The NGA Center will hold the next State Alliance for eHealth Meeting on September 21, 2010 via live webcast from the Governor's residence in Nashville, TN. The State Alliance meeting agenda will cover the following topics of interest:
- E-prescribing for Controlled Substances
- Healthcare Reform and Health IT
- Update from Federal Officials at ONC
There will be a public comment period at the close of the meeting. Questions/statements may be emailed into the meeting and the email address for this will be sent out just prior to the meeting, along with links for web access.If you have questions about the meeting, please contact Ree Sailors (202-624-5322), Stephanie Jamison (202-624-7729) or Brad Finnegan (202-624-5325). Visit www.nga.org/center/ehealth for other information on the State Alliance.