Mississippi Recommends School District Consolidation
Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour has received final recommendations for school district consolidation as part of the state's effort to promote efficiency and cost savings in government. The Commission on Educational Structure has recommended:
- Providing incentives to support voluntary district consolidation, ranging from interest free loans to a temporary break on accountability ratings;
- Allowing the State Board of Education to dissolve and reconstitute districts placed in conservatorship or the Recovery School District;
- Requiring that districts within a county consolidate support services and back-office operations, while allowing districts from multiple counties to do so voluntarily; and
- Consolidating statewide procurement of certain items, such as buses and janitorial supplies.
The Commission recommends that school districts in Mississippi use a data-driven approach to consolidation, demonstrating how the efficiencies gained lead to improvements in the quality of educational services.
(Contact: Amanda Szekely)
New Mexico Creates STEM Network
New Mexico has launched a statewide Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) Network. Through a public-private partnership that includes several employers in the state, the Network will provide approximately $500,000 over two years to middle and high schools and nonprofit partners.
The funds will support development and implementation of new curriculum and partnerships serving southern New Mexico. The Network will also promote opportunities for students to access career mentoring and internships as they prepare to enter the workforce.
(Contact: Angela Baber)
Washington Offers New Health Coverage Program in Preparation for Reform
The Washington Health Care Authority (HCA) has enrolled more than 1,200 previously uninsured individuals for health insurance coverage under its newly-formed Washington Health Program. The Washington Health will act as a bridge to national health care reform. This program serves residents who are on the waiting list to apply for a Basic Health Plan administered by the Washington HCA.
The program does not have income limits and acts as an option for individuals whose income disqualifies them from Basic Health; are unemployed and cannot afford their company's COBRA plan; or have otherwise been unable to find affordable health insurance in the private market.
(Contact: Caryn Marks)
California Launches Telehealth Network
California has begun the first phase in its efforts to build a telehealth network that will connect California physicians and medical facilities all over the state. Specifically, the California Telehealth Network (CTN) will connect over 800 sites during its intial phase, slated to be complete within three years. CTN is a public- private, federal- state partnership that can be used as a model across the nation as other networks are funded and established.
California has undergone a significant effort to lay the groundwork for the CTN by developing a statewide health information exchange initiative and investing in educational facilities through the University of California at Davis to begin to train thousands of students in the field of telemedicine.
(Contact: Stephanie Jamison)
Virginia Considers Privatizing Liquor Sales
Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell's staff has presented an official recommendation for the privatization of state-run liquor stores (ABC stores). The recommendation calls for auctioning 1,000 retail licenses to the highest bidders and selling the ABC warehouse in Richmond and 19 state-owned outlets. The Commonwealth would maintain health, safety, law enforcement and marketing regulatory authority over private distilled spirit sales and distribution. The proposed plan would also increase the number of ABC enforcement agents by 25 percent.
The administration expects this move to provide as much as $500 million to the Commonwealth. All money realized from privatization would be placed in a Virginia Transportation Infrastructure Bank, to be used for new transportation funding.
(Contact: Lauren Stewart)
Missouri to Provide Judges with Costs of Sentencing
Missouri will provide judges with data illustrating how much a particular sentence will cost taxpayers. The data will be produced by the Missouri Sentencing Advisory Commission and provided online so state judges can consider the cost of sentencing determinations. The cost assessments will be derived from a set formula, using information specific to each defendant. Each assessment will include an estimate of the likelihood that the defendant will reoffend.
(Contact: Lauren Stewart)
Utah Commission Identifies State Savings
The Utah Advisory Commission to Optimize State Government has released its final report to Governor Gary Herbert, making recommendations that could result in an estimated $10 million in annual savings for the state. The key recommendations include:
Systematically changing the mix between state employee salary and benefits to
better reflect private sector practices;
- Leveraging technology in virtual education to lower costs and improve outcomes;
Developing and implementing a strategic plan for managing prison populations; and
Combating fraud, waste and abuse through a statewide recovery audit initiative.
The commission was created in 2009 and was tasked with taking an independent examination of current governmental processes and spending.
(Contact: Erin Sparks)
Nebraska Unveils New Economy Roadmap
Nebraska recently released a report outlining three key areas that can be targeted to strengthen the state's future competitiveness: provide tailored support to growing industries; connect workers with high skilled jobs; and support innovation efforts of companies in Nebraska. The report also identifies the clusters of industries in the state that are existing and emerging strengths and offers recommendations for achieving success in each area, including:
- Provide financial support through angel credit investment tax credits and applied industry-university research matching grants for innovations;
- Create a new jobs database and use existing job training funds for a paid internship program to match workers with high skilled jobs; and
- Establish a private sector-driven Nebraska Innovation and Technology Organization, among other recommendations.
(Contact: Erin Sparks)
Arizona Launches Website to Streamline Solar Options
Arizona has launched a new web resource, Arizona Goes Solar, for homeowners and businesses to learn about solar initiatives in the state. The website serves as a one-stop shop for information about opportunities to adopt solar technology and a list of federal and state renewable energy technology incentives.
The site includes a mapping function to display exiting solar installations in participating utility areas, including the number of current installations in a zip code, the total size of the installation and average annual savings for that system. The effort is a partnership between the Arizona Corporation Commission and the electric utilities in the state and is designed to increase transparency in the solar installation process.
(Contact: Andrew Kambour)
Tennessee Offers Expanded Electric Vehicle Rebate
Tennessee will offer a $2,500 rebate on the first 1,000 electric vehicles purchased in the state. The rebate, available to customers through a network of automotive dealerships in Tennessee, will complement the current $7,500 federal tax credit offered for the purchase of a new electric vehicle. The state will provide $2.5 million for the rebate program through the petroleum violation escrow account, funds collected by the federal government from oil companies and disbursed to states for energy-related activities.
The rebate program is tied to Tennessee's participation in the national Electric Vehicle Project, a U.S. Department of Energy program to facilitate the deployment of electric vehicles and charging infrastructure. Tennessee is a participant, along with six other states and the District of Columbia.
(Contact: Andrew Kambour)
Mississippi Partners with New Fund for Disaster Recovery
Mississippi will participate in the National Disaster Recovery Fund, a new partnership created to supplement state and local long-term recovery efforts following a natural disaster. Operated by the Volunteer USA Foundation, the Fund's sole purpose is to provide resources for long-term losses and provide private-sector administration for the effort. The fund does not replace existing or immediate relief efforts already in place. Key attributes of the fund include:
- Stretching resources and filling gaps when government and insurance funds don't cover the total amount of damages;
Helping rebuild communities by providing needs identified by local organizations, including childcare centers and community centers; and
Providing refunds to contributors if the donated funds are not used to assist those impacted by a specific disaster.
Volunteer USA will administer the program, including fundraising and deciding where funds are allocated. Governors from Alabama, Florida and Louisiana support the work of the fund.
(Contact: Carmen Ferro)
Report Looks at State Medicaid Agency Preparation for Health Care Reform
State government agencies, particularly Medicaid agencies, are feeling the effects of the recession in a significant way. Kaiser Family Foundation, in discussions with state Medicaid directors, have compiled a report on what states are doing to tackle health care reform in the face of budget pressures and a declining workforce, in many cases. Key findings of the report include:
- The recession continues to impact state Medicaid programs with state revenues remaining depressed, and Medicaid enrollment and spending continuing to grow;
- Planning for the Medicaid expansion and coordinating eligibility with state insurance exchanges must begin now to be ready for implementation in 2014;
- Health reform requirements for enhanced collaboration and interaction with the commercial market implies a transformation in organizational culture for Medicaid agencies, a need for different staff expertise and an evolving public perception of Medicaid; and
- Interest in policy innovation, demonstrations and pilots remains high, particularly in Medicaid participation in payment and delivery system reforms, and in long-term care.
(Contact: Stephanie Jamison)
Reducing Poverty through School-Based Efforts
A new report by the Center on American Progress outlines local and state efforts to reduce poverty through school-based resources. The report finds that food and financial insecurity, housing instability, and health concerns can have profound negative effects on the ability of students to learn and succeed in school, while using school-based resources to mitigate the effects of poverty on children can have a substantial positive impact on both student achievement and health.
The report purports that co-locating antipoverty services in schools can increase the usage of benefits by needy families by improving access to services, reducing stigma often associated with public benefits and reducing transportation barriers. The findings also indicate that parents are more like to become more involved in school efforts and their child's education when antipoverty benefits and services are available through schools. Examples from Michigan and New Mexico, as well as the cities of New York City, New York, and San Diego, California, are featured in the report.
(Contact: Linda Hoffman)
The Case for Building Early Care and Education Data Systems
A new white paper from the Early Childhood Data Collaborativemakes the case for why states should build longitudinal data systems for early child care and education; describes the 10 fundamentals of a coordinated system; and provides guidance on how to ensure appropriate access to data, which can be challenging for policymakers to attain. The increased data would help to answer questions like: Are children on track to succeed in kindergarten and beyond? Is the quality of programs improving? How prepared is the early care and education workforce? The report indicates that answering these questions requires data to be collected over time at the individual child level and to be linked to data on ECE programs and the ECE workforce. The report also states that data systems require structures and policies that can ensure appropriate access to and use of data, along with ensuring security and privacy protection.
Some of the 10 ECE Fundamentals outlined in the white paper include:
- Unique statewide identifiers for children, program sites and members of the workforce;
- Child-level demographic information, program participation information, as well as information on child development;
- Ability to link data with K-12 and other key systems;
- Program site data on structure, quality and work environment;
- Workforce characteristics, including education and professional development information; and
- State governance body to manage data system, as well as transparent privacy and security policies.
(Contact: Amanda Szekely)
Terrorist Threat Has Become More Diverse
The current threats against the U.S. are less likely to include use of nuclear and biological weapons and more likely to include new approaches—making them more difficult to detect, according to a new study by the Bipartisan Policy Center. Homegrown extremism threats, along with recruitment in new areas like the horn of Africa and Yemen, have led to new approaches by terrorist groups. The new likely terrorist targets include:
- Commercial aviation;
- Western brand names like American hotel chains;
- Jewish targets; and
- U.S. soldiers fighting in Muslim countries.
(Contact: David Henry)
Report: Midwest Has Significant Biogas Potential
The Great Plains Institute has released a new report addressing the biogas potential of 12 Midwestern states: North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota, Kansas, Missouri, Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, Indiana and Ohio. The report, Spotlight on Biogas: Policies for Utilization and Deployment in the Midwest, examines policies and incentives that would help spur increased production of biogas, fuel produced from livestock or agricultural wastes that can be used for electricity generation, heating or transportation.
The report offers state-level policy recommendations for utilizing this resource, including production incentives, net-metering, feed-in-tariffs, business loan programs and Renewable Portfolio Standards. The authors also identify key federal incentives for states to bring biogas production to scale, including existing bond and tax credit programs.
(Contact: Andrew Kambour)
Thirty-Five States Have Adopted Common Academic Standards
As of September 14, 2010, 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.
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.