Colorado Reorganizes Workforce Development
Colorado Governor Bill Ritter has signed an executive order reorganizing the state's workforce development efforts. The order is the result of a report by the Governor's Jobs Cabinet that recommended that the state modernize the Colorado Workforce Development Council, which oversees and supports Workforce Investment Board efforts statewide. The Council's realignment will be focused on workforce development programs that correlate with the state's broader economic development goals. The executive order also calls for several cabinet members from the governor's cabinet to serve on the Council.
Under the executive order, the Council will be re-launched and re-focused on new goals such as creating industry growth strategies, building job training infrastructure and forging closer ties with each community. New Council members were nominated by regions of Colorado that represented workforce, education and economic development. The locally-driven nomination process helped create a diverse mix of representatives from the business, education, workforce and economic development communities.
(Contact: Garret Groves)
Connecticut Reviews State Employee Benefits, Identifies Savings
Connecticut Governor M. Jodi Rell has received more than a dozen recommendations for reducing liabilities from the State Post-Employment Benefits Commission. The Commission's recommendations include:
- Increasing employee contributions by an average of three percent toward both pension and other post-employment benefits (OPEB) to generate an additional $95 million a year for the pension plan and $78 million a year for the retiree health plan;
- Increasing the early retirement age to 60 and the normal retirement age to 65 to save an estimated $100 million annually in the state's annual contribution to the retirement funds; and
- Calculating a retiree's average salary over five years instead of three for an annual ARC savings of about $22 million.
Total savings, should the recommendations be implemented, would equal an estimated $300 million per year.
(Contact: Erin Sparks)
Massachusetts Streamlines Development Grant Programs
Massachusetts has streamlined economic development initiatives to form a new one-stop shop for municipalities seeking public infrastructure funding to support job growth and long-term economic development. The Mass Works Infrastructure Program represents an administrative consolidation of six previously separate grant programs:
- Public Works Economic Development (PWED)
- Community Development Action Grant (CDAG)
- Growth District Initiative Grants (GDI)
- Massachusetts Opportunity Relocation and Expansion Program (MORE)
- Small Town Rural Assistance Program (STRAP)
- Transit Oriented Development Grant Program (TOD)
The consolidated program offers a number of benefits to the Commonwealth and cities and towns, including streamlined reporting requirements and processes to access state economic development grant programs. Additionally, the Commonwealth will be better able to prioritize shovel-ready projects and maximize immediate job creation. MassWorks will be overseen by the Executive Office of Housing & Economic Development, in cooperation with the Massachusetts Department of Transportation and the Executive Office of Administration and Finance.
(Contact: Greg Dierkers)
New York Launches Energy Savings Initiative for Hospitals
The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) and electricity company, National Grid, have launched a new partnership, Energy Efficiency for Health, designed to help hospitals reduce energy use, save on operating costs and cut greenhouse gas emissions through increased efficiency. NYSERDA and National Grid will work together to provide hospitals with targeted technical assistance and up to $10 million in funding for energy efficiency initiatives that are expected to generate as much as $5 million in annual energy savings. Energy Efficiency For Health has four main components:
- Technical assistance studies for hospitals interested in identifying their energy efficiency options;
- Energy efficiency incentives for retrofit and new construction projects to offset the cost of improvements;
- Customer installation support to provide participating hospitals with a complete package that addresses all energy related issues critical to facility operations; and
- Outreach, education, and marketing to recruit hospitals into the initiative.
Between 75 and 100 of the largest hospitals across New York in National Grid's service area were selected to participate in the program based on hospital type, size, number of beds, relative age and prior participation in energy efficiency programs.
(Contact: Greg Dierkers)
Virginia Launches Health Reform Taskforce Initiative
Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell has launched a new initiative comprised of six different task forces on health care, designed to guide a comprehensive strategy for health reform implementation in the state. The taskforces are comprised of a diverse array of experts and stakeholders in subject areas including: Medicaid reform, insurance reform, service delivery, capacity, technology and purchasing.
The taskforces will bring recommendations and information to the Virginia Health Reform Initiative Advisory Council, which will then provide recommendations to the governor. All recommendations will be geared toward supporting the governor's plan for providing economically feasible health care access.
(Contact: Molly Voris)
Washington to Pilot Accountable Care Organization Projects
Washington will develop two projects in Seattle to pilot an accountable care organization (ACO) model through which health care providers are paid for outcomes, not services. Under the ACO model, multiple provider groups collaborate to take joint responsibility for the cost and quality of care their patients receive. As patients move through the care continuum of prevention, diagnosis, treatment and recovery, providers will collaborate to provide comprehensive and accountable care.
The pilots will be implemented by January 2012 by the Group Health Cooperative, without using state funds.
(Contact: Caryn Marks)
Missouri Higher Education Strategy Focuses on Efficiency
Missouri's Coordinating Board for Higher Education has endorsed Governor Jay Nixon's strategic initiatives for higher education. The new strategies will focus on promoting efficiency and improving performance of the higher education system. Strategies include:
- Conducting a review of degree programs to determine those that do not meet productivity criteria;
- Creating a new task force to review and possibly revise Missouri's higher education funding model to emphasize the mission and performance of public institutions; and
- Promoting strategies, including resource and service sharing, which deliver programs more efficiently.
(Contact: Amanda Szekely)
New Jersey Law Expands School Choice Across Districts
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie signed a law allowing students to attend schools across district lines as long as that district is under capacity. To do so, students must apply to the districts, and the district must first receive approval from the Department of Education. Home districts must provide transportation for students to get to their new schools (up to 20 miles from the student's home).
Districts are required to outline the programs they would offer, the number of seats available in each grade level and a plan for how they would maintain diversity in all participating districts. If more students apply than openings exist, applicants would be chosen by lottery. The law expands a five-year pilot program that allowed just one choice district in every county.
(Contact: Amanda Szekely)
Kansas Conducting Study to Streamline Court Services
The Kansas Judicial Study Advisory Committee is conducting a comprehensive study of the state's court system to find opportunities to improve efficiency. The committee will review court-by-court caseloads and evaluate areas for improvement and better use of taxpayer money. The findings will be used to make recommendations to the Supreme Court regarding judicial and non-judicial staffing statewide, based on how much time and effort the Kansas court system is spending to hear and process cases. In examining the system, the commission will consider things such as the complexity of cases and the driving time needed to handle cases in the state's rural areas.
The study will examine this requirement, especially in the state's rural areas. The state court caseloads were last reviewed in 1974, and the findings resulted in the unification of the state court system in 1977.
(Contact: Allison Cullin)
Mississippi Shuts Down Cell Phone Use by Inmates
The Mississippi Department of Corrections (MDOC) has introduced a strategy to intercept illegal cellular phone transmissions by inmates at the Mississippi State Penitentiary. Known as Operation Cellblock, the new technology will form a radio frequency umbrella able to intercept cell phone transmissions, identify the caller and cause the device to malfunction.
While 911 calls will be permitted, unauthorized inmate communication will not be permissible. If inmates attempt to make a cellular call, Operation Cellblockwill send an automated message informing that individual that the device has been identified as contraband and will no longer function.
(Contact: David Henry)
Health Care Premiums Increased in 2010
A survey released by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Health Research and Education Trust finds that workers are paying about $4,000 in 2010 for family health care coverage, representing an increase of 14 percent from 2009. Furthermore, worker contributions to premiums have gone up nearly 50 percent in the last five years, while wages increased by 18 percent and inflation increased 12 percent.
Other survey findings include:
- Workers currently pay nearly $900 for single coverage, up from $779 in 2009;
- Of employers surveyed, 30 percent indicate a reduction in scope of health benefits or an increase in cost sharing;
- Enrollment in consumer-driven plans, with high deductibles and tax-preferred savings options, increased 8 percent in 2010 and now representing 13 percent of workers; and
- About 75 percent of employers offer wellness benefits, such as gym discounts, smoking cessation programs, nutrition classes or weight loss programs.
(Contact: Jason Hsieh)
Mobile Broadband Associated with Economic Growth
The rapid deployment of mobile broadband technologies and increased access to mobile computing devices has led economic growth, according to a recent report from the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation. The report outlines how mobile broadband is enabling new business models and opportunities across education, transportation, health care and e-commerce. It also makes recommendations for how policymakers can best support the economic potential of mobile broadband technologies, including:
- Remove impediments to further build-out and adoption;
- Rely on transparency, disclosure and minimum standards, rather than prescriptive regulations, to protect consumers from speculative harms;
Employ regulations that encourage technical solutions; and
Avoid privacy regulations that would restrict consumer use of mobile broadband regulations.
(Contact: Erin Sparks)
High Quality Child Care has Long Term Benefits
A new study of low-income children in three cities found that children who attend high-quality preschool settings have fewer behavioral problems in middle childhood. High-quality preschool appears to be particularly important for boys and African American children. The researchers studied about 350 children from low-income families in Boston, Chicago and San Antonio when they were preschoolers (age 2-4) and again in middle childhood (ages 7-11). The children who attended more responsive, stimulating and well-structured settings were less likely to have externalizing behavior problems, such as breaking rules and being aggressing, when they reached middle childhood.
(Contact: Amanda Szekely)
U.S. Needs Leadership, New Strategy to Address Cyber-Security
A recent report by the Council on Foreign Relations highlights the current cyber security threat facing the United States, including cybercrime, industrial espionage and cyber warfare. The report stresses the need for the U.S. to establish a governance structure for combating cyber-related crimes, as other nations like Russia and China are beginning to tighten control over the Internet. Specifically, the report recommended the White House appoint an administration official to oversee Internet governance policy and create a new bureau of cyber affairs at the State Department.
Specific recommendations include:
- Enact international laws prohibiting cybercrime;
- Prioritize criminal investigation of cyber-attacks; and
- Immediately clean-up the U.S. network, putting mechanisms in place to shut down Internet-based attacks.
(Contact: David Henry)
Growth in State Renewable Energy Market Despite Downturn
A new report, Renewable Energy in America: Markets, Economic Development and Policy in the 50 States, by the American Council on Renewable Energy concludes that the U.S. renewable market, as measured by state projects, totaled between $15 and $20 billion in 2009. Despite the recent economic downturn, the report found that the U.S. renewable energy sector has experienced a growth rate of 24 percent in the last five years. The progress results from a combination of policies and investment, not just the amount of renewable energy resources, which has driven the growth in the U.S. renewable energy market.
The report provides detailed information on all 50 state renewable energy markets. While its focus is on renewable energy project capacity, both installed and planned, the authors also discuss markets, economic development, resource potential and policies associated with each state's renewable energy project developments.
(Contact: Greg Dierkers)
Report Examines Effects of Teacher Performance Pay
The National Center on Performance Incentives released a report that is the result of an experiment on the effectiveness of performance pay. The Experimentors found positive effects from performance pay in the 5th grade, on two occasions. Participating teachers noted that performance pay goals were in line with the goals of their schools, and found that there were no negative or harmful effects.
Data was collected on middle school math teachers in Nashville, Tennessee over the course of three years. The experiment began with 300 teachers with 148 of those teachers participating through the three year duration. The experiment looked strictly at the impact of financial bonuses. However, this is not the final word. Research on the effects of performance pay has shown conflicting results. Many existing performance pay programs, such as ProComp in Colorado, incorporate comprehensive pay systems that include components in addition to pay.
(Contact: Tabitha Grossman )
NGA Announces Complete to Compete Advisory Group
The National Governors Association (NGA) has a newly selected advisory group to work with NGA Chair West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin III with his 2010-2011 Chair's Initiative, Complete to Compete. Advisory Group members will serve as strategic advisors to the governor and NGA staff, act as liaisons with key constituency groups and meet periodically to discuss approaches and best practices for promoting college completion. A bipartisan group of governors, including NGA Vice Chair Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels and Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire, also provide leadership through their roles on the Complete to Compete Task Force.
NGA has also released a brochure, Complete to Compete: Common College Completion Metrics, which provides a set of common higher education completion and productivity measures that governors and higher education leaders can utilize to monitor state progress and compare performance to other states and between institutions.
(Contact: Travis Reindl)
Thirty-Five States Have Adopted Common Academic Standards
As of September 23, 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)