State News

Virginia Commission Recommends Government Efficiency Actions
Virginia's Government Reform and Restructuring Commission has released interim recommendations to the governor on ways to make state government less costly and more efficient. The proposals made by the commission are based on a comprehensive review of current systems and processes of state government. Key recommendations include:

  • Privatize the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Licensing Board;
  • Establish a four-day work week for certain state departments; and
  • Eliminate boards, commissions, and other non-governmental entities that perform the same services.

The Commission's final report is due to the governor in December.
(Contact: Erin Sparks)

California Pension Reform Expected to Save Billions
California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has signed into law a pension reform bill, which is expected to save the state $100 billion over the next few decades. Key aspects of the bill include:
  • Rolling back pension benefits for new employees adopted in1999;
  • Ending "pension spiking" by basing employee retirement rates on the highest consecutive three year average salary, instead of to the single highest year as is done under the current system; and
  • Increasing transparency by requiring the California Public Employees' Retirement System (CalPERS) to submit a report to the governor, state treasurer and legislature that describes the discount rate used to report pension liabilities and the investment return it assumes for projecting pension contributions.

(Contact: Erin Sparks)

Rhode Island Adopts Comprehensive Ocean Management Plan
Rhode Island has adopted an Ocean Special Area Management Plan (SAMP) that will allow the state to more quickly develop offshore energy resources, while protecting economic and environmental concerns. The SAMP provides policies and recommendations for the ecosystem-based management of 1,467 square miles of state and federal waters at least 500 feet from the Rhode Island coastline. The state will use the SAMP to determine the location of future offshore wind facilities, taking into account commercial fishing, marine transportation and protection of critical marine habitats.

Rhode Island state officials expect the SAMP to accelerate the leasing of wind facilities in federal waters included in the plan from ten years to as few as two years.
(Contact: Andrew Kambour)

Massachusetts Increases Use of Solar on State Buildings
Massachusetts has signed an agreement with a renewable energy company that will construct and operate solar panels on several state facilities and sell the power to the state at a lower cost than current rates. The company, headquartered in-state, will finance, install and monitor the solar systems on two state college facilities, an airport terminal and a state Housing Authority building, for a total of 560 kilowatts of generation capacity. Under the 20-year power purchase agreement, the state will buy the power generated on-site at a lower rate than it currently pays for electricity. The devices, used to convert the direct current generated by the solar panels into alternating current, will also be made at a facility operating within the state.

The agreement with Ameresco is part of a larger program in the state that will install 4 megawatts of solar capacity on 23 states facilities with the assistance of funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
(Contact: Andrew Kambour)

Tennessee Approved for Electronic Health Record Incentives
TennCare, Tennessee's Medicaid managed care program, has received federal approval to proceed with plans to provide incentive payments to physicians and hospitals who implement electronic health records (EHRs). The aim of the incentive program is to encourage adoption of electronic systems that meet federal standards of "meaningful use" in improving the quality and efficiency of care.

Providers who qualify for the program will receive payments to offset the cost of purchasing, implementing and operating a certified EHR system. TennCare's implementation plan includes a $5.3 million budget of federal and state funds to offset costs and administer the payments.

To be eligible, hospitals must be an Acute Care Center with 10 percent TennCare patient volume or a children's hospital. For providers, 30 percent of patient encounters must be TennCare beneficiaries (20 percent for pediatricians). Additional information about eligibility criteria for the incentive program is available on TennCare's website.
(Contact: Stephanie Jamison)

Kansas Offers Chronic Disease Management Workshops
The Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) is expanding the Kansans Optimizing Health Program, which provides free workshops held across the state for patients with chronic diseases and conditions. The program is designed to be a low-cost way to promote health self-management and reduce health care costs.

The workshops are typically held once a week over the course of six weeks, and address a range of chronic diseases such as arthritis, diabetes, heart disease and lung disease. Workshop leaders help participants manage medications, develop exercise and nutrition plans and make informed treatment decisions. The KDHE has also launched a new website to help people locate upcoming workshops and become program leaders.
(Contact: Jason Hsieh)

Connecticut Releases Blueprint for Closing the Achievement Gap
The Connecticut Commission on Educational Achievement released a blueprint for a 10-year plan to improve the state's public school system and close the achievement gap. The Commission offered 65 recommendations, including: make changes to the state's educational funding formula; use student achievement as a factor in teacher evaluation and tenure decision; and requite full-day kindergarten in low-performing school districts.

The report's recommendations fall into six categories:

  • Accountability;
  • High expectations:
  • Leadership:
  • Excellent teaching;
  • Intelligent investments; and
  • Turnaround schools.

The Commission, established by the governor via executive order earlier this year, is nonpartisan, privately-funded and largely composed of business leaders.
(Contact: Amanda Szekely)

Georgia Task Force Provides Recommendations to Increase College Retention and Graduation
Georgia's Graduation Rate Task Force has offered recommendations to increase college retention and graduation rates at the 35 institutions in the University System of Georgia (USG). Based on meetings with all USG institution presidents, Task Force members have reported that three key factors – leadership, student engagement and appropriate use of existing resources – are most closely associated with improvements in retention and graduation.

The task force recommends that USG:

  • Develop annual assessment tools to review institutional progress toward improvement in retention and graduation performance;
  • Establish ties between performance rate improvement and resource allocation; and
  • Identify performance measures to account for students that begin their degrees at USG institutions and complete their degrees at colleges outside of USG.

The Task Force is comprised of several regents, senior USG staff members, USG presidents and others.
(Contact: Amanda Szekely)

Maryland Prisons to Experiment with Video Conferencing
The Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services is planning to install a teleconferencing system that will allow inmates to make court appearances and doctors' visits without leaving the prison. The project is part of a broader effort to trim costs from the transportation budget, and it will also enhance public safety by reducing the number of inmates who are driven from prisons to off-site locations.

The state is considering whether to use the teleconferencing system in the future to allow family members to visit with inmates in the cases where loved ones can't afford the cost, or are not able, to make a long trip to a state penitentiary.
(Contact: Carmen Ferro)

California Unveils Online Inmate Locator
The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation has launched an online database that will help the public to locate inmates housed in state penitentiaries. The database was created to allow inmates to stay connected with family members in hopes that familial contact will motivate rehabilitation.

The Inmate Locator provides information on an inmate's age, admission date, the facility in which they are incarcerated and driving directions to the facility. The database is updated weekly and does not include release dates for the prisoners.
(Contact: David Henry)

Other News
State Policy Actions Have Reduced Teen Driving Fatalities
The number of fatal crashes involving 16- and 17-year-old drivers dropped by more than one third between 2004 and 2008, largely due to state driver's licensing laws, according to a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The report credits graduated driver's licensing programs (GDLs), which help young drivers gain driving practice and skill under low-risk conditions, with helping curb deadly crashes involving teens. GDLs limit teen driving under certain conditions, such as at night and while transporting other teen passengers.

Despite the progress, car crashes remain one of the leading causes of death for teenagers between the ages of 16 and 17. To further reduce fatal crashes involving young drivers, states should periodically reexamine and update GDL programs and enforce:

  • Laws on minimum drinking age;
  • State blood alcohol concentration laws; and
  • State seat belt use laws.

An earlier evaluation of GDLs found that these systems can reduce crash risk by up to 40 percent among newly licensed drivers. The decline in fatal crashes involving teen drivers is part of a long-term trend: since 1996, the frequency of fatal crashes involving teens has decreased by 50 percent.
(Contact: Andrew Kambour)

Coordinated Efforts Improve Quality, Attendance in Afterschool Programs
A new study finds that coordinating the work of citywide stakeholders, including city government, local school districts and non-profits, holds the promise of increasing the quality and participation in afterschool programs.

The report, by the RAND Corporation and Wallace Foundation, finds that the most successful efforts received strong support from mayors and relied on rich data systems to assess and drive program improvement. Increased attendance in quality afterschool programs can support school attendance, improve attitudes to learning and help students apply what they learn in the classroom. Researchers examined coordinating efforts put in place by five cities in promoting system-building across afterschool programs for the report. The cities are Boston, Chicago, New York, Providence, and Washington D.C.
(Contact: Amanda Szekely)

Report Examines Financing for Medicaid Home Based Care
A new report from the National Academy for State Health Policy (NASHP) highlights opportunities within provisions of the federal health reform legislation that will allow states to rely more on home- and community-based supports (HCBS), rather than on institutions for long-term support services.

The report outlines requirements and criteria that states will need to examine before determining which of the options are feasible to implement. The legislation allows states to obtain limited time incentives and grants, through a combination of Medicaid matching payments and new state plan options.
(Contact: Jason Hsieh)

Industry Not Equipped for Cyber Attacks, Survey Finds
A recent survey of industry professionals in the United States found that many businesses, including the government, are not equipped to protect themselves from cyber attacks. Specifically, the survey found that more than 40 percent of industry professionals do not fully understand how to improve their own security, indicating that industries should provide awareness and education to broadly help individuals to detect and mitigate threats. Furthermore, while many respondents believe the responsibility of protection against cyber attacks falls to their service provider, they also believe that an internal multi-tiered system based on vulnerability analysis and risk assessment of the data will emerge as a more desirable solution.

The survey reports that one way to increase protection from cyber attacks is to form "cyber security ecosystems," which enable vendors to interoperate with each other in areas such as forensics, visualization, data mining and storage.
(Contact: Carmen Ferro)

Teenage Birth Rates Vary Across States
A new report published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers state-by-state data on teenage birth rates. Preliminary data for 2008, the most current information available, suggests that overall childbearing by teenagers continues to decline nationwide; however, significant disparities among states exist.

Teenage birth rates vary from less than 25 births per 1,000 teenagers (15- to 19-years-old) in some states to more than 60 per 1,000 teens in others. Overall, the lowest teenage birth rates were found in the upper Midwest and Northeast areas of the U.S., while the highest rates were found in the South. Racial and Hispanic origin composition in each state was found to contribute to the overall teenage birth rate.
(Contact: Linda Hoffman)

What's New
NGA Center Report Provides Guidance on Building High-Quality Early Childhood Systems
To aid governors and states as they work to create comprehensive, high-quality early childhood systems that adequately prepare children age birth to five for success in school and later life, the NGA Center released new report, Building Ready States: A Governor's Guide to Supporting a Comprehensive, High-Quality Early Childhood State Systems.

The report offers six policy strategies governors can use to build and nurture a comprehensive, high-quality early childhood system including:

  • Coordinate early childhood governance through a state early childhood advisory council (ECAC);
  • Build an integrated professional development system;
  • Implement a quality rating and improvement system (QRIS);
  • Develop a longitudinal and coordinated early childhood data system;
  • Align comprehensive early learning guidelines and standards for children from birth to age 8 with K–3 content standards; and
  • Integrate federal, state and private funding sources.
(Contact: Rachel Demma)

NGA Center Brief Shows Governors and States Redesigning, Streamlining Government
The NGA Center has released an Issue Brief, State Government Redesign Efforts 2009 and 2010, outlining state actions to streamline and downsize government to meet the new economic reality facing states. The redesign efforts highlighted in the brief fall into seven broad categories: corrections; K-12 education; higher education; employee costs; shared services and agency consolidation; privatization and asset sales; and tax expenditures.

For more information on the fiscal conditions of states and state redesign efforts, visit the NGA State Fiscal Information page or the NGA Redesigning State Government page. An update to the fiscal information will be released in December.
(Contact: Lauren Stewart)