Virginia Seeks Sponsorships for Rest Areas
Virginia is launching a new sponsorship program for the commonwealth's rest areas. The program, Sponsorship, Advertising, and Vending Enhancement (SAVE), is soliciting private companies to establish paid sponsorships or advertising at one or more of 42 rest areas and welcome centers around the commonwealth.
The goal of the program is to improve existing rest areas and services by contracting with companies that specialize in marketing, media and/or vending services. The state previously closed 19 rest areas in July 2009 due to budget constraints and has been seeking innovative ways to offset the cost of maintaining and operating rest areas since reopening them in early 2010.
(Contact: Andrew Kambour)
South Dakota Moves to Enhance Ethanol Distribution
South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard has signed a bill that will assist ethanol vendors and distributors in paying for equipment necessary to sell the fuel through new grant opportunities. Specifically, the bill establishes an Ethanol Investment Infrastructure Fund that will distribute grants to eligible retail fuel vendors for the purchase or installation of ethanol blender pumps, gasoline pumps that can dispense fuel of up to 85 percent ethanol and any associated infrastructure. Money from the fund will also be used to promote the purchase of flex fuel vehicles and to encourage the use of ethanol in the state.
The state is capitalizing the fund with money initially set aside for the ethanol production incentive payment program, which paid eligible ethanol producers 20 cents per gallon of ethanol produced within the state. One million dollars will be transferred in fiscal years 2012 and 2013, with $500,000 to be transferred in each following fiscal year, up to 2016. Any balance remaining in the Ethanol Investment Infrastructure Fund at the end of each fiscal year will be automatically transferred to the state highway fund.
(Contact: Andrew Kambour)
Utah Continues Funding for Research, Clusters
Utah lawmakers recently approved $27.5 million in funding for the Utah Science Technology and Research Initiative, the state's primary initiative to grow a knowledge-based economy. The funding provides research grants, which are then leveraged to boost out-of-state, private and angel funding for university research.
Lawmakers also approved funding to strengthen industry clusters within the state. The budget includes funding to expand the Utah Cluster Acceleration Partnership, which initiates and formalizes partnerships between institutions of higher education and industry clusters within the state. The budget also includes a one-time $1.3 million tax credit for the life sciences industry.
(Contact: Erin Sparks)
North Carolina Governor Presents Consolidation Plan
North Carolina Governor Bev Perdue signed an executive order presenting her plan to consolidate state services, effectively reducing the total number of agencies from 13 to 8. The governor's proposal would combine three state entities currently responsible for public safety into one, create a new cabinet-level agency to merge the Department of Commerce with the Employment Security Commission and centralize internal government operations by joining the State Personnel and Information Technology Services with the Department of Management and Administration.
The executive order would become law at the end of the 2012 legislative session if the legislature does not act in the interim, and is expected to provide savings in the hundreds of millions of dollars over the next several years if enacted as proposed.
(Contact: Lauren Stewart)
Massachusetts Program Helps 2-year Students Transfer to University
Massachusetts is launching the Community College Connection program in partnership with the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Under this program, certain community college graduates from across the state will be eligible to receive assistance in transferring to University of Massachusetts Amherst to pursue a four-year degree, including financial benefits (including a tuition discount) and priority services designed to make it easier to complete a bachelor's degree. Transfer students will receive priority review of financial aid packages before other transfer students and priority advising and course registration before all other new students.
The UMass Amherst Community College Connection (UMCCC) will begin in fall 2011. Eligible community college graduates must pursue admission through the existing Joint Admissions or MassTransfer programs and complete their associate's degree with a cumulative grade point average of 2.5 or higher. These students are guaranteed general admission to UMass Amherst, with applications processed before those of other transfer students, and are also eligible for the following benefits:
- A 100 percent reduction of in-state tuition ($1,714) for students who graduate from a community college with a GPA of 3.0 or higher and meet other selected requirements;
- Special scholarships, including funds to purchase books;
- Housing advantages: UMass will hold 50 spots in on-campus housing. Beyond this, students will have priority over all other transfer students in their request for on-campus housing; and
- Special advising by college deans during the first year at UMass Amherst.
Currently, more than 500 community college graduates transfer to UMass Amherst each fall. Nine out of 10 of these students continue into their second year, and 7 out of 10 graduate with a UMass Amherst bachelor's degree.
(Contact: Garrett Groves)
Florida Enacts Merit Pay for Teachers, Alters Tenure
Florida Governor Rick Scott signed into law the Student Success Act, which ends tenure for new hires and provides merit pay to Florida's public educators based on student achievement. Now, newly hired teachers will work on annual contracts rather than receiving tenure after three years of satisfactory evaluations. Furthermore, teachers will be evaluated using a scale of four levels for performance: highly effective, effective, needs improvement and unsatisfactory. The new system will replace a two-tier system, under which virtually all educators currently earn a satisfactory evaluation.
(Contact: Amanda Szekely)
Minnesota Governor Begins Competitive Bidding for State Health Plans
Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton signed an executive order requiring increased competition and transparency for state public health plans. Included in the mandates are regular audits of health plans and a competitive bidding process for providers of state health care. The governor called upon the state's public health plans to return their excess earnings and reserves to the state, as health care has become one of the major cost-drivers in the state's budget.
Governor Dayton's reforms also include a statewide Request for Proposal (RFP) process and a Request for Information (RFI) process. The RFP process invites providers to develop new ways to cover people, focused on outcomes rather than procedures, and will reward providers that work directly with individuals to improve their health. The RFI indicates the development of efficient and effective health care delivery by connecting patients directly with hospitals, clinics and community health providers and holding providers accountable for quality of care.
(Contact: Brad Finnegan)
Ohio Budget Includes New Coordination for Disabled Children
Ohio Governor John Kasich released his executive budget, which included plans to improve care coordination for disabled children covered by Medicaid through the development of Pediatric Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs). The ACO model aims to improve health outcomes and reduce costs through greater accountability and integration between providers and payers. The governor's proposal will incentivize plans to develop ACOs through a three-step approach:
- Disabled children who do not reside in an institution or receive home- and community-based waiver services will be enrolled in Medicaid-managed care beginning July 1, 2012;
- Managed care plans will be encouraged to form new contract relationships with developing ACOs where the ACO assumes responsibility for care coordination and a portion of the risk for children enrolled in the ACO; and
- ACO sites will decide whether or not to take on the full risk and responsibilities of a free-standing ACO.
(Contact: Jason Hsieh)
Iowa Considering Parole Bill for Juvenile Offenders
The Iowa House of Representatives recently passed House File 607, which guarantees parole eligibility for juveniles convicted of Class-A felonies with the exception of murder. Previously, such sentences would require 30 to 45 years in prison without parole. In order to be eligible for parole, the juvenile offender must have:
- Been under the age of 18 at the time the offense was committed;
- Not have been convicted of murder in the first degree; or
- Not have been convicted of murder in the second degree plus kidnapping and/or sexual abuse.
The plan is expected to enable the state to end borrowing money to pay for transportation projects by 2016, which would eliminate the need to raise gasoline taxes to meet the state's transportation maintenance backlog and keep the state from spending additional state resources on debt service. Rhode Island currently pays $43.7 million per year in debt service on transportation projects, a number that is expected to rise to $70 million per year in the next 10 years.
(Contact: Andrew Kambour)
Report Explores Alternative to Fuel Taxes
A new report from the Congressional Budget Office examines an alternative method for funding highway construction and maintenance, specifically comparing a vehicle miles traveled (VMT) tax with current fuel taxes. The report discusses the equity, efficiency and privacy implications of using a VMT tax to ensure that revenues used for roads are collected based on usage.
The report concludes that VMT taxes would be preferable from both an equity and efficiency perspective, although they would have higher collection costs, raise new privacy concerns and disincentivize increased vehicle fuel efficiency. The report also discusses options for structuring a VMT tax depending on the desired goals, such as decreasing pavement damage, maximizing revenue, addressing congestion issues or incentivizing efficient use of highways. It also provides a brief overview of pilot programs in Portland, Oregon; Seattle, Washington; and Atlanta, Georgia.
(Contact: Andrew Kambour)
The Economic Benefits of Improving High School Graduation Rates
The Alliance for Excellent Education has released new data demonstrating the potential economic benefits that states could see by improving high school graduation rates. Nationwide, the authors show that cutting the number of dropouts in half in one year would lead to:
- $7.6 billion in increased earnings;
- $5.6 billion in increased spending and $2 billion in increased investments;
- 54,000 new jobs; and
- $713 million in increased tax revenue.
The alliance has posted individual state profiles online, which include data on economic benefits specific to each state.
(Contact: Amanda Szekely)
Report Examines the Implications of Excluding Elderly from Clinical Trials
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Department of Veterans Affairs released a study revealing that many of the clinical trials conducted in the U.S. have been omitting the elderly population, leaving doctors without the confidence necessary to know that clinical trial results apply to their older patients. The study found that one-fifth of clinical trials excluded patients above a specified age and almost half of the remaining studies used criteria likely to disproportionately exclude the elderly population.
Excluding seniors from clinical trials may hamper cost containment efforts for seniors, a group which accounts for 34 percent of personal health care expenditures. To mitigate this challenge, the study recommends that:
- Researchers report clinical trial data by age and identify differences in safety or effectiveness associated with age; and
- Trials should include patients with multiple conditions to ensure that outcomes have greater relevance to older individuals.
(Contact: Brad Finnegan)
State SNAP Eligibility and Participation Rates Fell between 2006 and 2008
Mathematica Policy Research and the Department of Agriculture released a new report analyzing state eligibility and participation rates for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) among all eligible people and for the working poor by state for fiscal year 2008 to assess recent efforts and improve performance of the program. The findings show that SNAP, formerly known as the Food Stamp Program, experienced decreased nationwide participation rates on average between 2006 and 2008, despite the onset of the economic downturn.
Participation rates varied widely among states, however. As many as 20 states had significantly higher participation rates than the national average in 2008, while 19 states had rates that were significantly lower. The report provides data by state and by region.
(Contact: Linda Hoffman)
NYU Releases New Report on Radicalization
The New York University School of Law has released a report titled "Rethinking Radicalization," which proposes that radicalization does not a have a specific path to terrorism or a fixed trajectory with identifiable markers, as is commonly believed. Law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, have developed theories such as the "religious conveyer belt" theory that describes the radicalization process of American Muslims. According to the report, the assumed link between religion and terrorism encourages intrusion into mosques, traditionally considered off-limits to the government. The report states that effective measures to combat radicalization can be achieved by analyzing what is known about radicalization and the government's response to it.
The report analyzes and offers recommendations on how the U.S. can refine its approach to radicalization, including:
- Repudiating the unfounded theory of radicalization;
- Establishing a mechanism to evaluate the effectiveness of anti-radicalization efforts;
- Increasing the transparency of law enforcement policies; and
- Reconfiguring its outreach activities to Muslim communities.
(Contact: Alisha Powell)
NGA Center Governors' Energy Advisors Policy Institute
The NGA Center is inviting states to participate in a Governors' Energy Advisors Policy Institute April 5-6, 2011, and an optional half-day Energy Technology 101 workshop on April 4, 2011. Both events will take place in Arlington, Virginia.
The Policy Institute is exclusively for senior energy advisors and/or policy directors and will focus on concrete strategies for how to advance energy solutions that reduce costs, promote economic development and address environmental goals. For any questions about the policy institute, please contact Greg Dierkers at (202) 624-7789.
(Contact: Greg Dierkers)
NGA Center Webinar: Public Safety during a Budget Crisis—Efforts in Cross-Governmental Sentencing and Corrections Reform
The NGA Center will host a webcast on April 27, 2011, from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. EST addressing ways that states can maintain—or improve—public safety with fewer resources through cross-governmental sentencing and corrections reform. The webcast will provide an overview and discussion of ways the executive, legislative and judicial branches can work together to maximize offender outcomes and public safety with limited state resources. A panel of nationally recognized experts will address issues such as:
- What challenges each branch of state government face and what impact the state budget crisis has on the criminal justice system;
- What evidence-based sentencing and corrections practices are proven to control crime and reduce costs;
- How cost-benefit analysis can help state policymakers evaluate the impact of a policy or program; and
- How state policymakers can educate the public and build their support for evidence-based corrections reform.
If you have any questions, please contact Jeff McLeod at 202-624-5311.
(Contact: Jeff McLeod)
NGA Center Offers Technical Assistance on Charter Schools
The NGA Center and Center for School Change (CSC) are offering states tailored technical assistance on topics related to state charter public school policies. There are also limited financial resources available from CSC to support meeting expenses related to technical assistance requests. The T.A. must be requested by a governor's office via the attached form and completed by August 31, 2011. Applications for assistance will be accepted on a rolling basis.
Interested states should contact Stephanie Shipton at 202.624.7857 prior to submitting an application. We look forward to working with you on this important topic.
(Contact: Stephanie Shipton)