Oregon Bill Would Designate Governor as School Superintendent
Oregon's Senate has passed a bill that would designate the governor as the education superintendent for the state. The bill is intended to elevate the prominence of the superintendent position and to make the governor accountable for success of the education system. The governor would be required to name a deputy superintendent with at least five years of experience in education, who would run the education department and oversee the public school system. If the senate bill becomes law, the current superintendent would be allowed to complete her term.
(Contact: Amanda Szekely)
Hawaii Offers Two-Track High School Diploma
The Hawaii Board of Education approved a plan for a new two-track high school diploma, with both options requiring more rigorous coursework in math and science. Beginning with the class of 2018, students will be able to earn a "college and career ready" diploma if they complete two lab sciences and Algebra II, as well as a senior project. Students will also have the option of earning a regular diploma, requiring coursework in both Algebra I and biology. Prior to this new policy, Hawaii students needed to earn math and science credits to earn a diploma but the state did not specify which courses students should take.
Tennessee Career Centers Go Mobile
Tennessee's Department of Labor and Workforce Development outfitted three vehicles to travel the state and bring job matching and training services to the unemployed in rural areas. The mobile offices were customized with 10 computer workstations with Internet access, printers, fax machines and additional flat screen TVs with SMART Board overlays to facilitate classroom instruction. Each vehicle was built for $188,000, which Tennessee provided using a $4.6 million grant through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
Each vehicle will be staffed with three employees from the Department of Labor and Workforce Development. Trained in career counseling and unemployment benefits, they will be readily available to conduct workshops in résumé preparation, job search techniques and interviewing skills. The department's adult education division will also use the vans to administer the official GED practice test and offer GED Fast Track classes.
(Contact: Garrett Groves)
New Jersey Data System Coordinates Agencies, Services
New Jersey will begin a new data matching initiative to match older adults with the services they are eligible to receive. Specifically, the system will use enrollment data in the state's Pharmaceutical Assistance for the Aged and Disabled program to determine if they are also eligible to receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits and others, such as the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP).
The initiative includes a strong focus on outreach to eligible seniors. Eligible seniors will begin receiving notifications from their local human service agency informing them of their eligibility for food assistance benefits and will also work to arrange a phone or in-person interview as part of the SNAP application process. The data-match is being conducted through a partnership among the New Jersey Department of Human Services, Department of Health and Senior Services, and the Office of Information Technology.
(Contact: Linda Hoffman)
Arizona Governor Proposes Cost-Saving Measures for Medicaid
Arizona Governor Jan Brewer recently proposed policy changes to the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS) managed care model. The changes are intended to contain costs over the long term while preserving existing coverage to the extent possible. Additionally, the changes would, if enacted, allow the state to restore optional transplant services that were eliminated as part of the state's fiscal 2011 budget. Among the provisions included in the proposal are:
- The termination of an existing program for childless adults and an enrollment freeze for parents with incomes between 75 percent and 100 percent of the federal poverty level, maintaining coverage for those already enrolled;
- A six-month redetermination process for childless adults and parents;
- Personal responsibility and wellness incentives, such as mandatory co-payments and "no-show" penalties for missed appointments;
- A commitment to seek reimbursement for state Medicaid payments that should have been paid by Medicare;
- Benefit changes, such as elimination of non-emergency transportation for non-disabled adults living in urban areas and limits on inpatient hospital stays, office visits and provider reimbursement reductions.
(Contact: Caryn Marks)
Kentucky RFP Seeks Outcome-Driven Medicaid Managed Care
The Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services' released a Medicaid Managed Care request for proposal (RFP) calling for proposals from qualified managed care organizations (MCOs), with an emphasis on improving outcomes, care coordination and cost savings for the state's Medicaid program.
Specifically, the RFP requests improving health care outcomes particularly in the following areas: diabetes; coronary artery disease; colon cancer; cervical cancer; behavioral health; prenatal care; and oral health. The RFP also places a high priority on opportunities to increase patient responsibility by reducing inappropriate use and overuse of services, improving care coordination (especially for chronic disease patients), creating incentives to promote wellness and healthier lifestyles and lowering the overall cost of health care.
(Contact: Caryn Marks)
Connecticut Offers Grants for Promising Clean Energy Companies
The Connecticut Clean Energy Fund (CCEF) has launched a new initiative to fund the design and testing of clean energy technologies being developed in the state. The new initiative, known as the Alpha Program, will accept applications from Connecticut companies involved in the early state development of clean energy technology for up to $200,000 in funding per project. The program divides available funding into two phases: Phase 1 will offers grants of up to $50,000 for engineering design and development, while Phase 2 offers loans of up to $150,000 for prototype construction and testing. Applications will be reviewed twice per year and recipients will be selected through a competitive process. Projects eligible for funding include full systems, components or manufacturing innovations in areas such as renewable energy, combined heat and power, energy efficiency, energy management, grid infrastructure and fuel cell technologies.
The Alpha Program will serve as a complement to the Operational Demonstration Program, which finances the testing and installation of technologies that are close to commercialization. The CCEF was created by the state in 2000 to develop, invest in and promote clean energy sources in the state and is funded by a surcharge on the utility bills of Connecticut residents.
(Contact: Andrew Kambour)
Minnesota Develops Energy Targets for State Government
Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton has signed three executive orders to help guide state government towards meeting energy efficiency and sustainability goals. The first of the executive orders mandates that state agencies develop and implement energy efficiency strategies to help the state achieve a 20 percent reduction in building energy use. Agencies are required to enter yearly energy use into a benchmarking system to track and verify the reductions in the state's energy use. State agencies are then expected to utilize existing programs or services, such as energy savings performance contracts, to make cost-effective improvements to their buildings. The executive order also requires state agencies to offer technical assistance to local governments and school districts for meeting similar energy efficiency goals. The state believes that improving the energy efficiency of state buildings will result in millions of dollars in savings and create up to 3,000 jobs.
The second executive order requires each state agency to develop an annual sustainability plan that outlines strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, decrease the amount of waste going to landfills and promote the purchase of environmentally sustainable products. The third executive order renames the state's Office of Energy Security to the Division of Energy Resources to better reflect its broader mission of energy and transmission planning, promoting clean energy and administering energy programs for low-income residents.
(Contact: Andrew Kambour)
Delaware Bill Reforms Drug Laws
Delaware has passed legislation revamping the state's drug laws by reducing additional charges placed on minor drug users while increasing penalties for those who deal drugs. The bill aims to increase penalties for offenders committing more serious drug crimes while giving nonviolent addicts the opportunity to get treatment, maintain employment and become productive members of society. The law would repeal large sections of Delaware's drug charges and sentencing laws and replace them with three specific offenses:
- Simple possession of a controlled substance;
- Aggravated possession, based on large amounts that would indicate drug dealing but where drug dealing need not be proved; or
- Drug dealing.
For each of these crimes, judges will have greater discretion to consider aggravating factors—such as possession of drugs near a park or resisting arrest—in determining the severity of the sentence they hand down. The bill is the product of bipartisan, interbranch cooperation over a two-year period to reform state drugs laws that unevenly punished drug users and failed to effectively address the production and distribution of drugs. The governor is expected to sign the bill if it reaches his desk.
(Contact: Jeff McLeod)
Illinois Looks to Improve Foreclosure Processes
The Illinois Supreme Court has named a special committee to investigate mortgage foreclosures in the state. The committee is being asked to come up with a structure to ensure fair and efficient foreclosure proceedings and to recommend to the court mortgage foreclosure rules to be implemented statewide. Specifically, the committee is being asked to:
- Examine the inventory procedures currently in use in Illinois jurisdictions, including Supreme Court rules and local court rules that affect foreclosure proceedings;
- Analyze procedures adopted in other states in response to the unprecedented number of foreclosure filings nationwide; and
- Review legislative proposals pending in the Illinois General Assembly that may impact the mortgage foreclosure scheme.
The Committee consists of 14 members with experience in dealing with foreclosure, including judges, bankers, lawyers, a law professor and an official from the Illinois Attorney General's office.
(Contact: Lauren Stewart)
Third Grade Reading Skills Influence High School Graduation
A new national study published by the Annie E. Casey Foundation finds that students who fail to master reading by the end of third grade are four times more likely to drop out of school than proficient third-grade readers. The combined effect of reading poorly and living in poverty puts children in greater jeopardy of not graduating from high school. Nearly one-third of children in the study who were poor for at least one year and did not read proficiently by the end of the third grade dropped out of school, which is six times the dropout rate for all proficient readers. The author suggests a number of policy strategies to promote proficient third-grade reading, including:
- Investments in high-quality early education, particularly for students in low-income families;
- An integrated pre-k – third-grade approach to education that provides a common structure and a coherent set of academic and social goals from early learning settings through third grade; and
- Efforts to reduce chronic school absenteeism and to expand students' summer learning opportunities.
(Contact: Amanda Szekely)
Young Educated Adults Gravitate to Urban Downtowns
A new report released by Impresa and CEOs for Cities finds that college-educated young adults are 94 percent more likely than their less educated counterparts to live in close-in urban neighborhoods. Since 2000, the majority of the nation's 51 largest cities have seen, on average, a 26 percent increase in the number of young, college-educated adults living within three miles of the urban center. In the metropolitan areas of Boston, Chicago, New York, San Francisco and Washington, two-thirds of young adults who live in urban centers have at least a four-year degree. Even metropolitan areas that are experiencing a population decline, such as Detroit and Cleveland, still saw a significant increase in the number of young, college-educated adults relocating to their urban centers.
(Contact: Erin Sparks)
Raising Medicare Age of Eligibility Would Increase Costs to States
The Kaiser Family Foundation released a study that projects the potential impacts of raising Medicare's age of eligibility, which has been suggested by some recent deficit reduction plans. The report finds that raising Medicare's eligibility age from 65 to 67 in 2014 would generate an estimated $7.6 billion in net savings to the federal government. However, it would also result in an estimated net increase of $5.6 billion in out-of-pocket costs for 65- and 66-year olds, and $4.5 billion in employer retiree health care costs. Furthermore, costs to states would increase by an estimated $0.7 billion overall due to higher state Medicaid costs associated with 65- and 66-year olds who would otherwise be eligible for both Medicaid and Medicare, as well as from higher costs associated with higher Medicare premiums for remaining dual eligible beneficiaries for whom Medicaid pays the Medicare premiums. However, those higher costs are offset in part by some affected beneficiaries qualifying for full federal funding under the Medicaid expansion included in the Affordable Care Act.
Other key findings include:
- Premiums for people younger than 65 purchasing coverage through health reform's insurance exchanges would rise by an estimated 3 percent as a result of adding 65- and 66-year olds to the exchanges; and
- Medicare Part B premiums would rise by an estimated 3 percent, as the youngest seniors are removed from the Medicare risk pool, resulting in higher per-beneficiary costs for those remaining on Medicare.
(Contact: Brad Finnegan)
Report Assesses Costs and Benefits of Smart Grid
A new study from the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) estimates the full costs and benefits of modernizing the U.S. electricity system by deploying technologies commonly known as the smart grid. According to the study, the necessary investment for a fully deployed smart grid ranges between $338 billion and $476 billion, while the potential benefits range from $1.3 trillion to $2 trillion. The estimate of the potential cost includes the expansion and maintenance of existing grid infrastructure and the deployment of new grid technologies, including communications and security components.
Potential benefits include:
- Increased grid reliability;
- Enhanced cyber security and monitoring;
- Improved grid efficiency and demand management;
- Environmental benefits through the integration of renewable energy and electric vehicles; and
- Potential lower costs for customers through improved information and pricing mechanisms.
The report analyzed projected costs and benefits over 20 years, looking both at investments needed to maintain the current electric distribution system to meet projected growth and investments needed to develop and deploy newer smart grid technologies that would improve the functionality of the grid. The report's authors found that smart grid deployment will require targeted policy decisions, accelerated investment in infrastructure and an increased commitment to research and development.
(Contact: Andrew Kambour)
Forecasters Predict Above-Average Hurricane Season for 2011
Colorado State University (CSU) forecasters are predicting an above-average 2011 Atlantic hurricane season. CSU has forecasted 16 named storms to develop between June 1 and November 30, with nine of storms expected to turn into hurricanes and five developing into major hurricanes. The hurricane team's forecasts are based on global oceanic and atmospheric conditions, such as the El Nino effect, sea surface temperatures, sea level pressures and a new scheme that relies upon 29 years of historical data. The CSU team provided U.S. landfall probabilities for 11 regions and 205 individual counties along the U.S. coastline from Texas to Maine.
(Contact: Carmen Ferro)
NGA Center Webinar: Striving Readers Comprehensive Literacy Grants
The NGA Center is holding a webinar for governors' staff to learn more about the U.S. Department of Education's Striving Readers Comprehensive Literacy grants. The webinar is scheduled for Monday, April 18, 2011, at 1:00 p.m. EST. This is the rescheduled webinar that was originally scheduled for Monday, April 11, 2011.
As part of the 2010 federal budget, the U.S. Department of Education awarded states funds to create comprehensive, K-12 literacy plans. In 2011, the department is committed to award a limited number of states additional funding to support implementation of these plans. This webinar will provide governors' advisors with a chance to discuss the grants with representatives from the U.S. Department of Education and hear from national experts on research-based strategies for successfully implementing a comprehensive literacy plan. Please direct RSVPs to Stephanie Shipton at202-624-7857 by Friday, April 15, 2011.
(Contact: Stephanie Shipton)
Webinar: Updating State Energy Building Codes
The NGA Center will host an Energy Learning Network webinar for governors' energy advisors to learn more about the U.S. Department of Energy's efforts to help states adopt and implement building energy codes. This will include an introduction to a policy makers’ guide to residential and commercial energy codes as well as a discussion of state best practices and modeling software tools available to states. The webinar is scheduled for Tuesday, April 26, 2011, at 2:00 – 3:30 p.m. EST. To RSVP and obtain call-in/web sign-in information, please contact: Amanda Hoey at 202-624-8572.
(Contact: Amanda Hoey)
NGA Center Webinar: Public Safety during a Budget Crisis
The NGA Center will host a webcast, Public Safety during a Budget Crisis —Efforts in Cross-Governmental Sentencing and Corrections Reform, on ways states can maintain—or improve—public safety with fewer resources through cross-governmental sentencing and corrections reform on April 27, 2011, from 1:00 – 3:30 p.m. EST. 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.
Webinar: Maximizing Customer Experience and Benefits from the Smart Grid
The NGA Center will host a Smart Grid Learning Network webinar to explore technical and state policy issues that can help foster improved public interaction with a “smart” electric grid. The call will focus on how demand response programs can affect end-use consumption, how to enhance the customer experience and addressing data privacy issues. The call will also include a discussion of best practices around specific end-user technologies and the role they can play in shaping public perception of the smart grid. The webinar is scheduled for Tuesday, April 28, 2011, at 2:00 – 3:30 p.m. EST. To RSVP and obtain call-in/web sign-in information, please contact: Amanda Hoey at 202-624-8572.
(Contact: Amanda Hoey)
NGA Center Web Conference: State Efforts to Reduce Childhood Hunger
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.
The NGA Center will host a web conference examining how states can address childhood hunger on April 29, 2011, from 2:00 p.m.-3:00 p.m. ET. The web conference will provide an opportunity to learn about food insecurity among children, the effects of hunger on child outcomes and how governors are at the forefront of efforts to reduce hunger among kids. Discussions will focus on how states are using data, critical partnerships, targeted outreach and leadership to address and reduce childhood hunger. To register for the event, please contact Karen Krause at 202-624-7835.
(Contact: Linda Hoffman)