California Creates Clean Energy Program for High School Students
California Governor Jerry Brown has signed a law expanding the state's partnership academies program to include job training in the clean energy sector. The existing partnership academies program awards grants to school districts to plan, establish and maintain partnerships with local businesses to provide job training opportunities for high school students. Under the new law, up to $8 million is available from the state Renewable Resource Trust Fund for partnership academy programs that focus on employment in clean technology, renewable energy, resource conservation or pollution reduction. Potential employment training opportunities include:
- Energy audits, building energy efficiency retrofits or weatherization;
- Manufacturing, assembly or installation of technologies that improve energy or water efficiency;
- Research, manufacturing, installation and maintenance of renewable energy components or facilities, power storage, or electric transmission infrastructure; and
- Natural resource conservation and restoration.
The California Energy Commission, in conjunction with the superintendent of public instruction, will establish guidelines to ensure that grant recipients develop programs that match state energy policies and provide skills to students that meet the needs of the relevant clean energy industries.
(Contact: Andrew Kambour)
New Hampshire Redoubles Effort to Reduce State Energy Use
New Hampshire Governor John Lynch has signed an executive order directing state agencies to further reduce fossil fuel usage after successfully meeting the requirements of a previous executive order. The initial order, issued by Gov. Lynch in 2005, called for a 10 percent reduction in state government energy use. A recent assessment of state energy use found that the state has reduced its energy use by 16 percent since 2005, saving the state an estimated $3 million in energy costs. The new order requires state government to reduce energy use to 25 percent below 2005 levels by 2025.
Under the new order, state agencies are directed to continue improved management of state buildings and fleet vehicles, including the purchase of fuel efficient or alternative fuel vehicles when possible. The order also requires that cost-effective energy efficiency be taken into account when renovating or constructing state buildings or purchasing new equipment. Each state agency will work with the state energy manager to develop an energy conservation plan and make sure that its practices follow state laws around energy conservation and cost savings. Agencies are also required to utilize the state's Energy Information System to track and benchmark building energy use. The aim of the state's "lead by example" efforts is to help reduce costs, increase energy independence and protect the environment and public health. With more than 500 buildings and a state fleet of 2,500 vehicles, the state government is the largest single energy consumer in the state.
(Contact: Andrew Kambour)
Indiana Education Reforms Include New Teacher Evaluations
Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels' education reform agenda gained momentum this week, with several measures receiving legislative approval, including changes in teacher collective bargaining, the usage of teacher merit pay and the creation of a school voucher program.
- The governor signed into law a measure that will bar teacher unions from having input on education policies, such as class size, hiring and firing and layoff policies. Under the new law, contracts between teacher unions and their school corporations would only cover teacher wages and benefits.
- The state legislature has approved a plan to evaluate teachers on a four-point scale, based significantly on student achievement. Teachers rated in the bottom two tiers would not receive pay raises, with those funds going to higher raises for those rated in the top two tiers.
- The state legislature also approved a voucher program, allowing students in low and middle-income families to use vouchers to pay for private schools. The program is open to 7,500 students next year, 15,000 students in the second year, and has no cap in the years that follow.
(Contact: Amanda Szekely)
Michigan Proposes Integrated Education System
Michigan Governor Rick Snyder is proposing to transform the education departments into a single, integrated system spanning from early childhood education through the postsecondary education. Details of the governor's proposal include:
- Moving to a performance-based system of schools under which a portion of state school aid will be tied to the academic achievement of a school district for 2013 and beyond. Funding increases would be tied to academic growth and students' college and career readiness The governor will also propose that, starting in fiscal 2013, a portion of the state foundation allowance be allocated to school districts that pay no more than 80 percent of employee health care premiums or control costs in other ways. Local school dashboards and school district accountability and transparency metrics also will be part of the funding discussion;
- Eliminating barriers to school choice for students, including lifting caps on charter schools allowed in each district, increasing access to online learning, allowing students to "test out" of requirements and minimizing barriers including seat time regulations and length of school year; and
- Increasing post-secondary degree attainment by implementing a seamless "Degrees Matter" system so that more Michigan students can receive a community college degree or credential by their 13th year of school. The Degrees Matter system of reverse transfer credits will increase the number of students who are awarded associate degrees or credentials upon completion of the necessary credits. Students who have earned credits at a community college and transfer to a baccalaureate-granting institution would be able to reverse transfer the credits earned at the baccalaureate institution to complete their community college degree or credential.
The governor is also requesting that the legislature reform Michigan's tenure law to reward effective teaching ability. The current system relies only on the number of years teaching and requires that the annual evaluations of teachers be based on multiple measures, but must include in its determination of effectiveness at least 40 percent based on student achievement growth, among other changes. More details of the governor's plan can be found here: http://www.michigan.gov/documents/snyder/SpecialMessageonEducationReform_351586_7.pdf
(Contact: Amanda Szekely)
Maryland Launches Five-Year Economic Plan
Maryland's Economic Development Commission recently released a five-year strategic economic development plan, Charting Maryland's Economic Path: Discovery, Diversity & Opportunity. The plan focuses on four core strategies including: positioning the state for growth; building on current economic drivers such as life sciences and cyber security; embracing regional and economic diversity; and making it easier to do business in the state. Recommended action items are connected to existing work in the state that could be repositioned or expanded without major new funding. Some of these proposed actions include:
- Pursuing working agreements among Maryland universities that lead to collaboration in recruitment, shared infrastructure, joint appointments and links to federal laboratories;
- Improving incentives for firms conducting commercial R&D:
- Establishing a Maryland Innovation Partnership to recruit new "superstar" university innovators; and
- Standardizing state licensing and permit applications and rolling out electronic licensing capabilities throughout the state's agencies.
In addition to the strategic economic development plan, the Maryland General Assembly recently passed InvestMaryland, an economic development initiative that will invest at least $70 million in start-up and early stage companies in the state. Funding for InvestMaryland will come from the auction of premium tax credits to insurance companies.
(Contact: Erin Sparks)
States Reform Workers Compensation Systems
Kansas and Montana each recently passed legislation to update their workers compensation systems to better serve both employers and employees. The new Kansas legislation increases the benefit caps for injured employees unable to work; clarifies that employers are entitled to a credit for pre-existing conditions, with employers only paying for accidents that occurred under their watch; and raises the threshold required for an incident to be covered under the Worker Compensation Act. Recently signed legislation in Montana will now limit employer liability to injuries occurring off a company's premise, such as while a worker performs personal business or is on break; allow insurance carriers to designate doctors; and terminate benefits for permanent partial disabilities to 60 months, but allow for an extension of benefits upon review by a panel of doctors.
(Contact: Linda Hoffman)
Colorado to Use Risk Assessment Sentencing
Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper has signed legislation requiring that presentence reports include offender risk-needs assessments so that judges can impose sentences that address an offender's individual characteristics. Risk-based sentences can reduce the likelihood of re-offense. The law also requires that each presentence report provide sufficient information to allow the court to consider the following:
- Whether alternatives to incarceration, such as community-based corrections, may be appropriate; and
- The appropriate conditions to impose if a defendant is sentenced to probation.
Further, to help judges make cost-effective sentencing decisions, the law requires that presentence reports describe the projected costs associated with each sentencing option that is available to the court.
(Contact: Jeff McLeod)
Nevada Considers Sentencing Reforms to Lower Prison Populations
Nevada is considering legislation aimed at reducing the state's prison population. Under AB136, certain nonviolent offenders, including white collar criminals, would be able to earn "good-time credits" to shave off time from their minimum sentences by participating in activities such as learning vocational skills or undergoing drug treatment programs. Another proposal, SB265, would reduce the prison population by doing away with consecutive sentences and, instead, pooling minimum and maximum terms. Consecutive sentences create uncertainty because sentences can range a number of years and, under current law, the next sentence will not start until parole is granted for the previous sentence. This uncertainty over staggered start and stop dates are costly to the state and are thought to discourage prisoners from seeking self-improvement programs such as drug treatment or higher education.
(Contact: Jeff McLeod)
Maryland Launches Career Site for Servicemembers
Maryland has launched the Mil2FedJobs Web portal, located on the Maryland Workforce Exchange, to directly match transitioning service members with careers in the federal government. The Mil2FedJobs portal uses veterans' military occupational codes (MOC) to query federal openings that match their qualifications on the USAJOBS web tool. In part because of the large number of vacancies posted on USAJOBS, navigating the site without a tool like Mil2FedJobs can often be an overwhelming task for a first-time federal applicant. In addition, Mil2FedJobs allows civilian hiring managers to identify specific military occupations that share attributes with specific jobs in their agencies.
The Mil2FedJobs portal was developed by the Maryland Department of Labor Division of Workforce Development and Adult Learning. It was funded through the U.S. Department of Labor Veterans Employment and Training Service to help connect transitioning veterans with the tens of thousands of federal jobs moving to Maryland because of Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC).
(Contact: Lauren Stewart)
Competitive Bidding for Massachusetts Health Program Yields Savings
Massachusetts' health insurance program for low income adults, Commonwealth Care, has yielded an estimated $80 million in savings for 2012 as a result of the competitive bidding process for managed care organizations (MCOs). The participating MCOs were able to submit lower rates through negotiated provider contracts, narrower choices of hospitals, doctors and specialists and new medical management programs.
As a result of the competition-driven changes, the net capitation rate will be 5 percent lower than that of 2011. Although enrollment is projected to grow by 11 percent, current benefits will be maintained with only cost-neutral changes in co-pays and no changes to premiums.
(Contact: Caryn Marks)
Michigan Law: Doctors Can Express Sympathy without Admission of Liability
Michigan Governor Rick Snyder signed legislation that will allow medical providers to express sympathy to patients and families without fear of self-incrimination. According to the law, any verbal or written statement offering sympathy, compassion or sense of benevolence relating to the suffering or death of an individual, the patient or the family may not be used as evidence in a malpractice suit.
The legislation is aimed at reducing the overall number and costs of lawsuits by encouraging doctors to assist families in seeking closure. Analysis accompanying the legislation cited evidence that similar policies allowing "compassionate communication" have been successful in lowering legal defense costs by up to two-thirds.
(Contact: Brad Finnegan)
CEO Coalition Releases State Reports on STEM Education
A new report on the condition of STEM learning in all 50 states and the District of Columbia has been released by Change the Equation, a coalition of 110 corporate CEOs focused on deepening American students' learning in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Each state report includes: data of fourth grade and eighth grade math performance, completion of college degrees in STEM fields, teacher qualifications in math and science and student perspectives on STEM learning. Across the states, Change the Equation finds that:
- States have made progress in raising fourth and eighth grade math achievement, according to NAEP results, but significant achievement gaps remain between white students and their black and Hispanic peers;
- Elementary and middle school teachers need a stronger grounding in math. Only 57 percent of the nation's eighth graders have teachers with a college major or minor in math. Most states set passing scores on content licensure test for elementary teachers well below the mean for all test takers; and
- States set a low bar for success in STEM learning. For example, state assessments find that the vast majority of fourth graders are proficient at math, while only 38 percent of U.S. fourth graders score as proficient or advanced at math, according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).
(Contact: Amanda Szekely)
U.S. Releases Full Annual Energy Outlook
The U.S. Energy Information Administration has released the full version of its Annual Energy Outlook 2011, analyzing trends in energy production and consumption and projecting the state of the energy sector through 2035. In addition to the reference case released earlier this year, the full outlook includes 57 sensitivity cases to account for future uncertainty around energy markets and technologies and to help predict the impact of future policy changes. Key findings from the 2011 outlook include:
- Net energy imports continue to be a significant share of energy demand, but will continue to decline, down from 24 percent in 2009 to 17 percent in 2035. This decline is due to an increase in the consumption of domestic biofuels, increased vehicle efficiency and rising energy prices;
- Domestic shale gas production will continue to increase, moderating the price of natural gas;
- Natural gas and renewable electricity generation will grow rapidly, but coal will continue to serve as the primary fuel for electricity, dropping only 2 percentage points to 43 percent; and
- Carbon dioxide emissions will continue to grow slowly and will return to 2005 levels in 2027, assuming no changes in federal policy around greenhouse gas emissions.
The full outlook also includes several scenarios that attempt to project the potential impact of several pollution rules recently promulgated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that will impact the electricity sector. Under the reference case, approximately 9 gigawatts (GW) of coal-fired capacity (or 3 percent of the current coal fleet) will have to be retired by 2035.
(Contact: Andrew Kambour)
U.S. Chamber Highlights Importance of Non-Baccalaureate Degrees
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce released a report identifying the demand for workers with career credentials and associate's degrees in the United States, and a lack of awareness among business and education leaders. At the same time, the report found that 53 percent of business leaders state that their companies face a very or fairly major challenge in recruiting non-managerial employees, and that 41 percent of business leaders and 54 percent of education leaders believe that states have the greatest responsibility for increasing post-secondary completion rates. The report urges businesses to work collaboratively with community colleges and similar institutions to ensure that they are producing graduates with the competencies they require.
Specific recommendations include:
- Creating incentives for completion, not just enrollment, through measures such as partial loan forgiveness for students who graduate;
- Implementing performance funding for postsecondary institutions that align public spending with state goals for workforce development and economic growth;
- Fostering business and community college partnerships through successful "Earn and Learn" models that connect employers with postsecondary institutions; and
- Devising tax incentives for businesses that reduce the cost of 'Earn and Learn' programs.
(Contact: Garrett Groves)
Report Finds Cyber Attacks on Infrastructure Rising
A new study by McAfee and the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) found an accelerated increase in cyber attacks on critical infrastructure such as power grids, oil, gas and water, with 80 percent of those surveyed having faced a large-scale denial of service attack over the past year. The study also reveals that 40 percent of executives believe that the vulnerabilities in the critical infrastructure industry have increased. While many companies have adopted particular technologies to combat cyber attacks, they have not kept up with the threat level and remain in danger of an attack.
Key findings from the report include:
- Extortion attempts are more frequent in the critical infrastructure protection sectors, with one in four survey respondents reporting having been a victim of extortion through cyber attacks;
- Organizations are failing to adopt effective security measures, with only a quarter of those surveyed implementing tools to monitor network activity; and
- Organizations fear government attacks, as more than half of respondents said they have already experienced government cyber attacks.
(Contact: Carmen Ferro)
Report Analyzes Implications of Multi-State Health Insurance Exchanges
A report released by the Urban Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation examines considerations for states in forming multi-state health insurance exchanges. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) requires each state to make available an organized marketplace to coordinate health insurance purchasing for individuals and small businesses, but gives states discretion to operate the exchange jointly with other states.
The report offers potential rationales and implications of forming multi-state exchanges:
- Administrative economies of scale could be significant, particularly in the determination of subsidies, production of plan comparison materials and enforcement of mandates;
- For states with small populations, multi-state exchanges could create the necessary critical mass of insured persons to establish stable risk pools. However, participating insurers may not be able to establish a large enough provider networks to reach broadly across states;
- Departments of insurance for states within multi-state exchanges could face challenges in maintaining regulatory jurisdiction and authority; and
- If rules and required plan features within a multi-state exchange were different from those for plans operating out the exchange in any of the states, significant adverse selection and risk adjustment difficulties could occur.
(Contact: Caryn Marks)
NGA Center Web Conference: State Efforts to Reduce Childhood Hunger
The NGA Center will host a web conference examining how states can address childhood hunger today, 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)
NGA Center Cybercrime and Forensic Sciences Executive Policy Forum
The NGA Center is inviting governors' criminal justice policy advisors to participate in the Cybercrime and Forensic Sciences Executive Policy Forum in Snowbird, Utah, on June 9-10, 2011. The meeting will feature scenario-based sessions and facilitated discussions led by experts in forensic sciences, corrections and criminal justice policy. The NGA Center will provide travel and lodging reimbursement for one participant per state.
If interested, please contact Alisha Powell at 202-624-3598, or Jeff McLeod at 202-624-5311.
(Contact: Alisha Powell)