Washington to Phase Out Vehicle Emissions Testing
The Washington Department of Ecology has adopted new rules that will eliminate emissions testing requirements for most vehicles because current technology renders them unnecessary. Starting in July 2012, cars from the 2009 model year or newer will no longer be required to undergo emissions tests. Vehicles less than 5 years old are already exempt from emissions testing requirements, so the new rules will have an impact starting in 2014. The state expects the number of cars still needing tests to decrease from 880,000 in 2014 to 544,000 in 2019. The tests are considered unnecessary for newer cars due to advances in automobile technology, including improved computer systems and increased fuel efficiency.
The new rules also allow private facilities—such as car dealerships—to operate testing sites using the state's diagnostic tools; currently, emissions testing can only be done at dedicated facilities contracted out by the state. The state currently collects approximately $3 million per year in fees from the emissions program; however, the state estimates that the benefits of phasing out the program to the state, testing contractors, and vehicle owners will outweigh the costs, yielding a net savings of close to $9.6 million.
(Contact: Andrew Kambour)
Colorado Uses Pace Cars to Ease Congestion
The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) and Colorado State Patrol (CSP) are testing the use of pace cars to ease congestion and improve travel times on a traffic-heavy portion of the interstate highway. CSP cars will merge ahead of traffic at 10 minute intervals for six hours and lead traffic at 45-55 miles per hour to the entrance of the Eisenhower-Johnson Memorial Tunnel, which carries traffic west of Denver under the Continental Divide in the Rocky Mountains and is often the site of significant traffic congestion. CDOT hopes this pacing technique—known as "rolling speed harmonization"—will help reduce crashes due to traffic traveling at different speeds and will prevent the need for CDOT and CSP to stop traffic prior to entering the tunnel, as is done now when backups in the tunnel occur. CDOT will use information gained from this test, such as traffic counts and speed, to determine if the technique improved safety and traffic flow. If so, CDOT and CSP will look to utilize rolling speed harmonization at other times of the year—including peak summer season and winter ski season—when traffic traveling through the tunnel is at its highest.
(Contact: Andrew Kambour)
Arkansas Moves on Medicaid Payment Reform
Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe announced details of the Arkansas Health Care Payment Improvement Initiative, which aims to move the state's Medicaid program from its current fee-for-service model to one partnership of local providers being paid for "episodes" of care rather than each individual service. The state has selected several medical areas to target initially: pregnancy and neonatal care; attention deficit hyperactivity disorder; type 2 diabetes; back pain; cardiovascular disease; upper respiratory infections; developmental disabilities; long term care; and disease prevention.
The plan is designed to align payment incentives for delivery of care and active management of existing conditions, while retaining the actuarial risk of new conditions with Medicaid/private-insurance carriers. The state is assembling a team to assess the existing system through data analysis; research national models and best practices; assess the legal implications of the overhaul; work with stakeholder groups and local experts; and identify other available resources and system supports.
(Contact: Kathryn Bailey)
Georgia Employee Wellness Program Offered to Reduce Costs
The Georgia Department of Community Health adopted a proposed plan to reduce costs for the State Health Benefit Plan (SHBP), featuring a new consumer-directed Wellness Plan. Georgia's SHBP insures active and retired state employees, teachers, non-certificated school personnel, and their dependents.Under the plan, employees who enroll in a new wellness program will see premiums rise by 11 percent next year, while those who opt out of the voluntary program will face a 17 percent increase. The wellness program will require screenings for risk factors such as blood pressure, body mass index, cholesterol, and blood glucose, as well as a health assessment to set a baseline. The health information will not be provided to employers.
(Contact: Jason Hsieh)
Delaware, Maryland to Share Criminal Justice Information
Delaware Governor Jack Markell and Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley have launched a joint state initiative to collaborate and share information about violent or potentially violent offenders across state lines. The new partnership allows law enforcement officials in both states to exchange information with one another on arrests and parole and probation violators. Additionally, law enforcement and public safety officials in both states will be able to prioritize warrant service. The initiative is similar to the Safe Streets Program operated in both states that allows law enforcement officials to share data to track offenders to reduce drug, gun, and other major crimes. The partnership could lead to other information-sharing opportunities, including information from license plate readers to track stolen or suspicious vehicles and pawnshop databases to locate stolen property.
(Contact: Alisha Powell)
Illinois Levys Fees on Convicted Drug Offenders
Illinois Governor Pat Quinn has signed legislation to replenish funding for drug investigations with new fees placed on convicted drug offenders. Under the new law, the burden of these costs shifts from state emergency response agencies and Illinois taxpayers to defendants convicted of drug related offenses. These defendants would face mandatory restitution and a fine as part of sentencing, which allows law enforcement agencies to recover the costs of drug-related investigations and clean up after arrests and seizures of drug labs. Due to lack of funding and increased costs of investigation methods and decontamination of methamphetamine production labs, some police agencies have halted undercover investigations and other anti-drug enforcement measures.
(Contact: Anne-Elizabeth Johnson)
New Mexico Reviews Effectiveness of Tax Credits
New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez issued an executive order requiring executive branch agencies to prepare an annual tax expenditure budget that evaluates the impact of tax credits on job creation and economic development. The budget will also estimate the cost effectiveness of each credit and the foregone revenue to state and local government as a result of each provision. When credits are determined to not achieve their purpose in a cost effective manner, the budget will recommend improvements to the provision. This new budget provides a standardized way to analyze expenditures and determine whether they are meeting their intended objectives, which the state currently does not have. The Taxation and Revenue Department will serve as the lead agency on the annual review process, with assistance from other relevant executive branch agencies.
(Contact: Erin Sparks)
Mississippi Expands Broadband Capacity at Research Universities
Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour announced an expanded broadband technology system to serve the state's research universities and facilities. MissiON, the Mississippi Research Network, will connect the state's four major research universities to fiber optic lines, providing 20 times more capacity than is present under the current broadband network. This capacity increase will allow the universities to process and share data more quickly, boosting their research capacity and improving their ability to compete for funding for cutting-edge research projects. The fiber optic network will serve the University of Mississippi, Mississippi State University, University of Southern Mississippi, and Jackson State University, as well as other research facilities in the Mississippi Research Consortium. The network is being expanded in collaboration with AT&T, and the expansion will be complete by the end of 2011.
(Contact: Erin Sparks)
Delaware Law Enhances Charter School Accountability and Oversight
Delaware Governor Jack Markell signed legislation into law that increases the state's oversight of charter schools and provides for greater accountability. Specifically, the new law requires that:
- Charter school governing board members submit to a criminal background check as well as disclose any financial interests in the school; and
- Charter schools submit financial information throughout the school year to better identify potential financial problems.
Additionally, the new law allows the Department of Education to intervene in a charter school once a problem is identified. Schools on formal review may also have access to a financial recovery team and resources to notify parents and teachers about the school's future. Finally, the new law allows high performing charter schools to move through a shorter renewal timeline.
(Contact: Stephanie Shipton)
Arkansas Launches STEM Pilot Project
Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe joined his Workforce Cabinet members to announce the launch of STEM Works—a pilot project that targets supporting STEM education in classrooms and increasing the number of STEM educators. STEM Works will involve the creation of new STEM schools and teacher training for STEM college majors. The project will be funded by realigning existing resources that currently support project based learning and in-service professional development. Some private grants will supplement the state funding.
(Contact: Stephanie Shipton)
Report Provides Template for Ensuring Transportation in Emergencies
The Mineta Transportation Institute has released a new report that addresses how state transportation agencies can ensure continuity of operations and government (COOP/COG) during emergencies and disasters. The report identifies risks, essential functions, key personnel and staffing needs and potential chains of command specifically tailored towards state transportation agencies. The report also provides a generic COOP/COG plan that states can adjust and adopt to fit their circumstances. The authors noted that while federal agencies have provided guidance to state government on COOP/COG, there was little to no guidance addressing the unique activities of a state transportation agency.
(Contact: Andrew Kambour)
Report Recommends Strategies to Reduce Long-Term Unemployment
A report from the U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee profiles the current status of the long-term unemployed, and recommends policies to stimulate job creation and train workers in new skills in order to reduce the near-record level of long-term unemployment. "Addressing Long-Term Unemployment After The Great Recession: The Crucial Role Of Workforce Training" reports that two years after the official end of the recession, 6.1 million individuals have been looking for work for more than six months. These long-term unemployed workers represent 42 percent of all unemployed workers, nearly an all-time high. Long-term unemployment is higher among certain groups: men, workers aged 55 or older, workers with only a high school diploma, and construction and manufacturing workers.
The report recommends a strong focus on job creation to bring the economy back to full employment and provide opportunities for workers. In addition, the report recommends robust workforce training programs to address potential structural imbalances in the economy: programs to match workers' current skills with employers' needs, and training to help workers develop new skills and prepare for employment in expanding sectors.
(Contact: Garrett Groves)
Issue Brief Examines Shared Savings Payment Reforms
The Commonwealth Fund released an issue brief examining shared savings as a payment reform strategy by aligning incentives. Shared savings is a payment strategy that offers incentives for providers to reduce health care spending for a defined patient population by offering them a percentage of net savings realized as a result of their efforts.
The issue brief features information gathered from interviews with payer and provider organizations and state agencies about payment approaches, populations to target, which services to include in calculations, the use of risk adjustment, savings calculation, and distribution methods. Payers and providers shared several insights into designing and implementing shared-savings payment model, including:
- Payers and providers should agree on how to determine whether savings were achieved so that there is both a meaningful incentive for the provider, and to ensure that calculated savings do not reflect random variation in health care costs;
- Payers can help providers, particularly smaller provider organizations, achieve success by making tools available to them, including timely, trended performance data with targets and benchmarks; and
- Forming regional coalitions with agreed upon performance measures may help to identify a common framework with which nonfederal payers might align.
(Contact: Brad Finnegan)
Report Details Roles of Emergency Responders During Disasters
The University of Delaware released a report that provides a systematic and scientific analysis on whether emergency responders will be willing to report for duty in the case of a catastrophic disaster. The report focuses on the prevalence of three key issues employers might face—role conflict, role strain and role abandonment—with the use of hundreds of studies, surveys and other data sets on human behavioral responses to catastrophic events. These studies have found that while role conflict and role strain are widespread and could alter effectiveness and efficiency during a disaster, role abandonment is minimal and occurs under very specific circumstances. In addition, the report provides details on four important organizational approaches to facilitating responder support and reducing the residual threat of role abandonment. These include:
- Having a family safety and support framework;
- Increasing attention on employee safety;
- Focusing on job expectations and culture of responsibility; and
- Effectively channeling the potential of volunteers.
(Contact: Carmen Ferro)
Report Finds More Students are College- and Career-Ready
According to ACT's recently released annual report, 25 percent of high school graduates that took the ACT in 2011 are prepared to take entry level college courses without remediation. This number is up from 24 percent in 2010 and marks the third consecutive year of growth. The increase is attributed to increased student performance in math and science. Forty-five percent of students met or exceeded the benchmark for math (compared to 43 percent in 2010) and 30 percent of students met or exceeded the benchmark for science (compared to 20 percent in 2010).
(Contact: Stephanie Shipton)
States Invited to Participate in Regional Summits on Growing State Economies
As part of the yearlong NGA Chair's Initiative on Growing State Economies, the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices will be hosting four regional summits. These summits will provide states an opportunity to learn from experts and business owners about the best strategies to create an environment focused on the importance of high-growth businesses in all its forms—startup firms, scalable enterprises, and transformational corporations. The summits also will provide time for states to engage in strategic planning and share successful examples.
States in good standing with NGA are invited to send a team of up to seven high-level individuals to one of the four regional summits. Travel and hotel expenses will be covered for two senior advisors (e.g., commerce director and policy advisor) from each state. State teams may include up to five additional individuals, at the state's expense, who play important roles in economic development (e.g., business leaders, industry association leaders, research park directors, or venture fund managers).
The four regional summits will be held in the following locations:
- Hartford, Connecticut on October 11–12, 2011;
- Nashville, Tennessee on November 14-15, 2011; *Date changed since original annoucement
- Seattle, Washington on January 24-25, 2012; and
- Omaha, Nebraska on April 24-25, 2012.
Applications must be submitted by August 31, 2011 for the Hartford summit and by September 30, 2011 for the Nashville summit. Application deadlines for the Seattle and Omaha summits will be announced at a later date. Please contact Erin Sparks if you have questions about the summits or application.
(Contact: Erin Sparks)
Webinar: Addressing Chronic Diseases through Federally Qualified Health Centers
The NGA Center is hosting a webinar on Wednesday, September 7 from 4:00 – 5:00 p.m. ET to discuss the role states can play in developing systems of care coordination in FQHCs, and how this impacts chronic diseases. Low-income populations with multiple chronic conditions present a significant challenge to providing high-quality coordinated care. Federally qualified health centers have the infrastructure to serve these populations, and states have taken action to provide comprehensive coordinated care through payment incentives, links with community preventive supports, and technical assistance. Representatives from New York and Utah will highlight the work done by their respective states on this webinar.
(Contact: Jason Hsieh)
Webinar: Smart Grid Learning Network – What are the other benefits of the smart grid?
The NGA Center is hosting a webinar of its Smart Grid Learning Network on Tuesday, September 13 from 2:00 – 3:30 PM ET to discuss state and utility grid modernization efforts beyond the deployment of smart meters. The call will highlight aspects of the smart grid that have not received the same public attention as advanced metering infrastructure and residential energy management, such as distribution automation, voltage control, and other upgrades to the electric transmission and distribution systems. Presentations from both the electric power industry and state officials will highlight key technical and policy issues of which states should be aware as they look to move forward with smart grid deployment.
(Contact: Andrew Kambour)
Identifying, Evaluating and Scaling Best Practices in STEM Education
NGA Center is hosting a webinar on Thursday, September 15 from 3:00 – 4:00 p.m. ET to discuss identifying, evaluating, and scaling best practices in STEM Education. With limited resources and a rising demand for STEM skills, some states have begun to develop a process for evaluating STEM program effectiveness, aligning STEM resources to support specific state STEM goals, and identifying promising programs for scale. This meeting highlights work done by North Carolina and Massachusetts in this area.
(Contact: Angela Baber)
NGA Center Institute for Governors Criminal Justice Policy Advisors
The NGA Center is inviting governors' criminal justice policy advisors to participate in the Institute for Governors Criminal Justice Policy Advisors in Annapolis, Maryland on September 26-27, 2011. At the institute, governors' criminal justice policy advisors will explore critical state public safety issues, identify emerging statewide trends, and learn about current research and best practices in criminal justice policy. In addition, participants will have the opportunity to network and learn from their peers from other states and leading criminal justice researchers and experts in a highly interactive and relaxed setting. For states in good standing, the NGA Center will provide travel and lodging reimbursement for one participant per state.
(Contact: Jeff McLeod)