Hawaii Partners with Japan on Smart Grid Technology
Hawaii Governor Neil Abercrombie has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Japan's New Energy and Industrial Development Organization (NEDO) for a smart grid demonstration project on the island of Maui. The project is focused on integrating variable renewable energy sources into existing electrical grid. Developers will test technology that can help utilities balance supply and demand when using energy sources like wind power that do not produce consistent levels of energy. They are also exploring ways to prepare the grid for electric vehicles.
The demonstration project is part of a project created last year by the U.S. Department of Energy, Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry (which oversees NEDO), the state of Hawaii and the Prefecture of Okinawa. Hawaii was chosen because of the large number of renewable energy projects already in development there, and because the state has many potential sources of renewable energy including solar, wind, geothermal, and ocean thermal generators.
(Contact: Andrew Kambour)
Massachusetts Closes Pension Loopholes, Strengthens Anti-Corruption Measures
Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick signed a third round of pension reform legislation, a project he started in his first term. The legislation increases the minimum retirement age, eliminates an incentive for state employees to retire before reaching maximum retirement age, and changes the payment formula to include employees' annual earnings over their last five years of work, instead of the last three.
The legislation also strengthens the state's anti-corruption measures. An older law required state employees convicted of offenses related to their work to pay back all benefits received after the date of conviction. The new law requires the offender to pay back all benefits received from the date of the offense. It also eliminates the right to receive a pension while receiving compensation as an elected official and requires any person re-entering the system to pay back the full amount of benefits already received.
Governor Patrick's office reports that the three pension laws are expected to reduce costs by more than $5 billion over 30 years, some of which is shared with local governments.
(Contact: Erin Sparks)
New York Governor Urges Businesses and Individuals to Give to Food Banks
In an effort to spur donations to food banks during difficult economic times, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has launched "Help Your Neighbor." Food banks in New York are struggling in part because slow economic growth has driven down donations and in part because agriculture—a major source of donations—was disrupted by severe storms and flooding over the past year. As part of the initiative, Governor Cuomo's office is working with the state's Farm Bureau to encourage more farmers to donate unsalable but consumable produce, working with corporations to increase donations, and providing publicity for the New York Food Bank Association.
Governor Cuomo authorized $1 million in additional funding for regional food banks out of a TANF Contingency Fund grant won by the state in October. Another $620,000 was authorized from the state's General Fund Local Assistance appropriation for emergency food relief organizations in areas of the state recovering from the flooding.
(Contact: Jason Hsieh)
Connecticut Launches Early Childhood Education Initiative
Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy has launched a statewide initiative to improve the health, development, and educational outcomes of low-income children from birth to the age of five. Through an executive order, the governor created an Early Childhood Office housed within the Office of Policy and Management to develop recommendations for creating a comprehensive, coordinated system of early care, education, and child development services. The Office is expected to submit recommendations to the Governor by July 2013. The governor has also pledged to:
- Open 1,000 new high quality early childhood spaces for high-need children;
- Improve the quality of teacher preparation and professional development for early childhood educators;
- Invest in professional development and technical assistance for local childcare services;
- Establish a robust monitoring and rating process for education and childcare providers;
- Revise Early Learning Standards to include new health standards; and
- Improve data collection and sharing to inform instruction and system improvements.
(Contact: Amanda Corcoran)
Minnesota Improves Process for Environmental Review
Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton has issued an Executive Order directing the state Environmental Quality Board (EQB) to simplify the state's environmental review process. The order requires the EQB to develop recommendations for improving the environmental review process within agencies and for improving coordination between agencies performing environmental reviews. The order also requires the EQB to develop an environmental and energy "report card" that includes environmental protection performance measures. The EQB is directed to complete each of those tasks by November 15, 2012. The "report card" will be issued annually and updated based on new state initiatives or priorities.
Governor Dayton established goals for streamlining permitting and environmental review through an executive order at the beginning of this year. The order directed the Commissioner of the state's Pollution Control Board to act within 30 days of receiving an environmental impact statement, make recommendations on changing state air and water quality rules so that they are consistent with federal rules, and to compare new rules with federal guidelines and neighboring states and justify any that are more stringent. It also directed agencies to accept electronic applications. Since those steps were taken, 80 percent of all permits and 96 percent of priority permits submitted to the Pollution Control Agency have been issued within the 150 day limit Governor Dayton stipulated.
(Contact: Andrew Kambour)
Georgia Unveils Corrections Reform Policy Options
Georgia Governor Nathan Deal recently received a report from the Special Council for Criminal Justice Reform for Georgians, which was established earlier this year to better manage prison population growth, lower state corrections costs, and maintain public safety. Their analysis found that increases in the prison population are driven in part by high rates of incarceration for low-risk first-time offenders, due to a lack of community based sanctions and mandatory minimum sentencing laws. Recommendations on reforming the corrections system fell into three categories: public safety improvements (such as improving parole and probation systems), saving prison beds for high-risk offenders, and reinvesting savings in corrections spending in community based systems. Specific recommendations from the report include reducing probation and parole terms through earned compliance credits and implementing best practices that reduce recidivism for offenders on parole and probation. The report also recommends decreasing circumstances in which judges must use mandatory minimum sentences for drug trafficking and improving information systems so that judges and other authorizes can access up-to-date sentencing and parole information.
(Contact: Jeff McLeod)
Michigan Governor Signs Law Addressing Doctor Shortage
Michigan Governor Rick Snyder signed legislation addressing the state's growing doctor shortage. The new law authorizes licensed physician assistants to prescribe controlled substances, except for Schedule I narcotics. By expanding the scope of services physician assistants can provide, the law helps doctors spend time on patients most in need. Previously, physician assistants were authorized to prescribe one week's worth of Schedule II medications—drugs which have a high potential for abuse and dependency but are currently accepted for medical treatment—and to deliver medical services such as ordering tests, performing physical exams, and obtaining medical histories. Doctors will still need to sign off on each prescription written by physician assistants under the new law.
Governor Snyder has recently argued that the state's public health code should be reviewed to clarify the duties of health providers and to give "physician extenders" more responsibilities. The doctor shortage is especially acute in rural areas of the state.
(Contact: Jason Hsieh)
New Jersey Expands Charter Schools
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie signed legislation that will allow high performing private schools in struggling school districts to apply to the Commissioner of Education for charter school status and receive public funding. Governor Christie has pushed for substantial increases in the number of charter schools in his state.
The bill restricts eligibility to nonpublic schools that ranked in the top third on a norm-referenced achievement test in the previous school year and are located in districts identified as needing improvement under the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). Applications must certify that, as a publicly funded institution, the newly converted charter schools will prohibit religious instruction, events and activities that promote religious views, and the display of religious symbols.
(Contact: Stephanie Shipton)
Michigan Extends Benefits for Foster Youths
Michigan Governor Rick Snyder signed legislation that addresses the problem of youth who age out of foster care on turning 18. Michigan will now offer foster youths between ages 18 – 21 the option to live in a licensed foster family home, a child care institution, or a supervised independent living arrangement. Youths will also receive case management support, training in independent living skills, counseling services, and medical assistance. In order to receive those extended services, youths must be enrolled in college or vocational training, or working at least 80 hours per month. The extended benefits are funded by the Michigan Department of Human Services, with matching federal funds made available through the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act of 2008. The law is now undergoing federal review.
(Contact: Alexandra Cawthorne)
New Quarterly Index Tracks State Economic Growth
Bloomberg has developed a new quarterly index to track state economic growth. The Bloomberg Economic Evaluation of the States uses data on six variables to determine a state's rate of growth: tax collections, personal income, employment, home prices, mortgage delinquencies, and local company stock performance. It does not provide analysis of the territories. Combined with measures of absolute economic health, the index can help states compare their own performance to that of states with similar economic problems.
Bloomberg Business Week analyzed the measure and found that North Dakota has the top growth rate of any state, driven by an oil boom. Since the index measures growth, some of the states at the top of the list are those recovering from the most severe declines. Michigan had the second highest growth rate, attributed partially to gains in the auto industry. The article reports that Michigan and other Midwest states also benefitted from higher demand for manufactured goods.
(Contact: Erin Sparks)
Report Outlines Sustainability Measures for State Transportation Departments
The Transportation Research Board has released a guidebook for state transportation agencies developing performance measures around economic, social, and environmental sustainability. The guidebook provides a framework under which transportation departments can measure the sustainability of their transportation systems and develop their own goals, objectives, and measures. The framework recommends establishing sustainability goals in 11 areas: safety, accessibility, equity and equal mobility, system efficiency, security, economic development and prosperity, economic vitality of investments, ecosystem protection, waste generation, resource consumption, and emissions and air quality. The report describes how different measures should be used at different stages (such as long-term planning, project development, design, construction, maintenance, or operations) or at different management levels.
Finally, the report includes guidelines for calculating quantitative measures and how states might collect appropriate data. A spreadsheet is available from the report's website that states can use to recreate the measures described in the report.
(Contact: Andrew Kambour)
Policy Brief Helps States Communicate With Healthcare Stakeholders
Meaningfully interacting with stakeholders can help states succeed in changing their healthcare systems. The Center for Health Care Strategies, Inc., a non-profit health policy resource center, recently released a policy brief providing guidance on identifying important groups, targeting messages to specific audiences, and choosing methods for disseminating information. Communicating the Value of Integrated Care to Stakeholders is part of an on-going technical assistance program that helps states implement integrated care for residents dually eligible for Medicaid and Medicare.
(Contact: Jason Hsieh)
Guide Helps Child-Serving Organizations Develop Emergency Plans
The Promising Practices Network (PPN) on Children, Families and Communities recently released a guide to help child-serving organizations prepare for emergencies. The step-by-step guide includes a risk assessment tool that will help child-serving organizations create customized emergency plans. The seven steps include examples of how to create written plans for evacuation and relocation, family reunification, children with special needs, and multiple disasters.
State agencies can give the guide as a resource to organizations that provide direct social services to children and families, such as child care centers, after-school programs, and camps. The guide can also assist state agencies responsible for licensing child-serving organizations and those responsible with improving or assessing emergency planning for children in their state to publicize their own emergency systems and resources.
(Contact: Carmen Ferro)
Report Urges States to Address Teacher Diversity
A new report from the Center for American Progress offers a state-by-state analysis of the racial and ethnic makeup of teachers. The report finds a 'diversity gap' between students and teachers in almost every state, noting that more than 20 states have differences of 25 percentage points or more between the diversity of their teacher and student populations.
The report cites alternative route programs—which make it easier for college graduates and mid-career professionals to enter the classroom without conventional teaching preparation—as a useful tool for recruiting teachers of color. An accompanying report offers additional policy recommendations for states, including:
- Increasing accountability for teacher preparation programs;
- Creating statewide initiatives to fund teacher preparation programs aimed at low-income and minority teachers; and
- Strengthening state-sponsored and nonprofit teacher recruitment and training organizations by increasing standards for admission, using best practices to recruit high-achieving minority students, and forming strong relationships with districts to ensure recruitment needs are met.
Workshop: Economic Development in the Clean Energy Sector – Southern States
The NGA Center will be holding the last of three regional workshops January 10-11, 2012 in Nashville, Tennessee to discuss strategies for fostering economic growth in the emerging area of clean energy. Topics of discussion will include: pivoting existing economic development efforts to clean energy industries, applying strategies from past successes such as biosciences and information technology, and determining where clean energy's unique attributes require new approaches. Targeted participants are governors' energy and economic development advisors from the following states and territories: Alabama, American Samoa, Arkansas, Delaware, Georgia, Guam, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, Tennessee, Virgin Islands, Virginia and West Virginia. A previous workshop was held for Northeast and Midwest states (October, 2011) and a workshop for Western states will take place next week in Phoenix, Arizona. States that were unable to attend the workshop in their region are welcome to attend the Tennessee workshop.
(Contact: Andrew Kambour)
Apply Now: Chronic Disease Learning Collaborative
The NGA Center invites states and U.S territories with full NGA membership benefits to apply for a learning collaborative on integrating chronic disease prevention services with the health care delivery system. Up to four state teams of senior-level state policymakers will be selected to discuss elements of success and develop plans to enhance existing initiatives. The collaborative provides peer-to-peer learning opportunities and access to NGA staff and national experts through two policy meetings, a series of webinars and conference calls, and development of case studies capturing best practices.
Proposals are due December 5, 2011 by 5:00 p.m. EST.
(Contact: Jason Hsieh)
Apply Now: Next Generation Justice Information Sharing Policy Academy
The NGA Center invites states and U.S territories with full NGA membership benefits to apply for the Next Generation Justice Information Sharing Policy Academy. Up to four state teams of senior-level state policymakers will be selected to develop policy frameworks that focus on improving efficiency, security, reusability, and scalability in their systems. States will receive up to $30,000 to complete project work and will host site visits, attend two policy academy meetings, and receive specialized technical assistance from NGA Center staff and national experts. Proposals are due December 9, 2011 by 5:00 p.m. EST.
(Contact: Anne-Elizabeth Johnson)