Louisiana Proposes Higher Ed Reforms to Increase Outcomes
Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal has proposed legislation to reform the state's higher education system by updating tuition policies and establishing standards for higher outcomes among institutions. Among the proposed reforms, the legislation would:
- Restructure the higher education funding formula to place greater emphasis on student outcomes;
- Enhance the LA GRAD Act, which allows institutions to set tuition if they meet certain performance benchmarks; and
- Raise the cap on per credit hour tuition from 12 to 15 hours to discourage students from excessive course dropping.
The legislation also proposes to consolidate the five current higher education boards into a single management board for all higher education institutions.
(Contact: Ryan Reyna)
Missouri to Expand Free Tuition Program
Missouri Governor Jay Nixon intends to expand the state's A-Plus program to provide free community college tuition to all high school students in the state who meet academic and family income guidelines. The A-Plus program covers the cost of community college and technical school tuition and fees for two years for students who have a grade point average of at least 2.5 and whose families have an adjusted annual gross income up to $55,000.
Currently, the program is available only to students at the roughly 300 schools that have received the state's A-Plus designation for offering rigorous coursework and partnering with business and community leaders. The governor's budget for fiscal year 2010 includes $1 million in funding from the Department of Higher Education Guaranty Agency Operating Fund to support the program's expansion to all qualifying students.
(Contact: Amanda Szekely)
South Dakota Bill Would Require Annual Principal Evaluation
South Dakota is considering a bill that would require each school district to annually evaluate the performance of school principals. The bill follows a 2010 law requiring mandatory evaluations for teachers.
Specifically, the law would require future principal evaluations to be based on state standards, require multiple performance measures and serve as the basis for programs to increase principals' professional growth and development. A work group appointed by the secretary of education would provide input in the development of state performance standards.
(Contact: Amanda Szekely)
Kansas Launches Energy Savings Competition
Kansas Governor Sam Brownback has launched the 2011 Take Charge! Challenge to encourage energy conservation in the state with a competitive grant reward. The Take Charge! Challenge is a competition between 16 communities and two universities in four regions to determine which can save the most energy between January and September 2011. The winning community in each region will win a renewable energy or energy efficiency project valued up to $100,000 as a prize.
Energy savings will be measured and judged in terms of the number of home energy audits performed, the number of incandescent light bulbs replaced with compact fluorescent bulbs and the extent of public involvement and outreach in each community. Any calculated energy savings will be adjusted to a per capita basis, so communities of varying sizes will compete equally. Participating communities and individuals can enter progress on the Challenge's website, which also includes additional information on simple steps to save energy and available energy efficiency programs in the state. The website features a real-time calculation of cost savings achieved through energy savings through the initiative. The Challenge will also highlight Efficiency Kansas, a revolving loan program for residential and small business energy efficiency improvements run by the Kansas Energy Office, as a tool Kansans can use to reduce energy consumption. Efficiency Kansas offers low-cost financing through 105 participating banks and 21 utilities that allow on-bill repayment for efficiency upgrades
(Contact: Andrew Kambour)
Minnesota Governor Streamlines Environmental Permitting Process
Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton has signed an executive order that accelerates and simplifies the environmental review and permitting process in the state. The executive order sets new requirements for how quickly the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and Pollution Control Agency (PCA) must act on applications, as well as steps for simplifying the permit application process. Actions in the executive order include:
- Requiring decisions on permits be made within 150 days of the completion of the application;
- Requiring decisions on permits be made within 30 days of the completion of an environmental impact study; and
- Allowing for electronic filing of all environmental review or permit applications.
The order also requires the commissioners of the DNR and PCA to report to the governor within six months on whether or not they have met the requirements and recommendations for how to further reduce permitting decision times.
(Contact: Andrew Kambour)
Maryland Streamlines Business Processes
Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley has launched Maryland Made Easy, an economic development initiative designed to help businesses grow and create jobs by streamlining processes, simplifying regulations and improving communication. The initiative includes a planned Central Business Licensing system that will provide entrepreneurs with a one-stop shop to complete and submit various applications and permits, regardless of agency or type of business. The newly created Maryland Small Business Commission will also be tasked with identifying permitting, licensing and regulatory areas for review.
The governor also proposed details for a $100 million venture capital fund, InvestMaryland, which will provide capital for new startup technology companies with a focus on the life sciences sector and other knowledge-based industries.
(Contact: Garrett Groves)
Pennsylvania Governor Plans Government Redesign
Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett has unveiled a reform plan to improve efficiency, fiscal responsibility and accountability in the state's government as part of a goal to reduce the cost of state government by 10 percent during his four-year term.
The plan includes 10 areas for reform—including consolidating services, establishing performance-based budgeting and reducing the size and cost of government—with specific actions detailed for each. For example, a five-year life span will be set for all new boards and commissions. The governor has also created a task force to review all existing boards and commissions.
(Contact: Erin Sparks)
Massachusetts Proposes Consolidating Parole and Reentry Programs
Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick has outlined a proposal to combine the reentry and community supervision programs within the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security. This proposal includes the consolidation of the parole and probation departments into one new executive branch agency, the Department of Reentry and Community Supervision. The Department would oversee all forms of community supervision, from defendants in early pretrial stages of the criminal process to inmates released after incarceration. This consolidation is expected to save the state $14 million. Gov. Patrick will also propose legislation to eliminate mandatory minimum sentencing for drug offenses that do not involve guns or children.
In addition, Gov. Patrick has proposed eliminating the Commonwealth's Committee for Public Counsel Services and replacing it with a newly created Department of Public Counsel Services within the executive branch. A network of salaried public defenders, rather than private bar advocates, will represent the new department, saving taxpayers an estimated $45 million annually.
(Contact: Alisha Powell)
Vermont Governor Wants Reforms for Nonviolent Offenders
Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin has proposed reforming the state's management of non-violent offenders to reduce offender recidivism and help the state close a $176 million budget shortfall. Key proposals include:
- Transferring inmates to prisons with unused bed space in inmates' home communities to give them better access to work release opportunities and connect them with family members; and
- Creating a parent-child visiting space within prisons for inmates and their children to bond and to prepare each for reunification after release.
These reforms will are anticipated to save the state $2 million. Additionally, the governor has proposed reinvesting $1 million of these savings in prevention and alternative justice in community-based programs across the state to help keep non-violent offenders out of jail. Half of the state's non-violent offenders return to prison within three years, costing the state an average of $45,000 a year per inmate.
(Contact: Jeffrey McLeod)
Michigan Considers Updates to Judicial System
The Michigan Judicial Crossroads Task Force (JCTF) has released a report recommending changes to the Michigan judicial system to cut costs and spend taxpayer dollars more strategically. The recommendations include:
- Creating and enforcing statewide standards for the delivery of public defense services to reduce errors and costs;
- Streamlining the trial courts and fostering cost-saving collaboration; and
- Using technology to meet urgent and emerging needs more cost-effectively.
The JCTF, made up of members of the State Bar of Michigan, is charged with updating and reforming the state's judicial system. The task force focuses on the structure of the judicial system, and how services are managed and delivered but does not address issues related to constitutional amendments.
(Contact: Anne-Elizabeth Johnson)
Arizona Governor Requests Medicaid Waiver
Arizona Governor Jan Brewer submitted a request to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for a waiver that would allow Arizona to suspend Medicaid coverage for certain groups. The change would reduce enrollment in the state's Medicaid program, formally known as the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System, by about one-fifth. Governor Brewer requested and received authorization from the legislature to request the waiver, which is a key portion of her proposed state budget.
Arizona currently has broader eligibility for its Medicaid program compared with most states. The waiver itself would excuse the state from a coverage mandate included in the federal health care reform law enacted last year, which requires states to continue Medicaid eligibility at early 2010 levels until Medicaid is expanded in 2014.
(Contact: Caryn Marks)
Illinois Governor Signs Medicaid Reforms into Law
Illinois Governor Pat Quinn signed legislation containing several reforms to the state's Medicaid system that that are aimed at containing costs by reducing waste and fraud and requiring a focus on preventative care. Medicaid applicants would be required to prove Illinois residency in addition to providing proof of one month's income before they are able to enroll. Recipients would no longer be automatically re-enrolled, and those caught abusing the system could face a fine.
The law requires that 50 percent of Medicaid patients be enrolled in coordinated care by 2015. That system requires that one doctor oversee care for a patient instead of several health care providers, making it easier to track a patients care and placing emphasis on preventative care. Long-term care patients will be moved from institutions to community-care settings when possible. Additionally, the law requires the state to pay medical bills promptly, saving the state money in interest costs.
(Contact: Brad Finnegan)
Study: States Need More Primary Care Capacity for Medicaid
A study by The George Washington University School of Public Health Services published in the New England Journal of Medicine, found that when Medicaid eligibility expansion requirements mandated by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) go into full effect in 2014, states with limited primary care capacity will experience a shortage of physicians, nurse practitioners and physician assistants. The researchers created an "access-challenge index" measuring each state's Medicaid expansion relative to their current primary care capacity. The study recommends that:
- States consider the potential effects of both Medicaid and private insurance coverage expansions through the new health insurance exchanges;
- State plans should include efforts to train, attract and retain primary care physicians; and
- Initiatives to train and deploy more nurse practitioners and physician assistants may be more effective and less expensive in the short run.
(Contact: Caryn Marks)
Report Examines Progress in Cyber Security
A report released by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) Commission on Cyber Security examines the progress the U.S. has made in cyber security in the last two years. The report finds that while the U.S. has acknowledged cyber security as an area of concern, sufficient progress remains to be seen. The report outlines 10 recommendations the U.S. needs to take to secure cyberspace. These recommendations include:
- Establishing clear authority to mandate better cyber security in critical infrastructure and develop new ways to work with the private sector;
- Revising policy and legal framework to guide government cyber security actions;
- Strengthening oversight for privacy and civil liberties, with clear rules and processes adapted to digital technologies; and
- Building an expanded workforce with adequate cyber security skills.
The CSIS Commission on Cyber Security for the 44th Presidency was established in August 2007 to examine existing plans and strategies to secure cyberspace and assess changes for the new presidential administration in developing a comprehensive national approach to cyber security.
(Contact: Alisha Powell)
U.S. Students Not Demonstrating Proficiency in Science
Most students are not demonstrating proficiency in science, according to the results of a 2009 revamped National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). Only 34 percent of fourth-graders, 30 percent of eighth-graders and 21 percent of twelfth-graders performed at or above the proficient level in science. Students reaching this level demonstrate competency over challenging subject matter, including physical science, life science and earth and space sciences. Results varied across racial and ethnic groups, with white and Asian/Pacific Islander students receiving the highest scores. Male students were more likely than female students to demonstrate science proficiency. Results also varied by state and by location, with students earning lower scores in urban areas.
NAEP results are based on national and state samples of fourth, eighth and twelfth graders. Since the NAEP was updated in 2009 to keep content current with developments in science, standards, assessment and research, it is not possible to compare results to previous NAEP science results.
(Contact: Amanda Szekely)
New Report Analyzes Link Between Transportation, Economic Development
The Bipartisan Policy Center has issued a new report that looks at how transportation policies affect short- and long-term economic growth. The report discusses how transportation projects are opportunities for job creation but can have different and even detrimental impacts on long-term economic development. Policy recommendations from the report include:
- Eliminating the use of borrowed funds for transportation if they will only be used for short-term job creation;
- Funding projects that are both shovel-ready and provide long-term economic development potential; and
- Allowing for flexible use of funds with an increased focus on policy outcomes.
The emphasis on outcomes is intended to help eliminate the competition for funds between projects or modes and allow for the most efficient allocation of limited transportation funds. The report is critical of how "jobs multipliers" are used to calculate the economic impact of a transportation project, since there is no standard methodology for calculating job creation impacts, and multipliers often fail to capture economic benefits of transportation investment outside of short-term job growth.
(Contact: Andrew Kambour)
Online Tool Provides Tax Credit Information for Working Families
A new online resource provides information on federal and state tax credits that affect working families including the Property Tax Circuit Breaker, the Earned Income Tax, Child and Dependent Care Tax and the Child Tax Credit. The website offers an overview of the tax credits; federal reports and fact sheets; national information; and state reports, fact sheets and legislative materials. An interactive 50-state resource map illustrates credits that are available in each state, as well as current legislative efforts to modify family tax credits. The site also provides outreach materials, an RSS feed on tax credits in the news and a blog.
(Contact: Linda Hoffman)
NGA Center Report Provides Guidance for States on Clean Energy Financing Programs
To help states consider innovative clean energy program financing options that maximize state resources, the NGA Center released the State Clean Energy Financing Guidebook. The Guidebook helps states consider three important elements of a clean energy financing program: sources of capital including bonds, state revenues and private capital. The report suggests states explore specific approaches, including:
- Establishing revolving loan funds to recycle funds in the state's economy;
- Developing utility on-bill financing programs to marry repayment with the source of savings;
- Creating linked deposit or loan purchase programs, which help leverage private capital;
- Pooling state building upgrades to support tax-exempt bond financing; and
- Using energy savings performance contracting or power purchase agreements for state buildings.
The Guidebook also provides case studies from five states – Illinois, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas and Washington – that have successfully implemented innovative financing programs.
(Contact: Devashree Saha)
NGA Center Policy Institute on States and Innovation: Setting the Stage for Job Creation
The NGA Center is pleased to invite your state to participate in a Policy Institute on States and Innovation: Setting the Stage for Job Creation, to be held on March 24-25 in Washington, D.C.
The Institute will focus on what governors can do to improve the economy and create jobs. The meeting will provide an opportunity for governors' top economic advisors to discuss promising ideas and brainstorm with their peers. We invite you to send a high-level team that includes your economic policy advisor and perhaps the head of your Commerce Department or other state economic development entity. Travel-related expenses will be covered for one participant from each state. If you are interested in attending this Institute, please contact Erin Sparks.
(Contact: Erin Sparks)
NGA Website Highlights Governors' Redesign Efforts
The NGA Center is maintaining a State Government Redesign page highlighting governors' efforts to redesign and downsize state government as states face a protracted budget crisis like none seen in the last 30 years, and perhaps not seen since the Great Depression.
Over the next several years, governors will continue to grapple with hard choices concerning government's roles, responsibilities, and organization as states begin the slow recovery after the recession. The website offers resources that describe the current fiscal environment for states and some of the efforts underway to redesign government to meet new austere fiscal realities.
(Contact: Lauren Stewart)
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)