State News
Corrections Reforms to Save Arkansas $875 Million
The Arkansas Working Group on Sentencing and Corrections has released its recommendations for state corrections reform. The proposed reforms are projected to reduce Arkansas's prison population by more than 3,200 inmates over the next 10 years and save taxpayers an estimated $875 million in prison operation and construction costs. Specific reforms include:

  • Require the Department of Community Corrections to use evidence-based practices when supervising offenders on probation and parole;
  • Strengthen reporting requirements for sentencing departures and encourage compliance with the sentencing guidelines;
  • Develop uniform eligibility criteria and performance measures for drug courts;
  • Accelerate release to electronic monitoring for low-level offenders; and
  • Expand medical parole to contain corrections costs.

In 2010, Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe and other state leaders formed the Working Group to develop policy recommendations for managing state corrections costs. Currently, the state's prison population is projected to grow by 43 percent over the next decade, costing Arkansas an additional $1.1 billion.
(Contact: Jeffrey McLeod)

New Jersey Considers New Superintendent Hiring Standards
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has proposed a series of revisions to New Jersey's superintendent certification process to provide greater flexibility in the recruitment and hiring of high quality superintendents, including lowering the current academic requirements from a master's degree to a bachelor's degree and requiring the Commissioner of Education to conduct a review of applicants. Candidates approved by the Commissioner would receive a provisional license, allowing them to immediately begin work under the guidance of a state-approved mentor. Superintendents could be hired through this alternate route method for certification if they worked in one of the state's 57 districts that need improvement, according to federal requirements. They would also qualify for alternate route certification in any state-run district or in any district where at least 50 percent of the fourth, eighth or 11th grade students have failed state tests for the last two years for either language arts or mathematics.

Eligibility for standards certification would be possible after the candidate successfully passes three performance reviews in one year and earns a recommendation from their assigned mentor. This proposal comes on the heels of a widely publicized superintendent turnover in New York City, where a superintendent appointment was temporarily stalled due to eligibility requirements.
(Contact: Tabitha Grossman)

California Downsizes Governor's Office
California Governor Jerry Brown is returning 84 percent of his transition fund money, cutting staff in the governor's office by 25 percent and eliminating cabinet offices to save the state $7.05 million. Specifically, the governor is making reductions within his own office, including:

  • Eliminating the Office of the First Lady, the position of Secretary of Education and all deputy cabinet secretaries;
  • Closing three of the governor's regional offices and reducing staff in the Washington, D.C., office;
  • Shrinking the governor's press and communications staff; and
  • Closing the Office of the American Reinvestment and the Recovery Act Inspector General six months ahead of schedule, as previously announced.

The 2010 Budget Act included a total of $18 million for the governor's office. After the 25 percent reduction, the total governor's office budget in 2011 will be $13.4 million.
(Contact: Lauren Stewart)

New York to Redesign Medicaid
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has issued an executive order to examine redesigning New York's Medicaid program. A team consisting of 25 voting members appointed by the governor will find ways to cut costs and improve quality and efficiency for the upcoming fiscal year 2011-2012 budget. The team will submit quarterly reports to the governor, with the first report due by March 1. Members of the team include state officials and employees with Medicaid expertise, two state assembly and two state senate members appointed by the two main political parties, health care industry experts and business and consumer leaders.

The governor also announced a website that will track progress of the state's Medicaid reforms. The site will allow policy experts, the public and other stakeholders to submit reform suggestions.
(Contact: Caryn Marks)

Washington Governor Pushes for Greater Health System Efficiency
Washington Governor Chris Gregoire has released a policy brief that highlights plans to save up to $26 billion in public and private health care costs over 10 years. As part of larger efforts to reorganize state government to operate more efficiently and effectively, the governor will introduce legislation this year to consolidate a majority of the state's health care purchasing into a single agency, enabling the state to use its full purchasing power to get greater value and allowing agencies to focus more on their core missions. The state will also run pilot programs that test models of provider payment based on quality of outcomes rather than procedures performed, care coordination and promote personal responsibility for making cost-effective treatment decisions.

These proposals continue Gov. Gregoire's efforts to promote cost savings and higher quality. The governor's previous initiatives have included not paying for certain adverse hospital occurrences, diverting patients from emergency room care to care in community clinics and monitoring care for patients with a history of overusing high cost services.
(Contact: Jason Hsieh)

Idaho Website Tracks Transportation Performance
The Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) has released a new web-based dashboard to track the Department's performance and make data easily accessible to the public. The dashboard can be found on ITD's website and provides a graphic overview of nine performance measures, each displayed to resemble a vehicle speedometer. Each graphic shows the most recent data point, how the data point measures against ITD goals and the desired trend for each measure. The performance measures on the dashboard include, but are not limited to:

  • Traffic fatality rate;
  • Percent of pavement in good or fair condition;
  • Percent of bridges in good condition;
  • Percent of highway projects developed on time;
  • Construction cost at award (as a percentage of the construction budget); and
  • Highway congestion.

Users of the site can click on each graphic to learn more about why the measure is important, how the data is gathered and what ITD is doing to meet its long-term goals for that measure. Dashboard information is linked to ITD databases so the information can be updated quickly and frequently.
(Contact: Andrew Kambour)

Oregon Provides Electronic Victim Notification Service
Oregon has adopted an electronic notification service to alert victims of domestic or other violence via e-mail or text message when a restraining order has been filed on their behalf. Victims are also notified 30 days before their protective orders are set to expire to allow them time to file for renewal. The information sharing system is expected to save the state $150,000 a year and reduce the number of homicides related to domestic violence.

The service, called the Protection Notification Project, is a collaborative effort between law enforcement and court officials, offering victims more time to ensure proper protection and reduce anxieties about the protective order process.
(Contact: Anne-Elizabeth Johnson)

Washington Proposes Streamlined Education Governance
Washington Governor Chris Gregoire recently unveiled a proposed set of strategies to streamline Washington's education system under a single department focused on student learning. This revamped Department of Education would replace the current system under which multiple agencies retain governance over specific segments of education. The new Department will have full authority to run the entire Washington state education system (K-12 through higher education) and will be led by a secretary who will implement effective evidence-based, student-centered best practices. The governor will direct the new Department to take the series of studies and reports completed over the last six years, focusing separately on early learning, K-12 and higher education, and combine them into a single set of strategies and measurable outcomes to ensure seamless education.

The governor's proposal would limit tuition increases when state support grows but give schools flexibility to raise tuition during tight budget circumstances. Under this proposal, if state funding is at or above a set baseline, tuition can't exceed the 60th percentile of that university's state peer group. In addition to tuition flexibility, the state's higher education task force has recommended and the governor support increasing accountability and performance in higher education through legislation that would commit the state to adopting and reporting metrics outlined by the National Governors Association's Complete to Compete initiative.
(Contact: Stephanie Shipton)

Illinois Continues Pension System Reforms
Illinois Governor Pat Quinn has signed legislation designed to stabilize pension systems for law enforcement officers and firefighters and address the increased challenge of funding pensions in the wake of the economic recession. The new provisions include:

  • A new maximum pension level of 75 percent of an individual's average salary;
  • A ceiling of $106,800 on pensionable salary, with annual increases as outlined in the law; and
  • Beginning monthly cost-of-living adjustments at age 60 for retirees and survivors of either 3 percent or one-half of the urban consumer price index, whichever is less.

The new law makes changes to pension requirements for individuals hired on or after January 1, 2011. The governor also signed Senate Bill 550, which will enable public employee retirement systems to administer the two-tier pension system signed into law in 2010. Both bills go into effect January 1, 2011.
(Contact: Lauren Stewart)
 

New Jersey Takes Action to Improve Water Quality
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has signed three bills to improve water quality and protect coastal and inland waterways, including establishing stringent state-level standards for controlling fertilizer runoff from lawns. The new state standards limit the level of nitrogen and ban the use of phosphorous in lawn fertilizers, while requiring fertilizers to be at least 20 percent "slow release," designed to release nutrients over time. They also prohibit the use of lawn fertilizer in heavy rains and create buffer zones around ecologically sensitive waters where fertilizer use is prohibited. While the fertilizer restrictions are part of Gov. Christie's plan for restoring Barnegat Bay, they will go into effect statewide.

The other bills signed by the governor set new standards for soil erosion control during development and requires the state Department of Transportation to assess and repair storm drains and storm water basins in critical areas in 2011, with the goal of preventing additional runoff from damaging ecologically sensitive watersheds.
(Contact: Andrew Kambour)


Other News
Report: Economic Recovery State–by-State
The Joint Economic Committee of Congress released the twelfth and final state-by-state analysis of the economic recovery for the 111th Congress. The analysis of private-sector job growth reveals that economic recovery from the Great Recession is outpacing the recoveries from the 2001 and 1990-1991 recessions. Though the labor market continued to shed jobs after economic activity accelerated in all three recoveries, private sector job growth in the current recovery began adding jobs 16 months after the official end to the Great Recession, in comparison with 18 months after the 1990-1991 recession and 30 months after the 2001 recession.

While the recovery looks different across states, nearly all states have added jobs from January to November of 2010. The number of new homes started and the number of new permits issued remain near historic lows, which suggests that states with large construction sectors may experience slower job growth even as the recovery progresses. However, recent retail sales and industrial production data suggest that private-sector job gains will continue in many states in 2011.
(Contact: Erin Sparks)

Survey Finds Progress and Challenges in Implementing the Common Core
To date, more than 40 states have adopted the Common Core State Standards and are now turning their attention from adoption to implementation. The Center for Education Policy recently conducted a survey of state education agencies to shed light on what states are planning and doing around implementation. The survey findings, outlined in a subsequent report, show among other things that:

  • State adoption decisions were primarily driven by an interest in improving educational quality, not federal incentives;
  • Full implementation of the Common Core will likely take several years in many states and will involve various changes to policies and practices related to curriculum, assessment, professional development and education certification and evaluation; and
  • Most states are expecting, rather than requiring, districts to adjust their curriculum to better align with the Common Core.

(Contact: Stephanie Shipton)

Annual Energy Outlook Projects Import Share to Fall Over Time
The U.S. Energy Information Administration has released the initial projections from its Annual Energy Outlook 2011, which includes a projected near doubling of previous estimates of recoverable shale gas resources. The Outlook projects trends in U.S. energy supply and demand across sectors and fuel sources, as well as energy prices and greenhouse gas emissions through 2035. Projections for 2011 include:

  • Higher updated estimates of domestic shale gas resources and subsequent lower projections for the price of natural gas. The estimate of recoverable shale gas resources is 827 billion cubic feet, up from only 480 billion cubic feet in the 2010 Outlook;
  • Energy imports continue to be a declining share of U.S. energy consumption due to increased efficiency standards, increased domestic production of natural gas and biofuels and low prices for domestic energy.  The share is expected to fall from 24 percent in 2009 to a projected 18 percent in 2035;
  • Coal will continue to be the primary fuel source for electricity generation, but non-hydro renewables are the fastest growing generation source, projected to climb to 14 percent of electricity generation supply by 2035. This is due to federal incentives in the short-term and state renewable electricity standards in the longer-term; and

The increase in the estimate of recoverable shale gas resources has a significant impact on energy supply and price in the short-term. The full Outlook, which will feature these projections as a reference case along with several alternative cases, will be released in March 2011. 
(Contact: Andrew Kambour)

New Report Outlines Ways to Thwart Contraband Cell Phone Use in Prisons
A new report by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration evaluates various technologies that could prevent contraband cell phone use by prison inmates. This report discusses the characteristics and capabilities of the various technologies and considers the potential interference effects they may have on authorized radio services, including commercial wireless, public safety communications and 9-1-1 calls. Three possible wireless technology solutions were identified in the report:

  • Jamming - disrupts the communication link between the phone and the cell phone base station and renders the device unusable until the jamming stops. Jamming interferes with 9-1-1 and authorized calls, and implementation costs vary with the complexity of the prison site.
  • Managed access systems - intercept calls to prevent inmates from accessing carrier networks. The cell signal is captured or rerouted and prevented from reaching other network base stations preventing the completion of the call. The systems can cause interference outside of the prison or to adjacent bands; however, they do permit 9-1-1 and authorized calls.
  • Detection - locates, tracks and identifies various sources of radio transmissions, in this case cell phone signals from prisons. They do not transmit and, therefore, do not interfere with 9-1-1 and authorized calls. 

The report offers advantages and disadvantages for each type of technology identified. While some of the approaches come with legal hurdles or limitations, each prison's characteristics will determine which approach is the most practical, feasible and economical to implement.
(Contact: Anne Elizabeth Johnson)

HHS Releases Report on Medicaid Preventive and Obesity-Related Services
A new report released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services provides baseline information on the types of preventive and obesity-related services offered to Medicaid recipients. All states cover at least one aspect of obesity treatment, defined as nutritional consultation, drug therapy and bariatric surgery, while eight states cover all three. The report includes data on the most common type of preventive services covered, such as cancer screenings, cholesterol tests and counseling.

The report also highlights efforts by states to improve awareness and use of obesity-related services for Medicaid recipients. Some of the state programs highlighted include initiatives that help pediatric practices coordinate care among a diversity of health care disciplines and integrating clinical and administrative data to provide quality improvement feedback on childhood obesity. Under federal health care reform, states are required to design public awareness campaigns so that Medicaid enrollees are aware of such services.

States have been at the forefront of addressing prevention and obesity. The NGA Center issued a report in 2009 highlighting such efforts.
(Contact: Jason Hsieh)


What's New
NGA Center Webcast: The State Role in Combating Identity Theft
The NGA Center will host a webcast on the state role in combating identity theft on January 26, 2011, from 1:00 – 2:30 p.m.  The webcast, in partnership with the National Institute of Justice, will review the nature and scope of identity theft and address questions such as: What is identity theft and how prevalent is it? How, when and where does it occur? Who commits it? And, what are challenges to preventing it from happening? The webcast will also explore actions states can take to improve how they collect, analyze and share information about identity theft, as well as identify effective policy responses states can use to fight it.

If you have any questions, please contact Jeff McLeod at jmcleod@nga.org or 202-624-5311.
(Contact: Jeffrey McLeod)