State News
Maryland Governor Proposes Pension Changes for Current Employees
Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley has proposed changes to the state pension benefits earned in FY 2012 and future years, offering active employees and teachers a one-time choice of either continuing to pay at their current contribution level and receive a lower adjusted benefit or increase their retirement contribution and earn benefits at the current level.

New employees will automatically be required to contribute more to retirement benefits, and full vesting in the system will increase from five to 10 years of service. In addition, early retirement age will increase from 55- to 60-years-old for new employees. The proposed reforms will not affect current retirees or benefits already earned by active or former state employees and teachers.If enacted, the reforms will allow the state to reinvest over $1 billion into the retirement system over the next six years.
(Contact: Lauren Stewart)

Michigan Dashboard Tracks State Progress
Michigan Governor Rick Snyder unveiled a new website, Michigan Dashboard, which allows the public to track Michigan’s progress in five key areas: economic growth, education, public health and safety, value for taxpayer dollars in government and overall quality of life. These areas align with the organization of the executive branch, and Gov.Snyder plans to present a summary of the Dashboard in each of his state of the state address.

The Michigan Dashboard presents information at a glance for 21 indicators within the five key areas, providing information about Michigan’s current standing, national rank and performance.
(Contact: Erin Sparks)

Mississippi Studying Cost Savings of GPS House Arrest System
The Mississippi Department of Corrections (MDOC) is launching a six-month pilot program to study the use of a new tracking system for offenders under house arrest. Under the previous system, the MDOC would know when the offender was present or absent from the reception zone of the monitor receiver in the offender’s home but could not track the location of an offender who left the receiver for authorized activities.

The new system will allow the MDOC to virtually track all movements by an offender both at home and in the community by utilizing secondary tracking technology that utilizes multiple cellular towers to triangulate the position of the offender/bracelet in locations where standalone GPS cannot. The new device also provides a higher level of tamper resistance, as well as increased information on offender compliance with supervision orders.

A state-operated prison bed costs taxpayers $41.74 per day to operate, compared to $4.00- $7.00 per participant per day for GPS tracking. With the enhanced monitoring, Mississippi will be able to divert a greater number of offenders to house arrest, saving taxpayers money and maintaining public safety.
(Contact: Alisha Powell)

California Hospitals Link to Emergency Communications Network
California’s hospitals are now linked into the California Health Alert Network (CAHAN) as a result of a project completed over the past two years. CAHAN is a web-based, statewide emergency communications system used for preparedness efforts at the state and local level. CAHAN links 33,000 emergency response partners—including 435 hospitals—in the communications system. CAHAN has been used by the state to spread information on major emergencies in California, such as a gas line explosion in suburban San Bruno in 2010, the H1N1 pandemic influenza in 2009 and seasonal wildfires.
(Contact: David Henry)

Minnesota Governor Accelerates Medicaid Expansion
Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton plans to accelerate expansion of the state’s Medicaid Medical Assistance (MA) program, moving low-income Minnesotans into the federally sponsored program starting on March 1. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act offered early Medicaid expansion for 11 states, including Minnesota, that currently cover childless adults in state health care programs.

About three quarters of new Medicaid enrollees will be shifted from the state-funded General Assistance Medical Care and MinnesotaCare programs; the expansion will also enroll newly eligible individuals currently not in a state health care program. Early Medicaid enrollment is expected to produce additional federal resources and will help the state reduce a projected shortfall in the Health Care Access Fund.
(Contact: Caryn Marks)

Massachusetts Governor Proposes Cities Join State Health Plan to Lower Costs
Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick has proposed a series of measures allowing cities and towns to have stronger negotiating ability with public employee unions on health insurance plans. Included in the Administration’s health insurance design proposal is a requirement that all cities and towns either join the state’s Group Insurance Commission (GIC), which has jurisdiction over state employee health plans, or negotiate with unions to identify a plan that is of equivalent cost and value by July 1, 2011.

Compared to plans offered by cities and towns, the cost of GIC plans has increased at a slower rate because of its ability to negotiate with providers and adjust copays and premiums. Additionally, the reforms will require cities and towns to move eligible municipal retirees into the federally funded Medicare program.
(Contact: Jason Hsieh)

Arizona Governor Proposes Energy Office Reform
Arizona Governor Jan Brewer has proposed to relocate the state’s Office of Energy into the Governor’s Office, with a focus on statewide energy policy, including the need for more nuclear and renewable power. The proposed move is part of an effort to reinvent the Department of Commerce, where the Office of Energy currently resides, as a Commerce Authority that concentrates on business attraction and retention and boosting the state's economic competitiveness.

The relocated Office of Energy will be an independent agency within the Governor’s Office with more authority over state energy policy, in addition to its current mission of promoting and administering energy efficiency and renewable energy programs.The changes are part of the governor's proposed Four Cornerstones of Reform comprehensive policy agenda.
(Contact: Andrew Kambour)

New Jersey Privatizing Toll Collections
The New Jersey Turnpike Authority has released a request for proposals (RFP) seeking private companies to operate toll collection facilities. The RFP lays out requirements for contractors seeking to operate 148 toll lanes and 14 interchanges on the New Jersey Turnpike and Garden State Parkway, including requirements for paying toll lane workers. The RFP requires that any workers hired by the contractor have a minimum starting salary of $12 per hour for full-time workers and $10 per hour for part-time workers, with cost of living increases to be determined by the contractor. Current employees will be given the right of first refusal on jobs offered by the private contractor, and the union representing the toll workers has the ability to bid on the contract.

While there are approximately 800 full- and part-time employees currently, the RFP does not place any requirements on the total number of workers that must be hired to operate the toll lanes. Once a contractor is selected, the contract will cover a five-year period, with an option of two one-year extensions. A report released by the Governor's Task Force on Privatization said the state may save up to $35 million a year by allowing a private company to collect tolls.
(Contact: Andrew Kambour)

Virginia Acts to Increase Degree Completion
Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell proposed legislation to improve access and success in higher education, with the goal of producing an additional 100,000 degrees by 2025, including:

  • Establish a new higher education performance funding policy with four components: basic operations and instruction; enrollment growth funding; need-based financial aid (for low- and middle-income families); and financial incentives to promote innovation and increased economic impact;
  • Form a Higher Education Advisory Committee to develop performance criteria for incentives, institution-specific base funding policies, economic opportunity metrics for degree programs, opportunities for additional, cost-saving managerial autonomy and efficiency reforms;
  • Create a Revenue Stabilization Fund, which acts as a higher education rainy-day fund to help buffer higher education funding against future cuts that can lead to tuition spikes during economic downturns; and
  • Incentivize public-private collaboration on science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM)-related and other commercially viable research.

(Contact: Ryan Reyna)

Wyoming Considers Videotaping Classes as Part of Teacher Evaluation
To promote both accountability and ongoing mentoring for teachers, legislation being considered in the Wyoming House of Representatives would require two new components of teacher evaluation: videotaped classroom instruction and monthly teacher evaluation. A similar bill introduced in the Senate would require that an instructional facilitator, seasoned teacher or parent representative view video-recorded lessons with the teacher and principal to provide input and advice for improvement. The system would be piloted in four districts of varying size, with $210,000 in state funds to cover equipment costs.
(Contact: Amanda Szekely)


Other News
Report Highlights State Strengths in Technology and Innovation
A new Milken Institute report finds that states continue to make progress in building up science and technology resources and in converting these assets into companies and high-paying jobs, despite the pressures of global competition and scarce federal funding. The 2010 State Technology and Science Index, which presents state data on 79 different indicators from new high-tech businesses to total venture capital investment growth, notes that states have made progress by focusing on long-term strategies and investments.

The report gives a detailed overview of the successful funding and incentive programs that the top-ranked states have deployed on their own, such as Maryland's InvestMaryland tax credit program and Utah's Energy Initiative. It also notes instances in which states have made significant improvements in specific areas, such as Ohio's improvement in its ability to attract venture capital and Alaska's expanding science and technology workforce.
(Contact: Erin Sparks)

Energy-Efficient Lighting Poised for Significant Market Share
A new report from Pike Research predicts that light-emitting diode (LED) and other high-efficiency lights will make up 75 percent of the U.S. lighting market by 2020, with the market accelerating in the 2014-2015 timeframe. The report analyzes technology and market trends that are driving the use of high-efficiency lighting and assesses how suitable new highly efficient lights will be for a variety of industrial or other lighting applications. The report also finds that both fluorescent and LED lights are poised to make gains in the next 10 years, but incandescent bulbs will continue to make up a substantial portion of the U.S. lighting market in the near future, despite a mandated federal phase-out.

The United States currently accounts for 20 percent of global electricity consumption from lighting, at an annual cost of over $40 billion. Industrial, commercial and outdoor stationary lighting sources, such as street lamps, are the largest share of the lighting market in the U.S.
(Contact: Andrew Kambour)

Study Finds Large Gap in School District Productivity
A study by the Center for American Progress of over 9000 school districts found a large gap in districts’ educational productivity, or the amount of academic achievement produced relative to spending. While efficiency varies across districts, the authors estimate that low productivity costs the nation’s school systems as much as $175 billion a year, or approximately 1 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product. More than one million students are enrolled in districts that the Center rated “highly inefficient,” Students from disadvantaged backgrounds are more likely to be enrolled in these districts.

The study found that districts getting the most for their money spend more on teachers and less on administration; partner with communities; and have school boards willing to make unpopular decisions, like closing under-enrolled schools. Currently only two states – Florida and Texas – provide public reports on school districts’ efficiency measures.
(Contact: Amanda Szekely)

Report Recommends Focusing on Industry Clusters to Create Jobs
A recent report by the Brookings Institute recommends that states focus job creation efforts around industry clusters made up of interconnected firms and supporting organizations. The report notes that most new jobs come from either the creation of new businesses or the expansion of existing businesses, many of which are part of industry clusters. States can grow their industry clusters by:

  • Using data to identify clusters, target policy and track performance;
  • Establishing a modest grants program to address discrete gaps in cluster performance; and
  • Reorienting existing economic development programs, policies and initiatives to support clusters.

To link, leverage and align existing offerings in accordance with the cluster framework, the report recommends that states tune department and program objectives across the administration to cluster needs and create a small cross-agency pool of funds that supports cross-cutting, bottom-up regional efforts.
(Contact: Erin Sparks)

NYPD Releases Report on Active Shooters
The New York City Police Department (NYPD) has released a study that analyzes and recommends methods to mitigate active shooters in New York City. Using the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s definition of an active shooter, the study includes a set of 281 active shooter attacks and NYPD’s statistical analysis to identify trends and patterns that would inform actionable recommendations for the security sector. The analysis found that among active shooter attacks:

  • 96 percent of shooters are male;
  • 98 percent are carried out by a single attacker; and
  • 46 percent of attacks end with force applied by police, private security or other bystanders; and
  • 40 percent of attacks end with attacker suicide or attempted suicide.

Additionally, the report provides recommendations specifically targeted to building security personnel, which includes: conducting a security assessment to determine a facility’s vulnerability; identifying multiple evacuation routes and practicing evacuations; and installing closed-circuit television systems that provide awareness of the entire facility and perimeter.
(Contact: Alisha Powell)

Study Evaluates Results of Vermont Health Reforms
A brief published by the State Health Access Reform Evaluation (SHARE) initiative and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation reports the results of Vermont’s Health Care Affordability Acts (HCAA), which were passed in 2006. The study examines the impacts of reform on health coverage affordability, access to health coverage and sustainability of the reforms. The study also offers implications for national health care reform and state reform legislation. Among the report’s findings are:

  • Premium assistance encourages coverage among lower-income groups, which may underscore the importance of insurance exchange subsidies;
  • Outreach and marketing campaigns are effective in encouraging take-up of coverage programs, particularly among those who are eligible but not enrolled; and
  • States enacting their own reforms may require additional federal funding as current funding mechanisms, such as those underlying Vermont’s programs, are unsustainable over the long-term.

(Contact: Brad Finnegan)
 


What's New
NGA Center Webcast: Improving Children's Medicaid, CHIP Care
The NGA Center will host a webcast on improving delivery systems of care for children on January 31, 2011, from 2:00 - 3:30 p.m. EST. The webcast will address Medicaid and CHIP initiatives that improve the quality and delivery of health care for children. The session will offer listeners examples of state efforts and innovation for using medical homes to improve care coordination, developing children's electronic health records and implementing children's quality measures in CHIP. If you have any questions, please contact Caryn Marks at 202-624-5372.
(Contact: Caryn Marks)

NGA Center Partners to Offer 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. Technical assistance must be requested by a governor's office and completed by August 31, 2011.Applications for assistance will be accepted on a rolling basis. Interested states should contact Stephanie Shipton (202-624-7857) prior to submitting an application.
(Contact: Stephanie Shipton)

Policy Forum on State Strategies to Improve School Principal Preparation Announced
The NGA Center, the Council of Chief State School Officers and the National Conference of State Legislatures invite states to participate in a policy forum on State Strategies to Improve School Principal Preparation March 3-4, 2011, at the Florida Hotel and Conference Center in Orlando, Florida.

Space for this meeting is limited to eight state teams of three members each. Team members should include:the governor’s education policy advisor, a legislator who chairs an education committee or subcommittee and the chief state school officer or designee. The first eight governors’ offices to respond to this invitation by Monday, January 31, 2011, will be given priority and will receive information about how to register for this meeting. If you are interested in attending this meeting, please contact Tabitha Grossman.
(Contact: Tabitha Grossman)