New York Streamlines Power Plant Permitting
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the Power NY Act of 2011 that streamlines the permitting of major electrical generation facilities. The permitting rules create a "one-stop" multi-agency siting board that will streamline siting and permitting decisions for power plants and lowers the threshold for plants requiring approval from 80 to 25 megawatts. The board is required to take into consideration the environmental and public health impacts a new plant will have on the surrounding community. The rules also mandate a six-month deadline for the board to complete its review of an application to modify or restart existing power plants if the amount of pollution they emit is reduced. Plants with a generating capacity less than 25 megawatts are exempt from the statewide approval process.
The legislation also allows for the creation on-bill financing programs to be included in the state's existing building energy retrofit program, Green Jobs/ Green New York, which was established to provide New Yorkers with low-cost access to energy audits and installation services. The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) anticipated that the addition of an on-bill financing program will raise an estimated $5 billion in complementary private capital. On-bill financing allows utility customers to pay for their energy efficiency upgrades to their residential or commercial properties on their monthly energy bill.
(Contact: Greg Dierkers)
Maryland Enacts Green Literacy Requirement
The Maryland State Board of Education approved an Environmental Literacy Graduation Requirement for the state's public school students in kindergarten through 12th grade. The requirement mandates that schools integrate lessons about conservation, smart growth and the health of our natural resources into core subjects, such as reading, math and social studies. Every five years, schools will report to the state to guarantee that students are meeting the requirement. According to the Board of Education, the new requirement will benefit students because:
- Environmental lessons have a positive impact on student achievement in core subjects;
- Student health can be improved holding outdoor classes and recreational learning activities; and
- Students with a greater understanding of natural resources and how they act to conserve resources are better prepared for a 21st century workforce.
Schools in each county can determine how these programs are designed, but are all required to follow state standards. The Board asserts that the state can implement the literacy requirement without additional funding or staff.
(Contact: Greg Dierkers)
Connecticut Moves to Retain College Graduates
The Connecticut legislature passed two bills that aim to retain recent college graduates and, more broadly, to continue to support entrepreneurship and innovation. Among the provisions, the Job Growth Roundtable bill:
- Establishes the Learn Here, Live Here program that offers a first-time home-buyers credit up to $2,500 to students who graduate in the state after 2014; and
- Expands eligibility for student loan reimbursement and tuition reimbursement to state residents who earn degrees in high-growth and green technology fields.
Furthermore, a related jobs bill creates the First Five initiative, which provides tax incentives to the first five businesses that each bring at least 200 new full-time jobs to the state within two years. Eligible companies can combine the benefits of the Reinvestment Tax Credit, the Manufacturing Assistance Act and the Job Creation Tax Credit. Other provisions aim to support innovation and entrepreneurship in Connecticut, including several measures to strengthen the state's economy and workforce by:
- Creating a Manufacturing Reinvestment Account that offers small manufacturing companies up to $50,000 per year for five years to reinvest and grow their businesses;
- Authorizing dislocated workers to qualify for entrepreneurial training; and
- Allowing more businesses and nonprofits to qualify for loans from the Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD).
(Contact: Erin Sparks)
Oregon Establishes State Education Investment Board
The Oregon legislature recently passed several key pieces of Governer John Kitzhaber's education agenda, including the creation of a statewide education investments board. The board is charged with ensuring that the entire education pipeline from early childhood to postsecondary is connected and streamlined. The board will also provide recommendations for targeting budget resources and investments.
Additionally, the legislature approved bills that will allow students to enroll in schools outside of their home school district and incent districts to offer full day kindergarten.
(Contact: Stephanie Shipton)
North Carolina Study Recommends Consolidating Small College Campuses
North Carolina's Program Evaluation Division has released a report that recommends consolidating the state's smallest community college campuses to save as much as $5 million per year. The report —which found that the state's smallest community colleges cost about 50 percent more to operate than larger campuses— recommended that campuses with less than 3,000 enrolled students join purchasing cooperatives and merge back-office functions with larger campuses that are close by. Under the plan, no campuses would close, but 15 of the state's smallest colleges would lose their separate presidents, payroll departments and other administrative functions.
(Contact: Lauren Stewart)
Nevada Increases Hospital Quality Information to Public
Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval signed legislation that will increase the amount of hospital quality information that is available to the public. Under this law, medical facilities will be required to submit reports of hospital readmission and sentinel events — potentially preventable accidents — to the Department of Health and Human Services. DHHS will be responsible for posting annual reports of medical site comparisons, including trend analysis, on their website.
The bill will also authorize the Health Division of DHHS to collect money as administrative penalties for improper referrals or licensures. The funds must be accounted for in a separate account and be used to improve the quality of care for patients and residents of medical facilities.
(Contact: Stephanie Jamison)
Ohio Overhauls Non-Violent Sentencing
Ohio is overhauling the state's sentencing practices in an effort to reduce the state's prison population by changing the way nonviolent and drug offenders are penalized. The bill's key provisions include:
- Early release is allowed for certain offenders after they have served 80 percent of their sentence;
- Judges now have discretion to sentence nonviolent first time offenders to community control, job training or treatment programs and requires judges to justify harsh sentences; and
- The state parole authority has options for penalizing parole violators as opposed to an automatic return to prison.
The reform package also equalizes penalties for crack and powdered cocaine and reduces some of the mandatory sentences for marijuana and hashish. It is supported by Governor John Kaisch and is expected to save the state approximately $1 billion in prison costs. The state currently spends $1.7 billion per year on operating costs for prisons around the state.
(Contact: Anne-Elizabeth Johnson)
Michigan Takes Charge of Failing Schools
Michigan Governor Rick Snyder has launched the Education Achievement System (EAS), a plan to redesign the state's lowest performing schools by placing them under emergency state management. Major components of the EAS include:
- Granting school principals and leaders autonomy for hiring and dismissal;
- Focusing spending on classroom needs as opposed to administration costs; and
- Collaborating with business and philanthropy to provide funding for all graduates to attend at least two years of college or training.
The first phase of EAS will include all of Detroit's public schools and will roll out in the 2012-2013 school year. By then, 95 percent of the distric's school funding will be used at the classroom level, as opposed to the current55 percent. Parent advisory groups will be created at every school to provide feedback. Students will also have the flexibility to move to different schools.
(Contact: Stephanie Shipton)
Florida Reduces Penalties for Teen "Sexting"
Florida Governor Rick Scott recently signed legislation that makes the transmission of sexually explicit messages, photos or videos by minors —commonly known as "sexting"— an offense separate from the offense of distribution of child pornography. In enacting this bill, the legislature sought to protect minors from being prosecuted for child pornography offenses that come with harsher penalties, such as sex offender registration. The bill imposes the following penalties for sexting:
- First time offenders can be sentenced to a noncriminal violation punishable by eight hours of community service, a $60 fine, and/or a training or instruction program;
- Second time offenders can be charged with a first degree misdemeanor; and
- Anything beyond a second offense can be charged as third degree felony.
(Contact: David Henry)
New York Proposes Stronger Driver Penalties for Using Electronic Devices
New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo introduced legislation that stiffens penalties for using electronic devices while driving. The new law would make it a primary offense to use phones and tablet computers without a hands-free device while driving, meaning that law enforcement can now stop drivers for talking on their phones, without any other reason. As a secondary offense, law enforcement would initially need another reason to pull the driver over, and could only cite the offense in addition to another. The offense would also add three points to the offender's license.
In addition, the new law would require that "distracted driving" be added to the defensive driving curriculum in the state. The legislation follows a report by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that 16 percent of fatal accidents in 2009 were due to distracted driving, and 20 percent of people injured in a crash was due to distracted driving.
(Contact: David Henry)
Natural Gas: Bridge to a Low-Carbon Future
A report by the MIT Energy Initiative claims that natural gas will play a leading role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions over the next several decades. The study examines the global future of natural gas through 2050 and its impact on U.S. markets. The authors evaluated the demand and supply implications for natural gas in the industrial, commercial and residential sectors. This included modeling the impacts of natural gas under different scenarios, from the perspectives of technological development, economics, politics, national security, and the environment.
The report recommends a number of activities to advance the use of natural gas:
- Displacing inefficient coal generation with natural gas combined cycle generation;
- Requiring the disclosure of all hydraulic fracture fluids;
- Developing policy and regulation to facilitate natural gas generation capacity investment concurrent with the introduction of large intermittent renewable generation;
- Supporting policies to foster an integrated global gas market, including the integration of natural gas issues into the foreign policy apparatus; and
- Removing policy and regulatory barriers to natural gas as a transportation fuel.
The report also makes recommendations for research and development needs and priorities for natural gas, and advises pursuing public-private partnerships to advance the growth of the natural gas sector.
(Contact: Greg Dierkers)
Report Provides State Data on Teen Childbearing Costs
An updated analysis from The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy provides 2008 state-level data on costs of teen childbearing. Nationwide, teen childbearing in 2008 cost taxpayers more than $10.9 billion, which would have been higher if not for a decline in the teen birth rate from 1991 to 2008. Detailed fact sheets are available for each state that outline the costs of teen childbearing, how costs were shared between federal and state governments, and changes in states' teen pregnancy rates between 1991-2008.
According to the analysis, the majority of the public sector costs of teen childbearing are associated with negative consequences for childrenborn to teen parents, including increased costs for health care, foster care, incarceration, and lost tax revenue. The report recommends that states continue to raise awareness of teen pregnancy among parents and the general public, fund effective teen pregnancy intervention programs, and maintain support for broad youth-focused programs in order to prevent teen and unplanned pregnancies.
(Contact: Linda Hoffman)
Building Partnerships between State Officials and Consumer Advocates Examined
The National Academy of State Health Policy released a brief highlighting lessons learned in building partnerships between state officials and consumer advocates working on health reform issues. Consumer advocates in the 11 states of the Southern Health Partners and state officials identified opportunities for collaboration based on the shared common goal of ensuring health care needs are met. In anticipation of health insurance exchanges and reform implementation, they stress the need for:
- Consistent communication to keep abreast of concerns and identify potential issues;
- Shared resources to leverage outreach efforts and harness expertise to bridge resource gaps, such as with "hard-to-reach" populations; and
- Mutual trust and respect grounded in sharing facts rather than misinformation to build and strengthen relationships.
(Contact: Brad Finnegan)
Report: America Remains Vulnerable to Radicalization Threat
As the threat of radicalized terrorism has shifted from foreigners coming to the U.S. to homegrown extremism, America has become vulnerable to terrorism, according to a report released by the Bipartisan Policy Center. However, the report finds that there is no common path for how citizens become radicalized. In addition, counter-radicalization differs from counter-terrorism policy as counter-radicalization focuses on the communities that terrorists use to recruit people.
Among the findings, the report states that refusing to name the ideological underpinnings of al Qaeda is contrived and counterproductive, especially when educating law enforcement officers and other officials. Police officers, FBI agents, and prison guards should be taught how to distinguish between the faith practices of ordinary Muslims and the murderous ideas of "violent Islamist extremists."
(Contact: Alisha Powell)
Report Recommends Policies for Improving STEM Education
The National Research Council recently released a report that details the status of STEM education and provides recommendations for local, state, and federal policymakers to strengthen STEM achievement. Specifically, the report recommends that state policymakers target their work on these key elements:
- A coherent and rigorous set of standards and curriculum;
- Strong preparation and professional development for STEM educators;
- A system of assessment and accountability that is aligned to high standards;
- Increased focus on science instruction during the school day and year; and
- Equal access to high quality STEM experiences.
(Contact: Stephanie Shipton)
Meeting the Adolescent Literacy Expectations of the Common Core State Standards
The NGA Center is inviting state teams from 10 states to participate in a policy forum on state strategies to meet the literacy expectations of the Common Core in Arlington, Virginia, on July 11, 2011. For more information, contact Stephanie Shipton.
(Contact: Stephanie Shipton)
Policy Forum on Evaluating Teacher Effectiveness
The NGA Center for Best Practices is pleased to invite you to a policy forum on Evaluating Teacher Effectiveness. The meeting will be held on July 18-19, 2011 at the Renaissance Providence Downtown Hotel in Providence, Rhode Island. The meeting is designed to provide governors' education policy advisors and key state policymakers with information on state strategies for evaluating teacher effectiveness. For more information, contact Tabitha Grossman.
(Contact: Tabitha Grossman)