Nebraska State Wellness Plan Shows Success
Nebraska's state wellness program has experienced an uptick of more than 30 percent in employee enrollment and met recruitment goals for employee participation during the fiscal year 2011-12. Areas of progress seen in the past year include an 11 percent improvement in increased physical activity and 19 percent increase in employees getting preventative screenings. Nebraska is also one of two states to win the Well Workplace Award from the Wellness Council of America for its comprehensive plan for health insurance.
Aggregate data is reported to the state to assess the success of the program and to develop priorities for improving workplace wellness. Individual data is kept private between employees and HealthFitness representatives. Employees who complete one educational coaching program become eligible to enroll in the Wellness PPO, which offers lower premiums and full coverage for annual exams and basic health screenings, in the coming year. The state contracts with an independent provider—HealthFitness—to offer services that improve health and productivity.
(Contact: Jason Hsieh)
Hawaii Expands Scope of Practice for Secondary Caregivers
Hawaii Governor Neil Abercrombie signed legislation that expands the scope of practice rules at community care foster family homes, which are designed to enable individuals needing care in skilled nursing facility to remain in a home setting as part of a family. The law allows secondary caregivers who provide less than five hours of care daily and 28 hours of care weekly to obtain a classification as a nurse aide, rather than require that they be certified nurse aides. The classification applies to caregivers in homes with three or fewer clients who complete the same training as certified nurse aides, but do not have to take a state-approved exam every two years.
Uncertified nurse aides will still be required to undergo annual skill checks from case managers, must have at least one year of experience in a community residential setting or medical facility, must complete 12 hours per year of continuing-education, and be at least 21 years of age. The rules for primary caregivers remain unchanged. The new legislation will be in effect through June 2013, at which time the state will evaluate its effectiveness before making the change permanent.
(Contact: Kathryn Bailey)
Rhode Island Works To Curb Dropouts
Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee signed legislation that takes a multi-pronged approach to supporting student success by making it more difficult to dropout out of school. The new law raises the compulsory attendance age from 16 to 18. Schools are also required to develop invidual graduation plans for struggling students. The plans go beyond tutoring to include extra supports like alternative programs, online courses, and job training. Students may apply for a waiver from the law, but are required to submit a plan for earning a GED or job training certificate in order to be eligible.
This is the latest in a series of efforts to increase student attainment in Rhode Island. Earlier this year, the department of education released regulations to strengthen requirements for providing support to middle and high school students and expand alternative pathways such as high quality career and technical education programs. The state is also working to develop an early warning data system to better identify at-risk students.
(Contact: Stephanie Shipton)
Oregon Inter-branch Commission to Lead Statewide Sentencing Reform
Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber has issued an executive order creating the Commission on Public Safety to study state incarceration costs and develop a strategy for improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the state's public safety system. The commission—made up of six representatives from all three branches of state government and a member of the public—is charged with evaluating arrest, conviction, sentencing, and recidivism data in order to develop recommendations for comprehensive sentencing reform in the state. The commission will submit its recommendations to the state legislature and the people of Oregon for consideration by December 15, 2011.
(Contact: Jeff McLeod)
Indiana Offers Reward for State Employee Austerity
Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels is rewarding state employees for their efforts to contribute to the state's austerity measures during challenging economic times. Eligible employees will receive $500 (meets expectations), $750 (exceeds expectations) or $1,000 (outstanding) based on their 2010 job performances. Approximately 24,000 executive branch employees are eligible. The amounts will be added to paychecks at the end of this month or early August.
Indiana state employees went three years without raises before the pay-for-performance increase granted in early 2011.
(Contact: Lauren Stewart)
Illinois Streamlines Environmental Permitting
Illinois Governor Pat Quinn signed legislation to streamline the environmental permitting process and make the process easier for businesses to navigate. The law makes the following changes to the Environmental Protection Act:
- Creates an online portal where permit applications can be created and submitted electronically with a digital signature;
- Establishes an online tracking system where companies can review the status of their permit applications;
- Allows an expedited permit review if an applicant pays an additional fee; and
- Authorizes issuance of general permits and permits by rule for certain classes of facilities, rather than requiring site-specific permits.
(Contact: Garrett Groves)
West Virginia Issues New Rules for Shale Gas Drilling
West Virginia Governor Earl Ray Tomblin has signed an executive order to establish new environmental regulations regarding natural gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale using the process known as hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking." The executive order directs the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to use its emergency rulemaking authority to promulgate new rules around public notice, water withdrawals, and groundwater protection, including the disclosure of chemical additives used in the drilling process. New requirements included in the executive order include:
- Filing of a public notice of intent to drill for wells within the boundaries of municipalities;
- Filing of a water management plan with DEP for water withdrawals greater than 210,000 gallons per month;
- Identification and preservation of designated uses of public streams if they are being used for water withdrawals; and
- Providing DEP with a list of additives planned to be used in the fracking fluid prior to drilling, as well as a list of additives actually used once drilling is complete.
(Contact: Andrew Kambour)
Virginia Moving State Fleet to Alternative Fuels
Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell has signed legislation that will begin transitioning the state's fleet of 4,000 gasoline and diesel-powered passenger vehicles to those that run on alternative fuels, including natural gas, biofuels, and electricity. The legislation requires the Department of General Services, in conjunction with the governor's office, to develop a plan for replacing state vehicles with new, alternative fuel vehicles whenever it is practical. The state may take into account available infrastructure, the location and use of vehicles, vehicle and operation costs, and the potential for fuel savings in determining which type of vehicle is to be purchased. Through this legislation, the state hopes to expand the market for alternative fuel vehicles and promote their use throughout the state.
Governor McDonnell has also signed an accompanying executive order that begins the transition. The executive order issues a solicitation to private companies to enter into a public-private partnership for the purchasing of vehicles, fuel, fueling/charging stations, and other infrastructure.
(Contact: Andrew Kambour)
Connecticut and New York Pilot Programs to Decrease Cell Phone Use While Driving
Two cities in Connecticut and New York have found success in reducing texting and other cell phone use while driving as a result of pilot projects administered by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Key aspects of the pilot projects include stricter laws, stronger enforcement of those laws, and ongoing public awareness campaigns such as "Phone in One Hand, Ticket in the Other." Officials in Hartford, Connecticut. and Syracuse, New York found that both handheld cell phone use and texting behind the wheel have declined by one-third since implementation of the pilot program. To effectively implement these programs, officials at NHTSA collaborated with the Connecticut Department of Transportation and the New York Department of Motor Vehicles' Governor's Traffic Safety Committee.
(Contact: Carmen Ferro)
Illinois Creates Public-Private Partnership School on STEM
Illinois Governor Pat Quinn signed legislation that clears the way for the creation of a math and science partnership school. Four school districts and Aurora University will partner to run the school's operations. Through these parternships, the school will be able to provide access to cutting edge innovations in STEM education. The school will serve 400 students in grades three through eight. Teachers will also be able to attend ongoing training opportunities and return to their home schools leaders in math and science instruction. Aurora University will raise private funds to cover immediate costs.
(Contact: Stephanie Shipton)
Report Shows Cost and Quality Improvement with Global Payment
New research released shows Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts (BCBS) saw lower medical spending and improved quality of care in its first year after implementing a global payment system. The Alternative Quality Contract (AQC) was used by BCBC as its health maintenance organization and point-of-service enrollee populations. The AQC budget covers the entire continuum of care per patient with providers eligible for pay-for-performance bonuses up to 10 percent of their budget for meeting performance measures of ambulatory and hospital care.
Global payments can encourage greater cost-control in the market, as referrals move towards lower-cost facilities that have equal or better quality than higher cost ones. These changes in referral patterns and improvements in quality suggest changes in provider behavior which will affect the overall health care market. In this study, the ACQ was associated with:
- A slower growth rate for spending, averaging $15.51 less per enrollee per quarter in comparison to health care spending for all patients;
- Improved quality of adult chronic care management compared to the control group—an increase of 2.6 percent in the proportion of eligible enrollees whom met quality thresholds; and
- Improved proportion of eligible enrollees who met pediatric care thresholds—a 0.7 percentage point increase compared to the control group.
(Contact: Brad Finnegan)
Clean Economy Outperformed Other Sectors During Recession
A new report from the Brookings Institution and Battelle provides an assessment of the size and characteristics of the "clean economy", defined in the as the sector of the economy that produces goods or services with an environmental benefit. The report finds that there are currently 2.7 million workers employed in the clean economy, and the sector outperformed the national economy during the recession, due to a boom in jobs created by newer firms in the clean technology segment. Policy action at the state and local level has given the clean economy its biggest boost and the report provides several recommendations for how policy makers can help promote additional growth in the clean economy sector, including:
- Scaling up the market through intensified "green" procurement efforts;
- Ensuring adequate financing to help new technologies achieve commercialization;
- Investing in research and development to drive innovation; and
- Focusing on regional clusters to help companies in the clean economy sector build on each other's expertise.
(Contact: Andrew Kambour)
Cyber Security Defense Strategy Calls for Comprehensive Cyber Mission and Strategic Partnerships
The U.S. Department of Defense released their first cyber security strategy, which outlines a the nation's approach to cyber threats. The strategy focuses on economic security, law enforcement, military, governance, international development and freedom of use in cyber space. The plan calls for cyber space to be considered as an equal mission space to land, sea and air operations, giving defense and homeland security partners the ability to operate in cyber space as they might in physical threat environments. The plan calls new concepts of operations including an active defense posture. In addition, the strategy highlights partnerships with the private sector and government agencies, as well as capitalizing on the nation's technological and human resource capacities as keys to the cyber security mission. For example, the Pentagon relies upon state National Guard units with information security operations to augment the national cyber security mission.
(Contact: David Henry)
U.S. Leads in Innovation and Competitiveness, Makes Slow Progress
While the U.S. ranks fourth in competitiveness and innovation, an updated report from the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation ranks the U.S. 43rd of 44 selected nations on competitiveness and innovation improvement. Improvements in areas such as education, research and development, productivity, and trade have not kept pace with other countries. Suggested strategies to further boost U.S. competitiveness include:
- Move into next-generation industries such as nanotechnology and robotics;
- Raise productivity in non-traded sectors through information technology; and
- Develop a national innovation strategy.
(Contact: Erin Sparks)
Report: New Firms Employ Fewer Workers
A new report from the Kauffman Foundation finds that new businesses have been launching with fewer workers and adding fewer workers as they grow, compared with historic norms. Starting Smaller; Staying Smaller: America's Slow Leak in Job Creation analyzed government data on businesses and found that the trend of slow small business job creation predates the Great Recession; it has been underway since at least 2005 and perhaps longer. The number of new businesses that employ workers other than the owner has decreased by 27 percent since 2006. For example, the study reportsthat the cohort of businesses founded in 2009 is on track to contribute one million fewer jobs over the next decade than historical averages would suggest. The report suggests that the growth of small businesses is critical to returning the American economy to full employment, and encourages policies that help businesses start up with more employees and grow over the long term.
(Contact: Erin Sparks)
High Student Retention and Expulsion Rates Undermine Education Systems
The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) released a new analysis finding that high student retention and expulsion rates are often correlated with more expensive, weaker, and inequitable education systems. Additionally, researchers found that retention rates have the potential to explain up to 15 percent of the difference amon average scores on the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA). Fourteen percent of students in the United States reported repeating at least one grade. This is compared to an OECD average of 13 percent.
Additionally, the report found that frequent grade retention and school transfers due to academic performance contributed to an increasingly inequitable education system and that transferring students often reinforced socioeconomic inequities and stereotypes.
(Contact: Stephanie Shipton)
NGA Center Issue Brief: State Policies to Reengage Dropouts
A new NGA Center issue brief, State Policies to Reengage Dropouts, offers policy guidance to states on strategies to facilitate the reengagement of out-of-school youth. During the past few years, states have used research on why students drop out to design successful dropout prevention policies and programs. Despite the gains states have made on dropout prevention, state efforts on dropout recovery are just beginning. Much work remains to solve the dropout crisis because no matter how effective a state's dropout prevention efforts, students invariably fall through the cracks. Consequently, states need to build robust policies and programs that provide on-ramps back to school for dropouts wanting to obtain a high school diploma. Dropout recovery can succeed if states take these actions:
- Set a goal to reduce the dropout rate;
- Use data to identify dropouts and target recovery strategies;
- Provide flexible, high-quality school options for recovered dropouts; and
- Consider incentives to focus on dropout recovery if resources exist.
NGA Center Holds Regional Consultations on Health IT
Through a series of five regional meetings, the NGA Center will convene all the states around critical health IT and HITECH related efforts. These consultations should be attended by the state's health policy advisor and the state's health IT coordinator. The agenda will focus on state-to-state dialogue around the most critical challenges and best practices in health IT and health information exchange deploymentTravel costs are reimbursed for state attendees. The remaining meetings will be held August 1-2, 2011 in Minneapolis, Minn. and August 8-9, 2011 in Los Angeles, Calif.
(Contact: Ree Sailors)
NGA Center Workshop: Public Private Partnerships for Transportation
The NGA Center is partnering with the National Conference of State Legislatures to create a Workshop on Public-Private Partnerships in Transportation (P3 Workshop) September 20-21, 2011 in Washington D.C. This workshop will assist states in exploring how public-private partnerships might be used to enhance the delivery of transportation infrastructure. This meeting will invite participation of up to 16 state teams coordinated through the governors' offices. Teams will send one representative each from the governor's office, the state DOT, and the legislature. Travel and meeting expenses will be provided for states teams on a first-come, first-served basis, for up to 16 states.
(Contact: Greg Dierkers)