Colorado to Combine Wildlife, Parks Divisions
Colorado will combine two divisions within the Department of Natural Resources in order to streamline services and more efficiently use state resources. Under the governor's plan, the Division of Wildlife and the Division of Parks and Outdoor Recreation would be combined into one division that would continue to focus on administering state wildlife and recreation programs in state parks and outdoor areas. The consolidation of the divisions would also reduce the number of combined staff positions through attrition and eliminate the need for redundant equipment, such as fleet vehicles. The proposal would also combine the existing State Parks Board and Colorado Wildlife Commission into one oversight board. Colorado state parks face further budget reductions in the upcoming fiscal year, and combining agencies would allow critical programs to operate with a reduced agency budget.
(Contact: Andrew Kambour)
Iowa Seeks Citizen Input for Transportation Priorities
Iowa Governor Terry Branstad has designated a citizen advisory committee to participate in an assessment of the state's transportation system. The Governor's Transportation 2020 Citizen Advisory Commission (CAC) will provide input into the finalization of study findings and recommendations and assist Iowa DOT with public education and building support for the study.
The CAC is part of an effort to engage the public and enhance understanding about the condition of Iowa's roadway system while evaluating the current and future funding available to best address system needs. The Iowa DOT is required to complete this assessment every five years, with the next due at the end of this year.The commission will hold six public meetings over the summer to solicit additional public input.
(Contact: Andrew Kambour)
New Jersey Task Force Recommends New Educator Evaluation System
The New Jersey Educator Effectiveness Task Force, established by Governor Chris Christie, proposed a new approach for the state's teacher and principal evaluation system under which teacher evaluations would be based on two equally weighted areas: student achievement and teacher practice measures. The new approach would include options for districts to select their own measurement tools.
Student achievement measures, comprising 50 percent of the evaluation, would include student growth on the state assessment, a school-wide performance measure and an optional third measure. Teacher practice measures, comprising the other 50 percent of the evaluation, would include the results of a classroom observation and a second, district-selected, measure of practice.
The task force also recommends implementing a principal evaluation system structured so that student achievement would comprise 50 percent of the evaluation; measures of effective practice would equal 40 percent of the evaluation; and the final 10 percent would be based on retention of effective teachers. Under both systems, districts would have the option of selecting a measurement tool from a list of state approved options.
In addition to structural evaluation system changes, the task force recommends that the state implement other policies simultaneously to foster conditions for success. Recommendations include:
- Providing observation training opportunities
- Informing key stakeholders of the changes and their implications; and
- Developing high quality data systems, and continuous monitoring.
(Contact: Stephanie Shipton)
Alaska Task Force Recommends Pre-K, Performance Funding, and Other Reforms
Alaska Governor Sean Parnell's Advisory Task Force on Higher Education and Career Readiness released preliminary recommendations to address the areas of parental engagement, teachers, school districts, state policy and post-secondary institutions, including:
- Establishing a state-run voluntary Pre-Kindergarten program;
- Strengthening teacher certification requirements and certification reciprocity between states;
- Expanding alternate routes to teacher certification; and
- Implementing three-year term limits for local school board members.
(Contact: Stephanie Shipton)
Illinois Repeals Death Penalty
Illinois Governor Pat Quinn has signed legislation abolishing capital punishment in Illinois and replacing it with a sentence of life without parole. Funds used to administer the death penalty will be transferred to a fund for murder victims' services and law enforcement.
The ban caps an 11-year moratorium on executions imposed by former Governor George Ryan after state courts found that 13 men had been sentenced to death for crimes they did not commit. Illinois joins 15 other states that have abolished the death penalty.
(Contact: Jeff McLeod)
Delaware Governor Establishes Uniform School Safety Plan
Delaware Governor Jack Markell is proposing a model safety plan for all public schools. The model will enhance emergency preparedness and multiagency coordination among schools and first responders. Delaware State Police School Resource Officers will work with school administrators, parents, fire departments, medical responders and others to complete safety plans for the schools where they are assigned. Potential emergencies to be covered by the model plan include bomb threats, bus accidents, chemical spills, fires, gas leaks, kidnapping, shooting, severe weather, student riots and utility failures.
The model plan will be prepared as a standardized resource for school administrators and will focus on the four phases of emergency management: prevention, protection, response and recovery. The plan will contain a scalable and flexible set of checklists that can be customized by administrators to address all-hazards preparedness. Currently, Delaware requires schools to have an emergency response; however, it does not require what details must be covered in the plan and the details vary widely from school to school.
(Contact: David Henry)
Virginia Boosts Funding for R&D, Innovation
Virginia lawmakers approved funding for many of Governor Bob McDonnell's proposals aimed at supporting research and development (R&D), commercialization and early stage equity investments in new companies. The approved funding includes:
- A $6 million Commonwealth Research Commercialization Fund, which will provide grants to technology firms for a variety of purposes, such as building wet-labs or matching federal research funding;
- An additional $4 million in new funding to provide seed-stage equity investments to Virginia-based technology firms; and
- A new R&D tax credit program, funded with $5 million.
Under the program, companies will be able to claim a 15 percent credit for qualified research, while companies that conduct the research in partnership with a Virginia university will be eligible for a 20 percent credit.
(Contact: Erin Sparks)
Indiana Launches Statewide Entrepreneurship Network
The Indiana Economic Development Corporation recently launched INVEST Indiana - a new initiative designed to assist entrepreneurs in the state. INVEST Indiana will create a statewide entrepreneurial network to engage private sector investors and foster the development of high-growth companies.
Supported through resources from Indiana's 21st Century Research and Technology Fund (21 Fund), the network is designed to help early-stage innovators access the support and capital needed in order to accelerate their growth. The INVEST Indiana initiative will further develop the 21 Fund's capacity to engage new, nontraditional sources of capital and provide new start-up firms access to experienced entrepreneurs for assistance. The entrepreneurial network and services will be operated by Elevate Ventures, a new nonprofit designed to attract investment partners to develop an entrepreneurial environment throughout the state.
(Contact: Linda Hoffman)
North Carolina recently implemented a controlled-substances lock-in program, limiting Medicaid recipients to a single prescriber and single pharmacy to fill prescriptions for certain drugs, such as prescription pain relievers and other powerful medications. The program is part of an effort to ensure that Medicaid recipients are receiving appropriate prescription drugs in appropriate dosage amounts and to prevent "doctor shopping" and other abuses. Early evaluations indicate that the program has the potential to reduce Medicaid expenditures by as much as $9 million annually while improving the quality of care recipients receive. The program also serves as part of Gov. Bev Perdue's strategy to reduce waste, fraud and abuse in the Medicaid system.
Preliminary data analyses on this group showed dramatic reductions in the claims Medicaid paid on their behalf and fewer prescriptions overall. The locked-in patients also made fewer visits to hospitals, clinics, physician offices and emergency rooms. In addition, the consistency created by the program allowed for more appropriate delivery of care to the locked-in patients.
(Contact: Caryn Marks)
Illinois Council Recommends Next Steps on Health Care Law Implementation
Illinois' Health Care Implementation Council, convened last year by Governor Pat Quinn, has released initial recommendations to guide the state's implementation of health care reform, including:
- Begin steps to create a health benefit exchange,
- Enact legislation to allow state regulators the authority to approve or deny health insurance rate increases; and
- Require that insurance companies spend at least 80 percent of premium dollars on health care for their policy holders.
The council's recommendations are informed by five publicly held meetings between July 2010 and February 2011. Overall, more than 150 individuals and organizational stakeholders shared their suggestions with the council. Gov. Quinn expects the council, which is comprised of directors of state departments responsible for elements of ACA implementation, to continue to oversee the state's efforts to fully implement the ACA. Future reports regarding the council's progress will be issued to the governor periodically.
(Contact: Brad Finnegan)
Report Examines Homegrown Islamist Terrorist Activity
The New America Foundation and Syracuse University recently released a report that examines the 175 post-9/11 cases of Americans or U.S. residents convicted or charged of some form of Islamist terrorist activity against the United States. It offers a breakdown of these activities into specific categories.
The report provides information on weapons training, manufacturing or acquiring, the role of Muslim communities and families in tipping off law enforcement about possible militant activities, a breakdown of the ethnic background of the individuals studied and the numbers of cases involving the targeting of U.S. military facilities or personnel. Specific findings from the study include:
- While the use of weapons of mass destruction by terrorists have been a major concern, none of the cases studied involved chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear weapons;
- Over one-fifth of the post-9/11 Islamist terrorism cases originated with tips from Muslim community members; and
- While no socioeconomic or ethnic profile emerged, the study was able to determine that the average age of the individuals studied were 30 years old and that a majority had some college education; and
- One in three cases studied involved a U.S. military target.
(Contact: Alisha Powell)
Report Examines the Basic Health Program Option for States
Academy Health and The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation released a report analyzing
The Basic Health Program (BHP) option under federal health reform and how implementation of this option would impact states. The Basic Health Program is an option for states in implementing the Affordable Care Act, targeted to non-Medicaid eligible adults between 133 percent and 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL). Instead of purchasing insurance plans through the health benefit exchange, these adults would be covered by a state "Medicaid look-alike" health plan and the state would receive 95 percent of what they would from the federal government had these adults been eligible for subsidies and tax credits via the exchange.
The report outlines advantages and disadvantages of opting to implement a BHP. Among the considerations:
- In organizing a BHP, states should ensure that provider payment rates are sufficient to have adequate physician participation;
- Whether states save money by creating a BHP depends on how much premiums cost in that state's exchange, as this is the basis by which federal tax credits will be determined;
- States have the flexibility to allow consumers to choose between Medicaid plans and subsidized coverage in the exchange, promoting the continuity of coverage; and
- BHP implementation will reduce the number of individuals participating in a state's exchange, which could affect the overall administrative costs of operating the exchange.
New Solar Generation Capacity Doubled in 2010
A new analysis of the U.S. solar energy market has found that the amount of new solar generation capacity added in 2010 was twice as large as the amount added in 2009. The analysis, performed by GTM Research in conjunction with the Solar Energy Industry Association, found that 956 megawatts (MW) of solar capacity was installed in 2010, including 878 MW of solar photovoltaic and 78 MW of solar thermal. This includes on-site residential and commercial installations as well as utility-scale solar plants. The 956 MW added in 2010 is more than twice the amount added in 2009, when 441 MW of total new solar capacity was installed. The analysis credits government incentives, increased demand and falling prices for the growth in the solar market and expects new solar capacity to increase significantly again in 2011. Total U.S. solar generating capacity to is now up to 2.6 gigawatts, enough to power approximately 500,000 homes.
(Contact: Andrew Kambour)
Student Literacy Lagging in Complex Texts
Metametrics recently released a policy brief making the case for student proficiency with complex texts and providing policymakers with recommendations to support student achievement in this area. According to the brief, there exists a significant gap between the text complexity demands on high school students and those in higher education. This gap results in students entering college unable to comprehend as much as 50 percent of the texts to which they are exposed. In order to make gains in this area, the brief recommends:
- Reviewing the desired endpoint of reading proficiency in twelfth grade and comparing this with the demands of postsecondary coursework; and
- Elevating grade level reading expectations to achieve the goal of true proficiency.
More Americans Start Sole Proprietorships
The Kauffman Foundation released its annual index of entrepreneurial activity showing that monthly business creation remained at its highest level in 15 years. The indicator was bolstered significantly, however, by a growing number of Americans starting sole proprietorships during the Great Recession in lieu of employer firms capable of supporting other employees.
Approximately 565,000 Americans started new businesses every month in 2010, a rate that has remained at 0.34 percent for two years and grown from 0.30 percent in 2007. However, during that same time period, the number of employer firms fell from 0.13 percent in 2007 to 0.10 percent in 2010. The Kauffman Index includes entrepreneurial activity for each state from 1996 thru 2010, as well as demographic trends by gender, race, immigrant status, age and education.
(Contact: Garrett Groves)
Learning Forward Releases Draft Standards for Educator Professional Development
Learning Forward (formerly the National Staff Development Council) released their revised standards for professional development for public review. The revisions incorporate the latest research on effective professional development, establish high expectations and identify policy recommendations. Feedback is due by April 6, 2011, and should be submitted using the survey accessible at: www.zoomerang.com/survey/WEB22BZVAB264c . Learning Forward will also hold a webinar on the revised standards on Monday, March 21, at 1:00pm EST. Registration inquiries should be submitted to Annette Morales at Annette.email@example.com.
(Contact: Stephanie Shipton)
NGA Center Policy Institute on States and 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 Center Governors' Energy Advisors Policy Institute
The NGA Center is inviting states to participate in a Governors' Energy Advisors Policy Institute April 5-6, 2011, and an optional half-day Energy Technology 101 workshop on April 4, 2011. Both events will take place in Arlington, Virginia.
The Policy Institute is exclusively for senior energy advisors and/or policy directors and will focus on concrete strategies for how to advance energy solutions that reduce costs, promote economic development and address environmental goals. For any questions about the policy institute, please contact Greg Dierkers at (202) 624-7789.
(Contact: Greg Dierkers)
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)