Georgia Set to Establish Mental Health Courts
Georgia is moving to form a mental health division within Georgia's court system. Legislation signed recently by Governor Nathan Deal provides a framework on how to create mental health courts and provides them with the ability to receive funding from the state and federal governments, as well as private sources. The governor supports establishing mental health courts as part of an overall strategy to provide judicial supervision, appropriate treatment and rehabilitation in an effort to reduce the frequency of recidivism, particularly among those with substance abuse disorders. Defendants suffering from mental illness, developmental disability or co-occurring mental illness and substance abuse disorders can be tried in the mental court division; however, people who are charged with serious violent crimes like murder are not allowed to change to these venues.
(Contact: Jeff McLeod)
Kentucky to Close, Convert Prison
Kentucky Governor Steven L. Beshear is closing a minimum-security prison facility by the end of the current fiscal year and converting it into a training facility for the Kentucky State Police (KSP). Due to a prison population decrease of more than 1,600 inmates and the recent passage of corrections reform legislation, the Kentucky Department of Corrections (DOC) is able to relocate all inmates housed in the Frankfort Career Development Center by June 30, 2011, to county jails, halfway houses or community supervision. Inmate sentences will not be affected by the move since they are at the end of their prison sentences and would typically be transitioned to housing in county jails or halfway houses. In addition, the DOC will be able to offer all correctional officers and staff members positions at nearby facilities. The prison closing is estimated to save the state $575,000 annually.
By repurposing the prison facility into a KSP training center, the Justice and Public Safety Cabinet is expected to realize net operating savings, accommodate other departmental training functions and centralize the state police training.
(Contact: Alisha Powell)
Florida Agencies Coordinate to Combat Prescription Drug Abuse
The Florida legislature, with support from Governor Rick Scott, recently passed a plan aimed at curbing prescription drug abuse through better statewide coordination and closer monitoring. The new strategy will involve greater coordination between the Florida Department of Health (DOH) and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) in the monitoring of prescription drug purchases. Now, DOH will be required to monitor purchases from wholesalers and report suspicious purchases to FDLE. Additionally, the bill gives FDLE greater authority over investigations and prosecutions by allowing the department to inspect records of prescribers and dispensers of controlled substances.
Other provisions of the bill include:
- Banning physicians from dispensing controlled substances classified as Schedule II and III;
- Requiring registration for practitioners prescribing controlled substances to treat chronic, non-cancer pain, limiting the supply of approved prescription pads and requiring vendors to report practitioner purchases of prescription pads;
- Identifying specific criminal penalties—felony and misdemeanor—for the unlawful dispensing, theft of and failure to report the loss of controlled substances; and
- Increasing reporting and credentialing requirements and distribution limits for distributors of controlled substances.
(Contact: Anne-Elizabeth Johnson)
Georgia Creates Option for Public-Private Partnerships in Water Projects
Georgia Governor Nathan Deal has signed a bill that grants local jurisdictions the option to enter into partnerships with the private sector to help finance water infrastructure projects, including the construction of reservoirs. The law allows local governments or water authorities to seek alternative, private capital to help pay for the planning, construction, operation or maintenance of critical water infrastructure, including the acquisition or leasing of existing water supply and infrastructure. The local authority responsible for a water project will determine whether or not it is suitable for a public-private partnership and the appropriate level of state, local and private funding. Local authorities must then release a request for proposals (RFP) in order to competitively select a private partner. The Water Supply Division of the Georgia Environmental Finance Authority may suggest potential projects to local authorities and, at the request of local authorities, serve as the lead authority responsible for releasing the RFP and soliciting bids. The bill does not delegate the power of eminent domain to private entities involved in contracts allowed under the law.
(Contact: Andrew Kambour)
Colorado Creates Green Home Incentive Program
Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper has signed a bill that creates a new pilot program designed to improve the energy efficiency of Colorado homes when they are on the market. The law authorizes the Governor's Energy Office (GEO) to establish a Green Building Incentive Pilot Program to encourage homeowners to purchase energy efficient residences and improve the efficiency of existing homes. Under the pilot program, the GEO would give grants to qualified homebuyers when they move from one residence in the state to a newly constructed home that is recognized as energy efficient. This may include homes at least 25 percent more efficient than Colorado's existing building energy code, homes built to achieve ratings from a green building rating system (such as LEED or EnergyStar) or those that are judged to be more energy efficient than the buyer's old home based on the results of a home energy audit.
The available grants will be used to make improvements to the energy and water efficiency of the old home prior to moving to the new home, improving the efficiency of Colorado's existing building stock each time the program is utilized. The program will be funded through federal funds already available to the GEO.
(Contact: Andrew Kambour)
Tennessee Governor Launches Innovation Initiative
Tennessee is launching a $50 million innovation strategy called the INCITE initiative, to be focused on innovation, commercialization, investment, technology and entrepreneurship. INCITE is part of Governor Bill Haslam's economic development strategy, Jobs4TN. Jobs4TN was developed from a top-to-bottom review of the Economic and Community Development (ECD) department. Specific components of the INCITE plan include:
- Coordinating innovation efforts across nine regions of the state. For example, the ECD is establishing regional "jobs base camps" in each region to work with local partners to develop and/or revise a regional economic develop plan and align existing federal and state resources around that plan.
- Launching commercialization initiatives to help move products and technologies from labs to the marketplace faster. For example, the governor's budget includes $10 million for the Memphis Research Consortium as part of this effort.
- Funding new or existing business incubators in each region to support a network for entrepreneurs to share best practices and support efforts to raise capital.
- Creating Co-investment funds with $30 million in targeted funding toward the creation of early stage, seed and mezzanine capital co-investment funds.
The governor's broader economic plan focuses on spurring innovation through INCITE and through recruiting target industries, expanding regional and rural economic development strategies, and helping existing businesses remain competitive. A final component is reducing business regulation. The governor has directed ECD to review all federal and state business regulations, then to conduct a cost-benefit analysis of regulations identified as burdensome. ECD will present its recommendations to the governor and the state's congressional delegation in Fall 2011. ECD will also undergo a significant reorganization that will result in a new senior leadership team as well as a 35 percent reduction in staff.
(Contact: Garrett Groves)
North Dakota Invests in Entrepreneurship, Research Centers
North Dakota's recently passed biennial budget includes funding for research centers of excellence and establishes grant programs to boost entrepreneurship and start up businesses. The new Small Business Technology Investment Program was created with $1 million in funding to allocate grants of up to $50,000 to technology-based start up companies. The grants require a two-to-one match from a North Dakota angel fund investment. A separate $1 million program provides technology-based entrepreneurship grants. Further, $12 million in funding for Centers of Excellence will allow for continued investments in infrastructure and research capacity at state universities.
(Contact: Erin Sparks)
Michigan Studies Why Some Schools "Beat the Odds"
The Michigan Department of Education has conducted two studies to assess why some schools perform above their predicted levels, based on risk factors such as students' low economic status or proficiency with English. Over 100 Michigan schools that have significant risk factors but are still "beating the odds" shared several common characteristics, including:
- Individualized and differentiated instruction practices;
- Staff who receive targeted professional development;
- Use of student testing data for early identification and intervention with struggling students;
- Strong parental involvement and family support; and
- High standards and high expectations for all students.
The department's first study identified 63 schools statewide where student performance exceeds expectations based on risk factors. The second study identified 72 schools that performed better than a comparison group of schools with similar demographics. Twenty schools met the criteria of both studies.
(Contact: Amanda Szekely)
Oklahoma Acts to End Social Promotion
Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin signed into law a bill that would prevent public schools from promoting students who cannot read proficiently by the third grade. Under the new law, school districts will notify parents if their child has a reading deficiency as early as first grade and will develop a plan to work with parents to help their child become proficient. Schools are required to offer intensive reading sessions to children at risk of low reading proficiency. A school may hold back a child in the first, second or third grade, but cannot do so more than twice. The law contains exemptions for students with disabilities or those who are still learning to speak English.
Gov. Fallin also signed into law a bill that will create an "A-F" grading system for public schools, based on student performance, with the goal of allowing parents to better understand how their schools are faring.
(Contact: Amanda Szekely)
Florida Approves Medicaid Overhaul
The Florida Legislature approved Governor Rick Scott's proposed changes to the state's Medicaid system, aimed at reducing costs and achieving efficiencies in the delivery of patient care. The proposal will shift nearly all of the state's Medicaid beneficiaries into health management organizations (HMOs) and other managed-care plans by the end of 2014.
The state will be divided into 11 regions in which plans will compete for contracts and participate in a profit sharing arrangement with the state. The state is also planning to contain costs by requiring beneficiaries to pay $10 a month in premiums and imposing $100 co-payments on beneficiaries who seek non-emergency care in hospital emergency rooms.
(Contact: Caryn Marks)
Hawaii Expands Medical Home Model
Hawaii is expanding the patient-centered medical home model within the state's Medicaid program. The program will assign each patient a primary care physician that will focus on communication and coordination between providers, emphasizing the use of health information technology.
The state will aim to reduce inappropriate or unnecessary hospital admissions by linking each patient to community health centers and other neighborhood facilities. The model will be designed with a "whole patient" orientation, and will integrate primary healthcare, behavioral healthcare and social services for each beneficiary.
(Contact: Brad Finnegan)
Report: Implications of Osama bin Laden's Death
The Congressional Research Service (CRS) has released a report examining the near and long-term implications of Osama bin Laden's death. According to the report, the death of bin Laden is a multi-faceted topic that has operational, regional and policy implications. The report assesses how bin Laden's death will affect the organization of Al-Qaeda (AQ) central and global affiliates, future U.S. national security activities, violent homegrown extremism in the U.S. and U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East. Specific implications of the action include:
- Further disruption to global Al-Qaeda-related activities, including infighting between the remaining leaders of Al Qaeda central, lack of cohesion in and between the affiliated organizations and fewer individuals recruited or radicalized to support Al Qaeda's goals;
- Al Qaeda affiliates may become more operational, autonomous and diverse, with the possibility of one or more affiliates attempting to replace Al Qaeda core; and
- Since bin Laden's death potentially affects the radicalization process, the U.S. should examine developing and implementing a domestic counter-radicalization strategy.
(Contact: Alisha Powell)
Agencies Release Strategy for Energy Siting on Federal Lands
The U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) and the Department of Agriculture have released a new report outlining the resource potential of, key constraints to and overall strategy for siting energy projects on federal lands. The report provides an overview of relevant federal agencies in the energy siting process, current federal practices in siting a variety of renewable and conventional resources (both terrestrial and offshore) and how the agencies balance energy development needs with other resources and legal requirements such as the Endangered Species Act. The report includes criteria that federal agencies use when considering siting an energy project, including electric transmission lines on federal land, the process for determining priority energy projects and how multiple federal agencies plan and coordinate energy projects that may have joint jurisdiction.
DOI's strategy for energy development on federal lands (including offshore) includes assistance for and coordination with states on planning and siting of generation and transmission facilities, along with the protection of key environmental, recreational or cultural resources vital to state economies. Traditional and renewable energy resources on federal lands managed by DOI currently provide 30 percent of domestically produced energy.
(Contact: Andrew Kambour)
State Policy Differences Greatly Impact Yearly Progress of Schools
According to new data released from the Center on Education Policy, the share of public schools that did not achieve adequate yearly progress (AYP) in raising student achievement under the No Child Left Behind Act reached an all-time national high of 38 percent in 2010. The data show that state progress varies greatly—from 5 percent in Texas to 91 percent in Washington, D.C.—and has followed different patterns of increasing or decreasing over time. The center finds that state policies partially explain the variation and changes in the percentage of schools meeting AYP across states. For example:
- Some states increase their achievement targets over time; in these cases, student achievement gains have typically not kept pace with state targets;
- Several states have changed testing policies, including lowering cut-off scores for proficient performance, adopting new tests and revising test administration, in many cases slowing the rate of schools not meeting AYP; and
- A few states use growth models, tracking yearly gains in achievement for individual students and giving schools credit for student improvement over time. This has resulted in fewer schools failing to meet AYP.
(Contact: Amanda Szekely)
State Employment Dynamics and Competitiveness
The Wells Fargo Economics Group released a report exploring industries that are likely to experience high job growth in the future with an emphasis on the states that are at a competitive advantage or disadvantage in employment growth for the next several years. Based on an analysis of employment dynamics over the past two decades, the high growth industries identified across states included:
- Finance and insurance services;
- Professional and technical services;
- Accommodation and food services; and
- Healthcare and social assistance.
Drawing particular attention to the importance of industries that provide goods and services that are traded across regions, the Group highlighted the finance and insurance industries, as well as the professional and technical service industries as offering the greatest return for economic development initiatives. The report further found that there are high growth industries located in a large variety of states due to the need to provide many of these services locally. However, these jobs often require a higher level of education than a particular state's labor force may currently possess, thereby increasing the impact that workforce skills attainment has on a particular regions' job growth potential.
(Contact: Garrett Groves)
Report Assesses Future Health Care Workforce Needs
A report released by the Alliance for Health Reform and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation analyzes the growing issue of physician and nursing shortages in the United States, particularly in primary care professions, and offers several actions states can take towards addressing the issue. Factors causing the supply shortage include a health care workforce that is aging and reaching retirement, coupled with an increased demand for health care caused by an aging overall U.S. population. Additionally, as a result of Affordable Care Act (ACA), an estimated 32 million previously uninsured individuals will obtain coverage by 2019, straining the capacity of the nation's health care system at all levels.
Potential solutions to the shortages discussed include:
- States may consider reforming the scope of practice law to expand boundaries of what health professionals may do, particularly in the primary care setting;
- Alignment of practice licensing laws between states can help ensure access as physicians move or seek to practice out of state; and
- States can seek to ensure that medical and nursing schools are teaching team-based care, care coordination and shared decisionmaking skills.
(Contact: Jason Hsieh)
NGA Center Web Conference: Improving Outcomes in Child Welfare
The NGA Center will host a web conference exploring recent trends in child welfare on Thursday, May 19, 2011, from 3:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. ET. Nationwide, the number of children in foster care declined by approximately 20 percent between 2002 and 2009 – a result of hard work by state officials who are implementing an array of best practices and policies that are helping to keep children safe at home with their families. The web conference will highlight the successful transformation that has occurred in Virginia's child welfare system and the adoption of innovative best practices in Hawaii. To register and receive call-in information for the web conference, please contact Karen Krause at 202-624-7835.
(Contact: Linda Hoffman)
NGA Center Cybercrime and Forensic Sciences Executive Policy Forum
The NGA Center is inviting governors' criminal justice policy advisors to participate in the Cybercrime and Forensic Sciences Executive Policy Forum in Snowbird, Utah, on June 9-10, 2011. The meeting will feature scenario-based sessions and facilitated discussions led by experts in forensic sciences, corrections and criminal justice policy. The NGA Center will provide travel and lodging reimbursement for one participant per state.
NGA Center Offers Technical Assistance on Charter Schools
The National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA Center) and Center for School Change (CSC) are offering states tailored technical assistance on topics related to state charter public school policies. Please see the attached document to request requirements and for information on the project and options for technical assistance. There are 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 are encouraged to 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)