Illinois Research Facility to Accelerate Startup Company Growth
Illinois Governor Pat Quinn dedicated a new research facility at the Illinois Institute of Technology that will provide research space for more than 30 startup companies. The facility, called Incubator-South, is envisioned as a strategic innovation hub that will connect biotech, life sciences, engineering, materials, and chemical research startup companies with the resources they need to bring new ideas to fruition. The new facility provides 28,000 square feet of research space including 28 labs and six offices. The state provided $7.2 million of funding.
(Contact: Erin Sparks)
Rhode Island Proposes Pension Reforms
Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee is proposing significant reforms to public employee retirement plans in an effort to put the state's pension system on a sustainable path. Governor Chaffee's proposal:
- Introduces a hybrid pension plan for most public employees that combines traditional pension plans with 401k style accounts;
- Raises the official retirement age to 67 but would allow retirees to ease into pension benefits starting at age 59; and
- Places new limits on cost of living adjustments and awards them every 5 years only if the state's pension system is performing well.
The proposals are designed to immediately reduce the state pension system's unfunded liability and save taxpayers roughly $300 million in additional deposits to the fund in 2012-13. The long-term goal is to close the pension fund's shortfall gradually over a 25-year period. The state legislature will begin debating a version of the proposal November 17th.
(Contact: Lauren Stewart)
Four States Combine Efforts to Support Natural Gas Vehicles
Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett, and Wyoming Governor Matthew Mead have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that combines their purchasing power in an effort to increase demand for natural gas powered vehicles designed and manufactured in the U.S. Under the MOU, the states will identify specific fleet vehicle needs and issue a joint request for proposals seeking a U.S. based manufacturer that can supply them with natural gas vehicles. The manufacturer must supply vehicles that are comparable in price and reliability to those fueled by gasoline. The four governors will also reach out to fellow governors to determine broader interest and encourage participation in the RFP and procurement process developed under the MOU.
(Contact: Andrew Kambour)
Colorado Approves Teacher Evaluation Standard
The Colorado Board of Education unanimously approved new statewide teacher evaluation standards. The new four-tier grading system will identify teachers as "highly effective," "effective," "partially effective," or "ineffective." Half of a teacher's rating will be based on measures of student growth, as required by state law. Those ratings will be used to drive personnel decisions such as tenure and professional development. For example, new teachers will need to earn ratings of "effective" or "highly effective" for three consecutive years to make tenure and teachers rated "ineffective" for two consecutive years would lose tenure. Teachers with low ratings will be provided with a written improvement plan including specific recommendations on how to improve their practice. The new standards will be tested at pilot schools and districts starting next year.
The new rules were influenced by recommendations released by the State Council for Educator Effectiveness in April. The Council was created through executive order and members are appointed by the Governor.
(Contact: Tabitha Grossman)
New Jersey Releases Plan for Funding and Operation of State Parks
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie released a set of strategies for providing stable funding to the state park system while reducing its reliance on New Jersey's general revenue fund (GRF). The park system's operating budget is about $39 million and it currently only raises about 21 percent through fees. The goal of the first phase of the plan is to get the parks generating at least 38 percent of their operating budget by 2015, without raising entry fees. First phase strategies include increasing partnerships with nonprofits, foundations, and businesses, expanding solar array pilots that keep energy costs down, and adding or increasing fees for amenities like boat storage.
The goal of the second phase is to increase non-GRF funding to two-thirds of the park's total operating budget. Strategies in that phase include continued increases in private management of amenities such as concessions, and changing the role of the state agency currently running the parks to focus on managing natural resources and marketing each park so as to highlight its unique ecological features.
(Contact: Andrew Kambour)
New York Governor Unveils Job Program for Military Veterans
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has launched a new initiative to help veterans with specialized military experience transition into the civilian workforce. The initiative—known as Experience Counts—will help veterans pursue licenses, degrees, and certifications in the civilian workforce by making skills developed through military training and experience more transferrable. The Experience Counts initiative first steps involve state licensing and higher education:
- The State University of New York and the City University of New York will implement new systems to flag applications by veterans and active duty military members and provide guidance to help veterans earn college credit for previous military training and coursework;
- The Department of Motor Vehicles will waive the road test required to obtain a New York commercial driver's license for military members with experience driving trucks and heavy equipment; and
- The Department of Health will allow military training and experience as a medic to count toward certification for home health aides and nursing home aides.
(Contact: Alisha Powell)
New Pilot Program in New Jersey Provides Mentors for Veterans
A new pilot program in Atlantic County, New Jersey is connecting veterans who have entered the criminal justice system with human service agencies and a personal mentor. The Veterans Pilot Initiative is available to veterans who are facing criminal charges and whose criminal actions are believed to stem from substance abuse or mental health issues. Eligible veterans are referred to the Veteran Service Office for an assessment of their needs and matched with state human service providers. The New Jersey Department of Military and Veterans Affairs will also assign a retired or active veteran as a mentor. The goal of the project is to improve access to services for veterans in order to decrease future encounters with law enforcement and the criminal justice system.
(Contact: Cameron Ferro)
North Carolina Announces College and Career Readiness Initiative
North Carolina Governor Bev Perdue launched the Career and College Promise initiative, a new program providing eligible high school students with an accelerated path toward post-secondary degrees, diplomas, or credentials. Governor Perdue first proposed the program in her State of the State address at the beginning of 2011. The program offers three options for students to gain career training or college credit without having to pay tuition. Students can:
- Earn course credits at a community college that count toward a four-year degree at any North Carolina public college or university;
- Earn course credits at a community college that count toward a technical degree or credential; or
- Earn course credits through enrollment in a "Cooperative Innovative High School," such as an early college high school.
Course credits will also be accepted at some participating private institutions. The program consolidates and strengthens several early college and dual enrollment programs currently underway throughout the state, providing more well-defined, structured pathways to college and career readiness.
(Contact: Ryan Reyna)
Connecticut Launches Jobs Site for Veterans
The state of Connecticut is launching a new website to connect job-seeking military veterans with employers. The site, http://www.ctvets.org/, seeks to address the difficulty many veterans experience searching for jobs by providing:
- An online appointment scheduler to meet with a veteran employment representative;
- Information about veteran apprenticeship and on-the-job training programs;
- Instructions on how to apply for training and manufacturing grants and make use of the Work Opportunity Tax Credit; and
- Direct access to other services provided by veteran employment and business services representatives at the Connecticut Department of Labor.
The site is part of the state's Hire Vets First! Initiative which is meant to support veterans as they transition back to civilian life after serving.
(Contact: Lauren Stewart)
Kansas, Louisiana Turn to Managed Care for Medicaid Recipients
Kansas Governor Sam Brownback announced an overhaul of the state's Medicaid program, which would move nearly all Medicaid beneficiaries into one of three private managed-care plans beginning in July 2012. The new plan establishes KanCare, an integrated care system designed to improve quality of care and control costs, and proposes a realignment of state agencies to efficiently administer the new system. The state plans to submit a request for proposals from private contractors willing to provide comprehensive health, mental health, and long-term health care services at a fixed rate per person. The new program is expected to net savings of more than $800 million over the next five years, and does not reduce Medicaid rolls or provider payments.
In Louisiana, Medicaid recipients will choose from five private managed care plans starting next month. Governor Bobby Jindal's office reports that the program, called Bayou Health, is projected to save over $135 million annually. Bayou Health pays three of its insurance providers a fixed rate per person, and contracts require that 85 percent of the fixed rate is used for medical services. Two other insurance providers will receive traditional fee-for-service payments but will also get paid a fixed rate to coordinate patient care. The Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals is launching an initiative to educate Medicaid recipients and help them choose a plan. People who do not choose are enrolled based on a formula with some consideration of whether or not the plan includes their primary care provider.
(Contact: Jason Hsieh)
Indiana's Consumer-Driven Health Insurance Plan Examined in Stateline
In Indiana, 90 percent of state workers are covered by consumer-driven insurance plans (also known as high-deductible plans) but the uptake in other states offering the plans has been appreciably less. Stateline reports that 22 other states offer these plans, but typically sign up few employees. Indiana’s consumer-driven plan has an out-of-pocket limit of $8000, a number that is only $2000 for their traditional plans, and is paired with employee-owned health savings accounts (HSA). The state contributed 60 percent of the plan’s deductible into each HSA, a measure the article suggests is the most important reason employees have switched over. State employees in Indiana also have access to the largest provider of such plans in the country, giving them access to easily understood information about local healthcare providers. Researching and comparing provider options is an important part of what makes the plans succeed, so states that do not provide that information upfront depend on employees having the time, skills, and access to technology required to research on their own. Stateline points out that Indiana still pays the same amount of money for employees on both plans. However, the plan’s successes include reductions in doctor and emergency room visits and in encouraging employees to save $49 million in HSAs. As fewer people choose the traditional plan, annual premiums have almost tripled. This happens any time an insurance pool shrinks, because there are fewer healthy people left to cover the costs of unhealthy people that use the most resources. This process may happen faster with consumer-driven plans, because they appeal to younger workers who are comfortable doing their own healthcare research.
(Contact: Amanda Dunker)
Report Recommends Strategies to Create Innovation Economy
The Southern Growth Policies Board published a checklist of ten policies states can implement to create an environment more supportive of innovation. "Top Ten Policies for the Innovative State" recommends policies in the areas of funding, research, regulation and taxes, workforce, and leadership and stresses that the quality of programs is important as states try to implement the checklist. Policy recommendations include:
- Establish funds in targeted industries to seed new companies;
- Provide funding to help universities attract world-class researchers in disciplines tied to targeted industries;
- Establish a state task force to review taxes, regulations, and incentives and change them to expedite company creation
- Provide incentives to encourage students studying math and science to pursue STEM teaching careers; and
- Fund a state organization with multi-year funding to create innovation-based jobs and companies.
The Southern Growth Policies Board is a non-partisan think tank created by the region's governors in 1971.
(Contact: Erin Sparks)
Department of Energy Panel Releases Second Report on Shale Gas Production
The Secretary of Energy Advisory Board (SEAB) Subcommittee on Shale Gas Production has released a progress report on a set of recommendations they released last August about hydraulic fracturing (also known as "fracking"), which extracts natural gas from shale rock. Accessing natural gas resources is a high priority for many states, but fracking creates health, safety, and environmental problems that the recommendations address. States have some control over fracking risks and the report includes four state level recommendations to address the issues and identifies existing mechanisms for implementing each. Each recommendation addresses fracking's potential impact on public water supplies and suggests:
- Measuring and publicly reporting the volume and composition of water stocks used in the fracturing and cleanup process;
- Documenting all transfers of water among different locations used;
- Adopting best practices in well development and construction; and
- Adopting requirements for background water quality measurements.
Recommendations without existing mechanisms provide some opportunities for states to take on leadership roles, including experimenting with mechanisms that can address both immediate and cumulative environmental and health impacts.
(Contact: Andrew Kambour)
Report Urges Targeted, Thoughtful Early Graduation Policies
A new policy brief from Jobs for the Future provides guidance to states on developing or refining early high school graduation policies. A growing number of states already offer students financial incentives to complete high school in less than four years. The brief suggests that states need to carefully consider the purpose of early graduation policies and balance the short and long term benefits as they move forward. While there are significant cost savings associated with early graduation for academically advanced students, in pursuing these policies states may risk sending students to college who are unprepared and at a higher risk of dropping out or requiring remediation. In order to achieve both the cost savings of accelerated graduation and increased college and career readiness among students, early-graduation policies should ensure:
- Students graduating early meet the same or higher competencies as others who graduate on time;
- Students are prepared for college and don't need developmental education on campus; and
- Low-income and other underrepresented students are targeted and encouraged to take college courses in high school and take advantage of incentives for acceleration.
The brief also offers profiles of current and pending state graduation incentive programs.
(Contact: Amanda Corcoran)
Report Examines State Options to Address Prescription Drug Abuse
A report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) examines state policy options to address abuse of prescription painkillers. Drug overdose death rates have more than tripled in the U.S. since 1990, with more than 75 percent of prescription drug overdoses caused by prescription pain killers. This increase paralleled a 300 percent increase in the sale of prescription painkillers since 1999. The CDC report proposes the following policy options for states to reduce prescription drug abuse while ensuring patient access to safe, effective pain treatment:
- Implement Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs and focus resources on high-risk patients and over-prescribing physicians;
- Consider having state benefit programs monitor signs of inappropriate prescription drug abuse;
- Ensure providers follow evidence-based guidelines for the sale and use of prescription painkillers; and
- Increase access to effective substance abuse treatment programs.
(Contact: Jason Hsieh)
NGA Webinar: State Approaches to Evaluating School Principal Effectiveness
NGA is hosting a webinar featuring Paige Kowalski from the Data Quality Campaign on December 6th at 2 p.m. EST. Ms. Kowalski will discuss how states can link student and teacher data to school principals and to ensure that the information provided is accurate and useful. If you would like to participate, please email Amanda Corcoran by Friday, December 2nd to receive access information.
(Contact: Amanda Corcoran)
NGA Center Workshop: Economic Development in the Clean Energy Sector – Western States
The NGA Center will be holding the second of three regional workshops December 8-9 in Phoenix, Arizona to discuss strategies for fostering economic growth in the emerging area of clean energy. Topics of discussion will include: pivoting existing economic development efforts to clean energy industries, applying strategies from past successes such as biosciences and information technology, and determining where clean energy's unique attributes require new approaches. Targeted participants are governors' energy and economic development advisors from the states of: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Kansas, Montana, North Dakota, Nebraska, New Mexico, Nevada, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Washington, and Wyoming. A previous workshop was held for Northeast and Midwest states (October, 2011) and a future workshop will be held for Southern states (January 10-11, 2012 in Nashville, Tennessee). States that are or were unable to attend the workshop in their region are welcome to attend one of the other workshops if they choose.
(Contact: Aliza Wasserman)
Apply Now: Next Generation Justice Information Sharing Policy Academy
The NGA Center invites states and U.S territories with full NGA membership benefits to apply for the Next Generation Justice Information Sharing Policy Academy. Up to four state teams of senior-level state policymakers will be selected to develop policy frameworks that focus on improving efficiency, security, reusability, and scalability in their systems. States will receive up to $30,000 to complete project work and will host site visits, attend two policy academy meetings, and receive specialized technical assistance from NGA Center staff and national experts. Proposals are due December 9, 2011 by 5:00 p.m. EST.
(Contact: Anne-Elizabeth Johnson)