State News
Connecticut Offers Small Business Express Package
Connecticut Governor Daniel P. Malloy signed into law a bill intended to support small business growth, spur innovation and entrepreneurship, and increase the competitiveness of businesses in the state. The legislation creates a new Small Business Express Package that will provide small businesses with $180 million in incentives to create jobs, direct financial assistance including a loan program and a matching grant program, and training assistance. The bill will also drive innovation and entrepreneurship by providing $25 million loans for startup companies and matching grants, and providing incentives for “angel” investors to support high-tech and emerging technology startups.

In addition, the bill provides $20 million to expand or establish manufacturing technology programs at community colleges and vocational-technical schools to ensure that worker skills meet business needs. Finally, the bill streamlines the process of doing business by reducing the timeframe for obtaining permits and creating a new online portal that will serve as a central point of access to business programs and services.
(Contact: Erin Sparks)

Minnesota Doubles Funding Available to Small Businesses
Minnesota expanded its Small Business/Banking Partnership to provide additional funding to support small businesses in the state. The Partnership will provide up to $200 million to qualified Minnesota community banks for direct lending to small businesses. Funding for the expansion of the Partnership is provided by the Minnesota State Board of Investment, which manages the state’s pension funds. Qualifying banks are defined as well-capitalized banks with a “satisfactory” rating or above from the state Department of Commerce. The state hopes to increase the tax base and revenues while spurring job creation through the increased lending to small businesses. The Partnership was expanded in response to small business concerns about difficulties accessing investment capital and credit.
(Contact: Erin Sparks)

Hawaii Requests Proposals to Contract for State Medicaid Reforms
Hawaii’s Department of Human Services Med-QUEST Division released a request for proposals (RFP) for health care plans to bid on contracts to improve the state Medicaid program known as QUEST. The agency’s RFP requires plans to incorporate benefits that address chronic diseases, coordinate care, and increase the use of electronic health records among providers to improve care quality and reduce unnecessary or duplicated services.

The RFP encourages applicants to focus on incorporating “patient-centered care” practices to support patients with complex health problems and chronic diseases. The goals of the new contracts are to improve access statewide, address cost issues, support new models to manage care for people with chronic diseases, and to provide incentives for leveraging information technology to improve health outcomes.
(Contact: Jason Hsieh)

Iowa Committee Urges New Oversight for Mental Health Service
An advisory board within the Iowa Department of Human Services is recommending that the legislature reconfigure the state’s mental health service coordination by replacing its existing county-based system with a series of regional agencies. Under the proposal, mental health services would be coordinated by five to 15 regional administrators, overseeing at least three counties each and serving populations of 200,000 to 700,000 people. After the panel’s recommendations are considered, a special legislative committee will propose legislation to be taken up by the legislature early next year.
(Contact: Jason Hsieh)

Michigan Proposes Changes to Gas Tax
Michigan Governor Rick Snyder has released a series of policy proposals to the state legislature for funding up to $1.4 billion in infrastructure improvements, including significant changes to the state’s motor fuel taxes. In his Special Message to the legislature on infrastructure, Governor Snyder called for an elimination of the state’s 19 cents per gallon gasoline tax and 15 cents per gallon diesel tax. In place of the current taxes, the governor has proposed a percentage-based, wholesale tax on all motor fuels. The wholesale tax would be revenue neutral but indexed to inflation so that as gas prices increase more revenue would be generated for state road maintenance. The proposal would also allow counties to levy local vehicle registration fees if approved by local voters, with revenues going to transportation projects.

Governor Snyder also proposed improvements to Michigan’s roads, multimodal transportation system, water infrastructure, and broadband network, including:

  • Creating a new Regional Transit Authority in Southeast Michigan to improve transit access in the Detroit area as well as a separate rural transit program;
  • Changing investment priorities for water and sewer projects, based on the recommendations of the State Revolving Fund Advisory Group, that emphasizes recuing long-term costs by focusing on asset management and storm water programs; and
  • Establishing a one-stop-shop for approving utility work permits within state road rights-of-way to streamline the expansion of broadband connectivity.

(Contact: Andrew Kambour)

Massachusetts Program Collects Leftover Crops for Emergency Food Providers
Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick has launched a new program that collects leftover crops from local farms and makes them available to emergency food providers. The Massachusetts Gleaning Network includes farms, service agencies, food banks, local volunteers, and other community organizations. Members of the network will participate in gleaning projects, in which crops leftover after commercial harvest or crops that would normally be uneconomical to harvest are set aside for emergency food providers. Gleaning projects in November will help ensure that food is available for the winter months. The state Department of Agricultural Resources will serve as a clearinghouse for the network, vetting participants and connecting farms, food providers and community organizations and volunteers that wish to participate in gleaning projects.
(Contact: Andrew Kambour)

Washington Corrections Reforms Yield Savings
Washington Governor Chris Gregoire has proposed several changes to state corrections practices to help reduce expenditures and balance the state budget. In August, Governor Gregoire directed state agencies to submit a list of options that would reduce their budgets by up to 10 percent. Based on their input, Governor Gregoire identified the following cost-cutting measures for savings of approximately $46.8 million:

  • Reduce the length of time offenders spend under community supervision to 12 months, except for sex offenders who will be supervised for 24 months;
  • Release offenders at low to moderate risk of reoffending 150 days early;
  • Close one minimum-security camp and change the security level of a prison from medium to minimum security; and
  • Increase offender health-care co-payments.

(Contact: Jeff McLeod)

Michigan Commission Will Examine Legal Representation for the Poor
Michigan Governor Rick Snyder has issued an executive order that establishes a commission to examine how to improve legal representation for low-income criminal defendants. As legal defense for low-income defendants varies across the state, the commission is responsible for providing the governor with recommendations that ensure equal legal representation to indigent defenses throughout the state and are cost-effective. The commission must submit its recommendations to the governor and legislature by July 15, 2012.
(Contact: Alisha Powell)

Tennessee Moves to Streamline Teacher Evaluation
Tennessee is considering modifications to the state’s teacher evaluation policies. Specifically, the adjustment would allow principals to conduct two of the required classroom observations of teachers in succession, reducing the reporting and scheduling burden for both teachers and principals. The changes are meant to streamline the evaluation process, increase flexibility, and respond to feedback from educators on the evaluation system. The commissioner indicated he would recommend additional modifications to the evaluation system next summer after reviewing data from this year’s results.
(Contact: Amanda Corcoran)


Other News
Report Suggests Strategies to Align Workforce Systems and Labor Market
A new report from the National Skills Coalition and the Georgetown Center on Poverty, Inequality and Public Policy examines innovations in state workforce policy over the last decade and suggests additional strategies to help state workforce systems effectively meet labor market demands. State Workforce Policy: Recent Innovations and an Uncertain Future discusses the growing skills gap in the U.S. workforce and suggests that federal education and workforce policies have not effectively addressed that gap. Instead, a number of states have developed innovative strategies to coordinate and align higher education, workforce, and economic development policies. The report profiles recent state policy innovations with a focus on several key practices: sector or industry partnerships, career pathways, and integrated education and training.

In addition, the report suggests several approaches states can take to better align their workforce systems with the labor market:

  • Encourage community colleges to use labor market demand data in employment training and career counseling efforts;
  • Provide incentives to community colleges to offer more training in high-demand sectors;
  • Increase state funding support for part-time community college students who are workers expanding their basic and technical skills;
  • Increase links between state workforce and unemployment insurance systems, such as improving collaboration between unemployment insurance offices and One-Stop Centers; and
  • Encourage employers to create jobs that provide opportunities for skill-building and higher compensation.

(Contact: Garrett Groves)

Report Examines Medicaid Long-Term Care Spending Patterns
A report released by the Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured examines Medicaid long-term care spending patterns in institutional- and community-based settings. The report describes an overview of aggregate and per-enrollee Medicaid spending on long-term care services, and details the spending by long-term care users. The report also highlights key policy considerations for states regarding Medicaid long-term care spending, including:

  • Medicaid long-term care users account for 6 percent of Medicaid population, but nearly half of all Medicaid spending;
  • Medicaid is the only major financing stream for long-term care designed to provide services in both institutional and community-based services; and
  • Long-term services account for 70 percent of all Medicaid spending on dual-eligibles.

Contact: Jason Hsieh)

Report: The Impact of the Economic Downturn on Policing
The U.S. Department of Justice has released a report that examines the changing operations of police agencies in the current economic climate. Law enforcement agencies have implemented hiring freezes, required furloughs, and reduced the number of officers and staff in departments in order to comply with budgetary restraints. The report highlights several strategies for police agencies to consider as they seek to maintain the same quality of service with a reduction in available resources. Those strategies include:

  • Using technologies such as closed-circuit television, video teleconferencing equipment, and social media to provide law enforcement with a way to increase available information;
  • Shifting certain delivery of police services from sworn officers to civilian personnel, which can help alleviate the strain on police work loads, mitigate payroll costs, and allow sworn officers more time to focus on time-sensitive issues; and
  • Combining police agencies’ resources, training, and information.

(Contact: Anne Elizabeth Johnson)

Report: State Progress in Enabling Distributed Electricity Generation
A new report from the Network for New Energy Choices and the Vote Solar Initiative has found that more states have adopted best practices around net metering and interconnection standards that help enable and promote distributed electricity generation such as solar photovoltaic (PV) installations. The report, Freeing the Grid 2011, defines interconnection as the technical rules and procedures that allow customers to access the electric grid and defines net metering as the billing arrangement for customers under which they realize savings from their generation systems equal to what they would otherwise pay in electricity costs. The report finds that more states are adopting rules for both interconnection and net metering, and that states have expanded best practices significantly since 2007.

The report considers best practices for state net metering policy to include large individual system capacity, small or no limits on total program capacity relative to peak demand, provisions for new or additional meters, a larger number of eligible technologies and customer classes, and customer ownership of renewable energy credits, among others.

Interconnection best practices include larger individual system capacity, waived fees for net metered customers and capped interconnection charges, and the removal of restrictions on interconnection into certain customer networks, such as campuses, large commercial buildings, or dense urban areas.
(Contact: Andrew Kambour)

Report Urges Innovation in Preparing Principals
A new report from the Center for American Progress urges states to take a more proactive role in ensuring principal effectiveness. The report, Gateways to the Principalship: State Power to Improve the Quality of School Leaders, highlights the critical role states play in supporting school leadership, citing two critical state policy “gateways” to ensuring principal quality: approval of programs that train principals and oversight of principal licensure. Yet the report finds that few states are exerting their authority in those areas to meet the challenge of ensuring that schools are led by effective leaders. Focusing on principal preparation, the report profiles the work of eight states identified as leaders in developing innovative ways to improve principal training, and eight states that are "lagging" in the area.

The report offers several recommendations to states to improve principal preparation, including:

  • Defining characteristics of high-quality principal preparation programs based on current research and best practices;
  • Sunsetting all currently approved programs and requiring them to redesign their models based on those characteristics and to reapply for state approval;
  • Developing robust data tracking systems to collect data on the effectiveness of a program’s graduates in raising student achievement;
  • Publishing data on program effectiveness to drive program improvement and attract candidates to the strongest programs;
  • Eliminating the master’s degree requirement for principals and being open to approving district, state, and nonprofit principal preparation programs that meet the state-required characteristics; and
  • Awarding initial licensure based on performance and demonstration of competencies against the state definition of principal effectiveness.

(Contact: Amanda Corcoran)
 


What's New
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 pm EST.
(Contact: Anne-Elizabeth Johnson)

NGA Center Releases Report on Effective Common Core Implementation
NGA Center recently released a report, Realizing the Potential: How Governors Can Lead Effective Implementation of the Common Core State Standards, to provide governors and other state policymakers with guidance to transition their school systems to the standards. Governors’ authority over education and the tools with which they can take action vary considerably from state to state, yet all governors should consider taking the following actions to support implementing the CCSS:

 

  • Communicate a vision for reform;
  • Identify performance goals and measure progress;
  • Engage key leaders from education, business, and philanthropy;
  • Build educator capacity;
  • Lead transitions in state assessments and accountability policy;
  • Support local development and acquisition of new curricula and materials; and
  • Maximize resources and share costs.

(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, Tennsee). 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: Andrew Kambour)