State News
Montana Seeking Contracts for New Employee Health Clinic
Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer recently announced that the state is pursuing bids to build a primary care clinic for state employees and their dependents covered by the state's self-funded employee health insurance. The proposal will use funding from the state health insurance reserve funds to pay for the clinic. The state will own the furniture, fixtures and medical equipment but will lease the building to a contractor selected to operate the clinic.

Employees and their dependents would be offered reduced or no co-pays to use the clinic. The state anticipates saving enough in health costs to repay the costs of the clinic to the health insurance reserve fund in one year.
(Contact: Jackie Le Grand)

North Carolina Assesses Offshore Energy Potential
A panel appointed by North Carolina Governor Beverly Perdue has released a final report to guide the state in developing a variety of offshore energy resources. The final report of the Governor's Scientific Advisory Panel on Offshore Energy recommends that the state create a comprehensive research and data collection program and engage in coastal resource management planning to ensure that ocean resources are used effectively. The report also made specific recommendations on developing several potential energy sources, including oil, natural gas, wind, thermal, and hydrokinetic energy. The report recommends increased exploration to determine if oil and gas resources can be economically developed; partnerships with industry to attract companies in the wind energy supply chain; and continued research and development into thermal and hydrokinetic energy, which are promising because of the confluence of ocean currents off the state's coast.
(Contact: Andrew Kambour)

Georgia Announces REACH Needs-Based Scholarship
Georgia Governor Nathan Deal launched the REACH Scholarship (Realizing Educational Achievement Can Happen) as part of his "Complete College Georgia" initiative. The REACH scholars—selected in middle school before students typically begin to drop out— will sign a contract to maintain a minimum grade point average and avoid crime, drug, and behavioral problems. Students will meet with a mentor until they graduate from high school and will be supported by their parents or guardians, who also must sign a contract. The students who complete the program requirement will receive a $2,500 renewable yearly tuition scholarship for up to four years, designed to bridge the average gap between other scholarships and the full price of tuition. The scholarship will be funded by private money; AT&T has already donated $250,000.
(Contact: Kate Nielson)

Restrictions Lifted on Midwives in Massachusetts
Massachusetts nurse-midwives are no longer required to have physician supervision to practice, including any decisions to order tests or write prescriptions. Under the new state law nurse-midwives (who have graduate degrees and are also licensed registered nurses) will practice within a health care system, and have a clinical relationship with an obstetrician-gynecologist without requiring a formal relationship with that physician. President of the Massachusetts Affiliate of the American College of Nurse-Midwives, Kathryn Kravetz Carr, said the change "decreases barriers to practice, which in turn increases access to midwifery care and more broadly, women's health care." The change will be especially useful in areas with few physicians, which made it difficult for nurse-midwives to find supervision.

Most states give nurse-midwives similar authority, and 27 states also allow certified professional midwives— who do not need a graduate degree to become licensed and often cannot write prescriptions— to practice and attend deliveries.
(Contact: Jessica Veffer)

Nevada Economic Development Plan Emphasizes Regional Approach
Nevada unveiled a new three-year economic development plan that emphasizes regional plans and private sector engagement. One of the first goals in the plan is to organize the Governor's Office of Economic Development (GOED), whose director will be part of the Governor's cabinet. As GOED's structure becomes established, its interim leaders will designate Regional Development Authorities (RDAs). RDAs must be local government entities, private nonprofits, or a mix of the two and are responsible for developing and implementing the regional plans. GOED will provide funding and staff assistance to RDAs as well as offer awards and incentives to spur creativity by RDAs: $50,000 will reward innovation in regional economic development, while $25,000 will reward collaborative regional efforts.

The plan's targets include clean energy; health and medical services; mining, materials and manufacturing; business IT; and logistics and operations. GOED will hire industry specialists to increase knowledge on these sectors and will work with RDAs and the private sector to develop regionally-based plans for growth in the targeted industries. GOED will also allocate money from the $10 million Catalyst Fund established last year to provide resources to businesses seeking to create or expand in Nevada or relocate to the state. Catalyst Funds will support projects that align with the state plan's focus on targeted opportunities and job creation.
(Contact: Meghan Wills)

Michigan Proposes Performance Funding for Schools
Governor Rick Snyder released his FY 2013-2014 budget, which includes $70 million in performance funding for schools that show academic growth. The money will be distributed based on the performance of districts, not individual schools. The extra funding will be awarded to districts that show growth in math and reading scores for grades 3 to 8, and progress in all subjects at the high school level over a four-year period. The proposed budget also includes $10 million for competitive innovation grants and $120 million for districts that implement a series of best practices. The qualifying best practices include publishing a citizen's dashboard, school choice, monitoring changes in student achievement in all subject areas twice a year, providing post-secondary learning opportunities, and providing opportunities for online or blended learning.
(Contact: Kate Nielson)

Kentucky Governor Pledges Support for Prescription Drug Abuse Bills
Kentucky Governor Steven Beshear is supporting proposed legislation aimed at reducing prescription drug abuse. The legislation would require all prescription providers to register and use the Kentucky All Prescription Electronic Reporting (KASPER) system and create new standards of information sharing among licensure boards and investigators. In addition, the legislation would require regular data review of KASPER reports to detect high rates of prescribing for further investigation.

The governor is also supporting legislation that would require pain management clinics to be licensed and owned by a physician, would create new rules for who can work at pain management clinics, and offer regulations related to pain medication delivery.
(Contact: Alisha Powell)

Oklahoma Governor Proposes Energy Conservation Targets
Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin has proposed legislation that would set energy efficiency targets for state agencies. The legislation, announced in Governor Fallin's State of the State address, would require all state agencies and higher education institutions to reduce energy consumption at least 20 percent from current levels by 2020. Governor Fallin's proposal would have state agencies focus on programs that teach building occupants how to use less energy rather than making efficiency improvements through more expensive building retrofits. That would allow the state to fully fund the conservation program through cost savings achieved through lower energy bills. The state reports that behavior-based programs could reduce energy consumption between 20 and 30 percent, saving between $300 and $500 million over 10 years.
(Contact: Andrew Kambour)

New York Takes Steps to Ensure "Experience Counts" for Veterans Searching for Jobs
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo recently announced that the NYS Department of Motor Vehicles is now waiving road tests for veterans applying for a commercial driver's license if they have military experience operating a similar vehicle. The new policy is part of the governor's "Experience Counts" campaign to help returning veterans get jobs in the state of New York.

To be eligible for the waiver, applicants must be active duty military or National Guard members that currently hold a valid driver's license. Applicants must be regularly employed, or have been regularly employed, within the last 90 days in a military position requiring operation of a commercial motor vehicle, and also have operated a vehicle that is similar to a civilian commercial vehicle for at least two years immediately preceding discharge from the military. Applicants must also certify that they have not had their license suspended, revoked, cancelled, or denied in the last four years.

The "Experience Counts" campaign is designed to help ensure that the valuable and specialized skills that come from military service are recognized and used to help veterans enter or reenter the civilian workforce. The governor also formed the New York State Council on Returning Veterans and Their Families, a group of state agency representatives and civilians that help returning veterans get jobs. The council consists of top-level members from the following agencies: Division of Veterans' Affairs, the Division of Military and Naval Affairs, the Department of Health, the Department of Labor, the Office of Mental Health, and the Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services. In November 2011, Governor Cuomo expanded the council to add additional members who have expertise in issues that affect veterans, including Homes and Community Renewal, the Higher Education Services Corporation, the Department of Economic Development, and the Office for the Aging. A representative from the State Education Department also participates in the council voluntarily.
(Contact: Lauren Stewart)

Other News
Report Finds Decrease in Terror Activity Involving Muslim Americans
A new report from the University of North Carolina finds that terror incidents involving Muslim-Americans have decreased since 9/11. Incidents include actual acts of terrorism, interrupted terrorist plots, and basic support of terrorist sentiments. For example, of the 20 Muslim-Americans accused of involvement with violent terrorist plots in 2011, only one was charged with actually carrying out the attack. That is a decrease from 2010 when six Muslim-Americans carried out terrorist attacks, one domestically and five in Somalia and Yemen. Muslim-Americans continue to be a source of tips alerting law-enforcement authorities to violent terror plots.

In the years following 9/11, the report suggests that senior federal officials over-warned citizens of the potential increase in terrorist acts involving Muslim-Americans as such an increase has not occurred. However, a large number of radical Islamist organizations overseas continue to call for Muslim-Americans to engage in violence.
(Contact: Alisha Powell)

Ads Targeting Children May Be Inherently Misleading
Health Affairs recently examined the case law and cognitive research on food advertising targeting children and suggests that government can take some steps to prohibit misleading advertisements without First Amendment conflicts. Many public health advocates link food advertising to high levels of obesity and believe the government should intervene. Cognitive research indicates that children under five cannot reliably distinguish between program content and advertising; children under eight cannot recognize the advertisement's intent to sell; and until 11 or 12, children do not understand the exaggeration and embellishment that are inherent in most advertising strategies. Because children under 12 may not have the ability to interpret ads as ads, advertising campaigns targeting them may fall under the "inherently misleading" class of speech that is not protected by the First Amendment.

States can play some role in efforts to limit advertising to children. For example, California's Obesity Prevention Plan suggests limited advertising at schools or recreational facilities for children, and developing incentives such as microloans or awards to encourage stores near schools to limit marketing of unhealthy foods. State Attorneys General have played a role in regulating food advertisements in the past, as they did with tobacco regulation.
(Contact: Jessica Veffer)

Two New Reports Highlight Potential of Alternative Transportation Financing
The Humphrey Institute at the University of Minnesota has prepared reports on behalf of two Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) task forces on transportation financing. The first report outlines the findings of the Public Private Partnerships (P3s) in Transportation Policy Task Force, first convened in April 2011. The task force concluded that P3s can effectively leverage existing transportation funding and improve the delivery of projects. However, the task force did not determine that P3s are a suitable replacement for public procurement and should be implemented only as a supplement to traditional transportation financing.

The second report was released in support of the Mileage-Based User Fee Task Force. That task force sought to identify and evaluate benefits and challenges to implementing a mileage-based fee system in the state. Under a mileage-based user fee, drivers would pay a fee based directly on the number of miles they drive in place of by-the-gallon fuel taxes. Drivers would be charged an equal amount (and states would collect equal revenue) for driving the same number of miles, regardless of the fuel efficiency or fuel source of a vehicle. The report found that although a statewide mileage-based user fee could be useful in supplementing or replacing the existing transportation financing system, implementing it would require additional study, particularly around how to inform the public and policymakers of the benefits and design characteristics of the system.
(Contact: Andrew Kambour)

Report Recommends State Actions to Spur New Company Formation
The Kauffman Foundation recently released a report, Startup Act for the States, that offers recommendations on how states can foster entrepreneurship and the formation of new companies. The report was released during the Kauffman Foundation's 2012 State of Entrepreneurship Address, which featured NGA Chair Governor Dave Heineman and Co-Chair Governor Jack Markell as speakers (video of the event may be viewed here).

One set of recommendations focuses on increasing the number of entrepreneurs who start new companies. The recommendations include allowing university faculty to retain licensing rights to the technologies they develop and determining whether specialized certificates might be an alternative to certain licenses in order to reduce the costs of professional training in some occupations. The report also describes successful college programs that focus on training students to start companies by having them create their own companies and by connecting them to networks of mentors and investors. Another set of recommendations focuses on how states can make it cheaper for firms to form, for example, by reducing the amount of paperwork, time, and effort required. Since not all new ventures succeed, states can make business shutdown and liability costs as low as possible, reducing the risks of starting a new business.
(Contact: Erin Sparks)

Department of Education Issues State Guide on English-Language Proficiency
The Department of Education released a guide to assist states in setting standards and targets for English-language learners. The report describes methods for state policymakers to use when answering three questions:

  • What does proficiency mean for English-language learners?
  • How long should it take students to reach that level, taking into account individual starting points and services received?
  • How should English-language proficiency levels be included when setting academic progress expectations?

The guidebook is a response to Title III of the No Child Left Behind Act, which requires that states develop English-language proficiency standards that are aligned with academic content standards. It is aimed at state assessment and accountability directors, and other technically-inclined leaders.
(Contact: Kate Nielson)