In the SLC member states, what percentage of males and females aged 18-34 are completing post-secondary education?
There exists a growing consensus that states need to increase the proportion of their workforce with post-secondary education. As the United States has shifted from a manufacturing to knowledge-based economy, states seek competitive advantages through a more skilled population. A likely legacy of the historic professional options available to men and women has led to an imbalance in the percentages of individuals with post-secondary degrees between genders. In almost every state in the country, a higher percentage of women have associates or bachelor's degrees. Among those individuals who are most likely to have completed their education and entered the workforce during the shift to an information economy (individuals between 18 and 34), the national gap for associates degrees is 10 percent; for bachelor's degrees the gap is about 20 percent. In other words, for every 10 women with bachelor's degrees, there are eight men.
(click on headers to sort by column)
|State||% males with some college or associate degree||% males with bachelor's degree or higher||% females with some college or associate degree||% females with bachelor's degree or higher||some college or associate degree male to female ratio||bachelor's degree male to female ratio|
Higher Education Finance Reform
States are confronting a gap in the skills workforce needed to remain competitive in the emerging economy. Even as states slowly emerge from the devastation of the Great Recession, research has indicated that those workers with the least skills and education were the most affected and are having the hardest time bouncing back. Indeed, the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland raised concerns two years ago that low educational attainment actually was slowing the recovery. It has long been recognized that educational attainment correlates with income and employment. To close the skills gap and improve their economic prospects, states must find a way to increase the proportion of their population with postsecondary certificates and degrees.
States' interest in increasing college completion rates faces a very major hurdle, however: increasing costs. Participation spiked in recent years, particularly at two-year colleges, as more students sought security in college or to make themselves more competitive in the worst job market the United States has seen in generations. But this wave of students has somewhat passed, as they return to work or reach a limit on their willingness to borrow to pay for their degrees. Over this period, costs associated with college, which had been skyrocketing, leveled out slightly as the Great Recession took hold. According to the College Board, which has tracked this data for years, prices are on the rise yet again, signaling increasing difficulty for states to increase college completion rates. Higher college costs presents a dual problem of diminishing access and depressing completion, two drivers that are in direct opposition to state interests.
What are the government performance audit agencies in the SLC member states?
|State Auditor||Executive Agency / Inspector General||Legislative Agency|
|Alabama||Office of State Auditor - makes a full and complete report to the governor showing the receipts and disbursement of every character, all claims audited and paid out, and all taxes and revenues collected and paid into the treasury, and the source thereof. The Auditor also makes reports required by the Governor or the Legislature. Further, the Office performs post audits of the accounts and records of the Treasurer and the accounts and records of the Department of Finance.||Department of Finance, Executive Planning Office - manages Alabama's SMART initiative, designed to improve Alabama's government by requiring organizational planning, linking plans to budget requests and appropriations, and creating meaningful performance measurements.||Department of Examiners of Public Accounts - independent legislative audit agency with the authority to perform audits of the accounts of all entities receiving or disbursing public funds.|
|Arkansas||Auditor of State - general accountant for the State, keeping track of the fund and appropriation balances of all state agencies.||Division of Legislative Audit - serves the General Assembly, the Legislative Joint Auditing Committee, and the citizens of the State of Arkansas by promoting sound financial management and accountability of public resources entrusted to the various governmental entities. Under the authority of the Legislative Joint Auditing Committee, the Division annually issues over 1,000 financial audits, reviews, and special reports.|
|Florida||Auditor General - conducts financial audits of the accounts and records of State agencies; State universities; State Colleges; district school boards; and, as directed by the Legislative Auditing Committee, of local governments. Conducts operational and performance audits of public records and information technology systems and performs related duties as prescribed by law or concurrent resolution of the Legislature. Adopts rules for financial audits performed by independent certified public accountants of local governmental entities, charter schools, district school boards, and Florida Single Audit Act nonprofit and for-profit organizations. Reviews all audit reports of local governmental entities, charter schools, charter technical career centers, and district school boards.||Inspector General - The Inspector General Act of 1994 created an Office of Inspector General in each state agency "as a central point for coordination of and responsibility for activities that promote accountability, integrity, and efficiency in government." Under the guidance of the Inspector General (IG), this office performs audits, investigations and other engagements "for the purpose of promoting economy and efficiency in the administration of, or preventing and detecting fraud and abuse in, its programs and operations."||Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability - provides data, evaluative research, and objective analyses to assist legislative budget and policy deliberations. OPPAGA conducts research as directed by state law, the presiding officers, or the Joint Legislative Auditing Committee. One research component is performance evaluations and policy reviews of state government programs and follow-up reviews that assess whether agencies have resolved problems identified in earlier studies.|
Business License Regulations in Selected SLC Member States
Municipalities have the authority to charge license fees to any professional engaging in business within city limits. Certain professions are governed by a board or state agency that issue licenses and collect "reasonable" fees for their operation.
A business cannot be required to pay licensing fees by more than one city in the state unless it has more than one location. (AR Code § 26-77-102)
The taxation of specific product categories in the state code is fairly limited.
Professions generally are licensed and regulated by the Florida Department of Business & Professional Regulation. Counties and cities may have their own occupational license requirements and related taxes and fees.
If a business serves more than one municipality, it may need a separate license for each one. Also, local governments have the authority to create their own tax categories subject to licensing and fees.
The taxation of specific product categories in the state code is fairly limited.
Georgia has business licensing system where the privilege to do business is determined by the physical location of the establishment, rather than the place where business transactions occur. Thereby, a business obtains a license from the municipality or county where they are located, and this license gives them the right to do business statewide, with no further license fees required.
There still are multiple boards and agencies that regulate various occupations and establishments, with the regulatory agency dependent upon the nature of the business.
The taxation of specific product categories is fairly limited.
The code of Georgia specifically limits that businesses and practitioners "shall be required to pay occupation tax to only one local government in this state, the local government for the municipal corporation or county in which the largest dollar volume of business is done or service is performed by the individual business or practitioner." (GA Code § 48-13-7 (e))
Healthcare Reform: Exchanges and the Expansion of Medicaid
In the world of politics, there are few simple problems and fewer simple solutions. However, some problems are more complex than others, as well as their corresponding solutions. Whether or not to build a certain bridge may invoke varying arguments for or against the project, but when the decision is made, there are a limited number of options for how to move forward. Not so with healthcare in America. There may be some tenets most Americans can agree upon but, beyond that, the solutions become more complicated. For instance, most agree that every American needs access to healthcare, in some form or fashion, but how to accomplish that is where the water gets murky. More precisely, unlike building a bridge, each answer to the problem comes with its own set of positive and negative economic and public health consequences.
Part of the difficulty in arriving at a solution is the sheer scope of the problem. The United States pays more per capita in healthcare than any other country, spending a staggering $7,538 per person per year. Norway is a distant second, at $5,003 per person, according to statistics from the Kaiser Family Foundation. The nation's healthcare spending was estimated at $2.7 trillion last year and is slated to surpass $3 trillion in 2014, according to a report by Bloomberg News. And as the cost of delivering healthcare continues to rise, the number of uninsured continues to grow, premiums continue to escalate, benefits shrink, employees continue to lose insurance through their workplace, employers continue to struggle with the cost of offering sufficient coverage and many people avoid or prolong care due to cost.
What are the seat belt regulations for 15-passenger vans in the SLC member states?
|State||Definition of "Passenger Vehicle" / "Motor Vehicle"||Year Established / Revised||Seat Belt Requirement|
|Alabama||a motor vehicle with motive power designed for carrying 10 or fewer passengers||1991||Front seat driver and passenger|
|Arkansas||any motor vehicle, except a school bus, church bus, and other public conveyance, which is required by federal law or regulation to be equipped with a passenger restraint system||1991||Front seat driver and passenger|
|Florida||a self-propelled vehicle not operated upon rails or guideway, but not including any bicycle, motorized scooter, electric personal assistive mobility device, swamp buggy, or moped||1986, 1990, 1993, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1999, 2000, 2005, 2008, 2009||Driver and all passengers under 18|
|Georgia||every motor vehicle, including, but not limited to, pickup trucks, vans, and sport utility vehicles, designed to carry ten passengers or fewer and used for the transportation of persons; provided, however, that such term shall not include motorcycles; motor driven cycles; or off-road vehicles or pickup trucks being used by an owner, driver, or occupant 18 years of age or older in connection with agricultural pursuits that are usual and normal to the user's farming operation||1927-2012||Front seat driver and passenger, unless exempted|
|Kentucky||every vehicle designed to carry fifteen (15) or fewer passengers and used for the transportation of persons, not including motorcycles, motor-driven cycles, or farm trucks registered for agricultural use only and having a gross weight of one (1) ton or more||2012||Driver and all passengers|
Public Pensions: Emerging Trends
Public pension systems continue to face significant challenges, a trend that has continued for more than a decade. While public pension difficulties alone would not be a destabilizing force on the economy, the fact that every other element of our nation's retirement architecture also faces complex challenges requires the urgent attention of policymakers at all levels of government. The funding difficulties facing the Social Security and Medicare systems; the rising funding gap at corporate pension plans, record deficits at the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (or PBGC, the federal entity that insures the benefits of private pension plans), low personal savings rate of so many Americans alongside the minimal amounts they have set aside for retirement, the "graying" of America with an increasing number of Americans now reaching retirement age and living longer; and the aforementioned public pension challenges cumulatively amount to a tsunami of red ink.
What solar incentives and policies have been implemented by the SLC member states?
|State||Corporate Tax Credit||Industry Recruitment / Support||Personal Tax Credit||Property-Assessed Clean Energy Financing||Property Tax Incentive||Sales Tax Incentive||State Grant Program||State Loan Program(s)||Other Financial Incentive||Energy Standards for Public Buildings||Inter-connection||Net Metering||Renewables Portfolio Standard||Solar/Wind Access Policy||Solar/Wind Contractor Licensing||Other Rule, Regulation or Policy|
|Florida||X||X||X||X||X||X||X||X||Equipment Certification Requirements|
The Stafford Loan Crisis in Perspective
Last-minute Congressional action seems poised to stop interest rates on subsidized federal Stafford loans from doubling from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent on July 1. The legislation, passed along with a the extension of the highway bill that faced the same deadline, pays for the $6 billion cost of the plan by shortening the eligibility time for the subsidy (to six years for programs intended to be finished in four years, and three years for those intended to be finished in two), as well as through new fees on federally-insured pensions and changes in how companies calculate money set aside for pension programs, essentially cutting their deductions.
Stafford loans are low-interest loans for undergraduate and graduate students at accredited post-secondary institutions. The loans are available directly through the U.S. Department of Education and are among the lowest cost means for paying for college. The Stafford program includes both subsidized and unsubsidized loans, with students demonstrating financial need eligible for reduced interest rates and delays in the charging of interest.
The Budget Control Act of 2011, approved by Congress and signed into law in August, 2011, eliminated the subsidized loans for Stafford Loans on July 1 as part of the sweeping deal designed to resolve the debt-ceiling crisis. Extending the subsidies on Stafford Loans carries a price tag of $6 billion according to the Congressional Budget Office. Under current budgeting rules, continuing the subsidy would require either cuts of the same magnitude elsewhere in the budget or increased revenue. In April 2012, the House of Representatives passed a bill that would have extended the subsidy, funding the measure by cutting funds to a preventative healthcare program, a move rejected by the Senate and the Obama administration. Legislation to extend the subsidy for a year proposed in the Senate would have paid for it by changing a law that permits some wealthy taxpayers to classify their pay as dividends to avoid paying Social Security and Medicare taxes on it, a move that did not meet the required 60 votes needed to reach the floor. The stalemate in both chambers has placed the continuation of the Stafford loan subsidy in jeopardy.
What are the grandparental visitation rights in the SLC member states?
The custody statute requires courts to consider the moral character of the parents and the age and sex of the child to determine the best interests of the child. Conditions for grandparent visitation rights include a determination of whether a parent is deceased, the child's parents are divorced, or the grandparent has been denied visitation. Adoption cuts off all visitation rights of grandparents. At least one Alabama Court of Appeals ruled the Alabama statute providing grandparental visitation unconstitutional.
The custody statute requires that court grant custody "without regard to the sex of the parent but solely in accordance with the welfare and best interest of the children." Conditions for grandparent visitation rights include several circumstances where the grandchild has resided with the grandparent, the child's parents are divorced, the child is in the custody of someone other than a parent, or the child has been born out of wedlock. Adoption cuts off all visitation rights of the natural grandparents.
The Florida Supreme Court has ruled the Florida statute providing grandparental visitation unconstitutional, and the Florida Legislature has not adopted an alternative statute.
The custody statute does not list specific factors for the court to consider for determining the best interest of the child. A court may award visitation rights if an action is pending where there is an issue involving the custody of a minor child, divorce of the child's parents, termination of a parent's rights, or visitation rights. Adoption cuts off the visitation rights of the grandparents unless the adoption is granted to a stepparent or a natural relative of the child.
A court may award visitation rights if visitation would be in the child's best interest. A court may award a grandparent the same visitation rights as a parent without custody if the grandparent's child is deceased and the grandparent has provided child support to the grandchild. Adoption cuts off the visitation rights of grandparents unless the adoption is granted to a stepparent, and the grandparent's child has not had his or her parental rights terminated.
What are the SLC member state laws regarding mandatory reporting of child abuse?
Reports are required from all of the following:
The following individuals are mandated reporters:
The following persons are mandated reporters:
Tuition Deregulation in Higher Education
Across the country, state support for public colleges and universities was cut significantly during the recent economic downturn. Even as state revenues return to their pre-recessionary levels, economic shifts and deferred expenditures in a range of areas continue to dampen appropriations for higher education in many states. Between 2006 and 2011, per full-time student state support for post-secondary education dropped an average of 10.4 percent regionally, slightly less than the national decline of 12.5 percent. Economic pressures and budgetary demands in some states in the region resulted in reductions in state support for higher education by more than 20 percent over that five-year period.
Higher education is in a unique position with respect to funding, however, insofar as losses in state support often can be replaced by increased revenue from tuition. This period of sustained reduction in state support has resulted in an overall average increase in tuition per full-time student rising regionally by 11.2 percent and nationally by 15.8 percent. The divergent trends between state support and tuition revenue have increased the share of revenue from tuition from 36.6 percent regionally in 2006, to 41.9 percent in 2011. At the national level, the increase was slightly greater, rising from the same point (36.6 percent) in 2006, to 43.3 percent in 2011.
The table below illustrates some of these trends.
|State||State appropriations per |
full time equivalent student
|Tuition per |
full time equivalent student
revenue from tuition
How are local-level superintendents chosen in the SLC member states?
In most of the SLC member states (12 of 15), local-level school superintendents are appointed by their school board. Alabama, Florida, and Mississippi are the three exceptions, where some superintendents are appointed and others elected.
|Alabama||There are 128 local superintendents. There are city superintendents and county superintendents. City superintendents are appointed by city school boards. Twenty-seven county superintendents are appointed by county school boards and 40 are elected.|
|Arkansas||There are 310 local superintendents. Local superintendents are appointed by local school boards.|
|Florida||There are 67 county superintendents. County superintendents are elected, although local electors may choose to make county superintendents appointed by county school boards. In fact, 44 county superintendents are elected and 23 are appointed by county school boards.|
|Georgia||There are 181 local superintendents. There are city superintendents and county superintendents. Local superintendents are appointed by local school boards.|
|Kentucky||Local school board members are elected. There are county superintendents and independent superintendents. Local superintendents are appointed by local school boards.|
|Louisiana||There are 68 local superintendents. There are parish (county) superintendents and city superintendents. Local superintendents are appointed by local school boards.|
|Mississippi||There are 152 local superintendents. There are consolidated school district superintendents, county school district superintendents and municipal school district superintendents. Some local superintendents are elected, while other local superintendents are appointed.|
|Missouri||There are 524 local superintendents. There are metropolitan superintendents, seven director superintendents, special superintendents and urban superintendents. Local superintendents are apponted by local school boards.|
Latest State Unemployment Rates
The U.S. Department of Labor released the latest state unemployment figures earlier this week. According to this report, in January 2012, 45 states recorded a decrease from the previous month, one state (New York) experienced an increase and the remaining four states (Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and New Mexico) did not see a change. A comparison of state unemployment trends in January 2012 with January 2011 reveals that 48 states had rate decreases with only New York experiencing an increase and Illinois remaining unchanged. The improving state unemployment picture reflected trends at the national level, though there is room for significant improvement in the nation's employment situation. As noted by the U.S. Department of Labor late last week, in February 2012, the national unemployment rate was 8.3 percent, unchanged from the previous month, and the lowest rate in three years as U.S. employers added 227,000 jobs to complete three of the best months of hiring since the end of the Great Recession. In the past three months, the economy has generated an average of 245,000 jobs per month.
Among the nation's four regions, the unemployment rate was highest in the West in January 2012 (9.6 percent) while the Midwest recorded the lowest rate (7.7 percent). The South experienced a statistically significant over-the-month unemployment rate change (-0.2 percent). Among the nation's nine geographical divisions, the Pacific reported the highest jobless rate (10.2 percent) while six divisions, including the East South Central and South Atlantic, enjoyed statistically significant unemployment rate declines in January 2012.
Nevada's unemployment rate was the highest among all the states (12.7 percent), with California and Rhode Island recording the next highest rates (10.9 percent each). North Dakota (3.2 percent) and Nebraska (4 percent) were the two states with the lowest rate. Of the 14 states that recorded statistically significant over-the-month unemployment rate declines, two SLC states (Mississippi and Missouri) secured the largest declines (-0.5 percent each). There were 24 states that had an unemployment rate in January 2012 that was lower than the national average.
The improving employment situation in the states is reflected in a number of exciting projects across the country. A sampling of these projects, both new and expansions, include the following:
National Ag Day--March 8th
In recognition of National Agriculture Day, consider the following: every day 2 million Americans, less than 2 percent of the U.S. population, rises early to tend the land and animals that feed the nation and the world. American farmers serve as stewards of over 40 percent of the land mass of the United States, protecting and preserving vital open space and water resources. Beyond the farm, agriculture and related industries employ 22 million Americans in rural and urban settings alike.
Agriculture is central to the economic well-being of the South and the nation. Even as the Great Recession has rocked American businesses, agriculture has grown, with agricultural exports exceeding $136 Biln in 2012, up 18 percent over the previous year. Indeed, since the economic downturn began, U.S. farm exports have enjoyed double digit gains every year. The current U.S. trade balance in agriculture remains one of the few surplus areas, with 2011 agricultural trade resulting in a net positive balance of nearly $43 Biln (at the same time the overall U.S. trade deficit has continued to swell, to $858 Biln in 2011). What makes this current run up in exports noteworthy is that it is taking place at the same time prices for key commodities are also high, resulting in record levels of net farm income.
The South has an abundant and varied agricultural sector, representing nearly the full range of animals and crops raised in the United States. Southern states lead the United States in production of broilers, cotton, cattle, rice, tobacco, among others. Indeed, the 15-state region accounts for nearly 30 percent of all agricultural output in the United States, a remarkable feat considering the South represents little of the nation's output of corn, soybeans and dairy, three of the top five commodities by value.
QuickStat: Top Commodity Production
How are public health services organized in the SLC member states?
Exports Soar in 2011 to Record Heights, West Virginia Leads the Nation
West Virginia's exports soared to unprecedented levels in 2011, from $6.5 billion in 2010, to an astounding $9 billion in 2011, a 40 percent increase, the highest expansion rate among all the states. In responding to this notable achievement, West Virginia Governor Earl Ray Tomblin stated that "exports contribute greatly to West Virginia's growing and increasingly diverse economy. I commend the exporters of West Virginia for this incredible accomplishment." West Virginia Commerce Department Secretary Keith Burdette commented that "expanding export opportunities for West Virginia companies and products is a priority for this administration." West Virginia was not alone in recording impressive export growth rates and 49 of the 50 states saw a net increase in their exports in 2011; 36 of the states, including West Virginia, recorded double digit growth rates with 13 states expanding by single-digit rates and a mere one state seeing shrinking exports during the year.
The latest international trade statistics were released recently by the U.S. Department of Commerce and the data reveals the solid performance of the nation's exports in both resuscitating and sustaining the economic growth path of the United States. Specifically, U.S. exports in 2011 expanded to $1.5 trillion, an increase of 16 percent over the $1.3 trillion reached in 2010. During the height of the Great Recession, U.S. exports languished at $1 trillion in 2009 after reaching $1.1 trillion in 2007 and $1.3 trillion in 2008. The role of exports in advancing U.S. growth is reinforced by the fact that in 2011 they comprised a record 13.8 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), an increase from the 12.7 percent secured in 2010 and the prior record level of 12.9 percent achieved in 2008. Not only did exports contribute to a greater share of GDP than gross private domestic investment in 2011, exports also contributed 0.9 percentage points to the 1.7 percent increase in real GDP last year. Hence, the achievements in 2011 offer promise for sturdy economic growth opportunities across the country.
NCLB Waivers, Part Three
In an announcement yesterday, President Barack Obama awarded 10 states, five from the South (Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Oklahoma, and Tennessee), waivers from the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). The states will receive relief from requirements in the law in exchange for implementing reforms around standards, teacher effectiveness and accountability.
Three state waivers, Florida, Georgia, and Oklahoma, are conditional upon the states adopting policies or legislation that completes the reforms outlined in their applications. For the most part, however, these conditions relate to parts of the plans that are not yet in place but are in process.
The other five states earning relief are Colorado, Indiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota, and New Jersey. The Department of Education is working with New Mexico (the only state applying for a waiver in the first round that was unsuccessful) on completing its application. Taken together, the 10 states represent nearly 24 percent of all American students.
In exchange for receiving a waiver, states must to agree to adopt specific changes to their educational programs. For the most part, these changes mirror the expectations of the Race to the Top Grants that were announced by the Administration last year. To earn a waiver, states must:
At what age can state employees retire with full benefits in the SLC member states?
State employees, state police, members of the Teachers' Retirement System and (on an elective basis) qualified persons of cities, towns, and quasi-public organizations may retire at age 60 with at least 10 years of service or after 25 years of service at any age.
Public employees are eligible for retirement at:
The state recently enacted legislation to change the retirement age.
If initially enrolled in the FRS before July 1, 2011, state employees qualify for normal retirement when:
If enrolled in the FRS on or after July 1, 2011, state employees qualify for normal retirement when:
Georgia also has made changes to their state pension plan.
Under the Old Plan, the New Plan, and GSEPS, once state employees have reached Normal Retirement Age, they can retire and begin receiving monthly benefits. Normal Retirement Age is defined as the earlier of:
Once employees earn 10 years of Creditable Service, they have a vested right to a service retirement at age 60, even if they terminate employment before reaching age 60.
Which SLC States Have Property Assessment Clean Energy (PACE) Programs?
Property Assessment Clean Energy (PACE) programs have attracted a lot of attention in the last three or four years. The obvious advantages of PACE programs are that they are voluntary (all eight SLC states that have authorized PACE programs that allow local counties and/or municipalities to make the decision to participate) and they address the largest barrier to energy efficiency improvements: large upfront costs. The following SLC states that have passed PACE legislation (click on the hyperlink for bill text):
In all of these states, local governments are the ones who determine funding sources; establish interest rates and terms of loan; authorize participation of private lenders; determine the method for collecting loan repayment (e.g., water/sewer bills, real property tax assessments); etc.