Publication Type: Regional Resource
Body-Worn Cameras: Laws and Policies in the South
In recent years, several high-profile, law enforcement officer-involved shootings have thrust body-worn cameras (BWCs), or the lack thereof, into the spotlight. Proponents of BWCs maintain that they increase law enforcement transparency and improve relations between law enforcement and citizens. In contrast, BWC opponents argue that the cameras give an incomplete picture of incidents and add another cost to operating budgets which, in many law enforcement agencies (LEAs), already are stretched thin.
Due to the recent emergence of BWCs and their rapidly developing technology, LEAs and governments still are developing policies and statutes to regulate their use. This SLC Regional Resource
examines the history of and predecessors to BWCs; policy issues associated with them, including considerations for implementation such as data storage, staffing and privacy; and existing laws and policies that regulate their use in the 15 SLC member states.
The Case for Cuba
The impasse in U.S.-Cuba relations has spanned 10 U.S. presidents, a failed invasion attempt, a nuclear missile crisis and witnessed countless asylum seekers. The tumultuous relationship, which has its roots in the Cold War, is characterized by a dual-pronged U.S. policy emphasizing economic and diplomatic isolation of the island nation.
Despite ongoing economic sanctions, the United States has emerged as a major exporter of agricultural goods to Cuba, which imports up to 80 percent of its food. Given Cuba's geographic and economic position, states in the Southern region of the United States have competitive export advantages in terms of production, quality, logistics and proximity. This SLC Regional Resource
examines existing and future agricultural export opportunities for member states in the Southern Legislative Conference.
Commuter Rail in the Southern Legislative Conference States: Recent Trends
Commuter trains, a fixture in many American cities since the late 19th
century, started losing prominence in public transportation calculations in the 1940s with the ascent of the personal car, while vast improvements in public bus services also accelerated their decline. However, in the last 30 years or so, particularly in the early years of the 21st
century, there has been renewed interest in this form of transportation across the country, including in the Southern Legislative Conference (SLC) member states. This renewed interest has been propelled for a variety of reasons: commuters choosing rail over cars for convenience; easing traffic congestion; reducing air pollution; promoting economic development; and boosting property values. Consequently, multiple metropolitan regions in SLC member states continue to operate commuter rail systems and expand their operations, even initiating new networks. Given that these initiatives have emerged in transit-starved areas, this increased momentum to introduce or expand commuter rail systems is a direct response to the demands and expectations of businesses and the workforce. Information on recent efforts in the SLC states to enhance the light rail capacities in their transportation plans, an important cog in any multimodal strategy, is detailed in this SLC Regional Resource
Spread of Zika: Impact on Southern States
The Zika epidemic has garnered extensive international attention since the current outbreak was first confirmed in Brazil in May 2015. Since then, active Zika transmissions have been documented in more than 30 countries across the Americas region — including South, Central and North America and the Caribbean — with more cases in new areas expected to follow in the coming weeks and months. In response to the sudden outbreak of the Zika virus and the health complications associated with it, the World Health Organization declared, on February 1, 2016, that the virus constitutes a Public Health Emergency of International Concern. By some estimates, up to 4 million people in the Americas may contract the virus by the end of 2016.
In the United States, the only reported cases of the Zika virus have been associated with those who recently traveled to countries with known outbreaks. However, health experts have warned that localized transmissions in the United States are probable in the coming months as temperatures rise and mosquitoes carrying the virus expand into new territories. As a result of relatively favorable climate conditions for the disease-carrying Aedes mosquitoes, many SLC member states are particularly vulnerable to limited outbreaks over the next several months.
The Role of State and Local Government in Broadband Deployment
On January 29, 2015, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) redefined "broadband internet." Under the new definition, broadband internet connection must meet benchmark speeds of 25 megabits per second (Mbps) for downloads and 3 Mbps for uploads. Such speeds allow multiple users (or devices) within a household to browse the web and stream video simultaneously, or allow a single user to stream high definition video. The Commission's redefinition of broadband—more than six times its previous download speed benchmark of 4 Mbps—reflects the growing ubiquity of the Internet and aims to ensure the infrastructure has the capacity to meet new, data-intensive usage and its derived benefits.
This SLC Regional Resource examines the role of states in broadband deployment and its relationship to municipal and federal initiatives, with particular attention to the needs of rural areas, and the successes of Southern cities and towns. Notably, this SLC Regional Resource focuses on government-owned broadband infrastructure and direct service provision, though other policies and incentives are discussed broadly. It does not address private alternative internet service providers.
Heroin Epidemic in SLC Member States: Finding Solutions
While the heroin epidemic largely has been concentrated in the Northeast, Appalachian, and Midwest regions of the country, substance abuse is an issue that crosses multiple areas of public policy, including behavioral and public health, criminal justice, and social services. As the South continues to lead the way in criminal justice reform, lessons from the plight of other regions allow SLC lawmakers to build on their efforts to combat prescription drug abuse and take a proactive stance in the heroin epidemic. In recent years, this awareness has led many SLC states to pass laws which expand availability and access to drugs that can help treat an opioid overdose and provide limited immunity from prosecution for individuals who seek medical assistance for themselves or another person experiencing an opioid overdose. This SLC Regional Resource examines what the SLC member states are doing to combat the heroin epidemic and what policies and/or practices can be implemented to mitigate its side effects and ensure a long-term solution.
Special Education School Vouchers: A Look at Southern States
School choice continues to generate debate in state legislatures, even as several states move toward offering their students options beyond the K-12 public school setting. However, given the particular circumstances of children with special needs, less debate and controversy has surrounded the implementation of school choice programs for students in special education classrooms. Since state governments have a constitutional obligation to provide an education to all children, creating more educational options for children with special needs has the most potential for providing them the best education possible. Meanwhile, considering that the average annual cost of a special education student is $9,369 above the norm, the provision of legally required additional services for special needs students can prove costly for public schools with a small student population, where economies of scale are not feasible. Allowing and supplying additional school options for special education students, in these cases, may provide savings for schools unable to provide cost-effective specialized services for the limited number of students requiring them.
This SLC Regional Resource
examines the strategies taken by Southern states to increase school options for special education students through the implementation of state-funded school voucher programs, focusing on their many forms and variations, and addresses school voucher programs that provide direct payments or reimbursements to private alternative schools or parents and legal guardians, respectively. While several strategies beyond school voucher programs, such as tax credits and educational savings accounts, have been implemented as additional strategies to increase school choice, these programs are not included within this Regional Resource
Inland Ports and Waterways in the SLC Member States
According to June 2015 statistics released by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 40 of the top 100 U.S. ports (coastal, Great Lakes and inland) in terms of tonnage are located in states belonging to the Southern Office of The Council of State Governments (CSG), the Southern Legislative Conference (SLC). Impressively, seven of the top 10 ports were SLC state ports. The Port of South Louisiana and the Port of Houston rose to the top, ranking first and second, respectively. While the SLC has focused on ports, the economic influence of ports and the potential impact of the expansion of the Panama Canal on ports in the South for more than 15 years, this Regional Resource
reviews an important allied field: emerging trends linked to the nation's, and specifically the region's, inland ports, waterways and related infrastructure.
Student Assessments in Southern States: Recent Developments
Just three years ago, almost every state in the nation belonged to a national testing consortium, such as the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) and Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (Smarter Balanced) whereas, today, barely half continue to participate in these multi-state comparative student assessments. The Southern region, in particular, has seen a shift away from the national testing consortia to state-specified student testing. As state education systems adapt to their new educational standards of college- and career-readiness, state governments continue to modify their approach to assessing student learning toward these standards.
After dismissing PARCC and Smarter Balanced, several states' education systems began, and currently continue, a transition to various alternatives. This SLC Regional Resource
provides an overview of the strategies that SLC member states have undertaken for student testing, as of October 1, 2015. Specifically, the analysis examines the current status of K-12 testing requirements implemented by the 15 SLC member states for their general public school populations and the experiences of these states as they seek to improve their student performance measurement systems. Further, the report focuses on the many adjustments and changes to K-12 English language arts and mathematics student assessment systems implemented by Southern states in the post-Common Core educational era, geared toward preparing college- and career-ready students.
Where the Rubber Meets the Road: Waste Tire Disposal Laws in the Southern States
Despite more than 20 years of efforts to address the issue of waste tires nationwide, large illegal stockpiles persist. In a number of reported incidents where stockpiles have caught on fire, mitigation of the site has taken up to nine years and $22 million to complete. Remediation of large illegal stockpiles has been reported to take more than five years to complete. While the tracking and disposal of waste tires continue to present challenges, legislatures in the states comprising the Southern Legislative Conference of The Council of State Governments have been focusing on this problem, creating legislation and devising mechanisms to address this problem, since 1989.
This SLC Regional Resource
outlines some of the key criteria contained in the SLC states' waste tire disposal laws and rules, provides an overview of state waste tire laws and concludes with an assessment of best practices undertaken by states in the region.
The Drive to Move South Advances: Automakers Revitalize the U.S. and Southern Economies
In 2008 and 2009, the American auto industry was in dire shape and the Big Three U.S. automakers—General Motors, Chrysler and Ford—were forced to make wrenching cuts in terms of employees and production. General Motors and Chrysler had no recourse but to secure emergency bailout assistance from the federal government, and consumers and companies faced serious difficulties in securing loans as a result of a credit freeze that was sweeping across the U.S. economy, along with a multiplicity of other challenges. The negative consequences of the Great Recession caused havoc on myriad sectors, and the fabled American auto industry, along with many other components of the U.S. economy, faced a series of grim choices. While there has been a radical but positive transformation in the nation's economic fortunes in the more than six years since the onset of the Great Recession, there still are significant sectors within the U.S. economy that remain weak.
In this context, the fact that the industry has made significant progress since those glum days speaks volumes about the resiliency of the industry and its willingness to make radical changes on a range of issues. Not only are the three U.S. automakers thriving compared to their doleful position in 2008 and 2009, the dozen or so foreign automakers with manufacturing facilities in a number of mostly Southern states continue to perform admirably. Notably, even during the darkest days of the Great Recession, not one of these foreign automakers, operating largely in the South, was forced to dismiss a single employee; even more impressively, a number of these foreign automakers actually expanded their operations during the Great Recession, a development that has indisputably assisted in the nascent resurgence of the American manufacturing sector in recent years.
Vapor Rising: E-Cigarettes in the SLC States
In recent years, the United States has seen a growing popularity with the use of electronic cigarettes and similar electronic nicotine delivery devices. Electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes, are battery-operated single-use or reusable devices with interchangeable cartridges that use a type of heating element to turn nicotine and other chemicals into a vapor inhaled by its user. The cartridges come in a variety of colors and flavors, like apple pie, cotton candy, mint chocolate, and tutti frutti, just to name a few. It is suggested that the array of flavors, combined with the relative ease of purchasing e-cigarettes and its components at mall kiosks and online, has made e-cigarettes particularly popular among youth.
This Regional Resource
from The Council of State Governments' Southern Office, the Southern Legislative Conference (SLC), examines the regulations proposed by the FDA and the actions taken by 14 of the 15 SLC member states with regard to e-cigarettes through the 2014 legislative session.
Tale of Two Cities: The Impact of Slumping Oil Prices on the Economy
As the effects of dipping oil prices ricochet through the United States and the world, it is increasingly becoming clear that there are winners and losers. Triggered by an explosion in American oil and gas production levels; sputtering economic trends in Europe, China, Japan, Russia and emerging markets leading to declining demand; increasing production from producers like Iraq and Libya; countries like Saudi Arabia, a producer with an oversized impact on global oil supplies, maintaining supplies at current output levels and resisting production cuts; and the strengthening of the U.S. dollar have acted in concert to substantially push oil prices downward: from $115 a barrel in June 2014 to less than $50 a barrel in January 2015.
The latest plunge in oil prices has sent seismic waves throughout the globe, prompting disparate consequences in different sectors of the United States and world economies; while some sectors are net beneficiaries of the decline, other sectors are on the losing end of the falling price of oil. High energy prices pose huge burdens for most Americans, particularly those who drive great distances each day and those who only can turn the thermostats down so low when the weather turns cold. Hence, increasing energy prices result in consumers cutting back on their discretionary spending, a trend that causes negative consequences on state, regional and national economies. However, when energy prices fall, consumers have considerable leeway in devoting these savings toward other expenditures. Meanwhile, tumbling oil prices lead to adverse consequences at several points in the economy with repercussions at both the state and national levels. In that vein, SLC Regional Resource
examines the effects of low oil prices on both state economies and the greater nation.
Scholarship Programs for Associate's Degrees in SLC Member States
Since the turn of the 21st century, the United States has maintained a cultural creed that the only path to a middle-class lifestyle is through a four-year bachelor's degree or higher. However, increasing analyses are demonstrating that industries with the highest growth in the next decade will demand skills readily obtainable through a two-year technical education. Moreover, several policy and industry experts have begun raising concerns about the ever-increasing gap between middle-skill jobs (those requiring more than a high school education but less than a four-year degree) and the number of middle-skilled workers available to fill those jobs. These findings, along with evidence indicating that middle-class household incomes are more attainable by those with a member holding at least an associate's degree, are steering SLC policymakers toward creating and expanding programs that increase their technical and community college graduation rates. In that vein, this SLC Regional Resource
examines efforts by policymakers in selected SLC member states to implement postsecondary scholarships programs specifically targeted at increasing their number of two-year degree graduates.
SLC State Efforts to Rebuild the Coastline
Hurricane Katrina made landfall on the Gulf Coast on August 29, 2005, damaging thousands of homes and businesses, decimating public infrastructure, and displacing hundreds of thousands of Gulf Coast residents. The coastal communities of SLC member states Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana were devastated. The resiliency of these coastal communities is of critical economic importance to the nation, as they provide a large portion of the nation's oil and gas supply, host key port complexes and provide vital habitats for economically important fisheries.
In the nearly 10 years that have elapsed since this disaster, much attention has focused on the rehabilitation of the area's homes, businesses and infrastructure. However, less attention has been targeted to the reconstruction of the coastlines of Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana. In order to maintain a sustainable Gulf Coast, investments in sound redevelopment and restoration practices, balancing the critical natural resources of the Gulf Coast with the equally vital economic drivers in the region, are critical to full recovery and necessary to weakening future natural disasters. This SLC Regional Resource
highlights projects undertaken by these states to rebuild their coastlines, focusing on the communities of Dauphin Island, Alabama; Pascagoula, Mississippi; and the metropolitan area of New Orleans, Louisiana.
Common Core in the South: Where the States Stand Now
In June 2009, the National Governors Association (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) announced an initiative led by 46 states, the District of Columbia, and two U.S. territories aimed at developing and adopting a Common Core set of learning standards for English Language Arts (ELA) and math for grades K-12. By March 2012, 45 states, the District of Columbia, and two U.S. territories had adopted both the Common Core State Standards for ELA and mathematics. Although the majority of states continue to stay their course with Common Core, Indiana, Oklahoma, and South Carolina have reversed their implementation of Common Core, and government officials in several others states have called for a reversal or delay in implementation. This SLC Regional Resource
provides SLC member states information regarding the status and recent legislative developments related to the Common Core standards, as of December 26, 2014.
A Bountiful Harvest: SLC States and the 2012 Census of Agriculture
Although the country as a whole has shifted away from agricultural pursuits, the South remains a largely agrarian region. As the only source of uniform and comprehensive agriculture data for every state and county in the nation, the Census provides the most detailed picture of U.S. farms and the people who operate them. For this reason, the Census remains an important resource for SLC states, and is used by a wide range of stakeholders for various reasons. For example, agribusiness companies use the data to make decisions about where to market their products, while lenders and insurance companies use this information in risk management calculations.
This Regional Resource
analyzes the economic contributions agriculture makes to our national and regional economies and highlights some of the commodities for which the 15 SLC member states make the largest contributions. Finally, the source of who is providing the labor that makes agriculture possible is examined.
Charging Forward: Net Metering Policies in SLC States
Energy policies in Southern Legislative Conference (SLC) member states are undergoing substantial changes as installations of distributed generation systems, such as rooftop solar panels and other small-scale renewable energy technologies, continue to expand. This expansion has been encouraged by state and federal tax credits, which have made renewable energy technology, especially solar energy technology, increasingly affordable. Further encouraging the installation of distributed generation technologies is the availability of net metering programs.
Increases in the use of distributed generation systems by consumers have led to an increase in demand for utilities to offer net metering. Of the 15 states represented by the SLC, 11 have statewide net metering policies, while Texas has a voluntary policy. This SLC Regional Resource
reviews the concept of net metering and analyzes the status and nature of net metering legislation and trends in SLC member states.
Waste Storage and Water Safety: Lessons from West Virginia and North Carolina
In Southern Legislative Conference (SLC) member states, the coal and chemical industries are essential to state economies. Because of the importance of these industries to the region, both in terms of economic development and employment opportunities, legislators often are faced with balancing business interests with the need for environmental protection and conservation. Recently, hazardous spills in two SLC states - West Virginia and North Carolina - have focused attention on this careful balance. This SLC Regional Resource examines the spills in West Virginia and North Carolina and the immediate remedial action taken by each state. Understanding how these states reacted in the wake of water contamination can help other SLC states respond quickly and effectively if faced with similar challenges.
A Special Condition: Medical Marijuana in SLC States
Gaining traction in a number of state legislatures of The Council of State Governments (CSG), Southern Legislative Conference (SLC) member states, is the legalization of marijuana for medical use. Despite the prevalence of marijuana-related legislation being filed across the Southern states, only a few bills are expected to make their way through the legislative process to achieve enactment. However, as the topic moves further from theoretical and closer to reality, there are some common trends emerging in legislation across the SLC region. This Regional Resource reviews the similarities among these 12 legislative proposals and two ballot proposals.
Aeronautics in the SLC States: Cleared for Takeoff
A generation ago, a number of foreign automakers began establishing manufacturing operations in the South, in states represented by The Council of State Governments' Southern Office, the Southern Legislative Conference. In a move that parallels this important automotive industry trend, economic analysts now are seeing another development: the increasing number of aeronautics companies that are locating, relocating or expanding their manufacturing operations in the South, a trend particularly discernible in the aftermath of the Great Recession.
Tire Manufacturing: Southern States Roll to the Top
There has been a great deal of attention in recent years over the 'drive to move South,' i.e., an increasing number of foreign automakers setting up manufacturing facilities and thriving across the Southern United States. While the economic impact of the automobile sector in the South has been reviewed and scrutinized extensively in recent years, there has been less fanfare about a burgeoning sector in the region: the growing importance of tire manufacturing in the SLC states. Only in the last year and a half or so are the media and auto industry analysts realizing that some of the world's largest tire manufacturers are locating, relocating or expanding their operations in the South.
Workforce Development in the SLC States
Since the end of the Great Recession, there have been encouraging signs that America's manufacturing sector is experiencing a renaissance, albeit a muted one. While growth in the nation's manufacturing sector since the Great Recession remains a very positive development, it also thrusts another challenge to the forefront: creating an adequately trained workforce in the states to staff the increasingly complex positions involved in the 21st century manufacturing process. This SLC Regional Resource examines the efforts made by Southern states to create a skilled workforce with the capacity to staff a broad spectrum of positions in the resurgent manufacturing sector.
Municipal Bonds: Trends in 2011
In December 2010, there was a great deal of speculation that dozens of cities and local governments would default on their municipal bond debt obligations amounting to hundreds of billions of dollars within a year. According to this line of thinking, this cataclysmic outcome would require states to bail out these municipalities, an outcome that, given the tenuous fiscal position of states, in turn would require the federal government to bail out the states. This SLC Regional Resource examines how the municipal bond market fared in 2011, if fears expressed by certain experts regarding widespread bond defaults were realized, if investors shed their holdings in municipal bonds and fled to other asset categories and a number of related topics.
Food Safety: Building an Integrated System
The U.S. food safety system has developed over a lengthy period, often in response to health concerns or threats. Because of this, the system does not have a coherent, strategic focus, but is a patchwork of legal and regulatory activities that distributes the responsibility for, and information about, food safety across numerous federal, state and local entities.
Establishing a prevention-oriented national food safety system will require investments at all levels, innovative use of existing technology, commitments among partners to share resources and responsibilities across both jurisdictional borders and institutional barriers, and initiatives to boost capacity across the system. Food safety requires an integration of public health, agriculture, the food processing industry, and the research community to achieve a truly seamless system where risks are assessed accurately, mitigated appropriately, monitored thoroughly and outbreaks are responded to effectively.
This SLC Regional Resource
examines current practices in regards to food safety, as well as best practices to ensure that foodborne illnesses are reduced to a minimal level.
State Section 529 Plans
Americans understand the value of a college education and have continued to prepare financially for the costs of post-secondary schooling even as the economy has slowed. Almost every state in the South offers parents an opportunity to save for college through Section 529 programs, tax-preferred accounts named after the section of the tax code created by the IRS to authorize their special treatment under federal law. These programs take the form of prepaid tuition plans which allow participants to "lock in" current tuition at state schools college savings plans structured investments designed to realize gains in excess of tuition increases under normal circumstances.
In recent years, both types of Section 529 plans have faltered, due to a poor investment climate and rising tuition. When most programs were instituted, there was an unfailing optimism in the potential for the stock market to continue to expand and create returns that would outstrip any increase in tuition which historically ranged below 5 percent, making the extension of this state guarantee a risk of a presumably remote nature. As tuition skyrocketed and the stock market failed, however, states have been forced to reconsider the guarantee extended to prepaid tuition plans, and college savings plans are not keeping up with rising costs. This SLC Regional Resource
offers a look at recent trends and events on state section 529 plans within the SLC member states.
Meth: Resurgence in the South
Creating Value: Recycling in the Southern States
Water Allocation and Management: Southern States Outlook
Autism and Schools
Human Trafficking: Preventing, Prosecuting and Protecting
Protecting the Investment: School Facilities Inspection and Maintenance
Landfill Gas to Fuel
Reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind Act
Lights! Camera! Action!: Southern States Efforts to Attract Filmmakers' Business
The Aging Inmate Population: Southern States Outlook
The 2007 Farm Bill in Context [Summer 2006 Update]
Farm to School
State Rural Initiatives: Where the Money Comes From
From Blues to Benton to Bluegrass: The Economic Impact of the Arts in the South
Rural Centers in the South
The 2007 Farm Bill in Context
The Tobacco Buyout
Southern States' Clean Air Act Compliance: Ozone and Particulate Matter Standards in Transition
Acing the Boards: Southern Student Participation and Performance on the SAT I
The Economic Impact of the Airline Industry in the South
Judicial Selection Methods in the Southern States
Regional Transmission Organization Presence and Activities in Southern States
A Rural Policy for the 21st Century
Status of Rural Education in the South: A Survey of Key Indicators
A Synopsis of a Survey on Issuing Driver's Licenses in the SLC States
Update on Competition in the Telecommunications Industry
Tightening Fiscal Conditions in the SLC States: Focus on Three Major Indices
Federalism Cases in the Most Recent and Upcoming Terms of the United States Supreme Court
Finally, the Farm Bill
The Demographics of Redistricting in the South: A Perspective From the 2000 Census
A Review of Southern States' No-Call Registries
The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001
Water Permitting Fees and TMDL Development in Southern States
Contracting in Tobacco
Forging New Trade Relationships: Latin America and the Southern Legislative Conference States
The Latest Gross State Product (GSP) Trends in the Southern Legislative Conference (SLC) States
Correctional Good-Time Credits in Southern States
E-Government in the Southern Legislative Conference States
No Time to Play: Physical Education and Recess in Southern Schools
Methamphetamine Production and Abuse in Southern States
Telecommunications Competition in Southern States
Southern States' Safe Child Abandonment Laws and Proposed Legislation
The War over Water
International Trade and Agriculture
Recent Developments in State Retirement Systems in the Southern Legislative Conference (SLC) States
Agriculture and Biotechnology
The Proposed Interstate Compact for Adult Offender Supervision
Legislative Party Distribution in the Southern States
The U.S.-China Trade Agreement and its Implications for Southern Legislative Conference (SLC) States