Publication Type: Issue Alert
A River Runs Through It: An Update on the Tri-State Water Wars
Throughout the history of the United States, water has been the key to determining settlement patterns and development opportunities. It is migratory in nature and often crosses many boundaries, a characteristic that has generated ownership disputes and countless conflicts. Every state in the contiguous United States shares ground or surface water resources with another state, and almost every major city is located near a river or body of water.
Water resource scarcity can affect many sectors of a state's economy as well as the region's natural ecosystems. The Southern United States, characterized by a network of major rivers and tributaries, and generally abundant precipitation, has enjoyed a generous water supply. Consequently, the region has not experienced the water disputes that have plagued the Western United States. However, development pressure, changes in precipitation patterns, and transitioning priorities and consumption levels have caused a shift in these circumstances. When water shortages do arise, they often can cause interstate conflicts. Perhaps one of the most widely reported and longest running of these interstate disputes in the Southern region involves Alabama, Florida, and Georgia, known as the "tri-state water wars." The tri-state water wars have spanned 25 years and center on water resource allocation in the Alabama-Coosa-Tallapoosa (ACT) and the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint (ACF) River Basins. Recognizing the importance of this dispute and the impact the resolution will have on the states involved, the issue has remained relevant to the ongoing policy work of the Southern Office of The Council of State Governments, the Southern Legislative Conference (SLC). This third review of the issue advances the developments and actions that have occurred since SLC last reported on the conflict in 2010. Additionally, it should be noted that The Council of State Government's Center for Interstate Compacts has more than 75 years of experience in promoting multi-state problem solving and advocating for the role of states in determining their respective futures.
Clearing the Air: SLC State Responses to the Clean Power Proposed Rule
On June 2, 2014, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released the Clean Power Plan Proposed Rule under the authority of Section 111(d) of the federal Clean Air Act. This Proposed Rule would establish state-specific goals to limit greenhouse gas emissions by setting firm carbon reduction standards that each state would have to meet beginning in 2020 and accelerating through 2030. While it is unclear whether the EPA will revise its Final Rule, which is expected by July 2015, many states in the Southern Legislative Conference (SLC) of The Council of State Governments already have enacted legislation addressing the Clean Power Plan Proposed Rule and its regulations.
This SLC Issue Alert
provides an overview of some measures taken by state legislatures in the SLC region to address the Clean Power Plan Proposed Rule through the 2014 legislative session. This Issue Alert
is not a legal analysis of Section 111(d), nor does it take a position on compliance pathways or the EPA's proposed state-specific carbon dioxide (CO2) goals.
State of Preparation: SLC States and the Ebola Virus
The World Health Organization reports that the current outbreak of the Ebola virus disease (EVD), which is believed to have begun in March 2014 in West Africa, is the largest and most complex outbreak of the virus since its discovery in 1976. It was not until August 2014, when two American missionaries were flown to Emory University Hospital in Atlanta after contracting the disease in Africa, that most Americans became aware of the outbreak. Nearly two months later, the first diagnosis of Ebola was reported in the United States.
This SLC Issue Alert
provides a brief account of some of the efforts SLC states have taken in reaction to the Ebola virus disease, as of October 20, 2014
. As governors across the nation continue to meet with health officials in their states, the policies and efforts to combat this disease, for which there is no proven treatment, undoubtedly will continue to evolve.
U.S. Agriculture Exports: Latest Trends
Even though the relative importance of agriculture and agriculture-related industries in the overall U.S. economy has diminished in recent years, the sector continues to be a critical component of the nation's gross domestic product (GDP). In 2012, the latest year available, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reported that the sector contributed $775.8 billion toward GDP, a 4.8 percent share; the output of the nation's farms alone totaled $166.9 billion in 2012.
SLC State Unemployment Insurance Finances Improve
As a result of the doggedly high unemployment rates in so many states during the Great Recession and the actions taken by states (such as expanding unemployment benefits and cutting unemployment insurance taxes), the unemployment insurance funds in a majority of the states were thrust into perilous shape. The funds were attacked at both ends: more people were tapping benefits while a shrinking number of companies were paying fewer taxes to replenish the funds. With the deleterious effects of the Great Recession tapering off and the employment situation in the SLC states improving, fewer and fewer individuals were eligible for unemployment insurance payments by 2013. As a result of this development and essential reforms to state plans, the balances of these trust funds improved significantly by 2013.
2013 Update on the Panama Canal Expansion and Ports in the Atlantic and Gulf Coast States
The ongoing Panama Canal expansion is perhaps the most transformative global transportation project now in progress. Upon completion in 2014, the expanded Panama Canal will facilitate an even greater flow of trade between Asia and the Americas and will substantially impact the volume of trade reaching Gulf and Atlantic Coast ports in the United States. The impetus for the expansion of the Canal, approved by the people of Panama in October 2006, sprang from that nation's desire to continue as a pivotal player in global trade patterns and strategically leverage its greatest asset – the Panama Canal – for its own economic well-being. This SLC Issue Alert examines the latest developments with regard to the expansion project.
U.S. DOT's TIGER Grants to SLC Ports, 2009 through 2012
Healthcare Reform: Exchanges and the Expansion of Medicaid
On June 28, the United States Supreme Court ruled that most of the requirements laid out by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) were Constitutional, including the requirement for states to either establish health insurance exchanges by 2014 or have the federal government do so. Also, while the Supreme Court ruled that the federal government could not tie all Medicaid funding to a mandatory expansion, states have the opportunity to increase eligibility levels with an associated federal matching percentage, which will diminish through 2020, when the matching percentage will stabilize at 90 percent. Decisions on implementing a health insurance exchange and expanding Medicaid will be the top public health priorities for states in the upcoming year. States will play a huge role in the implementation of the ACA, and these complicated decisions undoubtedly will have a major impact on state budgets, businesses and individual citizens.This Issue Alert from the Southern Legislative Conference provides an overview of the choices and potential consequences of state decisions.
Update: The Panama Canal Expansion and the SLC States
The ongoing Panama Canal expansion is perhaps the most transformative global transportation project currently in progress. Upon completion in 2014, the expanded Panama Canal will facilitate an even greater flow of trade between Asia and the Americas and substantially impact the volume of trade reaching Gulf and East Coast ports in the United States. The impetus for the expansion of the Canal, approved by the people of Panama in October 2006, sprang from that nation's desire to continue to be a pivotal player in global trade patterns and strategically leverage its greatest asset – the Panama Canal – for its own economic wellbeing. For the nation of Panama (the only port in the world with terminals in two oceans), the Canal plays an extraordinary role, impacting practically every aspect of society; at the economic level, economic activity flowing from the Canal accounts for nearly 15 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), a clear indication of the enormous economic footprint of the Canal on the nation. The expansion project not only will ensure the Canal's dominance as one of the most critical global transportation linchpins, it also will strengthen the linkages between Asia, the United States and Latin America.
NCLB Update: The Waiver Option
High Speed Rail: Update from the Southern States
An HIV Epidemic?
Mid-Year Education Budget Reductions
Actuarial Estimates in Public Pensions
Public Pension Plans: The Status of State Retirement Plans