Cross-State Health Insurance Policies
The idea of selling health insurance “across state lines” has gained traction over the past several years and, per its proponents, has the potential to lower the costs of private health insurance for consumers. Those in support of cross-state sales assert they can lead to the proliferation of national and/or regional markets for insurance policies, thereby creating additional competition to drive costs down and offer more alternatives for consumers. Proponents contend cross-state policies, if applied correctly, allow health insurers to bypass burdensome state regulations and expensive benefit mandates that drive costs up and provide little meaningful value for many consumers, particularly younger and healthier people.
It is not widely known that states have the authority to sanction sales across their borders and define the conditions under which such sales can be made. According to the Commonwealth Fund, six states have enacted policies allowing out-of-state health insurance plans in their markets: Georgia, Kentucky, Maine, Rhode Island, Washington, and Wyoming. However, not one out-of-state health insurer has offered policies in a new market that allows cross-state sales. Experts and officials in the insurance industry attribute this to the fact that establishing local provider networks, a necessity for all health insurers, is an extremely difficult and timely undertaking, particularly for an entity based in another state, as it involves negotiating contracts with local doctors and hospitals so that customers can be covered in their respective areas. In fact, setting up a local provider network reportedly is the biggest barrier for insurance companies that may be interested in selling their policies in another state, more so than restrictive regulatory environments or costly benefit mandates.
Bill Introduction Limits and Pre-Filing Requirements in SLC Member States
In recent years, several states and legislative chambers have created a limit on the number of bills that may be introduced each legislative session. Proponents have argued that this will force legislators to only introduce legislation that is likely to pass and may decrease the need for longer sessions or special sessions. In some chambers, the limit only applies after the chamber’s pre-filing deadline. Table 1 displays the limits placed on legislation introduced each session in the 15 Southern Legislative Conference (SLC) member states. Six SLC member states apply a limit in at least one of their legislative chambers.
Table 1. Limits on Bills Introduced Per Session in SLC Member States
|State/Chamber||Limit on Legislation Introduced Per Session|
|Florida House||Six bills per member|
|Florida Senate||No limit|
|Louisiana||Five bills that were not pre-filed|
|North Carolina House||15 bills per member|
|North Carolina Senate||No limit|
|Oklahoma House||Eight bills or joint resolutions per member *|
|Oklahoma Senate||No limit|
|South Carolina||No limit|
|Tennessee House||15 bills per member|
|Tennessee Senate||No limit|
|Virginia House||15 per member in odd-numbered years; five non-pre-filed bills after the pre-filing deadline|
|Virginia Senate||Eight non-pre-filed bills after the pre-filing deadline|
|West Virginia||No limit|
* There are exceptions to this limit. See the section on Oklahoma for more information.
Fixed-Rate Tuition Pricing
Three Southern Legislatures — North Carolina, Oklahoma and Texas — have enacted statewide, fixed-rate tuition pricing for in-state undergraduate students attending public universities. Under fixed-rate tuition policies, incoming freshmen and qualifying transfer students are guaranteed a constant tuition rate until they graduate, under specified conditions. Only one other state in the nation, Illinois, has a similar statewide policy.
North Carolina General Statutes
In-state freshmen or transfer undergraduate students who have been admitted to any constituent institution of The University of North Carolina receive fixed-rate tuition for eight semesters of a four-year bachelor’s degree and 10 semesters of a five-year bachelor’s degree. A student must maintain continuous enrollment at their university of choice during the entire tuition period to continue receiving the fixed-rate tuition. At the end of the fixed-rate tuition period, the cost of tuition for all remaining semesters is charged at the current tuition rate of the institution.
Effective 2016-2017 academic year
The Oklahoma State System of Higher Education must offer incoming in-state students a fixed-rate tuition plan for four years or more, depending on the length of a bachelor’s program, as determined by the institution. Students who choose to participate in the fixed-rate tuition plan must maintain continuous enrollment for the duration of their bachelor’s program.
Institutions must provide to students the annual tuition rate and the percentage increase of regular tuition for the previous four academic years, as well as the annual tuition rate and percentage increases that would need to occur during the following four years for the traditional tuition plan to surpass the costs of the fixed-rate tuition plan of their selected bachelor’s program. The costs of fixed-rate tuition plans cannot exceed 115 percent of the traditional tuition plans during the same academic year.
Effective 2008-2009 academic year
Texas Education Code
In the past several years, many states have introduced laws aimed at curbing human trafficking of both minors and adults. States have especially focused on increasing penalties for those convicted of trafficking, with more severe punishments when the victim involved is a minor. Punishments include decades of imprisonment and hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines. Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma and West Virginia all have passed such measures in the past three to four years.
All states in the Southern region have passed anti-trafficking legislation to some degree. Provisions found in prior pieces of legislation include:
Outside Legal Counsel in SLC Member States
The attorney general is the chief legal officer in each state and serves as counselors to their legislatures and state agencies and also as the "People's Lawyer" for all citizens. Circumstances arise, however, in which the attorney general cannot or will not represent the state. When this occurs, state governments must hire outside legal counsel to represent the state.
In 14 of the 15 states in the SLC region,1 the attorney general is elected. This may lead to situations in which the attorney general is from a different political party than the governor and/or legislature. Sometimes in states with this arrangement, the attorney general may refuse to provide a defense for a law which he or she believes is unconstitutional. This currently is happening in North Carolina, where Attorney General Roy Cooper is refusing to defend multiple laws passed by the General Assembly and, in Mississippi, where Attorney General Jim Hood has refused to defend HB 1523, also known as the Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act,” or “has refused to defend HB 1523, the state’s religious freedom law.”
In other cases, the attorney general may decide that outside legal counsel has more expertise in the subject matter of a case and that the state would be better served by outside legal counsel. In some instances, the legal matter may not be central to the capital city and a law firm located in the relevant city may be better equipped to address the matter.
All 15 of the SLC member states allow for the use of outside legal counsel. In the majority of the SLC member states, there are laws or policies enumerating in which situations the use of outside legal counsel is permitted. The following sections details these laws and policies in all 15 SLC member states.
The use of outside legal counsel by the attorney general, in consultation with the governor, is permitted. Contingency fee contracts2 are permitted, if a government attorney(s) maintains supervision and control of the legal matter. A government attorney(s) must decide all settlement matters.
What are the state laws governing employee voting leave in SLC member states?
Nine of the 15 SLC member states provide regulatory guidelines under which employers may grant employees time off to vote in an election.
|State and Code Section||Voting Leave Law|
Code § 17-1-5
|Each employee in the state shall, upon reasonable notice to his or her employer, be permitted by his or her employer to take necessary time off from his or her employment to vote in any municipal, county, state, or federal political party primary or election for which the employee is qualified and registered to vote on the day on which the primary or election is held. The necessary time off shall not exceed one hour and if the hours of work of the employee commence at least two hours after the opening of the polls or end at least one hour prior to the closing of the polls, then the time off for voting as provided in this section shall not be available. The employer may specify the hours during which the employee may absent himself or herself as provided in this section.|
Code § 7-1-102
|Each employer in the state shall schedule the work hours of employees on election days so that each employee will have an opportunity to exercise the right of franchise.|
|Florida||Employee leave for voting not regulated.|
Code § 21-2-404
|Each employee in this state shall, upon reasonable notice to his or her employer, be permitted by his or her employer to take any necessary time off from his or her employment to vote in any municipal, county, state, or federal political party primary or election for which such employee is qualified and registered to vote on the day on which such primary or election is held; provided, however, that such necessary time off shall not exceed two hours; and provided, further, that, if the hours of work of such employee commence at least two hours after the opening of the polls or end at least two hours prior to the closing of the polls, then the time off for voting as provided for in this Code section shall not be available. The employer may specify the hours during which the employee may absent himself or herself as provided in this Code section.|
Statutes § 118-035
|No person shall be penalized for taking a reasonable time off to vote, unless, under circumstances which did not prohibit him from voting, he fails to vote. Any qualified voter who exercises his right to voting leave under this section but fails to cast his vote, under circumstances which did not prohibit him from voting, may be subject to disciplinary action.|
Autonomous Vehicle Legislation and Trends
Autonomous vehicles have the potential to change all aspects of mobility – from driver safety and insurance liability to car ownership and how Americans commute – and could disrupt both public and private transportation as we know it. As Google, Uber, Tesla, the automobile industry and other organizations continue to make rapid technological advances in driverless cars, it is vital that federal, state and local governments establish policies, laws and regulations that account for this disruptive technology. Of utmost importance is finding a balance between guarding public safety while regulating insurance/liability and simultaneously encouraging investment in research and development of driverless vehicles and their implementation and integration into our transportation system.
Fully automated vehicles (AVs), also referred to as driverless cars or self-driving cars, are capable of sensing their environment and navigating roads without human input. They rely on technologies like GPS, Lidar and radar to read their surroundings and make intelligent decisions about the vehicle’s direction and speed and interaction with other road users, including cyclists and pedestrians.1
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has devised a classification system for autonomous vehicles. The details on this system are:
What states export the most agricultural products to Cuba?
Cuba, a nation of approximately 11 million people, is a food-insecure country, importing up to 80 percent of its food. The nation’s primary imports in 2015 included rice (14 percent), poultry (13 percent), dairy (12 percent), soy products (12 percent) and wheat (12 percent).
Agricultural exports to Cuba were authorized under the Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act of 2000. Given Cuba’s economic and geographic position, Southern states have become leaders in agricultural exports to Cuba, comprising nine of the top 10 exporting states in 2015.
Reinforcing their dominant position, Southern states also are leaders in overall exports of Cuba’s most-imported agricultural products: rice and poultry. In 2014, four Southern states were among the top five rice-exporting states (Arkansas, at $809.3 million; California, at $644 million; Louisiana, at $258.9 million; Missouri, at $96.6 million; and Texas, at $92.8 million). Similarly, Southern states constituted all five of the top broiler-exporting states in 2014 (Georgia, at $596.3 million; Alabama, at $478 million; North Carolina, at $477.5 million; Arkansas, at $475 million; Mississippi, at $356.2 million; and Texas, at $280.5 million).
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|U.S. State||2006||2009||Percent Change||2012||Percent Change||2015||Percent Change|
What are the high school graduation rates for SLC member states?
High school graduation rates across the nation continue to rise to new heights, according to data from the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics. The nation's high school graduation rate hit 82 percent in 2013-14, the highest level since states adopted a new uniform way of calculating graduation rates five years ago.
Since 2010, states, districts and schools have been using a new, common metric to promote greater accountability, reduce dropout rates, and increase graduation rates. For four consecutive years, graduation rates have continued to climb, which reflects continued progress among America's high school students.
For a number of years, the SLC Comparative Data Report on Education, prepared annually by legislative staff in West Virginia, has tracked graduation rates in SLC member states, among other key figures. This year’s report shows that the average graduation rate for SLC member states is slightly above the national norm, at 82.5 percent versus 82.3 percent, with Texas leading the Southern region, with a high school graduation rate of 88.3 percent for the 2013-14 school year.
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Scope of Practice – Physician Assistants (PAs)
Scope of practice describes the procedures, actions and processes that a healthcare practitioner in a given field is permitted to undertake according to the law. Scope of practice policies and regulations, which are applicable to professionals across the field of medicine, vary substantially from state to state and, in some instances, continue to spark passionate debates about the proper extent to which medical professionals should be permitted to exercise certain responsibilities.
Physician Assistants, or PAs, are nationally certified and state-licensed medical professionals who work with physicians and other providers to treat patients. Among other things, PAs can take patients’ medical history, conduct physical exams, diagnose and treat illnesses, order and interpret tests, develop treatment plans, counsel on preventive care, assist in surgery, write prescriptions, and make rounds in hospitals and nursing homes. However, specifically designated duties depend on a number of factors, including work setting, level of experience, specialty and, lastly, state laws.
A list of scope of practice regulations currently in place among SLC states, as well as a set of maps outlining various scope of practice policies throughout the United States, follows.*
|SLC States||Full prescriptive authority||Scope of practice determined on site||Adaptable supervision requirements||Co-sign requirements determined at practice||Maximum number of PAs a physician can supervise at one time|
Pardons in SLC Member States
In the parlance of the criminal justice system, a pardon is an order that forgives an individual for a particular crime. Though a conviction remains a matter of public record after a pardon is granted, the individual is not subject to any more penalties for the crime committed. State law pardons typically are granted by the governor of the state in question though, in some cases, a governing body, appointed by the governor or Legislature, may hear pardon requests instead of or in conjunction with the governor.
SLC State-by-State Pardoning Policies
Unlike the majority of U.S. states, the governor is not exclusively authorized to grant pardons. The Board of Pardons and Paroles, which consists of three members appointed by the governor, with the advice and consent of the Senate, grants full or restricted pardons. The Board can consider pardon applications for federal or out-of-state convictions if the applicant is a resident of Alabama at the time the Board considers the application.
While the governor has the final say on all pardon applications, except those involving treason or impeachment, Arkansas law dictates that all applications must first be submitted to the Arkansas Parole Board for investigation prior to being submitted to the governor. The Board consists of seven members, appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Senate, who serve seven-year terms. In cases involving treason, the governor has the authority to grant a pardon, but only with the advice and consent of the Senate. The governor must report to the General Assembly during every regular session to describe the circumstances of each pardoned case as well as the reasons for issuing the pardon.
Full or conditional pardons are granted exclusively by the Clemency Board, which includes the governor, chief financial officer, attorney general, and commissioner of agriculture and consumer services, all of whom are statewide elected officials. In order to receive a pardon, the governor and at least two of the other three members of the Board must agree to the pardon.
How do SLC member states rank in creating favorable conditions for working mothers?
The United States Department of Labor estimates that women comprise nearly half of the nation's workforce and that women with children participate at a higher rate than women without children.* Meanwhile, women are compensated 21 percent less than their male counterparts.
To promote workplace gender parity and encourage greater workforce participation for this key demographic, several ingredients are necessary. States that excel in creating environments inclusive of working mothers feature ample daycare systems, low childcare costs, opportunities for professional advancement and a low gender wage gap.
WalletHub, a personal finance website, recently compared state dynamics across 13 key metrics to understand how working mothers fare in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. According to their findings, Tennessee is the best SLC member state for working mothers, ranking 13th overall. Key factors in Tennessee's high ranking include low childcare costs and low gender pay gaps.
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|Overall Rank||State||Total Score||‘Child Care’ Rank||‘Professional Opportunities’ Rank||‘Work-Life Balance’ Rank|
How many Zika infections have been confirmed in SLC Member States?
Although a large-scale Zika outbreak is not likely in the United States, leading health officials have warned that localized infections are probable in the months ahead, particularly across the South, as warmer temperatures create hospitable climate conditions for disease-carrying mosquitoes. As of May 2016, all confirmed infections in the United States have been associated with travelers who visited countries with known Zika outbreaks.
(current as of April 27, 2016)
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|State||Zika Infections||Percent of U.S. Infections|
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Southern Legislative Conference (SLC) States and the Annual Required Contribution (ARC) to Public Pension Plans
Among the myriad fiscal challenges confronting states is adequately funding their public pension plans. The most important way states carry out this function is by making the Annual Required Contribution (ARC) toward the public pension plan, an appropriation designated to cover the benefits accrued that year and to pay down a portion of any liabilities that were not funded in prior years. Since 1994, when the Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB) introduced the concept of the ARC, policymakers and those reviewing the performance of public pension plans have often looked to a state’s ARC to determine their commitment in bolstering the funding position of their pension plans.
In determining the ARC for a public pension plan, experts and actuaries calculate expected revenues flowing into the plan from several sources, such as investment earnings and employee contributions, and then alert policymakers about the precise ARC number based on actuarial and other calculations. The legal foundation for states continuing to make their ARCs flow from a variety of sources including statutes, ordinances, bound rules, case law and, in certain instances, state constitutions. For most states, there is an implicit or explicit legal obligation that the ARC will be paid in full. In addition, some state laws require that any increase in either benefits or employee contributions have to be approved by the appropriate authorities, in some instances the state legislative body, in that state. In the past three or so years, the credit rating agencies have started paying a great deal of attention to ARCs and the funding position of public pension plans. In fact, these rating agencies have indicated that the funding ratio of the public pension plan in question remains one of the factors considered when determining the overall credit rating of that particular state or local government.
Marijuana Use: Uncertainty on All Sides Continues
State legislatures continue to grapple with the myriad issues surrounding the legalization of medical marijuana as well as recreational marijuana. The following reflects a sampling of the research, articles and studies seeking to address questions related to whether marijuana and other substances are ‘gateway’ drugs. This information was compiled in response to an inquiry from a legislator in an SLC state.
A report from the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute on Drug Abuse. There are several references embedded in the report that provide scientific details on whether marijuana is a gateway drug.
A study, Probability and Predictors of the Cannabis Gateway Effect: A National Study, published in February 2015 in the International Journal of Drug Policy, maintains that the predictors of progression from cannabis to other illicit drugs remain largely unknown.
Another 2015 study in the International Journal of Drug Policy entitled, The Effect of Medical Cannabis Laws on Juvenile Cannabis Use, concludes that there is little empirical evidence to support the view that medical cannabis laws affect juveniles' use of illicit non-cannabis drugs.
An October 2015 article in the Chicago Tribune indicates that a University of Florida study found that alcohol - not marijuana - is the gateway drug that leads adolescents down the path toward more serious substances.
In a posting entitled Why Nicotine is a Gateway Drug, the NIH maintains that “Nicotine, the researchers found, makes the brain more susceptible to cocaine addiction. The finding suggests that lowering smoking rates in young people might help reduce cocaine abuse.”
What are the landfill tipping fees in SLC member states?
A tipping fee is a fee charged for the disposal of waste at a landfill. Tipping fees can vary greatly at each disposal site, influenced by factors such as location, owner, size, proximity to other landfills, and other operational variables. Tipping fees cover operation and maintenance costs. When applicable, tipping fees also may include taxes, generation fees and host community fees. Fees derived by local governments, host fees, may be used by a municipality to fund local projects, county fees often fund solid waste management organizations and state fees may help fund state-wide waste reduction programs or other environmental efforts within the state.
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State and Local Government Efforts to Regulate Airbnb
Generally, the "sharing economy" describes business models that facilitate peer-to-peer exchanges of personal goods or services, such as a car ride through Lyft, Uber, or Sidecar, or a vacation rental through Airbnb, Flipkey, Homeaway, or VRBO. Example number one in this connection is Airbnb, a development confirmed by the fact that in December 2015, the company had a valuation of $25.5 billion, a staggering amount; in the third quarter of 2015, the company also reported revenues of $340 million.
In a trend reflected by other aspects of the 21st century economy, i.e., the emergence of e-Commerce as a major dimension of contemporary commerce and the fact that a large portion of these e-Commerce transactions occur without state and local governments capturing sales taxes, many jurisdictions faced a number of new challenges with the rise of Airbnb as an option pursued by consumers across the country. One of these challenges was that consumers did not routinely pay sales and hotel/motel taxes to state and local governments when utilizing services such as Airbnb. Failure to collect these sales and hotel/motel taxes constituted a further drain on the overall revenues of state and local governments. As a result of these revenue losses, a number of state and local governments began reviewing their options related to instituting a system to capture a portion of the revenue related to the activities of companies like Airbnb.
After much discussions and negotiations, in October 2015, Airbnb announced that it will voluntarily begin collecting taxes on behalf of hosts in Washington, who are renting out spare rooms, apartments or vacation homes to visitors. This collection would include everything from state to local retail sales tax, as well as special hotel/motel taxes and convention and trade center taxes. Since then, Airbnb has expanded its collection efforts to include nearly a half dozen states and many local governments.
How are the SLC member states responding to the recent U.S. Supreme Court Stay of the U.S. EPA Clean Power Plan?
On February 9, a 5-4 majority of the Supreme Court issued a nationwide stay, blocking implementation of the Clean Power Plan until litigation over the legality of the Plan has concluded. SLC states have responded to the Supreme Court’s stay in three ways: eight states have suspended planning, four states are assessing their options and three states are continuing to plan.
Source: E&E Publishing Power Plan Hub (accessed March 3, 2016)
How do states handle inspection of amusement park rides, both traveling and permanent?
Federal background. The United States Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has regulatory oversight of traveling or portable amusement rides, such as those at carnivals, as well as inflatables and go-karts, but not permanent amusement rides, such as those at amusement parks, as they are not considered a consumer product. The CPSC serves as an information clearinghouse for state officials and assists state legislative efforts, particularly for traveling rides. It also tracks injury statistics and publishes a directory of state officials with oversight of amusement ride inspections.
States. Most states regulate amusement ride inspections, with the exception of Alabama, Mississippi, Nevada, South Dakota, Wyoming and Utah.
|Alabama||§ 40-12-47 (permanent) |
§ 40-12-163 (traveling)
|Department of Revenue||Locally determined|
What is the percentage breakdown of higher education funding in SLC member states?
Note: Graph outlines direct state support and tuition revenue for public higher education institutions only, and does not include special-purpose, research, and medical appropriations or account for tuition revenue dedicated to capital or debt service.
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|State||State Support for Public Higher Education||Percent State Support||Local Support for Higher Education||Percent Local Support||Net Tuition||Percent Funding through Tuition||Total Support|
Vehicle Sales Soar to Record Levels in 2015
In 2009, the American auto industry was enfeebled and on the verge of collapse.* Not only had auto production and sales cratered at a dizzying rate, tens of thousands of Americans were being laid off from jobs in various aspects of the industry. Presidents Bush and Obama’s efforts to revive the industry by injecting emergency bailout assistance also faced intense opposition, with widespread calls for the federal government to refrain from intervening and infusing critical funds to resuscitate the industry. However, the emergency federal funding proved to be tremendously important in turning around the fortunes of General Motors and Chrysler, and their revival generated a panoply of positive effects for the nation’s other major industry producer (Ford). The dozen or so foreign automakers operating largely in the SLC states also benefitted from the improving national and regional economic picture on the automotive front and demonstrated strong progress in terms of production, sales and expansion.
State Authority to Admit Refugees: Background and Recent Developments
State Authority to Admit Refugees: Background and Recent Developments
The issue of state authority in refugee resettlement was largely unaddressed prior to November 2015, when security concerns, stemming from Syrian-linked terrorist attacks in Paris, led 31 governors to restrict refugee resettlement in their states. Historically, refugee admissions have been a federal issue, as it relates to immigration and foreign affairs. The Immigration and Nationality Act, amended by the Refugee Act of 1980, establishes the process by which the federal government sets refugee priorities.
|Total Refugee Arrivals||Syrian Refugee Arrivals|
What are the projections for personal income and sales tax revenues in SLC member states?
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|State||Personal Income Taxes: FY 2014 (Actual)||Personal Income Taxes: FY 2015 (Forecast)||Personal Income Taxes: FY 2016 (Forecast)||Percent Change FY 2015-16||Sales Taxes: FY 2014 (Actual)||Sales Taxes: FY 2015 (Forecast)||Sales Taxes: FY 2016 (Forecast)||Percent Change FY 2015-16|
What percentage of school districts are connected to high-speed internet in the SLC member states?
How did SLC member states fare on the American Lung Society's annual State of the Air report?
The American Lung Society recently released its annual State of the Air report. Overall, SLC states fared well in several of the “cleanest cities” categories. Cities in SLC member states comprise half of the top 10 cleanest cities for Ozone Air Pollution and also six of the top 10 cleanest cities for Short-Term Particulate Pollution.
More information on the cleanest cities can be found here.
More information on the most polluted cities can be found here.
Cleanest U.S. Cities for Ozone Air Pollution:
Cleanest U.S. Cities for Short-term Particulate Pollution:
States Assisting the Formation of Community Gardens and Farms in Abandoned Urban Areas and Working to Eradicate Food Deserts
Presently, it appears that most of the action related to the promotion of community gardens and farms in abandoned urban areas has occurred at the local or municipal level. However, there is legislation in California, The Urban Agriculture Incentive Zones Act (Assembly Bill 551), introduced by Assembly Member Phil Ting and signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown in September 2013, that emerged at the state level. This piece of legislation, that drew bipartisan support in both the California Assembly and Senate, went into effect on January 1, 2014. The bill aims to accomplish two things: (1) increase the use of privately owned, vacant land for urban agriculture and (2) improve land security for urban agriculture projects. The legislation does this by allowing city governments in California, with approval from their county board of supervisors, to designate areas within their boundaries as "urban agriculture incentive zones." In these areas, landowners who sign a contract to commit their land to agricultural use for at least five years will receive a reduction in their property taxes. Specifically, their parcel's property tax assessment will be based on the agricultural value of the land rather than the market-rate value of the land. California's legislation generated interest across the country, particularly at the local level. (More can be learned about the state effort here and the actual legislation here.)
2015 Update on Common Core in SLC Member States
This SLC recent research is a brief update to the February 2015 SLC Regional Resource, and includes short summaries of any developments that have occurred in the SLC member states in relation to Common Core up to October 19, 2015. As it stands, the majority of states have adopted 90 percent or more of Common Core and customized them to invididual state-specific learning environments and priorities. For complete details regarding SLC member state developments related to Common Core, please refer to the SLC Regional Resource.
As noted in the SLC Regional Resource, on November 20, 2011, after a year of reviewing the needs of Alabama students, the Board adopted Common Core along with a set of additional state-specific standards, collectively referred to as the Alabama College- and Career-Ready Standards (CCRS) for Mathematics and English Language Arts. Legislative efforts (e.g., SB101 of 2015) to repeal Common Core continued during the 2015 legislative session, but did not succeed. The Alabama College- & Career-Ready Standards continue to be used throughout the state.
In SLC states, how many acres of land were burned by wild or prescribed fires in 2014?
|State||Number of wild fires||Acres burned||Number of prescribed fires||Acres burned||Total acres burned|
Source: National Interagency Coordination Center
Manufacturing Products Top SLC State Exports in 2014
|Image courtesy of Gulfstream Aerospace Corporation|
|Image courtesy of BMW Manufacturing News Center|
"U.S. businesses exported $2.35 trillion of our goods and services in 2014, hitting a record high for the fifth straight year. Exports support 11.3 million American jobs, and contributed one-third of our annual growth between 2009 and 2013."‐ Penny Pritzker, Secretary, U.S. Department of Commerce
Exports from the United States continue to power ahead and, in 2014, they registered a record high for the fifth consecutive year, $2.35 trillion in goods and services to be exact.¥ U.S. exports hit records in a number of categories including capital goods; consumer goods; petroleum products; foods, feeds and beverages; and automotive vehicles and parts. Importantly, reflecting the composition of the U.S. economy, services exports recorded an all-time high of $710.3 billion in 2014, led by travel and transport; charges for the use of intellectual property; and financial services. As noted by Secretary Pritzker, the critical role played by the export sector in generating millions of jobs for Americans cannot be overemphasized, along with the role played by the export sector in promoting economic growth across the country.
What are the vaccination rates for one- to three-year-olds in SLC member states?
On August 27, 2015, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention released data from the 2014 National Immunization Survey (NIS) looking at immunization coverage among children 19-35 months of age with state-level estimates, along with vaccination coverage among children at school entry by state during the 2014-2015 school year. Vaccines remain one of the most effective tools available for the prevention of childhood diseases. Since 1994, NIS has monitored vaccination coverage among U.S. children aged 19‐35 months for vaccines recommended by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices. To gauge progress toward achieving full vaccination with recommended childhood vaccines, observed coverage levels are compared to targets set by Healthy People 2020.
|State||Percentage of children aged 19‐35 months with a combined vaccine series *|
How many death row prisoners are confined in SLC member states?
On December 31, 2013, the most recent date for which data is available, 35 states and the federal government held prisoners who had been sentenced to death. The table below shows how many prisoners were currently being held under sentence of death by state or federal jurisdiction as of December 31, 2013, and the average number of years those prisoners had been on death row since sentenced. The total includes prisoners sentenced between 1974 and 2013, who remain sentenced to death. It should be noted that not all of these prisoners will be executed given that some may die while in custody, have their sentence commuted, or have their sentence overturned.
|State||Total Prisoners Under Sentence of Death||Average Number of Years Under Sentence of Death|
Note: West Virginia abolished the death penalty in 1965.
Public Pension Trends & Developments
The Southern Legislative Conference (SLC) has intensely focused on public pensions and the entire retirement architecture of the United States for more than 15 years. An SLC presentation before the Alabama Legislature a few years ago captures some of the important trends and developments on the topic. Even though the presentation is several years old, the essential elements of the presentation remain valid and provide a good synopsis of the topic. This presentation may be viewed here. Some of the strategies adopted by dozens of states to bolster their public pension plans include: increasing employee contributions; limiting COLA increases (a strategy complicated by recent court decisions); increasing age and vesting limits; trimming benefits; and issuing pension obligation bonds.
In the wake of the 2008-09 market decline and Great Recession, nearly every state and many cities have taken steps to improve the financial condition of their retirement plans and to reduce costs. Although some lawmakers have considered closing existing pension plans to new hires, most determined that this would increase – rather than reduce – costs, particularly in the near-term. Based on the most recent information provided by the U.S. Census Bureau, 3.9 percent of all state and local government spending is used to fund pension benefits for employees of state and local government. Pension costs have remained within a narrow range over a 30-year period, declining from a high point of 5 percent to a low of 2.3 percent in FY02, and reaching 3.9 percent in FY12. State and local governments contributed, in aggregate, an estimated $109 billion to pension funds in FY13, a figure equal to 3.9 percent of projected state and local direct general spending for that year. This February 2015 National Association of State Retirement Administrators Issue Brief, entitled 'State and Local Government Spending on Public Employee Retirement Systems,'provides more details on these trends.
Has there been a change in the percentage breakdown of the major tax categories in the SLC states between 2004 and 2014?
|GSU - General Sales and Use||II - Individual Income||T - Tobacco|
|MF - Motor Fuel||CI - Corporate Income||S - Severance|
|MVOL - Motor Vehicle Operator and License||AB - Alcoholic Beverage||O - Other|
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|State||GSU 2004||GSU 2014||MF 2004||MF 2014||MVOL 2004||MVOL 2014||II 2004||II 2014||CI 2004||CI 2014||AB 2004||AB 2014||T 2004||T 2014||S 2004||S 2014||O 2004||O 2014|
Debate on Proposals to Privatize State-Administered Alcohol Sales
Information from selected states on the debate regarding the privatization of alcohol and beverage control (ABC) operations follows. One of the major areas of discussion when states consider privatizing their monopoly of the sale of alcohol is the potential public health and safety implications of the change. A number of studies have been conducted on this topic, including the following:
Virginia is one such state and when then Governor Bob McDonnell floated the proposal after his election in 2009, George Mason University carried out the following study. The study's conclusions indicate that "government-spirits monopolies do not generate the health benefits that their proponents trumpet. The plain fact seems to be that alcohol-related problems are unrelated to whether or not a state government prevents private, competitive businesses from selling spirits to the general public." Also, in Virginia, in January 2015, Senator Ryan McDougle sponsored SB 1032 in an effort, in his words, to "allow ABC to operate like a business as opposed to a government agency." Similarly, in the Virginia House, Delegate Dave Albo, proposed HB 1776 with the goal of replacing ABC with the authority to operate outside of government authority.
North Carolina is another Southern state that has grappled with the option of privatizing their ABC operations. The North Carolina Institute for Constitutional Law released a detailed report entitled North Carolina's ABC System Needs Modernization. In addition, North Carolina's Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) Commission released its 2014 annual report recently. Also, of relevance in this connection is an interview with the chair of the NC ABC Commission, recently appointed by Governor Pat McCrory.
Recent Trends Related to State Worker's Compensation Laws
The National Federation of Independent Businesses is a collection of 350,000 small and independent business owners that came together to promote and protect the right to own, operate and expand their businesses. Here is a compendium on the workers' compensation laws by state. Worker's compensation insurance requirements for employers vary from state to state. Information on what these insurance requirements are for the specific state is critical for protecting businesses, particularly small-business owners. While some states never require worker's compensation insurance, some always require it, and for others, whether it is required depends on the number of employees at the business. This list of resources provides details on the status of all 50 states.
Pro Publica is a New York-based independent, non-profit newsroom that produces investigative journalism in the public interest. They have compiled several projects related to worker's compensation trends in the states and information on this research is available here and here.
Business Insurance Magazine is an industry publication that presents news and information for executives concerned about risk and the impact on their business. In the March 2015 issue, the publication included an article entitled "States consider workers compensation reform" highlighting recent workers' compensation trends in the states, which can be found here.
State Purchasing Regulations and Reform
States across the country continue to explore strategies to lower overall spending while providing citizens with critical services. In this connection, reforming their purchasing regulations and introducing procurement reforms remain a strong management feature in a number of states. In fact, given their reputation as the laboratories of democracy, many states have introduced innovative and creative ways with regard to their procurement processes by utilizing new tools and establishing best practices.
Four such states are Georgia, Virginia, Minnesota and Wisconsin, which, in recent years have enacted some significant and successful procurement reform efforts in a number of their state agencies that possibly could be adopted in other settings. Georgia and Virginia have enhanced their procurement systems to optimize savings and spending potential by adopting e-procurement tools and emulating successful procedures from the private sector. Similarly, Minnesota and Wisconsin have made groundbreaking strides in procurement reform by sharing resources, consolidating services and pursuing joint contracts.
"Nothing is simple when it comes to government contracting, especially for large technology projects. Yes, there are good reasons for having all those checks and balances in place. After all, taxpayers foot the bill for these projects, and there must be some assurance that the funds are being spent wisely, particularly given some of the high-profile failures of public-sector IT deployments. But the downside is these rules can be so restrictive that they choke off competition and innovation."1 More about some of the factors that stifle competition can be found here.
In Washington, a new state law went into effect on January 1, 2013, that consolidated procurement laws under the state's Department of Enterprise Services. The goal of the new law is to make the procurement process more transparent, competitive and efficient. Additional information about this law can be found here.
Retiree Health Care and GASB Statements 74 and 75
The impact of the Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB) Statements 74 and 75, designed to improve the accounting and financial reporting by state and local governments for Other Post-Employee Benefits (OPEB), primarily retiree health insurance, varies across the United States.
Along with challenges related to funding their pension plans, states also face critical challenges related to adequately funding their retiree health care costs. GASB Statements 74 and 75, designed to go into effect in the fiscal year beginning after June 15, 2016 (Statement 74) and in the fiscal year beginning after June 15, 2017 (Statement 75), pose additional complications for policymakers as they seek to devise mechanisms to adequately fund these expenditures.
In the last decade or so, the number of state governments offering retiree health care benefits has been declining. In recent years, states have deployed a number of different strategies to transfer a greater portion of the cost of providing retiree health care to employees and retirees compared to earlier periods.
In probing the states with the highest unfunded actuarial liability (or UAAL) in terms of their OPEB, of which retiree health care costs are the most significant component, the following top 10 loom large:
How do SLC member states evaluate teacher effectiveness?
Trends in Teacher Evaluation: How States are Measuring Teacher Performance, a report from the National School Boards Association's (NSBA) Center for Public Education, provides a thorough state-by-state analysis of state government approaches to teacher evaluation regulations. Out of the 15 SLC member states, nine (Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas) practice high to medium state involvement, meaning that the state mandates the requirements and components of the evaluation system (high) or provides model evaluation systems that districts can either adopt fully or adapt to some degree (medium). Of these nine SLC member states, six (Arkansas, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, and Tennessee) recommend or require that quantifiable student achievement indicators comprise half of a teachers' evaluation.
NSBA identified two common approaches to quantitative teacher evaluations: the value-added model (VAM), which attempts to measure the impact a teacher has on students' academic growth in relation to other causal variables, and student growth percentiles (SGP), a measure of how much progress a student has made relative to other students, each with particular advantages and disadvantages. Of the six SLC member states with similar quantitative teacher evaluation methods, only three (Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Tennessee) practice the VAM method for linking teachers and student achievement.
(click on headers to sort by column)
|State||State's Level of Involvement in Evaluation Systems||Student Achievement as Measure of Teacher Effectiveness||Statistical Model for Evaluation|
|Alabama||Low||Not specified||Not specified/other|
|Arkansas||Medium||50 percent||Student Growth Percentiles|
|Florida||Low||50 percent||Value-Added Model|
|Georgia||Medium||50 percent||Student Growth Percentiles|
|Kentucky||Low||Not specified||Student Growth Percentiles|
The Status of Medicaid Expansion in SLC States
ALABAMA Governor Robert Bentley (R) indicated in December 2014 that he was open to the possibility of Medicaid expansion in the form of a state-designed program that uses private sector insurance and imposes work and job training requirements on the recipients. Governor Bentley has signaled that he may ask the federal government for a block grant to accomplish this expansion. The Alabama Legislature currently is considering a Joint Resolution that reaffirms their opposition to Medicaid expansion and urges Governor Bentley from taking any steps to expand the state's program. The resolution passed the Alabama Senate on April 21 and currently awaits action in the House.
ARKANSAS Arkansas has reauthorized funding for its private option alternative to Medicaid expansion through FY 2016. Under additional legislation passed during the 2015 session, the private option expansion will terminate on December 31, 2016, and a newly created legislative task force will make recommendations on alternative coverage models and reforms for the entire Medicaid program by December 31, 2015. Given that the General Assembly is not scheduled to meet again for a regular legislative session until 2017 (2016 is a fiscal session), Governor Hutchinson expects that a special session will be necessary to take action on the future of the state's Medicaid program.
According to the Arkansas Department of Human Services, 188,023 individuals have enrolled through the private option program, with an additional 25,117 medically frail individuals enrolled in traditional Medicaid, as of November 30, 2014.
Rural Hospital Funding in Non-Expansion States
Improving Funding for Rural Hospitals Between January 2010 and December 2014, 47 rural and critical access hospitals have closed around the country, 31 of which are in SLC states. As of January 2015, 24 of those hospitals remain closed, 10 have been converted to outpatient and primary care rural health clinics, nine have been converted to urgent or emergency care centers, and four have been converted to rehabilitation or nursing facilities. 1 Under the federal Affordable Care Act (ACA), Medicaid Disproportionate Share Hospital (DSH) payments were set to begin phasing out in FY2014. Under the plan, the phasing out of DSH payments, which are intended to provide additional funding to hospitals that serve a large number of Medicaid and uninsured low-income patients, was set to be complete in FY2020. The design of the ACA was for the reduction in DSH payments to be off-set with a reduction in uninsured patients through Medicaid expansion and subsidies for private insurance. Although the implementation of DSH reductions has been delayed until FY2017, additional reductions, including a 2 percent sequestration reduction on Medicare payments, have quickly contributed to the demise of already financially fragile rural hospitals. With this trend expected to accelerate in the future, particularly in non-Medicaid expansion states, some states have begun to discuss alternatives for funding rural hospitals. The most prevalent strategies being discussed for addressing the declining health of rural and critical access hospitals is creating partnerships or mergers with larger hospitals, developing innovative delivery models that rely on integrated healthcare, and expanded utilization of telemedicine in rural areas.
The following information provides details on approaches taken by several SLC states to address the declining fiscal health of rural hospitals, as well as other options that may be worth considering when crafting a solution to address these issues.
Georgia: Rural Hospital Stabilization "Hub and Spoke" Pilot Project In 2014, Governor Nathan Deal announced the formation of the Rural Hospital Stabilization Committee, bringing together policymakers and other stakeholders, to identify the needs of the rural hospital community and provide potential solution for addressing those needs.
What are the governing entities for higher education in SLC member states?
from Online Database for Postsecondary Governance, Education Commission of the States (ECS)
|Alabama||The Alabama Commission on Higher Education, the statutory coordinating agency for public postsecondary education, was established in 1969. The Commission is composed of 12 members, 10 appointed by the governor and 1 each by the lieutenant governor and speaker of the house. All are subject to confirmation by the Senate. No more than 2 members can be from any one congressional district and each is charged with representing the state as a whole. Commissioners serve 9-year terms. The statutory authority of the Commission includes planning, coordination, budget review for individual institutions, recommendations of a consolidated budget and program review for the state's public senior and junior institutions. Program review involves new program approval authority for all public postsecondary institutions. The Commission has advisory authority relative to the review of existing programs. The commission also has approval authority for off-campus instruction and programs offered in the state by out-of-state institutions. |
The State Board of Education is a constitutional entity with responsibility not only for K-12 but also for governing 1 upper-division college, 3 junior colleges, 18 community colleges and 7 technical colleges.
|Arkansas||The Arkansas Department of Higher Education, established in 1971, functions as a statutory cabinet department of the state government and is charged with the coordination of postsecondary education in Arkansas. The department administers the policies set by the Higher Education Coordinating Board, which replaced the State Board of Higher Education in 1997. Consisting of 12 members who are appointed to 6-year terms by the governor, the Higher Education Coordinating Board has statutory responsibility for the planning and coordination of public 4-and 2-year institutions. The Board also has statutory authority for budget review and recommendation, approval of institutions role and scope, and the review and approval of new or existing degree programs for public postsecondary institutions. The executive officer of the agency is appointed by the Higher Education Coordinating Board with substantial input from the Presidents Council and is confirmed and serves at the governor's pleasure.|
State Funding of Gaming, Fishing and Wildlife Departments
Budgets for the state departments overseeing gaming, fishing and wildlife operations in 11 states were evaluated to identify and compare annual budgets and major funding sources; fee schedules for hunting and fishing licenses; and to determine whether the state offered lifetime licenses.* The states reviewed are Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio, Texas, Virginia and West Virginia. Of these 11 states, two (Ohio and Kentucky) did not offer lifetime licenses; the remaining nine states did offer lifetime licenses.
A file with 13 different spreadsheets providing information on budget amounts, major funding sources and per capita spending levels in each of the 11 states listed above is linked here. The first two spreadsheets, Appendix 1 (State Funding of Gaming, Fishing and Wildlife Departments) and Appendix 2 (Details of State Funding Levels) are macro-level analyses of the information compiled. In addition, an individual spreadsheet for each of the 11 states that details the various amounts charged for the different kinds of licenses (hunting, fishing etc.) along with a wealth of information on the fees associated with the different states is included.
There was a great deal of variation in terms of the budget size and major funding sources in the different states. Figures 1 and 2 reflect these trends:
Source: Departmental budgets (Data and sources in Appendix 1). Please note that not all fiscal years are the same, as preference was given to detailed departmental (rather than overall state) budgets, and data was extracted from the most recent, available fiscal year.
Public-Private Partnerships (P3s) with a Design-Build-Finance-Operate-Maintain (DBFOM) Clause Related to Higher Education Buildings
Ongoing fiscal pressures on state budgets are increasingly causing states to focus on P3s as a means to generate funds to initiate essential infrastructure projects. Despite this growing reliance on P3s for major infrastructure projects, few states have offices dedicated solely to reviewing the feasibility of different P3 projects. Among the limited number of states with these independent offices, several SLC states stand out: Florida, Texas and Virginia. While P3s related to transportation infrastructure have gathered the most attention in recent years, a growing number of state and local governments also are authorizing P3s – with a DBFOM provision – in the arena of higher education-related infrastructure investments.
Specifically, seven states have laws pertaining to public-private partnership funding for state-level educational facilities: California, Florida, Kentucky, New Jersey, North Carolina, Texas and Virginia. The following sections outline the provisions of those laws and, where relevant, applications of the law to provide private funding for university facilities generally. In addition, the American Institute of Architects offers a Legislative Resource Guide on Public-Private Partnerships for Public Facilities.
California law has provided for P3s for transportation infrastructure since 1989, and expanded its application and authorized public entities since. In 1996, the state granted local governments authority to enter into fee-producing infrastructure projects and the broad definition of local government includes university systems:
What are the primary election formulas of SLC Member States?
|State||Primary Formula||Primary (approx.)||Runoff||Citation|
|Alabama||June, 1st Tuesday||early June||6th Tuesday following the Primary||17-13-3|
|Arkansas||Preferential Primary: Tuesday 3 weeks prior to general primary election; General primary election: second Tuesday in June preceding the general election||late May||June, 2nd Tuesday (General Primary Election)||7-7-202; 7-7-203|
|Florida||Tuesday, 10 weeks prior to general election||mid to late August||. . .||100.061|
|Georgia||24th Tuesday before Nov. General in Even years||mid to late May||9th Tuesday after Primary||21-2-150|
|Kentucky||May, 1st Tuesday after 3rd Monday||mid to late May||35 days after Primary||118.025|
|Louisiana||October, 2nd to last Saturday||late October (odd)||4th Saturday after Primary||18.402|
|Mississippi||August, first Tuesday after first Monday||early August (odd)||3rd Tuesday after Primary||23-15-191|
|Missouri||August, first Tuesday after first Monday||early August||. . .||115.121.1|
|North Carolina||May, first Tuesday after first Monday||early May||7 weeks after Primary||163-1|
|Oklahoma||June, last Tuesday||late June||August, 4th Tuesday||26-1-102|
Public and Nonprofit Organization Initiatives to Rejuvenate Blighted Neighborhoods
Local, state and federal governments have taken different approaches with regard to implementing programs to address the range of issues related to blighted neighborhoods in America’s metropolitan areas. Neighborhood blight, which can negatively affect the health and safety of citizens and lower revenue inflows as a result of declining property values, remain a significant challenge in several American cities. Due to the local nature of these conditions, local or community level organizations typically target blight removal, using federal and state funds channeled through state agencies. Along with assistance either offered or funneled through various government agencies, a number of nonprofit organizations also are actively involved in creating innovative solutions to eradicating blighted neighborhoods.
Initiatives to address this issue emerge from three main groups: federal, state and nonprofit.
Several federal agency programs offer grant funding for use by states to remove blight, including the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Neighborhood Stabilization Program, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Brownfields and Land Revitalization Act, National Park Service Historic Preservation Fund Grants-in-Aid for State, Tribal, and Local Government Programs, U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration Planning and Local Technical Assistance Program, and the U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration Public Works and Economic Adjustment Assistance Program. The federal HUD agency also compiles data on vacancy rates and highlights strategies for identifying, targeting, and eliminating urban blight, as well as innovative ways to rejuvenate affected areas and the surrounding communities.
Programs and Strategies for Reducing Youth Violence
Although the details may vary, the issue of youth violence is one that almost all communities will encounter. Approaches to addressing this issue are as diverse as the juvenile offenders themselves. The following information provides details on a number of programs and resources available that aim to reduce the prevalence of youth violence.
St. Louis Nightwatch
St. Louis Nightwatch Program - Created in 2000, the Nightwatch Program is a partnership between the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department and the Juvenile Division of the St. Louis City Family Court. The goal of the program is to increase the accountability of juveniles under court supervision by conducting random checks on their compliance with court-ordered curfews. From its inception in 2000 through December 2013, 123,546 visits were made to juveniles. The St. Louis Family Court reported that from October 2012-September 2013, 6,260 visits yielded a compliance rate of 83.2 percent.
A 2005 evaluation of the Nightwatch Program found the rate of recidivism to be much lower among juveniles assigned to the program than among their juvenile counterparts not enrolled in the Nightwatch Program.
CSG Justice Center - Texas Juvenile Justice Reform
Proposed Ridesharing Laws in the States
(Accurate as of February 12, 2015)
Legislation regarding ridesharing services such as Uber, Lyft and Sidecar has proliferated over the past two years (see Transportation Network Company Ride Sharing Issue Status). In some instances, ridesharing companies – particularly the largest company, Uber – have backed legislation to open markets, gain credibility and legal protection, but also that could create barriers to entry for smaller ridesharing companies. Typically, such legislation matches current company policies on background checks for drivers, vehicle inspections, driver training, and insurance requirements.
Statewide, Blanket Policies for Fee Adjustment for State and Local Government Services
(Accurate as of February 6, 2015)
State and local governments rely on an assortment of fees and charges to help fund services. The information request posed whether there were instances where certain fees were automatically adjusted based on a fixed number of metrics or inputs without the intervention of the legislative body, either state or local government. One such example of a fee or a charge automatically adjusting without legislative intervention involves the Motor Fuel Tax (MFT) in North Carolina. While the MFT is added to the cost of each gallon of gasoline and diesel sold in the state, North Carolina's MFT rate springs from two sources: a fixed portion and a variable portion. While the fixed portion remains unchanged, unless modified by state law, the variable portion is automatically adjusted and is based on the wholesale price of gasoline every six months, on January 1st and July 1st.
There are several examples of uniform fee adjustment policies within state agencies even though no blanket policies that crossed state agencies were discovered. Some statewide guidelines exist, such as those issued by the Massachusetts Department of Revenue and guidelines for local government user fees issued by the Wisconsin Legislative Audit Bureau. In addition, the Government Finance Officers Association has best practice guidelines for establishing government charges and fees, including recommendations for periodic review and updates.
Examples of statewide, departmental fees adjusted according to changes in certain inputs or metrics are outlined. Because fees usually are based on the cost of service provision, inputs or metrics can be highly specific to the service provided and adjustments typically incorporate inflation indirectly. For example, and as noted previously, North Carolina adjusts the MFT biannually, according to the wholesale price of gas; as changes in the wholesale price captures changes in inflation, so, too, does the adjusted motor fuel tax rate. Two examples of non-fee rates adjusted directly to inflation are state salaries and minimum wages.
State Best Practices/Reviews
States and the Federal New Markets Tax Credit Program
(Information Compiled on February 4, 2015)
The New Markets Tax Credit Program (NMTC Program) was established by Congress in 2000 to spur new or increased investments into operating businesses and real estate projects located in low-income communities. The NMTC Program attracts investment capital to low-income communities by permitting individual and corporate investors to receive a tax credit against their federal income tax return in exchange for making equity investments in specialized financial institutions called Community Development Entities (CDEs). The credit totals 39 percent of the original investment amount and is claimed over a period of seven years (5 percent for each of the first three years, and 6 percent for each of the remaining four years). The investment in CDEs cannot be redeemed before the end of the seven-year period.
In 1994, the Community Development Financial Institutions Fund, or CDFI Fund, was created under aegis of the U.S. Department of the Treasury to promote economic revitalization and community development through investment in and assistance to community development financial institutions (CDFIs). The CDFI Fund achieves its purpose by promoting access to capital and local economic growth through initiatives such as the NMTC Program. Since its inception, the CDFI Fund has made 836 awards allocating a total of $40 billion in tax credit authority to CDEs through a competitive application process. This $40 billion includes $3 billion in Recovery Act Awards and $1 billion of special allocation authority to be used for the recovery and redevelopment of the Gulf Opportunity Zone.
How many prisoners are under the jurisdiction of state correctional authorities in the SLC member states?
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How Do States Regulate Combat Sports?
(Compiled February 11, 2015)
Most states regulate contact sports through athletic or boxing commissions, housed within departments of labor and professional or occupational licensing and regulation.The conclusion of this document provides a detailed breakdown of how the 15 Southern Legislative Conference (SLC) states regulate and oversee contact sports. Within the SLC region, Arkansas and North Carolina are two exceptions: Arkansas houses its athletic commission within the Department of Health, while North Carolina houses its boxing authority within the Department of Public Safety. Outside the region, the Nevada Athletic Commission operates under the Department of Business and Industry.
The Arkansas General Assembly transferred the state Athletic Commission to the Department of Health after a series of organizational failures within the Commission and the resignation of the chair. Minutes from the Arkansas State Board of Health meeting on November 8, 2012, show that the governor had asked the Department to consider oversight of the Athletic Commission, as well as the Board of Sanitarians and Health Educators (see page 6 of Minutes). Prior to its transfer, the Board did not undergo a sunset review, though the Arkansas Division of Legislative Audit periodically reviewed the Commission’s internal controls and compliance.
Regulation of mixed martial arts (MMA) has progressed very quickly across the country, with New York being the only state where professional MMA still is illegal, and there currently is legislation in the Assembly and Senate to legalize the sport and establish regulations and taxes. As of late 2013, 16 states did not regulate the sport.
February 2015: The Status of Medicaid Expansion in the SLC States
ALABAMA Governor Robert Bentley (R) indicated in December 2014 that he was open to the possibility of Medicaid expansion in the form of a state-designed program that uses private sector insurance and imposes work and job training requirements on the recipients. Governor Bentley has signaled that he may ask the federal government for a block grant to accomplish this expansion. Since the governor’s re-positioning, legislative leaders in Alabama have been relatively quiet on the idea, but Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R) has said he does not think the issue would gain much traction in the Legislature. Support or opposition for the governor’s proposal may become more pronounced in the coming weeks, as legislators get ready to convene the legislative session on March 3, 2015.
ARKANSAS Arkansas has reauthorized funding for its private option alternative to Medicaid expansion through FY 2016. Under additional legislation passed during the 2015 session, the private option expansion will terminate on December 31, 2016, and a newly created legislative task force will make recommendations on alternative coverage models. According to the Arkansas Department of Human Services, as of November 30, 2014, 188,023 individuals have enrolled through the private option program, with an additional 25,117 medically frail individuals enrolled in traditional Medicaid.
What are the minimum number of school days per year in SLC member states?
|State||State Code Section||Number of Days||Minimum Hours for Instructional Day|
|Alabama||[ALA. CODE § 16-13-231(a)(1) and (b)(1)(c)] |
|180 or hourly equivalent||6 hours (Excludes lunch and recess)|
|Arkansas||[ARK. CODE ANN. § |
|178||6 hours/day or 30 hours/week|
|Florida||[FLA. STAT. ch. |
|Georgia||[GA. CODE ANN. § 20-2-168(c); GA. COMP. R. & REGS. r. 160-5-1-.02(2)||180||Grades K-3, 4.5 hours; grades 4-5, 5 hours; grades 6-12, 5.5 hours|
|Kentucky||[KY. REV. STAT. ANN. § 158.070; 702 Ky. Admin. Regs. 7:140]||170 (185-day calendar that includes 170 instructional plus four days for professional development)||N/A|
|Louisiana||[LA. REV. STAT. ANN. § 17:154; LA. ADMIN. CODE tit. 28 pt.,CXV § 333, 1103]||177 (Includes two days for staff development)||6 hours (Excludes recess)|
|Mississippi||[MISS. CODE ANN. § 37-13-61, 63,67]||180||5.5 hours|
|Missouri||[MO. REV. STAT. § 160.041, 171.031]||N/A||N/A|
|North Carolina||[N.C. GEN. STAT. § 115C-84.2(a)(1),(d)]||185||N/A|
|Oklahoma||[OKLA. STAT. tit. 70, § 1-109, 111]||180||6 hours|
|South Carolina||[S.C. CODE ANN. § 59-1-425]||180 (Plus three days for mandatory professional development, up to two days for professional development and up to five days for planning, parent conf., etc. to total 190 days)||6 hours (Elementary includes lunch; secondary excludes lunch)|
State Occupational Boards and Commissions Fees
Licensure, a policy mechanism designed to ensure minimum competency among practitioners in markets with high risk of harm, affords protection to the public by granting licensees exclusive rights of practice. In effect, no person without a license may legally provide those regulated goods or services. This definition offers an important distinction from certification and registration, which do not offer exclusive rights of practice. Typically, licensure guarantees certain practitioner training regarding public health, safety or sanitation, so consumers, for example, do not receive the wrong medication at a pharmacy or spread disease at a spa. It is a means of indirectly providing information to consumers about the quality of a service. Licensure, however, also has the effect of driving up service costs and practitioner wages by restricting market entry. Consequently, training or language and residency requirements for licensure may restrict qualified practitioners from offering services in a state, dampening job creation opportunities and economic growth.
Boards and commissions were examined in 10 states: Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Tennessee. States varied in organizational structure and consolidation of boards, as well as the number and distinction of occupations in each board’s jurisdiction and the complexity of fee schedules. For example, some states, like Tennessee and Nebraska, house occupational boards and commissions within administrative or executive departments, such as the departments of health or labor. Others, such as Georgia, have separate boards for cosmetologists and barbers. Most states did not report the number of licensees under each board, and no states reported the number of licenses by occupation. Table 1 depicts the name of each analogous board or commission, if it exists. Table 2 demonstrates the range of application or initial fees and renewal fees. These ranges capture the different occupations regulated by the boards. It does not capture, however, additional fees levied on firms, inspections or examinations that many boards impose.
State and Local Regulations on the Use of Golf Carts on Public Roads
While not commonly considered a category governed as transportation, several states in the Southern region have passed laws governing the use of golf carts as transportation on public roads. These regulations vary widely in terms of how, where and when golf carts may be used legally. In some places, such as Peachtree City, Georgia, and The Villages in Florida, local governments have invested in transportation infrastructure designed for the use of golf carts, creating a network of trails complete with bridges, tunnels and signage. In other places, it is illegal to drive a golf cart on a street or sidewalk any farther than a half mile from a golf course or approved event.
Information relating to the legal street and trail use of golf carts, as well as low speed vehicles (LSV) or personal transportation vehicles (PTV), in six states in the region is presented in the accompanying table. These vehicles all have different designations, and are regulated separately by both federal and state governments; however, these regulations serve very similar purposes and, in many jurisdictions, a modified golf cart may meet the legal definition of low speed or personal transportation vehicle. The table shows the relevant state codes for legal use of these vehicles, including who may drive them, where they may be driven, whether they may be driven at night, and any required safety features. In addition, because many states allow municipal or county governments to regulate use of golf carts, the table includes example local ordinances for each state where applicable.
In addition to state and local laws on safety equipment, some golf carts must meet federal safety standards. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration regulates golf carts with top speeds between 20 and 25 miles per hour as LSVs (49 CFR Part 571). Golf carts with top speeds of less than 20 mph are not required to meet federal safety standards. Dealers that modify or customize golf carts to exceed top speeds between 20 and 25 mph, however, must comply with the LSV safety standards. These standards require headlights, front and rear turn signals, taillights, stop lamps, reflex reflectors, rearview mirrors, parking brake, windshield, vehicle identification number and seat belts.
How many states have Departments of Elder Abuse and/or Aging?
|State||Division Name||Superior Department||Elder Abuse Services||Website||Elder Abuse Related Service Provision or Referral Department|
|Alabama||Department of Senior Services||Independent||Yes||http://www.alabamaageline.gov/||Elder Justice and Advocacy Program, Interagency Council for the Prevention of Elder Abuse; Refers elder abuse reports to local law enforcement, local Area Agencies on Aging, the Aging & Disability Resource Center, Department of Human Services Adult Protective Services, the Department of Healther, or the Attourney General's Office of Consumer Protection|
|Arkansas||Division of Aging & Adult Services||Department of Human Services||Yes||http://www.daas.ar.gov/||Offers a hotline; Refers elder abuse reports to Department of Human Services Adult Protective Services|
|Florida||Department of Elder Affairs||Independent||Yes||http://elderaffairs.state.fl.us/index.php||Runs elder abuse prevention program, tracks elder abuse reports; Refers reports of abuse to the Florida Abuse Hotline operated by the Department of Children and Families|
|Georgia||Division of Aging Services||Department of Human Services||Yes||http://aging.dhs.georgia.gov/||Houses Adult Protective Services and investigates all reports of abuse|
|Kentucky||Department for Aging & Independent Living||Cabinet for Health & Family Services||Yes||http://chfs.ky.gov/dail/||Elder abuse awareness; Refers reports of abuse to Adult Protection|
Which SLC member states have implemented a State Energy Plan?
Typically, a governor or legislature initiates the state energy planning process through an executive order or enabling legislation that requires either a one-time planning event or a cyclical process that ensures revision, review, and evaluation of the plan at regular intervals. Executive orders and legislation generally offer a timeframe for a state energy plan’s development (e.g., three months to one year), as well as an outlook for the plan (e.g., 5, 10, or 20 years). In its 2011 analysis, the National Association of State Energy Officials (NASEO) found that 23 of 39 plans were initiated through state legislation or executive order, which granted authority for the creation of the state energy plan and/or planning process.
The majority of state energy plans are required to be reviewed and updated every two years and are developed within three months to one year.
State energy plans that are required or integrated within state executive and/or legislative policy help give the plan “teeth”, or the appropriate authority and influence, thereby ensuring that the plan is the state's broadly accepted energy framework.
The state energy office typically determines the overarching scope and objectives for the plan. This sets the stage for the energy planning process and the overall purpose for the plan (e.g., diversify the state’s energy portfolio, create jobs, promote the use of in-state energy resources).
A majority ‐ 23 ‐ of the states with an energy plan as of late 2011 relied on the state energy office as the lead in outlining, drafting, and finalizing the plan, according to NASEO’s analysis. Of the 13 states with a team of selected stakeholders, six included the state energy office in that group among other key stakeholders. Five states had plans authored by the governor and two had plans developed by the public utility commission.
A governor may come into leadership with an energy strategy developed during his or her candidacy that could serve as the state energy office’s foundation for a state energy plan. On the other hand, the legislature may determine that an energy plan could help the state address energy prices, supplies, and other changing needs in the energy sector.
SLC States Dominate Site Selection Magazine's 2014 Top State Business Climate Rankings
The 2014 Site Selection magazine's top state business climate rankings were released recently and most impressively, 9 of the top 10 states belong to the Southern office of The Council of State Governments (CSG), the Southern Legislative Conference (SLC). Site Selection, a source of information for economic planning decision-makers both nationally and internationally, ranked Georgia the state with the top business climate in the country (a ranking the state secured in 2013 also) for a host of reasons, including the state's Quick Start workforce training program, logistics infrastructure and economic development leadership. Louisiana was another SLC state that performed admirably in 2014, vaulting from sixth place in 2013 to second this year in the magazine's overall rankings. In probing the most important factors that drive company location decisions, Site Selection highlighted several attributes that many SLC states have focused on expanding in recent years, including transportation infrastructure, ease of permitting and regulatory procedures and existing workforce skills.
For more details on the 2014 Site Selection rankings and review process, please visit http://www.siteselection.com/issues/2014/nov/cover.cfm.
At the 64th annual meeting of the SLC in Charleston, South Carolina, Mr. Adam Bruns, Managing Editor, Site Selection Magazine was a featured speaker at the SLC's Economic Development, Transportation and Cultural Affairs Committee. For a copy of his presentation, please visit Adam Bruns, Managing Editor - Site Selection Magazine, Georgia.
For information related to economic development trends in the SLC states, please contact Sujit M. CanagaRetna, Fiscal Policy Manager and Staff Liaison to the SLC's Economic Development, Transportation and Cultural Affairs Committee at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What percentage of SLC member state employee health insurance premiums is contributed by the employer and employee?
The Pew Charitable Trust reports that between 1992 and 2012, the cost of insuring employees and their dependents doubled. To account for these rising costs, many states have had to reevaluate employee health benefits. The result has been a reduction in services provided, an increase in employee out-of-pocket expenses, or a combination of the two. The State Employee Health Plan Spending report, published by PEW in August 2014, represents one of the first times that state employee health plan data has been analyzed to offer some level of state-by-state comparison.
The following table shows how the SLC states compared on employee and employer contribution percentages in 2013. Each percentage represents the average contribution rate across all tiers of state health insurance plans. While most SLC states had a four-tier health plan structure in 2013, some state plans were divided into as few as two or as many as six tiers. The employer premium numbers represent the average percent of the total premium state employers contributed across all employee plans and all tiers in 2013.
(click on headers to sort by column)
|State/Region||Average Premium Contribution ‐ Employee Only||Average Premium Contribution ‐ Employee + Dependents||Average Employer Premium Contribution |
SLC State Actions on Suspect Guardrails
Over a dozen states, including five states (Louisiana, Missouri, Mississippi, Texas and Virginia) belonging to the Southern Office of The Council of State Governments (CSG), the Southern Legislative Conference (SLC), have recently banned the use of the ET-Plus rail head, the flat piece of steel at the front of a guardrail that is meant to glide along the rail on impact and push the railing safely out of the way from a vehicle. Transportation experts have concluded that the rail heads could possibly contain a dangerous defect that could lead them to jam, causing guardrails to pierce vehicles.
For additional details on state actions related to these suspect guardrails, please see the following:
Federal Government Awards $450 Million in Workforce Development Grants to States
Public and private sector officials alike realize that comprehensively training America’s workers for available positions in a number of emerging fields remains a critical ingredient in advancing our economy at the state, regional and national levels. In an effort to recruit and train workers to staff the sophisticated 21st century manufacturing jobs in many parts of the country, states are actively providing workforce training programs to their residents. The economic development agencies in a number of states belonging to the Southern Legislative Conference (SLC), the Southern office of The Council of State Governments, place a great deal of emphasis on these training support programs and work closely with their community college system and their corporate partners to ensure that students receive the most up-to-date and wide-ranging training to staff these demanding positions. The SLC has been closely tracking the issue of state efforts to advance workforce development for several years in multiple ways: publications, Webinars and presentations.1
In a significant boost to these state efforts, in late September 2014, the federal government announced the awarding of $450 million in job-driven training grants that would be disbursed to nearly 270 community colleges across the country, a process that will be co-administered by the U.S. Department of Labor and the U.S. Department of Education.2 The grants are designed to provide community colleges and other eligible institutions of higher education with funds to partner with employers to expand and improve their ability to deliver education and career training programs that will help job seekers get the skills they need for in-demand jobs in industries like information technology, healthcare, energy, and advanced manufacturing.
Trends Related to Funding Transportation in the States
On September 10, 2014, Sujit CanagaRetna, Fiscal Policy Manager at the SLC was invited to testify before the Louisiana Transportation Task Force. After his testimony, members of the Task Force requested that he provide information to the following questions:
Question 1: Additional details on Louisiana’s Interstate and Highway Lane Miles as presented in the Louisiana page of the 2014 SLC Comparative Data Report on Transportation (Quick Facts ‐ Chapter 2).
Response: As mentioned during the testimony, the SLC’s Comparative Data Reports are prepared annually by legislative staff in four different SLC states. The Transportation report is prepared by staff with the Kentucky Legislative Research Commission. When contacted, the staffer that prepares the report and he indicated that the information on the lane miles was obtained from the Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA) Highway Statistics Series, 2012, table HM 60:
The 129,759 in total highway lane miles listed for Louisiana in the SLC Comparative Data Report matches the number contained in the FHWA source document. The FHWA link to this report for all 50 states is included above. The Kentucky staffer added that since the information in this table covers lane miles, a 100 mile stretch of a four-lane highway would count as 400 miles.
Question 2: Additional details on a point made during the testimony that most states were highly dependent on the federal aid program for their highway and bridge construction projects. It was noted that the average state secures 52 percent of its highway and bridge capital outlays from the federal government. In addition, there are wide variations in this category with a state like Rhode Island relying on the federal government for more than 100 percent of its outlays and New Jersey relying on the federal government for a mere 35 percent of its outlays. Information where Louisiana and other SLC states stood with regard to this statistic is presented below.
What are the Pre-K quality standards of SLC member states?
As the evidence builds for the benefits of early childhood education, states are struggling to expand opportunities for 4-year-olds to participate in high quality programs. Program design, participation, and funding remain areas of consideration and concern for state policymakers. Further, the development of appropriate educational standards remains a top priority for Southern lawmakers.
(click on headers to sort by column)
|State and/or Program||Comprehensive early learning standards||Teacher has BA||Specialized training in pre-K||Assistant teacher has CDA or equivalent||At least 15 hrs/yr in-service||Class size 20 or lower||Staff- child ratio 1:10 or bett||Vision, hearing, health, and one support service||At least one meal||Site visits|
Feral Hog Containment
In a recent request, SLC was asked to identify some of the innovative tactics our member states are employing to combat the growing population of feral hogs.
In 2014, Louisiana passed legislation to allow for the use of aircraft in hunting feral hogs. Senate Bill 681 allows the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission to promulgate rules and regulations to allow for the use of aircraft in the taking of outlaw quadruped or outlaw birds that have become so destructive of property as to become a nuisance.
Mississippi State University (MSU) is undertaking an economic impact study of wild hog damage to agriculture in Mississippi. The intent of the study is to provide data that will help researchers and industry representatives lobby state and federal legislators for increased funding and enhanced enforcement of laws.
In addition, the MSU Extension Service and the Alabama Cooperative Extension System published A Landowner’s Guide for Wild Pig Management that offers details on several different methods for controlling wild pigs.
In 2012, Oklahoma passed Senate Bill 1751, which allows for the use of “Judas pig” tracking systems. The general idea of the Judas pig tactic is to catch and release a hog after outfitting it with some sort of tracking device. Hunters will then wait for the released hog to lead them to a larger group of feral hogs.
In early 2014, the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources scheduled three, three-day hunting periods on North Island, during which hunters were allowed to hunt with dogs.
Since 2008, what legislation addressing climate change has been passed in SLC member states?
|Alabama||AL SJR 57||2014||Enacted||Reed||Climate Change, Climate Change - Emissions Reduction||Urges the Environmental Protection Agency to support the state regulation of carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants by recognizing state developed standards.|
|Alabama||AL SJR 91||2012||Enacted||Waggoner||Climate Change, Climate Change - Emissions Reduction||Urges the United States congress to adopt legislation prohibiting the environmental protection agency from regulating greenhouse gas emissions without congressional approval.|
|Alabama||AL HJR 197||2011||Enacted||DeMarco||Climate Change, Climate Change - Emissions Reduction||Urges the United States Congress to adopt legislation prohibiting the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating greenhouse gas emissions without Congressional approval.|
|Alabama||AL HR 567||2009||Adopted||Scott||Climate Change||Expresses support for the need for the United States and the state of Alabama to address the problem of global climate change through the adoption of a fair and effective approach that safeguards American jobs, ensures affordable energy for citizens, and maintains America's global competitiveness.|
How has Medicaid spending changed in the SLC member states in the past three years?
Between FY 2010 and FY 2012, Medicaid expenditures outgrew other areas of state budgets by a large margin in most of the SLC states. In FY 2012, state general fund Medicaid expenditures were an average of 57.4 percent higher in the SLC states than in FY 2010. During this same period, non-Medicaid expenditures only increased by an average of 5.1 percent. Non-Medicaid expenditures include elementary and secondary education, higher education, public assistance, corrections, transportation, and all other non-capital expenditures.
It should be noted, however, that during these fiscal years many states exhausted the use of federal ARRA funds and returned to a lower federal matching rate for Medicaid. During the preceding budget years while states were experiencing reduced revenues, many states used ARRA funds to supplant state funds in order to maintain their level of service; upon exhaustion of the ARRA funds, state funds were necessary to refill these budget holes.
The data for these calculations comes from the National Association of State Budget Officers (NASBO) FY2010-2012 State Expenditure Report and FY 2011-2013 State Expenditure Report. Classification of funds is not uniform across the states; explanations of notable differences are available in the NASBO reports.
|General State Funds||Other State Funds||Federal Funds||Total Funds|
|State Expenditures ($ in millions)||FY 2010||FY 2012||% Change from FY10||FY 2010||FY 2012||% Change from FY10||FY 2010||FY 2012||% Change from FY10||FY 2010||FY 2012||% Change from FY10|
Which SLC states offer in-state tuition to veterans?
Blue - States that meet all the following criteria:
1. State law or state school system provides student veterans an exemption from in-state residency requirements for the purposes of tuition and fees;
2. The exemption applies to all state public schools (2-year and 4-year); and
3. The law can be referenced and read easily.
Tan - States that have introduced legislation in their current legislative session that addresses the "Blue State" criteria.
Grey - States where there is no state law that exempts the residency requirements for student veterans, however, a state school system or individual schools within the state have an established policy exempting student veterans. Or, there are further specific criteria that student veterans need to meet to receive the exemption.
Georgia - University System of Georgia has a policy allowing out-of-state tuition differential waivers and assess in-state tuition to any member of a uniformed military service of the United States who, within 12 months of separation from such service, enroll in an academic program and demonstrate an intent to become domiciled in Georgia. This waiver may also be granted to their spouses and dependent children.
Kentucky - The governing board of a Kentucky public university may adopt a tuition policy whereby any veteran of the Armed Forces of the United States or National Guard who is eligible for Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits who enrolls as a student in the university as a non-Kentucky resident is charged no more than the maximum tuition reimbursement provided under the Post-9/11 GI Bill to public universities for eligible Kentucky residents.
Mississippi - Institute of Higher Learning policy provides and exemption to veterans who meet the following criteria: (1) The nonresident student was born in the state of Mississippi but subsequently relocated and resided outside the state as a minor under the care of the minor’s father or mother, or both. (2) Veteran served in armed forces. (3) Student is domiciled in Mississippi no later than six months after the nonresident student’s separation from service.
Rent for Non-Legislative Organizations in State Capitols
In a recent information request, the SLC was tasked with identifying state policies on rent for non-legislative organizations inside state capitols. We partnered with the National Association of State Facilities Administrators (NASFA) to conduct a multi-state survey. The results of the survey, displayed below, revealed that these policies are as different as the states that craft them.
|Does your State and/or department charge rent to non-legislative organizations and authorities who occupy office space in State Capitols?|
|Arizona||Yes, the State of Arizona, through its Department of Administration, charges rent for the buildings under its jurisdiction to Arizona’s state agencies, boards, and commissions except the Legislative branch pursuant to statute.|
|Connecticut||The Department of Administrative Services does not have care and custody of the State Capitol Building; per the response, no non-legislative organization has space within the State Capitol.|
|Idaho||The Department of Administration charges rent to cover managing the Capitol. This includes Elected Officials, the Legislature, state agencies, and organizations.|
|Minnesota||Yes. Minnesota charges a lease rate to non-legislative entities that occupy the Capitol Building.|
|Nebraska||The State Capitol houses all three branches of government and none of the branches, agencies, or departments are charged rent. Operations are funded through an appropriation from the State’s General Fund.|
|New Hampshire||The cost for all the space in the State Capitol is included in the building operating budget 100% general funds. As such, no one is charged rent in the State Capitol, either legislative or executive.|
|Oklahoma||Only one. A barber shop has a $10 a month lease.|
The following entities are charged for rent in the State Capitol:
State Efforts to Reorganize and Reform Child Welfare/Social Services Agencies
(The information presented here is in response to a request for details on state efforts to restructure and reorganize the agencies responsible for child welfare services)
For ease of review, this research is presented in three main sections: Section (1) refers to information compiled by the federal government in relation to state efforts to restructure their child welfare services; section (2) deals with information related to the efforts initiated by several states (Alabama, Arizona, Kansas, Pennsylvania and Texas); and, finally section (3), provides details on an important trend that has emerged in the last decade: state efforts to privatize the provision of foster care services. It is also important to mention that our research reveals that over the past 15 years or so, there have been two waves of reform efforts: one that began in the early 2000s and one that is in progress currently.
Section (1) ‐ Federal Information
The trend of social service and foster care reform in our states tends to follow the enactment of federal legislation on the subject. In the early 2000s, many states began to reevaluate and reform their social service and foster care systems. Since that time, numerous studies and reports have been produced chronicling these reforms and their effectiveness. We have provided you with a sampling of assessments of these reform efforts.
Following the enactment of the federal Child and Family Services Improvement and Innovation Act in 2011, the newest wave of social service and foster care reform began gathering momentum. While many states are currently seeking to make changes, whether it is to improve effectiveness or address a specific problem, there is little research on the outcomes to date.
The resources included here provide reports and evaluations that offer examples of what other states have done and are doing with state foster care services. Each resource will provide some information and guidance on the problems, solutions, and outcomes since the turn of the century, encompassing both waves of reforms mentioned at the outset.
Latest State Transportation Funding Proposals
(The information presented here is in response to a request for the latest state transportation funding proposals, i.e., proposals that were discussed and, in certain cases, enacted in 2013 and 2014)
There are significant challenges associated with the funding position of the federal Highway Trust Fund (HTF), one of the more important sources of funding for state transportation and infrastructure programs. As a result of inflation, more fuel-efficient vehicles and changing driving habits, the HTF is seriously underfunded.* In fact, the latest estimates indicate that spending from the HTF currently outpaces tax receipts by $1.25 billion per month. While the current iteration of the federal transportation reauthorization is scheduled to expire at the end of the federal fiscal year (September 30, 2014), there is a great degree of uncertainty as to the specific approach that Congress might take in devising the successor to this legislation.
In late April 2014, the Obama Administration forwarded a four-year, $302 billion transportation reauthorization plan to Congress with recommendations on repairing and replacing the nation’s aging transportation infrastructure, while allowing for the needs of an expanding population. Even though transportation experts had recommended a slightly longer time horizon (six years) and larger amount ($330 billion), the four-year plan is an improvement on the current 27-month authorization, Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21). It is left to be seen as to what Congress will agree on, both in terms of the length and financial size, of the new transportation reauthorization.
At the federal level, experts highlight the following avenues as ways to generate the extra revenue to bolster the HTF:
SLC State Unemployment Insurance Finances Improve
During the Great Recession, states faced enormous challenges related to funding a number of vital programs. One of those programs was adequately financing their unemployment insurance trust funds, a program that originated in the 1930s. Unemployment insurance programs in the states are a federal-state endeavor that provides unemployment benefits to eligible workers who are unemployed through no fault of their own and who meet other eligibility requirements specified by state law. This temporary financial assistance is administered by the individual states within broad guidelines established by federal law. The major objective of the program, as it was when first introduced, still revolves around functioning as an automatic economic stabilizer: providing the unemployed funds to take care of essential expenditures, thereby maintaining household purchasing power and ensuring economic activity during a downturn or recession.
Based on the compromise reached during the Roosevelt Administration when the program was first introduced, eligibility for unemployment insurance, benefit amounts, duration of time benefits are available, all are determined by the particular state's law. The main source of benefit funding in most of the states is a tax imposed on employers. Nationally, the average tax is about 0.89 percent of total wages, and the average weekly check is about $315 with significant variations from state to state. While the benefits are funded by the payroll tax, firms that dismiss a significant number of workers pay a higher tax. The federal government absorbs the administrative costs of the program and, in a steep recession like the Great Recession, also pays for the extension of benefits beyond the customary 26 weeks. In fact, in early April 2014, more than three months after emergency federal jobless benefits expired, the U.S. Senate approved a five-month extension of federal unemployment insurance, which would be retroactive to when benefits expired on December 28, 2013. While this bipartisan bill passed 59 to 38 with the support of six Republicans, news reports indicate that it faces stiff opposition in the U.S. House of Representatives.†
Highway Trust Fund Balance
The latest update (March 16, 2014) from the U.S. Department of Transportation (U.S. DOT) regarding the funding position of the Highway Trust Fund (HTF) contains the disturbing news that the HTF is under greater strain than previously indicated.1 The HTF, created by the 1956 Highway Revenue Act, is the source of funding (via the federal gasoline tax) for most of the federal government’s surface transportation programs implemented in states across the country. According to the U.S. DOT, the HTF’s balance could slump below $4 billion in late July 2014; just last month, in February 2014, US DOT had projected that the HTF would dwindle below $4 billion in early August 2014. (U.S. DOT attempts to maintain a minimum of $4 billion on hand to appropriately manage day-to-day financial transactions). The HTF is projected to run out of funds in early September, several weeks before last month’s slightly rosier estimates. Consequently, U.S. DOT officials have indicated that they are prepared initiate a number of cash management measures to prolong the solvency of the HTF, such as reimbursing states weekly instead of daily and only paying states a portion of their reimbursement requests, all strategies that will complicate the financial and strategic direction of state transportation departments.
The HTF comprises two funds: the highway account (funding highway projects) and the mass transit account (funding mass transit projects). On October 1, 2013, the first day of the current fiscal year (2014), the highway account had a balance of $1.6 billion in cash. Shortly thereafter, the account received a transfer of $9.7 billion from the General Fund. Given that disbursements out of this account have been occurring at a greater pace than inward receipts in the ensuing months, the account’s cash balance has declined by nearly $3.3 billion since the General Fund transfer in October 2013. As of the end of February, the highway account had less than $8.6 billion in cash. With regard to the mass transit account, while the account had a balance of $2.5 billion in cash at the start of the current fiscal year, the account received an infusion of $2 billion from the General Fund. While the latest US DOT report indicates that the account has a balance of $3.2 billion, the agency projects that the account will dwindle to about $1 billion by the end of the fiscal year.
What special provisions do SLC member states have for elderly drivers?
|State||Length of regular renewal cycle||Older drivers - accelerated renewal||Older drivers - other provisions|
|Florida||8 years||6 years for people 80 and older||renewal applicants 80 and older must pass a vision test administered at any driver's license office or if applying by mail or electronically must pass a vision test administered by a licensed physician or optometrist. Florida allows only two successive renewals may be made electronically or by mail, regardless of age|
|Georgia||5 or 8 years||5 years for people 60 and older||vision test for people 64 and older|
|Louisiana||4 years||none||mail renewal not available to people 70 and older and to people whose prior renewal was by mail|
|Mississippi||4 or 8 years, at the option of the driver||none||none|
|Missouri||6 years||3 years for drivers 70 and older and 21 and younger||none|
|North Carolina||8 years||5 years for drivers 66 and older||people 60 and older are not required to parallel park in the road test|
|Oklahoma||4 years||none||license fee is reduced for drivers 62-64 and is waived for drivers 65 and older. Mail renewal is available only if the preceding issuance or renewal was done in person by the applicant, regardless of age|
|South Carolina||10 years, and vision test every 5 years||5 years for drivers 65 and older||vision test required for people 65 and older|
|Tennessee||5 years||none||fees are reduced for drivers 60 and older and licenses issued to people 65 and older do not expire|
U.S. Goods and Services Exports Soar to Unprecedented Heights in 2013; SLC States Shine
The U.S. Department of Commerce recently released goods and services export data for 2013 revealing very impressive trends: U.S. exports of goods and services soared to an unprecedented $2.3 trillion, an expansion of 2.8 percent compared to levels reached in 2012. Not only did the United States achieve striking gains on the export front, the nation’s imports declined by 0.1 percent in 2013 to $2.7 trillion, the first time imports had fallen since 2009 and the second consecutive annual drop in imports since 2001. The simultaneous growth in exports and contraction in imports facilitated an improvement in the nation’s trade deficit, a decline of 11.8 percent in 2013 when compared to the previous year. (The U.S. trade deficit in goods and services in 2013 amounted to $471.5 billion, an improvement from the $534.7 billion deficit in 2012). Notably, total exports as a share of U.S. GDP in 2013 held steady from the record 13.5 percent notched in 2011, an enhancement from the 12.5 percent clinched in 2008.
Focusing more specifically on U.S. goods exports in 2013 facilitates several prominent developments:
How many Black Belt counties are in SLC member states?
The Black Belt is a string of counties that stretches from east Texas, through the deep South, and up into eastern Virginia. It is the largest, poorest, most rural region in the country. While definitions vary, the region typically is considered to encompass upwards of 623 counties across 11 states, mostly rural, crossing several smaller regions, including parts of the Mississippi Delta, Coastal Plain, and the Piedmont. The Black Belt is not a contiguous region, with small breaks scattered intermittently. It is this geographic irregularity that has, in many ways, hindered the development of a comprehensive strategy to address the challenges in the region as well as the development of a regional identity, such as those that helped to steer resources to the Appalachians and the Mississippi Delta. For further information, see the 2009 SLC Regional Resource, Capital Access in the Black Belt.
(click on headers to sort by column)
|State||Black Belt Counties||Total Counties||Percent Black Belt|
How have aerospace industry exports grown in SLC member states in the last decade?
In the coming weeks, the Southern Legislative Conference will publish a report examining 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. For policymakers in the South, the potential to capture a portion of the burgeoning aeronautics/aerospace sector is a huge opportunity given the enormous economic opportunities at stake. Consequently, Southern policymakers have moved with great alacrity to ensure that their particular state remains a frontrunner in securing the commitment of these aeronautics companies looking to relocate. The question of the month for January 2014 presents preliminary data from the forthcoming SLC Regional Resource, Aeronautics in the SLC States: Cleared for Take Off.
(click on headers to sort by column)
|State||2002||2007||Percent change, 2002-07||2012||Percent change, 2007-12||Percent change, 2002-12||YTD (Sep.) 2012||YTD (Sep.) 2013||Percent change, YTD 2012-13|
Tire Manufacturing in the SLC States: Continuing to Roll Forward
In a move that further reinforced the role of the SLC states as the tire manufacturing focal point of the country, the Japanese company, Toyo Tire, announced in December 2013 that it was expanding its manufacturing facility in White, Georgia (in Bartow County, a location north of Atlanta) by adding 700,000-square-feet to the company’s current 2 million-square-foot facility by 2017. The expansion would involve an injection of $371 million to the facility and create 650 new jobs. The plant manufactures tires for premium light trucks and passenger cars. Back in 2004, Toyo established its first North American facility at its present Georgia location. Since the initial contingent of 81 employees who manufactured the plant’s first tires in 2006, the location currently has more than 1,000 employees. Tire manufacturers like Toyo in Georgia, Hankook in Tennessee and Bridgestone/Continental/Michelin in South Carolina continue to expand and re-assert the role played by the SLC region as a magnet for automobile manufacturers and automotive parts suppliers.
Source: Atlanta Business Chronicle, December 6, 2013
For a recent publication on tire manufacturing in the SLC, see SLC's most recent Regional Resource, Tire Manufacturing: Southern States Roll to the Top.
What are the early graduation policies in SLC member states?
Bullet Points Related to Wind Pool Insurance and the SLC States
In recent years, states in the CSG-South region as well as the nation as a whole have been exposed to significant risks due to hurricanes and tornadoes. These immense storms have caused immeasurable damage in terms of the loss of human life and billions of dollars in economic costs. As a result, homeowners face the challenges of not only securing insurance for their homes and property in affected areas, but also dealing with steep premium increases. In response to this development, a number of Southern states are continuing to devise measures to provide homeowners with wind pool insurance coverage at affordable rates. Given the growing importance of this issue in the region, the SLC coordinated a webinar to feature presentations on what some of these measures are, the broad trends associated with wind pool insurance, best practices and how international developments impact premiums here in the United States.
In recent years, the insurance industry has documented that catastrophe losses, or losses related to major disasters such as Hurricanes Katrina, Ike, Ivan and Super Storm Sandy and the tornados that swept over Moore, Oklahoma, Tuscaloosa, Alabama and Joplin, Missouri, have been extremely high. This has proven to be an enormous fiscal challenge to both property owners (home and commercial) and insurance companies. Consequently, state lawmakers and policymakers have been entrusted with devising solutions that are smart, sensible and reasonable from the perspectives of both property owners and insurance companies.
The Insurance Information Institute notes that in the first six months of 2013, there were 460 natural catastrophes worldwide; in contrast, for all 12 months in 1980, there were less than 350 natural catastrophes worldwide. This statistic is a clear indication that the incidence of catastrophes across the globe, including in the United States, has increased significantly in the last 30+ years.
A 2013 study of the Atlantic and Gulf coastlines by CoreLogic noted that 4.2 million homes, with $1.2 trillion in total property exposure, are at risk of damage caused by hurricane storm surge flooding.
How are SLC member states' legislative budgets formatted?
Question: We are interested in finding out the different budgeting formats Southern states use as seen at the actual bill level. Specifically does your state budget by program or budget by category? An example of budgeting by program would be Administration Program, Management and Finance Program, Licensing Program, Wildlife Program. An example of budgeting by category would be expenditure items broken down by salaries, supplies, travel, professional services and acquisitions.
“Since 1976 Alabama has budgeted by program.”
“Our appropriation bills are almost all styled by category, although, maybe a handful of the appropriation bills contain an appropriation for a specific program. An example of an appropriation bill that contains appropriation for a specific program would be our K-12 education bill that appropriates by the specific type of grants and aid program provided to school districts. One thing to remember is that in Arkansas the appropriation is not funding ‐ the appropriation is an authorization to spend if funds are made available. The appropriation bill contains the amount of appropriation payable from a particular fund or fund account. The agency or its board determines the allocation of funding received to a specific appropriation. In regard to funding, our general revenue funds are allocated in a separate bill to individual fund and fund accounts. Other moneys such as dedicated revenue streams are deposited into a particular fund or fund account according to the legislation creating the fund and or program.”
“The short answer for Florida is both by program and category. Attached is a pdf of the current year General Appropriations Bill as passed, commonly referred to as the Conference Report.”
“We budget by program in the bill. We still track object classes, however, in some of our budget computer systems. The House and the Senate use slightly different formats and alternate years writing the bill, and both can be found on the House Budget and Research website.”
Passing (on) the Test: The Future of Common Core Assessments
During the past year, states' continued pursuit of Common Core State Standards (CCSS) has garnered considerable attention, and not a little criticism. Among the most often raised concern is with the assessments that are considered part and parcel of the new standards. Specifically, critics are worried about the cost, practicality, frequency, and number of new consortium-crafted assessments aligned to the Common Core Standards.
States are required by federal law to assess students annually in reading and mathematics in grades 3-8, and once in high school, and publicly report the results of these assessments. School, district and state level reporting must be done on an aggregate and sub-group level, providing the public and policymakers with a snapshot of how schools are performing.
Under current federal law there has been considerable pushback over assessments, including criticism of their validity, impact on instruction, and the amount of time students spend on testing. There also are concerns that tests designed to measure student progress or diagnose children's learning needs are being applied in ways that they were not intended, most particularly to measure teacher performance.
As states implement the CCSS in English language arts and mathematics, new assessments based upon these learning frameworks are necessary in order for states to accurately gauge student learning. A selling point advantage of the new standards was to be that states could share costs for a variety of educational services, including assessments and, thus achieve cost savings over the current model. Equally, it was envisioned that new assessments would deliver better data on student learning to help teachers adjust instruction, offer targeted supports, and plan early interventions before significant learning deficits occur, as well as provide a better picture of how prepared students are for college or careers.
How are the SLC member states managing their Medicaid HMO plans?
According to Kaiser Health, approximately 70 percent of all Medicaid enrollees, nationwide, received at least some services through managed care plans. States vary on how they offer health maintenance organization (HMO) plans to enrollees. Some offer HMO plans to all enrollees, while others restrict them to certain populations. The most common populations for expanding access to managed care are children and pregnant women, but many states are expanding to include less healthy populations, such as the elderly and disabled – some of the most expensive Medicaid enrollees. Regardless of the population, the greatest advantages documented by states in moving toward more managed care are associated with costs and consolidated caseloads.
Under fee-for-service systems, states pay each provider for every service they perform. More services lead to more fees and higher costs. Also, fee-for-service systems lend to the ability to commit fraud, because the state pays first and asks questions later. Under the managed care system, however, insurance companies receive a capped amount to serve a patient. Also, proponents claim that HMOs can provide better care through coordination among doctors, hospitals and other medical professionals. Fee-for-services systems often lack coordination, which leads to inconsistent care, particularly for those with chronic conditions, resulting in bad outcomes for patients and heftier, repetitive charges to the state.
How many children are enrolled in preschool in the SLC member states?
(click on headers to sort by column)
|State/Region||Percent of 4-year-olds enrolled in state prekindergarten||Percent of 3-year-olds enrolled in state prekindergarten||Percent total (3s and 4s) enrolled in state prekindergarten||Number of 4-year-olds enrolled in state prekindergarten||Number of 3-year-olds enrolled in state prekindergarten||Total number (3s and 4s) enrolled in state prekindergarten||State 3-year-olds population||State 4-year-olds population||Total State 3- and 4-year-olds population|
What are the current state unemployment rates?
Monthly Rankings, Seasonally Adjusted
June 2013 p
(click on headers to sort by column)
p = preliminary.
Note: Rates shown are a percentage of the labor force. Estimates for the current month are subject to revision the following month.
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, accessed August 8, 2013.
Which SLC states have implemented policies to reduce early elective deliveries for Medicaid and SCHIP recipients?
According to a University of Minnesota study published in the American Journal of Public Health, the average cost of Cesarean, or C-section, births is on average approximately $10,000 more expensive than vaginal births ($27,866 versus $18,329 in 2010). Among Medicaid births, the average costs are $9,100 for a vaginal birth, as opposed to $13,600 for a C-section. Considering state Medicaid programs pay for almost half of all U.S. births, there is substantial money to be saved through policies that discourage unnecessary C-sections. One popular policy is to remove financial incentives for unnecessary C-sections by equalizing Medicaid payments for both procedures. In most states, reimbursement policy seems to favor C-sections. Since the procedure accounts for approximately 45 percent of the $86 billion the United States spends on childbirth each year, a reduction in the prevalence of C-sections could mean huge savings for states. Here are some examples of policies SLC states have enacted to address this issue.
|State||Medicaid Payment Strategies||Collaborative Strategies|
|Alabama||Alabama Perinatal Excellence Collaborative (APEC), a collaboration of the University of Alabama Birmingham, the University of South Alabama, Alabama Medicaid and statewide OB providers and hospitals, serves as resource for obstetric and other healthcare providers throughout the state of Alabama for assistance in improving perinatal outcomes. APEC released guidelines to assist providers and facilities in implementing systems to decrease the rate of early elective deliveries.|
|Arkansas||Medicaid Inpatient Quality Incentive Program: incentive for meeting threshold levels on elective delivery measure.||Arkansas Health Care Payment Improvement Initiative: Partnership of Arkansas Medicaid, the Arkansas Department of Human Services, Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield, and Arkansas QualChoice to transform health care in the State. Defined episodes of care for Perinatal conditions for which incentive payments are provided based on thresholds.|
What is the federal starting point for personal income taxation in the SLC member states?
(click on headers to sort by column)
|State||Relation to Federal Internal Revenue Code (IRC)||Federal Tax Base Used as Starting Point to Calculate State Taxable Income|
|Florida||No state income tax||N/A|
|Georgia||IRC of 1/1/2012||Adjusted gross income|
|Kentucky||IRC of 12/31/2006||Adjusted gross income|
|Louisiana||Current||Adjusted gross income|
|Missouri||Current||Adjusted gross income|
|North Carolina||IRC of 1/1/2012||Taxable income|
|Oklahoma||Current||Adjusted gross income|
|South Carolina||IRC of 12/31/2011||Taxable income|
|Tennessee||On interest & dividends only||N/A|
|Texas||No state income tax||N/A|
|Virginia||IRC of 12/31/2011||Adjusted gross income|
|West Virginia||IRC of 12/31/2011||Adjusted gross income|
Source: Federation of Tax Administrators
The Higher Education Disconnect
Last year, Florida Governor Rick Scott told radio host Marc Bernier that the state "[w]e don't need a lot more anthropologists in the state...I want to spend our dollars giving people science, technology, engineering, and math degrees." In a follow up discussion with the Sarasota Herald Tribune he elaborated that he wanted to use taxpayer dollars for education that would create jobs, and specifically, not anthropology.
The issue was not anthropology per se (Scott's daughter earned a degree in anthropology from the College of William and Mary), but in the utility of an anthropology degree. Governors across the region have begun to call into question the value of college degrees in the liberal arts. More recently, Governor Pat McCrory of North Carolina echoed the complaint that state universities offer courses of study that do not lead to employment. While singling out different disciplines, his remarks signaled an interest in making support for higher education conditional upon how institutions support broader public policy objectives. The governors are not questioning degree programs in the liberal arts themselves, but the need for state subsidies for liberal arts students. According to both Scott and McCrory (and others), there is a disconnect between higher education and businesses, and it is in the state's interest to fix it.
Which SLC member states use variable rates for gasoline taxation?
In the SLC, every state levies taxes on the sale of gasoline and diesel fuel. These taxes can be grouped into three main categories. The first and most common type of gasoline tax is the fixed-rate tax, collected as a flat amount per gallon purchased. Every state except Kentucky levies a fixed-rate tax, and 10 SLC member states rely exclusively on the fixed-rate tax. Some states levy a variable-rate gas tax, usually in combination with a fixed-rate tax. The most common type of variable rate tax is based on the price of gas. Florida levies a second type of variable-rate gas tax: most of the states's gas tax is tied to the Consumer Price Index – the value of a "market basket of goods" purchased by the typical consumer, adjusted for inflation.
(click on headers to sort by column)
|State||Fixed-Rate Excise Tax||Tax as Percentage of Price||Indexed to Consumer Price Index||Relevant Constitution or Statute Section|
|Alabama||Yes||No||No||Amendment 93 (Constitution)|
|Arkansas||Yes||No||No||Sec 26 - 55 - 206|
|Florida||Yes||No||Yes||Title XIV Sec 206.46 (3)|
|Georgia||Yes||Yes||No||Art. III Sec IX Par. VI (Constitution)|
|Kentucky||No||Yes||No||Section 230 (Constitution)|
|Louisiana||Yes||No||No||Art. 7 Sec 27|
|Mississippi||Yes||No||No||Title 27 Ch 055 Sec 11|
|Missouri||Yes||No||No||Art. IV Sec 30B (Constitution)|
|North Carolina||Yes||Yes||No||Sec 136 - 16.8|
What are the natural gas vehicle consumption rates in the SLC member states?
In November of 2011, Governor Mary Fallin of Oklahoma, Governor John Hickenlooper of Colorado and governors from several member states of the National Association of State Procurement Officials (NASPO) agreed to a Memorandum of Understanding to generate interest and action in the U.S. automobile industry for the development of functional and affordable natural gas vehicles (NGVs) to meet public demand. The NASPO states recognized the benefits and unique attributes of clean-burning natural gas and understood the opportunity NGVs present to save taxpayer dollars by forging an energy future that utilizes domestic energy resources to meet transportation needs. As of April of 2012, Wyoming, Mississippi, Utah, Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Maine, West Virginia, New Mexico, Texas, and Louisiana have signed on to support the multi-state joint Request for Information and Request for Proposals solicitation.
Per SLC research performed in response to an information request, Virginia is the only SLC member state that currently offers tax credits specifically to manufacturers of natural gas vehicles, implemented by the Alternative Fuel Job Creation Tax Credit. The utilization of natural gas vehicles in the SLC peaked in 2004, with NGVs consuming 6.5 billion cubic feet of natural gas. Consumption by NGVs dropped to 3.7 billion cubic feet in the following year and, in the SLC, has experienced slow growth from that bottom. The following table provides further details on NGV usage in the SLC member states.
(click on headers to sort by column)
|State/Region||2000||2002||Change||2004||Change||2006||Change||2008||Change||2010||Change||2012||Change||Average Annual Rate of Change|
State Personal Income Trends
The U.S. Department of Commerce's Bureau of Economic Analysis recently released the state personal income levels for 2012. Based on this data, average state personal income growth slowed to 3.5 percent in 2012 from 5.2 percent in 2011. While North Dakota demonstrated the largest increase in state personal income growth (12.4 percent) among all the states, South Dakota's -0.2 percent was the most anemic. In terms of inflation, as measured by the national price index for personal consumption expenditures, the rate fell to 1.8 percent in 2012 from 2.4 percent in 2011.
North Dakota's rapid personal income growth in 2012 was most impressive since it was the fifth time in the last six years that the state's ranking was the fastest in the nation. In fact, since 2006, personal income in the state has expanded at a compound annual rate of 9.2 percent, a substantial improvement compared to the 2.9 percent growth rate of all other states. In contrast, a number of states, including South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, and Iowa, all experienced below average total personal income growth in 2012 due to the deleterious effects of last year's drought on farm income. It should be noted that nonfarm personal income growth in each of these states was above average.
A review of the 15 states that belong to the Southern Office of The Council of State Governments, the Southern Legislative Conference (SLC), reveals several interesting trends. For instance, three of the 15 SLC states ranked in the top 10 in the nation in terms of personal income growth between 2011 and 2012. Specifically, Texas (4.8 percent) ranked 2nd, Oklahoma (4.2 percent) ranked 7th and Tennessee (3.9 percent) ranked 10th.
In terms of per capita personal income, while the United States figure was $42,693 in 2012, the SLC average was $37,678. Only Virginia ($47,082) had sufficient per capita income to rank in the top 10 among the nation's 50 states, coming in eighth.
|Region/State||Personal income [Millions of dollars]||Population [Thousands of persons] 1||Per capita personal income [Dollars]|
|2011||2012 p||Percent change||Rank of percent change||2012 p||Rank in U.S||Percent of U.S. average|
What are the distracted driving laws in SLC member states?
|State||Ban on Handheld Devices||Ban on Cell Phone Use while Driving||Ban on Texting while Driving||Collection of Crash Data|
|School Bus Drivers||Novice Drivers||All Drivers||School Bus Drivers||Novice Drivers|
|Alabama||For Drivers 16,or 17 years old holding an Intermediate License less than six months||Yes||Covered under all driver ban|
|Arkansas 1||Drivers 18-20 years old||Yes||Under 18 *||Yes||Covered under all driver ban||Yes|
|Georgia||Yes||Under 18||Yes||Covered under all driver ban||Yes|
|Kentucky||Yes||Under 18||Yes||Covered under all driver ban|
|Louisiana||Learner or Intermediate License (regardless of age)||Yes||During First Year of License (primary offense for drivers Under 18)||Yes||Covered under all driver ban||Yes|
Exports Continue to Surge in 2012, SLC State Exports Continue to Secure Impressive Growth Rates
The U.S. Department of Commerce's International Trade Administration released its 2012 export tally and a quick review of the data indicates that the states belonging to the Southern Office of The Council of State Governments, the Southern Legislative Conference (SLC), continues to expand at impressive rates. Specifically, in 2012, U.S. goods exports* reached an all-time high of $1.54 trillion, an improvement of 4 percent over the $1.48 trillion secured in 2011. Texas was the nation's top goods exporter in 2012 and shipped out a staggering $265 billion to all corners of the globe. The Lone Star state's 2012 export tally clearly surpassed the next highest state (California with $162 billion in exports) and cemented its reputation as the nation's top exporter in each of the last five years. Another SLC state, Arkansas, was the state with the second-highest rate of goods export growth in the nation in 2012, 36 percent, an expansion rate only exceeded by New Mexico (42 percent). Arkansas' $7.6 billion in goods exports in 2012 was striking compared to the state's $5.6 billion achieved in the prior year. A review of state goods export data over the 2008-2012, five-year period established yet another SLC state (West Virginia) as the national leader. Not only did the Mountain State secure a stunning 101 percent increase in goods exports between 2008 and 2012 ($5.6 billion to $11.4 billion), West Virginia also increased its exports by 26 percent between 2011 and 2012, the fourth highest rate in the country. West Virginia was the only state that secured a triple-digit export increase between 2008 and 2012, a further reflection of the state's strong commitment to export promotion.
What are the disability retirement benefits of state employees in the SLC member states?
(Click on a state to view relevant documentation)
Source: SLC research of member states' employee retirement systems
State Efforts to Fund Transportation
Given the tenuousness of the gas tax in its current format as a reliable source of revenue to fund the transportation needs of states, policymakers in over a dozen states are proposing and exploring alternate mechanisms to generate funds for vital transportation projects. Here are some of these strategies broken down by tax/fee and non-tax/fee categories:
Fiscal and Economic Trends in the South
The Great Recession was the longest and deepest recession since the Great Depression. The 19 months that the U.S. economy was in recession between December 2007 and June 2009 was only exceeded by the Great Depression when the U.S. economy was in recession for 43 months. Some of the key national economic indicators are positive though the recovery has been rather anemic.
For instance, real gross domestic product (GDP) grew at an annual rate of 3.1 percent in the third quarter of 2012, an improvement 1.3 percent growth in the second quarter of 2012 but is still far below what is necessary for robust job growth. The national unemployment rate was 7.8 percent in December 2012, a tremendous improvement from the high of 10.2 percent in October 2009. Last week's unemployment claims fell to the lowest since January 2008, another indication of the slowly improving job market. At the state level, in December 2012, 22 states reported over-the-month unemployment rate decreases, 16 states and the District of Columbia had increases, and 12 states had no change.
Housing, which was one of the major reasons for the collapse of the U.S. economy, is recovering nicely and in 2012, housing sales rose to their highest level in five years. U.S. builders started work on homes in December 2012 at the fastest pace since the summer of 2008. There is strong confidence that the housing market is recovering impressively in terms of new construction, sales and values, even in states that were hit the hardest during the recession. Foreclosure rates are also declining and in 2012, according to Realty Trac, foreclosure filings were down 3 percent from 2011 and down 36 percent from the peak in 2010.
Finally, the stock market, reflected in the Standard & Poor's Index, is on a remarkable run and as of January 24, 2013, closed at its highest level since December 2007. While the stock market's performance alone is not a solid indicator of the economy's performance, it is a major boost to consumer confidence given its positive impact on the finances of American households.
How many new members were elected to SLC legislatures in the November 2012 elections?
(click on headers to sort by column)
|State||New Senate Members||Total Senate Members||Percent New Senate Members||New House Member||Total House Members||Percent New House Members||Total New Members||Total All Members||Percent All New Members|
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.
How much federal highway program transportation funding will SLC member states receive in fiscal year 2012?
In continuation of the critical state transportation finances issue presented in SLC's November 2011 Question of the Month (QoM), the December 2011 QoM presents more current data and actual dollar amounts for Federal-Aid Highway Program obligation limitation distributions to the SLC member states.
(click on headers to sort by column)
|State||Funding Amount||Percentage of National Total|
|SLC Region Total||$14,038,932,788||39.4%|
How did the states fare securing funds from the federal Highway Trust Fund?
Federal funding for highways is provided to the states mostly through a series of grant programs known as the Federal-Aid Highway Program, administered by the U.S. Department of Transportation's (DOT) Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). The program operates on a "user pay" system, wherein users contribute to the Highway Trust Fund through fuel taxes and other fees. The distribution of funding among the states has been a contentious issue. States that receive less than highway users contribute are known as "donor" states and states that receive more than users contribute are known as "donee" states.
The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) in September 2011 released a report assessing the performance of the different states in the distribution of funding. According to this report, every state received more funding for highway programs than they contributed to the Highway Account of the Highway Trust Fund. This was possible because more funding was authorized and apportioned than was collected from the states, and the fund was augmented with about $30 billion in general revenues since fiscal year 2008. Since that year, the Highway Trust Fund has been seriously depleted, requiring authorization of additional funds from general revenues. If the percentage of funds states contributed to the total is compared with the percentage of funds states received (i.e., relative share), then 28 states received a relatively lower share and 22 states received a relatively higher share than they contributed. Thus, depending on the method of calculation, the same state can appear to be either a donor or donee state. The following map displays the SLC member states' rate of return per dollar contributed to the Highway Account of the Highway Trust Fund for fiscal years 2005-2009.
States Efforts to Promote the Motion Picture and Video Game Industries
In June 2007, the SLC issued a report entitled Lights! Camera! Action! Southern State Efforts to Attract Filmmakers' Business. The major objective of the report was to hone in on a trend that was sweeping across the country: states, led by 2002 landmark legislation in Louisiana, working proactively to lure the motion picture and television industries to work within their borders. In addition, the report highlighted why the film industry landscape in the United States had become very competitive, vis-à-vis international locations in Canada and Eastern Europe, in the early to mid-years of the decade and provided details on some of the aggressive new and revised financial and other incentives offered by states to filmmakers.
Since the release of this SLC report, two important developments have surfaced that require attention:
A number of studies contend that state film incentives are not a sound investment of scarce state tax dollars and that states should strongly reevaluate continuing the practice. For instance, in a study released in March 2009, Professor Susan Christopherson, Cornell University, maintained that "most of the three dozen states chasing film production with tax breaks will not catch up with New York and California, where the movie and television industries have been dug in for decades. The subsidies they're giving the productions don't have a long-term economic impact for the state." Another study, prepared by Robert Tannenwald at the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities also maintained "[I]n the harsh light of reality, film subsidies offer little bang for the buck."
Student Loan Debt: The Rising Risk to the Recovery
President Obama announced a plan to ease the student loan debt burden for low-income graduates this week in a speech at the University of Colorado's Denver Campus. The president announced a change in the income-based repayment plan, reducing to 10 percent of their discretionary income (from 15 percent), two years ahead of schedule, the cap on graduates' federal student loan repayments. The program also provides a handful of procedures for the forgiveness of loan balances following a history of on-time payments. The proposal also allows some graduates with multiple student federal loans to consolidate them into one, potentially lowering their interest rates. The president's announcement could provide relief to a potential 6 million borrowers. The final component of the announcement is the "Know Before Your Owe" project, which is being developed by the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau as a tool to help students and parents compare aid packages across institutions.
While student loan debt has been a slowly simmering issue for the past few years, it has recently picked up steam. As the economy has continued to slog along with very slow growth, colleges are graduating record numbers of certificate and degree-holders who have accumulated record amounts of debt. In much the same way that securities backed by essentially worthless mortgages undermined the economy in 2007, the exploding levels of student loan debt could prove to be another threat to the economy. In accelerating the student loan debt relief, the Obama Administration is hoping to defuse this risk by leaving more money in the pockets of recent graduates and expunging debt that remains after a reasonable amount of time in the workforce has passed.
Rising Student Debt and Delinquencies
State Revenue Trends
States continue to warily recover from the Great Recession, the worst downturn to ravage state budgets in more than eight decades. Even though state revenues have improved from the depths to which they plunged at the height of the downturn, they still are significantly below pre-Great Recession levels. For instance, in fiscal year 2008, the year immediately preceding the Great Recession, total state general fund revenues stood at $680 billion. Not only did they sink to $625 billion in fiscal year 2009, they continued their descent to $606 billion in fiscal year 2010 before crawling back up to $642 billion in fiscal year 2011. In fiscal year 2012, state revenues are expected to climb to $656 billion.
Preliminary tax collection data for the second quarter of 2011 (April through June) by the Rockefeller Institute demonstrates that collections from major state tax sources increased by 11.4 percent in nominal terms compared to the same period in 2010. This was the strongest year-over-year expansion since the second quarter of 2005. Not only did all the reporting states indicate an increase in personal income taxes in the quarter, all but four (Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and North Carolina) noted gains in sales taxes, and only New Hampshire reported a decline in overall collections. This trend is a significant improvement from the last two fiscal years; in fact, over 20 states experienced double-digit growth in overall tax collections in the quarter compared to the same period in 2010.
NCLB Waivers, Part Two
Following the recent announcement of waiver's from the requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act, several states immediately indicated their intention to seek relief from the Act. The immediacy of the response by states is indicative of the degree to which the law, now four years past the date when it was supposed to have been renewed, is in need of revision. Congressional inaction on the reauthorization means that, as noted in a previous Ednotes on the Issues, school districts have two years to bring all students to proficiency in math and reading. Given current trends, no district will achieve this target, placing nearly every school district in the country under some form of federally mandated sanction
While states will have multiple opportunities to submit for waivers by the end of the current school year, states wishing to have responses prior to the beginning of the 2012 legislative session must apply by November 14. For states unable to meet the November 14 deadline, but desiring to apply for waivers, the U. S. Department of Education will allow them to hold their accountability targets constant for a year while they assemble their applications. States seeking relief from the Act's provisions, including the 100 percent proficiency target, must adopt specific reforms proposed by the Deparatment. In much the same manner as with the Race to the Top grants, but to an even greater extent, the Department is using the waiver procedure included in the Act to, for all practical purposes, bypass Congressional prerogative in establishing education policy. The president acknowledged that the law needed to be revised, or states would be faced with an untenable situation.
What percentage of children eligible for SCHIP services are covered in SLC states?
Even as states have struggled to meet their Medicaid obligations in recent years due to the downturn in the economy, most have continued to increase the percentage of children covered under the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), the predominantly federally funded program that, since 1997, has helped states provide health insurance to children of families that make too much money to qualify for Medicaid but not enough to afford insurance. More importantly, states have worked to ensure that more eligible children are signed up to receive services by developing and promoting programs providing access to eligibility and enrollment information, particularly in rural areas; lengthening enrollment periods without the need for reauthorization; and other measures. According to a recent study by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Gains for Children: Increased Participation in Medicaid and CHIP in 2009, these efforts are working. Nationally, 30 states boosted enrollment of children who are eligible for the program in 2009, the most recent year that data are available, which increased coverage from 80 percent in 2008 to 85 percent in 2009. This increase accounts for an additional 2.5 million children (from 40.2 million in 2008 to 42.7 million in 2009) in all states now covered by the program. It is, in part, attributable to the expansion of Medicaid coverage to individuals with incomes below 138 percent of the federal poverty level, a key component of the Affordable Care Act, as well as the reauthorization of SCHIP (CHIPRA) in 2009, which included grants to develop programs for increasing enrollment. Four SLC states – Arkansas, Kentucky, Tennessee and West Virginia – reported that at least 90 percent of all eligible children were signed up for the program in 2009, and the SLC average for coverage rose from 83.4 percent to 86 percent during that year.
(click on headers to sort by column)
Prospective Changes in Long-Term Care Policies
According to the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), there are approximately 9 million people in the United States who require long-term care, including those in nursing homes and people with disabilities. That number is expected to reach 12 million by 2020.In addition, approximately 40 percent of all people living in the United States who reach the age of 65 will enter a nursing home at some point in their lives, and 10 percent of all those who do so will stay there five years or more, according to CMS.
Funding for these services is of grave concern to states and the federal government, particularly in light of the national financial crisis and the reality that healthcare costs are expected to double by 2020.Generally, Medicare does not pay for long-term care but only for medically necessary services like home healthcare or skilled nursing facilities, which means Medicaid is primarily responsible for covering most long-term care expenditures, including nursing home care for elderly people. Since Medicaid eligibility requirements vary so widely by state, to what extent these services are funded varies as well.
Higher Education Performance and Accountability
The Texas Board of Regents approved a sweeping plan last week to increase accountability for the University of Texas System. The changes are intended to enhance the system's efficiency, improving cost factors while simultaneously increasing the quality of education across all 15 units of the UT System. The framework for implementation features nine focus areas, including undergraduate student access and success; faculty, administrative, and staff excellence; research; and productivity and efficiency. This plan builds upon an existing accountability system and measures to close gaps and increase excellence in the System established by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.
A similar accountability proposal announced last week by Missouri governor Jay Nixon would allocate state funds to institutions of higher education based on meeting performance measures and academic goals, including the number of degrees and certificates conferred. The governor's plan allocates future funding increases using a model based on statewide- and institution-specific goals that accounts for the differences between two- and four-year institutions.
What are the suspension rates for students in public elementary and secondary schools in SLC member states?
(click on headers to sort by column)
|State||Student Population||Total Suspensions||Percentage|
Summer Heat and Fall Sports
Students in many districts across the South are starting school next week or are already in session. An early start to school gives students a jump start on academics, athletics and activities. This year, the start to school has coincided with a scorching heatwave that has covered much of the South and Midwest, with temperatures exceeding 90 degrees for weeks, and humidity keeping nighttime temperatures in the upper 70s or low 80s.
This heat is more than an inconvenience, however. Heat is suspected of being a contributing factor in the deaths of four high school football players this month (including two from Georgia, one from Florida, and a 14-year-old player from South Carolina) and in the death of a Texas football coach. While few in number, these events point to heat-related stress among athletes that can lead to other health complications. A study released last year by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cited heat illness during practice or competition as a leading cause of death and disability among U.S. high school athletes, with football responsible for a rate of illness 10 times higher than the average rate.
How much are SLC member states appropriating toward their arts agencies in fiscal year 2012?
(Total Legislative Appropriations Including Line Items)
(click on headers to sort by column)
|State / Region||FY 2011 Enacted||FY 2012 Projected||Percent Change|
|Florida * 2||6,356,661||5,673,420||-10.70%|
|North Carolina *||8,488,087||7,255,593||-14.50%|
|Tennessee * 5||8,105,700||8,291,600||2.30%|
|West Virginia *||2,488,470||2,488,720||0.00%|
What changes have SLC states seen in annual income rates over the past 50 years?
Disposable income, defined by the U.S. Department of Commerce as all money earned by all residents of a state in a given year, minus all income taxes and property taxes, has risen at an annual rate of 7.88 percent in the SLC region, compared to the national rate of 7.14 percent. Within the SLC, Florida experienced the fastest increase (9.02 percent per year), whereas disposable income in West Virginia grew the slowest (6.20 percent per year).
(click on headers to sort by column)
|State||1960||1970||1980||1990||2000||2010||Annual Growth Rate (1960-2010)|
Race to the Top Round 3
The U.S. Department of Education announced at the end of May that it was opening up a new round of Race to the Top grants worth $700 million, with $500 million dedicated to a new Early Learning Challenge Program with the additional funds available to the nine states that were finalists but failed to win in the second round of grantmaking (Arizona, California, Colorado, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and South Carolina).
South Carolina has declined the offer on the grounds that the funds would come with too many conditions. The eight remaining states will be offered grants to support parts of their original Race to the Top applications. As South Carolina's decision to opt out of the third round of Race to the Top highlights, states are viewing with some skepticism the model being promoted by the Department of Education. For its part, the Department of Education has acknowledged this, noting that the awards for the K-12 part of the program are to "investments" on reforms these states have already made, not rewards or inducements to do new things. Nonetheless, states are leery of assuming the potential increased fiscal obligations of federally encouraged reforms such as enhanced student data systems and teacher performance evaluations and compensation without significantly more funds than the limited grant will afford, as these programs could require continued fiscal support at a time when finances already are tight.
Manufacturing Jobs in the South
As reported by The Business Journals, in the past decade, the number of manufacturing jobs in the United States has seen a decline in every state except Alaska. The Southern region was no exception to this downward trend, shedding a total of 1,745,300 manufacturing jobs between April 2001 and April 2011. As the nation slowly recovers from the Great Recession, SLC member states are seeing a small uptick in the number of manufacturing jobs within their jurisdictions. However, these gains still are relatively miniscule when observing the decline of manufacturing jobs in of the past decade.
In the Southern region, North Carolina saw the greatest decline in manufacturing jobs in the past decade, while West Virginia lost the fewest jobs. Between April 2010 and April 2011, Texas came ahead with the most manufacturing jobs gained, whereas Mississippi continued to see a loss of manufacturing jobs with a decline of 3,400 jobs.
(click on headers to sort by column)
|State||April 2001||April 2010||April 2011||Change in Number of Jobs, 2001-2011||Change in Number of Jobs, 2010-2011|
How much are SLC member states allocating toward higher education?
As states have reeled from the Great Depression, Americans are pursuing post-secondary education at record levels. The importance of higher education to the kinds of jobs most observers maintain will dominate the post-recession economy is relatively clear. States recognize the necessity of a well-trained and ‐educated workforce to their future competitiveness and have generally provided the means for these systems to meet current demands and future needs. Nonetheless, the recession affected state allocations for higher education across the region, reducing state monies for this purpose from a high of nearly $4 billion in FY 2008 to only $3.6 billion in FY 2011. The decline in real terms to state higher education systems was mitigated in large part by stimulus spending, which injected more than $3.8 billion in the region's higher education systems and institutions.
As states pull out of the recession, there are signs of recovery in state support for higher education. Indeed, 11 of the 15 states in the SLC have increased their support for higher education over the past five years by significant amounts, and only three have experienced declines.
(click on headers to sort by column)
|State / Region||FY 2006 State Support b||FY 2007 State Support b||FY 2008 State Support b||FY 2009 State Support b||FY 2010 State Support b||FY 2011 State Support b||Percent Change FY 2006 - FY 2011|
Post-secondary Access and Affordability
Last week's EdNotes featured an article highlighting a peculiarity of the current economic downturn: while the employment impact was relatively democratic in nature the nascent recovery has, for the most part, failed to gain traction for those individuals who lack post-secondary education. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate for high school graduates in 2010 was 10.3 percent, for those with some college, but no degree, it was 9.2 percent, while for individuals with a bachelor's degree, unemployment was 5.4 percent (individuals with associate degrees had a 7.0 percent unemployment rate). The employment gap is mirrored by an income gap as well, with high school graduates earning roughly 60 percent of the earnings of an individual with a bachelor's degree (those with some college fare only slightly better at 68 percent).
Looked at through a closer lens, however, the prospects for most college graduates appear to be fading. While they continue to enjoy an employment advantage, a study out this week from Rutgers University indicates that while those individuals who graduated before the Great Recession took hold were mostly able to find work, nearly half of graduates in the class of 2010 had found employment by this spring. Moreover, while 80 percent of all graduates in the classes of 2006 through 2010 are employed, the report found that median starting income for most recent graduates is lower than for those who graduated just before the recession.
This situation exists in part because at least 40 percent of these graduates took jobs that do not require a college degree. Additionally, the economic downturn created an "employment latency" that contributes to a very competitive job market, particularly for recent graduates with limited or no work experience. This situation appears to affect most sectors, including teaching and nursing, two fields that have heretofore been viewed as "recession proof."
Schools and Natural Disasters
A strong band of storms ripped through the South last week, spawning the deadliest tornado outbreak since 1932, with at least 329 people reported dead across seven states, including 238 dead reported in Alabama alone. Among the hardest hit areas of Alabama was Tuscaloosa, home to the more than 30,000 students of the University of Alabama. The storms displaced thousands more and laid waste to homes, businesses, schools and other civic buildings.
While spared a direct hit from the Tornados, the University opted to close weeks ahead of schedule and allow students, many of whom hail from areas also affected by the storm, to return home. Other schools in the state also were affected, including 18 that suffered heavy damage. The Alabama Legislature quickly approved legislation to allow the state superintendent of schools to shorten the school year for districts affected by the storms. The Legislature also approved by voice vote a resolution promising to appropriate whatever funds were needed to repair or rebuild tornado-damaged schools. In Georgia, Governor Nathan Deal ordered a review of the state's severe weather warning system to ensure that the system was fully operational and to determine gaps, if any, in coverage.
Natural Gas Recovery and "Hydrofracking
Increasingly, natural gas has gained popularity as a cleaner substitute for fossil fuels, such as coal and oil, and the process known as hydraulic fracturing, or "hydrofracking," has made shale gas an economically viable alternative to conventional natural gas sources. Shale gas is located much deeper in the ground, typically at least 2,000 feet below the surface, and historically has been much more difficult and expensive to recover. Hydrofracking uses a cocktail of water; sand or ceramic material; and various chemicals that are injected at a high pressure into the shale, in order to fracture the rock and release the gas. A vertical hole is dug, then the drill is turned horizontally to continue the well from the vertical bore. Piping encased in cement feeds the mixture of 99 percent water and sand or ceramic, and 1 percent chemicals, into the shale. The sand holds the fracture open so that the gas can seep into the well, and the chemicals work as thickeners and lubricants, allowing the fluid to work its way through the fissures.
The United States' geologic composition contains large amounts of natural gas, perhaps third in the world behind only Russia and the Middle East, and many SLC states, including Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas, have huge reserves of the fuel. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), although natural gas consumption is rising in the United States, imports have been steadily declining over the last few years. The report points out that, from 2007 to 2010, imports declined by approximately 1.2 trillion cubic feet, or one-third. This is due largely to the rise in domestic production from shale gas formations, which has more than tripled during that same period, resulting in lower natural gas prices, as well as new jobs in the industry. These trends are at least partly attributable to the increased development and use of hydrofracking.
A Prescription Drug Epidemic
A study by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration found that treatment admission for prescription pain pill abuse has quadrupled nationally in the past decade, and that this increase spans every age, gender, race, ethnicity, education, employment level and region of the country. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that about 20 percent of people in the United States, or 48 million, have used prescription drugs for nonmedical reasons. Even more alarming, according to a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, overdoses from prescription drugs in the United States doubled from 1999 to 2007, and each year more than 20,000 people die from overdoses, far more people than are killed by controlled substances like cocaine and heroin. In addition, the South has one of the highest rates of overdose related to prescription drug abuse and misuse.
National Drug Control Policy Director Gil Kerlikowske has called prescription drug abuse the nation's "fastest-growing drug problem," and last month he revealed a new strategy by the White House to reduce misuse of such drugs by 15 percent in five years through a nationwide education campaign; training for clinical practitioners; and establishing prescription drug monitoring programs in all 50 states (currently, only 35 states are operating such programs). In addition, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is asking makers of pain medications to assist in supplying materials that physicians can use while counseling patients on the risks and benefits of using prescription pain medications.
How much do state employees in the SLC pay toward their health insurance premiums?
State employee health insurance coverage policies vary widely in the SLC region. Therefore, a direct comparison of practices is unreliable. In order to accommodate for the discrepancies, the SLC collected state employee premium information for its 15 member states on a case-by-case basis. This information is available on the following table.
|Alabama||Link||State Employee's Insurance Board|
|Arkansas||Link||Employee Benefits Division, Department of Finance & Administration|
|Florida||Link||Department of Management Services|
|Georgia||Link||Department of Community Health|
|Louisiana||Link||Office of Group Benefits, Division of Administration, Office of the Governor|
|Mississippi||Link||Department of Finance & Administration|
|Missouri||Link||Missouri Consolidated Health Care Plan|
|North Carolina||Link||State Health Plan|
State Corrections Reforms
For a number of years, state prison populations have been growing at alarming rates and, correspondingly, so have state corrections budgets. A recent report by the Pew Center on the States estimates that state corrections spending has quadrupled nationwide over the past 20 years, making it the second fastest growing budget item for states, behind Medicaid. In addition, the report noted that approximately 40 percent of released inmates return to prison within three years of release. According to the 2010 Southern Legislative Conference (SLC) Adult Correctional Systems Comparative Data Report, between 2000 and 2010, the number of inmates in the region, including those based in county and local jails, increased from 537,135 to 632,651, a 17.8 percent increase. During that time, some SLC states, such as West Virginia, saw as high as 67 percent increases. In addition, according to an assessment done by the state Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety, the entire West Virginia prison population is expected to increase by another 45 percent by 2020, making it the fastest growing prison population in the country. The state has made some progress in addressing violent offenses, such as driving under the influence (DUI), through legislation in 2008 (SB535) to reduce driver's license suspension times from 30 to 15 days for first time DUI offenders, but requiring those drivers to install an ignition interlock, a device that prevents the vehicle from starting if alcohol is detected when the driver breathes into it. The legislation also removed the mandatory 24-hour lockup law for offenders with lower blood alcohol contents (BAC) and created harsher penalties for drivers with extremely high BAC. This, along with other measures, has almost cut the percentage of inmates sentenced for DUI convictions by one-half in a few years.
Nuclear Safety in a Post-Fukushima World
In light of the recent disaster at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant in northern Japan, the conversation regarding the immediate future of nuclear power in the United States and the world is at the forefront of recent energy discussions. In addition to ongoing concerns regarding the lack of any long-term, permanent storage for spent nuclear fuel, more scrutiny from all sectors regarding safety is now being focused on reactors and plants. Germany has shut down all reactors built before 1980. Singapore and Switzerland have halted approval for future plants. China, perhaps the world's most ambitious nuclear energy producer, recently announced that it will suspend nuclear power plant development until a comprehensive review of its current plants and those under construction can be carried out. Ban Ki-moon, the current Secretary-General of the United Nations, recently called on world governments to strengthen nuclear safety standards, including protections against terrorist attacks.
Changes in Teaching as a Profession
There have been signs that the teacher supply system has been broken for years. Every year, schools of education produce thousands of graduates who enter the profession only to leave it after only a few years. Teacher turnover created such significant shortages that states have embraced alternative paths to teacher certification as a means to fill shortage areas and support schools struggling to fill teaching positions.
The recent economic downturn has changed this dynamic at a critical moment in the teaching profession. Alternative pathways for teachers are maturing into a viable alternative to traditional schools of education. Teach for America, the largest and most visible of these alternative programs, had more than 8,000 teachers in the field in the 2010-2011 school year. Across the country, alternative programs have been seen as a complement to traditional programs to prepare teachers for hard-to-find specialties (science, technology and math, in particular) and hard-to-staff schools.
This year, however, teachers are facing a very tough job market. This is not a surprise. Teaching is highly responsive to ups and downs in the economy, and its reputation as a "safe" profession with health and pension benefits attracted a number of individuals during the last recession. In the economic upswings that followed the two most recent recessions, teaching shortages returned shortly after the economy improved, due to increased attrition of in-service teachers and diminished intake of new teacher candidates as college students chose other professions over teaching.
School Choice and Charter Schools
School choice has been at the center of the discussion of education reform across the region for several years. Charter schools received a prominent boost from the Obama administration during the Race to the Top process, where the selection scoring criteria afforded more potential points for support for charter schools than any other single category with the exception of securing local support. This policy preference effectively shut out the 10 states without charter laws (including Alabama, Kentucky and West Virginia) from the $4.35 billion fund.
What are the sunset regulations, if any, in the SLC member states?
With legislatively mandated review of 77 states entities on a four-year rotating schedule, Alabama is one of the Southern states with the most thorough sunset review process.
In 1977, Arkansas adopted a sunset law to control and manage the proliferation of state boards and commissions. In 1983, led by then Governor Clinton and backed by both houses of the General Assembly, the state allowed its sunset law on boards and commissions to elapse.
The 2006 Legislature enacted the Florida Government Accountability Act that established an agency sunset review process to be used by the Legislature to determine if a public need exists for the continuation of a state agency, its advisory committees, or its programs.
The Florida Government Accountability Act provided for the creation of the Joint Sunset Committee to oversee the independent review process and make recommendations to abolish, continue, or reorganize the agency under review. The act also provides that the Senate and House may conduct independent reviews regarding the scheduled agency sunsets.
The Florida Government Accountability Act requires reports and assistance from state agencies and the Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability (OPPAGA), creates a schedule to abolish state agencies and advisory committees, and sets criteria to be used in the sunset review process.
A reviewed agency may not be abolished unless all of the services for which the agency had responsibility have been repealed, revised, or reassigned; and adequate provisions have been made for all duties and obligations relating to debt.
The Joint Legislative Sunset Committee was not funded in the FY 2010-11 General Appropriations Act, and the Committee ceased operations on June 30, 2010.
School Budgets Feeling the Pinch
It should not be a surprise that education budgets are feeling the pinch this year. As the economy continues its slow climb out of the Great Recession, state budgets are showing incremental signs of recovery. But for education, states are facing the end of federal stimulus money that pumped about $100 million into schools, mostly to avert teacher layoffs. While the federal government asked states to spend the recovery money in ways that did not create a gaping hole when the funds ran out (states are required to commit all recovery funds by the end of fiscal 2011), a 2010 study from Teachers College of Columbia University noted that most states spent 70 percent of their fiscal stimulus funds in fiscal 2010. As state and local revenues for education continue to lag, a number of states are facing a precipitous funding "cliff." State legislatures in general work very hard to avoid cutting K-12 education funds, but as the recession has dragged on and reserves begin to be depleted, education budgets are feeling the pinch.
In Alabama, where education is funded through a separate account generated largely through sales tax, the governor announced proration for school funding in the current fiscal year to cover a $165 million projected shortfall in collections. The action reduces funding to schools from the state, and sets up a budget debate in the Legislature over school funds for the coming fiscal year that will reflect diminished funds. The Senate Finance and Taxation-Education Committee this week approved a House bill to limit the growth of spending from the Education Trust Fund, putting surpluses into a reserve account that would then be available when the Fund is unable to meet required outlays, diminishing the potential for future prorations.
Changes to HOPE Scholarships
When Georgia created the HOPE scholarship Program (Helping Outstanding Pupils Educationally) in 1993, the goal was to curtail the flow of the state's best and brightest high school graduates to out-of-state colleges, and to provide the means for every academically outstanding high school graduation an opportunity to pursue higher education. The lottery-funded program provides a full scholarship to cover tuition, approved fees and up to $300 of books a year for students who graduate high school with a B grade average or higher. To remain eligible, students need to maintain a B average in college.
The program has been highly successful in encouraging Georgia high school students to remain in state and is largely credited with increasing the standards and quality of the state's top-tier universities. HOPE is also credited with improved performance for students at Georgia's colleges. At least a dozen other states have followed Georgia's lead, creating similar merit scholarships for students who remain in state for college.
Because the HOPE Scholarship Program is funded by a state-sponsored lottery, it operates at no cost to the state treasury and has in fact built up a large cash reserve, as lottery proceeds have exceeded scholarship awards. Lottery proceeds have leveled off in recent years, however, and college costs as well as college participation rates have climbed, resulting in a fiscal crunch for the program. According to the Georgia Student Finance Commission, the program has awarded 263,603 scholarships valued at $649.3 million dollars for the current fiscal year. Given current trends, the program now gives out more money than it takes in, and is projecting a $244 million shortfall for this fiscal year, and $314 million for next year.
Fixing this is a priority for Gerogia governor Nathan Deal and the Georgia General Assembly. A number of proposals have been investigated, including:
How are state sales tax collections and GSP comparing across the CSG regions?
Notes: All figures are in million of dollars; GSP figures are in current dollars
Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis, U.S. Department of Commerce; State Government Tax Collections (STC) reports, U.S. Census Bureau
For full data, please click here.
Which SLC States Employ GPS Monitoring for Domestic Violence Offenders?
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, every year approximately 3.4 million people in the United States become victims of stalking.1 Oftentimes, these instances result in physical harm or even death of the victim. In fact, in approximately 43 percent of all cases, stalkers made one or more threats against the victim, and 21 percent of all stalking cases resulted in physical attacks against the victim.2 According to the American Institute on Domestic Violence, health related costs of domestic violence victims exceed $5.8 billion every year in the United States.3 In addition, other reports indicate that domestic violence has been dramatically increasing in many states in recent years. As a result, 20 states throughout the U.S. have turned to the use of Global Positioning Systems (GPS) as a condition of probation for convicted domestic violence offenders. In the Southern Legislative Conference, both Kentucky (2010) and Texas (2009) have passed legislation to establish such programs, and many other states, such as Florida and Tennessee, have counties and municipalities that employ these practices. In addition, states like Mississippi have bills in the current legislative session to require GPS monitoring in domestic violence cases. Opponents of such measures cite cost as an obstacle to implementation, but states like Massachusetts require offenders to pay the approximate $8 per day for monitoring, offsetting the additional costs to the department of corrections. In addition to saving lives, proponents of GPS monitoring for domestic violence offenders argue that it assists in establishing boundaries for offenders; allows for immediate notification to victims and law enforcement personnel when violations occur; and can serve as evidence in criminal investigations. Additionally, since victims are often attacked in their own homes, homes of family, job sites, or other places that would normally be deemed safe, GPS monitoring provides an additional measure of safety for victims that would otherwise not exist.
How are SLC member state budgets faring compared to other CSG regions?
|State||FY12 Projected Shortfall||Shortfall as Percent of FY11 Budget|
|U.S. Total||$112.7 billion||18.9%|
|Eastern CSG Region|
|New Jersey||$10.5 billion||37.4%|
|New York||$9.0 billion||16.9%|
|Rhode Island||$290 million||9.9%|
|Regional Total||$30.0 billion |
(27% of U.S. Total)
|Midwestern CSG Region|
Census Results and State Implications
Since 1790, the United States, as required by Article 1, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution, has conducted a census every 10 years, tabulating the nation's population for the purpose of allocating congressional districts among the states. The census also is important due to its effects on the allocation of federal funds to state and local governments. Further, the data from the census still is used to allocate congressional seats among the 50 states and is used by the states to redraw the boundaries of political districts such as state legislative lines, city council lines and the like. The resident population of the United States on April 1, 2010, was 308,745,538, an increase of 9.7 percent over the 281,421,906 counted during the 2000 Census. The following table provides details on the congressional seat changes in the Southern region, and the 2010 Census site provides further manipulable data.
|State or Region||Representatives||Average Number of Constituents per Representative||Seats Lost or Gained|
How much federal funding did the SLC member states receive in fiscal year 2009?
|State||Total federal funding (in $1,000,000)||Percentage of total federal funding||Population as of July 1, 2009||Percentage of U.S. total population||Per capita funding|
Economic Impact of the Great Recession
The persistent economic slowdown following the Great Recession has impacted many sectors, both public and private, families and vast numbers of individuals throughout the nation, as well as the South. As indications of a recovery become apparent, there still are distressing indicators of the long-lasting effects of the Great Recession. Unemployment, which rose above 9 percent nationally for the first time since September 1983, peaked nationally at 10.1 percent in October, 2009, and has only fallen slightly (to 9.6 percent) in October 2010. More disconcerting than the total unemployment picture, however, is the number of Americans who are considered long-term unemployed, especially those who have been out of work for more than a year. In the second quarter of 2010, 31 percent of the 14.6 million jobless in the United States had been unemployed for 52 weeks or longer, a figure that amounts to 2.9 percent of the total labor force according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Prior to the start of the Great Recession in the first quarter of 2007, the number of long-term unemployed was only 9.5 percent of the total unemployed population (which was itself only 4.5 percent of the labor force). In addition, according to The New York Times, the overall average length of time for remaining unemployed in United States increased to a record 35.2 weeks this summer. The impact of long-term unemployment has compounded the unemployment picture in a number of ways, including increasing the number of applicants for food aid through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly Food Stamps) of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).
What are the retention and completion rates of college freshmen in the South?
Recent reports have highlighted the need for the United States, and the South in particular, to produce more college graduates in order to be more competitive globally. Other research has highlighted the costs to state governments of college students who begin college, but do not return to school for their second year. The South lags the rest of the nation slightly in both first year retention and college completion rates, although not by a significant factor. These two measures are closely related, as the first-to-second year transition is considered critical to higher education persistence. Virginia has the highest first-year retention and six-year graduation rates in the region at nearly 80 percent and 63 percent respectively. Oklahoma has the lowest first year retention rate in the region at 64.4 percent. Louisiana's 40.8 six-year graduation rate is the lowest in the region. For more information on higher education persistence, see Dr.Vasti Torres presentation and a summary of her remarks from the 64th SLC Annual Meeting in Charleston.
|State||Overall First-Year RetentionRate (%)||Six-Year Graduation Rate|
High Speed Rail: Update from the Southern States
U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood recently awarded the second round of federal grants to promote high-speed and intercity passenger rail in 23 states, including seven SLC states (Florida, Georgia, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Texas and Virginia). While a bulk of the more than $2.4 billion in total grants were secured by California ($902 million) and Florida ($808 million), these federal disbursements for 54 rail projects scattered across the country will continue to enhance our nation's transportation infrastructure. The first round of rail grants were awarded by the Obama Administration (amounting to $8 billion) in January 2010 and funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). The latest round of rail grants sprang from the U.S. Department of Transportation's Fiscal Year 2010 appropriations act.
State Policy on Compensation for Chief State School Officer
State Authorized Gaming
Permanent Property Rights Task Forces
Permanent Property Rights Task Forces or Commissions would seem to be rare. A number of states created temporary bodies to review state policy on eminent domain in response to the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in the Kelo v. City of New London case. Some states took the added step of establishing a permanent ombudsman responsible for resolving eminent domain disputes and abuse. In recent years, there has not been much legislative interest in eminent domain generally. The downturn in the economy has dampened much of the enthusiasm for public takings of private land for private economic development projects, thus reducing the friction that the Kelo case generated.
Following the Kelo decision, nearly 40 states took some action in response, including restricting the very kinds of developments that the City of New London undertook or strengthening and reinforcing public notice and the definition of both public purposes for which a property could be condemned or the conditions (blight) for which a public interest could be defined.
Washington State has an Eminent Domain Task Force located within the Office of the Attorney General. The Legislatively-created Task Force has continued to meet after its appointed term to monitor activity and make further adjustments to their recommendations. The Task Force issued its final report in 2009 making recommendations that would bar the use of eminent domain for private entities, reform the state's community renewal law, and seeking the adoption of best practices for the exercise of eminent domain. Another example of a state eminent domain task force can be found in Ohio, where the Task Force released its final report in 2006.
Agricultural Land Assessments
Every state except Michigan assesses agricultural land for tax purposes based on production rather than market value. In some states, this has lead to reports of abuse by developers and landowners claiming agricultural use for land being held for development purposes. A handful of states have taken steps to review this issue.
Florida has a handbook on ag land taxation that outlines the state's procedures, but does not indicate if it was updated to avoid abuse. The law was changed in 2002 to require an active, affirmative process for ag certification. The Florida Statute Section indicates a relatively rigorous standard to be met (see 193.461(3)(b)1-7), but it is still possible that the land could be called "forest" even if it was non-commercial varieties. Agicultural land sold for three or more times the agricultural assessment value is considered to no longer be in agricultural use and is assessed at the higher, market rate.
Colorado has a relatively high bar for establishing agricutural use, prohibiting horticulture if the plants aren't in the ground, 4-H, and pleasure horses. A recent report from the county government association indicates that the law has some deficiencies, and offers up some points where clarification would help (slide 24). The Legislature passed legislation creating a task force to review ag land classifications, which the governor signed. The report is due on the 15th of October (the Task Force only was formed in June).
South Dakota established a task force on agricultural land assessment in 2008.
How have the Southern states performed in personal income growth in 2010?
|State||1st Quarter, |
|2nd Quarter, 2010 (preliminary) a||Percent |
In the SLC states, what percentage of homeowners have Negative/Near Negative Equity and what are the latest unemployment rates in the region?
Negative Equity by SLC States, 2nd Quarter, 2010
(Click header to sort each column)
|State||Percent of Mortgages with Negative Equity||Percent of Mortgages near Negative Equity|
Source: CoreLogic, Negative Equity Report Q2 2010, August 26, 2010
(Click header to sort each column)
|State||Civilian Labor Force||Number Unemployed||Percentage Unemployed|
How much DOE Recovery Act Funding has been allocated to Southern states?
(Click header to sort each column)
|State||Total Awarded||Total Outlays||Percent of SLC Total Awards||Percent of SLC Total Outlays||Percentage of U.S. Total Awards||Percentage of U.S. Total Outlays|
What are the firearms laws in the SLC states?
On June 28, 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court held that handgun bans in Chicago and Oak Park violated the Second Amendment of the U.S. Consitution. While federal legislation receives much more media attention, state legislatures make many more decisions regarding their constituents rights to own and carry firearms. The following chart compiled by the National Rifle Association lists the main provisions of state firearms laws.
|State||Gun Ban||Exemptions to the National Instant Check System (NICS)||State Waiting Period for Handguns||License, Permit or Other Prerequisite for Handgun Purchase|
|Arkansas||--||Right-to-carry permit holders exempt from NICS; permits issued on and after 4/1/99 qualify||--||--|
|Florida||--||--||3 days; does not apply to a person holding a valid permit or license to carry a firearm||--|
|Georgia||--||Right-to-carry permit holders exempt from NICS||--||--|
|Mississippi||--||Right-to-carry permit holders exempt from NICS; permits issued to security guards do not qualify||--||--|
|Missouri||--||--||--||A purchase permit is required for a handgun, must be issued to qualified applicants within 7 days, and is valid for 30 days|
What are the enrollment and state expenditures for preschool in the South?
In the 2008-2009 school year, 1.2 million children were enrolled in state-funded pre-kindergarten programs in the 38 states that fund preschool.Total state spending nationally on preschool was in excess of $5 billion, with an average per pupil state expenditure of $4,143.The South leads the nation in preschool enrollment, with more than half (599,048 out of 1,046,752) of all 4-year-olds enrolled in state-funded preschool served by programs in the 15-state region.Unsurprisingly, the region also spends more on preschool than any other region, with state expenditures of $2.3 billion in 2008-2009, although the region's average per-pupil expenditure of $3,912 is below the national average of $4,143.When ranked by the percentage of 4-year-olds served by some preschool program (state Pre-K, special education and Head Start), the South has seven of the top ten states (Oklahoma, Florida, Georgia, West Virginia, Texas, Arkansas, and South Carolina).Oklahoma continues to serve the largest percentage of 4-year-olds at 71 percent, followed closely by Florida at 67 percent and then Georgia with 53 percent. These three states, along with Vermont (53 percent) and West Virginia (51 percent) serve more than half of their 4-year-olds in state pre-K. Only one state in the region, Mississippi, does not have a state-funded preschool program. The table below provides the percentage and number of four-year-olds enrolled and total state expenditures for the South.
(Click header to sort each column)
|STATE||PERCENT OF 4-YEAR-OLDS ENROLLED IN STATE PRE-KINDERGARTEN (2008-2009)||NUMBER OF 4-YEAR-OLDS ENROLLED IN STATE PRE-KINDERGARTEN (2008-2009)||STATE $ PER CHILD ENROLLED IN PRE-K||TOTAL STATE PRESCHOOL SPENDING IN 2008-2009|
What education benefits are available for National Guard members in the SLC states?
|Alabama||Tuition reimbursement of $500 per semester or quarter, up to $1,000 annually.|
|Arkansas||Up to $5,000 per year in accredited Arkansas institutions, based on student status and available funding.|
|Florida||100% tuition at any state college or university, for undergraduate degree only. Members also can apply for a $1,000 scholarship sponsored by the National Guard Officers Association of Florida (NGOA-F).|
|Georgia||Up to 100% tuition not to exceed $2,790 per year; $1,395 per semester; $116.25 per semester hour; or $77.40 per quarter hour.|
|Kentucky||100% tuition at any state college or university or vocational school in pursuit of undergraduate degree or completion certificate, respectively.|
|Louisiana||100% tuition at any state college or university, including 46 vocational technical schools, for up to 15 semesters.|
|Mississippi||Up to $4,500 per school year at any state college or university.|
|Missouri||Up to 100% tuition assistance. All members can take up to 15 credits hours per semester for 10 semesters at University of Missouri.|
|North Carolina||Up to $4,500 per year for tuition and books for members attending colleges or universities in North Carolina.|
|Oklahoma||100% tuition at any state college or university. Must be at least part-time student.|
|South Carolina||Up to $4,500 per year toward repayment of student loans while currently enrolled in college.|
|Tennessee||Yearly $1,500 scholarship competition by the National Guard Association of Tennesee (NGAT).|
|Texas||100% tuition reimbursement for up to 12 hours per semester for 10 semesters.|
|Virginia||Up to 100% tuition at any state college or university.|
|West Virginia||Up to 100% for in-state tuition and fees rate at any state college or university. In-state rates for out-of-state students at state-supported institutions.|
Which SLC states have codified judicial advisory councils?
|State||Entity||Code Section / Site|
|Alabama||Judicial Conference||§ 12-8-1|
|Judicial System StudyCommission||§ 12-9-1|
|Alabama Sentencing Commission||§ 12-25-1|
|Arkansas||Arkansas Judicial Council||Homepage|
|Florida||Judicial Management Council||AOSC06-62|
|Georgia||Judicial Council||§ 15-5-20|
|Kentucky||Judicial Council||§ 27A-110|
|Louisiana||Judicial Council||§ 13-61|
|Judicial Performance Program||§ 13-84|
|Mississippi||Judicial Advisory Study Committee||§ 9-21-21|
|Missouri||Judicial Conference||§ 476-350|
|North Carolina||State Judicial Council||§ 7A-409|
What percentage of residents in the SLC states lack health insurance?
While the South generally is considered to be the unhealthiest region of the country,putting up the highest obesity rates, percentage of people who smoke, and children who do not receive recommended vaccinations, among other health difficulties, [i] it also is oneof the least insured regions of the country. Althoughmost SLC states saw an increase of insured persons from 2007-2008, the percentage of people lacking health insurance currently living in Southern states(18.3%) still far exceeds the national average (15.4%), as well as averages in other regions of the country. The South also contains three of the top fivestates for percentage ofresidents without health insurance. With a healthcare reform debate raging in Congress, SLC states are watching closely to see what measures will be necessary to ensure more of their citizens have insurance and,correspondingly, access to adequate healthcare services
|Total Population||Population with Health Insurance Coverage||Population without Health Insurance Coverage|
|State||2007||2008||Percent Change: 2007- |
|2007||2008||Percent Change: 2007- |
|2007||2008||Percent of 2008 Total Population||Percent Change: 2007- |
What are the revenue estimates for fiscal years 2010 and 2011 in the SLC states?
As states warily recover from the Great Recession, there has been a great deal of interest in state revenue estimates. In recent years, state revenues experienced their steepest drop in decades, and forecasts for the next two fiscal years indicate that states still will face serious challenges in fully funding the entire range of governmental programs and services. The following table provides further information regarding the revenue estimates for FY 2010 and 2011 for the member states of the Southern Legislative Conference.
(Click headers to sort by state or percent change)
|State||FY 2010 Revenue Estimate||FY 2011 Revenue Estimate||Percent Change||Source|
|Alabama - |
Education Trust Fund
|$5,324,000,000||$5,290,000,000||-0.64%||Legislative Fiscal Officer December 14, 2009, Presentation to the Legislature on Alabama's financial condition|
|Alabama - General Fund||$1,449,223,181||$1,352,490,000||-6.67%||Legislative Fiscal Officer December 14, 2009, Presentation to the Legislature on Alabama's financial condition|
|Arkansas||$4,587,800,000||$4,498,300,000||-1.95%||Department of Finance and Administration|
|Florida||$20,693,200,000||$22,097,000,000||6.78%||State of Florida Three Year Revenue and Expenditure Outlook Fiscal Year 2010-11 through 2012-13|
Which SLC states have drug recycling programs?
While federal guidelines simply insist that prescription drugs be thrown in the garbage or flushed down a toilet (if the prescription specifies that this is environmentally safe), states have actually done a lot on developing recycling programs.Currently, 38 states in the nation have laws and programs that create prescription drug "recycling," "repository" or "redistribution" mechanisms for unused medications.Generally, these laws include restrictions for ensuring purity and safety of the products, in order to protect the patient that will ultimately obtain the drug.This means that, in general, states require that drugs not be expired; have a verifiable (future) expiration date; not be "controlled substances" (i.e., illegal drugs); and be verified by a state-licensed pharmacist or pharmacy.Also, the person who is to receive the medication must have a valid prescription from his or her doctor.
Below are summaries of the laws that have been enacted in the 15 SLC states.Many states (e.g., Louisiana, Missouri) first passed laws that authorized the practice of redistributing medications, and then went back and actually created programs to collect and redistribute the drugs from and to the appropriate entities.Alabama, North Carolina, South Carolina, and West Virginia currently do not have legislation pertaining to this issue.In fact, South Carolina has legislation that restricts the practice.North Carolina, however, has been investigating the prospect of creating a program. Where available, the bill numbers have hyperlinks that can be clicked to view the full text of the legislation.
|Arkansas||In 2005, the state passed a law (HB1031) that allows reuse of drugs that are in their original sealed or tamper-resistant packaging. Donated medications can only come from nursing facilities, and they can only be distributed through charitable clinic pharmacies to appropriately screened and qualified indigent patients who are not eligible for Medicaid but cannot afford private health insurance.|
How have Southern states' corrections systems been affected by the economic crisis?
During the current economic crisis, states have instituted major cuts in education, healthcare, public services and other areas. Corrections budgets have not been exempt from these cutbacks. To make matters worse, cuts to programs that provide education and counseling to in mates and parolees, which historically have led to lower recidivism rates, will likely only exacerbate current rising crime rates. Juvenile corrections has been a major area that has seen cuts. This is particularly problematic because although growth in the U.S. youth population in general saw a slow-down in the early 2000's, tougher policies have let to what experts anticipate to be a significant growth in the juvenile prison population from 2000-2030, which will be seen most profoundly in the South and the West. In general, states have begun to revamp many of their policies regarding prisoners. Here are some examples of the changes that have taken place in the last two years in the Southern states.
Florida - Cut three privately run programs for youth, as well as department travel and hiring. In general, the state has seen significant parole and probation officer layoffs.
Kentucky - Eliminated a boot-camp style program developed by the National Guard for youth offenders. In general, the state has shifted drug offenders into treatment, instead of prison, and have instituted early release for non-violent offenders. In addition, the state passed a law where, if a parolee returns to prison for a technical violation, the time on parole would count toward the sentence (unless an additional crime is committed).
Louisiana - The state shut down a boot-camp geared toward deterring teens from crime.
North Carolina - Cut nearly $5 million from the corrections budget, including entire funding for a program that trains and matches mentors for youth offenders. In general, the state has closed seven minimum security prisons.
What are the student loan default rates in the SLC states?
The FY 2007 national student loan default rate increased to 6.7 percent, up from the FY 2006 rate of 5.2 percent. As a historical comparison, in FY 1990, nearly one in four borrowers defaulted on their federal loans when default rates set an all-time high of 22.4 percent. The rate dropped to record low of 4.5 percent in FY 2003. Schools with excessive default rates may lose eligibility from one or more federal student aid programs.
Half of the ten states with the highest default rates are in the South--Texas (9.3%), West Virginia (9.3%), Arkansas (9.0%), Kentucky (8.8%), Mississippi (8.8%), Colorado (8.6%), Louisiana (8.6%).Six Southern states – Maryland (6.3%), Georgia (6.3%), Missouri (6.0%), North Carolina (5.7%), South Carolina (5.4%), Virginia (5.3%) – had default rates below the national average.The table below provides default rates for SLC member states.
|State||Number of Eligible Schools with Loans||Number of Borrowers in Default||Number of Borrowers Entered Repayment||Borrower Default Rate|
What is the extent of SCHIP programs in the SLC states?
The federal State Children's Health Insurance Program(SCHIP) was created in 1997 to provide health insurance to children of working families with incomes too high to qualify for Medicaid, but too low to afford insurance, in all 50 U.S. states. At the time, it was the single largest expansion of taxpayer-funded insurance coverage for children in the United States since the inception of the Medicaid program during the 1960s.The program is administered by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and approximately 73 percent of the funding for the program comes from the federal government. In 2006, the program covered around 6.6 million children nationally, with some states having designed policies that extended eligibility for some parents of children receiving benefits as well as pregnant women and other adults. The most recent reauthorization of SCHIP by Congress was in February of this year. There are currently 9 million children in the United States without health insurance.
Since the program has proven to encourage people to continue working while alleviating the pressure to find insurance for children of working families, many states have raised the threshold for eligibility in recent years. When the program began, most Southern states set the qualifying ceiling to correspond with the federal poverty level (FPL), i.e., at 100percent of the FPL. The map below illustrates where these eligibility requirements stand today, as well as the number of individuals covered by SCHIP in each of the SLC states. It also indicates the type of SCHIP program administered in each state: entirely separate from Medicaid (s); a combined program with Medicaid (c); or an expansion of Medicaid (e).
Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; Foundation for Health Coverage Education
What is the size of the school-aged population served by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act? How has the size of this population changed?
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires that school districts that accept federal funding for under the Act to provide appropriate services to children with identified disabilities. Initially passed as the Education for the Handicapped Act in 1975, the legislation has grown in scope and purpose through reauthorizations, including the most recent in 2004. IDEA mandates that students with disabilities be provided with a "free appropriate public education that emphasizes special education and related services designed to meet their unique needs and prepare them for further education, employment, and independent living." (20 U.S.C. § 1400 (d)(1)(a))
Over the past decade, most states have seen considerable growth in the size of the population served by IDEA, both in absolute terms and as a share of the total population. The policy and budgetary implications for this trend are considerable. Because students with disabilities are more costly to serve, school budgets are straining to meet the demands of this population at a time when expenditures on education overall are rising faster than inflation. Furthermore, the rapid rise in this population among schoolchildren complicates planning and policy development processes for schools and states. The table below illustrates the change in this population between 2001 and 2006.
|3- to 21-year-olds served|
|State||2000-01||2006-07||As a percent of public school enrollment, 2006-07||Percent change in number served, 2000-01 to 2006-07|
What are the current tobacco tax rates in the SLC states?
Nationally, 12 states-including four SLC states-increased tobacco taxes this year. Since 2002, 46 states and Washington, D.C., have increased cigarette tax rates 88 times. Currently, 28 states and Washington, D.C., have cigarette tax rates of $1.00 per pack or more; 13 states and Washington, D.C., have cigarette tax rates of $2.00 per pack or more; and one state-Rhode Island-currently has a cigarette tax rate of more than $3.00-$3.46 per pack.
At $4.25 per pack, New York City has the highest combined state-local tax rate; Chicago comes in second at $3.66 per pack.
The average state tax per pack of cigarettes in the SLC is $0.71, far below the national average of $1.27 per pack.
The federal cigarette tax increased to $1.01 per pack in April of this year.
The average price for a pack of cigarettes nationwide is approximately $5.06.
|State||Tax||Regional Rank||National Rank||Year of last increase||Est. health costs/yr directly linked to smoking|
How has the national mortgage meltdown affected the SLC states?
RealtyTrac®, the leading online marketplace for foreclosure properties, recently released its May 2009 U.S. Foreclosure Market ReportTM, which shows foreclosure filings – default notices, scheduled auctions and bank repossessions – were reported on 321,480 U.S. properties during the month, a decrease of 6 percent from the previous month but an increase of nearly 18 percent from May 2008.
"May foreclosure activity was the third highest month on record, and marked the third straight month where the total number of properties with foreclosure filings exceeded 300,000 – a first in the history of our report," said James J. Saccacio, chief executive officer of RealtyTrac. "While defaults and scheduled foreclosure auctions were both down from the previous month, bank repossessions, or REOs, were up 2 percent thanks largely to substantial increases in several states. We expect REO activity to spike in the coming months as foreclosure delays and moratoria implemented by various state laws come to an end."
Florida posted the third highest state foreclosure rate in May, with one in every 148 housing units receiving a foreclosure filing during the month, behind Nevada (one in every 64) and California (one in every 144). Default notices, scheduled auctions and bank repossessions in the state were all down from the previous month, but it still posted the nation's second highest number of properties with foreclosure filings: 58,931, up 50 percent from May 2008.
Georgia, Texas and Virginia were also on the list of the top 10 highest total foreclosure states. These top 10 states accounted for nearly 77 percent of total properties with foreclosure filings nationwide.
Foreclosures in SLC States: May 2005 - May 2009
|State||May 2005||May 2006||% Change||May 2007||% Change||May 2008||% Change||May 2009||% Change||% Change: May 2005 - May 2009|
What impact has the current economic downturn had on the GDP of the Southern states?
Advance 2008 and Revised 2005‐2007 GDP‐by‐State Statistics
New statistics released on June 2, 2009, by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis show that economic growth slowed in most states and regions of the U.S. in 2008 as economic growth overall slowed. Real GDP growth slowed in 38 states, with downturns in construction, manufacturing, and finance and insurance restraining growth in many states. Growth in real U.S. GDP by state slowed from 2.0 percent in 2007 to 0.7 percent in 2008.1
Real economic growth slowed in all eight BEA regions. As a whole, the SLC states slowed slightly below the national average, with real GDP growth dropping from 1.8 percent in 2007 to 0.6 percent in 2008. Of the SLC states, West Virginia and Oklahoma fared the best during the downturn, with their GDP growing from 0.6 percent in 2007 to 2.5 percent in 2008 and from 1.9 percent in 2007 to 2.7 percent in 2008, respectively. The growth is largely attributable to the growth of the energy sector in these states. Texas has also weathered the storm in relatively stable condition: although GDP growth slowed from 4.4 percent in 2007 to 2.0 percent in 2008, the state still enjoyed an absolute growth in real GDP of over $18 billion, from $907.4 to $925.5 billion in year 2000 chained dollars.
Real GDP by SLC State, 2005-2008
|State||Millions of chained (2000) dollars 1||Percent change|
How much education funding are the Southern states receiving from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009?
Below are estimates of the amount of education funding that each state will receive from certain aspects of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). The estimates show that SLC states will receive a total of over $16 billion in education funding in the initial release of ARRA funding. However, these are estimates only based on available and current data and may not reflect exact allocations that states or school districts receive when these funds are actually allocated.
Grants to local educational agencies (LEAs) under Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), the largest elementary and secondary education program, supplement state and local funding for low-achieving children, especially in high-poverty schools. The program finances the additional academic support and learning opportunities that are often required to help disadvantaged students progress along with their classmates.
ARRA also appropriates significant new funding for programs under Parts B and C of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Part B of the IDEA provides funds to state educational agencies (SEAs) and LEAs to help them ensure that children with disabilities, including children aged three through five, have access to a free appropriate public education to meet each child's unique needs and prepare him or her for further education, employment, and independent living.
The IDEA funds under ARRA will provide an unprecedented opportunity for states, LEAs, and early intervention service providers to implement innovative strategies to improve outcomes for infants, toddlers, children, and youths with disabilities while stimulating the economy. Under the ARRA, the IDEA funds are provided under three authorities: $11.3 billion is available under Part B Grants to States; $400 million is available under Part B Preschool Grants; and $500 million is available under Part C Grants for Infants and Families.
What percentage of households in the SLC states use only cell phones?
A recent report by the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) of the Center of Disease Control (CDC) noted that Southern states comprised six of the top ten U.S. states with the highest percentages of wireless-only households.
Most major survey research organizations in the U.S., including NCHS, traditionally have not included cell phone numbers when conducting random-digit-dial telephone surveys. The exclusion of households with only cell phones has implications on the results of health surveys, political polls, and other research conducted using random-digit-dial methods, and remains an obstacle to the acquisition of accurate statistics.
Therefore, the study is sure to be watched closely by telecommunications companies trying to better understand state and local markets, and by government, academic and commercial survey researchers using telephone polling to monitor health trends, politics and more.
The CDC, blending its own 2007 survey data with census updates, found the prevalence of cell-only households varies widely by state ‐ sometimes within regions and even between neighboring states. This is tied to differences by state in demographic indicators known to predict wireless-only ownership, especially being young and renting rather than owning a home.
The study's lead author, Stephen Blumberg, senior scientist at the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics, noted that the data are from 2007 and all signs indicate people keep substituting cell phones for landlines at a steady pace. Judging from the results of the study, the shift toward cell-phone only households appears to be most prevalent in the South. For example, Oklahoma with over one in four households using only cell phones, had the highest percentage of wireless-only households in the nation.
Mokrzycki, Mike. "Oklahoma, Utah tops in cell-only homes." Associated Press, 3/12/2009.
CDC/NCHS, National Health Interview Survey, 2007, and U.S. Census Bureau, Current Population Survey, Annual and Social Economic Supplement, 2008.
Percentages were calculated by the State Health Access Data Assistance Center, University of Minnesota.
What are the laws addressing felon voting rights in the SLC states?
The legal ability of people with felony convictions to vote varies from state to state. Some states allow felons to vote from prison while other states permanently ban felons from voting even if they have been released from prison, parole, and probation, and paid all their fines.
The map below gives a quick breakdown of the practices of the Southern Legislative Conference (SLC) states regarding felon voting rights. Specifically, 10 SLC states allow people with felony convictions to vote after completing their sentence and four states allow some people with felony convictions to vote, barring those convicted of specific crimes or requiring a waiting period. Finally, Kentucky and Virginia remain as the last two states in the nation that permanently disenfranchise all people with felony convictions, unless they receive individual, discretionary, executive clemency.
How many students complete high school in the SLC states?
The averaged freshman graduation rate provides an estimate of the percentage of students who receive a regular diploma within four years of entering ninth grade. The rate uses aggregate student enrollment data to estimate the size of an incoming freshman class and aggregate counts of the number of diplomas awarded four years later.
What are the SLC states' regulations regarding left-lane campers?
The National Motorists Association (NMA) strongly supports the concept of slower traffic traveling in the right lane of multi-lane highways and vehicles in the left lane yielding that lane to faster traffic. The NMA calls this concept "lane courtesy". Recently, there have been several articles on the "left-lane camper", the driver who drives in the passing lane and bars faster drivers from easily passing. States are cracking down on left-lane campers, both to keep traffic moving and to tamp down the road rage that goes from zero-to-60 faster than ever before. Proper lane usage and common courtesy go hand in hand in helping lower incidents of road rage along with helping with traffic issues that clog our highways. In short, there is an acknowledgement that our highways are used improperly and the solution is not more highways, but rather in developing proper usage of the highways we already have.
In the SLC, only Kentucky requires drivers to move right if they are blocking traffic in the left lane. Most states follow the Uniform Vehicle Code and require drivers to keep right if they are going slower than the normal speed of traffic (regardless of the speed limit; see below). These states are listed as "slower", with an asterisk and an explanation if vehicles lawfully using the left lane must yield to overtaking traffic. A few states either do not require vehicles to keep right ("no"), or permit vehicles moving at the speed limit to drive in the left lane regardless of traffic conditions ("less than SL").
The color coding in the "keep right" column is red if the state has no restriction on slow vehicles in the left lane, yellow if vehicles moving at the normal speed of traffic are permitted in the left lane even when they are unnecessarily obstructing other traffic, green if use of the left lane is limited to passing, and grey otherwise.
How large is the disabled student population in the South?
Students with disabilities are served under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The number of students served under this program has grown faster than total school enrollment, resulting in greater percentages of students eligible to receive special services though schools. In the 1990-1991 school year, 11.6 percent of students in the South were served under IDEA. By the 2005-2006 school year, this figure had grown to 13.4 percent of all students, slightly below the national average. The number of students served through IDEA has grown by 44.6 percent in the South, ahead of the national average (due to greater increases in the general student population.
|State||1990-91||As a percent of public school enrollment, |
|2005-06||As a percent of public school enrollment, |
|Percent change in number served, |
1990-91 to 2005-06
How have the SLC states responded to the Federal REAL ID Act?
The REAL ID Act, a part of the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act for Defense, the Global War on Terror, and Tsunami Relief, was signed into law on May 11, 2005. The Act requires that state driver's licenses meet specific security requirements for them to be used for official federal purposes, such as identification at federal buildings and for boarding commercial aircraft. Originally intended to prevent terrorism and reduce identity theft, the REAL ID Act has done nothing more than create a financial burden on the states in the form of an unfunded mandate. Seventeen states so far have passed laws or regulations rejecting the REAL ID Act, several in the SLC region. All states have received (some without even asking for it) extensions from the federal Homeland Security Department, giving them until December 31, 2009, to comply with the Act. This action by the HSD essentially leaves the problems with REAL ID unresolved and yet another issue that must be resolved by the upcoming administration.
States may obtain a second extension of time until May 10, 2011, to comply if they demonstrated "material compliance", essentially what states are already doing in the issuance of licenses.
States may choose not to have their driver's license meet the REAL ID Act's requirements, for reasons of public safety, cost, privacy, or other public policy reasons. Their residents may present alternative documents, such as a passport or military ID, for federal official purposes. However, if a state issues a driver's license that does not satisfy the REAL ID Act's requirements, the license must say on its face that it cannot be accepted.
What are the SLC states' regulations regarding the shipment of wine?
Since the repeal of Prohibition each state has created its own system of alcohol regulations. These various systems have been influenced by local business interests and regional political attitudes. As a result, the laws governing direct shipment vary widely - ranging from quite open and simple to states that consider wine shipments a felony. The first of two questions for January 2009, drawing from resources published by the Californian Wine Institute, relates to the regulations for wine shipping in the SLC region.
|State||Shipping Requirements||Legal Amount|| |
Federal On-Site Shipment *
|Florida||Allowed - No Permit Required||Unlimited|| |
|Georgia On-Site||Allowed - No Permit Required||5 cases per household per year|| |
|Georgia Off-Site||Allowed - Fee $50.00||12 cases per household per year|| |
|Kentucky||Permit required; only wineries producing 50,000 gallons or less eligible||2 cases per customer per visit|| |
|Louisiana||Allowed - Permit Required - Fee $150.00||4 cases per household per year|| |
What trends are SLC states witnessing regarding HIV/AIDS infection?
A recent report by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Center for Disease Control and Prevention shows that there were more than 1.1 million people in the United States living with HIV infection at the end of 2006. The figure is up from 994,000 at the end of 2003, an 11 percent increase. Experts attribute the rise partly to advances in antiviral treatments that increase the life of infected persons. However, the availability of proper education and other preventative measures are a growing concern for states that are experiencing these dramatic increases. Like most regions of the country, SLC states have seen a steady decline in reported AIDS cases since the early 1990s. From July 1995 to June 1996, SLC states reported 24,037 cases of AIDS in the region. From July 2000 to June 2001, states reported only 15,950 cases, a decline of 27 percent for the five-year period. However, that number rose back to 18,946 for the reporting year July 2004 to June 2005. This "fall and rise" trend is represented for most of the 16 SLC states in the chart below. Only Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Virginia saw a decline in reported AIDS cases in the latter comparison.
|State||July, 1995 |
- June 1996
|July, 2000 |
- June, 2001
|% change||July, 2000 |
- June, 2001
|July, 2004 |
- June, 2005
How do the SLC states rank in the prevalence of high-speed broadband networks?
High speed Internet is essential for economic growth and global competitiveness. The United States – the country that invented the Internet – has fallen from 1st to 15th in high-speed Internet penetration. The emergence of a new telecommunications system – one based on high-speed interactive networks designed for voice, data, and video communications – opens up tremendous opportunities for improving the quality of economic, civic, and personal lives. Conversely, the lack of widespread high-speed connections can hinder innovations in telemedicine, education, public safety, and home-based businesses. A recent report by the Communications Workers of America (CWA) highlights some of the benefits of an effective state-wide, high-speed broadband network:
In addition to the report, the CWA also has ranked all the states in the nation by their respective average internet download speeds and created model legislation to initiate the necessary growth in the electronic communications industry.
|Download Speed Ranking |
|Download Speed Ranking (nationwide)||State||Number of Internet Speed Tests Conducted||Median Download Speed (kilobytes per second)|
What is the most recently released data on the asset mix of the nation's state retirement plans?
The turmoil on Wall Street in the last few weeks–with the Dow careening 778 points downwards on a single day in September 2008, the largest point drop ever, when the U.S. House of Representatives rejected a financial bailout plan–continues to befuddle policymakers and citizens alike. As we await the positive developments of the recently enacted Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008, Americans across the country anxiously monitor their own perilous financial positions. The current turbulence on Wall Street comes at a time when state finances were already under a great deal of pressure. Even though state revenues had begun to recover from the recession that swept over the country at the beginning of this decade, several disturbing fiscal signs began to appear by late 2006 and early 2007. The nation's housing market, which had been a major contributor to the surge in economic activity in the aftermath of the 2001 recession, began to crumble as a result of a mortgage meltdown.
How have these developments from impacted state finances? One of the ways involves the adverse impact of the ongoing Wall Street tumult on a state's investment portfolio. In the last 15 years or so, states have moved aggressively away from the more staid but secure U.S. Treasury bills to more exposure to non-governmental equities, such as stock in many of the financial firms that have either disintegrated or been negatively affected by recent trends. Thus, it is a safe assumption that most states have some exposure and that their overall portfolios have eroded.
The October 2008 Question of the Month relates to an inquiry that sought to determine the asset mix of the nation's state retirement plans. Four of the top 10 plans in the nation are under SLC states, while at the other end of the spectrum, three of the bottom ten belong to SLC states.
|Top Ten Plans|
|Bottom Ten Plans|
Funded Ratio Percent (1)
Percent of Cash & Deposits in Total Portfolio (2)
Percent of Governmental Securities in Total Portfolio (3)
Percent of Non-Governmental Securities in Total Portfolio (4)
Percent of Other Investments in Total Portfolio (5)
What are the historical starting salaries for correctional officers in the SLC states?
|State / Year||2000||2001||2002||2003||2004||2005||2006||2007|
What are the number and enrollment figures for charter schools in the South?
Charter schools are publicly funded schools that have been provided waivers from some of the rules, regulations, and statutes that apply to similar school in exchange for some meeting specific accountability targets, laid out in the school's charter. The charter school movement traces its history to the late 1980s, with the first state charter legislation passed (by Minnesota) in 1991. Currently, 40 states and the District of Columbia have the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico have signed into law charter school legislation. A total of 1,122,367 students are enrolled in 3,909 school across the country.
|Year Law Passed||Number of Charter Schools||Number of Students Enrolled|
How have record-high gasoline prices impacted driving habits in the SLC region?
With gas prices reaching record highs and public transit ridership surging to unprecedented heights, the latest U.S. Department of Transportation statistics (April 2008) indicate that Americans are driving less for the sixth month in a row. Specifically, Americans drove 1.4 billion fewer highway miles in April 2008 than at the same time a year earlier and 400 million miles less than in March of this year. In addition, vehicle miles traveled (VMT) on all public roads for April 2008 fell by 1.8 percent compared with April 2007, a decline of nearly 20 billion miles traveled this year, and nearly 30 billion miles traveled since November 2007.
The following information has been collected from Traffic Volume Trends, a monthly report based on hourly traffic count data reported by the States. These data are collected at approximately 4,000 continuous traffic counting locations (stations) nationwide and are used to estimate the percent change in traffic for the current month compared with the same month in the previous year.
Vehicle Miles Traveled on All Estimated Roads
Number of Stations
Vehicle Miles (in Millions)
How many nuclear facilities and reactors are located in the SLC states?
|Kentucky *|| |
|North Carolina|| |
|Oklahoma *|| |
|South Carolina|| |
In the South, what percentage of the adult population drives while intoxicated or under the influence of illicit drugs?
A recent survey by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) found that in some Midwestern states up to a quarter of the adult population drives while intoxicated.
Based on the combined 2004 to 2006 National Surveys on Drug Use and Health data from current drivers aged 18 or older, an average of 15.1% had driven under the influence of alcohol during the past year and 4.7% had driven under the influence of illicit drugs.
The 16 Southern states fared rather well in the national survey, with none among the top 10 most dangerous states, and only a few in the top 20. On average, 13.2 percent and 4.5 percent of Southern adults had driven under the influence of alcohol or illicit drugs in the past year, respectively.
Percentages of Current Drivers1 Aged 18 or Older Reporting Driving Under the
Influence of Alcohol in the Past Year, by State: 2004, 2005, and 2006
|State||Percent||SE (%) 2||State||Percent||SE (%) 2|
What are the methods of selection for leadership positions in the state Legislatures of the Southern Legislative Conference?
|State||Speaker||Speaker pro tem||Majority leader||Assistant majority leader||Majority floor leader||Assistant majority floor leader||Majority whip||Majority caucus chair||Minority leader||Assistant minority leader||Minority floor leader||Assistant minority floor leader||Minority whip||Minority caucus chair|
Which SLC states have passed legislation for the reuse or recycling of prescription drugs?
As the cost of prescription drugs climbs, more of the nation's officials and consumers are weighing how to salvage at least $1 billion worth of unused drugs that are being flushed down the toilet each year.
Though the Food and Drug Administration generally forbids the redistribution of prescription drugs once they are dispensed to consumers, states are free to set their own policies for drugs controlled by nursing homes, long-term-care centers and other pharmacies.
Thus, states have begun to pass legislation to create programs that curb the expensive waste of reusable resources. While the principal argument for these programs is the cost savings to both indigent patients to whom the drugs are often redistributed and the families of the patients who are able to return the medications, there also is a growing concern over the environmental hazards of disposing of prescription drugs in landfills or water systems.
Strom, Stephanie. "Old Pills Finding New Medicine Cabinets." The New York Times. May 18, 2005.
SLC research of Southern states' legislation.
What is the financial impact of chronic diseases on the U.S. economy?
A groundbreaking study ("An Unhealthy America: The Economic Impact of Chronic Disease") released by the Milken Institute in October 2006 detailed the financial impact of chronic disease on the U.S. economy - not only in treatment costs, but lost worker productivity - today and in the decades ahead. As indicated in the study, over 162 million cases of seven common chronic diseases - cancers, diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, stroke, mental disorders, and pulmonary conditions - shortened lives, reduced quality of life, and created considerable burdens for caregivers.
The following map shows how states compare based on the prevalence of the seven common chronic diseases.
The following chart depicts the economic impact of these seven chronic diseases in the SLC states.
Economic Impact of Chronic Diseases in the South
|State||2003 (Annual Costs in Billions)|
|Treatment Expenditures||Lost Productivity|
What are the budgets and the staff sizes of the Southern states' ethics commissions?
Members / Commissioners
General Fund Appropriation (FY 2007)
|Alabama Ethics Commission|| |
|Arkansas Ethics Commission|| |
|Florida Commission on Ethics|| |
|Georgia State Ethics Commission|| |
|Kentucky Executive Branch Ethics Commission|| |
|Kentucky Legislative Ethics Commission|| |
|Louisiana Ethics Administration|| |
What states in the region have air quality policies for schools?
Seven state in the SLC have some policy concerning indoor air quality for schools. The table below provides details:
State-by-State Air Quality Policies
|Alabama||No state policy.|
|Arkansas||No state policy.|
|Florida||Statute 1001.42(16)(a) (2004) requires the district school board to maintain a system of school improvement and education accountability. This system shall be consistent with, and implemented through, the district's continuing system of planning and budgeting and requires the board to annually approve and require implementation of a school improvement plan for each school in the district. Plans must address certain state educational priorities and student performance standards and be based on an analysis of student achievement and other school performance data. This statute was amended by Chapter 2004-255, Laws of Florida, to require school improvement plans to address other issues including indoor environmental air quality.Statute 235.06 (1999) requires the Commissioner of Education to adopt and administer rules prescribing safety and health standards for occupants of educational and ancillary plants as part of the State Uniform Building Code for Public Educational Facilities. Each board shall prescribe policies and procedures establishing a comprehensive program of safety and sanitation for the protection of occupants in the educational and ancillary plants. The requirements include annual fiscal year inspection of each facility to determine compliance with standards of casualty safety as prescribed in the rules of the commissioner. Furthermore, a provision provides for annual fire safety inspections by a Certified Fire Marshall with the subsequent report outlining a plan of action as well as the schedule for corrective action. In addition to each board, the statute also allows safety or sanitation inspections to be conducted at any time by the Department of Education or any other state or local agency of any educational or ancillary plant. Statute 235.26 (1999) further emphasizes that all public educational or ancillary plants must conform to the State Uniform Building Code for Public Educational Facilities Construction and such educational plants are exempt from all other state, county, district, municipal and local building codes. Each board is required to provide for periodic inspection during the construction phase of educational plants. It is the responsibility of each district school board and community college district board of trustees to ensure all plans and educational and ancillary plants meet the standards of the Uniform Building Code and to provide enforcement of this code. Inspectors are required to be certified under chapter 468 to administer and enforce the provisions of the code. Deviations from the adopted standards require the district school board to conduct a public hearing to quantify and demonstrate comparative costs as well as provide an explanation for the proposed deviations from the adopted standards.Before a contract has been let for construction, the department and the board must approve the phase II construction documents. The board may not occupy a facility until the project has been inspected to verify compliance with statutes, rules and codes affecting the health and safety of the occupants. The board shall maintain a record of the project completion and permanently archive of phase III construction documents. The Commissioner of Education has final review of all documentation involving the Uniform Building Code and any objections by the inspector or department must be submitted in writing.|
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