Posted on October 29, 2010 in Transportation
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.
Some of the specific projects to be funded by this round of federal funding in the SLC states includes the following:
For additional information, please visit:
Posted on October 25, 2010 in Education
Posted on October 25, 2010 in Fiscal Affairs
Posted on October 25, 2010 in Government Operations
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.
Legislation was unsuccessfully introduced in the New York State Assembly in 2009 to establish a citizen commission to review the state's eminent domain procedures and policies. Interestingly, New York had a State Commission on Eminent Domain in the early 1970s that evaluated the state's then-current policies and made recommendations to expand the rights and expectations of condemees. (See here, p 30 and following.)
Connecticut had a state ombudsman for property rights until budgetary constraints forced its elimination in September of 2009. Utah created an Office of the Property Rights Ombudsman in 2006, which is still operational as a part of the state Department of Commerce.
Missouri's ombudsman came about as the result of recommendations from the Missouri Task Force on Eminent Domain (final report here), formed to analyze Missouri's laws regarding the use of eminent domain and issue recommendations that better protect the rights of property owners when the use of eminent domain is being considered. The Task Force was created by Executive Order in 2005.
Posted on October 25, 2010 in Agriculture
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
Posted on October 1, 2010 in Workforce
|State||1st Quarter, |
|2nd Quarter, 2010 (preliminary) a||Percent |
a) Millions of dollars, seasonally adjusted at annual rate.
b) Percent change from preceding quarter, seasonally adjusted at quarterly rate.
Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis, U.S. Department of Commerce