2014 SLC News and Updates

February 20, 2014

Supreme Court Practice Seminar | March 4, 2014
The State Local Legal Center (SLLC), International Municipal Lawyers Association, and Georgetown University Law Center's Supreme Court Institute will collaborate to arrange a Supreme Court Practice seminar in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, March 4, 2014. The seminar will be held in conjunction with SLLC's 30-year anniversary reception. Details on the program and registration for the event are now available.

February 21, 2014

SLC Releases Recent Research on State Exports
The Southern Legislative Conference recently published an analysis of the latest state export data from the U.S. Department of Commerce. Notably, 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. Click here to review the the complete research post.

February 25, 2014

Apply Now for the SLC STAR Program
The Southern Legislative Conference is accepting submissions for its State Transformation in Action Recognition (STAR), a regional adaptation of the former CSG Innovations Awards. The STAR program identifies and promotes innovative ideas and programs from the Southern region’s best problem solvers: the states themselves. The SLC welcomes applications from a wide array of state agencies, departments, and institutions operating within the executive, legislative, and judicial governmental branches. Click here for more information.

February 26, 2014

Aeronautics in the SLC States: Cleared for Takeoff
The Southern Legislative Conference recently released a new SLC Regional Resource, Aeronautics in the SLC States: Cleared for Takeoff, 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.

March 25, 2014

A Special Condition: Medical Marijuana in SLC States
The latest SLC Regional Resource, A Special Condition: Medical Marijuana in the SLC States, reviews the medical marijuana legalization movement in the South. Despite the prevalence of marijuana-related legislation being filed in SLC member states, only a few bills are expected to make their way through the legislative process to achieve enactment. However, as the topic moves further from theoretical and closer to reality, common trends are emerging in legislation across the SLC region.

April 21, 2014

CSG Leadership Initiative
As leaders of The Council of State Governments, West Virginia Governor Earl Ray Tomblin and Tennessee Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris have selected State Pathways to Prosperity as their initiative for 2014.

April 22, 2014

SLC State Unemployment Insurance Finances Improve
Recent research by SLC Fiscal Policy Manager Sujit CanagaRetna examines the recovery of state unemployment funds from the depths of the Great Recession. As a result of the doggedly high unemployment rates in so many states during the Great Recession and the actions taken by states (such as expanding unemployment benefits and cutting unemployment insurance taxes), the unemployment insurance funds in a majority of the states were thrust into perilous shape. The funds were attacked at both ends: more people were tapping benefits while a shrinking number of companies were paying fewer taxes to replenish the funds. With the deleterious effects of the Great Recession tapering off and the employment situation in the SLC states improving, fewer and fewer individuals were eligible for unemployment insurance payments by 2013. As a result of this development and essential reforms to state plans, the balances of these trust funds improved significantly by 2013.

April 25, 2014

SLLC Webinar: Government Prayer after Town of Greece
The Supreme Court's decision in Town of Greece v. Galloway may change allowable prayer practices before local government bodies and state legislatures. Join Tom Hungar, Gibson Dunn, who argued this case before the Supreme Court, Douglas Haney, City Attorney for the City of Carmel, Indiana, and Lanny Proffer, former General Counsel for the National Conference of States Legislatures, in a discussion about how the Court's ruling will affect both state and local government.

This complementary webinar is co-sponsored by the State and Local Legal Center, the International Municipal Lawyers Association, and the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Click here to register.

April 25, 2014

Waste Storage and Water Safety: Lessons from West Virginia and North Carolina
The latest SLC Regional Resource, Waste Storage and Water Safety: Lessons from West Virginia and North Carolina, examines the importance of coal and chemical industries in the Southern region and the necessity of striking a balance between business interests and environmental protection. Recently, hazardous spills in two SLC states - West Virginia and North Carolina - have focused attention on this careful balance. This SLC Regional Resource reviews the spills in West Virginia and North Carolina and the immediate remedial action taken by each state. Understanding how these states reacted in the wake of water contamination can help other SLC states respond quickly and effectively if faced with similar challenges.

May 7, 2014

CSG Entrepreneurship Day in Memphis, Tennessee | May 13, 2014
The Council of State Governments, in partnership with the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, is hosting a series of sessions in state capitols that will feature experts, practitioners and national thought leaders as we explore state-based solutions for increased entrepreneurship. Attendees will learn about the latest research on the importance of entrepreneurship to economic growth and innovative policy strategies to encourage entrepreneurship.

May 9, 2014

Comparative Data Report on State Revenues Now Available
The SLC released the latest Comparative Data Report (CDR) on Southern States' Tax Structures and Revenue Forecasts, prepared by the Arkansas Bureau of Legislative Research. In the near future, the SLC also will release the latest CDRs analyzing state tax structures and revenue forecasts (Arkansas Bureau of Legislative Research), K-12 educational systems (West Virginia Legislative Staff), state transportation programs (Kentucky Legislative Research Commission) and Medicaid spending (Louisiana Legislative Fiscal Office).

May 14, 2014

State and Local Legal Center: Supreme Court Review CLE Webinar | Friday, July 18, 2014
International Municipal Lawyers Association and the SLLC will host a complimentary webinar at 1:00 p.m. - 2:30 p.m. EDT, Friday, July 18, 2014. Continuing Legal Education (CLE) credit is available. Presenters include Carter Phillips, Sidley Austin, who has argued more Supreme Court cases than any other lawyer currently in private practice, Collin O'Connor Udell, Jackson Lewis, who argued a public employment case before the Supreme Court this term, and Adam Liptak, The New York Times Supreme Court correspondent, for a discussion of the most significant cases decided this term affecting state and local government. Cases to be discussed include, among others, Michigan’s affirmative action ban, warrantless searches of cell phones, speech “buffer-zones,” and two Clean Air Act cases.

June 11, 2014

Complimentary SLC Webinar on the Science around Medical Marijuana | July 8, 2014
The Southern Legislative Conference will host a complimentary webinar at 2:00 p.m. - 3:00 p.m. EDT, Tuesday, July 8, 2014, titled "In the Weeds: Exploring the Science around Medical Marijuana and the Operation of a State Program." While marijuana use for medicinal purposes has been on the legislative agenda in many states outside the Southern region for a number of years, Southern state legislatures only recently have begun to grapple with the complexities of the issue. Many Southern lawmakers cite stories of families with children suffering from severe seizure or muscular disorders as the impetus for the push toward some form of legalization. But for every family that puts a face on the issue, lawmakers are confronted with a plethora of questions about the science behind medical marijuana and about ways to implement a program in their state. This webinar will offer a scientific perspective on marijuana for medical use and discussion on state medical marijuana programs. Click here for more information.

June 19, 2014

SLC Webinar on Southern States' Efforts to Prepare a 21st Century Workforce | July 10, 2014
The Southern Legislative Conference will host a complimentary webinar at 2:00 p.m. - 3:00 p.m. EDT, Thursday, July 10, 2014, addressing Southern States' Efforts to Prepare a 21st Century Workforce. Policymakers across the country continue to focus on expanding the collaboration between education--at the high school and postsecondary levels--and economic development in an effort to develop a highly skilled and competitive workforce. Cooperation between the education and economic development sectors in state government, combined with active input from the corporate sector, is a critical factor in recruiting and retaining industry, particularly in manufacturing. Several states belonging to CSG South, the Southern Legislative Conference, have been in the forefront of efforts to foster greater collaboration between the technical college system, and economic development and corporate sectors. This collaboration has led to impressive results as states customize training programs at technical colleges to ensure corporations can rely on a well-trained workforce able to meet the challenges of the 21st century manufacturing environment. State education and economic development officials, as well as corporate representatives, will discuss ways to create a competent workforce to help ensure competitiveness of American manufacturers in the global economy. Click here for more information.

June 20, 2014

SLC Delegation attends study tour of Alberta Oil Sands
A delegation of five SLC Energy and Environment Committee members participated in a study tour on oil sands development, June 10-12, 2014, in Edmonton and Fort McMurray, Alberta, coordinated by the SLC, the Albertan government, and the Offices of the Consulate General of Canada in Atlanta, Dallas and Miami. At approximately 176 billion barrels of proven reserves, the oil sands are one of the largest and most important energy resources in the world. The program highlighted the regulatory framework and cutting-edge technologies that are both in place and under development. The visit included tours of mining projects operated by Suncor Energy, oil sands reclamation sites, and a viewing of an in situ project. The program also included discussions with Canadian government and industry officials, including presentations by the Pembina Institute and the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers. Discussions revolved around Canadian-U.S. energy relations; economic development and job creation; environmental protection; and advances in energy technology. The objective of the study tour was to enable participants to broaden their awareness of the oil sands resource, its increasing contribution to North American energy security, and to see first-hand the steps being taken to meet the environmental challenges of this energy source. Participants in the delegation included Representative Karla Drenner, Georgia; Representative Seneca Scott, Oklahoma; Senator Daniel Verdin III, South Carolina; Representative Alan Williams, Florida; and Representative Jack Williams, Alabama. Photos from the delegation will be available soon.

June 23, 2014

In Memoriam Former Speaker of the House John E. Miller
The Southern Legislative Conference (SLC) marks the passing of former State Representative and Speaker of the House John E. Miller of Arkansas. Speaker Miller served as chair of the Southern Legislative Conference from 1981-82; chair of The Council of State Governments in 1986; and chair of the SLC Transportation Committee in 1996. He served as Speaker of the House from 1979 to 1980. He was, for many years, an active member of the SLC Executive Committee, the Conference’s governing body. A 1949 graduate of Arkansas State University, Mr. Miller was elected to the Arkansas House of Representatives in 1958 and served in that capacity for 40 years, until his retirement. Mr. Miller, passed away June 18, 2014, at age 85. Click here for more information.

June 25, 2014

SLC Releases Issue Alert on U.S. Agriculture Export Sector
The Southern Legislative Conference latest Issue Alert on the U.S. agriculture exports. Even though the relative importance of agriculture and agriculture-related industries in the overall U.S. economy has diminished in recent years, the sector continues to be a critical component of the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP). In 2012, the latest year available, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reported that the sector contributed $775.8 billion toward GDP, a 4.8 percent share; the output of the nation’s farms alone totaled $166.9 billion in 2012.

July 8, 2014

Complimentary SLC Webinar on Innovations in Water Treatment and Conservation | July 17, 2014
The Southern Legislative Conference will host a complimentary webinar at 2:00 p.m. - 3:00 p.m. EDT, Thursday, July 17, 2014, addressing recent innovations in water treatment and conservation. Only 3 percent of the world’s water is fresh, with 2 percent locked up in glaciers and polar ice caps. The remaining 1 percent that is available for human and animal uses has seemed, in the past, to be an inexhaustible, yet vital, resource. Abundant water for drinking, sanitation, industry, irrigation, transportation and recreation has been a hallmark of much of the South. Development pressures, changes in precipitation patterns and transitioning priorities and consumption levels, however, have caused a shift in this situation. To offset or prevent water scarcity, many states in The Council of State Governments’ Southern Legislative Conference have adopted creative solutions to water treatment and reuse, but states must ensure water quality standards and public health concerns are met. This webinar will provide a broad overview of the status and causes of water scarcity in SLC states and address ways in which state legislators can promote innovation in water treatment while conserving valuable natural resources. Click here to register.

July 18, 2014

SLC Releases Comparative Data Reports on Education and Transportation Statistics
The SLC has released two more Comparative Data Reports (CDRs) on Southern States: Education, prepared by the West Virginia Legislative Staff, and Transportation, prepared by the Kentucky Legislative Research Commission. Prepared under the auspices of the SLC Fiscal Affairs & Government Operations Committee, annual Comparative Data Reports track a multitude of revenue sources and appropriations levels in Southern states and serve as a useful tool to legislators and legislative staff alike as they determine their own state spending.

July 22, 2014

Southern Legislative Conference Convening in Little Rock, Arkansas | July 26-30, 2014
Southern state lawmakers convene on July 26, 2014, in Little Rock, Arkansas, for the 68th Annual Meeting of the Southern Legislative Conference. The agenda, guided by Senator Keith M. Ingram of Arkansas, chair, Speaker David Ralston of Georgia, chair elect, and Senate President Robert Stivers of Kentucky, vice chair, will focus on numerous issues of critical importance to both the South and the nation. The Southern Legislative Conference Annual Meeting offers Southern legislators an opportunity to meet head-on the challenges facing the region by sharing information, experiences and understanding across state lines. It also provides an excellent occasion to learn about new developments and activities and see what lies ahead for state governments. Nearly 1,000 delegates, legislative staff, and guests are expected to attend.

September 10, 2014

SLC Annual Meeting Presentations now available
The 68th Annual Meeting of the Southern Legislative Conference featured policy experts across a vast array of disciplines. Presentations made before SLC's six standing committee are now available for further review. Please contact the appropriate committee liaison to inquire about a specific presentation or request additional information about a particular topic.

September 12, 2014

SLLC Webinar on EPA's Proposed Rules on Carbon Dioxide Emissions from Existing Power Plants
On Thursday, September 18, from 1:00-2:00 p.m. (EDT), the State and Local Legal Center (SLLC) – a partner of SLC – will host a complimentary webinar that will examine EPA’s recently proposed rule to regulate carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants under section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act. The webinar, which is open to all SLC members, will provide a focused look at legal issues raised within the proposed rule and its implementation for states and local governments on which they may want to address in their written comments.

EPA has invited comment on a number of issues that may have legal implications for states. Given the compliance obligations this rule will create for states, the National Governors Association has worked with the SLLC to develop a presentation that will provide states with an opportunity to explore topics that will most directly affect them. Some of these topics will be addressed in the webinar and include:
  • State-level considerations for regional compliance and a legal roadmap for how states could join together to develop a regional consortium to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Whether states can legally adopt multiple approaches to reducing carbon emissions, including approaches that are rate based, mass based, market based, or some combination of those three.
  • The authority for states to implement approaches outside of reductions at individual power plants (regardless of the legal interpretation at the federal level), or whether states need internal authority to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through other measures like regional agreements or the implementation of energy efficiency measures through 111(d).
  • The ability of states to adjust the specific percentage by which they must reduce their carbon emissions by 2030.
Roger Martella, a former General Counsel for the EPA and current partner with the law firm of Sidley Austin, will lead the discussion and answer questions.

The webinar can be accessed by clicking here. Prior to the meeting time, you may wish to set up Lync audio and video to ensure your computer program is compatible.

September 12, 2014

SLC Transportation Expert Testifies Before Louisiana Transportation Funding Task Force
SLC Fiscal Policy Manager Sujit CanagaRetna testified on September 10, 2014, before Louisiana's Transportation Funding Task Force. Mr. CanagaRetna's presentation and remarks examined state funding mechanisms for transportation, especially those employed by SLC member states, and provided details on the nation’s transportation and infrastructure network, reasons for current funding and maintenance challenges, common revenue sources and financing tools deployed by states to fund transportation, and recent actions in the states, both proposed and enacted, related to funding transportation. The Task Force, comprising House and Senate members, DOTD Secretary Sherri H. LeBas, and construction and engineering industry representatives, convened in the Louisiana House of Representatives for a public and recorded session, documented here. The presentation also was covered by The Times-Picayune of New Orleans and The Republic of Columbus, Indiana.

September 17, 2014

SLC Transportation Leadership Attend Washington, D.C., Policy Academy
The Council of State Governments’ 2014 Transportation Academy for transportation leaders from state legislatures across the country was held in Washington, D.C., on September 15-17, 2014.  The Academy included a series of high-level policy discussions, briefings from a range of nationally-recognized transportation experts, meetings with members of Congress and U.S. Department of Transportation officials, and a tour and presentations on Northern Virginia’s latest transportation strategies.  Among those attending the CSG Transportation Academy were three legislators from the SLC: Representative Jay Roberts, chair, House Transportation Committee, Georgia; Senator Ernie Harris, chair, Senate Transportation Committee, Kentucky; and Representative William “Bill” Brawley, chair, House Transportation Committee, North Carolina.

Topics of discussion included the Condition of the Nation’s Infrastructure & Resources for Policymakers; States and the Future of Transportation Funding; The Business Community & Infrastructure Investment; Perspectives on the Federal Role in Transportation; Future of the Federal-State-Local Partnerships on Transportation; and Public-Private Partnerships: The Virginia & Maryland Experiences.  In addition, legislators attending the Transportation Academy toured several Northern Virginia transportation megaprojects - hosted by the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) – that included briefings on Virginia’s approach to public-private partnerships.

September 25, 2014

Complimentary Webinar on Federal Food Safety Modernization Act | Friday, October 3, 2014
A free webinar, held at 3:00 - 4:00 p.m. EDT, Friday, October 3, and arranged by the Regional Offices of the Council of State Governments and the State Ag and Rural Leaders, will follow-up on previous FSMA webinars by examining the FDA’s most recent actions implementing the law, focusing on the supplemental rule proposals and their implications for those in the food and feed supply chain. Specific questions can be submitted ahead of time as well as during the webinar. Special thanks to the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture for their collaboration.

September 30, 2014

SLC Delegation Travels to Panama for Technical Tour and Briefings on Panama Canal Expansion
A delegation of state transportation leaders from seven SLC member states, including Senator Bill Hightower, Alabama; Representative George Moraitis, Florida; Senator Steve Gooch, Georgia; Representative Walt Leger, Louisiana; Senator Gary Stanislawski, Oklahoma; Representative Larry Phillips, Texas; and Senator David Marsden, Virginia, recently traveled to Panama for high level briefings on the Panama Canal expansion project.  The delegation agenda was designed to reinforce the need for Southern ports to continue essential infrastructure enhancements to accommodate the significantly larger vessels and expanded cargo volumes expected to arrive after the completion of the Panama Canal expansion.  This was the third consecutive year that an SLC legislative delegation had travelled to Panama for briefings on the Canal expansion project.

October 14, 2014

70th SLC Annual Meeting to Convene in Lexington, Kentucky
General Assembly leadership, mayors and business leaders of Kentucky gathered today to officially announce Lexington as the host of the 70th Annual Meeting of the Southern Legislative Conference, convening July 16-20, 2016. The SLC Annual Meeting offers Southern legislators an opportunity to meet head-on the challenges facing the region by sharing information, experience and understanding across state lines. As current chair elect of the SLC, Kentucky Senate President Robert Stivers will guide the SLC the deliberations of the 70th Annual Meeting and the Conference. House Speaker Greg Stumbo also announced his commitment to serving as co-chair of the Annual Meeting Planning Committee.

October 20, 2014

Complimentary Webinar on Waste Storage and Water Contamination
The Southern Legislative Conference will host a complimentary webinar addressing waste storage and water contamination at 1:00 - 2:00 p.m. EDT, Thursday, October 30, 2014. In SLC member states, the coal and chemical industries are essential to state economies. Given the importance of these industries to the region for both economic development and employment opportunities, legislators often are faced with balancing business interests with the need for environmental protection and conservation. Hazardous spills in two SLC states—West Virginia and North Carolina—have focused attention on this careful balance. This webinar will examine the spills in those three states and subsequent legislative action to offer lessons learned for other states.

October 22, 2014

SLC Issue Alert on Ebola Outbreak
The World Health Organization reports that the current outbreak of the Ebola virus disease (EVD), which is believed to have begun in March 2014 in West Africa, is the largest and most complex outbreak of the virus since its discovery in 1976. It was not until August 2014, when two American missionaries were flown to Emory University Hospital in Atlanta after contracting the disease in Africa, that most Americans became aware of the outbreak. Nearly two months later, the first diagnosis of Ebola was reported in the United States.

This SLC Issue Alert provides a brief account of some of the efforts SLC states have taken in reaction to the Ebola virus disease, as of October 20, 2014. As governors across the nation continue to meet with health officials in their states, the policies and efforts to combat this disease, for which there is no proven treatment, undoubtedly will continue to evolve.

November 19, 2014

SLC Delegation Joins SSEB Tour of Nuclear Plant
On November 14, 2014, a delegation of SLC members from Alabama and South Carolina joined the Southern States Energy Board on a tour of two nuclear energy facilities under construction at the Alvin W. Vogtle Electric Generating Plant near Waynesboro, Georgia. Vogtle units 3 and 4 are scheduled to begin commercial operation in 2017 and 2018, respectively. The construction of these units is the largest job-producing project in Georgia, employing approximately 5,000 people during peak construction and creating 800 permanent jobs when the facility begins operating. Once complete, they will produce enough energy to power 500,000 Georgia homes and businesses.

December 2, 2014

Complimentary Webinar on Public-Private Partnerships | December 16, 2014
The Southern Legislative Conference will host a complimentary webinar addressing recent developments in public-private partnerships (P3s) across SLC member states at 2:00 - 3:00 p.m. EST, Tuesday, December 16, 2014. In an effort to develop alternate funding sources to implement critical transportation and infrastructure projects, states across the country increasingly are looking to P3s as an important strategy.  P3s are contractual agreements between a public agency and a private entity facilitating a more robust private sector role, including in the design, construction, finance, long-term operation and traffic revenue of these transportation and infrastructure projects.  With encouragement from the federal government, three dozen states have enacted authorization frameworks for P3s. SLC states have been particularly active in pursuing the P3 format for a number of years. This webinar will provide the latest perspectives and approaches from three SLC states—Florida, Texas and Virginia.

December 12, 2014

SLC Legislative Delegation Travels to Florida for Multimodal Transportation Briefings
A delegation of state legislative leaders from five Southern states, including Senate President Robert Stivers, Kentucky (2014/2015 SLC Chair-Elect); Senator Bill Sample, Arkansas; Senator Ron Richard, Missouri; Representative Brent Yonts, Kentucky (2014/2015 SLC Economic Development, Transportation and Cultural Affairs Committee Vice Chair); and Representative Samuel Rivers, Jr., South Carolina, recently traveled to Miami and Fort Lauderdale, Florida, for high-level briefings on the state’s impressive multimodal transportation strategies. The agenda was designed to provide first-hand information to legislators from SLC member states about Florida’s efforts to enhance its multimodal capacities as a mechanism to promote international and domestic trade. Further details are available here.

December 17, 2014

SLC Releases Regional Resource on Southern State Net Metering Policies
Energy policies in Southern Legislative Conference (SLC) member states are undergoing substantial changes as installations of distributed generation systems, such as rooftop solar panels and other small-scale renewable energy technologies, continue to expand. This expansion has been encouraged by state and federal tax credits, which have made renewable energy technology, especially solar energy technology, increasingly affordable. Further encouraging the installation of distributed generation technologies is the availability of net metering programs.

Increases in the use of distributed generation systems by consumers have led to an increase in demand for utilities to offer net metering. Of the 15 states represented by the SLC, 11 have statewide net metering policies, while Texas has a voluntary policy. This SLC Regional Resource reviews the concept of net metering and analyzes the status and nature of net metering legislation and trends in SLC member states.