2015 SLC News and Updates

January 8, 2015

SLC Releases Regional Resource reviewing the Census of Agriculture
Although the country as a whole has shifted away from agricultural pursuits, the South remains a largely agrarian region. As the only source of uniform and comprehensive agriculture data for every state and county in the nation, the Census provides the most detailed picture of U.S. farms and the people who operate them. For this reason, the Census remains an important resource for SLC states, and is used by a wide range of stakeholders for various reasons. For example, agribusiness companies use the data to make decisions about where to market their products, while lenders and insurance companies use this information in risk management calculations.
This Regional Resource analyzes the economic contributions agriculture makes to our national and regional economies and highlights some of the commodities for which the 15 SLC member states make the largest contributions. Finally, the source of who is providing the labor that makes agriculture possible is examined.

January 20-22, 2016 | Little Rock, Arkansas

Legislative Staff Exchange
Louisiana to Arkansas: Bill Drafting Exchange

Members of the Louisiana House Legislative Services office and legislative library met with staff from the Arkansas Bureau of Legislative Research in Little Rock, Arkansas, to discuss bill drafting, appropriations and procedural processes. This staff training was under the purview of the Legislative Service Agency Director’s Group.

February 2, 2015

SLC Releases Regional Resource Reviewing Common Core Standards
In June 2009, the National Governors Association (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) announced an initiative led by 46 states, the District of Columbia, and two U.S. territories aimed at developing and adopting a Common Core set of learning standards for English Language Arts (ELA) and math for grades K-12. By March 2012, 45 states, the District of Columbia, and two U.S. territories had adopted both the Common Core State Standards for ELA and mathematics. Although the majority of states continue to stay their course with Common Core, Indiana, Oklahoma, and South Carolina have reversed their implementation of Common Core, and government officials in several others states have called for a reversal or delay in implementation. This SLC Regional Resource provides SLC member states information regarding the status and recent legislative developments related to the Common Core standards, as of December 26, 2014.

February 6, 2015

SLC Releases Regional Resource on Coastal Restoration
Hurricane Katrina made landfall on the Gulf Coast on August 29, 2005, damaging thousands of homes and businesses, decimating public infrastructure, and displacing hundreds of thousands of Gulf Coast residents. The coastal communities of SLC member states Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana were devastated. The resiliency of these coastal communities is of critical economic importance to the nation, as they provide a large portion of the nation's oil and gas supply, host key port complexes and provide vital habitats for economically important fisheries.
In the nearly 10 years that have elapsed since this disaster, much attention has focused on the rehabilitation of the area's homes, businesses and infrastructure. However, less attention has been targeted to the reconstruction of the coastlines of Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana. In order to maintain a sustainable Gulf Coast, investments in sound redevelopment and restoration practices, balancing the critical natural resources of the Gulf Coast with the equally vital economic drivers in the region, are critical to full recovery and necessary to weakening future natural disasters. This SLC Regional Resource highlights projects undertaken by these states to rebuild their coastlines, focusing on the communities of Dauphin Island, Alabama; Pascagoula, Mississippi; and the metropolitan area of New Orleans, Louisiana.

February 27, 2015

SLC Releases Regional Resource on Associate's Degree Scholarship Programs
Since the turn of the 21st century, the United States has maintained a cultural creed that the only path to a middle-class lifestyle is through a four-year bachelor's degree or higher. However, increasing analyses are demonstrating that industries with the highest growth in the next decade will demand skills readily obtainable through a two-year technical education. Moreover, several policy and industry experts have begun raising concerns about the ever-increasing gap between middle-skill jobs (those requiring more than a high school education but less than a four-year degree) and the number of middle-skilled workers available to fill those jobs. These findings, along with evidence indicating that middle-class household incomes are more attainable by those with a member holding at least an associate's degree, are steering SLC policymakers toward creating and expanding programs that increase their technical and community college graduation rates. In that vein, this SLC Regional Resource examines efforts by policymakers in selected SLC member states to implement postsecondary scholarships programs specifically targeted at increasing their number of two-year degree graduates.

March 10, 2015

SLC Releases Regional Resource on the Economic Impact of Falling Oil Prices
As the effects of dipping oil prices ricochet through the United States and the world, it is increasingly becoming clear that there are winners and losers. Triggered by an explosion in American oil and gas production levels; sputtering economic trends in Europe, China, Japan, Russia and emerging markets leading to declining demand; increasing production from producers like Iraq and Libya; countries like Saudi Arabia, a producer with an oversized impact on global oil supplies, maintaining supplies at current output levels and resisting production cuts; and the strengthening of the U.S. dollar have acted in concert to substantially push oil prices downward: from $115 a barrel in June 2014 to less than $50 a barrel in January 2015.

The latest plunge in oil prices has sent seismic waves throughout the globe, prompting disparate consequences in different sectors of the United States and world economies; while some sectors are net beneficiaries of the decline, other sectors are on the losing end of the falling price of oil. High energy prices pose huge burdens for most Americans, particularly those who drive great distances each day and those who only can turn the thermostats down so low when the weather turns cold. Hence, increasing energy prices result in consumers cutting back on their discretionary spending, a trend that causes negative consequences on state, regional and national economies. However, when energy prices fall, consumers have considerable leeway in devoting these savings toward other expenditures. Meanwhile, tumbling oil prices lead to adverse consequences at several points in the economy with repercussions at both the state and national levels. In that vein, SLC Regional Resource examines the effects of low oil prices on both state economies and the greater nation.

April 24, 2015

SLC Releases Regional Resource on E-Cigarettes in the SLC States
In recent years, the United States has seen a growing popularity with the use of electronic cigarettes and similar electronic nicotine delivery devices. Electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes, are battery-operated single-use or reusable devices with interchangeable cartridges that use a type of heating element to turn nicotine and other chemicals into a vapor inhaled by its user. The cartridges come in a variety of colors and flavors, like apple pie, cotton candy, mint chocolate, and tutti frutti, just to name a few. It is suggested that the array of flavors, combined with the relative ease of purchasing e-cigarettes and its components at mall kiosks and online, has made e-cigarettes particularly popular among youth.
This Regional Resource from The Council of State Governments' Southern Office, the Southern Legislative Conference (SLC), examines the regulations proposed by the FDA and the actions taken by 14 of the 15 SLC member states with regard to e-cigarettes through the 2014 legislative session.

April 27, 2015

SLC Releases Issue Alert on SLC State Responses to the Clean Power Plan Proposed Rule
On June 2, 2014, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released the Clean Power Plan Proposed Rule under the authority of Section 111(d) of the federal Clean Air Act. This Proposed Rule would establish state-specific goals to limit greenhouse gas emissions by setting firm carbon reduction standards that each state would have to meet beginning in 2020 and accelerating through 2030. While it is unclear whether the EPA will revise its Final Rule, which is expected by July 2015, many states in the Southern Legislative Conference (SLC) of The Council of State Governments already have enacted legislation addressing the Clean Power Plan Proposed Rule and its regulations.
This SLC Issue Alert provides an overview of some measures taken by state legislatures in the SLC region to address the Clean Power Plan Proposed Rule through the 2014 legislative session. This Issue Alert is not a legal analysis of Section 111(d), nor does it take a position on compliance pathways or the EPA's proposed state-specific carbon dioxide (CO2) goals.

CSG 2015 Transportation Policy Academy

May 11-13, 2015 | Washington, D.C.

Economic Development, Transportation & Cultural Affairs Committee Delegation
CSG Transportation Policy Academy

Senator Willie Simmons (Chair, Mississippi Senate Highways and Transportation Committee), Delegate Danny Hamrick (Vice Chair, West Virginia House Roads and Transportation Committee) and Representative Mathew Pitsch (Member, Arkansas House Public Transportation Committee) attended The Council of State Governments’ (CSG) 2015 Transportation Policy Academy in Washington, D.C., May 11-13, 2015. This was CSG’s fifth Transportation Policy Academy that brought together transportation legislative leaders from all four CSG regions to the nation’s Capital for a series of high-level policy discussions and briefings, meetings with members of Congress and U.S. Department of Transportation officials, and a tour of one of the busiest metropolitan areas in the country (Northern Virginia) for innovative infrastructure projects.

Agenda | Speaker Bios | Attendee Bios

June 1, 2015

Three Complimentary Webinars Scheduled for June
The Southern Legislative Conference will host a series of three complimentary webinars in June 2015, addressing state energy, education, rural development, and budgeting policies. Specifically, spent fuel storage, education as a rural development mechanism, and performance-based budgeting will be examined, on June 16, 18, and 25, respectively. SLC members and all other interested government officials are welcome and encouraged to join. Further details and registrations also are available through the CSG Ecademies website.

June 30, 2015

Online Pre-Registration for the 69th SLC Annual Meeting now closed
Online, fax, and mail pre-registration for the 69th SLC Annual Meeting is closed as of 6:00 p.m. EDT, June 30. All further registrations must be done on-site, opening at 7:30 a.m., Saturday, July 18, in the Lobby of the Hyatt Regency Savannah. For those already registered, please note that SLC Annual Meeting registration does not automatically register your spouse/guest or youth for the host state programs, or for host state transportation. Registration for these programs and services must be completed on the host state website, at www.slc2015.org.

July 1, 2015

SLC Releases Regional Resource on Automotive Industry
In 2008 and 2009, the American auto industry was in dire shape and the Big Three U.S. automakers—General Motors, Chrysler and Ford—were forced to make wrenching cuts in terms of employees and production. General Motors and Chrysler had no recourse but to secure emergency bailout assistance from the federal government, and consumers and companies faced serious difficulties in securing loans as a result of a credit freeze that was sweeping across the U.S. economy, along with a multiplicity of other challenges. The negative consequences of the Great Recession caused havoc on myriad sectors, and the fabled American auto industry, along with many other components of the U.S. economy, faced a series of grim choices. While there has been a radical but positive transformation in the nation's economic fortunes in the more than six years since the onset of the Great Recession, there still are significant sectors within the U.S. economy that remain weak.
In this context, the fact that the industry has made significant progress since those glum days speaks volumes about the resiliency of the industry and its willingness to make radical changes on a range of issues. Not only are the three U.S. automakers thriving compared to their doleful position in 2008 and 2009, the dozen or so foreign automakers with manufacturing facilities in a number of mostly Southern states continue to perform admirably. Notably, even during the darkest days of the Great Recession, not one of these foreign automakers, operating largely in the South, was forced to dismiss a single employee; even more impressively, a number of these foreign automakers actually expanded their operations during the Great Recession, a development that has indisputably assisted in the nascent resurgence of the American manufacturing sector in recent years.
This SLC Regional Resource is divided into three sections. Section I provides details on broad, national trends on the influence wielded by the nation's automotive sector on gross domestic product, specifically the breakdown of gross output by industry; the contribution of new and used motor vehicles and auto parts to the U.S. economy; and the auto industry's contributions to the nation's employment rolls. Section II provides an array of details on how the industry continues to advance in the SLC states, including details on the many foreign automakers' impressive performance in recent years, even during the most desolate days of the Great Recession. Section III demonstrates the auto sector's sphere of influence around the SLC region reinforcing the mounting importance of the automobile sector and related manufacturing operations.

July 1, 2015

Post-Webinar Materials for SLC June Webinars Now Available
Throughout June 2015, the Southern Legislative Conference hosted three webinars addressing state energy, education, rural development, and budgeting policies. Specifically, spent fuel storage, education as a rural development mechanism, and performance-based budgeting were examined, on June 16, 18, and 25, respectively. Presentations materials and video recordings of the online programs are now available on the SLC website.

July 27, 2015

SLC Concludes 69th Annual Meeting
The 69th Annual Meeting of the Southern Legislative Conference, held July 18-22, 2015, in Savannah, Georgia, has concluded. The SLC is sincerely grateful for all the legislators, legislative staff, governmental officials, presenters, coordinators, and the many invaluable volunteers that made the meeting such a success. Post-meeting materials, including speaker presentations, photos, attendance lists, and more, will be available soon. Thank you all for your continued support and participation.

Shale Oil Development in North Dakota

August 11-13, 2015

Energy & Environment Committee Technical Tour
Shale Oil Development in North Dakota

A delegation of SLC Energy and Environment Committee members participated in a study tour of the Bakken Shale Formation, August 11-13, 2015, for the purpose of learning more about issues relating to infrastructure development, preparation of a skilled workforce; long-term environmental concerns, the economic cycle of boom industries, and the challenges facing state legislatures in finding a balance in this arena. North Dakota has been an oil and gas producing state since 1951, but recent technologies, such as horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, have unlocked the potential of the Bakken formation, making North Dakota a top oil producer for the nation. Of the 15 states represented by the SLC, 14 have known shale reserves.

The visit included tours of the Bakken Oil Express Rail Terminal, Dakota Prairie Refinery; a reclaimed well site; the ONEOK Garden Creek Plant gas processing facility; and QEP resources drilling rig, well site, and hydraulic fracturing site. The program also included briefings from the North Dakota Petroleum Council, North Dakota Department of Mineral Resources and a community impacts tour of Watford City, North Dakota. The delegation also met with members of the North Dakota General Assembly to participate in high-level policy discussions concerning the Bakken Shale Formation and related issues.

Participants in the delegation included SLC Energy and Environment Committee Chair Representative William “Bill” Sandifer III, South Carolina; SLC Energy and Environment Committee Vice Chair Representative Lynn Smith, Georgia; Representative Jeff Collins, North Carolina; Senator Ed Emery, Missouri; and Representative Dustin Burrows, Texas.

August 28, 2015

North Carolina Legislature Welcomes New Legislative Services Officer
Legislative leadership in North Carolina recently announced their replacement for Mr. George Hall, who retired from the post of legislative services officer in November of last year. Former Raleigh mayor and Wake County Commissioner Paul Coble will take over the post. In a joint statement, Speaker Tim Moore and Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger said, "Mr. Coble is a proven leader and will bring a high level of professionalism to the General Assembly."
Mr. George Hall worked in the legislative services office in the North Carolina General Assembly for more than 50 years. In his time as legislative services officer, Mr. Hall was an active participant in many major activities of the Southern Legislative Conference. Given his expertise in legislative procedure and law, the Southern Office frequently sought his guidance on activities of the Conference and the Legislative Service Agency Directors Group.

Panama Canal Expansion Project
More Photos

September 23-25, 2015

Economic Development, Transportation & Cultural Affairs Committee Technical Tour
Panama Canal Expansion Project

A delegation of state legislative leaders from five states, including Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger (North Carolina); Speaker Tim Moore (North Carolina); Senator Frank Ginn (Georgia); Representative Neal Collins (South Carolina); Senate President Pro Tempore Pam Roach (Washington); and Senator Nancy Todd (Colorado), 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. The 2015 delegation to Panama, organized by the SLC, was the fourth consecutive visit to that country for briefings on the Panama Canal expansion, and included legislators from The Council of State Governments’ (CSG) Western region, CSG-WEST.

For more than a decade, the SLC has focused on the critical role played by Southern ports in the economic calculations of the Southern region and the nation as a whole. Upon completion in 2016, the Panama Canal will facilitate an even greater flow of trade between Asia and the Americas and substantially impact the volume of trade reaching Gulf and Atlantic Coast ports in the United States. Nearly all the states will be impacted directly by the increase in cargo and vessel traffic in the aftermath of the Panama Canal expansion. In 2014, total U.S. exports to Panama amounted to $10.5 billion.

The delegation’s scheduled meetings began with a series of briefings by the Panama Canal Authority and a tour of the Canal and expansion project. At the Miraflores Center, the delegation received a detailed briefing from Mr. Luis Ferreira, Chief Engineer of the Panama Canal Authority, on the expansion effort and its critical importance in the effective and efficient transfer of cargo between Asia and the Americas. Also included on the technical tour was a visit to and further briefings on the operation of the control tower of the current locks. The legislators also traveled to the site of the new Pacific locks for additional briefings on security procedures and equipment.

The delegation then visited the U.S. Embassy in Panama for a briefing on U.S. – Panama political, economic and social linkages, which included reference to the impact of the expansion of the Panama Canal and the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between the United States and Panama that was signed into law in October 2011. The briefing included an extended discussion with officials including Ms. Leslie O’Connor, Deputy Assistant United States Trade Representative for Central America and the Dominican Republic; Mr. John Coronado, Senior Commercial Officer; Ms. Mimi Lu, Economics Officer; and Mr. Chris Andino, Head of the Political Section. The delegation also received briefings from the American Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Panama (AmCham Panama) on the potential for expanding the economic and financial relationships between Panama and corporate and business interests in all states. Providing details on these topics were Mr. C.E. Maurice Belanger, Executive Director, AmCham Panama and Dr. Max Jimenez, Director of the Georgia Tech Panama Logistics Innovation & Research Center in Panama.

October 5, 2015

Upcoming Webinar Providing Supreme Court Preview | October 14
The State Local Legal Center, in collaboration with the National Association of Counties, will host a webinar from 1:00 p.m. to 2:15 p.m. EDT, Wednesday, October 14, providing a preview of upcoming U.S. Supreme Court cases. Redistricting, affirmative action, and preemption are just a few of the topics on the Supreme Court’s 2015-2016 docket. Preview the most significant cases of interest to state and local government with John Elwood, Vinson & Elkins, Kelsi Brown Corkran, Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe, and Kimberly Atkins, Boston Herald. Click here to register.

October 21, 2015

Kentucky Legislature Welcomes New Legislative Research Commission Director
Legislative leadership in Kentucky recently announced the selection of Mr. David Byerman as director of the Kentucky Legislative Research Commission, effective October 1. As one of the largest centralized service agencies in the South, Mr. Byerman supervises around 400 legislative employees.1 Kentucky Senate President Robert Stivers, who chairs the Southern Legislative Conference, said of the thirty applicants, Mr. Byerman was the best fit for the position. 2
Mr. Byerman previously served as the secretary of the Senate of the Nevada Legislature, and received several awards for his outstanding work. In a recent op-ed3 on his approach to the directorship, Mr. Byerman writes, "Everything we do will be filtered through the prism of communication: We will strive to make the legislative process more accessible, more understandable and more relevant for the residents of Kentucky."
1. Panel recommends secretary of Nevada Senate to head Kentucky's legislative bureaucracy 2. Lawmakers Vote to Name David A. Byerman as Legislative Research Commission Director 3. David Byerman: New director of Legislative Research Commission ready to write new chapter

October 23, 2015

SLC Webinar on State Strategies for Shaping Effective Teacher Preparation Programs | November 19
The Southern Legislative Conference will host a webinar on State Strategies for Shaping Effective Teacher Preparation Programs from 2:00 p.m. - 3:00 p.m. EST, Thursday, November 19, 2015. The importance of ensuring effective teacher preparation programs (TPPs) continues to be an issue of significant interest to state policymakers. As the focus of teacher education shifts more and more from training to preparing, several states are undertaking new approaches to identifying and promoting successful TPPs. Strategies to encourage properly prepared new teachers include: raising program admission standards; requiring shadowing of mentor teachers that have demonstrated their high effectiveness; performance-based funding; and monitoring program outcomes. For example, Louisiana and Tennessee have developed statewide systems that track the academic growth of a teacher’s P-12 students back to the preparation program from which that teacher graduated. This webinar will focus on these and additional tactics of Southern states to ensure well-prepared teachers. Further details are available here.

Port of New York and New Jersey

October 28-29, 2015

Economic Development, Transportation & Cultural Affairs Committee Technical Tour
Port of New York and New Jersey

A delegation of state legislative leaders from Georgia recently traveled to the Port of New York and New Jersey for high level briefings on the operations of the largest port on the East Coast and the third-largest in the nation. In terms of total TEUs (or Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units), in 2014, the Port of New York and New Jersey handled over 5.7 million, a 5.6 percent increase from the prior year. In 2015, the Port is on track to exceed the levels reached in 2014. The record volumes allowed the Port to maintain its position as the busiest on the East Coast, with nearly 30 percent of the total market share. The dollar value of all cargo that moved through the port exceeded $207 billion.

The visit, organized by the Southern Office of The Council of State Governments (CSG), the Southern Legislative Conference (SLC), was designed to reinforce the need for Southern ports, including ports in Georgia, to continue essential infrastructure enhancements to accommodate the significantly larger vessels and expanded cargo volumes expected in coming years. The delegation included Senator Jeff Mullis, chair of the SLC’s Economic Development, Transportation and Cultural Affairs Committee; Senator Steve Gooch; Senator Lester G. Jackson; Representative Ron Stephens; and Representative Mickey Stephens. Delegation leader, Senator Mullis confirmed that this visit reinforced the “need for continued investments in Georgia’s ports so that the state remains competitive in attracting traffic, including after the expected 2016 completion of the Panama Canal expansion project. From the KIA automobile factory in West Point to the poultry industry in Gainesville to the carpet industry in Dalton, the economic impact of Georgia’s ports extends far beyond Savannah and Brunswick to every corner of the state and even the region,” Senator Mullis added.

For more than a decade and a half, the SLC has focused on the critical role played by Southern ports in the economic calculations of the Southern region and the nation as a whole. Given the critical role played by Georgia’s ports, the visit focused on briefing the legislative delegation of critical policy measures necessary to advance Georgia ports. The briefings included an overview of the Port’s operations by Molly Campbell, Director, Port Commerce Department, which included details on raising the roadway of the Bayonne Bridge, building a replacement for the Goethals Bridge, initiating harbor deepening efforts, continuing work to lengthen existing berths and acquiring Super Post Panamax cranes. This was followed by details on the Port Performance Task Force by Beth Rooney, Assistant Director, Port Performance Initiatives. The Task Force includes industry executives and port officials and seeks to identify challenges to port efficiency and service reliability and devise solutions to overcome these challenges. Finally, the delegation was provided a facilities overview by Aaron Sherburne, General Manager, Port Commerce Department. After the briefings, the SLC delegation drove to several of the Port’s terminals for a first-hand look at the infrastructure upgrades in progress along with insights into operations of this major East Coast port.

November 4-5, 2015 | Washington, D.C.

Education Committee Delegation
Federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act Reauthorization

With the potential reauthorization of the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) nearing a critical junction, a delegation of Southern states’ legislative education committee chairs traveled to Washington, D.C. between November 4-5, 2015, for meetings with influential members of Congress involved with the reauthorization process, as well as a policy session with key staff from the legislative and executive branches and a Washington, D.C-based nonprofit educational research organization.

The delegation, organized by the Southern Office of The Council of State Governments (CSG), the Southern Legislative Conference (SLC), in collaboration with CSG’s Washington, D.C. Office, focused on securing a more detailed timeline for the passage of ESEA, determining the potential outcomes of the compromise that will be reached by the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives for the versions passed by each chamber, voicing a need for states to gain greater flexibility from federal educational oversight, examining how the groundbreaking legislation will affect state educational systems and governments, and preparing for the potentially significant changes to federal educational policy.

Led by the state Senator Dolores Gresham of Tennessee, chair of the SLC Education Committee and chair of the Tennessee Senate Education Committee, the delegation comprised state Representative Tom Dickson of Georgia, vice chair of SLC Education Committee and chair of the Georgia House Appropriations Subcommittee on Education; Representative Rita Allison, chair of the South Carolina House Education and Public Works Committee; Senator Dave Sypolt, chair of the West Virginia Senate Education Committee; and Representative Kathryn Swan, chair of the Missouri House Elementary and Secondary Education Committee.

During their Washington, D.C. visit, delegation members met and discussed the ESEA reauthorization and related matters with U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, chair of the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pension (HELP); U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson of Georgia, majority member on the Senate HELP Committee; Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina, majority member on the Senate HELP Committee; Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri; Congressman Bobby Scott of Virginia, ranking member of the U.S. House Committee on Education and the Workforce; Congressman Alex Mooney of West Virginia; and Congressman Trey Gowdy of South Carolina.

During an afternoon policy session, several policy experts and key government officials provided further insights into the current status of ESEA reauthorization and the positions of the executive and legislatives branches that ultimately must approve any compromise. From the U.S. Department of Education, Emma Vadehra, chief of staff to U.S Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, and Simone Hardeman-Jones, special assistant in the Office of Legislation and Congressional Affairs, provided the view of the administration; David Cleary, chief of staff to U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander and the majority staff director for the Senate HELP Committee, provided the majority view of the U.S. Senate; and Chad Aldeman, associate partner at Bellwether Education Partners, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank, provided a view from the nonprofit educational research sector.

November 11, 2015

SLC Releases Regional Resource on Student Assessments
Just three years ago, almost every state in the nation belonged to a national testing consortium, such as the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) and Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (Smarter Balanced) whereas, today, barely half continue to participate in these multi-state comparative student assessments. The Southern region, in particular, has seen a shift away from the national testing consortia to state-specified student testing. As state education systems adapt to their new educational standards of college- and career-readiness, state governments continue to modify their approach to assessing student learning toward these standards.

After dismissing PARCC and Smarter Balanced, several states’ education systems began, and currently continue, a transition to various alternatives. This SLC Regional Resource provides an overview of the strategies that SLC member states have undertaken for student testing, as of October 1, 2015. Specifically, the analysis examines the current status of K-12 testing requirements implemented by the 15 SLC member states for their general public school populations and the experiences of these states as they seek to improve their student performance measurement systems. Further, the report focuses on the many adjustments and changes to K-12 English language arts and mathematics student assessment systems implemented by Southern states in the post-Common Core educational era, geared toward preparing college- and career-ready students.

Click here to view the full report.

The Center for Health Care Services

November 17-18, 2015 | San Antonio, Texas

Human Services & Public Safety Committee Technical Tour
The Center for Health Care Services

A delegation of legislators, whose interests lie in criminal justice and mental health policy, from four Southern Legislative Conference (SLC) member states, travelled to San Antonio, Texas, November 17-18, 2015, for briefings on The Center for Health Care Services' (CHCS) Restoration Center pre-trial diversion and treatment programs and Haven for Hope homeless center.  Delegates met with facility officials and representatives to learn about the innovative approach San Antonio's Bexar County has employed to address the persistent problems of prison overcrowding and mental illness in prisoners. Since its inception in 2003, the CHCS jail diversion program has become a national model in crisis intervention and mental health treatment. In addition to screening and diverting 2,500 people monthly from jail or hospital emergency rooms, the streamlined programs have helped eliminate prison overcrowding and reduce recidivism rates in Bexar County.

To learn more about the collaboration's history, services provided, measurable successes, and future growth opportunities, delegates received high-level briefings from Mr. Leon Evans, CEO, The Center for Health Care Services; Bexar County Sheriff Susan Pamerleau; Judge Ernie Glenn, Bexar County Felony Drug Court; Gilbert Gonzalez, Bexar County Mental Health Officer; and Briseida Courtois, Director of Addiction Treatment Services, The Center for Health Care Services.

Officer Ernie Stevens with the Mental Health Unit of the San Antonio Police Department spoke to delegates about the 40-hour Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) training required for all Bexar County law enforcement officers. To date 96 percent of officers have received the training, which includes instruction on how to identify individuals suffering mental health crises and de-escalate potentially dangerous situations without the use of force. At a time when many states are facing an opioid drug crisis, delegates also learned about The Center's Mommies Program, which provides specialized substance abuse services for new and expectant mothers.

Delegates were given a tour of The Restoration Center's crisis intervention, substance abuse, and residential detoxification facilities by Mr. David Pan, Director of Acute Services at The Center for Healthcare Services. Mr. Scott Ackerson, Vice President for Strategic Relationships at Haven for Hope and Community Transformation Services at The Center for Health Care Services, provided delegates a tour of the Haven for Hope campus. During the tour, delegates visited The Courtyard, a joint venture between The Center for Health Care Services and Haven for Hope, which provides food, shelter, and psychiatric and medical services to the community's homeless population 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Participants in the delegation included Representative Fredrick Love, Arkansas; Representative John Tilley, Kentucky; Representative Helena Moreno, Louisiana; and Representative Bob Ramsey, Tennessee.

December 18, 2015

SLC Releases Issue Alert on the Tri-State Water Wars
Throughout the history of the United States, water has been the key to determining settlement patterns and development opportunities. It is migratory in nature and often crosses many boundaries, a characteristic that has generated ownership disputes and countless conflicts. Every state in the contiguous United States shares ground or surface water resources with another state, and almost every major city is located near a river or body of water.
Water resource scarcity can affect many sectors of a state's economy as well as the region's natural ecosystems. The Southern United States, characterized by a network of major rivers and tributaries, and generally abundant precipitation, has enjoyed a generous water supply. Consequently, the region has not experienced the water disputes that have plagued the Western United States. However, development pressure, changes in precipitation patterns, and transitioning priorities and consumption levels have caused a shift in these circumstances. When water shortages do arise, they often can cause interstate conflicts. Perhaps one of the most widely reported and longest running of these interstate disputes in the Southern region involves Alabama, Florida, and Georgia, known as the "tri-state water wars." The tri-state water wars have spanned 25 years and center on water resource allocation in the Alabama-Coosa-Tallapoosa (ACT) and the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint (ACF) River Basins. Recognizing the importance of this dispute and the impact the resolution will have on the states involved, the issue has remained relevant to the ongoing policy work of the Southern Office of The Council of State Governments, the Southern Legislative Conference (SLC). This third review of the issue advances the developments and actions that have occurred since SLC last reported on the conflict in 2010. Additionally, it should be noted that The Council of State Government's Center for Interstate Compacts has more than 75 years of experience in promoting multi-state problem solving and advocating for the role of states in determining their respective futures.
This SLC Issue Alert serves as an update to the 2010 SLC Regional Resource, Water Allocation and Management: Southern States Outlook and the earlier, 2000 SLC Regional Resource, The War Over Water and examines developments up to December 14, 2015.
Click here to read the full report.