2016 SLC News and Updates

January 5-6, 2016

Legislative Staff Exchange
Arkansas to West Virginia: Code Conflict Exchange

The SLC arranged for legislative staff from Arkansas’s Bureau of Legislative Research to travel to Charleston, West Virginia, to learn about West Virginia’s nationally recognized model of identifying code conflicts during the legislative session. Participants in this Legislative Staff Exchange Program received briefings on identifying bills with conflicting code sections, what to do when conflicts occur, and observed a demonstration of West Virginia’s bill status system.

January 12, 2016

SLC Releases Regional Resource on Inland Ports and Waterways
According to June 2015 statistics released by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 40 of the top 100 U.S. ports (coastal, Great Lakes and inland) in terms of tonnage were located in states belonging to the Southern Office of The Council of State Governments (CSG), the Southern Legislative Conference (SLC). Impressively, seven of the top 10 ports were SLC state ports. The Port of South Louisiana and the Port of Houston rose to the top, ranking first and second, respectively. While the SLC has focused on ports, the economic influence of ports and the potential impact of the expansion of the Panama Canal on ports in the South for more than 15 years, this Regional Resource reviews an important allied field: emerging trends linked to the nation's, and specifically the region's, inland ports, waterways and related infrastructure.

February 3, 2016

SLC Releases Regional Resource on Special Education School Vouchers
School choice continues to generate debate in state legislatures, even as several states move toward offering their students options beyond the K-12 public school setting. However, given the particular circumstances of children with special needs, less debate and controversy has surrounded the implementation of school choice programs for students in special education classrooms. Since state governments have a constitutional obligation to provide an education to all children, creating more educational options for children with special needs has the most potential for providing them the best education possible. Meanwhile, considering that the average annual cost of a special education student is $9,369 above the norm, the provision of legally required additional services for special needs students can prove costly for public schools with a small student population, where economies of scale are not feasible. Allowing and supplying additional school options for special education students, in these cases, may provide savings for schools unable to provide cost-effective specialized services for the limited number of students requiring them.
This SLC Regional Resource examines the strategies taken by Southern states to increase school options for special education students through the implementation of state-funded school voucher programs, focusing on their many forms and variations, and addresses school voucher programs that provide direct payments or reimbursements to private alternative schools or parents and legal guardians, respectively. While several strategies beyond school voucher programs, such as tax credits and educational savings accounts, have been implemented as additional strategies to increase school choice, these programs are not included within this Regional Resource.

March 21, 2016

SLC Releases Regional Resource on Southern Heroin Epidemic
While the heroin epidemic largely has been concentrated in the Northeast, Appalachian, and Midwest regions of the country, substance abuse is an issue that crosses multiple areas of public policy, including behavioral and public health, criminal justice, and social services. As the South continues to lead the way in criminal justice reform, lessons from the plight of other regions allow SLC lawmakers to build on their efforts to combat prescription drug abuse and take a proactive stance in the heroin epidemic. In recent years, this awareness has led many SLC states to pass laws which expand availability and access to drugs that can help treat an opioid overdose and provide limited immunity from prosecution for individuals who seek medical assistance for themselves or another person experiencing an opioid overdose. This SLC Regional Resource examines what the SLC member states are doing to combat the heroin epidemic and what policies and/or practices can be implemented to mitigate its side effects and ensure a long-term solution.

April 1, 2016

SLC Releases Regional Resource on Broadband Deployment
On January 29, 2015, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) redefined "broadband internet." Under the new definition, broadband internet connection must meet benchmark speeds of 25 megabits per second (Mbps) for downloads and 3 Mbps for uploads. Such speeds allow multiple users (or devices) within a household to browse the web and stream video simultaneously, or allow a single user to stream high definition video. The Commission’s redefinition of broadband—more than six times its previous download speed benchmark of 4 Mbps—reflects the growing ubiquity of the Internet and aims to ensure the infrastructure has the capacity to meet new, data-intensive usage and its derived benefits.

This SLC Regional Resource examines the role of states in broadband deployment and its relationship to municipal and federal initiatives, with particular attention to the needs of rural areas, and the successes of Southern cities and towns. Notably, this SLC Regional Resource focuses on government-owned broadband infrastructure and direct service provision, though other policies and incentives are discussed broadly. It does not address private alternative internet service providers.

April 1, 2016

SLC Annual Meeting Guest Program, Youth Program, and Transportation Sign-Up Now Available
Sign-Up Is Open For SLC 2016 Activities!Please visit the Kentucky Host State website for the latest updates on social events, guest and youth activities, airport transportation, and much more. Click here to access sign-ups for the Guest Program, Youth Program, and Transportation from Blue Grass Airport to Conference hotels. Please note, sign-ups for the Guest and Youth Programs, and Airport Transportation are separate from SLC Annual Meeting registration.

May 5, 2016

SLC Hosting Two Webinars in June
The Southern Legislative Conference of The Council of State Governments will be hosting two webinars focusing on current state issues in June 2016. The first, examining SLC States and REAL ID Requirements, will provide an overview of the latest trends associated with the REAL ID requirements from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and a status report from two SLC states. A second webinar, The Zika Epidemic: Implications for SLC States, will look at the elevated risks of outbreaks in impoverished areas and feature a presentation from the CDC.

May 9, 2016

SLC Releases Regional Resource on the Impact of the Zika Virus on Southern States
The Zika epidemic has garnered extensive international attention since the current outbreak was first confirmed in Brazil in May 2015. Since then, active Zika transmissions have been documented in more than 30 countries across the Americas region — including South, Central and North America and the Caribbean — with more cases in new areas expected to follow in the coming weeks and months. In response to the sudden outbreak of the Zika virus and the health complications associated with it, the World Health Organization declared, on February 1, 2016, that the virus constitutes a Public Health Emergency of International Concern. By some estimates, up to 4 million people in the Americas may contract the virus by the end of 2016.

In the United States, the only reported cases of the Zika virus have been associated with those who recently traveled to countries with known outbreaks. However, health experts have warned that localized transmissions in the United States are probable in the coming months as temperatures rise and mosquitoes carrying the virus expand into new territories. As a result of relatively favorable climate conditions for the disease-carrying Aedes mosquitoes, many SLC member states are particularly vulnerable to limited outbreaks over the next several months.

CSG 2016 Transportation Policy Academy

May 18-20, 2016 | Washington, D.C.

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

Representative Armando "Mando" Martinez, vice chair of the Texas House of Representatives' Transportation Committee and Representative Mac McCutcheon, chair of the Alabama House of Representatives' Rules Committee and chair of the Alabama Legislature's Permanent Joint Transportation Committee attended The Council of State Governments’ (CSG) 2016 Transportation Policy Academy in Washington, D.C., May 18-20, 2016. This was CSG’s sixth 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 by transportation experts, meetings with members of Congress and U.S. Department of Transportation officials, and a tour of the Capital Riverfront Business Improvement District, one of Washington, D.C.'s fastest growing areas. This year's CSG Transportation Policy Academy coincided with Infrastructure Week, an event that brought infrastructure experts and advocates to our nation's capital from around the country.

July 13, 2016

70th Annual Meeting of the Southern Legislative Conference Concludes
The 70th Annual Meeting of the Southern Legislative Conference, convening on July 9, 2016, in the "Horse Capital of the World," Lexington, Kentucky, concluded on July 13. Nearly 1,500 state legislators, legislative staff, governmental officials, and related others attended the four days of informative policy sessions, community involvement, and Southern hospitality. In the coming weeks, look on our site for presentations made by national and regional policy experts, Annual Meeting photo gallery, Annual Meeting Summary Report, and more.

July 20, 2016

SLC Webinar - Nuclear Waste Policy: Searching for Solutions
In collaboration with CSG Midwest, the Southern Legislative Conference (SLC) will host the second of two webinars examining nuclear waste policies in the United States. Register now to tune in at 2:00-3:00 p.m. EDT, Tuesday, July 26.

August 5, 2016

70th SLC Annual Meeting Report, Presentations and Photos Now Available
The 70th SLC Annual Meeting Summary Report, photos, policy session presentations, and more are now available on the SLC website. The SLC is sincerely grateful for all the legislators, legislative staff, governmental officials, presenters, coordinators, and the many invaluable volunteers who made the 70th Annual Meeting of the Southern Legislative Conference such a success. We greatly appreciate your continued support and participation.The 70th SLC Annual Meeting Summary Report, Photos,

September 8, 2016

Upcoming Webinar on Signage Code | September 14
The State & Local Legal Center, in collaboration with the National League of Cities, will host a webinar from 1:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m. EDT, Wednesday, September 14, regarding the Supreme Court’s ruling in Reed v. Town of Gilbert, Arizona, which declared part of the Town of Gilbert’s signage code unconstitutional.  John M. Baker and Greene Espel will discuss how local governments have been modifying their signage codes to comply with the ruling and how courts have interpreted the Reed decision.  Click here to register.

September 8, 2016

Upcoming Webinar Providing Supreme Court Preview | October 13
The State & Local Legal Center will host a webinar from 12:00 p.m. to 1:00 p.m. EDT, Thursday, October 13, providing a preview of upcoming U.S. Supreme Court cases. Redistricting, compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, and challenges to the death penalty are just a few of the topics on the Supreme Court’s 2016-2017 docket. Misha Tseytlin, Wisconsin solicitor general, Deepak Gupta, attorney at Gupta Wessler, and Amy Howe, reporter for SCOTUSblog will preview the cases most relevant to state and local governments. Click here to register.

2016 North Carolina and Virginia Legislative Fiscal Staff Exchange Program

September 9, 2016 | Raleigh, North Carolina

Legislative Staff Exchange
Virginia to North Carolina: Fiscal Staff Exchange

On September 9, 2016, the SLC Legislative Staff Exchange Program arranged for fiscal staff from the Virginia Senate and House of Delegates to meet with their counterparts in the North Carolina General Assembly’s Fiscal Research Division (FRD). Four fiscal staff from the Virginia Senate Finance Committee and two staff from the Virginia House Appropriations Committee traveled to Raleigh to discuss processes and procedures related to formulating the state budget. Among the topics featured were an overview of the North Carolina budget process; issues related to tax policy, finance and economic development; Medicaid; salaries and benefits; local government issues; and a discussion of the FRD’s role during the legislative session interim. Hosting the staff from Virginia and coordinating details of the briefings were North Carolina General Assembly's Legislative Services Officer Paul Coble, Fiscal Research Division Director Mark Trogdon and Fiscal Research Division Policy Analyst Kristin Walker.

October 14, 2016

Center for the Advancement of Leadership Skills Class of 2016
The Southern Legislative Conference (SLC) of The Council of State Governments (CSG) recently held the 10th annual Center for the Advancement of Leadership Skills (CALS) on September 24-28, 2016, in Little Rock, Arkansas. The program was hosted by our esteemed partners, the University of Arkansas System and the Winthrop Rockefeller Institute.

The 2016 CALS program included leaders from Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia. The training sessions focused on essential topics such as leadership development, social media practices, interpersonal exchanges, and communication skills.

Participants convened at the Old Statehouse for the closing dinner. The closing keynote address on pursuing success and the importance of critical decision making was delivered by Commander John Herrington, retired United States Naval Aviator and former NASA astronaut.

SLC Insurance Workshop
SLC Insurance Workshop

October 16-17, 2016 | Atlanta, Georgia

Insurance Workshop for Legislative Staff Attorneys

The SLC, with support from the Griffith Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, non-advocacy, educational organization, arranged a workshop featuring presentation and discussion on a number of critical and emerging insurance issues affecting state governments. Legislative staff from Georgia, Louisiana, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Virginia participated in the workshop.

Fall SouthTrain Program
Fall SouthTrain Program

October 20, 2016 | Jefferson City, Missouri

Missouri General Assembly Legislative Staff

The SLC SouthTrain Program convened on October 20, 2016, in Jefferson City, Missouri. Approximately 130 Missouri legislative staff participated in the all-day training, including discussions on:

Scott Raecker, former member of the Iowa House of Representatives and current director of The Robert D. and Billie Ray Center at Drake University, was the featured presenter for the training.  

Port of Charleston, South Carolina
Port of Charleston, South Carolina

October 24-25, 2016

Economic Development, Transportation & Cultural Affairs Committee Technical Tour
Port of Charleston, South Carolina

In its continued effort to provide legislative fly-ins tailored to specific policy needs of its legislative members, the SLC recently arranged for three members of the Missouri General Assembly - Representative Becky Ruth, Chair, House Interim Committee on Development and Improvement of Missouri Ports; Senator Doug Libla, Chair, Senate Committee on Transportation, Infrastructure and Public Safety; and Senator Dave Schatz, Vice Chair, Senate Committee on Transportation, Infrastructure, and Public Safety – to visit the Port of Charleston, one of the nation’s preeminent ports. Working with the South Carolina Ports Authority (SCPA), the SLC organized briefings that addressed the Port’s accomplishments in recent years, SCPA’s governance structure, benefits of a single entity (SCPA) overseeing all the ports in the state and a host of other topics related to the important role ports play in the region’s economic development strategies. The agenda also included a water tour of the Port and visits to the Harbor Pilot Tower and terminals at North Charleston, Wando Welch and Columbus Street. The Missouri lawmakers were briefed by the SCPA’s Mr. Jim Newsome III, President and Chief Executive Officer; Mr. Clint Eisenhauer, Senior Vice President for External Affairs; and Mr. Tate Zeigler, Manager for Government Relations.

October 26, 2016

Legislative Service Agency Directors Group Fall Meeting — October 28-30, 2016 | Atlanta, Georgia

The Legislative Service Agency Directors Group held its fall meeting October 28-30 in Atlanta, Georgia. Legislative service agency directors participated in a series of presentations and group discussions including:
"Making Sense of the 2016 Election," "Workforce of Tomorrow," "State Workforce: Challenges & Solutions," "Publishing State Statutes," "The Kentucky LRC Classification Plan Process," and "Missouri Senate Intern Program." Attendees also participated in a series of roundtable discussions on topics including succession planning, professional development, and the role of legislative service agencies.

October 31, 2016

New SLC Regional Resource - Commuter Rail in the Southern Legislative Conference States
Commuter trains, a fixture in many American cities since the late 19th century, started losing prominence in public transportation calculations in the 1940s with the ascent of the personal car, while vast improvements in public bus services also accelerated their decline. However, in the last 30 years or so, particularly in the early years of the 21st century, there has been renewed interest in this form of transportation across the country, including in the Southern Legislative Conference (SLC) member states. This renewed interest has been propelled for a variety of reasons: commuters choosing rail over cars for convenience; easing traffic congestion; reducing air pollution; promoting economic development; and boosting property values. Consequently, multiple metropolitan regions in SLC member states continue to operate commuter rail systems and expand their operations, even initiating new networks. Given that these initiatives have emerged in transit-starved areas, this increased momentum to introduce or expand commuter rail systems is a direct response to the demands and expectations of businesses and the workforce. Information on recent efforts in the SLC states to enhance the light rail capacities in their transportation plans, an important cog in any multimodal strategy, is detailed in this SLC Regional Resource.

SLC Insurance Workshop
SLC Insurance Workshop

November 2-3, 2016 | Austin, Texas

Legislative Staff Exchange
Paperless Bill Drafting

On November 2-3, 2016, legislative staff from the Georgia House Office of Budget & Research met in Austin, at the Texas House of Representatives, for briefings, presentations and discussion on paperless appropriations committee work. In an effort to learn how the Texas Legislature adopted paperless technology in their budget and bill drafting process, staff from a number of Texas legislative agencies presented information at the meetings, including the Legislative Budget Board, Legislative Council, Speaker’s Office, House Appropriations Committee and Committee Coordinator’s Office. The sessions were organized with the assistance of staff in the House Parliamentarian’s Office.

November 14-15, 2016

Economic Development, Transportation & Cultural Affairs Committee Technical Tour
Port of New Orleans and Port of South Louisiana

Continuing with its focus on the tremendous economic impact of Southern ports, the Southern Legislative Conference arranged a delegation of state legislators from several member states to tour the Port of New Orleans and Port of South Louisiana. State senators from Georgia, Missouri and Virginia who are actively engaged on port policy in their respective legislative chambers were briefed about the expansion of cargo facilities, enhancement of intermodal capacities, preparations related to the expansion of the Panama Canal, working with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and funding of port operations. At the Port of South Louisiana, the SLC delegation discussed port policy with four Louisiana state legislators. The visits to both ports included water tours hosted by senior port officials.

Agenda | Participant Bios | Photo Gallery

Center for Health Care Services
Center for Health Care Services

November 14-15, 2016 | San Antonio, Texas

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

A delegation of legislators from five SLC member states convened at The Center for Health Care Services (CHCS) in San Antonio, Texas, November 14-15, 2016, to learn about the innovative strategies San Antonio’s Bexar County has used to support those struggling with homelessness, mental illness, and substance abuse. Delegates were briefed on CHCS’s Restoration Center pre-trial diversion and treatment programs and the 22-acre Haven for Hope campus for homeless and underserved populations. Since its inception in 2003, CHCS’s Jail Diversion Program has successfully redirected more than 100,000 people from jail or emergency rooms and reduced overcrowding in the Bexar County jail system from overcapacity to 800 empty beds. This program has been adopted throughout Texas, saving taxpayers more than $50 million by enabling law enforcement personnel to divert people from the criminal justice system into crisis intervention and mental illness treatment centers.

Participants were briefed on CHCS’s history, services provided, successes in helping vulnerable populations, and continuing growth opportunities from Mr. Leon Evans, CEO, The Center for Health Care Services; Bexar County Sheriff Susan Pamerleau; Ms. Valerie Sullivan, administrator, Veterans Service Program (CHCS); Mr. Bruce Thompson, program manager, Children’s Services (CHCS) and Gary Chance, Vice President, Haven for Hope Transformational Services.

Officers Ernie Stevens and Joe Smarro from the San Antonio Police Department spoke to delegates about Bexar County’s 40-hour Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) training, required for all law enforcement officers. The CIT training program equips officers with skills to quickly identify persons suffering from mental health episodes and de-escalate potentially dangerous situations without the use of force. Bexar County’s CIT training serves as a model throughout the country and has been featured on several national media outlets.

Participants were given a tour of The Restoration Center’s crisis intervention, substance abuse, and residential detoxification facilities, followed by a tour of the Haven for Hope campus. During the tour, participants visited Prospects Courtyard, a joint venture between CHCS and Haven for Hope, which provides food, shelter, and psychiatric and medical treatment to Bexar County’s homeless population 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Delegation participants included Senator Whitney Westerfield, Kentucky; Representative Kathie Conway, Missouri; Representative Michelle Gray, Arkansas; Representative Kit Spires, South Carolina; and Representative George Young, Oklahoma.

December 7, 2016

New SLC Regional Resource on Agricultural Exports to Cuba
The impasse in U.S.-Cuba relations has spanned 10 U.S. presidents, a failed invasion attempt, a nuclear missile crisis and witnessed countless asylum seekers. The tumultuous relationship, which has its roots in the Cold War, is characterized by a dual-pronged U.S. policy emphasizing economic and diplomatic isolation of the island nation.

Despite ongoing economic sanctions, the United States has emerged as a major exporter of agricultural goods to Cuba, which imports up to 80 percent of its food. Given Cuba's geographic and economic position, states in the Southern region of the United States have competitive export advantages in terms of production, quality, logistics and proximity. This SLC Regional Resource examines existing and future agricultural export opportunities for member states in the Southern Legislative Conference.

December 7, 2016

CSG South/CSG West Webinar: Interstate Groundwater Disputes and the U.S. Supreme Court

CSG South and CSG West will host a webinar on Tuesday, January 24, 2017, at 2:00 p.m. EST, discussing interstate groundwater disputes. More than 30 interstate compacts govern the use of water from shared lakes and rivers in the United States. However, there is not a single legal agreement in place between states to guide the apportionment of groundwater that crosses state lines. In 2013, Nevada and Utah appeared poised to be the first two states to reach such an agreement, but ultimately failed. Now, with a longstanding groundwater dispute between Mississippi and Tennessee headed for the U.S. Supreme Court, a legal precedent governing the apportionment of interstate groundwater is imminent. The outcome of Mississippi v. Tennessee could have implications for all contiguous U.S. states. This webinar will address the possible outcomes of Mississippi v. Tennessee, implications for interstate groundwater policy, and the role of interstate compacts in resolving water disputes between states.


Noah D. Hall, Associate Professor of Law, Wayne State University Law School, Michigan
Michael Campana, Ph.D., Professor of Hydrogeology and Water Resources Managment, Oregon State University; Technical Director, American Water Resources Association