Texas power regulators are considering action to link up the Electric Reliability Corporation of Texas (ERCOT) and its grid with more out of state projects and connections to meet growing energy demands from rapid population growth in the state. ERCOT, the first Independent System Operator in the country, is well-known to guard its autonomy but it may to have consider relying on new out of state grid connection projects to avoid repeating the stress placed on the electric system during a 2011 Summer heat wave where 6 rolling power emergencies were declared to avoid blackouts.
A teacher's aide in Michigan claims that she was fired because she would not give the school access to her Facebook account. This latest incident is part of a string of incidents involving employers requesting access to their employees' or potential employees' accounts. The issue has become increasingly high profile with Facebook announcing their disapproval of the process and state legislators moving to address constituents' alarm. One such bill has passed the Illinois House.
Congress Passes 9th Transportation Extension; State Governments Remain Concerned About Continued UncertaintyBy Sean Slone | Friday, March 30, 2012 at 3:17 pm
To the surprise of nearly no one, Congress on Thursday put a week of false starts, political brinksmanship and posturing behind them and approved a new 90-day extension of federal highway authority, the ninth such extension since the federal authorization legislation known as SAFETEA-LU officially “expired” in 2009. With the most recent six-month extension set to expire Saturday and facing a potential halt to highway spending and fuel tax collection as well as the loss of thousands of construction-related jobs, lawmakers reluctantly agreed to extend federal surface transportation programs through June 30th to give them more time to come to agreement on a longer-term measure. But while passage of the extension allows state transportation officials to exhale for the moment, there is plenty of evidence that another temporary extension simply serves to prolong the uncertainty for states and is already prompting many to rethink their transportation investments (and the associated jobs they bring) just as the all-important highway construction season gets underway.
With the number of older Americans on the nation's roads on the rise, some states have turned to driver's license renewal policies to ensure that seniors remain fit to drive. But states seeking to adopt such policies often face opposition from senior citizen lobbying groups and must carefully weigh questions related to physician reporting, costs of new testing procedures and regulations and the efficacy of the policies in actually improving safety.
Enrollment in online courses has increased substantially over the past decade. Online, educational offerings are flexible and allow students to develop the skills they need to be competitive in the job market even if they cannot regularly attend class and/or are located remotely. The current, complex regulatory environment in the states inhibits many institutions from delivering these courses across state lines. CSG’s National Center for Interstate Compacts, in conjunction with the Presidents’ Forum and with support from the Lumina Foundation, is developing an interstate compact to allow greater reciprocity in online education among the states.
The diabetes epidemic extends to 26 million Americans, 8.3 percent of the population. The Southern states have the highest rates of diagnosed diabetes, while no particular region of the country stands out with the lowest rates. As the nation’s population ages, more people are diagnosed with this disease, currently the 7th leading cause of death in the U.S. African-Americans are two times more likely to die from diabetes that whites.
Dr. Ellen Andrews, expert speaker on the March 28 CSG health policy webinar “Value Over Volume: Paying for Quality,” urged state policymakers to be brave as they implement payment reforms that depend on the right incentives to achieve better health outcomes. She suggested to webinar attendees that the time is right for transforming delivery and payment systems–- regardless of the findings of the Supreme Court on the Affordable Care Act–-because the status quo is simply not sustainable.
Consumers may be in for more bad news on the dreary march to $4 a gallon gasoline as the largest refinery on the East Coast is expected to close this Summer - eliminating nearly 25 percent of the region's gasoline refining capacity. The closure of the Sunoco refinery is due in large part to high oil prices and decreasing domestic fuel demand, leading to substantial economic losses. Unfortunately, the trend may continue in the region as experts predict two other refineries are expected to close because of unsustainable financial impacts. If so, nearly half of the refining capacity on the East Coast will be gone with some economists predicting a 15 cents per gallon spike in New England because more imported gasoline will be needed to meet demand.
For the first time in more than 15 years, school meal standards have been changed with a focus on improving child nutrition and reducing childhood obesity. With the potential to impact more than 30 million students daily, these new guidelines will introduce more fruit and vegetables and reduce fat intake on lunch trays. State policies and local practices can have a positive impact on the devastating rates of obesse and overweight children as students have an opportunity for more healthful eating.
Today the EPA announced proposed standards to limit greenhouse gas emissions from new power plants. The move was hailed by environmental groups and it is expected to largely impact the construction of new coal-fired power plants by essentially requiring their emissions output to mirror those of efficient natural gas units - either through capture or storage of CO2 emissions. Industry advocates opposed the new rule because of cost impacts to states heavily reliant on coal for electricity production and that the Administration is essentially mandating new technology which is not yet commercially feasible.