Capitol Comments

Vermont and at least 16 other states collect health care claims data. In Gobeille v. Liberty Mutual Insurance Company the Supreme Court will decide whether the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) preempts Vermont’s all-payers claims database (APCD) law. The State and Local Legal Center (SLLC) filed an amicus brief arguing against ERISA preemption.

ERISA applies to most health insurance plans and requires them to report detailed financial and actuarial information to the Department of Labor (DOL). ERISA preempts state laws if they “relate to” the core functions of an ERISA plan. Vermont’s APCD law seeks the following medical claims data: services provided, charges and payments for services, and demographic information about those covered.  

The Council of State Governments officially opened its renovated national headquarters in Lexington, Ky., Monday, Aug. 31, with a rededication and ribbon-cutting ceremony that included CSG leaders, staff and members.

David Adkins, CSG's executive director, said the new building fosters collaboration and communication as the council continues to empower state leaders.

With August drawing to a close, it’s time to check in once again on what states are up to on the transportation funding front. The number of states to increase their gas taxes this year now stands at seven with the addition of Washington State last month. Other states could be poised to join their ranks in the months ahead. Here’s a roundup of some of the latest developments and links where you can read more.

Since 1996, 18 states lifted their bans on food stamp eligibility for felony drug convictions, 26 states have issued partial bans for certain types of felony convictions, and only 6 states have full bans for those with any record of a felony drug conviction. The six states with full bans are Alaska, Georgia, Mississippi, South Carolina, West Virginia and Wyoming.

The irony of the Supreme Court agreeing to decide Harris v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission is inescapable. On June 29 in Arizona State Legislature v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission the Court held that Arizona’s redistricting commission could be solely responsible for congressional redistricting. In the first sentence of its opinion the Court noted Arizona voters adopted the commission to avoid partisan gerrymandering. The next day the Court agreed to decide Harris where the plaintiffs allege that Arizona’s redistricting commission engaged in partisan gerrymandering in state legislative redistricting that violated one-person, one-vote.  

It is noteworthy that the Harris plaintiffs don’t object to partisan gerrymander per se (which the Supreme Court has never held unconstitutional), just partisan gerrymandering that leads to unequal distribution of voters.

CSG Midwest
As Indiana Rep. Charlie Brown sees it, a new plan to enroll eligible inmates in Medicaid has the chance to be a win-win for his state and its taxpayers: Reduce recidivism by giving more people the health services they need, and cut long-term costs in the criminal justice system.
Signed into law earlier this year, HB 1269 (of which Brown was a co-sponsor) received overwhelming legislative approval, and it is part of a broader trend that has states looking for new ways to improve outcomes for state and local inmates, who have disproportionately high rates of mental illness and substance abuse.
CSG Midwest
Best known today for its use in the U.S. Senate, the filibuster is a legislative tactic that dates back centuries — even to the days of ancient Rome. But for most legislators serving in the 11-state Midwest, this maneuver to stall debate or block a bill’s passage is much more a curiosity than a legislative reality or obstacle.
The one exception is Nebraska, home to perhaps the most unique legislative branch among the 50 U.S. state governments. In that state, where 49 senators serve in a one-house, nonpartisan chamber, the filibuster — or the threat of it — is a common occurrence.
“We operate more like a senate here rather than like a house in that we give the members great latitude to discuss, debate, cajole their colleagues,” says Patrick O’Donnell, clerk of the Nebraska Unicameral Legislature.

CSG Midwest
In the last election cycle, partisan control of the U.S. Congress, the nation’s state legislatures and 36 governorships were all up for grabs. A vast majority of the nation’s youngest eligible voters seemingly didn’t care. Only 23 percent of 18- to 34-year-olds voted — the lowest participation rate in elections among this group since the U.S. Census Bureau began collecting the data in 1978.
Over the past three-and-a-half decades, their voting rate has fallen by more than 30 percent. (Declines are occurring from nearly every non-presidential election year to the next.) Meanwhile, participation among the nation’s oldest voters, those 65 and older, has remained steady, at around 60 percent.
CSG Midwest
In response to a greater demand for high-school degrees that emphasize skills and include a more rigorous curriculum, Indiana high schools can expect to see a revised diploma system within the next few years.
In 2014, the Indiana General Assembly passed legislation (HB 1213) to evaluate the state’s existing three-diploma system and explore a possible new graduation path for students, one focusing more on career and technical education. The Commission for Higher Education and the Indiana Board of Education will decide whether to approve the changes.
Any changes to state statute would then be voted on by the legislature during its 2016 session. The draft proposal, released this summer, would establish three new types of diplomas: Workforce Ready, College & Career Ready, and Indiana Honors.
CSG Midwest
With school districts in North Dakota scrambling late into the summer to fill open teaching positions, the state has stepped in to help. As of early August, emergency administrative rules were being developed for districts to apply for hardship waivers.

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