Capitol Comments

According to just-released Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data, 2 million high school students and almost half a million middle school students used e-cigarettes in 2014. E-cigarettes have taken over as the most commonly used tobacco product among high school and middle school students. Youth use of traditional cigarettes continues to decline – only 9.2 percent of high school students reported smoking cigarettes in 2014 compared to 16 percent in 2011.  

Increasing health care expenditures are a source of great worry to public officials. Perhaps new data that show that public programs – Medicare and Medicaid – seem to hold down per capita spending growth more than private insurance will provide some reassurance to officials as they consider expanding public programs in their states.

Steve Brophy, vice president of government affairs for Dollar General, developed a program in California to address unemployment among veterans and brought it to Tennessee when he made the move from the west coast.  While attempting to fill vacant positions, he discovered Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve, a national program supporting states' investment in employment opportunities for active duty military and veterans.  The Paychecks for Patriots program grew and launched in 2012 to offer an opportunity for veterans to attend local job fairs across Tennessee with a chance for on-the-spot hiring.

Today the federal government announced that it would be taking grant applications for $67 million for navigators to link consumers to federally-facilitated and state-based health insurance exchanges. 

The speakers on the conference call characterized the announcement and posting as part of the "regular grant process" but one has to wonder if this is a sign of the administration's confidence that the Supreme Court will find in their favor in the King v. Burwell case.

In Kingsley v. Hendrickson the Supreme Court will specify the standard for determining what amount of force used against a pretrial detainee is excessive.  The State and Local Legal Center (SLLC) filed an amicus brief in this case arguing that the same or similar standard should apply to excessive force claims brought by pretrial detainees and post-conviction detainees. 

On July 22, 2014, President Obama signed into law the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) to assist those looking for employment access the education, training and support services needed to find family-sustaining jobs and to match skilled workers with business and industry. 

February and March were busy months for state legislatures on the transportation front with four states approving major funding packages, several considering measures to revise gas tax indexing mechanisms to avoid losing transportation revenues in the wake of declining gas prices, and a whole host of other states continuing to contemplate or negotiate additional legislation that could bear fruit down the road. Here’s a roundup of the developments since my previous post on this topic.

The Cleveland Clinic, one of the nation’s largest hospitals, reported a 40 percent drop in charity care and credited the good news to Ohio’s Medicaid expansion, according to Kaiser Health News. Free care costs fell from $171 million in 2013 to $101 million in 2014.

To date, the Supreme Court’s docket for next term has less than ten cases.  Two of them involve the death penalty.  Combined, they raise at least three issues.   

It is difficult to know what issues the Court will decide in Hurst v. Florida.  In his certiorari petition Timothy Lee Hurst asked the Court to decide at least six issues.  The Court combined and shortened Hurst’s questions presented to address whether Florida’s death penalty sentencing scheme violates the Sixth (right to a jury trial) and Eighth (no cruel and unusual punishment) Amendments.    

Beginning in the mid-2000s numerous states adopted “Jessica’s” laws requiring GPS monitoring of certain sex offenders.  These statutes have been challenged on a number of grounds—including that they violate the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition against unreasonable searches.  Eight states, including North Carolina, monitor for life.             

The Supreme Court ruling that GPS monitoring of certain sex offenders is a Fourth Amendment search doesn’t invalidate these statutes.  But if the lower court—and ultimately the Supreme...

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