Capitol Comments

America’s water infrastructure is at a crossroads. Water lines installed, in some cases, more than 100 years ago are nearing or past their useful lifespans. In addition, an estimated 6.5 million water lines across the country contain lead, which as exhibited by the current crisis in Flint, Mich., can have devastating consequences to communities if not appropriately managed. Combined with a growing population that demands new infrastructure as new communities are built, the cost of maintaining and expanding the country’s water infrastructure has outpaced available funding. The following infographic provides a snapshot of the state of the nation’s water infrastructure.

On January 29, President Obama announced an executive action that will require companies with 100 employees or more to report to the federal government how much they pay their employees, broken down by gender, race and ethnicity. The action is part of a larger effort to close the pay gap between men and women.

On February 7, the eyes of sports enthusiasts from around the world will turn to Santa Clara, California for Super Bowl 50. The road to hosting a Super Bowl is long, often very expensive for host states and cities, and possibly very financial rewarding. Kickoff for Super Bowl 50 will take place in a two-year-old, $1.3 billion dollar stadium, $114 million of which was funded using public dollars. With Super Bowl 50 estimated to have an economic impact of between $200-$800 million dollars in the San Francisco Bay Area, hosting may prove to be the best investment the region could hope for.

With the melting of the last remnants of snow from Winter Storm Jonas and another major winter storm set to impact millions of Americans in the southern Rockies, central plains and western Great Lakes this week, it seems as good a time as any to check in on how states are dealing with winter weather transportation concerns so far this season. There are numerous examples of states turning to technology, investing in equipment and trying to improve on past performance. Here’s a roundup.

In an 6-2 decision in FERC v. Electric Power Supply Association the Supreme Court ruled that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has the authority to regulate wholesale “demand response” and that demand response bidders may receive the same compensation as electricity producers.

“Demand response” is a practice in which operators in wholesale markets pay electricity consumers to not use power at certain times.

Energy is more expensive and inefficient to produce at certain times (like hot days). Nonetheless retail electricity rates remain stable providing no incentive for electric consumers to reduce their demand at these times. So, FERC blessed wholesale market operators using demand response to reduce energy use during peak times and to lower wholesale electricity prices.

Several states authorize the appointment of emergency managers or some other authority to take over localities in times of economic crisis. Since the recession in 2008, several cities across the nation have been threatened by financial insolvency and states have stepped in to attempt to prevent bankruptcy or to ensure residents continue to receive essential services. However, as details of the recent water crisis in Flint, Mich. continue to emerge, questions have arisen as to the role emergency managers played in this tragedy. The...

IMLCC

Second Meeting of the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact Commission held December 18, 2015 in Salt Lake City, Utah.

The Supreme Court held 6-3 in Montgomery v. Louisiana that juvenile offenders sentenced to life in prison without parole before Miller v. Alabama (2012) was decided may have their sentences reviewed. In Miller v. Alabama the Court held that a juvenile may not be sentenced to life in prison without parole “absent consideration of the juvenile’s special circumstances in light of the principles and purposes of juvenile sentencing.” The Court suggested that rather than relitigating sentences states may allow relevant juvenile offenders to be eligible for parole.      

The Zika virus in Central and South America and the Caribbean seems to be connected to an astoundingly high number of babies in Brazil being born with microcephaly, a congenital brain defect that causes under development of head and brain size. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a travel warning for 22 locations as of Jan. 22, 2016. The CDC especially recommends that pregnant women or women trying to become pregnant reconsider travel. All known cases of Zika in the U.S. have been linked to travel,...

On Feb. 1, Iowa voters will gather in select caucus sites to choose their respective national parties’ presidential candidates. However, for the first time in the history of the Iowa Caucus process, active duty members of the military and civilians living abroad will be allowed to participate and cast their vote. The Iowa Caucus has served as the first major electoral event of the U.S. presidential nominating process since 1972. Both the state Republican and Democratic Iowa parties administer their own set of caucuses that are subject to their own set of rules that can change from time to time (e.g., voters in each party's caucus must be registered with that party, voters can change their registration at the caucus location, etc.).

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