Capitol Comments

With the end of tax season, CNBC has compiled some interesting graphics related to federal and state taxes. Using data from the Tax Foundation, the Internal Revenue Service and U.S. Treasury Department, the article details where federal and state revenues come from and how they are spent. The top three spending items for the federal government were Health and Human Services, Social Security and Defense. An interactive map of the United States allows users to see several state-level measures, including total taxes paid, average deductions and state tax rates. 

The U.S. Energy Information Administration issued a report last week detailing the 13,500 megawatts (MW) of electric utility capacity added in 2013.  According to the report, the total capacity added is down roughly 50% from 2012.  Natural gas and solar were the top industries generating additional capacity at just over 50% and 22% respectively. 

Leaders of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee announced this week they have agreed in principle on how to proceed with the next federal surface transportation authorization bill, the successor to 2012’s MAP-21. I also have the usual roundup of links on the future of the Highway Trust Fund, state activity on transportation revenues, public-private partnerships and tolling and state multi-modal strategies.

April is National Distracted Driving Awareness Month and we have a new Capitol Research brief just out looking at “Enforcement of Texting While Driving Bans.” It examines the state of anti-texting statutes and recent legislative efforts around the country, as well as the efforts of law enforcement to assess strategies for catching texters in the act. But here’s a roundup of some additional related resources from around the web.

The Pew Charitable Trusts recently released its latest Elections Performance Index, or EPI, which now includes an interactive tool that allows states to compare their election administration performance to one another and across similar elections. The annual Pew study measures election administration by evaluting indicators like wait times at polling locations and voter turnout. The report found that, between 2008 and 2012, state election performance overall improved by 4.4 percentage points, and 40 states plus DC improved their score over the same time frame. 

Just one day after Zogenix, the maker of the new painkiller Zohydro, filed a federal law suit challenging the Massachusetts ban of the drug, the first hearing was held Tuesday.  

U.S. District Court Judge Rya Zobel, according to the AP, indicated that the drug company may have a point....

According to a report released yesterday by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group Education Fund (PIRG), Indiana ranks first among states when it comes to  making public spending information available online. Rankings from the group's fifth annual report, “Following the Money 2014: How the 50 States Rate in Providing Online Access to Government Spending Data, are based on an inventory of the content and ease-of-use of states' transparency websites. The report notes that last year was the first time that all 50 states operated websites to make information on state spending accessible to the public.

By mid-April, the 2014 legislative session had ended in Nebraska, with its 49 senators leaving the Capitol and returning to their jobs and lives outside of state government. But the work of state government continues, with many important decisions left in the hands of Nebraska’s state agencies....
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In Minnesota and Wisconsin, after decades of work trying to clean up the contaminated St. Louis River, a delisting of this Great Lakes “Area of Concern” is finally in sight.
A new action plan targets 2025 as the delisting date, with a price tag of up to $400 million to restore the river system — the largest U.S. tributary to Lake Superior and the largest Area of Concern in the Great Lakes.
But to execute the plan, state officials will be relying on federal dollars and, in particular, continued funding of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.
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For the first time in Illinois, most of the state’s 17-year-olds had the chance to cast ballots in this year’s primary elections. Their participation was the result of a bill passed by the General Assembly in 2013. HB 226 opened up voting to 17-year-olds who will turn 18 before the general election. According to the Chicago Tribune, the measure received widespread bipartisan support, with proponents saying it would encourage young people to get involved in the political process.

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