Capitol Comments

Gov. Mike Pence announced today federal approval of his state’s Medicaid waiver to expand eligibility to all persons with incomes below 138 percent of the federal poverty level, according to the Indy Star newspaper.

Pence has lobbied hard for what he calls HIP 2.0, expanding a smaller consumer-driven health plan called Healthy Indiana Plan, rather than expand the traditional Medicaid program.

“The expanded and updated HIP 2.0 is based on a program that has been serving 60,000 low-income Hoosiers in our state for seven years,” said Governor Pence in a press release. “It is a proven model for Medicaid reform across the nation.”

Up to 350,000 people will be eligible according to the press release. The state will start taking applications today, Jan. 27, for coverage to begin on Feb. 1, 2015.

According to the AAA Fuel Gauge Report, average gas prices in January 2015 are at the lowest point in over 5 years and are on track to dip below $2 a gallon by February 2015. Missouri has the lowest average gas price of any state at $1.77 per gallon while Alaska ($2.81) and Hawaii ($3.31) have the highest prices.

Earlier this month, I named “project selection” as one of my Top 5 Transportation Issues for 2015. Just in the first month of this year, we’ve already seen a variety of developments in a number of areas that stand to influence project selection in the years ahead. New governors are already putting their stamp on project selection by reviewing projects approved by their predecessors and by nominating new (or in some cases old) leaders to head state departments of transportation. I also have updates on ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft, public transportation projects, autonomous vehicles and state transportation planning processes.

In City & County of San Francisco v. Sheehan the Supreme Court will decide whether, pursuant to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), police must accommodate a suspect’s mental illness when arresting him or her.  The State and Local Legal Center’s (SLLC) amicus brief argues no because no conclusive evidence indicates that...

With nearly a month gone in 2015, it’s time once again to check in on states that are considering their transportation funding options this year. Governors are using their State of the State addresses to establish finding funding solutions as a priority and lawmakers are moving forward with plans of their own as legislative sessions get underway in many states. I have a look at what’s happening in 16 states, some additional resources where you can read more and a few words about how you can join us for an upcoming discussion on what’s going on around the country.

New Arkansas governor, Asa Hutchinson, will ask the legislature to continue to fund the private option Medicaid expansion through the end of 2016, according to the Arkansas Times. Then he intends to come up with a new plan for 2017 and beyond.

Gov. Hutchinson alluded to Section 1332 waivers, sometimes called waivers on steroids, that will be available to states in 2017 to implement wholesale reforms of Medicaid while releasing an approved state from many, if not all, of the requirements of the Affordable Care Act.

As Congress struggles to come up with the kind of multi-year transportation authorization bill that was once customary and with the idea of a federal gas tax increase to pay for it still divisive despite low oil prices, one revenue mechanism that has long been considered a possible replacement for the gas tax is expected to have a pivotal year: the mileage based user fee (MBUF) aka vehicle miles traveled (VMT) fee/tax aka road usage charge. But some wonder whether the mechanism can ever truly become what transportation policy experts originally expected and whether its adoption will be derailed by privacy concerns that some say are largely unfounded. Those were some of the issues on the minds of speakers at last week’s Transportation Research Board (TRB) annual meeting in Washington, D.C.

President Obama announced Dec. 17 that he would make efforts to ease travel and trade restrictions to Cuba in an effort to empower “Cubans to build an open and democratic country.” The White House has expanded the list of authorized travelers to Cuba and has authorized new goods and services to be exported to Cuba. The departments of Treasury and Commerce have jurisdiction over many of these regulatory changes, and each department submitted its final rules to the Federal Register Jan. 16. The final rules take effect immediately.

Same-sex marriage and an Affordable Care Act case heard in one Supreme Court term.  Does it get any bigger than this?  

The Court will decide whether it is constitutional for states to prohibit same-sex marriage and whether states may refuse to recognize same-sex marriages lawfully performed out of state.

While the Court refused to hear a number of cases presenting the same issues earlier in the term, these grants came as little surprise.  Between then and now the Sixth Circuit ruled that same-sex marriage bans are...

The Solar Foundation, an independent nonprofit with a mission to increase understating of solar energy, recently published its annual National Solar Jobs Census 2014 report.  The report found the U.S. solar industry created jobs at a rate nearly 20 times higher than the average employment growth for a second consecutive year.

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