Capitol Comments

The poverty guidelines for 2015 are available and published here in the Federal Register. These guidelines -- often cited as 100 percent of the federal poverty line -- are used to determine eligibility for a number of stata and federal programs. Sometimes eligibility is greater than 100 percent; for instance, the Affordable Care Act allows states to expand Medicaid eligibility to 138 percent of federal poverty. 

Despite political gridlock and partisanship in Washington, D.C., Congress and the president recognize intellectual property as a driver of economic growth in America. Unfortunately, cybercrime is on the rise, and intellectual property is oftentimes the primary target of cyber criminals. To protect intellectual property, the White House, Congress, and state governments all are working diligently to enhance cybersecurity.

E-cigarettes are a nicotine delivery system. They heat liquid containing nicotine and flavorings into a vapor by passing it over a small electronic battery. According to The Wall Street Journal, sales grew from $2 million in 2009 to $722 million in 2013.

The continuing evolution of public-private partnerships (P3s) and tolling was another of the issues on my recent Top 5 Transportation Issues for 2015. There have already been a variety of developments this year on some key stories concerning both, including a debate in Kentucky over how to finance a new bridge over the Ohio River, efforts to convince the new Governor of Maryland of the benefits of two light rail P3 projects and a new infrastructure financing tool to encourage private investment proposed by President Obama. Here are a few updates from around the country and links where you can read more.

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.

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