Capitol Comments

A national assessment of 12th-grade math and reading taken in 2009 shows student scores improved compared to tests taken by high school seniors four years earlier. However, the tests still show high percentages of students are scoring below even a “basic” level in those subjects, and reading scores are lower than levels in 1992.

The new policy option on the block for spurring renewable energy (RE) expansion is the feed-in tariff – or FIT.  Feed-in tariffs offer a price per kilowatt-hour to producers of certain electricity sources, most notably solar and wind.  Feed-in tariffs have been successful in Europe for quite some time, but are only beginning to break into the United States, where the dominant policy tool for advancing renewable energy generation has been the renewable portfolio standard (RPS).

Three weeks after the election of new Republican governors in Florida, Ohio and Wisconsin and a Republican U.S. House of Representatives, the debate continues about the future of high-speed rail in the United States. Recent days have seen a series of pro-rail rallies in Wisconsin, where Governor-elect Scott Walker has promised to shut down a planned rail line between Milwaukee and Madison. But while it may be too early to completely write off the prospects for Midwest passenger rail, it may also be too soon to assume that high-speed rail will move forward in other parts of the country. Rail supporters who were breathing a sigh of relief about the election of rail-supporter Jerry Brown as Governor in California may have new cause for concern. The top Republican on the U.S. House Appropriations Committee, California Congressman Jerry Lewis, introduced legislation last week that would rescind $2 billion in stimulus funds promised to the state to kick start a $43 billion high-speed rail project that would link San Francisco and Los Angeles.

In the last few weeks NCIC staff has been working to help facilitate an agreement between various stakeholdres for the modified Surplus Lines Insurance Multi-State Compliance Compact, known as SLIMPACT-Lite.  The compact, which aims to bring the surplus lines insurance market in compliance with the Nonadmitted Insurance and Reinsurance Reform Act (NRRA) section of the Dodd-Frank fiscal reform bill, was widely endorsed by state legislators and industry officials at the National Conference of Insurnace Legislators (NCOIL) recently concluded meeting.  Both Crady deGolian and Rick Masters were in attendance at the meeting to discuss the importance of the compact and the need for state action in order to avoid federal regulation.  Additionally, a resolution encouraging states to consider adoption of the compact will be consider at CSG's upcoming meeting Dec. 3-6 in Providence, RI.  To read the complete press release about CSG's involvement with SLIMPACT-Lite please click here

State legislators are invited to attend a special 4-hour workshop on Friday, December 3 starting at 1pm. Travel support is available for state legislators.

Three items to report on briefly today:

· Two weeks from today, CSG will convene its 2010 National Conference in Providence, RI.  During the meeting, the Energy & Environment Policy Task Force will host an open roundtable discussion focusing on the key issues states can be expected to face in 2011.  The roundtable presents an excellent opportunity for participants to share their insights...

The 2010 election cycle is dubbed “the year of the woman” as record numbers of female candidates made the ballot across the nation. For a country where men are now a minority but only a small fraction of elected offices are filled by women, this is an important trend. On Sunday, Dec. 5 CSG's Henry Toll Fellowship Program will present a panel of Toll Fellows alumni for a discussion on how to encourage more women to enter the political pipeline and run for office in the future.

CSG will feature a breakout session on Dec. 5 at the CSG 2010 National Conference emphasizing discussion on some of the fiscal issues and challenges that will confront states in 2011.  Resource experts will help lead the discussion and steer participants towards some of the strategies and solutions that have proven effective in dealing with these thorny fiscal challenges.  The session, moderated by Maryland State Treasurer Nancy Kopp, will feature four key fiscal topics with the resource expert providing a short 5-7 minute summary of the issue followed by discussion around the table.

Premature birth is the number one killer of American newborns, according to the March of Dimes. The latest health policy Facts & Figures from CSG goes one step further in its analysis and looks at the disparities in premature births for African-American and Hispanic women compared to white women.

Following a whirlwind tour of the key provisions of the federal health reform law, a panel of health care stakeholders will gaze into their crystal balls and discuss the potential impacts of the Affordable Care Act on Dec. 4 at the CSG 2010 National Conference.  The session will help state policymakers understand the various lenses through which health reform is viewed, including by health insurance companies, hospitals, state Medicaid programs, physicians and other providers, and consumers.