Capitol Comments

The Atlantic has a great piece on how social media is changing the way governments interact with the public they serve.  The author explores some examples specifically of how social media is working for state government, including connecting the public with e-services and assisting with state elections.  Even the insights for federal and foreign governments could prove inspirational to innovative state leaders.  Check out "How Governments Deal with Social Media" here.

A Florida-based group devoted to warning the public of extremist ideologies has filed a lawsuit against Florida Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Department of Education over the state’s new textbook adoption law. Citizens for National Security contends the law, which changes Florida's method for selecting textbooks, does not leave enough time for a three-person expert committee to adequately review textbooks.

In published reports, the organization’s chairman says he is particularly concerned about parts of history and geography textbooks that discuss world religions.  William Saxton complains about “a lot of unbalance in the discussion of Islam in comparison to Christianity and Judaism (in textbooks).”

As parents and students get ready for a new school year after summer vacation, states are offering a different kind of holiday: a tax holiday. 

Consumers and health policy experts have all known about the differences in health insurance premiums across states. There have been plenty of anecdotal stories, but real data have been hard to come by.

Not now. A new report from the Kaiser Family Foundation found the state-by-state variation was substantial, ranging from a high of $400 per member per month in Vermont and Massachusetts to a low of $136 in Alabama. The data came directly from filings with the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) by insurers.

The National Research Council (NRC) recently released a revised approach to K-12 science education focused on “key scientific ideas and practices” important for all students prior to the end of high school.

When a student is paying college costs out of his or her pocket, or borrowing money to pay tuition, fees, books and living expenses, there’s a pretty good incentive to take as few courses as needed and finish the degree as quickly as possible. What happens, however, when the student is receiving a full merit scholarship from the state? Some students might take advantage of the financial aid to earn degrees in multiple subjects, with taxpayers footing the bill.

Texas has enacted a law this year “to facilitate the timely completion of degrees.” H.B. 3025, signed into law by Gov. Rick Perry on June 17, requires all students to submit a plan detailing how they intend to achieve their degrees. Most students would be required to submit their graduation plans no later than semester after they have earned 45 credit hours. Students entering an institution with 45 credits would be given until the end of the second semester at the institution to file the graduation plan. If students later have a change of heart, and consequently want to change their majors, they will be required to obtain permission in order to continue to receive financial aid.

Although the wage gap between men and women has narrowed slightly in recent years, the difference between a woman’s paycheck and a man’s is still significant. The ratio of women’s to men’s median weekly earnings (full-time wage and salary workers) in 2010 was 81.2.  That means that a woman who earns a weekly wage that is statistically in the middle of all weekly wages earned 81.2% of what the same statistical middle-of-the-road male earned last year. The median weekly earnings for a female were $669, while a male earned $824.

The Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center announced today the release of a guide for policymakers committed to reducing the likelihood that probationers will reoffend. A Ten-Step Guide to Transforming Probation Departments to Reduce Recidivism provides probation leaders with a roadmap to overhaul the operations of their agencies so they can increase public safety in their communities and improve rates of compliance among people they are supervising.

A movement to replace the Electoral College with a national popular vote in determining presidential elections has reached the halfway point.  Yesterday, California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law a bill (AB 459) that ratified the state’s inclusion in the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact (NPVIC), which seeks to replace the current Electoral College with rules that would guarantee the election of the winner of the national popular vote.

A recent report from the Rockefeller Institute indicates state revenues have been growing from prior year levels in each of the last five quarters.  However, Stateline cautions that the revenue growth should be interpreted carefully.