Capitol Comments

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.

My colleague Doug Myers and I are co-authors of a new Capitol Research brief out today entitled “Green Freight Transportation.” A follow-up to our previous brief “Green Transportation” which debuted in July, it examines the opportunities available to states to enact policies, get behind federal initiatives and support industry efforts to make freight transportation greener. The brief examines such strategies as truck anti-idling regulations, the development of alternative fuels for trucks and trains, truck-only toll lanes to increase mobility and decrease emissions-producing traffic congestion, investing in freight rail and developing our marine highways to shift some of the freight burden from highways to modes that produce less emissions. The brief also points out the need for a national strategic freight plan, examines how federal policy initiatives could be shaped to make freight transportation greener and makes the case for the role of state governments in ensuring a greener future for freight. While the brief and the resources that went into creating it hopefully offer a good overview for those interested in the subject matter, there are a number of other worthwhile reports, recent news items and other materials we wanted to recommend for those who may want to do some further reading.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) today updated the status of its list of most wanted safety improvements that state governments can make. The list includes requiring booster seats for young children, primary seat belt laws, graduated licensing laws for young drivers, hard core drinking driver program elements, cell phone use restrictions for young drivers and passenger restriction laws for teen drivers. The NTSB also added a new issue area they’re now tracking: motorcycle safety and helmet laws. While a handful of states have made significant progress in adopting laws in all these areas, many states have not yet adopted them despite their proven ability to save lives, the NTSB reported.

Textbooks may soon follow 8-track tapes, film cameras and instant coffee into oblivion – although I’m admittedly not sure about the latter. What I can report is that beginning November 1, students in four school divisions in Virginia discarded their heavy, thick social studies textbooks and replaced them with Apple iPads loaded with interactive content, media and Apps aligned to state history and social studies standards.

Crady deGolian and Nathan Dickerson are helping to staff the third annual meeting of the Interstate Commission on Educational Opportunity for Military Children.  Representatives from 27 of 35 member states and ex-officio members representing a variety of organizations committed to serving the children of military families are once again meeting to discuss how the compact can best serve the educational needs of the children of active duty military personnel.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th District recently overturned a District Court ruling in the case of ENERGYSOLUTIONS, LLC  v. STATE OF UTAH et al.,.  The Court of Appeals ruling, which specifically addresses the Interstate Compact on Northwest Low-Level Radio Active Waste Management, validates the rights of states to enter into interstate compacts.  CSG signed on to the appeal through a friend of the court brief, supporting the states' ability to block the disposal of foreign radioactive waste in the Utah case.  To read the full press release issued by CSG about the case please here

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