Capitol Comments

Here’s one of those instances in which what I do hits close to home. In the latest issue of Capitol Ideas and a recent blog post, I wrote about how a number of states are following the lead of Missouri in employing a relatively new type of traffic interchange called the diverging diamond or double crossover diamond interchange to improve safety and reduce congestion. The interchanges can be built in less time and at a lower cost than other types of interchanges. Now, it appears I may soon get to see firsthand how the diamond works. The Lexington Herald-Leader reports that Kentucky transportation officials announced this week that they plan to reconfigure a Lexington intersection that is part of my daily commute using the diamond model.

Vermont's House of Representatives approved a bill put forward by Governor Peter Shumlin that would create a single payer health care system in that state. The Senate is expected to approve the bill as well.

Gov. Shumlin said it would make Vermont "the first state in the country to make the first substantive step to deliver a health care system where health care will be a right and not a privilege, where health care will follow the individual, not be a requirement of the employer, and where we’ll have an affordable...

Perception is reality. Regardless of the degree to which teachers are or are not solely responsible for the quality of education and the level of student achievement in their classes, they have become targets for quick-fixes in school reform.

State officials are weighing in on the future of nuclear power in the United States as Japan struggles to control its nuclear reactors in the wake of last week’s massive earthquake in that country. Despite an increasing need to find energy alternatives here at home, some believe the Japan crisis may make additional delays in the construction of new nuclear reactors or relicensing of old ones in this country a possibility. Here’s a rundown of media reports on how the nuclear power issue is being raised in various state capitals.

It was nearly one year ago when I met with an official from the U.S. Department of Education for an informal discussion of a variety of education initiatives, including reauthorization of the Elementary  and Secondary Education Act, better known as “No Child Left Behind.” At that time, I was assured the U.S. DOE was confident that Congress would vote on the reauthorization sometime in 2010.

One year and a new Congress later, any progress (if it has occurred) can be measured only incrementally.

A new analysis by CSG of enhanced Medicaid match rates under the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act found that the average state will lose 21 cents in federal funding for every dollar the state puts towards paying Medicaid bills beginning April 1. This decrease follows on the heels of a 37-cent loss states suffered on Jan. 1.

The report looks at the value of the Recovery Act enhanced Medicaid match to states from 2009 through this year. CSG calculates the match in an easy to understand manner: for every dollar a state...

This week the Kentucky House passed the new Interstate Racing Compact designed to create uniformity among states participating in thoroughbred and harness horse racing.  Gov. Beshear, who is expected to sign the bill, issued the following statement in a recent press release: "now, with the passage of SB 24 Kentucky can continue its leadership role as the Horse Capital of the World,” Beshear noted  “This compact will better the industry not just in Kentucky, but across the nation, and allows us a prominent seat at the table in proposing uniform regulations among member states.  The compact will allow participants to operate under uniform rules and regulations, where applicable, while still maintaining regulation at the state level."

There is a new issue of the CSG magazine Capitol Ideas out this month that we call our “Best of the States” issue. The magazine contains a wide variety of innovative ideas states are employing to address various problems and needs across numerous areas. Among the innovative ideas in transportation detailed in the issue are a new type of traffic interchange in Missouri, Georgia’s planned regional transportation referenda and Utah’s road condition monitoring cameras that allow the state to determine when to send a snow plow to a remote area. While we tried to pack as much into the issue as we could, there was inevitably plenty of worthwhile stuff that landed on the proverbial “cutting room floor.” Here is a sampling.

CSG's brief on State Health Insurance Exchanges describes the decisions states need to make in 2011 and 2012 to prepare for the exchanges to open in late 2013. Also read about what health insurance exchanges can accomplish and how state Medicaid programs will be involved.

CSG also hosted four regional webinars this month featuring Joel Ario, the Department of Health and Human Services official in charge of implementing the health insurance exchange provisions of the Affordable Care Act. Ario said the federal government is responsible for all necessary expenses states will incur between now and 2015 as they move to implement exchanges.

February Health Policy e-monthly readers linked most often to this story, as well as how states are avoiding Medicaid costs by keeping seniors in their communities rather than nursing homes:

  • Kaiser Family Foundation report on promising practices in several states
  • Federal government funding to 42 states to build community alternatives.

CSG this week issues a new brief in our Capitol Research series entitled “Transit-Oriented Development.” Using the possibility of development around future high-speed rail stations as a jumping off point, it examines the policy options available to states to try to shape how that development occurs. While high-speed rail has suffered a number of political setbacks in recent months, it remains on track in some parts of the country. But regardless of whether high-speed rail is coming to your state any time soon, there is a great deal of useful information in the brief about the role states can play in shaping the kinds of communities Americans say they want and that best serve our citizens, the environment and the economy. I encourage you to read the brief, which examines the benefits of transit-oriented development, the role of state governments in encouraging it, and the experiences of California and many other states in adopting related policies. If the brief piques your interest, there is an abundance of other worthwhile reading I can point you toward as well.