Capitol Comments

As of late Friday afternoon, April 30, 43 states had responded to the letter from Secretary of Health and Human Services Sebelius on high-risk insurance pools. According to an HHS blog posting, 28 states will run a state high-risk pool and 15 states have declined. Of the 28 states, nine states (ME, MA, MI, NJ, NY, OH, PA, RI and VT) and the District of Columbia do not already operate a high-risk pool. For the states that decline, the federal government will run a pool to provide insurance coverage for those denied health insurance. Under federal health care reform, $5 billion is available to subsidize health insurance coverage through these high risk pools for individuals who are denied health insurance. The high risk pools bridge the gap until 2014, when the new law will prohibit insurance companies from denying coverage to adults. The law prohibits denying children coverage later this year. 

More than a year in the works, this report looks back on the implementation of the highway spending in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. It examines how states were able to successfully meet deadlines, fund road projects that made an impact on job creation and the nation’s infrastructure, and put in place unprecedented transparency and accountability measures. Included are interviews with state stimulus czars, state transportation officials and others who were on the front lines of the implementation process. The report also includes a series of charts that show where every state stood at various points in the process. The report received funding from CSG’s 21st Century Foundation. It can be read online at http://www.csg.org/policy/documents/Shovel_Ready_Projects.pdf

The Interstate Commission on Educational Opportunity for Military Children has hired retired Brig. Gen. Norman E. Arflack to serve as the Commission’s first Executive Director. Gen. Arflack brings an extensive amount military and state government experience to the Commission.

President Obama’s health care proposal released by the White House on February 22, will expand Medicaid eligibility for working families below 133% of poverty. This is the income level contained in the Senate bill, below the 150% of the federal poverty level in the House passed health reform bill.

The federal government will provide to the states 100% of the cost of newly eligible persons between 2014 and 2017. The states’ match rate will be 95% for 2018 and 2019 and drop to 90% for subsequent years.

The...

Today, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced new guidelines that prohibit texting by drivers of commercial vehicles. This prohibition is effective immediately, and truck and bus drivers may be subject to civil and criminal penalties of up to $2750.  This new ban is part of a series of actions by the Department to combat distracted driving.   

“We want the drivers of big rigs and buses and those who share the roads with them to be safe,” said Secretary LaHood in a press release.  “This is an important safety...

The laws of thirty eight states expand the age of health care insurance coverage for dependent children according to a report just released by Rutgers University researchers. These policies are appealing to state policymakers as young adults, 19 to 29 years, are more likely to lack health insurance coverage than any other age group. The report analysis found a small increase in coverage of young adults as dependents, but also showed declines in other sources of coverage, resulting in a finding that these laws did not decrease the likelihood of young adults being uninsured. The authors urge lawmakers to consider states’ experience when considering expanding dependent coverage in either federal or state law.

CSG Midwest
From time to time, a legislator makes headlines by invoking “immunity” when he or she is stopped by law enforcement. The news stories almost always bring up this question: Do lawmakers really have a “get out of jail free” card? The answer is, almost always, “no.” Most states have in their constitutions privilege for legislators, but the actual protections can be misunderstood by law enforcement, the public and lawmakers alike.
 
Legislative privilege has historical roots that date back to 17th-century Britain, says Steven Huefner, a professor at The Ohio State University. That tradition eventually took hold in the United States, but today, the immunity language in state and federal constitutions has very little relevance.
“It’s a bit of a historical anachronism from when there existed a ‘civil arrest’ to detain people. We no longer even have that in any meaningful sense; if you’re being arrested by the police, they have probable cause [for criminal arrest],” he says.
But the provision still grabs headlines today.

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