Capitol Comments

Today Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, announced the availability of $250 million to expand the primary health care workforce. The funds are part of the federal reform legislation passed in March.

The funds will be used to expand the number of primary care physicians by 500 by 2015 and support training for additional physician assistants and nurse practitioners. States will be granted $5 million to plan and...

In April I wrote about offshore drilling and how, politically, it wasn’t about the oil, given that the estimated recoverable reserves were unlikely to substantially impact our reliance on foreign sources of petroleum (the EIA Annual Energy Outlook 2010 assumes import reliance will remain near 50% through 2035, down from 57% in 2008); it was about securing votes for climate change legislation. 

Last week I attended the Department of Energy’s Solar Boot Camp at its National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) in Golden, CO.  The 3-day intensive training was held for the energy staff from those organizations that support state officials.

Illinois, Rhode Island, South Carolina, and Tennessee are each one step closer to joining to Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children.  In each state legislators overwhelming passed the compact, which attempts to ease educational issues associated with the frequent moves of military families.  To find out more about the compact or to learn if your state is already a member please click here.

Last week, I spoke with Mike Chalmers of USA Today for an article that ran in Wednesday's paper about states seeking alternatives to roadside memorials. Chalmers wrote about how Delaware has a memorial garden at a state rest area that provides a safe and tasteful alternative to the makeshift roadside memorials that honor victims of fatal traffic accidents but that sometimes pose safety hazards themselves. I told Chalmers that states will likely look to duplicate what Delaware is doing because it provides a sensible solution to what has proven to be a difficult balancing act for states.

Worst case scenarios abound if Congress fails to extend for another six months the enhanced Medicaid match begun by the 2009 stimulus. CSG’s recent survey found that over half the states have already counted on the extension, from January 1 until June 30, 2011, in their budget deliberations for FY 2011. The Senate appears poised to put the extension back in the so-called “tax extender” bill next week.

During times of recession, businesses cut back because of a lack of demand for their products, but not so for state governments. As states are losing revenue and having to make do with less—residents hit hard by the down economy often need government services more.

Idaho Rep. Maxine Bell knows what’s at stake with the new federal health care reform law.

“This is going to be an issue that could literally turn our budget upside down,” Bell said.

Former Massachusetts state Sen. Scott Brown was on the defensive.

His political opponent, Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley, released an attack ad criticizing Brown’s candidacy for the U.S. Senate seat last year, attacking his Republican politics as well as his time in the state senate.

Today the Kaiser Family Foundation teamed up with Urban Institute and released state-by-state estimates of the costs to meet the Medicaid coverage expansion mandated for 2014.

The report modeled two scenarios. The “standard participation” scenario uses CBO data that estimates 57 percent of newly eligible uninsured persons will enroll in Medicaid with an overall $21 billion increase in state expenses...

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