Capitol Comments

It appeared to be a promising development last week when Democratic Sens. Barbara Boxer and Max Baucus and Republican Sens. James Inhofe and David Vitter released a joint statement citing “great progress” and “common ground” on a new transportation authorization bill. But there is already significant skepticism that Boxer and her colleagues can deliver a promised six-year bill that would allow state and local leaders around the country to fund long-term transportation projects going forward. And as usual, there is no shortage of opinions on how changes in federal and state policy might help the nation better address its infrastructure needs.

Anthony DePalma, author of Here: A Biography of the New American Continent  and the first foreign correspondent of The New York Times to serve as bureau chief in both Mexico and Canada, will deliver a keynote address Thursday, Oct. 20 during upcoming CSG 2011 National Conference & North American Summit.

Registration for The Council of State Governments' 2011 National Conference & North American Summit is now open online! The meeting will be held October 19-23 in Bellevue, Seattle. To find out more about the meeting, including how to register, hotel rates and information, and a preliminary agenda, please visit the meeting website:

The National Center for Interstate Compacts has published the second in series of Capitol Research briefs on interstate compacts.  This brief explores the best practices of compact development and how they help ensure that the complex process of orchestrating a contract between multiple state governments is successful.

Read the complete brief in CSG's Knowledge Center by clicking here.

State budgets have been hit hard and state leaders have faced tough choices about spending and the future of key programs. But while states have been on the downward spiral and tightened their belts, now they are facing a new problem - too much money.

In his 2010 campaign for governor, Rick Scott promised Florida voters he would require clean drug tests before issuing welfare benefits. On May 31, he made good on that promise and signed into law HB 353.

The law, which will go into affect July 1, will require that individuals applying for the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program who test positive for illegal substances won’t be eligible to receive benefits for one year or until they successfully complete a substance-abuse treatment program. More than 113,000 Floridians received TANF benefits in the last fiscal year.

Public universities are under increased pressure to produce more high-quality degrees, even as state funding for postsecondary education tightens. Consequently, some state policymakers and education think tanks are giving performance-based funding a closer look.

Political journalist Ron Brownstein will be the keynote speaker at this year's Midwestern Legislative Conference's annual meeting, which will be held form July 17-20 in Indianapolis. The political director of the Atlantic Media Company, Brownstein is the author or editor of six books, including “The Second Civil War: How Extreme Partisanship Has Paralyzed Washington and Polarized America.”

In his keynote address to lawmakers, Brownstein will discuss the unique set of social, political, economic and policy challenges and realities that today’s policy leaders are facing. He will then moderate a panel of state experts from the Midwest who will examine the key policy issues in our region, and the role of state government in meeting these challenges.

State policymakers are encouraged to register for this year’s Midwestern Legislative Conference Annual Meeting, the premier event for state lawmakers to gather and share ideas on issues of importance to this region. The meeting will be held July 17-20 in Indianapolis.

Today, Vermont became the first state in the nation to establish a single-payer health care plan for the state. 

Upon the passing of the bill by the Vermont House of Representatives (92-49) and Senate (21-9), Governor Peter Shumlin praised the legislature for becoming "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."

The legislation guarantees any Vermont resident the right to enroll in a state-sponsored...