Capitol Comments

Three weeks after the election of new Republican governors in Florida, Ohio and Wisconsin and a Republican U.S. House of Representatives, the debate continues about the future of high-speed rail in the United States. Recent days have seen a series of pro-rail rallies in Wisconsin, where Governor-elect Scott Walker has promised to shut down a planned rail line between Milwaukee and Madison. But while it may be too early to completely write off the prospects for Midwest passenger rail, it may also be too soon to assume that high-speed rail will move forward in other parts of the country. Rail supporters who were breathing a sigh of relief about the election of rail-supporter Jerry Brown as Governor in California may have new cause for concern. The top Republican on the U.S. House Appropriations Committee, California Congressman Jerry Lewis, introduced legislation last week that would rescind $2 billion in stimulus funds promised to the state to kick start a $43 billion high-speed rail project that would link San Francisco and Los Angeles.

In the last few weeks NCIC staff has been working to help facilitate an agreement between various stakeholdres for the modified Surplus Lines Insurance Multi-State Compliance Compact, known as SLIMPACT-Lite.  The compact, which aims to bring the surplus lines insurance market in compliance with the Nonadmitted Insurance and Reinsurance Reform Act (NRRA) section of the Dodd-Frank fiscal reform bill, was widely endorsed by state legislators and industry officials at the National Conference of Insurnace Legislators (NCOIL) recently concluded meeting.  Both Crady deGolian and Rick Masters were in attendance at the meeting to discuss the importance of the compact and the need for state action in order to avoid federal regulation.  Additionally, a resolution encouraging states to consider adoption of the compact will be consider at CSG's upcoming meeting Dec. 3-6 in Providence, RI.  To read the complete press release about CSG's involvement with SLIMPACT-Lite please click here

State legislators are invited to attend a special 4-hour workshop on Friday, December 3 starting at 1pm. Travel support is available for state legislators.

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.

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