Capitol Comments

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...

On May 11, President Obama announced a new approach to "confronting the complex challenge of drug abuse and its consequences."   The new National Drug Control Strategy calls for reducing the rate of youth drug use by 15 percent over the next five years and for similar reductions in chronic drug use, drug abuse deaths and drugged driving.

Automated toll collection at full highway speeds… traffic cameras… optimized traffic lights… roadway message signs… traveler information services. All are examples of intelligent transportation system technologies being implemented in many states that hold the promise of making travel safer, more efficient and less harmful to the environment. A new Capitol Research brief examines how these technologies and others on the horizon can help maximize the capacity of infrastructure, reduce the need for additional highway capacity, improve traffic flow, reduce congestion and emissions, collect real-time data to measure and improve transportation system performance, deliver more benefits at a lower cost compared to heftier investments to build more roads or expand existing roads, and save lives.

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