Capitol Comments

Eighteen states and the District of Columbia have emerged as finalists for more than $3 billion in funding in Phase Two of Race to the Top. U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan announced the 19 finalists during a speech to the National Press Club on Tuesday.

An overriding question concerning adoption of common core state standards has apparently been answered by an education think tank. One recurring question many policymakers have asked has been whether common core state standards, which would create uniform standards in English Language Arts (ELA) and mathematics, would be superior to existing state standards.

Today, Sean Slone and I release our latest report, Green Transportation.  The report highlights several initiatives states are taking to green-up their transportation system, including developing alternative fuels and electric vehicle infrastructure, as well as adopting policies that seek to reduce the overall number of vehicles on the road.

The Missouri public defender system announced yesterday that its Springfield office would not accept new cases until August because attorneys have exceeded their maximum caseloads.

According to a new report by the Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government, state government employment continued its slow slide in June.  From April 2009 to June 2010, state government employment decreased in 28 states, while private employment decreased in 44 states over the same time period. 

In those states with declines, rates varied significantly from a drop of 6.9 percent in Idaho to 0.2 percent in Tennessee, South Dakota and Mississippi.  In 20 states, state government employment increased, ranging from an increase of 0.2 percent in Utah to 3.5 percent in Massachusetts.  Two states – Rhode Island and Wyoming – had no change in employment.

During this same period, private employment decreased in all but six states with decreases ranging from a high of 3.2 percent in Nevada to Hawaii with a decrease of 0.1 percent. The six states with increases in private employment were Alaska (3%), Utah (0.4%), New Hampshire (0.5%), Kentucky (0.6%), Indiana (0.7%) and North Dakota (1.2%). 

Mark your calendars! The preliminary agenda for the upcoming National Conference in Providence, Rhode Island (December 4-7) is now available. Confirmed speakers (so far) include Gwen Ifill and David Gergen.

A new CSG Capitol Facts and Figures examines state cigarette taxes.

As I previously predicted, climate change legislation is dead in 2010.   Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced that there will be no bill this session that would cap emissions of greenhouse gases.

Fearing that Congress is not going to approve the enhanced Medicaid match extension incorporated into the state's FY 2011 budget, Governor Sonny Perdue has ordered a 4 percent cut to state agencies starting in August.

The CSG Education Policy Team held a Common Core State Standards Policy Roundtable in Bloomington, Ill., today. The meeting was attended by State Superintendent Christopher Koch, Deputy Superintendent Susie Morrison, Deputy Chief of Staff Julie Smith from Gov. Pat Quinn's office and Jeff Mays, president of the Illinois Business Roundtable. We also had several members from higher education, PTA, the Urban League and the Illinois Federation of Teachers. Also attending were Rep. Roger Eddy - who is Superintendent of Hutsonville Schools - Representative Jerry Mitchell and Rep. Dan Brady.

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