Capitol Comments

Last week I had the pleasure to speak at a conference on sustainable transportation hosted by the organization Women in Government in Newport, Rhode Island. Thirty-two state legislators representing 20 states attended the forum and heard from a number of distinguished experts on such topics as federal and state transportation funding, complete streets programs, commuter transportation, community design and integrating transportation networks to improve mobility and spur economic development. Here’s a rundown of what participants heard at the conference along with some links to resources that may be useful in setting your state’s sustainable transportation goals.

In a recent Capitol Facts & Figures on women in state government, I noted that 27 states had never had a female governor.  This is guaranteed to change, as both New Mexico and Oklahoma have two women facing off against each other in this year's gubernatorial election, something that has happened only two other times.

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.