Policy Area

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is preparing to release a new National Ambient Air Quality Standard for ground-level ozone. Based on recommendations from EPA’s science advisers and staff, the EPA is expected to announce a more stringent standard, likely in the range of 70 to 60 parts per billion, down from the 2008 standard of 75 parts per billion. A more strict ozone requirement could be a challenge for some states and counties to attain, generating areas of noncompliance around the U.S. accompanied by a hefty price tag. This CSG eCademy session offers federal, state and industry perspectives on the complexity of meeting lower ozone emission standards and the associated costs.

U.S. veterans involved in the justice system face unique challenges. Since 2008, court officials have begun to step in to prevent jail time for veterans suffering from mental health disorders. Judge Robert Russell of Buffalo, N.Y., has offered one solution--specialized veterans treatment court.

The new advertising campaign for the Federal Voting Assistance Program makes clear its mission for military and civilian voters living overseas: “Americans make small votes every day and we want to make sure that you get your most important vote home.” The program, a part of the U.S. Department of Defense, is using that campaign—in addition to an active social media presence and other efforts—to spread the word about the resources it is providing for citizens living overseas, according to Scott Wiedmann, the Federal Voting Assistance Program’s director of communications.

The language of workforce development is changing and the federal government’s shift in focus presents both some big opportunities and challenges for states. In July, President Obama signed the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act—also known as WIOA. It was a reauthorization of the legislation formerly known as the Workforce Investment Act of 1998. The act requires regional and statewide collaboration between workforce development programs, industry leaders and educators. Each state will be required, beginning July 1, 2016, to submit a four-year unified strategy that identifies skills gaps with employers and how the state is going to close those gaps.

by Leon T. Andrews, Jr.
President Obama in February launched My Brother’s Keeper, an initiative that focuses on improving outcomes and opportunities for boys and young men of color. My Brother’s Keeper is not a new government program, but an initiative that builds on the momentum in communities across the country to improve life outcomes for boys and men of color.

Only 36.4 percent of eligible voters voted in the 2014 midterm election – the lowest turnout since 1942. Voter turnout during presidential election years is higher than turnout during midterm elections. In 2012, 58.2 percent of eligible voters voted – nearly 20 percentage points higher than the turnout just two years later in a midterm year.   

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is preparing to release a new National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS) for ground-level ozone. Based on recommendations from EPA’s science advisers and staff, the EPA is expected to announce a more stringent standard, likely in the range of 70 to 60 parts per billion, down from the 2008 standard of 75 parts per billion. A more strict ozone requirement could be a challenge for some states and counties to attain, generating areas of noncompliance around the U.S. accompanied by a hefty...

What a difference a year makes. On Jan. 1, 2014, only 21 states had a minimum wage higher than the federal wage. One year later, more than half of states – 29 – are set to have a minimum wage higher than the federal rate of $7.25/hr. Ten states enacted minimum wage increases during the 2014 legislative session and four states passed a wage hike via ballot initiative.

CSG Midwest logo
In just a few short years, the presence of ride-sharing companies such as Uber, Lyft and Sidecar has spread to more than 60 metropolitan areas across the country — 15 of which are in the Midwest. With a simple tap of a button on a smartphone application, a passenger can connect with a driver. The driver, using his or her personal vehicle, then provides a ride to a desired location, oftentimes at much cheaper prices than a traditional taxi or car service.
 
Should these ride-sharing companies fall under the same licensing and insurance regulations as taxi and limousine services? Should they fall under a new type of classification of service, or not be regulated at all? These are some of the questions that states and municipalities have begun to address with the rise in ride-sharing.
CSG Midwest logo
More than 100 years ago, the state of Wisconsin started what has since become an indispensable part of the daily work of state legislatures — the nonpartisan legislative service agency. From bill drafting to a host of research services, agency staff help make the legislative process work in capitols across the country, as political scientist Gary Moncrief noted this summer in a presentation to the Midwest’s state legislators.

Since the 1970s, he said, state legislatures have been professionalized and their role in public policy enhanced thanks to a series of reforms, among them a rise in legislative staff. For example, between 1979 and 2009, the median number of legislative staff per member of the legislature has risen from 2.7 to 3.9. (That also includes partisan staff and staff for individual legislators.)

“These reforms were largely effective in making legislatures co-equal branches of government,” Moncrief told the Midwestern Legislative Conference.
But while all states rely heavily on nonpartisan staff, the structure and duties of these agencies can vary.

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