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The Endangered Species Act aims to conserve plant and animal species that are endangered or threatened throughout all or a portion of their habitat. But as the list of species protected under the act grows, the range of habitats in which these species live increasingly overlaps with areas otherwise designated for development.

This summer the Oregon Department of Transportation begins a program under which 5,000 volunteer drivers will pay a mileage-based road usage charge. It’s just the latest step for Oregon, which has been a pioneer of mileage-based fees over the last decade. But Oregon is far from alone in testing and exploring such fees. Other states have conducted tests of their own, adopted mileage-based user fee-related legislation and participated in multi-state coalitions to explore the concept.

Approximately 7.7 million people living in states with a federally run health insurance exchange purchased health insurance and qualified for monthly premium tax subsidies during the 2014-15 open enrollment period, according to newly released data. The estimated annual value of those tax subsidies tops $24 billion, according to calculations by The Council of State Governments. These premium subsidies are at risk in the King v. Burwell case currently before the U.S. Supreme Court.

By Katherine Barrett and Richard Greene, CSG Senior Fellows

At least a dozen states—including Arizona, Florida, New York, Ohio and Wisconsin—have plans to cut taxes in the coming year. But statistics suggest that lowering the tax burden doesn’t always translate into economic activity.

Redistricting policy in the United States has become highly partisan, with some state legislatures at odds over where and how to draw district lines and the legality of independent redistricting commissions being considered by the Supreme Court. This eCademy session features national experts on elections and redistricting policy to help state policymakers better understand the contemporary redistricting policy landscape, as well as innovative policy solutions.

Interest in using solar energy to power homes continues to skyrocket and rural electric cooperatives are taking notice. Rural co-ops--nonprofit consumer-owned utilities--are responding to demands from their members looking to invest in community solar projects. Utilities are developing these programs, which allow customers to pay for the cost of one or more panels in exchange for a credit on their bill based on the energy the panels produce. This eCademy session features experts discussing the national trend of community solar programs and specific examples to help state policymakers better understand this emerging trend.

States that previously were reluctant to expand Medicaid eligibility as allowed under the Affordable Care Act are considering waivers for expansion designed with their state politics and health care system in mind. Several governors met with President Obama in January to advocate for their proposals. This eCademy session addresses how much flexibility states have under Section 1115 waivers and provides an overview of state waiver proposals.

 

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The main purpose of the Endangered Species Act is to conserve plant and animal species. However, as the list of protected species grows and development grows, the balancing act of conservation and development is increasingly complex. But states are beginning to shift perspectives and forge unique partnerships to recognize and support existing conservation and develop smarter with species in mind.

CSG South

In July 2008, the price of oil per barrel reached an astronomical $147, and the price of gasoline in several states exceeded $5 per gallon; just six months earlier in January 2008, the price per barrel had hovered around $90. Fast forward to the end of 2008, and the price had plunged to under $35 a barrel, when the United States and world economies were in the throes of the Great Recession, the worst economic downturn to sweep over the globe since the Great Depression. Reviewing the price per barrel in the last six months reveals similar trends: in June 2014, oil was around $115 per barrel and six months later, in early January 2015, it had dropped precipitously to below $50 per barrel. Interestingly, the four years with the highest average crude oil prices since the 1860s were 2008, 2011, 2012 and 2013; hence, the steep drop in oil prices is not a “new normal” but a return to more historic price levels. This SLC Regional Resource describes recent trends in oil prices, the reasons for their fluctuations, and the affect they have on individual states and industries in the region.

Most states have created dedicated trust funds to support transportation. Some have constitutional restrictions on how the revenues in those funds can be spent. Others simply have restrictions codified in statute that haven’t always been effective in preventing the diversion of revenues to other budget areas. Maryland and Wisconsin are the two newest states with constitutional protections for their transportation trust funds. Additional states could follow suit, but despite their real or perceived benefits, such protections are unlikely to have much impact on struggling state transportation budgets.

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