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In December, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in two of its most significant cases of the term so far for states. It is difficult to predict what the court will do based on oral arguments but it is the only clue the court offers.

The Council of State Governments hosted its 2015 National Conference from December 10th-13th in Nashville, Tennessee. The meeting provided state leaders with a robust agenda structured to tackle some of the most pressing issues facing state governments. If you would like to watch any of the sessions or would like to get copies of the presentations, please visit the individual session pages housed here in the Knowledge Center. Audio of many of the presentations will be available shortly.

The second meeting of the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact Commission convened December 18, 2015 in Salt Lake City, UT. All eleven (11) member states were fully represented. The following are the draft minutes of the meeting as submitted by Commission Secretary Diana Shepard of West Virginia.

As states move to crack down on the scourge of drug abuse, they must consider evidence-based policy strategies to control drug diversion and abuse and avoid the unintended consequence of increased heroin use. This session explored the current state of drug abuse in the states, how new policies, programs and products can address prescription opioid drug abuse, as well as the challenge of treating the legitimate needs of 100 million Americans estimated to suffer from chronic pain.

The use of electronic cigarettes—or “vaping”—has exploded in recent years among both youth and adults. In the absence of clear federal regulations, state policymakers have struggled with how best to approach the taxation and regulation of the devices. Attendees heard from state leaders, experts, law enforcement and federal representatives who will discuss how states are currently taxing e-cigarettes and restricting their sales to minors. The presenters also described what the future may hold for regulating consumption and marketing and manufacturing devices.

Adjusting to federal government regulations relating to climate change will require meaningful coordination between state legislators, state energy and regulatory agencies, and the regulated community. This session provided an overview of what state legislators need to know about these recent regulatory changes, their anticipated impacts on the states and how state officials can work together to address recent EPA regulations.

Each year, more than 10 million adults are released from jail or prison. One in 31 adults is under correctional supervision on any given day in the U.S.; it is estimated that 70 million adults have a criminal record. Across the political spectrum, people agree that efforts to help these individuals stay out of prison or jail and to succeed in the community must include a strategy focused on assisting them to get and maintain a job. As part of the CSG State Pathways to Prosperity initiative, the CSG Justice Center has been working with local and state governments, as well as leaders in the business community, to test and evaluate approaches that work to reduce recidivism and improve employment outcomes. This session reviewed what has been learned to date and highlight the perspectives of state leaders who are tackling this challenge.

Civics education stands at the core of what it takes to equip citizens with the knowledge and willingness to become community, state, national and international leaders. Without such civic fundamentals, the youth of today may not vote or run for public office tomorrow, and the future participation of citizens in America’s grand democratic experiment is called into question. As part of CSG’s ongoing work to explore the challenges of federalism, this session featured experts and policymakers to discuss how states are teaching future generations about the role of state and federal governments and civic engagement.

It’s not a matter of whether or not a cybersecurity breach—affecting either a private or public institution—will happen, but when. Experts warn that both the frequency of cybersecurity threats and their level of sophistication will continue to increase, and state leaders need to know what they are facing. This session explored what state leaders need to know about cybersecurity threats to make informed decisions, anticipate challenges, share information, and define roles and responsibilities.

As the United States' economy gains momentum, state leaders are focused on answering a few key questions. How can the U.S. sustain that momentum? Where should we place our bets and invest our resources to create long-term pathways to prosperity? This session brought together experts from government, academia and the private sector to discuss how best to collaborate in developing a long-term strategy to grow the economy and create quality jobs. Attendees also heard a fiscal and economic forecast for 2016 and received a briefing on the status of international trade agreements.

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