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By Katherine Barrett and Richard Greene
It may appear that efforts to adopt an evidence-based approach using data to improve the effectiveness, efficiency and fairness of law enforcement had its genesis back in 1995, when New York City kicked off work on its so-called CompStat system. In that very successful effort, geographic information systems, or GIS, were used to identify the places in the city where officers could be deployed to their best use. It worked so well that New York’s crime rates plummeted and a number of other places tried to emulate the work. But while CompStat may have been at the forefront of using technology in this way, “the history of quantitative crime analysis spans decades,” wrote Jennifer Bachner, a director in the Johns Hopkins University Center for Advanced Governmental Studies. As Bachner pointed out, in 1829 “an Italian geographer and French statistician designed the first maps that visualized crime data,” including three years of property crime rates as well as education information garnered from France’s census. The maps showed a correlation between the two—more education tended to equate to less crime. Jump forward about 190 years and you’ll find that a number of states, counties and cities have been using the seemingly magical capacity of computers to advance this work dramatically.

States and businesses continue to recover from the Great Recession, and they are doing so in an environment shaped by two historic shifts related to economic and workforce development. The first is the return of manufacturing jobs to the United States and the second is new technological requirements of these jobs. While job opportunities continue to grow, today’s factories require greater levels of technical knowledge from employees. But with these new jobs come new challenges in the form of preparing a workforce equipped with the skills and competencies required for a rapidly evolving workplace—filling the critical skills gap among today’s workers as well as students preparing to enter the future workforce.

On Sept. 2-8, a CSG-sponsored delegation of state leaders visited China to discuss regional policy issues and learn about bilateral relations. Over the course of the six-day trip, the delegation met with Chinese officials from the provincial, city and local levels in Beijing, Jinan and Shanghai. Additionally, the delegation met with Chinese nonprofit leaders to discuss cultural and social exchange programs and participated in an international convening of sister cities.

Since 2011, eight states and the District of Columbia have enacted state policies dealing with the testing and/or operation of autonomous vehicles. Those policies and other state initiatives have enabled a variety of autonomous technology testing activities around the country. With guidance to states from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration expected this month and a number of states on the verge of enacting additional legislation, 2017 could be a big year for autonomous vehicles. But legislative challenges still could lie ahead for states looking to push the envelope on this potentially transformative technology.

During The Council of State Governments' eCademy webcast, "Building the Grid of the Future: How Technology Can Help," panelists discussed the aging electric grid, how new technologies can help meet energy reliability and affordability objectives, and how policymakers can help ensure the grid continues to meet consumer demands.

States are increasingly turning to community paramedicine to help fill the gap in the health care workforce. States have been experimenting with community paramedicine programs for the last five years or more. Expanding the role of licensed or certified emergency medical technicians—or EMTs—and paramedics to provide non-emergency preventive health care services directly to patients in their communities can be cost-effective and make up for health care work force shortages. 

In May 2016, the national unemployment rate fell to 4.7 percent, which is the lowest rate in eight years. The unemployment rate was 5 percent when the Great Recession began in December 2007, and it peaked in October 2009 at 10 percent.

This year, some university and college students in Pennsylvania will be permitted to serve as substitute teachers in the state’s public school districts, vocational-technical schools and intermediate units under a new law that becomes effective Sept. 12. The legislation signed by Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf in July is an attempt to increase the number of substitute teachers in a state with a longtime shortage. The problem, however, is not unique to Pennsylvania. School administrators across the country struggle to find temporary stand-ins for teachers, and the law that allows college students to take the reins is just one example of several diverse solutions being reviewed and implemented by the states.

To paraphrase former first lady and the first U.S. permanent representative to the United Nations, Eleanor Roosevelt, human rights begin in small places, close to home. In that spirit, the U.S. State Department would like to share important information about the Universal Periodic Review, or UPR, a major international human rights mechanism in which every U.N. member state participates, and invite state government officials to join public consultations that are part of this process.

Two weeks ago, Gov. Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas unveiled a new performance-based funding model for higher education. The proposal will go before the Legislature in 2017. Most states have some element of performance incorporated in to funding formulas. If the proposal is passed, Arkansas would become the fifth state to have a funding formula based exclusively on outcomes. Universities and community colleges would receive their funding not based on enrollment, but rather on measures of their productivity, such as degree completion.

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