During a special session called by Gov. Gary Herbert, Utah lawmakers passed a bill to address the issue of unmanned aircrafts interfering with wildfire management efforts, along with several other measures. In June, drones were spotted three times during a fire in Southwestern Utah, which led to the evacuation of 500 homes. Governor Herbert tweeted in response that “Evacuations could have been avoided if drones hadn’t interrupted air attack on the fire.”

Just like the head and tail of a coin, there are two sides to every disaster—providing help to those who need it and paying for that assistance. It’s a tug-of-war that’s becoming more contentious every year. Federal law requires assistance in times of disasters, but as threats grow in complexity—possible infrastructure failures, vulnerabilities from electromagnetic pulses and unforeseen consequences from hydraulic fracturing to name a few—the burden of marshalling the necessary resources and funding is an ongoing struggle.

The REAL ID Act of 2005 established minimum security standards for state-issued driver’s licenses and identification cards and prohibited federal agencies from accepting, for official purposes, licenses and identification cards from states that do not meet these standards. Starting Jan. 22, 2018, air travelers without a license from a compliant state or a state that has been granted an extension will be asked to provide alternate acceptable identification. Starting Oct. 1, 2020, every traveler will need to present a REAL ID-compliant license or another acceptable form of identification for domestic air travel. This FREE webinar presented by CSG South/SLC provides an overview of the latest trends associated with the REAL ID requirements from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and a status report from two SLC states.

It was a different crowd at the Supreme Court on April 18. The number of children on the courthouse steps may have exceeded the number of adults, and the voices on the microphones were speaking English and Spanish. Inside the courtroom, many members of Congress, cabinet members and foreign dignitaries filled the seats. Among those present were U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch, Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey, Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson and chief justice of Canada, Beverley McLachlin. United States v. Texas is about different things to different people. For some it is about keeping families together, for some others it is about executive overreach and for many it is about “standing” to sue the federal government.

Every year the Supreme Court refuses to hear thousands of cases. A denial of certiorari does not mean the Court agrees with the lower court decision. So most cert denials go unnoticed.  

That said, many eyebrows were raised for many reasons when the Court denied cert in Friedman v. City of Highland Park. The issue in the case was whether the City of Highland Park could ban assault weapons and large capacity magazines. 

It’s not just cold air slamming against warm that creates disasters. Disasters come from a variety of threats: rising rivers and unprecedented snowfalls, cyberattacks and infectious diseases. There are also other kinds of risks, such as inadequate budgets and shifting political sands. Regardless of the cause, the consequences are predictable and can be tragic. Disasters hurt people and property. They tear lives apart. They can make political careers or bring them to a screeching halt. Disasters can change the course of history. While disasters can be difficult and present challenges to a neighborhood, community, state and a nation, their impact can be mitigated through strong and decisive action. Often, the only thing standing between the worst outcomes and manageable ones are citizens and public officials who refuse to be helpless pawns or victims, but instead prepare for the inevitable, conduct a thorough response and develop together a well-thought out recovery that acknowledges evolving threats without fear.

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina violently slammed into the Gulf Coast, leaving more than a million people in the Gulf Coast region displaced, Louisiana Secretary of State Tom Schedler is looking back and issuing a somber reminder to state officials: Make sure that your contingency planning for disasters includes elections.

The Border Legislative Conference, a program of The Council of State Governments West, released a report, “The U.S.-Mexico Border Economy in Transition,” at the Wilson Center in Washington, D.C. The report is the result of four Regional Economic Competitiveness Forums held along the U.S.-Mexico border in 2014 to collectively generate a shared vision and policy recommendations to strengthen economic competitiveness. The report lays out the major issues involved in border region economic development, compiles the many innovative ideas developed at the forums and weaves them into a series of policy recommendations that draw on the experiences of those who understand the border best: the individuals who live in border communities and who cross back and forth between Mexico and the United States as a part of their daily lives.

Congress has by the end of this week to pass legislation to fund the Department of Homeland Security. After Feb. 27, the department will be forced to cut all nonessential personnel. The funding dispute between Republican and Democrat lawmakers largely revolves around the executive order on immigration President Obama issued last November that expanded the number of people eligible for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. To add more uncertainty to the issue, a federal court in Texas has temporarily blocked the executive order saying it would place major burdens on state governments and strain state budgets. President Obama has vowed to appeal the court’s decision; however, the administration will not proceed with the provisions outlined in the executive order until the appeals process is completed.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security in December 2013 announced a phased enforcement plan for the REAL ID Act of 2005. The act enacted a recommendation of the 9/11 Commission that the federal government “set standards for the issuance of sources of identification, such as driver’s licenses.” States and other jurisdictions have made significant progress in enhancing the security of their licenses in recent years, but hurdles and holdouts remain and key deadlines in 2015 and 2016 loom. This CSG eCademy provide an update from DHS on states’ progress, with discussion and questions posed by a representative of the REAL ID advocacy organization the Coalition for a Secure Driver’s License.

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