ANCHORAGE, ALASKA—Nearly 200 state leaders, guests and Alaska legislative staff helped pack 32,000 meals for the Alaska Food Bank during The Council of State Governments’ service project Aug. 13. The project—which began in 2010-11 during Tennessee Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris’ year as chair of CSG’s Southern Legislative Conference—grew this year to be part of Norris’ initiative as CSG national chair, “State Pathways to Prosperity.” The service project occurred on the final day of the joint CSG National and CSG West Annual Conference.

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan released a 73 page booklet last week detailing preliminary proposals for reducing poverty rates. If Chairman Ryan – who calls the proposals a “discussion draft” – is earnest about his intent to spark conversation he has so far been successful, drawing some predictably positive and negative reviews as well as – most interestingly – pragmatic responses to the policy nuances of his plan. Receiving the most fanfare is Ryan’s plan to delegate safety net planning to the states by combining 11 programs – including SNAP and TANF – into the Opportunity Grant and allowing states to use the money to best serve their constituents.

WASHINGTON, D.C.—When CSG’s 2014 chairman Mark Norris talks about the State Pathways to Prosperity initiative, he says “it’s something like awakening the sleeping giant.” Norris, the Tennessee Senate majority leader, spoke at The Council of State Governments 2014 Leadership Council meeting in June.

The Missouri House and Senate have both passed a bill that will lift the restriction on persons with drug felony convictions from receiving food stamps, the St. Louis Post Dispatch reports. Missouri is one of the last nine states – with Alabama, Alaska, Georgia, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas, West Virginia and Wyoming – to...

April 2014 ~ Stateline Midwest

Since 1996, states have had the authority under federal law to require welfare recipients to undergo drug testing.In recent years, more and more legislatures have given serious consideration to using this authority, including a handful of states in the Midwest. Kansas and Minnesota are among the nine U.S. states with drug-testing laws already in place, and according to the Center for Law and Social Policy, at least 30 states considered bills last year (Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan and North Dakota among them).

Children continue to be the poorest age group in America. Child poverty remained at record high levels in 2012, with more than 1 in 5 children identified as poor. This poverty leads to student achievement gaps, reductions in readiness for school, increased absenteeism, and developmental delays. Poor children also are less likely to complete high school - limiting potential employability and economic success in the future, and leading to poverty as an adult.

The more education a person attains, the better the chance he or she will get a job, earn a living, support a family, pay taxes and contribute to the community in which he or she lives.
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Florida Gov. Rick Scott campaigned on the issue of mandatory drug testing for parents enrolled in welfare. Almost as soon as the law was signed in 2011, U.S. District Judge Mary Scriven put the law on hold. Gov. Scott appealed the preliminary injunction, but a three judge panel concurred.

Now Scriven has ruled the law unconstitutional, the Miami Herald reports. In her 30-page summary judgment issued Dec. 31, she wrote "there is no set of circumstances under which the warrantless, suspicionless drug testing at issue in this case could be constitutionally applied."

If state leaders want to know the effects of programs aimed at helping the poor, they can find the answers in alternative poverty measures. “States want to know what’s going on with the programs they are using to fight poverty and how well are they doing,” Timothy Smeeding, director of the Institute for Research on Poverty and professor of public affairs and economics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said during a CSG webinar.

Few changes have been made to the official federal poverty measure since it was adopted in 1969 despite growing concern over its accuracy and usefulness. To address these concerns, both governmental and nongovernmental organizations have developed alternative ways of measuring poverty.

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