Policy Area

A vital tool for policymakers across the region, Comparative Data Reports (CDRs) offer a snapshot of conditions on a number of issues. Published annually, the CDRs track a multitude of revenue sources, appropriations levels, and performance measures in Southern states, and provide a useful tool to state government officials and staff. CDRs are available for adult correctional systems, comparative revenues and revenue forecasts, education, Medicaid, and transportation.

CSG South

In recent years, the largest and fastest growing number of incarcerated inmates over the age of 50 in United States’ prisons has continued to shape the demographic of prison systems throughout the country. The perpetual explosion of elderly persons in the general American population, and the repercussions of the “tough-on-crime” laws during the 1980s and 1990s, have led to a current increase of approximately 675,000 arrests of elderly persons every year in the United States. Experts assert that this is not attributable to an elderly crime wave, but rather to several factors that will continue to put more elderly people behind bars and continue to keep these persons behind bars longer.

The SLC began closely examining this issue during the 1990s. From information gathered from state corrections department through 1997, the SLC published a report, The Aging Inmate Population, on the topic in 1998, noting that many states “have found that the increase in the geriatric inmate population has been far greater than anticipated.” As an update to the 1998 report, this SLC Regional Resource explores the increase of the elderly prison population in Southern states and the nuances of this development, focusing particularly on changes since 1997. It examines policies and procedures employed by each state, as well as facilities and programs that are geared toward accommodating this growing population. Also, this report addresses the concerns of corrections officials regarding the future of the elderly inmate population within their states. Information was gathered through polling corrections departments in the 16 SLC member states. In addition, information was amassed from existing research projects and studies.

CSG South

This presentation by Sujit M. CanagaRetna, Fiscal Policy Manager at the Southern Legislative Conference (SLC), was given as Testimony Before a Hearing of the Georgia Senate Grassroots Arts Program Study Committee at the Georgia State Capitol in Atlanta, Georgia on November 20, 2006.

The economic impact of the arts is an issue that the SLC has been studying for well over two decades now. The SLC’s ongoing review of this topic and publications is a reflection of the recognition of its importance to SLC economies and public officials in the South. As demonstrated in these reports, a relatively miniscule investment in the arts results in substantially larger financial returns alongside many other benefits. The presentation summarizes a report completed earlier this year, entitled From Blues to Benton to Bluegrass: the Economic Impact of the Arts in the South, the most recent SLC report focusing on the arts in 16 Southern states.

CSG South

This presentation was given by Sujit M. CanagaRetna, Fiscal Policy Manager at the Southern Legislative Conference (SLC), before the SLC Fall Legislative Issues Conference in Savannah, Georgia, November 12, 2006. It deals with a topic that has enormous implications for state finances: under-funded and unfunded state pensions.

A vital tool for policymakers across the region, Comparative Data Reports (CDRs) offer a snapshot of conditions on a number of issues. Published annually, the CDRs track a multitude of revenue sources, appropriations levels, and performance measures in Southern states, and provide a useful tool to state government officials and staff. CDRs are available for adult correctional systems, comparative revenues and revenue forecasts, education, Medicaid, and transportation.

CSG South

On December 12, 2005, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) awarded The Council of State Governments’ (CSG) Southern Office, the Southern Legislative Conference (SLC), a grant to determine pension portability among public health employees in the United States. RWJF focuses on the pressing health and healthcare issues facing the United States and is the nation’s largest philanthropy devoted exclusively to improving the health and healthcare of all Americans.

In order to meet the requirements of the grant, the SLC conducted a survey of the administrative entities managing the pensions of public health employees in all 50 states to determine their rules and regulations regarding pension portability for this category of public employee. Based on the responses to the survey questionnaire and additional research, the SLC researchers were able to ascertain whether the pension plan in a state permits an employee to purchase service credits for prior periods of qualified employment in another jurisdiction, both in another state and within the state; whether the pension plan is a defined benefit (DB) or defined compensation (DC) plan; the minimum amount of time required for an employee’s pension benefits to be fully vested; the existence of any recent legislative activity related to the portability of retirement plans of public health officials in each state; whether any federal tax laws impact on the pension portability of these public health employees; and the existence of pension portability in other public employment sector categories.

Based on the information gleaned from the survey responses and additional research, this report contains:
» Details on the current status of the different elements of our nation’s retirement infrastructure;
» Information on the public health employee landscape, including a snapshot of current and expected shortages and other workforce challenges facing this employment category;
» Analysis of the survey responses on pension portability from the 50 states;
» Federal tax implications relating to pension portability in the states;
» Information from other non-health, public sector categories on pension portability; and
» Issues for consideration by state policymakers that would help create an environment to retain and attract professionals to the public health sector.

CSG South

Most provisions of the 2002 Farm Bill will expire in 2007. The USDA and Congress have been seeking input on a new Farm Bill through a series of public hearings throughout the end of 2005 and early 2006. The 2007 Farm Bill will be crafted at a time unlike that of any other in the legislation’s long history. A host of factors will affect discussions and deliberations on the future of the Farm Bill and U.S. farm policy. Among them are the growing federal deficit, ongoing negotiations of the Doha round of the World Trade Organization, political and leadership situations in Congress, and current farm sector conditions, among many others. These four major influences provide some context for understanding the debate that is ahead on the Farm Bill.

Ballot proposition activity was muted in 2005, as usual for odd-year elections, but several high-profile campaigns emerged across the country. The number of citizen-initiated  measures, 19, was a record high for an odd-year election, but only two of the initiatives were approved. All eight measures were defeated in California’s special election, and Colorado voters approved a partial TABOR suspension.

A continuing and leading trend in 2006 in state ethics issues is a fundamental re-examination of the core characteristics embodied within and mechanisms used to implement ethics oversight. In some states, this review emanates from the apparent absence of institutional processes to address public sector conduct widely viewed as unethical. In others, this reassessment of ethics administration standards, including agency independence and internal operation, accompanies executive and legislative consideration of additional measures for ethics reform. Significantly, all the state efforts appear directed at enhancing rather than diminishing ethics oversight.

State legislatures show signs of departing from their customary professional licensing approach as new professions gain state licensure without initiation by a profession or the public. Unprecedented measures are being enacted, some on behalf of the licensees. Agencies in many states are focusing on emergency preparedness for displaced professional populations.

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