A delegation of state legislative leaders from four Southern states (Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky and Mississippi) recently participated in a Border Study Tour of Detroit, Michigan and Windsor, Ontario, Canada. The Border Study Tour, which was organized and sponsored by the government of Canada (through the Consulate General of Canada’s office in Atlanta, Georgia) and the Atlanta-based Southern Office of The Council of State Governments (CSG), the Southern Legislative Conference (SLC), was designed to educate state legislators about the U.S.-Canada economic partnership and the significant economic benefits that proposed border initiatives will have for the SLC states. The delegation of SLC state legislative leaders included Representative Barry Mask, Alabama; Representative John Merrill, Alabama; Representative Ron Stephens, Georgia; Senator Ernie Harris, Kentucky; Senator Christian McDaniel, Kentucky; and Representative Deborah Dixon, Mississippi. Not only is the United States – Canada trade relationship the largest and most integrated trading relationship in the world, Canada is the top export destination for 35 states, including 11 of the 15 SLC member states. Importantly, Canada is the top export destination for Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky and Mississippi, all states represented on the Border Study Tour. In 2012, SLC state exports to Canada amounted to more than $83 billion, a massive amount and an expansion of nearly 10 percent over the previous year.
The Border Study Tour began at the 25th Annual U. S. – Canada Automotive Dinner in Dearborn, Michigan. The delegation heard from Mr. Joe Hinrichs, executive vice president and president of the Americas, Ford Motor Company. Mr. Hinrichs detailed the turnaround of the American auto industry since the Great Recession, highlighting the tremendous growth potential of the industry at home and abroad.
The delegation traveled to Windsor, Ontario, via the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel for a briefing by the Canada Border Services Agency on U. S. – Canada security cooperation and Canadian Immigration procedures. This crossing is the busiest border crossing in North America. While in Windsor, the delegation toured NARMCO, a high quality auto parts manufacturing supplier to the North American auto industry. NARMCO also has a production facility in Gadsden, Alabama, supplying auto parts to the Mercedes, Kia and Hyundai auto assembly plants in the SLC states. NARMCO officials briefed the delegation on border/trade issues, including the importance of expanding the border crossing capacity to better integrate North American supply chains. Briefings then focused on the importance of the expansion of the proposed new International Trade Crossing that will facilitate and enhance more efficient transportation across this vital land trade corridor. On the U. S. side, briefings from the U. S. Customs and Border Protection agency followed, detailing the operations at the Ambassador Bridge crossing trade corridor.
Meetings with Mr. Roy Norton, Consul General of Canada; Michigan State Representative Rashida Tlaib; and Mr. Fran Erwin, Magna International, the largest and most diversified automotive supplier in the world with several large operations in SLC states, concluded the study tour.
Designed to enhance economic cooperation and greater understanding between states belonging to the Southern Office of The Council of State Governments (CSG), the Southern Legislative Conference (SLC), and Germany, a delegation of SLC state legislative leaders recently travelled to Germany. The SLC delegation, led by 2011 SLC chair, Tennessee Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, also included Alabama Speaker Pro Tem Victor Gaston, North Carolina Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger and South Carolina House Ways and Means Committee Chair, Representative Brian White. The visit was organized and sponsored by the government of the Federal Republic of Germany, the Munich-based Goethe Institute, and the Atlanta-based SLC. Given increasing globalization and growing trade and investment links between the SLC states and the rest of the world, the SLC recently has coordinated visits by state legislative leaders to a number of foreign countries including Canada, China, England, Mexico and Panama. Germany is of particular importance to SLC states given the presence of major German multinational companies in the region, including ThyssenKrupp, Siemens, Bosch, T-Mobile, BMW, Mercedes, Bertelsmann, Bayer, Hemlock, BASF, Adidas, Wacker Chemie AG and Volkswagen. Click here to view photos from the trip.
A delegation of seven state transportation leaders from six Southern states, including Senator Jeff Mullis, chair of the Georgia Senate Transportation Committee (Delegation Leader); Representative Phillip D. "Phil" Owens, chair of the South Carolina House Education and Public Works Committee; Representative Jay Roberts, chair of the Georgia House Transportation Committee; Representative Karen Gaudet St. Germain, chair of the Louisiana House Transportation, Highways, and Public Works Committee; former North Carolina state representative and recently-appointed chair of the North Carolina State Ports Authority Daniel F. McComas; Senator Tommy Williams, chair of the Texas Senate Finance Committee (and until very recently chair of the Texas Senate’s Transportation and Homeland Security Committee); and, Senator Frank Wagner, member of the Virginia Senate Transportation Committee, traveled to Panama for high-level briefings on the Panama Canal expansion project. The delegation agenda was designed to reinforce the need for Southern ports to continue essential infrastructure enhancements to accommodate the significantly larger vessels and expanded cargo volumes expected to arrive after the completion of the Panama Canal expansion. Click here for a press release for the delegation and here to view photos during the visit.
A delegation comprised of Southern legislature’s transportation committee chairs attended The Council of State Governments Transportation Policy Academy and Washington, D.C., Fly-In between June 26 and 28, 2012. The event allowed the legislators to receive high-level briefings on the most pressing transportation issues of the day, as well as meet with members of Congress and U.S. Department of Transportation officials to express the Southern perspective on how these issues impact the states. An agenda of the meetings is available here.
In a visit designed to facilitate dialogue and prompt greater understanding of energy relations between states belonging to the Southern Office of The Council of State Governments (CSG), the Southern Legislative Conference (SLC), and Canada, a delegation of state officials, led by current SLC Energy and Environment Chair Representative Chuck Martin, Georgia, recently traveled to Edmonton and Fort McMurray, Alberta. The delegation included Representative Kurt Wallace, Alabama; Representative Clay Ford, Florida; Representative Angela Cockerham, Mississippi; Senator Bill Ketron, Tennessee; and Representative Stefani Carter, Texas. The visit involved presentations by various Canadian government and research organizations, as well as tours of an oil sands mining site, an in situ site, and the CanmetENERGY research and technology development facility. The delegation was joined by the Alberta Minister of International and Intergovernmental Relations Cal Dallas, Associate Minister Teresa Woo-Paw, and other officials. The visit was sponsored by the SLC and the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, represented by the Consulate General of Canada in Atlanta, with the SLC coordinating and organizing the trip’s details. Click here for further details and here for photos from the visit.
Legislators from four SLC states participated in a Washington, D.C., healthcare reform fly-in November 14-15, 2011, organized by The Council of State Governments and the Southern Legislative Conference. Representative Sharon Cooper – Georgia (Chair, Georgia House Health and Human Services Committee; Chair, SLC Human Services and Public Safety Committee); Senator Julie Denton – Kentucky (Chair, Kentucky Senate Health and Welfare Committee; Member, SLC Human Services and Public Safety Committee); Senator Emmett Hanger – Virginia (Vice Chair, SLC Human Services and Public Safety Committee); and Representative Greg Leding – Arkansas (Member, Arkansas House Public Health, Welfare and Labor Committee) represented the SLC at the fly-in. The legislators met for a series of discussions on the implications for instituting state-run healthcare exchanges, as well as other aspects of the federal Affordable Care Act, which included presentations by representatives from several national think tanks and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The fly-in also included a series of visits to Capitol Hill where the SLC legislators met with their Congressional delegations.
The Legislative Service Agency (LSA) Directors Group, which comprises legislative service directors from the 15 SLC member states, recently convened in Atlanta, Georgia, for their pre-legislative seminar, October 28-30, 2011. The directors discussed a variety of topics pertaining to the enhancement and improvement of services in their respective legislatures and hosted a debate on immigration reform in Southern states, with presentations from Tamar Jacoby, president and CEO of ImmigrationWorks USA, as well as Julie Kirchner, executive director of the Federation for American Immigration Reform. Also during the program, Chris Whatley, director of The Council of State Governments' Washington, D.C. office, provided an update on the activities of the Congressional “super committee.” During the seminar, members shared information with one another pertaining to past and upcoming legislative sessions, with a focus on becoming more effective at providing services to lawmakers. The LSA Group is lead by Jerry Bassett, director of Legislative Reference Service in the Alabama Legislature.
Legislators from three SLC states participated in a Washington, D.C. transportation fly-in October 4-6, 2011, organized by The Council of State Governments. Senator Bill Sample – Arkansas (Member, Arkansas Senate Transportation Committee; Vice Chair, SLC Economic Development, Transportation & Cultural Affairs Committee); Representative Hubert Collins – Kentucky (Chair, Kentucky House Transportation Committee; Former Chair, SLC Economic Development, Transportation & Cultural Affairs Committee); and Senator Robert D. Beach – West Virginia (Chair, West Virginia Senate Transportation and Infrastructure Committee) represented the SLC at the fly-in. The legislators joined their colleagues from the other three CSG regions for a series of presentations and discussions on the re-authorization of federal transportation funding. The fly-in also included a series of visits to Capitol Hill where the SLC legislators met with their Congressional delegations to impress upon them the urgent need for federal transportation re-authorization legislation. Click here to view the day's agenda.
The SLC, in collaboration with the Georgia Southern University, hosted a workshop on the creative economy for a select group of legislators from six Southern states earlier this week in Atlanta. The workshop, conducted at the Georgia Tech Conference Facility, was designed to bring together SLC state legislators and demonstrate how to think constructively and proactively about the creative economy. At a time when state arts agencies face unprecedented challenges in securing state and local government appropriations, along with funds from corporate and individual sources, the workshop focused on effective and optimal strategies available to state arts agencies and legislators to eventually generate broad-based, sustained economic growth. In a series of presentations and during the ensuing discussion, the workshop explored how states and localities might more effectively unleash the tremendous potential of creative and cultural forces to bring about impressive economic results. Click here to view the workshop agenda.
In a visit designed to enhance economic cooperation and greater understanding between states belonging to the Southern Office of The Council of State Governments (CSG), the Southern Legislative Conference (SLC) and China, a delegation of SLC state presiding officers, including Alabama Speaker Pro Tem Victor Gaston, Arkansas Speaker Robert S. Moore, Jr. and North Carolina Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger, recently travelled to China. The visit was sponsored by the Hong Kong-based China-U.S. Exchange Foundation and the Chinese People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries (CPAFFC) with the Atlanta-based SLC, coordinating and organizing the trip’s details. The 2011 delegation visit was the third consecutive year that the SLC had coordinated a visit to China by SLC presiding officers. Both in fall 2009 and 2010, two SLC presiding officer delegations from a total of eight Southern states had very successful visits to Beijing and Shanghai. Click here for further details and here for photos from the visit.
On Tuesday, November 16, The Council of State Governments Justice Center (CSG Justice Center) met with various members of the North Carolina General Assembly in the third installment of the "Justice Reinvestment in North Carolina" work group. In 2009, Governor Beverly Perdue, Supreme Court Chief Justice Sarah Parker, and a bipartisan group of legislators number of state legislators from both parties, including Senate President Pro Tempore Marc Basnight, Senate Minority Leader Phil Berger, House Speaker Joe Hackney, and House Minority Leader Paul Stam, requested technical assistance from the CSG Justice Center to help develop a statewide policy framework to reduce spending on corrections and reinvest in strategies to increase public safety. Faced with a growing prison population, the state intends to drastically revamp its corrections policies, in keeping with strategies to control corrections spending, while making the state a safer place to live. The meeting on November 16 concluded the " analysis and policy development" phase of the reinvestment process, including an assessment of projected growth of the state prison population, potential expansion of prison capacity, and corresponding increases to corrections costs in upcoming years. The work group will meet again in January to begin the "policy implementation" phase of the program, based on these assessments.
A delegation of eight state legislators from Arkansas, Louisiana and Oklahoma, along with SLC staff, attended and provided speakers for the 3rd Americas 2020 Summit held on November 11-12, 2010, in Dallas, Texas. The Americas 2020 Summit brings together policymakers and transportation experts for presentations and discussions about expanding emerging trade corridors; improving mobility and security across international boundaries; and enhancing economic development and global competitiveness. The Americas 2020 Summit enables government and private sector stakeholders from the United States, Mexico and Canada to discuss and identify solutions to enhance the security and economic competitiveness of North America. The Summit also provides an opportunity to hear from expert panelists in the areas of border crossings, infrastructure competitiveness, and secure trade and manufacturing. Moreover, attendees are engaged in dynamic breakout sessions designed to promote dialogue and the identification of concrete solutions to establish a sustainable and competitive North America for the 21st Century. Further information, photos and presentations from the summit are available here.
According to a risk assessment report released by power company Entergy Corporation, the Gulf Coast could see $350 billion in losses over the next 20 years as a result of global warming, stronger and more frequent hurricanes, and environmental damage. Members of the Gulf Coast and Atlantic States Regional Task Force convened for a one-day legislative fly-in to talk with experts regarding natural and environmental disaster preparedness, oil spill damage assessment and recovery efforts along the Gulf Coast. The group of legislators, representing counties along the Gulf of Mexico from SLC member states, were hosted by Task Force presiding officer, Senator David Baria, in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. In addition to hearing from experts in marine science and natural resource damage assessment, the group also toured NASA’s John C. Stennis Space Center and the Naval Oceanographic Office, which is the headquarters for airborne, surface and subsurface platforms positioned worldwide, as well as satellites and buoys used to collect data from around the world. The group was briefed on how the information collected from the Center is used in oil spill recovery efforts, as well as hurricane preparedness, response and recovery.
Deepwater Horizon MC 252 Oil Spill, Richard Harrell, P.E., DEE, Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality (6 MB file size)
Northern Gulf Institute Response to the Deepwater Horizon Incident, Michael Carron, Ph.D., Director, Northern Gulf Institute (1.8 MB file size)
Restoration of the Mississippi Gulf Coast: Recovery from the Deepwater Horizon Spill, Richard Harrell, P.E., DEE, Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality (1.5 MB file size)
A delegation of legislators from The Council of State Governments’ Southern Office, the Southern Legislative Conference (SLC), recently traveled to China for the second consecutive year. As in 2009, the 2010 SLC delegation’s visit to China was sponsored by the Hong-Kong-based China-U.S. Exchange Foundation and organized by The Chinese People's Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries (CPAFFC). Both the Foundation and the Association seek to bolster links between China and the United States by promoting a deeper understanding of the environmental, economic, social and political developments in both China and the United States. China also has emerged as a critical trading partner in all the Southern states, reinforcing the need for a more comprehensive appreciation of the economic dynamics of states in the SLC and the different provinces in China.
The 2010 SLC delegation to China comprised Speaker Pro Tem Jan Jones, Georgia, delegation leader; President Pro Tempore-Elect Paul Bookout, Arkansas; Speaker Pro Tem Kris Steele, Oklahoma; and Senator William Wampler, Virginia. Colleen Cousineau, SLC executive director, and Sujit CanagaRetna, SLC senior fiscal analyst, staffed the delegation.
On September 13, 2010, members of the Energy & Environment Committee, including Committee Chair, Representative Chuck Martin, Georgia, traveled to the Vogtle Electric Generating Plant near Augusta, Georgia. The plant currently operates two nuclear reactors and is in the process of building two additional units. The group of Southern legislators and staff saw presentations on electricity generation at the plant; toured the containment buildings that house the two working reactors, turbines, electric generators and control rooms; and visited the grounds where water intake facilities and the 500-foot cooling towers are located. In addition, the group toured the construction sites where the two new units are being built. Once these reactors come on line, the plant's generating capacity will be more than 4,600 megawatts.
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Continuing its efforts to promote optimal public policy options for state legislators, the SLC’s Economic Development, Transportation and Cultural Affairs Committee recently arranged for Representative Nelson Cole, North Carolina, and Representative Rod Scott, Alabama, to tour the American Maglev Technology (AMT), Inc. facility in Powder Springs, Georgia. Tony J. Morris, Chief Executive Officer of AMT, briefed the two legislators on the intricacies of Maglev technology and its potential for moving both passengers and cargo efficiently in a number of settings. Among the positive outcomes of Maglev technology cited were lower energy (electric) cost per passenger kilometer compared to cars and aircraft (approximately 1.8 kilowatt hour per kilometer or 70 percent less energy than conventional transportation); zero carbon emissions except for the electricity; technology tried and tested by German and Japanese companies; reduced dependence on imported energy sources; high acceleration and deceleration capacity of the Maglev vehicle given the lack of surface contact or friction; and an elevated design that enables the Maglev system to deploy along existing rights-of-way with minimal disruption and displacement of current cityscape. The final portion of the SLC visit involved a test ride in AMT’s rail car at the facility. Click here for more details.
At the recommendation of the leadership in their respective legislative chambers, Representative Bill Sample (chair of the Arkansas House Public Transportation Committee), Representative Herbert B. Dixon (member of the Louisiana House Transportation, Highways, and Public Works Committee) and Representative Guy Liebmann (chair of the General Government and Transportation sub-committee of the Oklahoma House Appropriations and Budget Committee), all legislators from The Council of State Governments’ Southern Office, the Southern Legislative Conference (SLC) states bordering Texas, recently participated in the second annual Americas 2020 International Trade & Transportation Summit in San Antonio, Texas. The Americas 2020 Summit, co-hosted by the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) and The Council of State Governments’ Western Office (CSG-WEST), seeks to discuss and act on trade and transportation interests that unite the United States, Mexico and Canada. The SLC legislators, along with international business, government and community leaders, participated in discussions related to expanding emerging trade corridors; improving mobility and security across international boundaries; and enhancing economic development and global competitiveness. In order to foster cooperation and acquire information on critical issues, the SLC offers limited state delegation scholarships for technical visits and conferences such as the Americas 2020 Summit. Click here for photos of the delegation.
A delegation of presiding officers from The Council of State Governments' Southern Legislative Conference recently traveled to China at the invitation of the Chinese government. The SLC delegation’s visit to China was sponsored by the Hong-Kong-based China-U.S. Exchange Foundation and organized by The Chinese People's Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries (CPAFFC). The China-U.S. Exchange Foundation has sponsored a number of delegations from the United States to China and, most recently, in May 2009, arranged for a group of American journalists to travel to a number of Chinese cities to gain first-hand insights into China’s economic and social development. The goal of the Foundation is to help Americans across many spectrums gain a deeper understanding of the environmental, economic, social and political developments in China.
The SLC delegation to China included Tennessee Senate Majority Leader Mark S. Norris, SLC chair elect and delegation leader; Alabama House Speaker Seth Hammett; Arkansas House Speaker Robbie Wills; Louisiana House Speaker Jim Tucker; Missouri House Speaker Ron Richard; Virginia Senate President Pro Tempore Charles J. Colgan; and Arkansas House Majority Leader Steve Harrelson. Colleen Cousineau, SLC executive director, and Sujit CanagaRetna, SLC senior fiscal analyst, staffed the delegation.
SLC Vice Chair Senator Mark Norris, Tennessee, and Representative Vance Smith Jr., Georgia, Chair of the SLC’s Economic Development, Transportation and Cultural Affairs Committee, were in Washington, D.C. on June 23 and 24, 2009, meeting with members of Congress, senior Congressional and U.S. Department of Transportation staff regarding the reauthorization of the federal transportation legislation set to expire on September 30, 2009.* SLC staff initially began working on this visit to Washington with The Council of State Governments’ (CSG) D.C. office staff and the delegation was then expanded to include legislators from the three other CSG regions. The national composition of the CSG delegation helped reinforce the critical importance of the upcoming legislation to state policymakers in every part of the country though each CSG region had its own priorities that were highlighted in the discussions. Click here for more details.
Representative Vance Smith, Jr., Georgia, Chair of the SLC’s Economic Development, Transportation & Cultural Affairs Committee toured American Maglev Technology (AMT) Inc.’s facility in Powder Springs, Georgia on June 9, 2009.* Chairman Smith was shown around the facility by Tony J. Morris, Chief Executive Officer of AMT, who provided a historical summary of AMT, a demonstration of deploying a magnetic field to lift and propel an object (in this instance, a passenger rail car) and a short test ride in AMT’s rail car at the facility. Mr. Morris noted that Maglev technology is decades old and has been utilized in several global settings. He added that “AMT has incorporated the technological brilliance of frictionless transport on a half-inch magnetic field with a market-driven business model, allowing for the construction and operation of inter- and intra-city maglev systems at a fraction of the cost of foreign maglev and traditional steel-wheels-on-steel-track” systems. Work on the Powder Springs, Georgia, test site began in spring 2006, when AMT, with assistance from new investors in its technology, broke ground on a new test site. By summer 2007, it was fully operational with components and efforts from 118 companies in 77 Congressional districts and 26 states. Click here for more details.details.
Members of the Georgia General Assembly, Senators Jeff Mullis and Doug Stoner and Representatives Vance Smith and Donna Sheldon, recently participated in a technical field visit to Charlotte, North Carolina, arranged and sponsored by The Council of State Governments’ Southern office, the Southern Legislative Conference (SLC). The delegation, led by SLC Economic Development, Transportation & Cultural Affairs Committee Chair, Representative Vance Smith, attended briefings by senior officials with the Charlotte Area Transit System (CATS), the LYNX system’s oversight authority, and rode the nearly 10-mile LYNX system that provides light rail service to 15 stations between uptown Charlotte and I-485 at South Boulevard. In addition, the delegation had the opportunity to ride in a CATS street car/trolley and acquire first-hand information about links between different elements of the transportation system currently in place in Charlotte. A discussion with a member of the North Carolina General Assembly instrumental in the development and implementation of the LYNX system was also arranged. Click here for more details.