A delegation of SLC Energy and Environment Committee members participated in a study tour of the Bakken Shale Formation, August 11-13, 2015, for the purpose of learning more about issues relating to infrastructure development, preparation of a skilled workforce; long-term environmental concerns, the economic cycle of boom industries, and the challenges facing state legislatures in finding a balance in this arena. North Dakota has been an oil and gas producing state since 1951, but recent technologies, such as horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, have unlocked the potential of the Bakken formation, making North Dakota a top oil producer for the nation. Of the 15 states represented by the SLC, 14 have known shale reserves.
The visit included tours of the Bakken Oil Express Rail Terminal, Dakota Prairie Refinery; a reclaimed well site; the ONEOK Garden Creek Plant gas processing facility; and QEP resources drilling rig, well site, and hydraulic fracturing site. The program also included briefings from the North Dakota Petroleum Council, North Dakota Department of Mineral Resources and a community impacts tour of Watford City, North Dakota. The delegation also met with members of the North Dakota General Assembly to participate in high-level policy discussions concerning the Bakken Shale Formation and related issues.
Participants in the delegation included SLC Energy and Environment Committee Chair Representative William “Bill” Sandifer III, South Carolina; SLC Energy and Environment Committee Vice Chair Representative Lynn Smith, Georgia; Representative Jeff Collins, North Carolina; Senator Ed Emery, Missouri; and Representative Dustin Burrows, Texas.
Senator Willie Simmons (Chair, Mississippi Senate Highways and Transportation Committee), Delegate Danny Hamrick (Vice Chair, West Virginia House Roads and Transportation Committee) and Representative Mathew Pitsch (Member, Arkansas House Public Transportation Committee) attended The Council of State Governments’ (CSG) 2015 Transportation Policy Academy in Washington, D.C., May 11- 13, 2015. This was CSG’s fifth Transportation Policy Academy that brought together transportation legislative leaders from all four CSG regions to the nation’s Capital for a series of high-level policy discussions and briefings, meetings with members of Congress and U.S. Department of Transportation officials, and a tour of one of the busiest metropolitan areas in the country (Northern Virginia) for innovative infrastructure projects.
A delegation of Southern state legislative leaders recently traveled to Miami and Fort Lauderdale, Florida, for high-level briefings on the state’s multimodal transportation strategies. The agenda was designed to provide first-hand information to legislators from states belonging to The Council of State Governments’ (CSG) Southern Legislative Conference (SLC), about Florida’s efforts to enhance its multimodal capacities as a mechanism to promote international and domestic trade. Representative Yonts remarked that this SLC-sponsored visit reinforced the “need for continued investments in Kentucky’s airports, ports, rail and highways to ensure that Kentucky remains competitive in the global economy.”
The technical tour and briefings, which the SLC’s Economic Development, Transportation and Cultural Affairs Committee organized with the assistance of the Florida Department of Transportation, reflected this SLC Committee’s focus in recent years: the importance for Southern states to continuing developing strong multimodal platforms. Given that Florida has one of the most comprehensive, robust multimodal strategies in the country, legislators from other SLC states were eager to learn more about financing and operating critical multimodal assets with an eye toward possibly enacting similar projects in their own states.
Briefings included presentations by Dr. Emilio González, director, Miami-Dade Aviation Department at Miami International Airport (MIA), the top-ranking U.S. airport for international freight; and a tour of the Miami Intermodal Center (MIC), a complex that included the airport’s car rental center, MIA connecting people-mover, MetroRail, Tri-Rail, Amtrak, bus transit, and road connections to the regional expressway system. The delegation also visited the LAN Air Cargo Facility, a facility that receives nearly 80 percent of the cut flowers imported into the United States. The delegation than travelled to PortMiami for briefings by officials, including Mr. Kevin Lynskey, deputy director, PortMiami, on the Port’s cruise terminals and cargo handling facilities. Briefings and a visit to the docks for details on the port’s preparations for the expansion of the Panama Canal, including the acquisition of post-Panamax Cranes and the construction, through a public private partnership, of the $1.2 billion PortMiami tunnel was included.
Additional site visits and briefings followed in Fort Lauderdale and a drive-through the I-595 Express Managed Lanes, the three tolled, reversible express lanes that opened in March 2014. Officials indicated that the lanes had eased congestion in the area considerably. The delegation then traveled to the Port Everglades Intermodal Container Transfer Facility, the 42.5-acre, near-dock intermodal container transfer facility that moves international and domestic containers between ship (Port Everglades) and rail (Florida East Coast Railway), for a briefing and a tour led by Mr. William Greenough, project manager, Florida East Coast Railway. Representative George Moraitis, Florida, accompanied the SLC delegation on this segment of the visit. The tour and briefings continued with Mr. Steve Cernak, director and Mr. Glenn Wiltshire, deputy director at Port Everglades providing details on Port Everglade’s cargo, cruise and petroleum operations. The final destination on the agenda was the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport for a briefing by Mr. Steve Wiesner, assistant director for Airport Development and a drive to the nearly $810 million runway extension project.
Photos of the delegation are available here.
A delegation of legislators, whose interests lie in criminal justice and mental health policy, from five Southern Legislative Conference (SLC) member states, travelled to San Antonio, Texas, November 17-18, 2014, for briefings on the Center for Health Care Services’ (CHCS) Restoration Center jail diversion program and the Haven for Hope homeless center. Delegates met with facility officials and representatives to learn about the innovative approach San Antonio’s Bexar County has employed to address the persistent problems of prison overcrowding and mental illness in prisoners. Since its inception in 2003, the CHCS jail diversion program has become a national model in crisis intervention and mental health treatment. In addition to screening and diverting 1,400 people monthly from jail or hospital emergency rooms, the streamlined program has saved more than $50 million in the last five years.
To learn more about the collaboration’s history, services provided, measurable successes, and future growth opportunities, delegates received high-level briefings from Mr. Leon Evans, CEO, Center for Health Care Services; Representative José Menéndez, Texas House of Representatives; Bexar County Sheriff Susan Pamerleau; Judge Ernie Glenn, Bexar County Felony Drug Court; Bexar County Commissioner Tommy Adkisson; Gilbert Gonzalez, Bexar County Mental Health Officer; Christi Garfield, Vice President of Restoration Services; Brittany Berry, Clinic Administrator, Crisis Center; and Ron Stringfellow, Veteran Administrator, Center for Health Care Services.
Officers from the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office and the San Antonio Police Department spoke to delegates about the 40-hour Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) training required for all Bexar County law enforcement officers and the special CIT mental health units within each agency. Through specialized training, officers learn how to identify persons suffering mental health crises and de-escalate potentially dangerous situations. The training also educates officers about the resources available to mentally ill residents and other resources available to those residents’ families.
Delegates were given a tour of The Restoration Center’s crisis intervention, substance abuse, and residential detoxification facilities by Ms. Jennifer See, Director of Quality and Risk Management. Mr. Scott Ackerson, Vice President for Strategic Relationships at the Haven for Hope and Community Transformation Services at the Center for Health Care Services, provided delegates a tour of the Haven for Hope campus. During the tour, delegates visited Prospects Courtyard, which provides food, shelter, and psychiatric and medical services to the community’s homeless population 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The Courtyard also serves as an intermediate resource for persons moving from The Restoration Center to the Haven for Hope program.
Participants in the delegation included Representative Mike Holmes, Alabama; Representative Valarie Hodges, Louisiana; Senator Hob Bryan Mississippi; Senator Doug Overbey, Tennessee; and Senator Janet Howell, Virginia.
A delegation of state transportation leaders from seven SLC member states, including Senator Bill Hightower, Alabama (member, Senate Transportation Committee); Representative George Moraitis, Florida (vice chair, House Finance and Tax Subcommittee); Senator Steve Gooch, Georgia (chair, Senate Transportation Committee); Representative Walt Leger, Louisiana (Speaker Pro Tem and member, House Transportation Committee); Senator Gary Stanislawski, Oklahoma (chair, Senate Transportation Committee); Representative Larry Phillips, Texas (chair, House Transportation Committee); and Senator David Marsden, Virginia (member, Senate Transportation Committee), recently 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. This was the third consecutive year that an SLC legislative delegation had travelled to Panama for briefings on the Canal expansion project.
For more than a decade, the SLC has focused on the critical role played by Southern ports, not only in the economic calculations of the Southern region but also the nation as a whole. The decision by the government of Panama to proceed with the $5.25 billion expansion project has been touted as one of the most transformative global transportation projects currently in progress. Upon completion in 2015/2016, the Panama Canal will facilitate an even greater flow of trade between Asia and the Americas and substantially impact the volume of trade reaching Gulf and Atlantic Coast ports in the United States. A number of SLC states are expected to be impacted directly by the increase in cargo and vessel traffic in the aftermath of the Panama Canal expansion. In 2013, total U.S. exports to Panama amounted to $10.6 billion; in the first six months of 2014, U.S. exports to Panama amounted to $5.2 billion.
The delegation’s scheduled meetings began with a series of briefings and a tour of the Panama Canal Authority. At the Miraflores Center, the delegation received a detailed briefing from Mr. Luis Ferreira, Chief Engineer at the Panama Canal Authority on the expansion effort and its critical importance in the effective and efficient transfer of cargo between Asia and the Americas. Officials with the Panama Canal Authority elaborated on the role of the Canal’s expansion in the context of surging global trade and the contemporary shipping industry trend of deploying substantially larger vessels to take advantage of economies of scale. Also included on the technical tour was a visit to and further briefings on the operation of the control tower of the current locks. The SLC legislators then traveled to the site of the new Pacific locks for additional briefings on security procedures, equipment and finally, a drive through the Pacific lock, the journey that container and other seagoing vessels will be taking upon the project’s completion.
The SLC delegation then visited the U.S. Embassy in Panama for a briefing on U.S. – Panama political, economic and social linkages, which included reference to the impact of the expansion of the Panama Canal and the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between the United States and Panama that was signed into law in October 2011. The briefing included an extended discussion with the U.S. Ambassador to Panama, Mr. Jonathan D. Farrar. Ms. Mimi Lu, Economic Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Panama also participated in this briefing. Finally, the delegation visited the American Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Panama (AmCham Panama) for briefings and dialogue on the potential for expanding the economic and financial relationships between Panama and corporate and business interests in the SLC states. Providing details on these topics to the SLC delegation were Mr. C.E. Maurice Belanger, Executive Director, AmCham Panama, Ms. Pilar V. Cerón, Trade and Investment Director, AmCham Panama and Mr. Robert St. John and Ms. Amanda Barraza de Wong, the 2014 Secretary and Director of AmCham Panama, respectively. Photos of the SLC delegation and its activities are available here.
A delegation of five SLC Energy and Environment Committee members participated in a study tour on oil sands development, June 10-12, 2014, in Edmonton and Fort McMurray, Alberta, coordinated by the SLC, the Albertan government, and the Offices of the Consulate General of Canada in Atlanta, Dallas and Miami. At approximately 176 billion barrels of proven reserves, the oil sands are one of the largest and most important energy resources in the world. The program highlighted the regulatory framework and cutting-edge technologies that are both in place and under development. The visit included tours of mining projects operated by Suncor Energy, oil sands reclamation sites, and a viewing of an in situ project.
The program also included discussions with Canadian government and industry officials, including presentations by the Pembina Institute and the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers. Discussions revolved around Canadian-U.S. energy relations; economic development and job creation; environmental protection; and advances in energy technology. The objective of the study tour was to enable participants to broaden their awareness of the oil sands resource, its increasing contribution to North American energy security, and to see first-hand the steps being taken to meet the environmental challenges of this energy source.
Participants in the delegation included Representative Karla Drenner, Georgia; Representative Seneca Scott, Oklahoma; Senator Daniel Verdin III, South Carolina; Representative Alan Williams, Florida; and Representative Jack Williams, Alabama.
A delegation of state transportation leaders from eight Southern states, led by Senator Keith M. Ingram, the 2013/2014 chair of The Council of State Governments’ (CSG) Southern Office, the Southern Legislative Conference (SLC), recently traveled to Panama for high level briefings on the Panama Canal expansion project. Along with the current SLC chair Senator Ingram, the delegation included Senator Gerald Allen, Alabama, Chair, Senate Committee on Commerce, Transportation and Utilities; Representative Ron Stephens, Georgia, Chair, House Committee on Economic Development and Tourism; Senator Gary Smith, Louisiana, Member, Senate Committee on Transportation, Highways and Public Works; Senator Warren Daniel, North Carolina, Co-Chair, Senate Committee on Transportation; Representative W. Brian White, South Carolina, Chair, House Committee on Ways and Means; Senator Mark Norris, Tennessee, Senate Majority Leader and 2010/2011 Chair of the SLC and 2013/2014 Chair-Elect of The Council of State Governments (CSG); and, Delegate S. Chris Jones, Virginia, House of Delegates. 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.
For more than a decade, the SLC has focused on the critical role played by Southern ports not only in the economic calculations of the Southern region but also the nation as a whole. The decision by the government of Panama to proceed with the $5.25 billion expansion project has been touted as one of the most transformative global transportation projects currently in progress. Upon completion in 2014, the Panama Canal will facilitate an even greater flow of trade between Asia and the Americas and substantially impact the volume of trade reaching Gulf and Atlantic Coast ports in the United States. Arkansas is an SLC state that is expected to be impacted directly by the increase in cargo and vessel traffic in the aftermath of the Panama Canal expansion. In 2012, total U.S. exports to Panama amounted to $9.8 billion and Arkansas’ exports totaled more than $9 million.
Scheduled meetings of the delegation began with a series of briefings and a tour of the Panama Canal Authority. At the Miraflores Center, the delegation received a detailed briefing on the expansion effort and its critical importance in the effective and efficient transfer of cargo between Asia and the Americas. Officials with the Panama Canal Authority elaborated on the role of the Canal’s expansion in the context of surging global trade and the contemporary shipping industry trend of deploying substantially larger vessels to take advantage of economies of scale. Also included on the technical tour was a visit and further briefings on the operation of the control tower of the current locks.
The SLC delegation met with officials at the U.S. Embassy in Panama for a briefing on U.S. – Panama political, economic and social linkages, which included reference to the impact of the expansion of the Panama Canal and the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between the United States and Panama that was signed into law in October 2011. The briefings at the U.S. Embassy were carried out by Mr. James Perez, Economic Counselor and Mr. G. Nar Dao, Economic Officer. The delegation visited the offices of the American Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Panama (AmCham Panama) for briefings and dialogue on the potential for expanding the economic and financial relationships between Panama and corporate and business interests in the SLC states. Providing information on these topics to the SLC delegation were Mr. C.E. Maurice Belanger, Executive Director of AmCham Panama, Ms. María Eugenia Fonseca, Mr. Hector Aguilar and Mr. Robert St. John, the 2013 President, Secretary and Director of AmCham Panama, respectively.
The SLC delegation’s final agenda item was a meeting with Mr. Roberto Roy, Minister of the Panama Canal and the Chairman of the Board of the Panama Canal Authority.
Click here for photos of the delegation.
A group of 10 SLC lawmakers assembled in Atlanta, Georgia, June 23 – 24, for a Medicaid Program Integrity Seminar. The event featured successful strategies for addressing Medicaid fraud, abuse, and payment errors, which cumulatively amount to more than $11 billion in lost state revenue, every year. The program included a panel discussion on program integrity “best practices,” featuring presentations by Inspector General Robert Finlayson of the Georgia Department of Community Health; Mindy Chavanelle, program specialist with the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Improvement and Integrity; Dennis Garvey, director of the Program Integrity Division in the Bureau of TennCare; and John Kopp, Missouri assistant attorney general and deputy director of the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit.
The program also featured an overview of federal Medicaid activities by Chris Whatley, director of CSG’s Washington D.C. Office, as well as a presentation by Kavita Choudhry, manager of the Pew and MacArthur Initiative on State Health Care Spending, which has catalogued state policies and programs throughout the nation to address Medicaid fraud and abuse. The program was facilitated by Senator Emmett Hanger, Virginia, current SLC Human Services and Public Safety Committee Chair. Participants included Representative Sharon Cooper, Georgia, immediate past chair of the SLC Human Services and Public Safety Committee; Representative John Burris and Senators Jonathan Dismang and David Sanders, Arkansas; Representatives Marilyn Avila and Justin Burr and Senator Ralph Hise, North Carolina; and Senators Evan Jenkins and Ron Stollings, West Virginia.
On June 11-13, 2013, a delegation of eight SLC Energy & Environment Committee members attended a program on oil sands development, in Edmonton and Fort McMurray, Alberta, coordinated by the SLC, the Albertan government, and the Offices of the Consulate General of Canada in Atlanta and Dallas. At some 176 billion barrels of proven reserves, the oil sands are one of the largest and most important energy resources in the world. The study tour highlighted the regulatory framework and cutting-edge technologies that are both in place and under development. The visit included tours of both mining and in situ projects operated by Suncor and Devon Energy, respectively, as well as oil sands reclamation sites.
The program also included discussions with Canadian government and industry officials, including presentations by the Alberta Climate Change and Emissions Management Corporation and the Alberta Energy Regulator. Discussions revolved around Canadian-U.S. energy relations; economy and job creation; Keystone XL pipeline; environmental protection; and advances in energy technology. The visit concluded with a tour and program at CanmetENERGY, an oil sands energy research and technology development project. The objective of the tour was to enable participants to broaden their awareness of the oil sands resource, its increasing contribution to North American energy security, and to see first-hand the steps being taken to meet the environmental challenges of this energy source.
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.