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A delegation of SLC member state legislators, comprising 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.
On June 2, 2014, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released the Clean Power Plan Proposed Rule under the authority of Section 111(d) of the federal Clean Air Act. This Proposed Rule would establish state-specific goals to limit greenhouse gas emissions by setting firm carbon reduction standards that each state would have to meet beginning in 2020 and accelerating through 2030. While it is unclear whether the EPA will revise its Final Rule, which is expected by July 2015, many states in the Southern Legislative Conference (SLC) of The Council of State Governments already have enacted legislation addressing the Clean Power Plan Proposed Rule and its regulations.
This SLC Issue Alert provides an overview of some measures taken by state legislatures in the SLC region to address the Clean Power Plan Proposed Rule through the 2014 legislative session. This Issue Alert is not a legal analysis of Section 111(d), nor does it take a position on compliance pathways or the EPA's proposed state-specific carbon dioxide (CO2) goals.
In recent years, the United States has seen a growing popularity with the use of electronic cigarettes and similar electronic nicotine delivery devices. Electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes, are battery-operated single-use or reusable devices with interchangeable cartridges that use a type of heating element to turn nicotine and other chemicals into a vapor inhaled by its user. The cartridges come in a variety of colors and flavors, like apple pie, cotton candy, mint chocolate, and tutti frutti, just to name a few. It is suggested that the array of flavors, combined with the relative ease of purchasing e-cigarettes and its components at mall kiosks and online, has made e-cigarettes particularly popular among youth.
This Regional Resource from The Council of State Governments' Southern Office, the Southern Legislative Conference (SLC), examines the regulations proposed by the FDA and the actions taken by 14 of the 15 SLC member states with regard to e-cigarettes through the 2014 legislative session.
As the effects of dipping oil prices ricochet through the United States and the world, it is increasingly becoming clear that there are winners and losers. Triggered by an explosion in American oil and gas production levels; sputtering economic trends in Europe, China, Japan, Russia and emerging markets leading to declining demand; increasing production from producers like Iraq and Libya; countries like Saudi Arabia, a producer with an oversized impact on global oil supplies, maintaining supplies at current output levels and resisting production cuts; and the strengthening of the U.S. dollar have acted in concert to substantially push oil prices downward: from $115 a barrel in June 2014 to less than $50 a barrel in January 2015.
The latest plunge in oil prices has sent seismic waves throughout the globe, prompting disparate consequences in different sectors of the United States and world economies; while some sectors are net beneficiaries of the decline, other sectors are on the losing end of the falling price of oil. High energy prices pose huge burdens for most Americans, particularly those who drive great distances each day and those who only can turn the thermostats down so low when the weather turns cold. Hence, increasing energy prices result in consumers cutting back on their discretionary spending, a trend that causes negative consequences on state, regional and national economies. However, when energy prices fall, consumers have considerable leeway in devoting these savings toward other expenditures. Meanwhile, tumbling oil prices lead to adverse consequences at several points in the economy with repercussions at both the state and national levels. In that vein, SLC Regional Resource examines the effects of low oil prices on both state economies and the greater nation.
Since the turn of the 21st century, the United States has maintained a cultural creed that the only path to a middle-class lifestyle is through a four-year bachelor's degree or higher. However, increasing analyses are demonstrating that industries with the highest growth in the next decade will demand skills readily obtainable through a two-year technical education. Moreover, several policy and industry experts have begun raising concerns about the ever-increasing gap between middle-skill jobs (those requiring more than a high school education but less than a four-year degree) and the number of middle-skilled workers available to fill those jobs. These findings, along with evidence indicating that middle-class household incomes are more attainable by those with a member holding at least an associate's degree, are steering SLC policymakers toward creating and expanding programs that increase their technical and community college graduation rates. In that vein, this SLC Regional Resource examines efforts by policymakers in selected SLC member states to implement postsecondary scholarships programs specifically targeted at increasing their number of two-year degree graduates.
Hurricane Katrina made landfall on the Gulf Coast on August 29, 2005, damaging thousands of homes and businesses, decimating public infrastructure, and displacing hundreds of thousands of Gulf Coast residents. The coastal communities of SLC member states Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana were devastated. The resiliency of these coastal communities is of critical economic importance to the nation, as they provide a large portion of the nation's oil and gas supply, host key port complexes and provide vital habitats for economically important fisheries.
In the nearly 10 years that have elapsed since this disaster, much attention has focused on the rehabilitation of the area's homes, businesses and infrastructure. However, less attention has been targeted to the reconstruction of the coastlines of Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana. In order to maintain a sustainable Gulf Coast, investments in sound redevelopment and restoration practices, balancing the critical natural resources of the Gulf Coast with the equally vital economic drivers in the region, are critical to full recovery and necessary to weakening future natural disasters. This SLC Regional Resource highlights projects undertaken by these states to rebuild their coastlines, focusing on the communities of Dauphin Island, Alabama; Pascagoula, Mississippi; and the metropolitan area of New Orleans, Louisiana.
In June 2009, the National Governors Association (NGA) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) announced an initiative led by 46 states, the District of Columbia, and two U.S. territories aimed at developing and adopting a Common Core set of learning standards for English Language Arts (ELA) and math for grades K-12. By March 2012, 45 states, the District of Columbia, and two U.S. territories had adopted both the Common Core State Standards for ELA and mathematics. Although the majority of states continue to stay their course with Common Core, Indiana, Oklahoma, and South Carolina have reversed their implementation of Common Core, and government officials in several others states have called for a reversal or delay in implementation. This SLC Regional Resource provides SLC member states information regarding the status and recent legislative developments related to the Common Core standards, as of December 26, 2014.
Although the country as a whole has shifted away from agricultural pursuits, the South remains a largely agrarian region. As the only source of uniform and comprehensive agriculture data for every state and county in the nation, the Census provides the most detailed picture of U.S. farms and the people who operate them. For this reason, the Census remains an important resource for SLC states, and is used by a wide range of stakeholders for various reasons. For example, agribusiness companies use the data to make decisions about where to market their products, while lenders and insurance companies use this information in risk management calculations.
This Regional Resource analyzes the economic contributions agriculture makes to our national and regional economies and highlights some of the commodities for which the 15 SLC member states make the largest contributions. Finally, the source of who is providing the labor that makes agriculture possible is examined.