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Continuing with its focus on the tremendous economic impact of Southern ports, the Southern Legislative Conference arranged a delegation of state legislators from several member states to tour the Port of New Orleans and Port of South Louisiana. State senators from Georgia, Missouri and Virginia who are actively engaged on port policy in their respective legislative chambers were briefed about the expansion of cargo facilities, enhancement of intermodal capacities, preparations related to the expansion of the Panama Canal, working with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and funding of port operations. At the Port of South Louisiana, the SLC delegation discussed port policy with four Louisiana state legislators. The visits to both ports included water tours hosted by senior port officials.
A delegation of legislators from five SLC member states convened at The Center for Health Care Services (CHCS) in San Antonio, Texas, November 14-15, 2016, to learn about the innovative strategies San Antonio’s Bexar County has used to support those struggling with homelessness, mental illness, and substance abuse. Delegates were briefed on CHCS’s Restoration Center pre-trial diversion and treatment programs and the 22-acre Haven for Hope campus for homeless and underserved populations. Since its inception in 2003, CHCS’s Jail Diversion Program has successfully redirected more than 100,000 people from jail or emergency rooms and reduced overcrowding in the Bexar County jail system from overcapacity to 800 empty beds. This program has been adopted throughout Texas, saving taxpayers more than $50 million by enabling law enforcement personnel to divert people from the criminal justice system into crisis intervention and mental illness treatment centers.
On November 2-3, 2016, legislative staff from the Georgia House Office of Budget & Research met in Austin, at the Texas House of Representatives, for briefings, presentations and discussion on paperless appropriations committee work. In an effort to learn how the Texas Legislature adopted paperless technology in their budget and bill drafting process, staff from a number of Texas legislative agencies presented information at the meetings, including the Legislative Budget Board, Legislative Council, Speaker's Office, House Appropriations Committee and Committee Coordinator's Office. The sessions were organized with the assistance of staff in the House Parliamentarian's Office.
Commuter trains, a fixture in many American cities since the late 19th century, started losing prominence in public transportation calculations in the 1940s with the ascent of the personal car, while vast improvements in public bus services also accelerated their decline. However, in the last 30 years or so, particularly in the early years of the 21st century, there has been renewed interest in this form of transportation across the country, including in the Southern Legislative Conference (SLC) member states. This renewed interest has been propelled for a variety of reasons: commuters choosing rail over cars for convenience; easing traffic congestion; reducing air pollution; promoting economic development; and boosting property values. Consequently, multiple metropolitan regions in SLC member states continue to operate commuter rail systems and expand their operations, even initiating new networks. Given that these initiatives have emerged in transit-starved areas, this increased momentum to introduce or expand commuter rail systems is a direct response to the demands and expectations of businesses and the workforce. Information on recent efforts in the SLC states to enhance the light rail capacities in their transportation plans, an important cog in any multimodal strategy, is detailed in this SLC Regional Resource. Click here to read the full report.
The Legislative Service Agency Directors Group held its fall meeting October 28-30 in Atlanta, Georgia. Legislative service agency directors participated in a series of presentations and group discussions including:
"Making Sense of the 2016 Election," "Workforce of Tomorrow," "State Workforce: Challenges & Solutions," "Publishing State Statutes," "The Kentucky LRC Classification Plan Process," and "Missouri Senate Intern Program." Attendees also participated in a series of roundtable discussions on topics including succession planning, professional development, and the role of legislative service agencies.
In its continued effort to provide legislative fly-ins tailored to specific policy needs of its legislative members, the SLC recently arranged for three members of the Missouri General Assembly - Representative Becky Ruth, Chair, House Interim Committee on Development and Improvement of Missouri Ports; Senator Doug Libla, Chair, Senate Committee on Transportation, Infrastructure and Public Safety; and Senator Dave Schatz, Vice Chair, Senate Committee on Transportation, Infrastructure, and Public Safety – to visit the Port of Charleston, one of the nation’s preeminent ports. Working with the South Carolina Ports Authority (SCPA), the SLC organized briefings that addressed the Port’s accomplishments in recent years, SCPA’s governance structure, benefits of a single entity (SCPA) overseeing all the ports in the state and a host of other topics related to the important role ports play in the region’s economic development strategies. The agenda also included a water tour of the Port and visits to the Harbor Pilot Tower and terminals at North Charleston, Wando Welch and Columbus Street. The Missouri lawmakers were briefed by the SCPA’s Mr. Jim Newsome III, President and Chief Executive Officer; Mr. Clint Eisenhauer, Senior Vice President for External Affairs; and Mr. Tate Zeigler, Manager for Government Relations.
The SLC SouthTrain Program convened on October 20, 2016, in Jefferson City, Missouri. Approximately 130 Missouri legislative staff participated in the all-day training, including discussions on:
Scott Raecker, former member of the Iowa House of Representatives and current director of The Robert D. and Billie Ray Center at Drake University, was the featured presenter for the training.
On October 16-17, 2016, the Southern Legislative Conference, with support from the Griffith Foundation, a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit, non-advocacy, educational organization that provides risk management and insurance education for public policymakers, organized a workshop featuring presentation and discussion on a number of critical and emerging insurance issues affecting state governments. Legislative staff from six SLC states (Georgia, Louisiana, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Virginia) participated in the workshop, held in Atlanta, Georgia.