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Southern state lawmakers convene on July 26, 2014, in Little Rock, Arkansas, for the 68th Annual Meeting of the Southern Legislative Conference. The agenda, guided by Senator Keith M. Ingram of Arkansas, chair, Speaker David Ralston of Georgia, chair elect, and Senate President Robert Stivers of Kentucky, vice chair, will focus on numerous issues of critical importance to both the South and the nation. The Southern Legislative Conference Annual Meeting offers Southern legislators an opportunity to meet head-on the challenges facing the region by sharing information, experiences and understanding across state lines. It also provides an excellent occasion to learn about new developments and activities and see what lies ahead for state governments. Nearly 1,000 delegates, legislative staff, and guests are expected to attend.
The SLC has released two more Comparative Data Reports (CDRs) on Southern States: Education, prepared by the West Virginia Legislative Staff, and Transportation, prepared by the Kentucky Legislative Research Commission. Prepared under the auspices of the SLC Fiscal Affairs & Government Operations Committee, annual Comparative Data Reports track a multitude of revenue sources and appropriations levels in Southern states and serve as a useful tool to legislators and legislative staff alike as they determine their own state spending. A full list of SLC CDRs, dating back to 2000, is available here.
The Southern Legislative Conference will host a complimentary webinar at 2:00 p.m. - 3:00 p.m. EDT, Thursday, July 17, 2014, addressing recent innovations in water treatment and conservation. Only 3 percent of the world’s water is fresh, with 2 percent locked up in glaciers and polar ice caps. The remaining 1 percent that is available for human and animal uses has seemed, in the past, to be an inexhaustible, yet vital, resource. Abundant water for drinking, sanitation, industry, irrigation, transportation and recreation has been a hallmark of much of the South. Development pressures, changes in precipitation patterns and transitioning priorities and consumption levels, however, have caused a shift in this situation. To offset or prevent water scarcity, many states in The Council of State Governments’ Southern Legislative Conference have adopted creative solutions to water treatment and reuse, but states must ensure water quality standards and public health concerns are met. This webinar will provide a broad overview of the status and causes of water scarcity in SLC states and address ways in which state legislators can promote innovation in water treatment while conserving valuable natural resources. Click here to register.
The Southern Legislative Conference latest Issue Alert on the U.S. agriculture exports. Even though the relative importance of agriculture and agriculture-related industries in the overall U.S. economy has diminished in recent years, the sector continues to be a critical component of the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP). In 2012, the latest year available, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reported that the sector contributed $775.8 billion toward GDP, a 4.8 percent share; the output of the nation’s farms alone totaled $166.9 billion in 2012.
The Southern Legislative Conference (SLC) marks the passing of former State Representative and Speaker of the House John E. Miller of Arkansas. Speaker Miller served as chair of the Southern Legislative Conference from 1981-82; chair of The Council of State Governments in 1986; and chair of the SLC Transportation Committee in 1996. He served as Speaker of the House from 1979 to 1980. He was, for many years, an active member of the SLC Executive Committee, the Conference’s governing body. A 1949 graduate of Arkansas State University, Mr. Miller was elected to the Arkansas House of Representatives in 1958 and served in that capacity for 40 years, until his retirement. Mr. Miller, passed away June 18, 2014, at age 85. Click here for more information.
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. Photos from the delegation will be available soon.
The Southern Legislative Conference will host a complimentary webinar at 2:00 p.m. - 3:00 p.m. EDT, Thursday, July 10, 2014, addressing Southern States' Efforts to Prepare a 21st Century Workforce. Policymakers across the country continue to focus on expanding the collaboration between education--at the high school and postsecondary levels--and economic development in an effort to develop a highly skilled and competitive workforce. Cooperation between the education and economic development sectors in state government, combined with active input from the corporate sector, is a critical factor in recruiting and retaining industry, particularly in manufacturing. Several states belonging to CSG South, the Southern Legislative Conference, have been in the forefront of efforts to foster greater collaboration between the technical college system, and economic development and corporate sectors. This collaboration has led to impressive results as states customize training programs at technical colleges to ensure corporations can rely on a well-trained workforce able to meet the challenges of the 21st century manufacturing environment. State education and economic development officials, as well as corporate representatives, will discuss ways to create a competent workforce to help ensure competitiveness of American manufacturers in the global economy. Click here for more information.
The Southern Legislative Conference will host a complimentary webinar at 2:00 p.m. - 3:00 p.m. EDT, Tuesday, July 8, 2014, titled "In the Weeds: Exploring the Science around Medical Marijuana and the Operation of a State Program." While marijuana use for medicinal purposes has been on the legislative agenda in many states outside the Southern region for a number of years, Southern state legislatures only recently have begun to grapple with the complexities of the issue. Many Southern lawmakers cite stories of families with children suffering from severe seizure or muscular disorders as the impetus for the push toward some form of legalization. But for every family that puts a face on the issue, lawmakers are confronted with a plethora of questions about the science behind medical marijuana and about ways to implement a program in their state. This webinar will offer a scientific perspective on marijuana for medical use and discussion on state medical marijuana programs. Click here for more information.