2018 SLC News and Updates

January 8, 2018

New SLC Special Series Report | Blown Away: Wind Energy in the Southern States (Part II)

Remarkably, without much fanfare, the nation’s wind energy sector continues to grow, a testimony to both advances in technology and deliberate measures by policymakers to create an environment to stimulate the development of this power source. At the close of 2016, installed wind capacity in the United States exceeded 82,000 megawatts (MW), surpassing hydropower for the first time in the nation’s history. In total, installed wind energy capacity grew by 8,203 MW over the previous year and now generates about 5.5 percent of the country’s electricity, enough to power 24 million homes.

Given this burgeoning sector’s ability to create jobs and provide additional energy security and independence in the United States, the often asked question regarding the viability of utility-scale wind power development depends on several factors, including quality of the available wind resources, regional market prices for electrical power, transmission capacity and accessibility, and state-specific policies. While these factors are crucial to the successful development of wind power, states with limited wind resources may benefit from expanded utilization of this renewable resource. This SLC Special Series Report, the second in a series exploring the myriad impacts of wind energy expansion in the Southern region, examines the development of the industry in Texas, Oklahoma and Virginia. Specifically, this report explores the resources, capacity and transmission; policies and incentives; and economic impacts of wind energy generation in these states, thus demonstrating the opportunities available.

Download the full report (PDF)

The State of Retail in Southern States

January 29, 2018

SLC Issue Brief - The State of Retail in Southern States

A new SLC Issue Brief reviews Occupational Employment Statistics from the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, for three prominent retail occupations — cashiers, retail salespersons and retail supervisors — to determine how employment in these areas has evolved since 2012. Several states in the South have maintained solid growth in these occupations, in some cases surpassing the national average by wide margins, despite the many challenges confronting the industry. However, such growth likely cannot be sustained due to the ongoing and accelerating shift to online commerce.

April 4, 2018

Louisiana State Visit
On April 3-4, SLC Director Colleen Cousineau, along with three SLC policy and research staff – Anne Roberts Brody, Roger Moore and Nick Bowman – visited legislative members and staff of the Louisiana Legislature to discuss services available to them from the Southern Legislative Conference of The Council of State Governments. During multiple meetings at the capitol, Director Cousineau and staff also provided updates on recent legislative developments in the Southern region; the upcoming 2018 SLC Annual Meeting, convening in St. Louis, Missouri, from July 21-25; 2018 Center for the Advancement of Leadership Skills; and 2018 State Transformation in Action Recognition. The visit also included planning discussions with Speaker Barras, SLC’s 2017-18 Chair Elect, and select House and Senate staff for the upcoming 2019 SLC Annual Meeting, convening July 13-17, 2019, in New Orleans.

May 8, 2018

New SLC Regional Resource - Opioids and Organ Donations: A Tale of Two Crises
At least 42,249 Americans died from opioid overdoses in 2016, a 28 percent increase from 2015, according to the National Center for Health Statistics, a division of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Opioids now kill more Americans each year than guns, breast cancer or automobile accidents and have contributed to the shortening of the average U.S. life expectancy for two consecutive years. The last recorded decrease in U.S. life expectancy was in 1993, due to the AIDS epidemic. The last time life expectancy decreased in two consecutive years was in 1962 and 1963 due to an influenza outbreak.

As of early April 2018, approximately 115,000 Americans were listed on the national organ transplant registry waiting on a lifesaving organ transplant, with a new person added to the list every 10 minutes. Despite advancements in technology and surgical techniques, a large gap remains between the number of organs needed and the supply of donated organs. While 95 percent of U.S. adults support organ donation, only 54 percent have enrolled to be organ donors. Every day, an average of 95 organ transplants are performed in the United States, and an average of 20 Americans die daily waiting for a transplant. Contributing to this tragic scenario is the fact that only three in 1,000 deaths in the United States occur in a manner conducive to organ donation.

This SLC Regional Resource raises policy considerations and highlights the connections between the ongoing opioid crisis and the national shortage of organs for transplantation. Additionally, an examination of the history and process of organ donation and transplants is provided, as well as actions taken by the federal government and state governments to facilitate and promote organ donation. A discussion of how the national opioid crisis, critical to this discussion, is affecting organ transplant rates is included.

2018 Delegation to Washington, D.C.

June 5-6, 2018 | Washington, D.C.

Energy & Environment Committee Delegation
Federal Energy and Environment Policies

A delegation comprising members of the Energy & Environment Committee of the Southern Legislative Conference, led by Representative Lynn Smith (Georgia), chair of the committee, recently traveled to Washington, D.C. to engage in meetings with senior officials from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and U. S. Department of the Interior (DOI). 

As the nation’s energy infrastructure becomes increasingly interconnected, cybersecurity concerns persist. Deputy Assistant Secretary Doug Little and Jennifer Silk, senior advisor to the secretary, provided an update on the DOE’s cybersecurity initiatives and the outcomes of GRIDEX IV, a biennial exercise designed to simulate a cyber/physical attack on electric and other critical infrastructures across the country.  Preston Cory, director of the EPA’s Office of Intergovernmental Relations, briefed delegates on the agency’s regulatory reform agenda, including the repeal of the Clean Power Plan and forthcoming revisions to the Clean Water Rule.  Delegates also received a briefing from Todd Wynn, director of the DOI’s Office of Intergovernmental and External Affairs, on the agency’s proposed expansion of the Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program, as well as the newly created Hunting and Shooting Sports Conservation Council.  Through meetings and dialogue with these officials, delegates gained a deeper understanding of each agency’s policy priorities and shared their state’s perspective on pressing energy and environmental issues.

Other delegation participants were Senator Ed Emery, Missouri, vice chair of SLC’s Energy & Environment Committee; Representative William E. “Bill” Sandifer III, South Carolina, immediate past chair of SLC’s Energy & Environment Committee; Senator Robin Webb, Kentucky; and Senator Dave Sypolt, West Virginia.

August 24, 2018

SLC 2018 Post-Meeting Materials are Now Available

Thank you for joining us at the 72nd Annual Meeting of the Southern Legislative Conference in St. Louis, Missouri!

Post-meeting materials, including photos, session presentations and the 2018 Summary Report, are now available online.

Take a look at the 2018 Summary Report for:

Overviews of the presentations at the SLC standing committee sessions and legislative staff workshop;

Summaries of the technical tours highlighting successes in the St. Louis region; and

Information on the winners of the 2018 STAR Award, Carter/Hellard Legislative Staff Award and Thomas B. Murphy Longevity of Service Award.

September 27, 2018

SLC Presentation to South Carolina Legal Staff

In September, SLC staff traveled to Columbia to present to South Carolina House of Representatives' legal staff members as part of their annual continuing legal education seminar. This year’s topic was “Tips, Traps and Technology” and featured presentations from House staff members, including Richard Pearce, legal counsel to the House Clerk’s Office, and Michael Anzelmo, chief of staff and legal counsel to Speaker Jay Lucas, discussing how they use technology to improve their work. Southern Legislative Conference staff Mikko Lindberg, senior communications and research specialist, and Nick Bowman, research and publications associate, presented on the programs and services provided by the SLC—including policy analyses, staff exchanges and testimony before legislative committees—and how these efforts support the work of legislators and legislative staff in the Southern region.

SLC Delegation for U.S.-Panama Political and Commercial Relations
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September 26-29, 2018 | Panama Canal, Panama

Economic Development, Transportation & Cultural Affairs Committee Technical Tour
U.S.-Panama Political and Commercial Relations

A delegation of legislative officers from the Southern Legislative Conference traveled to Panama City, Panama, to gain insight into the political and commercial relationships between the United States and Panama. During the three-day policy study tour, participants received briefings from officials at the U.S. Embassy and American Chamber of Commerce & Industry and toured the newly expanded Panama Canal.

At the Panama Canal, participants met with Panamanian officials to learn about the canal’s historical significance to the U.S. economy and how the recent expansion, completed in 2016, has supported commerce across the Southern region. Delegation members were briefed on the types of cargo that typically pass through the canal, as well as the tonnage and most common routes of vessels. Among all global trading routes, the Panama Canal remains the most favored option for companies transporting goods from Asia to the U.S. market, with many eventually passing through Southern state ports. Participants also had an opportunity to visit the Miraflores and Cocoli locks to see, first hand, how the canal handles large vessels while they are in transit.

During briefings at the U.S. Embassy, delegation members spoke at length with government officials about the overall political, economic and security climate inside Panama. Details about the broader challenges and opportunities for U.S. officials driving government policy in the country, as well as the various initiatives being considered to maintain successful political, social and economic relations between the United States and Panama, were provided.

At the American Chamber of Commerce & Industry, participants heard from economic development experts regarding U.S.-Panama commercial ties, focusing on how officials from both nations can facilitate robust bilateral trading in the future. Delegation members shared their thoughts on the perception of Panama within the United States and how Panamanian corporate leaders can increase their exposure to U.S. officials at the state and local level.

Delegation members included legislators from Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi.

SLC Higher Education Delegation to Queretaro, Mexico
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October 3-5, 2018 | Querétaro, Mexico

Education Committee Delegation
Higher Education Delegation to Querétaro, Mexico

A delegation of legislators from the Southern Legislative Conference (SLC) traveled to Querétaro, Mexico, to gain insight into the first residential, American-style campus in the country. Participants toured and received briefings at Arkansas State University Campus Querétaro (ASUCQ).

At ASUCQ, delegation members toured the campus – completed in August 2017 – and were briefed on the challenges in building and designing a campus from the ground up. Participants also heard from Arkansas State University System officials regarding its establishment, accreditation and goals. Members also were briefed on the vision for the campus and surrounding area, including an industrial park, family housing, K-12 school system and city center, with the campus functioning as the community anchor. The costs of the campus, buildings and infrastructure were underwritten by investors in Mexico, with no outlay from Arkansas or the University System.

Additionally, members had the opportunity to interact with students on the campus to learn about academic and residential life at ASUCQ, and how it compared to traditional higher education opportunities in Mexico. Faculty also shared their experiences regarding their work and teaching courses in a student’s second language, as all coursework is in English.

Corporate and community partners provided briefings on collaborations involving externships, training, laboratories, scholarships, donated equipment and guest lectures. Querétaro is home to over 1,300 multinational corporations and is considered the economic and industrial hub of central Mexico.

Delegation members included legislators from Arkansas, Georgia and Kentucky.

Congratulations to the 2018 CALS Class
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October 25, 2018

Center for the Advancement of Leadership Skills - Class of 2018

The Southern Legislative Conference of The Council of State Governments recently convened the 12th annual Center for the Advancement of Leadership Skills (CALS), a leadership development program for new and mid-career state executive, legislative and judicial branch officials in Little Rock, Arkansas.

The 2018 CALS program included leaders from Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia. The training sessions focused on essential topics such as leadership development, social media practices, interpersonal exchanges, and communication skills.

Participants convened at the Capital Hotel for the closing dinner. Adam Schrager, journalist and author, delivered the keynote speech on the leadership of former Colorado Governor Ralph Carr, who served from 1939 to 1943.

SLC Oklahoma to Mississippi Delegation: PEER Committee
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October 29-30, 2018 | Jackson, Mississippi

Oklahoma to Mississippi: PEER Committee

In October, a delegation of legislators and legislative staff from Oklahoma traveled to Jackson, Mississippi, to learn about the state’s Joint Legislative Committee on Performance Evaluation and Expenditure Review (PEER), a standing committee of the Mississippi Legislature. Participants received briefings from PEER Committee staff and met with Speaker Pro Tempore Greg Snowden.

Created by statute in 1973, PEER assists the Legislature in performing its oversight function by providing data and investigation of state government operations. The PEER Committee analyzes state agency programs and operations for the Legislature to use to improve government effectiveness, efficiency and accountability. Work products created by PEER include performance evaluations, investigations and expenditure reviews. The PEER Committee comprises seven members from each chamber and employs 23 staff members.

Briefing topics included the creation and history of the PEER Committee, Performance Budget and Strategic Planning Act of 1994, PEER’s partnership with the Pew-MacArthur Results First Initiative, “Measuring Mississippi” Data Analysis Tool and tips for creating a legislative oversight committee.

Presenters from PEER included James Barber, executive director; Ted Booth, general counsel; and Linda Triplett, director of the Performance Accountability Office.

Presiding Officer Delegation to Cuba Photo

December 11-14, 2018

Agriculture & Rural Development Committee Delegation
Presiding Officer Delegation to Cuba

A delegation of presiding officers from the Southern Legislative Conference (SLC) recently travelled to Havana, Cuba, to gain insight into the nation’s growing private sector, agricultural trade opportunities, internationally acclaimed biomedical research, and to participate in high-level briefings with ministry officials.

Despite a history of economic sanctions, the United States has emerged as a major exporter of agricultural goods to Cuba, which imports up to 80 percent of its food. Given Cuba’s geographic and economic position, states in the Southern region of the United States have competitive export advantages in terms of production, quality, logistics and proximity. Of all states exporting to Cuba, Southern states comprise nine of the top 10.

Delegates toured Visa Hermosa ranch, a 67 hectare agroecological farm dedicated to closed-cycle agricultural and livestock production that supplies local privately owned restaurants. Participants learned about the history of the farm, growing techniques, the distribution and sales of their products and how the farm has impacted the lives of the workers.

Mr. Carlos Fernández de Cossio Dominguez, Director General of the United States General Division of Cuba’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, briefed delegates on the status of U.S. – Cuban relations, as well as opportunities for partnership and collaboration. Delegates also participated in briefings with senior officials from the Ministries of Agriculture, Foreign Trade and Investment, Public Health, and Transportation to learn about Cuba’s growing economy and industrial development.

Delegation participants included Senator Jimmy Higdon, former Kentucky Senate President Pro Tempore; Senator Ferrell Haile, Tennessee Speaker Pro Tempore; Representative Tommy Pope, South Carolina Speaker Pro Tempore; Senator Greg Treat, Oklahoma Senate President Pro Tempore and Senator Ryan McDougle of Virginia, chair of the Senate Majority Caucus.