Update: CRS reports available online

Reported earlier here, Open CRS provides online access to Congressional Research Service reports. The University of North Texas Libraries also hosts CRS reports as part of their Digital Collections of the Government Documents Department web site. Users can browse by subject or search by keyword, title, author, subject, or report number. Many reports are updated regularly, and the site includes all versions located.

Visit Congressional Research Service Reports, Hosted by UNT Libraries


States hire consultants to increase their Medicaid reimbursements, need oversight

 News services (see, NYT and Reuters) report two-thirds of the states employ contingency-fee consultants to increase their Medicaid reimbursements, often using "questionable billing practices" and tactics. The findings are from a GAO study for Senator Charles E. Grassley, the Iowa Republican, chairman of the Finance Committee.

"Because of its size, complexity and federal-state structure, the Medicaid program has been subject to waste, abuse and exploitation," the GAO is reported to have stated. Federal oversight is recommended.

Medicaid Financing: States' Use of Contingency-Fee Consultants to Maximize Federal Reimbursements Highlights Need for Improved Federal Oversight GAO-05-748, June 28, 2005.
(available in PDF, 2.2MB, Abstract, and Highlights-PDF, from GAO)


Web site - Bureau of Labor Statistics

Two books in the Library's reference collection, the Handbook of U.S. Labor Statistics 2005 and Employment, Hours, and Earnings; States and Areas 2005, were covered in a recent post here. The data in these handbooks are from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). For the full range of BLS statistics, in such categories as Inflation & Consumer Spending, Safety & Health, Occupations, and Industries, to name just a few, go to the comprehensive BLS website. Besides national, state and local statistics, the site includes customized table options; detailed and most frequently requested statistics; surveys and programs; and proposed changes to adjustments.

Visit U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Congressional Research Service reports online

As reported in a news release from Associated Press, a new web site, Open CRS, operated by the Center for Democracy and Technology provides links to nearly 8,000 reports from the CRS. The reports range from a variety of topics relevant to current political issues. Although these reports are neither classified nor restricted, they are generally not available to the public except when posted by members of Congress on their web sites or distributed to their constituents. Examples of available titles include: Marine Protected Areas (MPAs): Federal Legal Authority; Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP); Education for the Disadvantaged (ESEA); State and Local Homeland Security: Unresolved Issues; Gasoline Prices: Policies and Proposals.

The web site also offers RSS feeds for All Recent Reports and All Recently Added.

Visit Open CRS


Who reads blogs anyway?

How is one to view the phenomenon of blogs? True, they might be of some interest, but enough to justify writing one yourself? And who are bloggers, anyway? Pew/Internet in Jan 2005 published a memo, The State of Blogging. The memo surveys the landscape of the blogosphere, the creators and the readers. Included are the users of RSS, the fast web delivery of syndicated content from blogs, news and traditional web sites.

The State of Blogging
(available in PDF, 64K, from Pew Internet and American Life Project)


Medicaid recipients: Estate recovery (WSJ)

With the surge in Medicaid expenses, states are becoming aggressive in recouping their costs. Placing claims on estates of deceased Medicaid recipients is playing a growing role. So reports the Wall Street Journal of June 24, 2005, p. A1. The article cites from an AARP study based on data provided by 46 states. Since 1995 total collections have more than tripled to $350 million a year. Oregon has a 19-person estate-recovery unit. California, with the highest population, recovered the most, $54 million. (WSJ is available in the Library)

Medicaid Estate Recovery: A 2004 Survey of State Programs and Practices
(available from AARP)

States' graduation rates get low marks

Independent nonprofit, The Education Trust, released a report on "the inaccurate and unreliable way states calculate and report high school graduation rates," and further criticizes the U.S. Dept of Education's lack of leadership in demanding honest statistics.

Getting Honest About Grad Rates: How States Play the Numbers and Students Lose
(available as a PDF, 800K, from The Education Trust)


Health savings accounts (WSJ)

"Congress created health savings accounts to help people cover medical costs but state laws are getting in the way," reports the Wall Street Journal of June 20, 2005, p. R4. Congress created HSAs in 2003 to allow individuals to save money for future medical expenses with contributions from taxable income. HSAs must also be linked with a high-deductible ($1000) insurance plan. Presently insurance laws in many states are incompatible with the federal HSA law, some states don't allow state tax exemptions, and finding a financial institution to handle an HSA can be difficult. Nevertheless, HSAs are increasing, with over a million people covered as of March 2005. (WSJ is available in the Library)

Just in...Preventing violence in Hawaii

Ending violence, a 2004 status report on violence prevention in Hawaii, was produced by the University of Hawaii Social Science Research Institute in collaboration with the Hawaii Dept. of Health Injury Prevention and Control Program. Seven recommendations are presented, with Hawaii's current status and suggested "next steps." (Call no. HM886 H34 2004)

Ending violence, a 2004 status report on violence prevention in Hawaii
(available as a PDF, 1.2MB, from the Hawaii State Department of Health)


News and more news, and still more

With the news more available than ever, a good news harvester is always appreciated. Stateline.org, started in 1999, continues to offer excellent state politics and policy news stories and trends from the desks of their own researchers or gathered from publications across the country. A Pew Research Center project, Stateline.org offers easy access to news stories by state and by issue. All news resources which are subscription based are conveniently marked. It is possible to sign up for email news alerts to their weekday headlines or weekly summaries; and for those who prefer RSS, Stateline.org syndicates their site's content as top news, issues and states feeds. Their issues pages also provide valuable sidebar links to authoritative documents and web sites.

Visit Stateline.org


Don't print it -- Furl it!

I've known people print out dozens of web pages per Internet session, saving copies to share with others, for later, for workplace and for home, stuffing sheets into folders, backpacks or briefcases, only later losing them or invariably forgetting their relevance as they pile up. There's a free online service which makes saving web pages easy, searchable and as mobile as the nearest Internet access. Furl allows members to save copies of web pages to a personal directory...it's free to sign up and they give you 5 gigabytes storage. Better than bookmarks in that the actual page is saved, Furl makes it possible to archive documents which might otherwise be edited or deleted the next time you visit the original web site.

Saving web pages is not the only feature. You can assign keywords, mark pages private or shared, mark read or unread, and make comments and ratings. This added data provides a more relevant and accessible personal filing system than a long list of favorites and bookmarks. You can file seemingly unrelated pages, net broadcasts, and streaming video sites under a few, shared keywords.

Furl provides members several ways to furl a page. Download a toolbar button to click or a browser extension which makes "Furl this page" a mousekey option click. On the Furl web site, anyone can search for shared pages while only members can search their own private archive.

Visit Furl for more information.


Just in...50-State Employment Statistics

In the Library's reference collection is the Handbook of U.S. Labor Statistics 2005 (Ref. HD8051 B47 2005), a compendium of employment, earnings, prices, productivity, and other labor data, nationally, although it does include a set of tables on Employment, Hours, and Earnings by State. This just in...a special edition of the Handbook, Employment, Hours, and Earnings; States and Areas 2005 (Ref. HD8051 B48 2005), particularly useful because each state has its own chapter with the following information: Employment by industry, Average weekly hours by industry, Average hourly earnings by industry, and Average weekly earnings by industry. Under Hawaii, there are separate statistics for Honolulu.

Comparing search engines

It's easy to rely on one or two Internet search engines when good results are consistent and fast. Google and Yahoo are two such excellent sites returning that particular document or site you need at the top of the list. However, trying some of the others can net you surprisingly good results more suited to your search style.

Clusty and Gigablast have clustering features which organize results into sorted directories. Clusty also allows preview expanding windows from within the returning hit list. Teoma offers fast, uncluttered site rankings, adding suggested refined search strategies and a column of sites which contain collections of links related to your search. These three search engines are especially helpful when your search is first step harvesting of research materials or your query is broad and unfocused. But how to compare without opening and closing countless browser windows and retyping your search?

MrSapo is a goofy name for such a nice product. This site offers 37 search site options. You enter your query one time and select first one search engine then another. The results are quickly returned and easy to compare. MrSapo might just be the one search engine you need to search through the searchers.


Legislative group blog

In what is believed to be a first for a legislative caucus in the U.S., all 27 Democrats of the Oregon House have joined together to publish a group blog, Oregon House Democrats. This is considered especially important because the Democrats are the minority party and their blog allows citizens to comment on each legislator's posts. Reported in "27 Legislators, One Blog" in Politics and Technology, itself an informative blog on politics and the net.


Reports to the Legislature

Have you ever wondered if a certain report, either requested by resolution or required by law, has been submitted to the Legislature? If a report has been submitted, the Library also receives a copy and catalogs it with REQ in the Notes field of its CARD record. For example, if you want to know if a requested report on family leave has been submitted, go to CARD, be sure only LRB is checked off, and in the Search box type in: family leave req. Two reports come up. (If you wanted only the 2004 request, you can limit your search with: family leave 2004 req). Click on All Entries to retrieve both records, or click on just the one you want. Most reports are available online, as these two are.

For a complete table of all reports submitted by all agencies, go to:
Reports to the Legislature ( 23G-5 HRS )

You can also access this table via CARD by clicking on All Agencies Reports in the left sidebar under LRB Library.


Legislative blogs and RSS feeds

States are embracing new technology to provide access and information to the public. Legislators are creating personal blogs for their constituents, and legislatures are providing information on bills and legislative news. The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) has helpfully provided a table with links to legislators' blogs and legislatures with RSS news feeds.

Visit: NCSL blogs and RSS news feeds

Nose-job tax (WSJ)

To raise revenues, several states have introduced bills for "vanity taxes" or "Botaxes." So far New Jersey is the only state to have passed, last summer, a cosmetic surgery tax. A 6% tax is levied on such procedures as facelifts, hair transplants, and liposuction. Medically necessary or reconstructive procedures are exempt. In 2004 Americans spent $8.4 billion on cosmetic surgery. There is a growing trend to tax other aesthetic services such as tattoos, tanning session, and massages. Wall Street Journal, 6-1-05, p. D1. (WSJ is available in the Library)

Solo health insurance (WSJ)

The plight of individuals who seek health insurance on their own is discussed in 3 articles in the Wall Street Journal of May 31, 2005: how a software consultant with health problems finally finds insurance in his state's high-risk pool, in the context of the politics of health insurance (p. A1); a brief article about medical conditions as obstacles to coverage (p. A9); and insurers targeting uninsured niches: young adults; part-timers, temporary workers and early retirees; and the middle class (p. B1). (WSJ is available in the Library)


Supplemental Info Re to Bills Passed

The LRB has published this session's supplement to the Bills Passed by the Hawaii State Legislature, 2005 Session (PDF, 375K) published earlier. This companion report contains a brief description of each bill passed during the 2005 session; includes a list of HRS and Session Laws of Hawaii affected by 2005 bills passed; status of bills passed; and a table which shows the total program appropriations for fiscal years 2005-2006 and 2006-2007.

Supplemental Information Relating To Bills Passed
(available in PDF, 245K)


The Hawaii Legislative Reference Bureau Library is happy to begin this blog for our legislative community. The library staff will share library announcements, recent titles, newly discovered Internet resources, search strategies, tech tips, and more. We hope you find our contributions interesting and useful.