National Guard Youth Challenge Program

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) reviewed the National Guard Youth Challenge Program and issued its report today. The Challenge Program was established by the National Defense Authorization Act (PL 102-484) in 1992 as a pilot program to use military-based training to help high school dropouts in life skills and employability. The Program was made permanent in 1998. There are now 29 program sites in 24 states (Hawaii has one) and Puerto Rico.

The Department of Defense (DOD) sets overall policy for the Program, and the National Guard Bureau (NGB) manages it. From initially covering 100 percent of the Program's costs, DOD now pays 60 percent of state operating costs, and states pay 40 percent. Since 1993 NGB has used $14,000 per student as a cost basis for funding. NGB now suggests increasing the per student cost to $18,000 and the federal cost share to 75 percent. GAO's position is that there has been little cost analysis of the Program, and without better financial information, DOD cannot justify increased funding.

DEFENSE MANAGEMENT: Actions Are Needed to Improve the Management and Oversight of the National Guard Youth Challenge Program, GAO-06-140.
     Full report (PDF, 904kb, 45p.)
     Highlights (PDF, 72kb, 1p.)

See also: Hawaii National Guard Youth Challenge Academy

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Nursing in the workplace (WSJ)

"Employer, state support stalls for working mothers who nurse," reported the Wall Street Journal yesterday (p.D4). Between 1998 and 2001, amidst a strong movement for working mothers who breast-feed, six states passed laws requiring workplace support for nursing. Although more than 40 states protect the right to breast-feed in public, no state since 2001 has passed legislation for nursing in the workplace.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that babies be exclusively breast-fed for six months and then continue for a full year. The Dept. of Health and Human Services has set a national goal for 2010 that 50% of all babies will still be breast-feeding at six months. WSJ reports that currently only 36% of U.S. babies are breast-feeding at all at six months, and that health insurance costs have prompted many employers to cut back on benefits, among them lactation-support programs.

WSJ provided a table showing types of state laws protecting nursing mothers at work:
  • Requiring employers to provide breaks and private space for pumping: California, Illinois, Connecticut
  • Prohibiting employers from discriminating against breast-feeding mothers: Hawaii
  • Requiring employers to provide unpaid break time and space: Minnesota, Tennessee
  • Encouraging employers to provide break time and/or space: Rhode Island, Virginia
  • Allowing employers to promote themselves as encouraging breast feeding: Texas, Washington

See also: HB 266, CD1, which became Act 172, Session Laws of Hawaii 1999, codified in sections 378-2(7) and 378-10, Hawaii Revised Statutes.


Cool site...American Memory

American Memory is a multimedia Web site of the Library of Congress (LOC) with over 10 million items -- historic maps, photos, documents, audio, video -- of American history and culture. Browse the collections by topic (American Expansion, Folklife, Literature, Native American History, etc.), by time period (1400-1699 to 1970-present), by content (maps, motion pictures, sheet music, sound recordings), or by place (regions of the U.S., All U.S., International).

Enter "Hawaii" in the search box and you'll find such gems as an 1877 book on the Big Island, Report of the Royal Commission on the Development of the Resources of the Kingdom. Island of Hawaii (14p.), (Nineteenth Century: Books); a 1912 photo of Kilauea Crater (Panoramic Photographs); this 1913 song, "Fair Hawaii" (Historic American Sheet Music); and more recently, a quilt, 1994 Hawaii State winner, Victorian Rose (Quilts in America).

Historic American Sheet Music, "Fair Hawaii," Music A-6264, Duke University Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library



U.S. response to flu pandemic limited

A Congressional Research Service (CRS) study published November 10, reported a limited capability of the U.S. healthcare system to respond to a flu pandemic.
...if a flu pandemic were to occur in the next several years, the U.S. response would be affected by the limited availability of a vaccine (the best preventive measure for flu), as well as by limited availability of certain drugs used to treat severe flu infections, and by the general lack of surge capacity within our healthcare system.
Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt is also reported to have said Sunday in an AP story that the U.S. is "lacking the manufacturing capacity to provide 300 million doses of a vaccine for three to five more years."

The CRS 36 page study discusses a pandemic influenza, its history and current status as well as response, preparedness and planning in three sections: Understanding Pandemic Influenza; Pandemic Influenza Preparedness and Response; and, Issues in Pandemic Influenza Planning.

Pandemic Influenza: Domestic Preparedness Efforts
, CRS report, RL33145
(available in PDF, 164 KB, from Open CRS Network)



Arts losing out in schools

With schools pressured to meet testing standards of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) (PL 107-110, PDF, 1.8MB, 670p., from GPO), arts education is being "squeezed out," reports Stateline.org in a Nov. 16 story. Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, as chairman of the Education Commission of the States, is seeking to increase arts enrichment in schools' curricula. Gov. Huckabee was quoted in the article:
Some states are still making the huge mistake of eliminating arts programs, thinking that they're doing the kids a favor academically, when in fact, they are hurting their children.
Although the arts are a "core academic subject" in NCLB, they are not tested like reading and math, and so lack the results on which funding, bonuses and penlties are based. School boards are placing a high priority on improving math and reading scores, and underperforming schools are more likely to hire a new teacher in math than in the arts. However, it has been shown that the arts especially benefit at-risk groups which score low on tests and high in dropout rates. The article describes two educational arts programs which have helped underprivileged youth with measurable success: Dallas ArtsPartners and Massachusetts' YouthReach Initiative.

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U.S. air cargo security lacking

"100 percent screening of passengers gives travelers a false sense of security when only a tiny fraction of cargo in the belly of the plane is checked," Massachusetts Rep. Ed Markey is reported to have said in a Reuters story Wednesday. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a study finding the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) should complete an assessment of air cargo vulnerabilities and federal action was needed to strengthen the security of domestic air cargo.

In 2004, the report found, an estimated 23 billion pounds of air cargo was transported within the United States, 25 percent transported on passenger aircraft. However, it was concluded though TSA took a number of actions intended to strengthen air cargo security, "factors exist that may limit their effectiveness."
TSA has not developed measures to assess the adequacy of air carrier and indirect air carrier compliance, systematically analyzed these audit results to target future inspections, or assessed the effectiveness of its enforcement actions to ensure compliance with air cargo security requirements.
Aviation Security: Federal Action Needed to Strengthen Domestic Air Cargo Security, GAO-06-76.
    Full Report (PDF, 1.4MB, 94p.)
    Highlights (PDF, 84KB, 1p.)
    Abstract (HTML)


Pennsylvania repeals pay raises

FR reported here earlier on Pennsylvania legislators seeking to repeal a pay raise they had voted on for themselves, cabinet members, and judges, which generated great voter anger. A related post told of Pennsylvania voters rejecting a Supreme Court justice in the Nov. 8 elections, an apparent pay-raise backlash. Yesterday the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that the state House voted, 197-1, to repeal the salary package. In a follow-up story today, the paper reports that the Senate, by a unanimous 50-0 vote, also voted to repeal the pay raise, and a few hours later Gov. Ed Rendell signed the measure.



Just in...Tax encyclopedia

The Encyclopedia of Taxation & Tax Policy, Second Edition, is a publication of the Urban Institute (UI). Over 200 entries, in essay form, run alphabetically from "Ability to pay" to "Zoning, property taxes, and exactions," and range topically from the broad, "Fairness in taxation," to the narrow, "Inverse elasticity rule." The contributors are drawn largely from the National Tax Association (NTA), an association of tax professionals in the public sector. (HJ2305 E53 2005)


Workforce Investment Act (WIA)

The Workforce Investment Act of 1998 (WIA) (PL 105-220, available in PDF, 1MB, 313p., from GPO), which replaced the Job Training Partnership Act (JTPA), is the key federal employment and training program. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) today released a report on the quality of performance data for WIA from the states. WIA is implemented in partnership with states and localities and relies on their data to track participant outcomes. WIA overhauled how federally funded employment and training services are provided and introduced significant changes in the way performance data are collected and reported. These major shifts required that states retool their IT systems, and there were inconsistent results. This report addresses the issue of improving WIA data quality.

WORKFORCE INVESTMENT ACT: Labor and States Have Taken Actions to Improve Data Quality, but Additional Steps Are Needed
     Full Report (PDF, 868K, 45p.)
     Highlights (PDF, 92K, 1p.)
     Abstract (HTML)
     All from GAO

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Govt open document standards

Christian Science Monitor (CSM) commented today Monday on Massachusetts' policy to adopt open document standard by 2007. Though the policy is opposed by proprietary software companies such as Microsoft, CSM writes:
An open-documents world can ensure that hundreds of years in the future people will still know the code to read mankind's records. And it will spur price and quality competition. Just look at the telecom industry, whose intense rivalries have brought price cuts and innovative services.
Massachusetts' open-document system would "require vendors to sign on to a technological standard whereby documents could be transferred and read using any open-document software," thus allowing electronic records to be readable into the future since they were not dependent on any one company's proprietary product. "Among products already compliant with the open-document system are OpenOffice, Sun Microsystems' StarOffice, and IBM's Workplace," CSM reports.

Massachusetts Enterprise Open Standards Policy
Policy #: ITD-APP-01, Effective Date: January 13, 2004
(available in PDF, 20KB, from Mass.gov)

See also,
CIO Peter Quinn's Testimony to (MA) Senate Committee on Open Document Format
, October 31, 2005

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Honolulu Hale lukewarm

Doug White spotlights in a Saturday post to his blog, Poinography! a Pacific Business News (PBN) story on Honolulu's hesitant step into free wireless. According to the PBN story, city locations including Kapolei Hale will be free wireless hotspots, but only to access the City web site and other Skywave sponsored accounts. (Skywave is the company providing the service to the County.) Doug muses:
Does the City think that people are actually going to be happy when they find a “free” Wi-Fi access point at Kapolei Hale and then discover that they can only look at the City’s website—and a bunch of advertising?! That’s ridiculous.

What did the City get out of this? A few hundred dollars worth of wireless routers and tech support would be enough to give visitors to City Hall real access to the entire Internet.
The PBN article further writes of another company, ShakaNet, which plans to blanket Waikiki with free access. "Access to ShakaNet's wireless network will require acceptance of a user agreement and viewing of an advertising page, but no registration and no fee." PBN reports Nam Vu, ShakaNet's vice president and chief technology officer, as saying:
As more residents adopt wireless Internet on open networks, giving access to many living around them, free access has become commonplace and making money off of that model is the best way to go...especially in residential areas.
Doug White concludes his post with:
In any case, the Capitol and City Hall should both have free Wi-Fi. It just makes sense.



Angry PA voters oust justice

As posted in FR here last week, a pay raise voted on in the dead of night last summer by the Pennsylvania Legislature has kept voters outraged and spurred legislation to repeal the raises.

Pennsylvania legislators were not up for reelection this past Tuesday, so Supreme Court Justice Russell Nigro's narrow loss in a retention vote is seen as a pay-raise backlash, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported Nov. 10. The pay raises have generated a "populist insurrection." The 2006 elections will be the next battleground - all 203 House seats and half of the 50 Senate seats will be up for vote. "If those legislators want to keep their jobs, they must start making amends," say political analysts.

Nigro was a well-regarded jurist, and his ouster was a first for a justice. In a related Inquirer article, Justice Nigro stated, "I believe the public was so angry with the legislature they became blinded. They said: 'We don't care. Get rid of him.'"


Law journals in the Library - online

A number of law journals are available online. LRB Library, in its online catalog, is now providing links to indexed articles from law journals in its collection. Since the Library catalogs only selected articles, access to the journals themselves will provide patrons with broader resources.

The following are journals in the Library which provide full-text articles online:
Boston College Environmental Affairs Law Review (1999+)
Columbia Journal of Law and Social Problems (Fall 2004+)
Columbia Law Review (v. 97, 1997+)
Cornell Law Review (v. 90, no. 3, March 2005+)
Harvard Law Review (Nov. 2004+)
University of Pennsylvania Law Review (v. 152, no. 1, Nov. 2003+)
Virginia Law Review (2004+)
Yale Law Journal (v. 110, no. 1, Oct. 2000+)

The following are journals in the Library which provide abstracts of articles online:

Michigan Law Review (partial contents, Oct. 1997+)
University of Minnesota Law Review
(Nov. 2000+)
University of Michigan Journal of Law Reform (partial contents, Fall 1996+)
Yale Law & Policy Review
(v. 21, 2003+)

See also the Library's link to law journals.


Congress moves to limit local eminent domain

On 6/23/05 the Supreme Court decision, Kelo v. City of New London, Connecticut (PDF), acknowledged the right of governments to seize a person's property and sell it to another party for development in the name of public interest. Since then, state and local reaction has been swift and pronounced, as reported in FR here and here. Today The New York Times reported :
The House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly Thursday to discourage the seizure of private property (H.R.4128, PDF) for private development by denying federal economic development money to local governments for two years if they take such a step.
A similar bill (S.1704, PDF) moves through the Senate.



Pennsylvania legislators to repeal pay raises

At 2 a.m. July 7, without public hearings, the Pennsylvania Legislature voted for pay raises for legislators, cabinet members and the judiciary. Since then, reports the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette today, there has been a massive public outcry against the raises. Yesterday the House and Senate passed bills repealing the 16 to 34 percent pay raises but with a key difference. The Senate version would repeal legislators' raises even if judges get their raises via a lawsuit. The House version would restore all raises if judges get their raises. (The Pennsylvania constitution prohibits reducing compensation for judges.) The Senate President calls the House's nonseverability clause "a poison pill" subverting the entire legislation. The Legislature is not scheduled to meet again until Nov. 14.

"This is the start toward correcting a major wrong that was done to the people of Pennsylavnia," said Barry Kaufman of Common Cause which had filed a federal lawsuit against the raises.



Colorado's TABOR

In a follow-up to Colorado's drama filled campaign (as posted here) over the state's Taxpayer's Bill of Rights (TABOR), AP reports today:
Colorado voters agreed Tuesday to give up $3.7 billion in taxpayer refunds over the next five years to help the state bounce back from a recession, ignoring fiscal conservatives who argued that the government doesn't need more money to spend.
The money would have been refunded to taxpayers under the state's spending restriction constitutional amendment, "considered the nation's strictest cap on government spending." However, the drama continues with an opposition group threatening legal action regarding reported voting problems.

In a related tax vote, Denver voters approved "an annual $25 million property tax increase to fund a program that will link raises and incentives for Denver public school teachers to student achievement."

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Electronic poll books

Georgia will begin using electronic poll books, according to a Govtech.net article Oct. 31. At a cost of approximately $15 million, Georgia will purchase 6000 electronic poll books from Diebold Election Systems to be used with Diebold's touch-screen voting technology. The ExpressPoll-4000 will enable poll workers to quickly verify voters or direct voters at the wrong location to their correct precinct. The electronic poll books will also create voter access cards to activate the touch-screen voting stations and identify the correct ballot for each voter.

Sunshine in Hawai`i

Doug White's editorial blog on all things political in Hawaii, Poinography!, takes issue with the Oct 31 Star-Bulletin (SB) editorial requesting the Hawaii Legislature's exemption from the Sunshine Law be removed. Doug considers SB's opinion of caucus room meetings extreme:
I don’t think the editors fully comprehend how much more cumbersome the legislative process would be without the exemption...The allegation in the (SB) editorial that most votes in the House and Senate chamber are 'for show' is a bit much.
Doug White wonders if open government would be more fully served were media commtted to wider coverage which would require them "to hire more staff than it does to have thin coverage, run wire service stories, keep the sponsors and corporate masters happy, and wait for press releases."

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