Not sure about youth

Within the past decade, California juvenile arrests and incarcerations, teen pregnancies, and youths living below poverty level have all seen a decrease in number, while high school graduation rates have increased. There have also been five major initiatives that have affected probation departments in California during this same time. However, RAND Infrastructure, Safety, and Environment (ISE), in research requested by the Chief Probation Officers of California for a "review of the potential effect of this 'sea change' on youth," could not attribute these positive trends to the initiatives. The initiatives are:
  • Title IV-A-EA. Funding associated with the Emergency Assistance (EA) program of Title IV-A of the Social Security Act allowed probation departments to add services aimed at reducing juvenile crime, such as case management services, gang intervention programs, and parenting skills training. 1996.
  • Juvenile Crime Enforcement and Accountability Challenge Grant Program...as a major effort to determine what approaches were effective in reducing juvenile crime. 1996.
  • Repeat Offender Prevention Program (ROPP). 1994.
  • Comprehensive Youth Services Act (CYSA)...to fund juvenile probation services. 1997.
  • Juvenile Justice Crime Prevention Act (JJCPA)...to provide a stable funding source to counties for programs that have been proven effective in curbing crime among at-risk youths and young offenders. 2000.
RAND does say that although there are no "firm conclusions regarding the effect of initiatives on outcomes, we note the temporal proximity between initiatives and outcomes that might suggest how the initiatives affected youths and their families."

Accomplishments in Juvenile Probation in California Over the Last Decade
(available in PDF, 0.3 MB, from RAND)

Juvenile Probation Initiatives in California and Their Effects - research brief
(available in PDF, 0.1 MB, from RAND)

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Blogger sued over readers' comments (WSJ.com)

Worried about their own liability, bloggers are "buzzing" about a lawsuit brought by an Internet company against a blogger for readers' comments posted to his site, reports the Wall Street Journal Online in an Aug. 31 story. Aaron Wall runs a blog (SEOBook.com) on search engine optimization - how companies get themselves to appear higher in searches at Google, Yahoo, etc. He was sued in Nevada earlier this month by Traffic-Power.com for publishing trade secrets and "false and defamatory information" about the company on his blog. Some readers of Mr. Wall's blog have posted complaints of unprofessional business practices by Traffic-Power.com or that its tools were ineffective. Mr. Wall himself had criticized the company on his blog prior to the lawsuit.

The federal Communications Decency Act (1996) protects providers of computer services from liability for content posted by others. In 2003 the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that a Web site operator can post material from others without liability for content. A technology law expert feels that the Decency Act can apply to bloggers but the Act does not protect the posting of intellectual property, and trade secrets may fall under "intellectual property."


Challenges to universal pre-K

According to a RAND Education study published Aug 23, if states are to provide high-quality and universal pre-kindergarten (pre-K) programs, which have been shown to provide "broad societal benefits," policymakers face tough challenges in access, training and funding:
  • New programs must be closely monitored.
  • Training, professional development, and compensation of pre-K staff will be core concerns.
  • The public needs to be educated to understand that the benefits are not exclusively academic.
  • Relationships among public schools, community preschools and Head Start providers will be needed.
  • Consider whether having pre-K efforts dominated by school districts might reduce access to the programs.
  • More high-quality data on large-scale pre-K programs are needed.
The report was commissioned by The Early Childhood Funders' Collaborative (see, The Build Initiative) and funded by The Heinz Endowments and The David and Lucile Packard Foundation.

Going to Scale with High-Quality Early Education
(available in PDF, 0.3 MB, from RAND)


Federal agencies fail to safeguard privacy

A newly released Government Accountability Office (GAO) study on the use of data mining by five federal agencies found that none of the agencies complied with all rules for gathering citizen information, leaving individual privacy rights inadequately protected. The report was requested by Hawaii's Senator Daniel Akaka, who issued a news release Aug 29 :
In light of the high number of data mining activities in the federal government and the use of personal information, we must ensure that the federal government is following the laws set up to protect the privacy rights of all Americans. Having policies and safeguards in place will not work if agencies are not following the law.
The study investigated the data mining activities at the Internal Revenue Service, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Small Business Administration, the Department of Agriculture Risk Management Agency, and the Department of State.

Data Mining: Agencies Have Taken Key Steps to Protect Privacy in Selected Efforts, but Significant Compliance Issues Remain
(available in PDF, 1.3 MB; Abstract also available in HTML)



Poor defendants = Poor defense

A USA Today article posted Aug 29 reports on the nation's public defender (PD) system as "mired in crisis," "a tragedy." In 1963, in Gideon v. Wainwright, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that every criminal defendant has a fundamental right to counsel, provided by the government if necessary. However, according to the article, the Supreme Court left methods of funding to state and local governments. Today the overburdened, underfunded PD system threatens the fairness of the justice system. Indigent legal services are currently provided in one of two ways: by salaried lawyers in taxpayer-funded PD offices or by court-appointed and -paid private attorneys. States that cover all or most expenses of local PD programs have fewer problems, but tight budgets require choices between "whether roads are going to be graveled or defendants are going to be defended."

UNESCO World Heritage Sites and the NW Hawaiian Islands

In 1972 the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) adopted an international treaty, the Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage, to identify, protect, and preserve sites around the world considered to be of great value to humanity. These have come to be known as World Heritage sites.

In the United States, there are 20 World Heritage sites, including two jointly administered with Canada. Of the 20, one is in Hawaii, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park . Each signatory nation to the Convention is also asked to submit a tentative list of properties for nomination to the World Heritage List. The tentative list of the United States includes two for Hawaii: Haleakala National Park and Pu'uhonua O Honaunau National Historical Park.

Congressman Ed Case (D-HI) has introduced the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands National Marine Refuge Act of 2005, HR 2376 (PDF , 84K, 35p., from the GPO). The Pacific Fisheries Coalition, a Hawaii coalition of conservationists and fishermen, in its position paper, Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Proposed As A National Marine Refuge, stated, "the NWHI National Marine Refuge Act could also help advance the designation of the area as an internationally-recognized World Heritage Site."


Electronic recordation

"Property Rights" in the Aug. 2005 issue of Government Technology reports on a new uniform law for states to do real estate recording and searching electronically. It is the Uniform Real Property Electronic Recording Act (URPERA), released by the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws (NCCUSL) in August 2004.

"There must be an orderly conversion of every recording office in the United States for electronic recording to become universally accepted, and that will be a complex process," said John McCabe, NCCUSL legislative director. "URPERA provides a starting point in the law for that to occur."

The groundwork for electronic real property transactions was laid by the Uniform Electronic Transactions Act (UETA) of 1999, which allowed statute of fraud provisions to include electronic records and signatures for all kinds of transactions, and by the federal Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act (E-Sign) of 2000.

McCabe recalled, "Back when we did UETA, everybody understood there was a set of issues relating to real estate that were not and could not be addressed in a general transactional statute like UETA. Real-estate recordation simply presented too many special problems that were going to have to be addressed separately."

Arizona became the first state to pass URPERA-based legislation in April 2005. Utah, Delaware, and Texas (pending the governor's signature at press time) have enacted laws based on the act. Virginia also passed legislation with a reenactment clause, requiring the Legislature to revisit the act before it becomes effective. NCCUSL expects similar laws to pass in North Carolina and Washington, DC, in the near future.

Uniform Real Property Electronic Recording Act (URPERA)
(available in PDF, 128K, 22p., from NCCUSL)

Uniform Electronic Transactions Act (UETA)
(available in PDF, 160K, 65p., from NCCUSL)

Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act (E-Sign)
(available in PDF, 128K, 14p., from GPO)

Ten trends

In Trends in America: Charting the Course Ahead (June 2005), the Council of State Governments (CSG) has identified 10 major long-term trends shaping our society, their implications for state governments, and policy options for state leaders to pursue. The 10 "change drivers" are: the aging of America, immigrants, the rise of suburbia, a technology- and service-based economy, globalization, the information revolution, privacy vs. security, resource management, polarized politics, and the larger role of the federal government. CSG's focus is on what they will mean for state officials over the next five years.

Trends in America: Charting the Course Ahead
(available in PDF, 1.7M, 40p., from CSG)



Politics pull over BJS official

The head of the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), Lawrence A. Greenfeld, lost his position to an ongoing tension between the mostly non-partisan Bureau and White House Justice officials. According to an August 24 New York Times (NYT) story:
The flashpoint in the tensions between Mr. Greenfeld and his political supervisors came four months ago, when statisticians at the agency were preparing to announce the results of a major study on traffic stops and racial profiling, which found disparities in how racial groups were treated once they were stopped by the police.

Apparently political officers within the Office of Justice Programs (OJP) ordered references to the disparities deleted from the news release. Mr. Greenfeld refused; the news release was consequently not issued; and Mr Greenfeld, threatened with dismissal and loss of some retirement benefits, was eventually demoted.
"I serve at the pleasure of the president and can be replaced at any time," Mr. Greenfeld said. "There's always a natural and healthy tension between the people who make the policy and the people who do the statistics. That's there every day of the week, because some days you're going to have good news, and some days you're going to have bad news."
Statisticians within the Bureau report that "in this administration, those tensions have been even greater, and the struggles have been harder."

Contacts between Police and the Public: Findings from the 2002 National Survey
(available in PDF, 866K, from BJS)



Alabama's children

The New York Times (NYT) ran a story Saturday on Alabama's "sweeping transformations of the handling of neglected and abused children." Forced by a legal settlement in 1991 under court supervision, Alabama's child welfare system once considered one of the worst in the country, sending too many children to "foster-care oblivion while ignoring others in danger" has made enough progress to be considered a national model. Other states as well as cities and the federal government have adopted elements of Alabama child welfare practices. The system has become more pro-family, focusing on keeping children safely with their parents, and providing the needed resources to accomplish that. The paper states:
Typical caseloads for social workers have been trimmed to 18 from 50, allowing far more intensive monitoring of families and help. Where reports of neglect or abuse sometimes lay unchecked for months, investigators are now usually on the scene within a day when danger is imminent, and within five days more than 90 percent of the time, officials report.

Child-welfare spending that totaled $71 million in 1990, including $47 million in federal money, rose to $285 million in 2004, $179 million of it from the federal government. Some of that came from Medicaid money the state had not previously tapped.
According to NYT, Hawaii's 2003 rate of children requiring foster care placement (between 7 and 8.5 per thousand population) was twice the national average.

Related resources:
Recent Changes in Alabama Welfare and Work, Child Care, and Child Welfare Systems
(available in PDF, 112K, by The Urban Institute)
Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law
National Coalition for Child Protection Reform

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Coast states drive to regulate vehicle emissions

In an Associated Press (AP) news release Sunday, both Oregon and Washington ready "to adopt California's new vehicle emission standards to reduce greenhouse gases."

Under the federal 1990 Clean Air Act states are to develop state implementation plans (SIPs.) California's Chapter 200, Statutes of 2002 (AB 1493, Pavley) directs the Air Resources Board (ARB) to adopt regulations that achieve the maximum feasible and cost effective reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from motor vehicles. California's standards are higher than federal regulations and states may choose to adopt California's standards or the less restrictive federal standards.
The stiffer requirements would mean new cars sold in the state would have to emit 30 percent less carbon dioxide, 20 percent fewer toxic pollutants and up to 20 percent fewer smog-causing pollutants than the established federal standards.
Although the auto industry's position is that a state lacks sufficient authority to implement such regulations and is currently suing California, the article continues that six northeastern states -- New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Vermont and Maine, as reported by the Northeast States for Coordinated Air Use Management (NESCAUM) -- are considering to similarly adopt California's newer vehicle emissions standards.
Most northeastern states have followed California vehicle emission rules for years, and now those states are making the change to reflect California's latest rules regulating carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles.
Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski is reported to have stated, "If the federal government doesn't want to move forward on global warming, then the states are going to have to do it."

Report to the (CA) Legislature and the Governor on Regulations to Control Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Motor Vehicles, December 2004
(available in PDF, 400K, from ARB)


Meth labs: Remediation and disclosure
Part 3: Agency responses

State health agencies are on the front line in combatting the hazards of meth production. In the early years of the meth problem, health agencies' first encounter with drug labs was often in assisting law enforcement personnel who entered the labs. Unaware of the dangers of meth production, these first responders needed to learn to protect themselves from the toxic chemicals, and agencies had to formulate guidelines for lab cleanup. With the proliferation of meth, state health agencies' responsibilities have expanded to include educating the public, training and certifying workers, tracking meth labs, and licensing decontamination contractors. Health agencies are not only one of the first on the scene but are also the last, if and when meth sites are declared safe for reoccupancy.

The Association of State and Territorial Health Organizations (ASTHO) issued an informative brief in June 2005, Cleaning-up Clandestine Methamphetamine Labs: the Role of State Public Health Agencies (PDF, 364K, 5p.). The report makes reference to the Hazardous Substances Emergency Events Surveillance (HSEES) system to collect and analyze information about releases of hazardous substances. (HSEES was established by the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS)). Fifteen state health departments currently have agreements with ATSDR to participate in HSEES. According to the ASTHO report, five states (Iowa, Missouri, New York, Oregon, and Washington) use HSEES to collect and analyze data about injuries and deaths related to meth labs.

A sampling of state agency activities:

California. California's Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) conducts two complementary programs: Clandestine Drug Lab Removals, for the emergency removal of chemicals and contaminated paraphernalia from labs, and a Clandestine Drug Lab Remediation Program, for assessing and cleaning up former meth lab sites.

Iowa. Iowa's Dept. of Public Health (IDPH) has published Guidelines for Cleaning up Former Methamphetamine Labs (PDF, 31K, 6p.), in a user-friendly, Q&A format.

Minnesota. Minnesota's Dept. of Health (MDH) provides a web site on Methamphetamine and Meth Labs, which includes links to lab cleanup, laws and ordinances, and tips for property owners.

Missouri. Missouri's Dept. of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) has published Guidelines for Cleaning up Former Methamphetamine Labs (PDF, 625K, 8p.), virtually identical to Iowa's, but more user-friendly with color graphics.

New York. New York currently provides only general information on meth, but Gov. Pataki recently signed legislation for New York to take stronger steps. The new law directs the Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS) to establish a statewide education program on the dangers of using and producing meth, and for the Dept. of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to be notified when a meth lab is discovered so they can implement cleanup procedures.

Oregon. Oregon's Dept. of Human Services (DHS) has a Drug Lab Cleanup Program whose homepage provides links to licensed contractors, drug lab properties, cleanup procedures, and tips for property owners.

Tennessee. Tennessee's Dept. of Environment and Conservation (TDEC), under its Division of Remediation, Cleanup of Methamphetamine Contaminated Properties, has begun a Registry of Methamphetamine Contaminated Properties (PDF, 59K. 1p.).

Washington. Washington's Dept. of Health (DOH) has established a Clandestine Drug Lab Program whose home page, among a wealth of information, links to a Contaminated Properties List (Excel, 482K, 172p.)

This concludes the series.

Previous posts in Meth Labs: Remediation and Disclosure
   Part 1: Public Concerns
   Part 2: Legislative responses


Overtime into retirement

The John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development at Rutgers University in New Jersey published a Work Trends study describing the changing attitudes Americans have towards retirement and leisure. According to the study, seven in ten Americans plan to continue working either full- or part-time during their retirement years. The main reason is financial: a lack of confidence in Social Security and not enough personal sources of retirement income. “The traditional notion of retirement, where one stops working completely and enjoys leisure time with friends and family, is obsolete,” notes Carl Van Horn, Director and Professor of the Heldrich Center.

A Work-Filled Retirement: Workers’ Changing Views on Employment and Leisure
(available in PDF, 408K, from The John J. Heldrich Center)


Correction - Oregon battles meth with Rx

The original post on "Oregon battles meth with Rx" incorrectly identified the relevant bill as SB 907. The correct bill is HB 2485, as reflected in the amended post. I apologize for the error.

Oregon battles meth with Rx

In my series on Meth labs: Remediation and disclosure, I earlier posted Part 1: Public Concerns and Part 2: Legislative responses. Relating to this, a New York Times article (Aug. 17, 2005) reports that Oregon's governor yesterday signed legislation requiring prescriptions for common cold and allergy medications that can be converted into methamphetamine, specifically any medication containing pseudoephedrine. Oregon becomes the first state with such a law. The bill "sailed through" the Legislature, opposed by only a few legislators who cited the inconvenience of their constituents.

The bill signed into law was House Bill 2485, Relating to controlled substances; creating new provisions (also available in PDF, 76K, 15 pp., from the Oregon Legislative Assembly).

I will be concluding the series with Part 3: Agency responses.

Crisis at the core

The New York Times (NYT) reports that the American College Testing Program (ACT) determined from the test scores in 2005 of high school graduates that less than 25% of high school graduates are proficient in English, Reading, Math and Science to succeed in college. ACT attributes the poor showing to a crisis in the high school core curriculum:
1. The broad array of courses offered in our high schools and the varying course sequences that students can complete make very different contributions to postsecondary readiness.

2. Students do not always take those courses and course sequences that contribute most to postsecondary readiness.

3. The lack of rigor of the high school curriculum (expressed in terms of graduation requirements, curriculum depth, and alignment with the knowledge and skills required for successful transition to postsecondary education) does not result in all students being adequately prepared for college success.
ACT further recommends:
1. Increase postsecondary readiness by requiring that all students take specific college preparatory course sequences in English, mathematics, science, and foreign language.

2.Improve the rigor of high school coursework with a greater focus on in-depth content coverage and considerably greater secondary-to-postsecondary curriculum alignment.
In a similar news release in 2004, ACT felt that policymakers, business and community leaders, parents, and students as well as educators must be involved in the process to improve the high school core curriculum.

Courses Count: Preparing Students for Postsecondary Success
(available in PDF, 3MB, from ACT)

See also,
College Readiness Begins in Middle School
(available in PDF, 500K, from ACT)

Crisis at the Core: Preparing All Students for College and Work
(available in PDF, 655K, from ACT; Executive Summary also in PDF, 110K)



Supplements raise textbook prices

An iClips AP item today announces the release of a report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO), College Textbooks: Enhanced Offerings Appear to Drive Recent Price Increases. The U.S. government endeavors to make higher education accessible and affordable, primarily by providing financial aid. Since nearly half the college population receives federal financial aid, escalating costs of postsecondary education, including textbooks, can impact access, affordability, and federal spending.

The GAO found that, in the last two decades, college textbook prices have increased at twice the rate of inflation, close behind tuition increases. While many factors affect textbook pricing, the primary one appears to be the increasing investment publishers are making in supplements such as Web sites, CD-ROMs, and others with technology content. With the advent of the Internet, institutions have invested heavily in technology and expect faculty to utilize that technology. Publishers are providing more curricular support for instructors because of the reduction in full-time tenure-track faculty across the country. While these materials are free to instructors, their cost is built into the price of textbooks. One publisher has invested $1 million in developing a CD-ROM that provides 3-D images to enhance learning anatomy.

College Textbooks: Enhanced Offerings

   Full report, PDF, 8M, 51p. from GAO
   Highlights, PDF, 68K, 1p. from GAO
   Abstract, HTML

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NCSL Annual 2005

This week, NSCL holds its 2005 annual in Seattle, Strong States Strong Nation. Bill Gates, heading a list of world renowned scientists, academics and business leaders, is the opening speaker on Aug 17. The weeklong conference will cover the current and varied issues confronting state government. The methamphetamine crisis; achieving access to prescription drugs; the impending crisis for higher education; technology for legislators; changing demographics; and alternatives to traditional public education are a sampling of the conference session topics.

Two Library staff are attending: Karen Mau, Head Librarian, and Carole Tanaka, Research Librarian.

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Meth labs: Remediation and disclosure
Part 2: Legislative responses

Part 1 in this series described public concerns about the effects of meth labs on public health and the environment, and the growing problem of innocent homebuyers moving into former meth labs and being subjected to the residues of meth production. In response, states have enacted legislation requiring the remediation and/or disclosure of such labs. Following are some of the laws:

Arizona. Under Arizona's law on Abatement of Crime Property, section 12-1000 requires both remediation of the contaminated property and notice to a buyer or tenant that methamphetamine, ecstasy or LSD was manufactured on the property. Also by statute, Arizona established a Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Residual Contamination of Drug Properties to (1) review best practices and standards submitted by the Attorney General for the remediation of residual contamination from the manufacture of meth or other drugs, and (2) study and make recommendations regarding the effectiveness of the clandestine drug laboratory clean-up program established by section 12-1000.

Colorado. Colorado's Act 320 of the 2005 session (also available in PDF, 55K, 3 pp., from the Colorado General Assembly) amended provisions of its laws on Illegal Drug Laboratories. Among its provisions: property owner's clean-up liability, and entry into illegal drug labs only by persons trained or certified to handle contaminated property.

Hawaii. In Hawaii, under the law on Abatement of Nuisances, nuisance includes "toxic materials that are used in or by-products of the manufacture or conversion of methamphetamine, and clandestine drug labs that manufacture methamphetamine." (Sec. 322-1, HRS)

Minnesota. In the 2005 session, Minnesota passed Act 136, its Omnibus Public Safety Bill. Article 7, Methamphetamine Provisions, strengthens existing penalties and introduces new crimes concerning meth and its precursors. Among its provisions: restitution to public entities as well as innocent property owners by persons convicted of manufacturing a controlled substance which required an emergency response; regulations on meth-tainted property, e.g., requiring a property owner's affidavit of remediation, requiring a property owner to disclose to a buyer if meth was produced on the property, and imposing liability if he does not for the buyer's remediation costs and attorney's fees; and a methamphetamine laboratory cleanup revolving account for loans to counties and cities to remediate contaminated sites.

Oklahoma. In Oklahoma's law on Disclaimer and Disclosure Statements, the required disclosures include knowledge or information on the "existence of prior manufacturing of methamphetamine." Title 60 (Word document), sec. 60-833(B)(1)(h).

Oregon. Oregon's law provides for Cleanup of Toxic Contamination From Illegal Drug Manufacturing, sections 453.855 through 453.912. Among its provisions: criteria for determination that property is not fit for use; allowing transfer of property not fit for use after full written disclosure, but property is still subject to aforementioned provisions; certification of decontamination of property.

South Dakota. South Dakota's law on Property Condition Disclosure Statement includes Production of Methamphetamines under section IV. Hazardous Conditions.

Tennessee. Tennessee's current law on Property Where Methamphetamine Manufactured has been amended by Act 347 (PDF, 28K, 3 pp., from the Tennessee General Assembly), 2005 session, which added two new sections, on recording of a meth lab quarantine and certificate of fitness of a quarantined property.


California. California has a pending bill AB 1078 (also available in PDF , 171K, 21 pp., from the California Legislature) to enact the Methamphetamine Contaminated Property Cleanup Act of 2005. A summary is provided by the Senate Committee on Environmental Quality. Among a number of provisions, the bill establishes remediation and reoccupancy standards for determining when a property, contaminated as a result of methamphetamine activity, is safe for human occupancy.

Previous post:
Meth labs: Remediation and disclosure - Part 1: Public Concerns


States argue Air Force flying solo

The Air Force's plan to restructure the Air National Guard involves shifting personnel, "equipment and aircraft among at least 54 sites where Air Guard units now are stationed. Roughly two dozen sites would expand, while about 30 would be closed or downsized. In many cases, units would continue to exist but no planes would be assigned to them," according to a Aug 12 AP story. Two dozen states have raised concerns that such shifting of personnel and aircraft leaves their communities vulnerable to attack and unable to adequately deal with other emergencies. A nine member panel will meet to recommend or not the base closures to President Bush. Pennsylvania and Illinois have filed in federal court "arguing that the Pentagon doesn't have the authority to move units without each governor's consent." The commission has recently received an opinion by the Justice Department backing the Pentagon's authority.

The New York Times (NYT) reporting on the reaction to the Justice Department's decision, writes that the states have the "support from the chief of the National Guard Bureau, Lt. Gen. H Steven Blum, who oversees the Army National Guard and the Air Guard." The article continues:
"We have a solid legal case that we will continue to fight because the law and common sense is on our side," Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich of Illinois, a Democrat, said in a statement. "What the Pentagon is proposing flies in the face of reason."

Adrian R. King Jr., deputy chief of staff to Gov. Edward G. Rendell of Pennsylvania, a Democrat, said in a telephone interview: "The D.O.J. opinion is like any other opinion. At the end of the day, the state believes the only opinion that matters is that of a judge in a court of law."

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Econ blogging (WSJ)

"Economists join blogging frontier" according to the Wall Street Journal (Aug. 11, 2005, C3). Prominent economists and even the Federal Reserve have started blogging, on topics ranging from the rise in oil prices to the future of interest rates.

The most popular blogs are still the ones on politics, but economists are making headway. Blogs of Brad DeLong , professor of economics at UC-Berkeley, and Barry Ritholtz, chief market stategist at the Maxim Group and blogger of The Big Picture, have cracked the top 100, according to the truth laid bear which tracks blog traffic.

The Web is ideal for economists. Most of their audience surf the Internet and they themselves do a lot of their work online.
"I haven't stepped foot in a library in five years," says Nouriel Roubini, associate professor of economics at New York University's Stern School of Business and founder of the site Roubini Global Economics Monitor), a one-stop Web site of economics research and blogs.

Cell phones and driving: 2005 legislative update

The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) yesterday issued a news release announcing a new report, Cell Phones and Highway Safety: 2005 State Legislative Update. The report summarizes state legislative actions in 2005 on cell phones and driving, and federal, local, and international activities as well. Also included are state automobile crash data and appendices of state laws regarding televisions and video monitors in vehicles and 2005 distracted driving legislation.

Cell Phones and Highway Safety: 2005 State Legislative Update
(available in PDF, 152K, 38 pp., from NCSL)


States seek captive insurers (WSJ)

A captive insurer is an insurance company that serves its parent company or organization, providing self-insurance, in effect. In "States compete to capture 'captive' insurers," the Wall Street Journal (Aug. 9, 2005, C1), reports on states' eagerness to have captive insurers based in their jurisdictions. They gain revenue from taxes on insurance premiums, from tourism dollars because owners are required to meet in the domicile state once a year, and from the ripple effect of legal, accounting, and management firms expanding to serve captives. Of the top five states with captive insurers, Vermont leads with 736 registered companies, Hawaii is 2nd with 154, followed by South Carolina (122), Arizona (54), and Washington, D.C., (51). Captive insurance is growing because of skyrocketing property-casualty insurance rates and tougher policies post-9/11. Because states have varying regulatory requirements, and marketing strategies, companies can and do shop around. (WSJ is available in the Library)


Meth labs: Remediation and disclosure
Part 1: Public Concerns

The devastating effects of crystal methamphetamine are well known. A key factor in the growing epidemic is that meth can be easily made with over-the-counter drugs and common household ingredients, and manufactured in homes. The same substances that make meth so toxic to its users permeate the walls, floors, and carpeting of thousands of these mom-and-pop labs and can remain there for years. Since each pound of meth manufactured or "cooked" leaves behind 5 pounds of chemical waste, many states consider meth labs, no matter how rudimentary, hazardous waste sites. Meth labs thus pose threats to both public health and the environment. Because of the increasing number of homes being used to make meth, a growing problem is that of unknowing homebuyers purchasing what were once meth labs and suffering the same effects as ingesting meth. States are beginning to respond with such laws as making the property owner responsible for cleanup and requiring disclosure to a potential buyer that meth had been manufactured in a home.

California and Minnesota have been dealing with the meth problem for years and have excellent websites on the subject. Specifically for background on meth lab remediation:

See Site Cleanup by California's Department of Toxic Substances Control (Clandestine Drug Labs)

and Lab Cleanup by Minnesota's Department of Health

Beach closed, maybe gone

"Twenty thousand days of closing or beach advisories were recorded in 2004 on US ocean, bay, and Great Lake beaches," so reports The Christian Science Monitor (CSM) in a Tuesday news article. An eightfold increase from 1991 and ten percent over 2003, beach closures are predicted to increase. Beach shoreline monitoring combined with state legislative actions and the federal Beach Act of 2000 requiring states adopt Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standards have resulted in tightening "controls on sewage overflows, polluted runoff, and urban storm water - key sources of the bacteria and toxics that make beaches unfit for use." The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) issued a report calling for more government efforts not only in monitoring but in solving the problems. In the summary report for Hawaii, it is noted that "Hawaii's bacteria standard is one of the strictest in the nation, but its department of health does not always close a beach if the standard has been exceeded."

The Surfrider Foundation USA has launched its comprehensive web site, State of the Beach 2005, as an "annual update on the health of our nation's beaches. It is intended to empower concerned citizens and coastal managers by giving them the information needed to take action." They judged beach environmental quality according to particular health indicators: beach access, surf zone water quality, beach erosion, beach fill, shoreline structures, erosion response, beach ecology and surfing areas. Hawaii received a "generally good" grade, scoring high on beach information and access, yet cited on the serious beach erosion and resultant shoreline armoring with no monitoring of its effects and no program to regulate future construction. Though all Hawaii beaches are publicly owned, Surfrider Foundation finds "some landowners are attempting to restrict access by creatively defining their shoreward property line."

TESTING THE WATERS - Summary for Hawaii
(available in PDF, 256K, from NRDC)

TESTING THE WATERS 2005 - A Guide to Water Quality at Vacation Beaches
(full report)
(available in PDF, 1.7M, 280 pp, from NRDC)

State of the Beach, 2005 - Hawaii
(available in HTML from Surfrider Foundation USA)


"We want our summers back."

Parents across the nation are up in arms and organizing in response to new school calendar years, according to an Aug 6 story in The New York Times (NYT). Though a major push for an early ending summer vacation or even for a year-round school calendar is the pressure to measure progress for the No Child Left Behind Program, the actual academic benefit of school days shifting is arguable. NYT quotes Gene V. Glass, a professor of education policy at Arizona State University, as saying, "there is not a scrap of evidence that shows a year-round calendar improves achievement." The article goes on to say that Harris Cooper, a psychology professor at Duke University, "doubted that modified calendars produce any overall academic benefits." The National Education Association (NEA) is reported not to have taken a position on the issue. However proponents like the National Association for Year-Round Education (NAYRE) feel "that children retain more knowledge with shorter breaks and benefit from taking exams before their Christmas recess, rather than after it." Their position is that a balanced school year can improve achievement.

NYT reports:
Surveys by Market Data Retrieval, an education research company, found that the number of public schools starting the academic year before Sept. 1 in 2004-5 rose 11 percent, to more than 63,000, over those starting before Sept. 1 a decade ago.
In some states, the tourism industry supports the parents, asserting that shorter summer vacations deprive the state of millions of dollars in tourism tax revenues that, in turn, help to finance public schools.
Through grass-roots organizations like Save Our Summers in North Carolina, Save South Carolina Summers, and Texans for a Traditional School Year, parents are demanding change from their state legislatures. Wisconsin and Minnesota are just two of the states responding with laws setting school start dates more in line with traditional, after-summer calendars in late August or early September.

Hawaii's Department of Education (DOE) published a news release on July 19, 2005, stating that "most public school students will end summer vacation and begin the 2005-06 school year in the next two weeks." DOE has also published the Board of Education (BOE) approved "1-3-2 model for the proposed calendar (one-week fall recess, three-week winter recess, and two-week spring recess)...The 2006-07 Official School Calendar is expected to be presented for final approval by the full Board of Education on September 1."

Proposed Single School Calendar for 2006-07
(available in PDF, 16K, from DOE)



States protecting citizen-soldiers' pay

The war in Iraq and Afghanistan has generated the largest mobilization of the National Guard and Reserves since World War II. Of 400,000 in the Guard and Reserves, almost 140,000 are on active duty, and about 40 percent take a pay cut when mobilized. In response, today's Stateline.org top story reports, thirty states have enacted legislation to cover the gap between state pay and military pay for their active-duty employees. And while not all states have pay-gap laws, nearly all offer some financial assistance to their employees and others on lengthy Guard duty -- for child support, rent, in-state college tuition, and health care. (A map accompanying the article provides a visual overview of the states that have pay-gap laws.) The federal government, the single largest employer of Guard members and reservists, has yet to enact a pay-gap law. Last year both houses of Congress passed separate measures but a House-Senate conference committee rejected them as too expensive.

Americans' views on life issues

Another report released by Pew Research Center and based on two surveys conducted by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, finds "about as many Americans rate the rights of detained terrorist suspects as a very important issue for the Supreme Court as say that about abortion." The study also provides a more detailed breakdown of the views of American society toward the controversial issues of the death penalty, and gay rights and gay marriage. Data suggest moderate views are held by most Americans on issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage, and that most Americans are less committed and more ambivalent on social issues than conservatives or liberals.

For example, the report found that while most surveyed felt that abortions should have some regulation, as in the case of women under the age of 18, 65% of Americans do not feel the Roe v. Wade decision should be overturned. Similarly, while only 36% of Americans favor allowing gay marriage, 53% favor allowing gay legal unions with many of the rights and privileges of marriage. Other social issues covered in the surveys include stem cell research, death penalty for murderers, physician-assisted suicide, and birth control and abstinence taught in schools.

Abortion And Rights Of Terror Suspects Top Court Issues
(available in PDF, 132K, from the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life)


Internet, teens and school

Pew/Internet released a study Tuesday reporting on Internet use in schools among teens. According to the collected data, in just four years, school Internet usage by teens between 12 and 17 has grown roughly 45%, accounting for nearly 21 million online users. The reports further finds that "68% of all teenagers have used the internet at school" and 20% of all teens who access the Internet from multiple locations respond that school Net access is the location most often used. The study's researchers observe, "The internet is an important element in the overall educational experience of many teenagers," finding agreement among teens and parents that the Internet is a valuable tool for study.

Teens, technology, and school
(available in PDF, 288K, from Pew/Internet & American Life Project)

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Update: Post-Kelo eminent domain legislation

How states are reacting to the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Kelo v. New London was reported here earlier. The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) yesterday, Aug. 2, updated its Post Kelo v. New London State Eminent Domain Legislation report, noting legislation introduced in eleven states (AL, CA, IL, MI, MN, NJ, NY, OR, PA, and TX; DE is included in this list but its legislation was enacted). NCSL also provides Recently Enacted Pre-Kelo Eminent Domain Legislation (UT and NV passed their laws in 2005, CO in 2004). Other relevant links can be found on NCSL's Eminent Domain page. NCSL reported on Kelo in July.

Just in...Legislative policy analysis

Power, Knowledge, and Politics: Policy Analysis in the States (Georgetown University Press, 240p.), is a study of nonpartisan policy research organizations of state legislatures. Author John A. Hird is associate professor of political science and director of the Center for Public Policy and Administration at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. He analyzes the connection between policy research and actual decision making and the effects of politics and political institutions on the nature and conduct of nonpartisan policy analysis. (H97 H56 2005)


TEL - grass-roots movement to control spending?

A staff writer for The Christian Science Monitor (CSM) reports on a possible grass-roots movement to control state spending, the tax and expenditure limitation (TEL). California voters will vote this fall (see analysis of Proposition 76 by California's Legislative Analyst's Office, LAO), and Ohio is considering a similar measure. "Both Maine and Oregon are preparing initiatives for 2006. Conservative groups are poised to follow suit in 20 other states," the CSM article continues.

NCSL has posted, State Tax and Expenditure Limits--2005, a review page of TEL in the nation, with content on traditional limits, other tax and expenditure limitations, formulas for fiscal restraint, studies on TELs impact and effectiveness, and status of 2005 TEL actions. Included are charts of states under a tax or expenditure limitation. The report concludes:
The most restrictive TELs will ensure that voters will have a direct say over fiscal issues in a state, and legislators will have reduced fiscal policy-making authority. In addition, interest groups whose funding priorities are exposed to fiscal restrictions may seek to carve out protections for those priorities...the dual effort to deliver state government services and restrain state government growth will remain a delicate balance for the foreseeable future.



Pidgin in college and life (WSJ)

Pidgin in Hawaii stars in the Wall Street Journal's popular front-page middle column today, Aug. 1. The article begins with Lee Tonouchi, "Da Pidgin Guerrilla," and the Pidgin Literature class he teaches at Hawaii Pacific University; the course is believed to be the first of its kind at the college level. Pidgin's origins and evolution are presented with a light touch, with anecdotes of its use in TV and film ("Dog the Bounty Hunter" and "50 First Dates"), its influence on such literary figures as Lois Ann Yamanaka and Eric Chock, and its current state. Historically there has been resistance to pidgin because of its plantation roots. That may become less of a problem as fewer children, especially in Honolulu, seem to be speaking pidgin today. Sandy Takayama, who wrote a children's book in pidgin, finds some kids at her readings not understanding her. "I feel a little sad," she says, "but I understand--for children to be able to succeed in the larger world, they have to speak standard English." (WSJ is available in the Library)

Calif reasserts domestic partner protections

The California Supreme Court decided today, Monday, that private country clubs must provide same-sex partners the same benefits as married couples. The Mercury News posted on their website a story reporting the decision:
The decision came in one of a series of gay rights cases that are serving as a prelude to the historic legal showdown over whether California's ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional, a matter that could be heard by the Supreme Court by the end of this year. The justices ruled that a San Diego country club violated California civil rights laws by refusing a spousal discount to a lesbian couple that it extends to married members.
The couple sued the country club, arguing discrimination and violation of California's domestic partnership provisions. California Attorney General Bill Lockyer supported the couple. The Court's decision was unanimous. According to The Mercury News, "The decision could now give registered domestic partners stronger protections with a host of businesses, from mortgage lenders to health clubs."


More sexual assaults reported in juvenile prisons

 The New York Times (NYT) in a Monday article reports that sexual violence in state-run juvenile prisons occurs "10 times more frequently than at adult prisons," according to a Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) study of sexual assaults in state-run prisons. NYT writes that the report "defined sexual contact between corrections officials and inmates at adult facilities, including consensual but illegal acts, as sexual violence. By that standard, the study found that most of the reports of sexual violence in adult facilities involved guards and other officials having sexual contact with inmates." It is not known the extent of sexual assualts between inmates as these most often go unreported.

Alexander Busansky, of the Commission on Safety and Abuse in America's Prisons says of the study, "It is a first step not only to find out how extensive the problem of sexual violence is, but it is also an important first step in looking at broader issues of safety, abuse and violence in our jails and prisons."

Sexual Violence Reported by Correctional Authorities, 2004
(available in PDF, 322K, from BJS)

Statement Of Alex Busansky, Executive Director, Commission On Safety And Abuse In America's Prisons In Response To BJS Prison Rape Statistics
(available in PDF, 92K, from the Commission On Safety And Abuse In America's Prisons)