Collecting Internet sales tax (WSJ)
Of the 18 states, 13 have signed on (Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigon, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Jersey, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and West Virginia), and five are in the final stages to join (Arkansas, Ohio, Tennessee, Utah, and Wyoming). Washington, Texas, and Nevada are in the pipeline. To encourage retailers to participate, the project offers an amnesty on past uncollected taxes. Wal-Mart and J.C. Penney have signed on. (WSJ is available in the Library)
Streamlined Sales Tax Project (HTML from SSTP)
Real estate brokerage - competition?
REAL ESTATE BROKERAGE: Factors That May Affect Price Competition
Full Report (PDF, 244KB, 32p.)
Highlights (PDF, 40KB, 1p.)
All from GAO
Just in...Cruise ships and Maui
Mayor's Cruise Ship Task Force, Island of Maui; Final Report
(PDF, 6MB, 145p., from Office of the Mayor, Maui County)
Pensions as time bombs
This year five Republican governors wanted to move state employees from traditional, guaranteed-payout pensions to 401Ks, where the state would contribute a set amount to an employee's retirement account, and that money would belong to the employee at retirement. Only Alaska Gov. Frank Murkowski succeeded, and Alaska became the first state to adopt a mandatory 401K retirement plan for all state employees hired after July 1, 2006.
Public employee unions oppose 401Ks as providing less retirement security. 401Ks can also be expensive to administer. To protect their retirement systems, states are also considering bond issues, cutting benefits, and consolidating multiple pension systems.
VOCATIONAL REHABILITATION: Better Measures and Monitoring Could Improve the Performance of the VR Program
Full report (PDF, 4.6MB, 79p.)
Highlights (PDF, 44KB, 1p.)
Both from GAO
Laptops to every middle and high school student
Helping states define graduation rates
Twelve states use the cohort definition that tracks students from when they enter high school to when they leave. Because this is a more precise definition than others, a majority of states plan to use this by school year 2007-08.
NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND ACT: Education Could Do More to Help States Better Define Graduation Rates and Improve Knowledge about Intervention Strategies
Full report (PDF, 5.3MB, 67p., from GAO)
Highlights (PDF, 372KB, 1p., from GAO)
Lillian Koller profiled in Governing
(available in HTML on governing.com)
NCSL legislative seminar in Chicago
Same-sex marriage - current status
The Backgrounder provides an informative overview of state legislative activity in 2005, upcoming votes on constitutional amendments, FAQ, and a timeline beginning with the Nov. 2003 ruling in Massachusetts that same-sex couples have equal-protection rights to marriage.
Cool blog from Governing
On the left sidebar of 13th Floor is an array of categories, beginning with All Arnold - yes, it's all about Ahnold. Other categories, to pick a few, are: Big Business, Gay & Lesbian Issues, Katrina, Legislatures, Off The Record, and Scandal Watch. Worth a look, and probably a feed.
Stable marriage and child wellbeing
"The decline in two-parent families since 1960 has been closely linked with a rise in child poverty, primarily because poverty rates are far higher in single-mother families than in two-parent families," according to the report.On the release of the study, a forum discussed the need for programs helping with relationships and parenting which might reduce the number of unstable marriages, thus affecting the rates of divorce, family violence and single parenting:
The proportion of single-parent families doubled to 26 percent in 2003 from 12 percent in 1970, according to the report.
Children already being raised by same-sex couples can also benefit when those couples marry, the study suggested.
Could we increase rates of marriage? Because if we could, children would benefit, adults would benefit, society would benefit, and disproportionately low-income minority children would benefit.Marriage and Child Wellbeing
(available in PDF, 774 KB, The Future of Children, v. 15, n. 2)
Overcoming Barriers to Stable Marriage, A Brookings/Woodrow Wilson School Panel Discussion
(full transcript available in PDF, 147 KB, from The Brookings Institution)
Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC)
Intelligent transportation systems
Highway Congestion: Intelligent Transportation Systems' Promise for Managing Congestion Falls Short, and DOT Could Better Facilitate Their Strategic Use
Full report (PDF, 1.35MB, 69p.)
Highlights (PDF, 80K, 1p.)
Both from GAO
Disaster Preparedness, Response and Reconstruction - a GAO bibliography
There are 120 items under the following categories: Charities, Coast Guard & Seaports, Energy Supply, Environment & Natural Resources, Flood Control, Infrastructure, Insurance, Military's Role Including National Guard & Reserves, Preparedness, Public Health, Response, Recovery.
High costs for Edison Schools in Baltimore
Edison Schools was one of three companies hired by the Hawaii Board of Education at its May 5, 2005, meeting as a "comprehensive restructuring provider" to restructure seven schools in compliance with No Child Left Behind Act requirements.
Going Public With School Privatization
(available in PDF, 252K, 8p., from the Abell Foundation)
School governance in the principal's hands
The current interest in DDS, however, offers a new window of opportunity for testing the proposition that real improvement in student learning can be achieved within the public school system by radically altering the locus of decisionmaking and shifting authority over key decisions like budgeting and resource allocation to the school level.Standards-based reform movement and the creation of new federal and state accountability systems, a new competitive environment of vouchers and charter schools, and the impending replacement of retiring principals with employees with different expectations of freedom of action, all contribute to possible motivation and success for DDS.
Decentralized Decision-Making for Schools - New Promise for an Old Idea?
(available in PDF, 150 KB, from RAND)
States review disaster plans
The article includes comments from Larry Kanda, a Hawaii Civil Defense mitigation planner. "The big problem with an island jurisdiction like us," Kanda said, "is that we can't evacuate to another state when a hurricane comes through." Katrina has underscored to state emergency managers that Hawaii needs 124,000 additional spaces in short-term shelters. Kanda said the state is working to retrofit public buildings to serve in emergencies.
Other states covered in the article are Connecticut, New Hampshire, Maine, California, Oregon, and Arizona.
States reopen their diasaster playbooks
(available from Stateline.org)
Katrina links for states (NCSL)
This series of webpages, which will be updated often, is designed to serve as a resource guide for state legislators and legislative staff as they tackle many of the policy challenges associated with a natural disaster of this magnitude.Among the links on the site is Emergency-Related Resources for Legislators and Legislative Staff which provides information on federal resources (Emergency Management Assistance Compact, Centers for Disease Control Health Information, USDA disaster assistance food distribution programs, etc.) and legislative resources (price gouging statutes, and information technology disaster recovery and business continuity, on replacing critical IT infrastructure).
Drugs less popular with teens
...a 9 percent decline in illicit drug use among American youth between the ages of 12 and 17 from 2002 to 2004. Marijuana use also declined by 7 percent among young adults between the ages of 18 and 25 during this same period. Marijuana continues to be the most commonly used illicit drug, with a rate of 6.1 percent (14.6 million current users) for the U.S. population 12 and older. The findings are from the 2004 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) released today at the annual National Alcohol and Drug Addiction Recovery Month press conference.Results from the 2004 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: National Findings, from Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), Office of Applied Studies (OAS):
Results in HTML, in PDF (1.4 MB)
Overview in HTML, in PDF (264 KB)
Detailed Tables in PDF (132 KB)
School snack lines
"Would anyone advocate that we take the fences off the playground for elementary schools and just let kids run around in the streets?" Harkin, D-Iowa, said. "By the same token, why would we allow schools to sort of poison our kids with junk food?"Sen. Tom Harkin, who requested a Government Accountability Office (GAO) study of the issue, and other lawmakers seek nutrition standards for food throughout schools, including vending machines and stores.
According to the GAO report, "the availability of competitive foods sold in middle schools and through a la carte lines has increased over the last 5 years. Schools often sold these foods in or near the cafeteria and during lunch."
School Meal Programs: Competitive Foods Are Widely Available and Generate Substantial Revenues for Schools GAO-05-563
(available in PDF, 968 KB, from GAO)
To become the Google of blogs (WSJ)
To follow prominent bloggers, DayPop searches fewer than 60,000 blogs selected by editors. Technorati, Feedster, IceRocket, and BlogPulse scour from 15 million to 20 million blogs. Technorati and BlogPulse search only blogs, while Feedster and IceRocket also search mainstream news sources. There is still a vast difference in scale. The larger blog searchers cover under 20 million blogs, while Google, Yahoo, and MSN search billions of Web pages. Technorati is the only blog search engine busy enough to register on an Internet-tracking firm. It had 642,000 unique visitors in July, less than 1% of Google's July count.
Blog search engines:
Just in...Renewable energy; performance information; constituents (NCSL)
Renewable Portfolio Standards. The renewable portfolio standard (RPS) requires that power retailers include renewable energy in the fuel mix they use to generate electricity. Hawaii is one of 20 states that have an RPS. The report covers cost impacts, what qualifies as renewable, and structure, size and phase-in of each state's RPS. Also discussed are tradable renewable energy credits (RECs). (HN85 N37 (05-11))
Asking Key Questions: How to Review Program Results. Performance information is a major accountability tool for a state to identify what it is getting for the activities it undertakes and the funds it spends. This report focuses on state programs that deliver public services and programs rather than on internal state services. Two examples illustrate program reviews: one on state universities and the second on child care programs. (HN85 N37 (05-12))
Building a True Partnership with Your Constituents. Polls show that many citizens don't like government and don't understand it. State legislators generally agree that constituents feel disconnected but other than responding to phone calls and personal requests, they may not know how to reach out. This report profiles four state legislators who used ingenuity and energy and built relationships with key people in their communities for constituent involvement. Starting a program, "Sometimes you just have to take a chance...and then put in the time, effort and enthusiasm to make it a success." (HN85 N37 (05-13))
These reports are not available online
On Supreme Court nominee John Roberts
The Roberts Nomination (NY Times)
Supreme Court (Washington Post)
A Change at the Supreme Court (CNN)
National Public Radio (NPR)
Campaign for the Supreme Court (Washington Post)
LiveCurrent Supreme Court Blog (on the Supreme Court generally) (LA Times)