Consumer and safety groups are rightly applauding an agreement by House and Senate lawmakers to move forward a bill
which bans lead and most phthalates -- ? plastic chemicals that can
cause developmental disorders -- in most children's products. The
bill, already approved by the U.S. House,
will also increase funding for the Consumer Product Safety Commission,
strengthen testing standards, and enhance public access to product
The need for health care reform is well-known and, to most
Americans, indisputable. Numerous
statistics and an endless trove of real-life stories document the need
health care reform. This section provides four sets of policies to
help state legislators
and advocates build proposals and political strategies to challenge the
self-interests of the health care industry and successfully move health
The cost of health care is the primary reason at least 47
million Americans lack coverage and at least 25
million more are under-insured, meaning their insurance does not shield
them from high health care costs. From 2002 to 2007, family
insurance premiums rose 78% while inflation rose 17% and wages a mere
19%. Both employers and employees are feeling the squeeze.
Failure to create a coordinated and user-friendly health
care system that provides necessary coverage for all Americans has left us with
the endemic health care costs and wasteful spending that define our disjointed
health care system. For instance, a staggering 78% of all health
care costs are for people with chronic conditions like diabetes, heart
disease, and depression - costs which could be reduced with effective
management and disease prevention.
With food and gas prices rising rapidly, low-wage workers can at least
welcome an increase in the federal minium wage to $6.55 per hour
scheduled to go into effect on July 24th. Even better, a number of
states will also be increasing their minimum wage rates even higher than the federal rate:
Today, a major digital divide exists between thosewho have access to high-speed Internet and those who lack access and/ or thecapability to use, high-speed Internet. Too many Americans, especially those inrural areas or low-income households do not have any Internet access, let alone high-speed Internet access. Mapping high-speed Internet availability andadoption, and making that information accessible to the public is an important tool for legislators and local planning groups that wish to evaluate thecurrent status of their states’ high-speed Internet infrastructure and utilization. Such information iskey when determining where to dedicate future resources when developingdeployment strategies.
In the last few years there have been major changes in the telecommunications environment. There is growing recognition by the public sector, businesses and communities that telecommunications infrastructure and services play an important role in economic transformation, sustainability and social well-being. The rise of more advanced Internet technologies has increased the demand for infrastructure far beyond the level previously needed. We are faced with the challenge of getting universal, affordable high-speed Internet deployed, especially to under-served and un-served areas. The challenge that we face is how to get universal affordable high-speed Internet deployed,especially to under-served and un-served areas.
In order to achieve universal and affordablehigh-speed Internet, states must implement intertwining policies that increase access to, and adoption of high-speed Internet. States need to identify where access to high-speed Internetcurrently exists, develop deployment strategies to increase affordable high-speed Internet access and adoption in under-served and un-served areas, and develop policies that ensure community and consumer protections in infrastructure build-out.
Core Universal and AffordableHigh-speed Internet Policies:
Finally,states need to foster cooperation between local jurisdictions to ensure mutualgains from growth, not play a zero-sum game of wasting development dollarsluring businesses to move a few miles. Good Jobs First in a series of reports, most recently on Minnesota and Michigan, hashighlighted how funds are wasted as development dollars from wealthier suburbsare directed towards raiding jobs from urban centers rather than creating newjobs.
Policyleaders should be critically concerned with using these new tools to reviveareas devastated by deindustrialization and chronic poverty. Around the world,"emerging markets" are hotspots for investment, so many states aretreating their low-income domestic areas as "domestic emergingmarkets" that just need a bit of patient capital in order to be revived.
Beyondsupporting individual technology firm startups, states are increasingly lookingto support interrelated "clusters" of firms that reinforce innovationin a region around specialized industries, much as the car industry grew up inDetroit, the film industry in Los Angeles, finance in New York City, and as aparadigm of the high-tech economy, Silicon Valley became a source ofongoing computer-related innovation.
Statescan play a critical role in promoting such clusters beyond supportinguniversity research and funding new startups by identifying key local assets,facilitating relationships among firms, deepening the talent pool, andencouraging investments that reinforce those cluster needs—a pointemphasized by the National Governors Association in a recent report, Cluster-BasedStrategies for Growing State Economies.
Many state venture funds arepart of policy programs aimed at encouraging university research to spin-offinto business startups and jobs in surrounding communities. As a NationalScience Foundation study recently emphasized, even smaller universities areplaying a vital role in local job creation. Technology transfer licenses havedoubled in the last 10 years and universities have had $1.6 billion in incomefrom licenses to corporations and startups in 2005.
These localuniversity ties can create businesses loyal to the local economy far moreeffectively than typical tax giveaways. States are using a number of tools toencourage technology transfer on a more regular basis, from creating dedicatedtech transfer investment vehicles, to encouraging university research parks, tospecial tax credits related to technology transfer.
States are increasinglyunwilling to rely on volatileglobal investment markets to spot local opportunities for growing newbusinesses, but instead are acting to directly invest themselves in technologyopportunities. As of2006, all but six states had state venture capital funds, putting $5.8 billionannually into in-state business ventures, accordingto the National Association Seed and Venture Funds (NASVF).
The great advantage ofsuch direct investment is that,instead of just raiding the state treasury to give away corporate welfare,states can use such venture funds to create a financial stake infirms. If these businesses are successful, they will return equity to thetaxpayers that can then be reinvested in additional firms. Such investmentsalso can cement those firms in a web of local relationships that encouragebroader spin-off effects for the local economy.