February 9, 2016

Lead Poisoning and Its Life-Long Consequences In the Media Spotlight

The recent controversy over lead levels in the drinking water of Flint, Michigan residents has once again drawn national attention to the danger lead exposure poses, especially to young children.

Image Source: Wikimedia commons 
According to the CDC, “no safe blood lead level in children has been identified. Lead exposure can affect nearly every system in the body… [but because] lead exposure often occurs with no obvious symptoms, it frequently goes unrecognized.”

A recent New York Times (NYT) article on lead exposure and lead poisoning further explained, “even low levels of lead in blood can have profound effects on the brain and nervous system. Lower intelligence, difficulty in paying attention and with fine motor skills, and lower academic achievement have all been connected to elevated lead levels.”

According to the article, calcium, iron, and vitamin C intake may all help to slow lead absorption, but to date, there is no way to reverse the effects of lead poisoning. For that reason, medical professionals emphasize the importance of lead exposure prevention.

To learn more about lead exposure, including common sources of lead exposure and how to detect it, click here to read the full NYT article. 

February 8, 2016

Putting Juveniles on Sex Offender Registries

A recently released Pew Charitable Trusts research analysis published by Stateline magazine indicates that some states are rethinking policies that allow juveniles to be placed on sex offender registries.

According to the analysis, 38 states add juveniles to sex offender registries, while 12 states add only the names of those convicted in adult courts. “In some states, youths may petition to have their names removed from the registry, although it can take more than a decade before they begin the process,” the analysis states. “Some add names to a registry for a set amount of time, while others keep offenders on the list until they die.”

The PEW analysis points out concerns associated with putting juveniles’ names and photos on a registry, which include stigmatizing them in their schools and neighborhoods and making them targets of police, “sometimes for inappropriate behavior rather than aggressive crimes,” the analysis states. Also of concern are laws that add youth sex offenders to adult registries once they turn age 18 or 21, even though they were tried as juveniles, not adults.

The analysis points out some states that have made changes to their laws.  For example, in Oregon and Delaware judges now have more discretion in determining who goes on the registry.  Also, Pennsylvania has ended lifetime registration for juveniles.  In Oklahoma, the juvenile sex offender registry is accessible only by law enforcement, and children are only considered for registration if a prosecutor determines that they might commit another offense and files an application to have them added to the registry when they are released from custody.

Still, the registries’ supporters say they are necessary for public safety and “serve an important purpose for families and victims,” while opponents counter that the “penalties are too harsh for children who have been intentionally kept out of adult court,” according to the analysis.

The full article is available below:

February 5, 2016

Fixing America's Surface Transportation (FAST) Act

OLR Report 2016-R-0001 provides a brief summary of the FAST Act, which was signed into law by President Obama on December 4, 2015.  The act provides $305 billion in federal funding for transportation projects over five federal fiscal years (FFYs 2016 to 2020). It is the first long-term comprehensive transportation law since 2005.

The act includes $225.2 billion for highway investment, $61 billion for federal transit programs, and $10 billion for the Federal Railroad Administration and Amtrak.  States will get about a 5.1% increase in funding in FFY 16 and annual increases ranging from 2.1% to 2.4% in subsequent years.

Connecticut will receive about $3.5 billion over five years, or about $700 million annually, for highway and transit programs, which is about $62 million more per year than Connecticut received in 2015.  The state Department of Transportation says the act’s importance isn’t in the amount of money it provides, which does not change dramatically from previous levels, but in the predictability and assurance of funding it provides.  

For more information, read the full report here.

February 4, 2016

All Parents Worry About Their Children but for Different Reasons

It turns out that demographics play a role in the types of worries parents have about their children, according to a recent Pew Research Center report.

For instance, according to the report:
  1. Low-income parents are more concerned than higher-income parents about teen pregnancy (50% to 43%) and their children getting into trouble with the law (a 2:1 margin). 
  2. Black parents are more likely than white parents to worry about their children being shot (39% vs. 22%).
  3. White parents are more likely than black parents to worry that their children might struggle with anxiety or depression (58% vs. 35%) or have problems with drugs or alcohol (40% vs. 23%).
  4. Hispanic parents worry more than black or white parents about all eight measures included in the survey, from being bullied to having problems with drugs or alcohol.
According to the study, some worries are shared by all groups regardless of income. “At least half of all parents, regardless of income, worry that their children might be bullied or struggle with anxiety or depression at some point. For parents with annual family incomes of $75,000 or higher, these concerns trump all others tested in the survey.”

The study is based on a survey of 1,807 American parents with children younger than age 18 conducted on September 15 to October 13, 2015.

February 3, 2016

Millennials: America’s Newest Caregivers

Although taking care of elderly parents and relatives is a task that commonly falls to Baby Boomers, almost a quarter of all adults caring for seniors are Millennials between the ages of 18 and 34, according to research by the AARP Policy Institute and the National Alliance for Caregiving and reported by Kaiser Health News.

According to AARP, about 40 million Americans considered themselves a caregiver in 2013, and the work they perform is estimated at $470 billion. Caregivers routinely face significant financial and emotional stress, a 2015 AARP report notes.

In Connecticut, about 459,000 caregivers, about 12.8% of the state’s population, contributed 427 million care hours in 2013, according to the 2015 AARP report. This is just slightly higher than the national average of 12.7%. The report estimates the economic value of this caregiving at $5.9 billion.

Mississippi has the highest concentration of caregivers, with 16.8% of the population caring for an elder. North Dakota, in contrast, has the lowest concentration at 8.6%.

February 2, 2016

Report Tracks Campus Sexual Violence Policy Issues Considered by Legislatures

The Education Commission of the States (ECS) and NASPA – Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education (formerly, the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators) have characterized sexual violence and related policy issues from higher education institutions as a “top-tier policy issue across the states.” These organizations have teamed up to produce the publication “State Legislative Developments on Campus Sexual Violence: Issues in the Context of Safety.”

This policy brief looks at 23 states that have considered or enacted legislation across the following areas, intended to protect students and support sexual assault survivors:
  1. Defining affirmative consent: building a common understanding of welcomed sexual behavior by defining consent in statute or directing institutions to do so
  2. Role of local law enforcement: defining, clarifying, or expanding the role of law enforcement in campus reporting and investigating reports of sexual assault
  3. Transcript notation: addressing the notation of a sexual assault on student perpetrators’ transcripts
  4. Role of legal counsel: addressing the role of legal counsel in the campus adjudication process
The brief examines legislative activity during the 2013-2015 sessions.

February 1, 2016

Happy Caucus Day, Iowa!

In Iowa, it’s Caucus day, which kicks off the 2016 Presidential election season. But what is a caucus exactly, and how does it differ from the traditional balloting process? A recent report on the 2016 Presidential nominating process from the Congressional Research Service (CRS) answers these questions and many more.  Other questions the report addresses include:
  • What is front-loading?
  • Why do Iowa and New Hampshire go first?
  • How do primary and caucus results determine the election of national convention delegates?
  • Where and when are the 2016 national conventions?
Click here to find out the answers and read the full report.