What Will Gigabit/Second Connectivity Bring to the Future?

. October 30, 2014

Companies around the country are starting to roll out broadband connections with speeds in the gigabit per second range.  Currently, typical speeds are about 10 megabits per second and a gigabit per second would be 100 times faster – 1,000 megabits per second.  What will that mean?  The Pew Research Internet Project wanted to know just that, so they asked thousands of experts how the jump in connection speed would change things by 2025.

The answers clumped around several themes, including:

  • Person-to-person connections will happen in virtual space.  A lot of socializing and business meetings will take place in fully immersive virtual spaces.
  • Real space will be augmented.  Experiences in real, physical space will change as a result of connectivity.  For example, a simple game of hide-and-seek could take place in an augmented real space.
  • Medicine will change with the ability to have a constant stream of information available, along with the ability to visit a doctor without having to physically go to his or her office.  Some experts expect telesurgery and robotic surgery to become commonplace by 2025.
  • The digital divide will become greater.  Lower-income people will fall further behind in their access to technology.
  • No one really knows because predicting the future is very difficult and more than a few experts were pessimistic about the chances for major changes.

How Might Climate Change Impact the Military?

The U.S. military is actively planning for the effects of climate change. During an interview with National Public Radio (NPR) about a new Pentagon report on climate change as a national security threat, retired U.S. Navy Admiral David Titley explained that climate change can cause or worsen crises such as food or water shortages or energy instability, which may require the military to respond.

The Pentagon’s report specifically refers to climate change as a “threat multiplier,” because it may aggravate existing global challenges, such as food instability, infectious disease, and terrorism. And it cites increasing global temperatures, changing precipitation patterns, rising sea levels, and more extreme weather events as climate change problems that will impact national security.  

As examples, Admiral Titley (1) cited droughts in several of the world’s large wheat growing regions and a rapid increase in the cost of basic foodstuff as a contributing factor to the Arab Spring and (2) said changes to the Arctic region also require the military to rethink their operations. According to Admiral Titley, there has been a fivefold increase in the number of ships traveling the Bering Strait between Russia and the United States. Oil and gas production and increased tourism in the Arctic Ocean may require a military presence similar to other oceans. Some of the things the military must consider when working in the Artic include whether the military has (1) the proper types of ships and other equipment and (2) sailors trained to work in the region, particularly under the sea and ice conditions.

Nature Versus Nurture and Innovation Districts

. October 29, 2014

In an earlier posting, we asked if state governments could replicate Silicon Valley, a region bubbling with innovative and entrepreneurial people, businesses, and research universities. We looked at Deborah Perry Piscione’s The Secrets of Silicon Valley: What Everyone Else Can Learn From the Innovation Capital of the World, which outlines many unique and intangible things that stimulate and sustain innovation in the Silicon Valley region.

image: Rocky Mountain Institute
The Brookings Institute’s Bruce Katz asked a similar question about the federal government’s role in supporting “innovation districts,” relatively dense urban areas where research institutions, R&D intensive companies, entrepreneurial firms, and business incubators cluster together, feeding off each other’s ideas and concepts. Sustaining this feeding frenzy are land use practices that make these areas “livable, walkable, bike-able, and transit connected.”

Innovations districts tend to spring up from the “collaborative efforts of local institutions and leaders and organic market dynamics,” Katz stated. Consequently, there’s no need for the federal government to play a leading role. After all, “emerging districts around the country differ markedly in their leadership structure, sector orientation, and existing economic, physical and networking assets—obviating any ‘one size fits all’ response.”

What the federal government should do, according to Katz, is:
  1. keep funding basic and applied research at the major research institutions in the heart of the districts;
  2. “encourage a more robust school-to-work pipeline for sub baccalaureate workers in science, technology, engineering, and math fields”; and
  3. fund mass transit, affordable housing, and mixed use development projects in the districts.
In short, the federal government should act as a catalyst, spurring the initiatives that are already happening in these districts. But it “should do so in a humble way—doing what cities and metro areas can’t (e.g., providing a strong national platform for research and innovation) and providing support that is respectful of local variation and supportive of local networks and ecosystems,” Katz opined.

New Report: Medical Marijuana Dispensary Facilities and Producers

OLR Report 2014-R-0249 answers the following questions:

  • Which companies have permission to distribute marijuana through the medical marijuana program?
  • Which companies have received permission to grow marijuana through the program?
  • What does one need to apply for a dispensary facility or producer license?
  • What are the criteria and methodology DCP used to grant a license to grow and distribute marijuana?
  • Do the regulations limit the number of dispensary facility or producer licenses DCP issues?
  • Do state bidding and contracting laws apply to the program?
  • Does the dispensary facility or producer application ask for the owner’s gender and ethnicity?
For the answers to these questions, read the full report.

President Signs Executive Order on Identify Theft

As reported by CBS News, President Obama recently signed an executive order intended to enhance protections against identity theft.  According to the article, one aspect of the initiative is “to expedite the transition away from debit and credit cards with magnetic strips, a dated technology that's more vulnerable to intrusion, and toward cards with microchips and PIN numbers, which are considered more secure.”

The order requires cards issued by the federal government to use the newer technology starting next year.

The initiative will include upgrades to payment terminals at government facilities such as national parks, so they can accept cards that use the more secure technology.  The article notes that “a number of large retailers like Wal-Mart and Home Depot have agreed to follow suit.”

Among other things, the order requires certain actions aimed at reducing the time consumers spend dealing with the consequences of an identify theft incident, including enhancements to the IdentityTheft.gov website. 

Status of Connecticut Airbnb Rentals

. October 28, 2014

The Hartford Courant recently reported on municipal officials’ attitudes toward Airbnb rentals, of which there are nearly 700 in the state.  Airbnb is a website that allows travelers across the globe to connect with private homeowners and contract to rent a room or their entire home for several days or weeks.  As the OLReporter previously reported, while these short-term rentals may qualify as lodging facilities under existing statutory definitions, many state and municipal authorities do not enforce applicable laws.

According to the Hartford Courant, “[m]any Connecticut officials say their town zoning codes don't take short-term rentals into account, leaving Airbnb hosts in a sort of ambiguous legal limbo.”  This is a nationwide problem, NPR reports.  But as the number of Airbnb rentals in major cities grows, officials are starting to respond.  Recently, San Francisco legalized such rentals (with restrictions), while New York’s attorney general announced that about three-quarters of such New York City rentals are operating illegally.

Example of Airbnb listing.  The owner was interviewed by the Hartford Courant and recommended municipal officials authorize such rentals, as they may bring travelers into communities that might otherwise go unvisited, providing an economic boost.
Photo Source: Airbnb

Rethinking Financial Literacy

Many states, including Connecticut, statutorily require or encourage higher education institutions to make financial education programs available to students.  These programs generally include providing information about (1) responsible credit card use, (2) student loan debt, (3) obtaining and interpreting credit history information, and (4) the importance of maintaining good credit. 

A recent U.S. News and World Report article suggests that these measures may not be enough to save future generations from financial illiteracy.  According to the article, the answer lies in introducing young children, using age-based teaching methods, to the concept of saving and progressing to more complex topics as they grow older.  These lessons should take place in the classroom and at home.  According to the article, the growing role of technology should make this easier.

The article describes examples of conceptual and experimental teaching methods, including:

  1. instilling fundamental financial values in elementary school-aged children by using apps that require users as young as age seven to make saving, spending, donating, and investment decisions;
  2. leveraging students’ interest in money by teaching financial topics in traditional classes like social studies, science, and math (e.g., assigning a project requiring students to build a community garden or improve air quality with private and public financing); and
  3. providing a practical experience, such as parents giving children a bimonthly allowance on a prepaid card linked to an online budgeting tool and requiring them to pay some of their own expenses when they reach high school. 
The article concludes that rethinking the role of money management in a restructured education system is what it will take for future generations to be financially literate.  This will require the combined effort of parents, teachers, and government regulators, according to the article. 

Restaurants Cutting Calories in New Menu Items

. October 27, 2014

As reported on NPR, a recent study of large restaurant chains found that new menu items in 2013 had almost 60 fewer calories on average than new 2012 offerings.  The study, published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, included an analysis of 66 of the 100 largest restaurant chains, including fast food, fast casual, and full service restaurants.

The study found that overall, new menu items in 2013 had about 56 fewer calories, on average, compared to new items from 2012.  By category, the largest reduction was in new main courses, which averaged about 67 fewer calories in 2013.  New children’s items had about 46 fewer calories in 2013.  By contrast, some categories had increases.  For example, new appetizers and sides had about 61 more calories in 2013.  The study also found that among those restaurants with a primary food focus (such as burgers), “declines in calories in new items were larger among menu items not core to the business of the chain restaurant.”

There was no change in calorie counts among menu items available in both years.

There Should Be a Roundabout ’Roundabout Here

Studies show that replacing a traffic signal or stop sign with a roundabout increases traffic safety at intersections “because the roundabout’s tight circle forces drivers to slow down, and traffic flows in the same direction,” the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) reports.

Roundabouts (not to be confused with traffic circles or rotaries, see below) “essentially eliminate” the most dangerous types of intersection crashes – right-angle, left turn, and head-on collisions,” IIHS says. “And the low speed rear end crashes and side swipes that sometimes do occur are unlikely to result in serious injury.”

Roundabouts, which are more common in Europe than the U.S., also improve traffic flow and reduce idling, thereby reducing fuel consumption and emissions. In addition, they are safer for pedestrians.

A roundabout, like a traffic circle or rotary, is a circular intersection where drivers travel counterclockwise around a center island. But unlike a traffic circle or rotary, a roundabout has no traffic signals; drivers entering it must yield to traffic already there. Traffic circles and rotaries often have traffic signals or stop signs, and drivers entering them do not have to yield to traffic already there.

More information on roundabouts can be found at the IIHS website. A Federal Highway Administration study on roundabouts is available on its website.

Socio-Emotional Impacts of Violent Crime

. October 24, 2014

A new study from the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics finds that 68% of victims of serious violent crimes suffer socio-emotional problems as a result of the victimization.  These problems include moderate to severe emotional distress, increased relationship problems, and disruptions at school or work.  The study looked at data on victims of crimes such as sexual assault, robbery, and aggravated assault from 2009 to 2012.

Among the study’s other findings:
  • victims of violence from their intimate partners were five times more likely to have socio-emotional problems than those who were victims of violence by strangers and
  • about three-quarters of victims who suffered serious physical injury (such as sexual assault, robbery, violence with a firearm, or violence requiring medical treatment) experienced socio-emotional problems, compared to 51% of simple assault victims (which does not involve serious injuries).
For more information, read the full report.

Researching Investments and Investment Professionals

Investor.gov, a site for investors from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, offers a number of valuable tools to help people understand the different types of investment products available for purchase and the investment professionals who offer them. 

For example, one page offers tips on how to research brokers and advisors and questions to ask before hiring one.

Another useful page highlights the Internet tools that are available to learn about investment professionals, many of whom are licensed by the states or the federal government.

The site highlights these tools as a way for investors to research and verify information before engaging an investment professional.

California Joins Connecticut as the Only States to Require Paid Sick Leave

. October 23, 2014

Last month California became the second state to require employers to provide employees with paid sick leave; Connecticut was the first.

Both NCSL and the San Francisco Chronicle report that Governor Jerry Brown signed the measure into law last month. The law will affect about 40% of California’s workforce (about 6.5 million people) and give them up to three paid sick days a year.

The bill, which has been controversial, had failed for a number of years following the 2006 vote in San Francisco when voters there passed a city sick leave law.

In Connecticut, the law passed in 2011 after being debated for years. It guarantees service workers up to five days of paid sick leave a year after the employee accrues the sick time and meets other requirements.

New Report: Tuition Assistance for Active-Duty Service Members in Other States

OLR Report 2014-R-0242 answers the question: What states provide higher education tuition assistance for active-duty service members?

The majority of states provide tuition assistance for active-duty service members from or stationed in their state.  This can be in the form of allowing these students to pay the lower in-state tuition rate; granting tuition waivers, credits, or refunds; or providing specific grants or scholarships.  The report focuses on state tuition assistance programs for states that provide aid to active-duty service members of the armed forces, including reserves called to active-duty, but does not include the National Guard.
Based on Westlaw searches and discussions with the National Conference of State Legislatures, we found that (1) 32 states, including Connecticut, allow active-duty service members stationed in the state to pay the lower in-state tuition rate; (2) five states (Massachusetts, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, and Oklahoma) have some type of waiver, credit, or refund for active-duty service members; and (3) two states (Colorado and Maryland) provide grants or scholarships for specific service members.

For more information, read the full report.

Underemployment a Problem for Recent Graduates

In September, the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the unemployment rate among people with at least a bachelor’s degree was 2.9%, significantly lower than the overall 5.9% unemployment rate. The difference is consistent with previous reports that have found unemployment rates among people with a college degree to be lower than the overall rates.

However, a recent blog post in The Chronicle of Higher Education notes that many of these graduates are underemployed. The post includes survey data from PayScale, a compensation research company, which found that nine college majors had unemployment rates of 50% or higher. In the survey, underemployment included people who are underpaid, not using their education or training, or working part-time when they want to be working full-time.

The Chronicle also notes that underemployment is more prevalent among recent graduates than among the overall population of college graduates. The post cites data from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, which found that the underemployment rate in June 2014 among recent graduates (those ages 22-27) was 46%, compared to an overall college graduate underemployment rate of 34.6%. Further, the underemployment rate for recent graduates has increased in recent years; it was 41.5% in March 2008.  By contrast, the overall rate for graduates has been relatively steady in that period.

Streets: Not Just for Cars

. October 22, 2014

A new report encourages people to change how they think about streets. Streets, the authors say, aren’t just for cars. According to the authors, “good streets are good places, too–public places where people meet, sit and socialize, conduct business, wander about, play, and more.”

The report, from researchers at the University of Oregon, looks at already-completed projects that use streets differently, and discusses how other cities can use those ideas.

Examples discussed in the report include redesigning lanes, streetscapes, and lighting, and adding pedestrian and bicycling lanes. The use of art is also highlighted as a means of improving streets. According to the authors, results include safer streets, more walkers and bicyclists, and increased retail development, often done without a decrease in the street’s traffic level.

Federal Department of Education Encourages Equal Access to Resources

The National School Boards Association reports that the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) has released a “Dear Colleague Letter” addressing equal access to educational resources for all students.  Standards for such access were established in Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  Title VI requires that “all students have equal access to comparable resources in light of their educational needs.”

The letter describes various examples of education inequalities.  For instance, schools with greater numbers of minority students are less likely to offer Advanced Placement or gifted and talented courses.

The DOE’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) released the letter to provide guidance to superintendents and school district officials for correcting such disparities. The letter instructs administrators about (1) education resource requirements, (2) how OCR investigates resource disparities, and (3) how to meet obligations to all students.

College 2 Career Expo at Rentschler Field

. October 21, 2014

On Wednesday, October 22, 2014, Rentschler Field will host the 11th annual College 2 Career Expo.  The expo, which provides college students with a chance to meet with potential employers and receive career advice, is sponsored by the Hartford Springfield Economic partnership, Enterprise Holdings, the Connecticut Department of Labor (DOL), and local colleges and universities.
 
Roughly 50 companies will have exhibits at the expo, including Frontier Communications, Prudential Financial, the state Department of Revenue Services, MTU Aero Engines of North America, Source4teachers, AFLAC, TTM Technologies, FedEx Ground, and the New Haven Police
Department.  In addition, DOL employees will conduct workshops on using LinkedIn and certified professional résumé writers will be available to review and critique résumés. 

Admission to the expo is free.  It will run from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

New Report: State Medical Assistance for Non-Citizens

OLR Report 2014-R-0247 answers several questions: What is the legislative history of the law that eliminated the State Medical Assistance for Non-Citizens Program (SMANC)?  Prior to the program’s elimination, how much did it cost the state to pay for services to eligible individuals through SMANC?  How many lawfully present immigrants are currently affected by the program’s elimination?

In 1997, the state, through SMANC, began offering state-funded health insurance coverage to qualified immigrants who were ineligible for Medicaid because they had lived in the country for less than five years (see sidebar). In 2009, the legislature eliminated most of the program. Court challenges temporarily halted the termination on constitutional grounds, but the state Supreme Court upheld the state’s right to terminate these benefits.

A 2009 federal law allowed states to provide exceptions to this Medicaid ban for pregnant women and children up to age 21.  Connecticut provides such exceptions to the ban.

According to the Office of Fiscal Analysis, the state spent approximately $24 million per year on SMANC before the program was eliminated.

According to the Department of Social Services (DSS), when the program was eliminated in 2011, 4,889 individuals lost health insurance coverage.  However, we were unable to obtain data on the number of lawful immigrants currently residing in Connecticut who would qualify for SMANC had it not been eliminated.

Certain individuals who would have been eligible for SMANC may be eligible for other medical coverage under certain circumstances. Federal Medicaid is available to lawful immigrants as well as undocumented non-citizens if they require emergency medical assistance. Additionally, certain lawfully present immigrants can qualify for health insurance coverage with tax credit and cost sharing reductions through Access Health CT, the state’s health insurance exchange, even if they have lived in the United States for less than five years.
For more information, read the full report.

New Federal Veterans’ Affairs Secretary Recruits Medical Students

At an event in Vermont, the recently confirmed federal Veterans’ Affairs (VA) secretary, Robert McDonald, urged medical and nursing students to consider careers in the VA.  He has made similar recruiting appeals in several other states. 

McDonald took over the agency with the mission of lowering the long waiting times for veterans seeking health care. 

The secretary believes that besides filling an immediate need of reducing wait times, the increase in medical personnel will be a long-term way to improve the system.  He also told students of other benefits, such as a new law that allows the VA to provide up to $120,000 in debt forgiveness to medical professionals.

The VA has about 150 medical centers and 820 community-based outpatient clinics throughout the country.  The department is seeking to recruit between 20,000 and 30,000 doctors and nurses.

CT Gets Good Grades in 2014 Digital States Survey

. October 20, 2014

The Center for Digital Government recently awarded Connecticut an “A-” in its biennial Digital States Survey.  The survey examines state governments’ practices, policies, and progress in using digital technologies “to better serve their citizens and streamline operations.” It evaluates states based on criteria that include “actions supporting state priorities and policies to improve operations or services, hard- and soft-dollar savings/benefits, progress since the last survey, innovative solutions, and effective collaboration.”

Connecticut, which received a “C” in the 2012 survey, was one of the most improved states.  Among other things, the survey cites the state’s Enterprise IT Investment Fund and the successful rollout of Access Health CT as key reasons behind its high grade. 

Based on the survey results, the center also named Connecticut its 2014 Best Practice Leader in the “Adaptive Leadership” category, which measures how well a state’s technology initiatives match its governor’s policy priorities. 

GDP: An Indicator Whose Time has Passed?

Everyone who has taken Economics 100 knows what GDP is. And, even for those that didn’t, they know from reading the papers or listening to the Sunday morning talking heads. GDP generally measures how much we spend and invest. But did you know that this most popular of economic indicators was devised during the Roosevelt Administration to see if the New Deal was lifting the economy out of the Great Depression?


Source: http://bit.ly/1CKP5KZ

It’s been around that long, and it proved to be a valuable planning tool when the nation headed into World War II, the New York Times’ Fred Andrews wrote last spring.  GDP helped war planners “decide how to apportion [the nation’s] scarce resources between wartime and civilian priorities.” Okay, so it’s been around a long time. What’s the point?  Change, economic change.

GDP stands for Gross Domestic Product, accent on “product.” “GDP is a measure best fitted to mass production of handgoods,” Andrews wrote. Consequently, it doesn’t do so well when it comes to measuring services, which, as Andrews pointed out, “have swollen to dominate today’s economy.” And that’s not all—GDP doesn’t “count the underground economy, conducted out of sight of regulators and tax collectors, even though this unofficial sector provides many jobs and is often highly entrepreneurial.”

Andrews was commenting on British economist Diane Coyle’s book, GDP: A Brief but Affectionate History (2014). Coyle took a 360° look at GDP and found other shortcomings. One of those shortcomings Andrews emphasized was that “GDP tells us nothing about whether we are eating our own corn,” meaning, “does today’s growth come at the expense of tomorrow’s? Are we consuming our natural—and human—resources without replacing them?”

According to Andrews, Coyle believes that “while imperfect, the GDP is good enough as a measure of how fast the economy is growing and better than any alternative.” And, as Paul Simon put it in verse, “When times are mysterious serious numbers will speak to us always.”

Reducing Domestic Violence

. October 17, 2014

In recent years, state legislators have authorized general measures to reduce domestic violence, such as broadening the definition of abuse, creating jobs and employment protections for domestic violence victims, and ensuring the confidentiality of domestic violence shelters and counselors.  However, according to a recent Pew Charitable Trusts Stateline Magazine article, these measures have not focused enough on the specific domestic violence problem of different demographic groups.

Given the complexities of cultural differences, generic measures may not be the most effective way to reduce domestic violence.  To be more effective, measures must address how race, culture, and other demographic factors influence domestic violence, the article states. The article cites the following cultural distinctions:
  • African-American women are most likely to be killed by an intimate partner,
  • domestic abuse often involves multiple family members in Asian/Pacific Islander communities,
  • Latinas are less likely to seek help from a shelter, and
  • gay and lesbian victims experience barriers to treatment or resources (e.g., denial of services by certain domestic violence shelters).
At the federal level, Congress has begun tailoring domestic violence legislation to reflect address demographic factors.  For example, the Violence Against Women Act (42 USC §§ 13925, et. seq.) was amended in 2013 to (1) include domestic violence protections for gays and lesbians and (2) authorize tribes to criminally prosecute non-Indians for domestic and dating violence.  Nonprofit organizations, often with federal funding, have been addressing some of these concerns by developing culturally specific domestic violence programs aimed at individual demographic groups, the article states.  

Wild Horses Running Wild

Wild horses pose a growing problem in the western states, federal land managers recently told the New York Times, claiming that the number of these horses is double what the land can support.
Federal law protects wild horses, and the federal Bureau of Land Management is responsible for controlling them. Each year, the bureau removes wild horses from the land and offers them for adoption. But the number of adopted horses never equals the number of those captured. Thus, nearly 50,000 horses are in storage, and the bureau does not have enough funds and space to round up and store any more, the article states. (Storing the horses in private feedlots and pastures costs the bureau approximately $50 million each year.)

But leaving the horses on the land without any population controls leaves little grass and water for other animals. 

Horse advocates, however, believe the wild horse population problem is overstated and worry that the overpopulation claim will encourage horse slaughter practices. The advocates believe the actual problem is land management, one that could be solved by expanding the horses’ territory to encompass more grazing land, the article states.

Vehicle Crash Avoidance Technology Reduces Insurance Claims

. October 16, 2014

Advancements in vehicle crash avoidance technology are helping to reduce accidents, which in turn reduce insurance claims. As reported in Claims Journal, Adrian Lund, president of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, writes that fully driverless vehicles may be years away, but crash avoidance technology currently used in vehicles, such as automatic braking and forward collision warning systems, is already making a dent in insurance claims. “Institute research finds that automatic braking systems are reducing property damage liability claims by around 14 percent.” These systems are often offered as optional features, but Volvo makes its auto-brake system available as a standard feature.

According to Lund, insurers have started a $30 million project to expand the Institute’s vehicle research center facility in Virginia, which will allow researchers to more rigorously evaluate the newer technology.

The Institute’s Q&A discussion has more information.

New Report: Hunting Distance from Occupied Buildings

OLR Report 2014-R-0239 answers the questions: When did Connecticut adopt its ban on hunting within 500 feet of an occupied building, and was there any public comment about it? What do New York and the other New England states require for hunting distance from an occupied building?

Language about discharging hunting devices within certain distances from buildings entered Connecticut statute in 1955 (PA 535). The act authorized the State Board of Fisheries and Game to adopt hunting regulations that could, among other things, prohibit discharging firearms and other hunting devices within specified distances of buildings (CGS § 26-66).

The board adopted regulations on August 15, 1955 that prohibited hunting, discharging firearms, or carrying loaded firearms within 500 feet of a building (1) occupied by people or domestic animals or (2) used to store flammable or combustible material. They also prohibited discharging a firearm toward a person, building, or domestic animal when within range.

The hunting regulations were published in the Connecticut Law Journal on September 27, 1955. While they have been amended numerous times since 1955, they still contain the 500-foot requirement.

According to the legislative history of the 1955 act, there was no public comment about the hunting distance from buildings requirement. State agencies are the repository of records, including public comments, for proposed regulations from that era. The Legislative Library contacted the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) for historical records about the original regulations. Should DEEP provide any public comment related to the 1955 regulation, update the report will be updated.
New York and the other New England states each legislate hunting distance from occupied buildings, but in varying ways. In general, all but Vermont prohibit hunting within a specified distance from occupied buildings: Maine – 100 yards; Massachusetts – 500 feet; New Hampshire – 300 feet; New York – 500 feet (firearm), 250 feet (crossbow), or 150 feet (long bow); and Rhode Island – 500 feet. Vermont authorizes property owners to establish a 500-foot no hunting safety zone around occupied buildings.
For more information, read the full report.

Study Suggests Student Loan Debt is Depressing the Housing Market

The Los Angeles Times reports that an Irvine-based homebuilder advisory firm, John Burns Consulting, recently released a study that attempts to quantify the impact of student loan debt on the housing market.  The study, which examines the student debt of 20- to 40-year-olds, estimates that:

  • 5.9 million households under age 40 owe $250 or more in monthly student loan payments (which is three times the number of households compared to 2005),
  • 414,000 home sales will be lost this year due to high levels of student loan debt, and
  • these lost sales will result in an $83 billion dollar hit to the housing industry.
Although the firm prepared the study exclusively for its clients, a one-page graphic summary is available to the public.

The Times also examined other studies on this topic.  A Federal Reserve Bank of New York study, for example, found that people who never attended college are more likely to hold a mortgage and own a house than people who had attended.  Conversely, a May 2014 Brookings Institute report found that most people who carry student loan debt have low monthly payments, suggesting that student debt’s detrimental effect on the housing market is exaggerated.

And After “Show and Tell” We’ll Write Some Code…

. October 15, 2014

Do you want to introduce your kindergartner to computer programming?  Now there is even an app for that, according to a recent article in the Washington Post.

In late July, researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Tufts University, and Playful Invention Company released ScratchJr, a free iPad app designed to teach children age five to seven basic computer coding skills.  

MIT News described the process as follows:

“With ScratchJr, children can snap together graphical programming blocks to make characters and other elements in their project move, jump, talk and change size. Users can modify various elements in the paint editor, add their own voices and sounds, and even insert their own photos.”

Michael Resnick, the app’s co-developer further explained to the Post, “When many people think of computer programming, they think of something very sophisticated, but we don’t think it has to be that way.”

According to the Post, the app’s development was funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation to help encourage children’s creative thinking and systematic reasoning. Developers are currently working on compatible versions of the app for the Web and Android devices.

Supreme Court to Consider Case on Medicaid Provider Payments

Can private medical providers facing rising medical costs sue a state to raise Medicaid reimbursement rates? This is one of the questions the U.S. Supreme Court will hear during its upcoming session.

Last December, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Idaho Medicaid providers, ordering the state to increase payments. According to Reuters, state officials recommended increases in reimbursement rates in the late 2000s, but the Idaho legislature declined to appropriate funds.

While federal law requires state Medicaid plans to include certain provisions concerning sufficient payments, it does not establish a right to enforce those payments. The question the question before the Supreme Court is whether Medicaid providers have a private right of action to enforce the sufficient payment provisions against a state.

The case is Armstrong v. Exceptional Child Center, Inc., and documents concerning the case are available at SCOTUSblog.

Become a Dad, Make More Money; Become a Mom, Make Less

. October 14, 2014

If you’re a new dad, congratulations! You have many things to look forward to and making more money is one you might not have expected.  If you’re a new mom, well, you can expect to make less, according to a research study recently reported in the New York Times.

The research, which was conducted by University of Massachusetts, Amherst sociologist Michelle Budig, found that men who live with their children on average see their pay increase by 6%, while women with children on average see the pay drop 4% for each child they have. Budig based her study on the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth from 1979-2006.

“The gap persisted even after Ms. Budig controlled for factors like experience, education, hours worked, and spouse’s income,” the Times reported. She attributed a small part of the difference, 16%, to the fact that fathers work more after the birth of a child while mothers often cut back on their hours.

A separate study found that male job applicants with children stood a better chance of being called for an interview. Stanford University sociology professor Shelly J. Correll conducted the study, sending fake resumes to employers. The resumes were mostly identical except some mentioned membership in a parent-teacher association. Correll found that fathers were a bit more likely to be called for an interview than childless men were, while mothers were half as likely to be called as childless women. “A lot of these effects really are very much due to a cultural bias against mothers,” Correll told the NYT.

New Report: Funding for Minor Party Candidates under the Citizens’ Election Program

OLR Report 2014-R-0231 answers the question: How do minor party candidates become eligible to receive funding under the Citizens’ Election Program (CEP)?

Like major party candidates, minor party candidates qualify for CEP funding by, among other things, raising a specified amount of qualifying contributions (QCs). However, minor party candidates must additionally demonstrate support through either (1) the party’s performance in the last regular election or (2) submitting a petition with a specified number of signatures.

A minor party candidate is eligible for a grant if the party’s candidate for the same office in the same district at the last regular election received at least 10% of the votes cast for that office (i.e., met a “10% threshold”). In this case, the candidate receives a general election grant equal to one-third of the full grant amount for major party candidates running for the same office. A minor party candidate who is not eligible based on the party’s performance in the last election may, as an alternative, use the petition procedure. He or she can meet the 10% threshold and receive a one-third grant by obtaining a required number of signatures. In both instances, the candidate can receive a two-thirds grant or a full grant by meeting a 15% threshold or 20% threshold, respectively (CGS § 9-705) (State Elections Enforcement Commission (SEEC) Declaratory Ruling 2008-01).

A minor party candidate who receives less than a full grant has the option of raising and spending additional contributions, called “differential contributions,” up to the full grant amount, provided they meet the criteria for QCs (e.g., they must be between $5 and $100 and cannot come from state contractors) (CGS § 9-702(c)). One who reports a deficit in post-election disclosure statements may also be eligible to receive supplemental grant money if he or she received a greater percentage of the votes cast for all candidates for the office than the percentage of votes or signatures he or she used to become eligible for the grant (CGS § 9-705).
For more information, read the full report.

CT Supreme Court Rules on Pawnbroker Repurchase Agreements

The Connecticut Supreme Court recently ruled that pawnbroker repurchase agreements—also known as “buy-back loans”—are governed by the usury statute, thus limiting the interest rate on these loans to 12% per year. In a repurchase agreement, a customer sells his or her property to the pawnbroker, who holds onto the items for a set time and then sells them back to the customer at the agreed sales price plus interest.

The Connecticut Association of Pawnbrokers’ president Jay Sargent told the Connecticut Post that the decision “shouldn’t have that big an effect” because most of the association’s members do not use repurchase agreements. The association represents about 30% of the state’s 140 pawnbrokers.
But Sargent added that the ruling could cause some pawnshops to close. For example, one pawnbroker told the Post that repurchase agreements account for 20% of his business and that he may have to close his shop after being in business for over 20 years.