Grandparenting

. February 28, 2011

A recent study by the Pew Research Center examines trends in grandparenting. Its analysis of 2010 U.S. Census Bureau data indicates that one in 10 children lives in a household with a grandparent. About 41%, or 2.9 million, of those children are also primarily being raised by that grandparent. This figure rose slowly throughout the last decade and spiked – a 6% increase – from 2007 to 2008.

The phenomenon of grandparents serving as primary caregivers is most common among blacks and Hispanics, but the sharpest rise since the most recent recession has been among whites.

Economy’s Impact on National Security

A recent Congressional Research Service report considers how both macro- and micro-economic conditions impact national security. The report focuses on how the economy affects both the nation’s hard power (including defense spending, the defense industrial base, and economic sanctions) and soft power (the ability to generate and use economic power and to project national values).

The report surveys a number of areas, such as (1) the federal deficit and military spending; (2) human capital, including education and immigration; (3) research and technology; (4) globalization and trade; and (5) human rights and development aid.

Preliminary Analysis of Governor's Bills

. February 25, 2011

The Office of Legislative Research has done preliminary analyses of the Governor's bills and made them available on their website.

No more snowy highways?

CNN.com has a story describing a new technology that might permanently address the problem of snowy roads. Scott Brusaw, a 53-year-old electrical engineer from Sagle, Idaho, has prompted interest from the federal government and General Electric in his idea for a solar-powered roadway made from super-strong glass, instead of conventional asphalt or concrete. Solar cells inside the glass surface would allow the roadway to act as a giant solar power generator, fueling embedded heating elements and making plows and other snow removal equipment unnecessary.

In an alternative approach, civil engineer Rajib Mallick and a group of colleagues from Worcester Polytechnic Institute are working to develop stronger, heat-absorbing pavements. One idea is to embed the pavement with half-inch pipes filled with a fluid that resists freezing. In warmer weather, sun-heated fluid is stored in an insulated chamber, where it stays hot. Then, in cold weather when it's needed, that hot fluid is sent through the pipes to melt ice and snow. Mallick’s work is being supported in part by a grant from the National Science Foundation and the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative.

Online Travel Companies Sue Over Hotel Taxes

Cities in 22 states have taken action against online travel companies (like Expedia, Orbitz, and Travelocity) to collect unpaid hotel taxes. In a recent decision, the New York Supreme Court dismissed part of a lawsuit filed by Expedia against New York City, finding that the city has the right to apply its hotel tax to the entire amount paid by a consumer for a hotel room, including any service fee charged by an online travel company.

The dispute hinges on whether hotel taxes should be assessed on the price the consumer pays for a room or the amount the hotel receives for it. Generally, when a consumer books a room with an online travel company, only part of the amount paid goes to the hotel. The travel company pays the hotel a discounted rate and local tax on that price. It keeps part of what the consumer pays as a service fee.

The Tax Foundation has criticized state and local taxation of online travel companies as “aggressive and unjustified.”

Housing Costs Are Squeezing More Low-Income Households

. February 24, 2011

The more money very low-income people spend on rent and other related expenses, the less they have for food, clothes, transportation, and other essentials. Those that spend over half their income on rents constitute the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) “worst case housing needs.” According to new HUD report, the number of households in that predicament jumped from almost 6 million households in 2007 to just over 7 million in 2009, a 20% increase.

Why did this happen? Higher income households are occupying more of the units affordable to low-income households.

  • For example, higher income renters occupy about 42% of the units that are affordable to extremely low-income renters, who earn less than 30% of the area median income (AMI).
  • The situation is a little better for those households on the next rung of the income ladder—those earning between 30% and 50% of AMI). Higher income renters occupy 36% the units afford affordable to this group.
Here’s another way to look at the situation: Only 32 units of adequate, affordable rental housing are available for every 100 extremely low-income renters and only 60 adequate units are available for every 100 low-income renters.

Students with Learning Disabilities

According to U.S. Education Department data, the percentage of U.S. students aged 3 to 21 classified as learning disabled dropped from 6.1% in 2000-01 to 5.2% in 2007-08 (the latest year for which national data are available). Learning disabled students make up 40% of all students receiving special education. About 80% get the label because of difficulty reading. Experts attribute the drop to various factors, including improvements in reading instruction, early intervention, and “fudging” by school officials hoping to avoid accountability penalties and costly special education mandates. “Learning-Disabled Enrollment Drops After Long Climb,” Education Week, September 15, 2010.

In the 2009-10 school year, 4.3% of Connecticut students received special education because of learning disabilities. (In Connecticut, as nationally, students with learning disabilities are the largest group of special education students.) Since 2006-07, the proportion of Connecticut students receiving special education has remained constant at about 12% of the state’s total public school enrollment. Data on Connecticut’s special education students is available on the State Department of Education’s website.

Veterans’ Courts

. February 23, 2011

Veterans’ courts are typically separate dockets for defendants who are veterans and have legal issues related to post-traumatic stress disorder, such as drug addiction or mental illness. The courts are based on the "drug court" model of providing specialized services, such as counseling, with the goal of avoiding incarceration, which some argue not only helps the defendants but also provides long term savings (i.e., the costs of a separate docket are offset by avoiding the costs of prison time and repeat offenses).

In January 2008, New York Judge Robert Russell started the nation's first veterans treatment court (June 1, 2008 USA Today article). According to the National Association of Drug Court Professionals (NADCP), at least 48 cities and counties across 21 states now have veterans' courts. Four states - Colorado, Illinois, Nevada, and Texas - have enacted legislation authorizing such courts. Additionally, federal legislation in 2008 and 2009 would have created a national veterans’ court program, but the bills died in committee (e.g., S.902 SERV Act).

Seniors like Their Gadgets but Their Kids and Grandkids like Them More

A new study by the Pew Research Center looks at gadget use across the generations and finds differences among age cohorts. For example, while 85% of the 3,001 adults surveyed owned a cell phone, only 68% of seniors between the ages of 66 and 74 and less than half (48%) of those over 75 reported owning them. Computer ownership likewise was greater among the younger set—52% of all adults owned a laptop, while only 30% of younger seniors and 10% of older seniors did. Not surprisingly, 43% of older seniors reported owning no electronic gadgets (computers, MP3 players, game consoles, e-book readers, and tablets) while the average for all adults was only 9%.

Early Child Care and Education Report

. February 22, 2011

Connecticut Voices for Children issued its 2010 progress report on “Connecticut Early Care and Education Progress Report 2010.” The nonprofit advocacy group outlines the state’s efforts in terms of the resources, capacity, quality, and accessibility to child care and education in the state. In its assessment, the report points out both good news and bad news in each of these areas.

The report includes among its findings:

  • A 6.3% decrease in state funding in FY 10 from the prior year for early child care and education, resulting in cuts to the number of children being served.
  • State-supported programs are distributed among a number of state agencies. They vary with respect to eligibility requirements, funding sources, and data reporting, making planning and coordination difficult and causing confusion for parents.
  • Training and technical assistance for providers need improvement and standards to measure program quality are lacking.
  • There continues to be an achievement gap in later school years between socioeconomic, ethnic, and racial groups that quality early childhood care and education can help to close.
Recommendations support increased funding, creation of a coordinated system, implementation of a quality rating and improvement system, development of uniform standards and data collection, and improved outreach to and access for parents.

Connecticut Union Membership Declines in 2010

According to a study published by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the percentage of Connecticut’s wage and salary workers who were members of a union declined from 17.3% in 2009, to 16.7% in 2010. Nationally, union membership declined from 15.3 million (12.3%) in 2009 to 14.7 million (11.9%) in 2010. The study also found that 7.6 million of the nation’s 14.7 million union members worked in the public sector, and that 36.2% of public sector workers belonged to unions. In contrast, 6.9% of private sector workers belonged to unions. Among full-time wage and salary workers, the median usual weekly earnings of union members were $200 more than those not represented by unions.

Recycling at the Race Track

Jimmy Johnson made NASCAR history in 2010 by winning his fifth consecutive Sprint Cup Series championship. Like Jimmy, NASCAR is also driving out front – but in terms of event recycling. Dr. Michael Lynch, managing director of green innovation for NASCAR, explained its increased focus on environmental issues in the October 2010 issue of Resource Recycling. According to his article, in 2008 NASCAR partnered with Coca-Cola using the “Give it Back” message to help promote recycling. In 2009, 34 tons of beverage containers were recovered (almost 2 million containers) at NASCAR events. In August 2010, with over two months remaining in the racing season, the recovery total exceeded the previous year’s number by over 10 tons. According to Lynch, this program may be “the largest beverage container recycling program in sports.” Other companies such as Office Depot, Coors Light, and UPS have also joined NASCAR in its recycling efforts. Lynch, Driving Recycling, Resource Recycling, October 2010, p. 35-38, is available in the Legislative Library.

Public Universities Turn to Alumni for Help

With looming cuts to state higher education appropriations, public universities are stepping up their efforts to raise funds from alumni, according to a recent New York Times article. While some public schools have well-established fundraising operations, others have only recently begun to actively seek private funds, and their efforts are further hindered by the weak economy. According to the Council for Aid to Education, charitable contributions to colleges and universities totaled $28 billion in 2010, an increase of .5% from 2009, but still well below the 2008 total of $31.6 billion.

11.7 Million Identity Theft Victims in 2008

. February 18, 2011

The Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) recently published a report on an identity theft survey it took during 2006 and 2007. The report estimated 11.7 million identity theft victims, which is 5% of all U.S. people over age 16 in the United States. The financial losses due to identity theft totaled more than $17 billion.

BJS defined “Identity theft” as the attempted or successful misuse of an existing account, such as debit or credit account, misuse of personal information to open a new account, or misuse of personal information for other fraudulent purposes, such as obtaining government benefits.

Commission Releases Final Report on Causes of Financial Crisis

On January 27, the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission released its final report on the causes of the financial and economic crisis. Six of the ten members of the bipartisan commission voted to adopt the commission’s report. The report concluded that the financial crisis was avoidable. It also concluded that widespread failures in financial regulation and supervision proved devastating to financial market stability, and that the government was both ill-prepared for the crisis and responded inconsistently to the crisis. The report further concluded that other significant contributing factors to the crisis included (1) failures of corporate governance and risk management at many large financial institutions; (2) excessive borrowing, risky investments, and lack of transparency; (3) a systemic breakdown in accountability and ethics; (4) mortgage lending standards and mortgage securitization; (5) over-the-counter derivatives; and (6) failures by credit rating agencies.

The commission consists of private citizens with extensive experience in banking, consumer protection, economics, finance, housing, or market regulation. The commission was created in 2009 pursuant to federal legislation. The four members who did not adopt the report filed two dissents, criticizing some aspects of the majority’s approach and highlighting other causes such as the international nature of the credit bubble and government housing policy.

Improvements in Overseas Voter Access

. February 17, 2011

According to a report released by the Overseas Voter Foundation, access to ballots by people who wanted to vote while living overseas improved dramatically. These people received their ballot with enough time to return it in about half the time in 2008 but in about two-thirds of the cases in 2010.

The study said electronic transmission of blank ballots by all 50 states helped increase access. Unfortunately, using electronic means to request a ballot did not always work. Of the 18% of voters requesting a ballot who did not receive one, 22% requested the ballot electronically (either by email or fax), while just 16% who used traditional mail did not receive a ballot.

All of this comes in the wake of the federal 2009 Military and Overseas Vote Empowerment. The study found the act had a positive impact.

Among other things, the study recommends giving additional support to local election officials “regarding the implementation of new technology measures including online ballot request, blank ballot delivery, and ballot tracking.”

Insurance Institute Selects Safest Vehicles

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has chosen 40 cars, 25 SUVs and a minivan as its top safety picks for 2010. IIHS awards its top safety pick to vehicles that fare the best in protecting drivers and passengers in front, side, rollover, and rear crashes. Winners also must have electronic stability control, which significantly reduces crash risk.

Midsize cars among the winners include the Ford Fusion, Subaru Outback, Hyundai Sonata, and Chevrolet Malibu. Among the winning SUVs were the Chevy Equinox, Kia Sorento, Toyota Highlander, and Volkswagen Tiguan. The Toyota Sienna was the only minivan selected.

Winners Announced in Connecticut Zero Energy Challenge

. February 16, 2011

As reported in stamfordplus.com, the Clean Energy Fund, Connecticut Light & Power, and United Illuminated have announced the winners of the first annual Connecticut Zero Energy Challenge (ZEC). The ZEC is a design/build competition for the state that aims to educate homebuilders and homeowners about high-efficiency homes that consume almost no energy. Through the challenge, the winning innovative homes have demonstrated that building to this level of energy efficiency is achievable. The winning homes are in Killingworth, New Hartford, .and New Canaan.

Consumer Report Card on Health Insurance Carriers

State law requires the Connecticut Insurance Department to issue an annual report card of the state’s health insurance carriers. The report card compares the states Health Maintenance Organizations – known as HMOs – and the 15 largest insurers by premium volume that offer managed care plans. The report card includes a worksheet for consumers to compare various managed care plans and a list of state mandated insurance benefits. Here's the link to the October 2010 report card

U.S. Supreme Court to Rule on Whether States Can Cut Rates To Medicaid Providers

. February 15, 2011

The Los Angeles Times is reporting that the U.S. Supreme Court has decided that it will determine whether California and other states can cut their Medicaid payments to doctors, hospitals, and other medical providers. At issue is whether allowing states to do this will make access to health care more difficult, which would contradict what federal law requires.

In 2008, California attempted to cut the state’s Medicaid program by $1 billion to help balance the state’s budget. The Medicaid providers asked the federal district court for an injunction, which was denied. The providers then appealed to the Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled in their favor. California (with amici briefs from 22 other states) appealed to the Supreme Court, which agreed in January to hear the case.

Those opposing the states’ appeal argue that by cutting the amount of reimbursement states pay Medicaid providers, who historically have received very low reimbursement rates, states risk having providers flee the program, leaving fewer providers to continue serving Medicaid clients. Federal Medicaid law contains an “equal access” provision that requires state Medicaid payments to be both consistent with principles of economy and efficiency and ensure access to enrollees that is equal to that available to the general public.

The author of the Times article suggests that Chief Justice Roberts may sympathize with the states, which have argued that private parties should not be able to sue over a federal program’s limits. At the same time, the high court had asked the U.S. Solicitor General’s office to render an opinion on the case. That office advised the court not to take the case, in part because it believed the issue was being settled by the federal Medicaid agency through rulemaking.

How Can Distressed Communities Bounce Back?

According to The Hamilton Project at the Brookings Institution, the answer lies in a national economic strategy that targets the most economically troubled communities. In an effort to reverse years of economic decline in the nation’s most distressed communities, a recent study recommends a set of policies that attract new businesses, aid displaced workers, and match unemployed workers to new jobs.

The study looks at the long-term consequences communities face after experiencing sharp economic shocks. The communities hardest hit during periods of economic recession persistently lag far behind the rest of the nation in employment and income growth. They suffer from declining population, employment, wages, and home prices because of a systematic imbalance between the supply and skills of its workforce and the demand for their work from local businesses and industries. The study offers a three-pronged approach to address this problem of persistent distress:

  1. Attract new businesses to these communities through a combination of tax incentives and expansions in public services and infrastructure investment,
  2. Aid displaced workers through “wage insurance” programs and investments in job retraining, and
  3. Match unemployed workers to new jobs by improving job search assistance and counseling services.

Transition Document Provides Status Report on Criminal Justice Changes and Initiatives

. February 14, 2011

In December, the Criminal Justice Policy Advisory Committee (CJPAC) produced a transition document (1) compiling statistics showing the current state of Connecticut’s criminal justice system and (2) providing information from criminal justice agencies about their initiatives. Among other things, the report discusses the accomplishments and challenges of parole board enhancements, information technology projects, reentry issues, special offender populations, and victims issues.

Are Film Tax Credits Valuable?

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities weighed in last fall with two studies questioning the value of business tax credits and corporate income tax cuts. The center claims film tax credits reward companies for what they would have done anyway, filmed in your state. Further, the credits do little to create jobs for in-state residents because the film companies import skilled workers from Los Angeles, New York City, and other movie capitals.

Is the Center right? No, according to a recent article on New Mexico’s film tax credit. The credit reimburses movie makers for some of the state and local taxes they pay, but also increases state taxes on capital expenditures and film tourism, the article stated, citing an earlier Ernst & Young report on the state’s film tax credit. The article describe several features of the credit that could account for its economic impact (Source: “Film Tax Credit Incentives: A Success in New Mexico,” State Tax Notes, September 13, 2010, available in Legislative Library).

Is that the last word? Hardly; the same Tax Foundation that ranked Connecticut 47th among the states in business tax climate claims film tax credits “often encourage individuals to gain skills that are only employable as long as politicians enact ever-larger subsidies for the film industry.”

What are we supposed to make of this debate, if even the experts can’t agree on the value of film tax credits? Maybe when we read these studies, we need to read beyond the executive summaries and apply the old adage, “The devil’s in the details.” At least that’s the message in David H. Freedman’s new book, Wrong: Why Experts Keep Failing Us—And How to Know When Not to Trust Them (2010).

States Look to Improve Health Care Quality and Efficiency Through National Health Care Reform Opportunities

. February 11, 2011

There is a recognized need for reform to the nation’s health care delivery system. The national health care reform act (“Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act”) offers states opportunities to transform health care delivery, with a number of provisions supporting systemic improvements. A recent report by the National Academy for State Health Policy examines specific health care reform act provisions that support state system improvement goals and profiles efforts in 10 states: Colorado, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington. The report highlights the opportunities and challenges that federal health care reform will bring and offers suggestions for how state and national leaders can streamline implementation.

Cyberstalking, Cyberharrassment, or Cyberbullying?

. February 10, 2011

Cyberstalking, cyberharassment, and cyberbullying generally refer to the use of the Internet or other electronic communication to harass, threaten, or intimidate someone. The prevalence of these behaviors is not known, but they presage more harmful behaviors, including physical violence, according to some reports. “Cyberbullying” especially has been a focus of several recent news stories. This is a form of bullying that involves one student or a group of students inflicting repeated harassment, threats, humiliation, or harm on another student (i.e., bullying him or her) through the use of a computer, cell phone, or other electronic device. Four states, Georgia, Louisiana, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire enacted cyberbullying prevention laws in 2010, and one, Nevada, did so in 2009. All five laws contain new or expanded definitions of bullying and cyberbullying. A National Conference of State Legislature report, updated December 29, 2010, presents an overview of state laws on cyberstalking, cyberharassment, and cyberbullying.

Connecticut One of States Most Dependent on Property and Income Tax Revenue

In its 2010 annual report on state and local government revenue sources, the Tax Foundation ranks Connecticut 10th among the 50 states in reliance on revenue from property taxes and 6th in reliance on personal income taxes. The report, which is based on U.S. Census data on tax collections for FY 08, compares the percentage of each state’s combined state and local revenue that comes from property taxes, general and selective sales taxes (including taxes on such things as motor fuel, cigarettes, alcohol, amusements, insurance premiums, and public utilities), individual and corporate income taxes, and licenses and other taxes.
The percentages for Connecticut and its neighboring states are:

StateProperty General Sales Selective SalesPersonal Income Corporate Income Licenses and Other
CT 36.0% 15.3% 9.8% 32.5% 2.6% 3.8%
Mass 34.3% 12.1% 6.3% 36.8% 6.4% 4.2%
NY 28.3% 16.7% 7.9% 33.6% 8.2% 5.5%
RI 42.3% 17.4% 11.2% 22.4% 3.0% 3.6%

Forster, Ryan and Padgitt, Kail. “Where Do State and Local Governments Get Their Tax Revenue?” Fiscal Fact, No. 242, Tax Foundation, August 27, 2010.

“Race to Nowhere” Hits Home

. February 9, 2011

As the New York Times points out, "It isn’t often that a third of a movie audience sticks around to discuss its message, but that is the effect of “Race to Nowhere,” a look at the downside of childhoods spent on résumé-building." With no advertising and little news media attention, “Nowhere” has become a must-see movie in communities where the kindergarten-to-Harvard steeplechase is most competitive.

The film portrays what can happen to students when homework, sports, and other extracurricular activities combine to put students intoa  pressure-cooker.

Gatekeeper Program for Seniors

A new program, called “Gatekeeper,” is training people dealing with senior citizens to look for small signs (e.g., unkempt appearance, forgetfulness) indicating bigger problems, according to a Hartford Courant article (Dec. 31, 3010). The program, piloted by St. Luke’s Elder Care Services, trains town employees, police officers, firefighters, senior center staff, among others, to look for signs of need and make confidential referrals to St. Luke if they think a person needs help. St. Luke assigns a social worker to make an appointment with the person and arrange for him or her to get the services needed, such as mental health screening or medical assistance.

Create Jobs to Address Blight

. February 8, 2011

According to New York Times op-ed contributor Diana Lind, neighborhood rehabilitation plans, particularly in the northeast, must address the need for jobs as much as the need to fix buildings to eliminate blight. Lind wrote in her January 24, 2011 piece, “The Bright Side of Blight” that “any plan to mitigate the vacant property crisis must not only include innovative urban planning, but also try to restore employment opportunities.” She cites a Philadelphia program that provides “low-skill residents with intensive education and then matches graduates with jobs” at local universities and businesses.

Health Insurance Rate Regulation Varies Widely Among States

A recent Kaiser Family Foundation study found states vary dramatically in how they review and approve or disapprove proposed health insurance rate increases. The authors surveyed 50 state rate review statutes and interviewed insurance regulators in ten states (Alaska, Connecticut, Colorado, Idaho, Louisiana, Maine, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Wisconsin). The study, which only covers individual and small group plans, found:

  • Most states lack the capacity and resources to conduct an adequate review;
  • Having rate approval authority does not necessarily protect consumers from large rate increases;
  • Some states’ authority to disapprove rates is limited to certain carriers, or provides alternative regulatory pathways allowing insurance companies to avoid reviews altogether;
  • Most states interviewed use subjective standards to guide the review and approval process, giving them more flexibility but making the process appear arbitrary; and
  • Most states where regulators were interviewed have made little or no effort to make rate filings transparent. Only Colorado, Maine, and Wisconsin allowed a policyholder to request a public hearing on a rate filing.

The study comes on the heels of increased funding to enhance state rate review processes provided under the new federal health care reform law. Connecticut applied for and received a $1 million federal grant in October 2010.

Affordability by Town of Connecticut Real Estate

. February 7, 2011

HOMEConnecticut, a statewide campaign aimed at increasing the amount of affordable housing in Connecticut, has released its latest report about housing affordability in Connecticut’s 169 towns. The report notes that in 2009 there were 58 towns in which a family earning that town’s median income would not be earning enough to qualify for a mortgage on a house priced at that town’s median home price. This is down from 117 towns in 2008 due to the sharp drop in home prices.

Comparing State Policies on Child Welfare Topics

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Child Welfare Information Gateway provides a wealth of information on how state laws address such issues as child abuse and neglect, child welfare, and adoption. The gateway’s Laws & Policies page provides summaries of state laws on many topics (). For example, one page summarizes what factors courts in different states use to determine the “best interest of the child” in child custody and other proceedings.

The gateway also has a search page that allows users to search statutes in all or selected states for 35 different topics (http://www.childwelfare.gov/systemwide/laws_policies/state/).

Earmark Ban Would Cost Colleges

. February 4, 2011

Colleges and universities around the nation stand to lose billions of dollars for research, facilities, and other purposes if Congressional leaders stick to their pledge to ban earmarks, according to a recent article in The Chronicle of Higher Education.  In fiscal year 2010 spending bills, colleges in Texas, Mississippi, and California received the most Congressionally-directed money for academic projects, according to a nonprofit tax watchdog organization.

Smart Grid Technology at the Consumer Electronics Show

While it’s mostly known for showing off the latest TVs, this year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas also featured several home energy management technologies that could make the “home of the future” more energy efficient. From controlling HVAC systems and appliances with a smart phone to automatically charging an electric car at off-peak times, the ability to actively monitor and control home energy usage plays the most significant role in these technologies. Although the home automation and energy monitoring industries still face many obstacles to their widespread adoption, their proponents believe that increasing consumer information and control over energy usage will simultaneously save energy and open up new opportunities for manufacturers and energy companies.

New CRS Report Examines Federal Campaign Finance

. February 3, 2011

The 2010 Congressional election was the most expensive midterm campaign ever, and the 2012 cycle is also expected to break spending records. In light of the spending increase, the Congressional Research Service (CRS) produced a report examining recent developments in federal campaign finance and possible policy options for Congress. The report discusses disclosure, contribution limits, independent expenditures, and presidential public financing.

FDA Says to Beware of People Impersonating FDA Agents

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is warning the public to beware of a telephone scam in which criminals pose as FDA agents.

According to the FDA, the criminals typically call people who have previously purchased drugs over the internet, and identify themselves as FDA special agents or other law enforcement officials. The caller tells the victim that such purchases are illegal and that he or she will take legal action unless the victim pays the caller a sum of money. The amount of this phony “fee” can range from $100 to $250,000. Some callers even threaten victims who refuse to send money with arrest, a search of their property, or incarceration.

Impersonation of an FDA agent is a violation of federal law.

More information on the scam and how to proceed if you have lost money because of it is available here.

New Lawyers Face Grim Job Market, In Spite of U.S. News and World Report’s Rosy Projection

. February 2, 2011

“Candy-coated” – that’s how the New York Times characterizes a recent U.S. News and World Report assertion that 93% of recent law school grads were employed within nine months of graduation. What that statistic doesn’t tell you is how many are working in jobs that actually require a law degree -- the survey counts a lawyer stocking shelves at Home Depot as being every bit as employed as a new hire working at a prestigious firm.

According to the Times, 15,000 attorney and legal-staff jobs at large firms have disappeared since 2008. Associates have been laid off and recruiting programs drastically cut back. As another money-saving strategy, corporations are out-sourcing their entry-level legal work to independent contractors throughout the United States and in countries like India.

Add to the mix the daunting student loan liability facing recent grads and it’s not hard to see why some young lawyers say they mortgaged their future under false pretenses.

State Police Release Quarterly Sex Offender Report

The Connecticut State Police has released its quarterly sex offender report, which includes 339 new registrants. The total number or sex offenders registered in Connecticut at the end of 2010 was 5,231.

The Connecticut Sex Offender Registry website can be searched by last name, town, zip code, or by viewing an entire list of registrants. This information is provided free of charge and people making inquiries do not identify themselves. Also available on the website is a feature which allows the public to receive an email whenever a registrant moves into a designated radius of an address.

NIH Projects Cancer Costs To Reach At Least $158 Billion In 2020

. February 1, 2011

A new National Institutes of Health (NIH) analysis project predicts cancer care expenditures will reach at least $158 billion in 2020, a 27% increase from 2010. If the costs of new technologies for cancer diagnosis, treatment, and follow-up continue to increase, these expenditures could reach up to $207 billion. Projections were based on the most recent data available on cancer incidence, survival, and costs of care. In 2010, cancer medical costs were projected to reach $124.6 billion, with the highest costs associated with breast cancer ($16.5 billion), colorectal cancer ($14 billion), lymphoma ($12 billion), lung cancer ($12 billion), and prostate cancer ($12 billion).

These projections are higher than previous estimates mainly because researchers used the most recent data available, including Medicare claims data through 2006, which include payments for newer, more expensive targeted therapies. In addition, costs were analyzed according to phase of care, which identified the higher costs associated with the first year of treatment and the last year of life (for those who die from the disease). This enabled researchers to provide more precise cost estimates.

Connecticut Grown Expands to Forestry Products

The Connecticut Departments of Environmental Protection and Agriculture announced an expansion of the “Connecticut Grown” program on December 29, 2010. Goods such as furniture, flooring, lumber, and fencing made from wood harvested in Connecticut forests will now bear the popular "Connecticut Grown" marketing label. The Connecticut Grown program was developed in 1986, when the logo was created to identify agricultural products grown in the state. Over the past two decades, a strong marketing and outreach effort has established Connecticut Grown as a well-known and popular program.