October 29, 2010

Innovate, Innovate, Innovate

“Innovation” drives many economic development policies. The federal Small Business Administration recently awarded $100,000 grants to 20 organizations across the country, including Connecticut Innovations, Inc. to help them capture federal research and development (R&D) dollars.

Scientists often come up with new ideas, but many don’t know how to make them profitable. That’s why Canada just launched a $50 million program to teach recent college graduates how to start, organize, and manage businesses.

Today, anyone can copy your product or service, so protecting trade secrets is a hot topic. But there’s a downside to strict trade secret laws. A recent Congressional Research Service report explores their pros and cons.

Older industrial states see innovation as a key to maintaining or regaining their competitive edge. Michigan fosters innovation by helping groups of related businesses collaborate with each other. A recent study suggests this strategy works.

Sentenced Inmate Population Down; Unsentenced Population Up

As of October 25, 2010, Connecticut’s prison population was 18,336. This is well below the high of 19,894 inmates on February 1, 2008. Over nearly four years (since January 1, 2007), the prison population ranged between the high of 19,894 and a low of 18,052 on January 1, 2010.

The prison population primarily consists of two types of inmates: those who are sentenced and those who are unsentenced. Unsentenced inmates are those held on bond while awaiting trial or convicted and awaiting sentencing.

In recent weeks, the sentenced population has been at its lowest point in the last four years while the unsentenced population has been at its highest. Since January 1, 2007:

1. the sentenced inmate population varied from a low of 13,765 on October 13, 2010 to a high of 15,465 on February 8, 2008 and

2. the unsentenced inmate population ranged from a low of 4,011 on May 8, 2009 to a high of 4,772 on September 21, 2010.

October 28, 2010

State Offers Incentives for Voluntary Tax Compliance

The state’s Voluntary Disclosure Program gives businesses and individuals who have not complied with state tax laws an incentive to do so. Businesses and individuals who did not register for or pay Connecticut taxes, or failed to report some or all of their taxable income or gross receipts, may ask the Department of Revenue Services (DRS) to permit them to register and pay the amount they owe. In exchange, they can receive a penalty waiver, limit their look-back period for taxes owed, and avoid the discovery process involved in a state investigation and audit.  To be accepted into the program, a taxpayer must, among other things, give DRS a written admission of liability and statement of the amount of potential tax liability.  More information about the program and its requirements and benefits is available on DRS’s website. The website also provides contact information for taxpayers wishing to contact DRS about the program anonymously.

October 25, 2010

History of Studying the Greenhouse Effect

The history of thinking about how the Earth's atmosphere traps heat dates back to the 19th Century and French scientist Joseph Fourier, according to a story on National Public Radio. Fourier calculated that some heat from the sun must be reflected from the Earth and back into space but his calculations showed a gap between the amount of heat reflected and the temperature of the Earth. He realized some heat must be held in by the Earth's atmosphere.

State Governments and Social Media

The National Association of State Chief Information Officers conducted a survey of the states about the use of social media in state governments. The findings include that while the use of social media is widespread throughout the states, policies about the use are not: only one-third of the 43 states who responded have policies in place. Only 19% of states are operating with a statewide strategic policy issued by the state's chief information office.

Driverless Cars on the Horizon

Search engine company Google revealed the company has been working for several years on technology that would allow a car to be operated without a human driver. Using a combination of radar, lasers, and GPS, a car with a person observing from behind the wheel, drove itself from the Bay Area to Los Angeles as well as down San Francisco's famously zig-zagging Lombard Street. Experts say it might be as much as eight years before it the techonology finds its way to the mass market. That should allow plenty of time for the law to catch up to the technology, changing laws to allow for cars that aren't controlled by people.

October 14, 2010

State and Local Business Tax Study

Prepared by Ernst & Young for the Council on State Taxation, a study, Total state and Local Business Taxes looks at the total tax burden on businesses in each state.

Voting for Pac-Man

Two computer scientists, without breaking the tamper-evident seals on the machine, programed a Sequoia AVC Edge touch-screen voting machine to play Pac-Man.

State-by-State Film Tax Credit Comparison

Wondering how Connecticut's film tax credit compares to credits offered by other states? The Screen Actors Guild offers a state-by-state comparison.

An Alternative to Paying for Software Licenses

OpenOffice.org is an open source office suite free to users. Governments and organizations around the world have switched from similar products requiring payment for user-licenses.

October 13, 2010

Connecticut's Traffic Situation: 41st Worst

A recently released study by the Hartgen Group of North Carolina shows Connecticut's as the 41st worst highway system. The study, using 2008 data, "measured the condition and cost-effectiveness of state-owned roads in 11 categories, including deficient bridges, urban traffic congestion, fatality rates, pavement condition on urban and rural Interstates and on major rural roads, and the number of unsafe narrow rural lanes." Among other findings, Connecticut ranked in the top five states with the worst traffic, along with California, Minnesota, Maryland, and Michigan.

The study's findings specifically about Connecticut show a few positives, including best in the nation in rural interstate condition and fifth-best highway fatality rate.