Stateline: October/November 2009
Researchers from the Department of Energy and Montana State University are using helium balloons and bees to determine whether carbon dioxide can be safely stored underground without leaking. According to the Billings Gazette, scientists are sampling pollen collected by bees near a controlled leak to see if it reveals evidence of the leak. They’re using the helium balloons to see if leaks emit traceable plumes. Storing carbon dioxide emitted by power plants underground may be one of the more promising ways to curb global warming. As long as it doesn’t leak.
Retail sales of tobacco products to kids under age 18 continue to drop, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. All states are now in compliance with the federal Synar Amendment that requires states to limit the sale of tobacco to minors. The average national tobacco retailer violation rate dropped to 9.9 percent in 2008, down from 40.1 percent in 1997. And past-month cigarette use for minors ages 12 to 17 has declined from 13 percent in 2002 to 9.8 percent in 2007.
Plates of Honor
New Mexico has joined a growing number of states honoring servicemen and women killed in action. The state will provide two free special license plates for spouses and parents of military members killed in Iraq and Afghanistan at an estimated cost to the state of about $1,500. Ten other states have plates honoring troops from those wars: Arkansas, Florida, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New York, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Texas. And Alabama, Louisiana and Virginia are looking at the idea.
Online and Available
California Secretary of Education Glen Thomas has placed 10 free digital high school math and science textbooks online for use in state classrooms. Because of budget cuts, many district have put textbook purchasing on hold to save money. Downloaded texts can be projected on a screen or printed chapter by chapter. “We think that technology is one of the ways to reform and improve education,” he told the Los Angeles Times. Problem is none of the online texts meet all state content standards. And teachers, while looking forward to online content playing a great role in the classroom, are worried about paying for the infrastructure and training costs associated with the new technology.
Texting for Help
A 911 dispatch center in Waterloo, Iowa, has become the first in the country to allow emergency callers to seek help by texting. The hope is that this will help hearing-impaired callers, young people and those in areas with poor reception. There also have been some cases around the country of kidnap victims summoning help by surreptitiously texting friends or relatives, who then called 911, according to National Public Radio. With direct texting to 911, they should be able to get help faster. And in case the texter is using “shorthand” such as AEAP (as early as possible), OBE (overcome by events) or PIN (person in need), every dispatcher has a texting dictionary to help them understand and communicate back. Call centers around the country are looking at following Waterloo’s lead. GTK (good to know!)
Under The Stars
In celebration of Utah’s beautiful capitol building, finished in 1916, the state hosted the Movie Under the Stars series last summer on its southwest lawn. Free popcorn and live music were provided, along with a movie projected onto a huge screen. The last movie coincided with the fifth annual “Capitol Discovery Day,” which included a variety of turn-of-the-century hands-on games and activities, Capitol tours, free food and live music.
In With The New
Times change. Important people get replaced by more important people. It’s something George Glick, the first Democratic governor of Kansas, has experienced, from his grave. Kansas replaced his statue in the U.S. Capitol for one of Dwight Eisenhower, a native of Abilene. Each state gets two statues for National Statuary Hall. Nine years ago, Congress abolished the law that prohibited statue switching, and now many states are considering changes. According to the Associated Press, California has moved in Ronald Reagan. Missouri is making a push for Harry Truman. Michigan wants Gerald Ford. And Arizona is looking at replacing John Geenway for Barry Goldwater. “No one knows who John Greenway is, not even people in Arizona,” says Representative Adam Driggs. (A man of many trades, Greenway held executive positions in a number of mine, steel and railroad companies throughout Arizona. He was a former Rough Rider with Teddy Roosevelt and had a distinguished career as a soldier. He also invented the turbo log washer.
Where's The Money?
Federal spending rose last year by 9.3 percent, even before the bank bailouts and economic stimulus law. The Christian Science Monitor reports that, according to the Census Bureau, the federal government spent nearly $2.79 trillion domestically in FY 2008. That’s $9,184 for each person in the United States. But some states get more of that pie than others. The Top 5 states, per capita, in receiving federal money are: 1. Virginia ($15,256), 2. Maryland ($13,829), 3. Alaska ($13,730), 4. Kentucky ($12,242), 5. New Mexico ($12, 017). The Tax Foundation ranks states differently, by what states get back relative to the tax money they send to Washington. In 2007, the group ranked New Mexico first, then Mississippi, Alaska, Louisiana and West Virginia.
Kansas and Nebraska are battling over use of the Republican River. Kansas has accused Nebraska of using about 25.7 billion gallons of water in 2005 and 2006, more than allowed under a three-state compact that also includes Colorado. The 1943 compact allocates 49 percent of the river’s water to Nebraska, 40 percent to Kansas and 11 percent to Colorado. Kansas recently rejected an arbitrator’s ruling the determined Nebraska owed Kansas $10,000 for the water; Kansas is demanding $9 million. The Republican River starts in Colorado, flows into Kansas and Nebraska, and then returns to Kansas. It covers almost 25,000 square miles.
Colorado has an adjustable minimum wage, tied to the cost of living, that may become the first in the nation to drop slightly. The state is one of 10 where the minimum wage is tied to inflation, protecting low-wage workers when the cost of living goes up. Unlike most other states, however, Colorado allows wage declines as well as increases. Since Colorado’s cost of living fell 0.6 percent from July 2008 to July 2009, the minimum wage could drop by 3 cents an hour next year, according to the Associated Press. The current rate is $7.28. The state wage, however, can never go lower than the federal one, which is currently at $7.25.
Pub Crawl Comes To a Halt
Following the death of a college student during a pub crawl last spring involving students from the University of Rhode Island, lawmakers voted to prohibit any liquor licensee from knowingly allowing use of its premises as part of an organized pub crawl. The ban was added to an existing law prohibiting bars and restaurants with liquor licenses from advertising certain promotions such as happy hour or two-for-one nights. The law allows each town to deal with establishments that break the rule in their own way. “The General Assembly has sent a message,” says Representative Paul W. Crowley of Newport, “that these types of irresponsible and dangerous events are not welcome in Rhode Island.”