Trends and Transitions: October/November 2010
It's a Dog's Life
Concerned that animals were not being treated as well as they should be in some shelters, several state legislatures in the past few years have passed measures to improve shelter practices.
California lawmakers passed the Hayden Shelter Reform Law in 1999 that started the trend. It lengthens the state’s previously short holding time—the period before an animal can be euthanized—from 72 hours to six business days. It recommends healthy, non-suffering animals should be euthanized only if they cannot be placed in a suitable home; these would include vicious dogs or those that pose a public health hazard. It also required shelters to release any requested animal to a qualifying nonprofit rescue center or adoption group as an alternative to euthanasia.
In 2010, Delaware passed a bill similar to the Hayden Law, making its shelter regulations some of the most comprehensive in the country. The De-laware law requires all shelters to immediately inspect animals for identification and to wait at least three days before putting animals up for adoption or transferring them to another facility so owners have a chance to find lost pets. The law requires shelters to stay open beyond normal business hours so the public has a greater chance to adopt animals. And it requires shelters to post quarterly statistics on their websites regarding intake, adoption, reclamation, transfer and euthanasia rates.
Although the American Veterinary Medical Association has OK’d the use of gas chambers, animal rights groups assert they are cruel and unneces-sarily frightening to dogs and cats. They have advocated for more humane methods, usually intravenous injection of sodium pentobarbital.
In the past two years, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, New Mexico, New York and West Virginia passed legislation that changed their euthanasia standards, joining the 13 other states that ban the use of gas chambers for animals.
After several years of steep declines, state revenues are starting to pick up. In some states this means the rate of decline has slowed, but in others, revenues are actually increasing in one or more tax categories. Although still well below peak levels, nearly every state forecast has FY 2011 revenues exceeding last year’s.
A year ago, more than half the states expected FY 2010 collections to be lower than FY 2009 amounts. This year, however, 40 states expect total tax collections in FY 2011 to be higher than they were in FY 2010. In 17 states, tax collections are expected to grow at least 5 percent. Three of these states expect collections to rise more than 10 percent: Colorado (10.8 percent), Oregon (12.1 percent) and Washington (14 percent). Each of these states has raised taxes, which helps partly to explain the growth.
Across the nation, officials are keeping a close watch on overall tax performance and whether it will hit targets. Many fiscal offices will revisit their forecasts as legislatures prepare for 2011 sessions. The next review will be critical in determining the strength of the economic recovery. But for now, it appears that state revenues hit bottom in FY 2010.
Synthetic Pot Peril
Synthetic cannabinoids—commonly known as “Spice,” “K2,” “Genie,” “Yucatan Fire,” “Sence,” “Smoke,” “Skunk” and “Zohai” —have become a popular legal alternative to marijuana. Until now, that is. At least ten states outlawed the drug this year.
The drug is sprayed onto dried herbs, marketed as “novelty herbal incense” or potpourri, and then smoked or ingested by consumers. It produces a high similar to marijuana and is sold in local convenience stores and over the Web. Although the product labels often read “not for human consumption,” abuse of these substances appears to be increasing. The American Association of Poison Control Centers reports that, as of Sept. 27, more than 1,503 calls have been made to poison centers for symptoms such as racing heartbeat, elevated blood pressure and nausea. This is up from a total of only 14 calls in 2009.
There also have been reports linking use of these drugs to hallucinations, seizures and even death. After a Minnesota teenager ended up in the hospital from using K2, Minnesota Senator Kathy Sieben announced plans to introduce legislation next session. She says protecting kids by outlawing these substances will be a top priority.
Kansas was the first state to pass legislation this year banning synthetic cannabinoids. Nine other states have passed similar measures making it illegal to possess, use, manufacture or sell the substances. Bills are pending in at least four other states as of the end of September.
Other action at the state level includes administrative bans in Arkansas, Hawaii, Iowa and North Dakota. The Hawaii Narcotics Enforcement Division, for example, applied an emergency ban on “chemicals in Spice/K2.” The ban is temporary, pending action by the Hawaii Legislature in the 2011 session. And in Idaho, a newly formed advisory committee is reviewing whether synthetic cannabinoids should be added to the list of controlled substances. They will make a recommendation to the Legislature before the 2011 session begins.
Who Killed Civility?
While 87 percent of Americans believe people can disagree about politics res-pectfully, even more—95 percent—believe civility in politics is vital for a healthy democracy. But nearly 50 percent of Americans believe we are moving in the wrong direction and that there has been a clear deterioration in the tone of politics since Barack Obama became president. Of those who pay close attention to politics, some 60 percent feel so. These are the findings in a recent Allegheny College survey designed to gauge attitudes and perception of civility in politics.
So, who do those surveyed believe is to blame for this decline in respect?
Although more and more students are enrolling in U.S. colleges and universities, the proportion of who earn a degree or credential continues to decline. Among today’s 25- to 34-year-olds, only a little more than 40 percent have a post-secondary degree. Comparing 2007 data, the United States ranks 12th among the 36 countries with the highest graduation rates. The top countries, according to the College Board, are:
CANADA: 55.8 %
SOUTH KOREA: 55.5%
NEW ZEALAND: 47.3%
UNITED STATES: 40.4%