Capitol Ideas

Capitol Ideas is a periodic listing of story ideas and background information from new NCSL research. For more information, contact NCSL's Press Team.

During an Election Year, Rules Exist for Staff Political Activity

Campaign work can be a potential roadblock for legislative staff. States, chambers and legislative offices have taken different approaches as they set provisions to govern political activity by staff.From 2009 to 2010, at least nine states and the District of Columbia have considered or are considering legislation that would change or enact laws related to legislative employees' political activity. Twelve examined the issue between 2005 and 2008. More

States Examine Effects of Greenhouse Gas Emissions on Public Health 

As the earth warms due to climate change, governments at all levels—national and international, state and local—will consider policies that address rising temperatures and how they affect their constituents, especially the public’s health. States have been more aggressive than the federal government in enacting policies to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions. Policymakers are now beginning to examine approaches to help their state adapt to the rising temperatures and are considering the effects on the economy, the environment and public health. More

What's on the Horizon for the Next Generation 911

The dramatic growth in wireless telephones and Internet-based communication has changed the 911 system's capability. As it is now, most 911 systems are unable to accept text messages, videos or photos sent to the emergency call centers. Transmitting text messages or photographs from wireless and other high-tech devices to a 911 call center will require a massive make-over of the current, obsolete system. Next Generation 911 is aimed at updating the infrastructure to improve public emergency communication services for today's digital mobile society. More

Taking Medication as Prescribed: Programs That Help

Taking medication properly can control or improve chronic conditions, but many patients do not follow instructions properly or do not take their prescribed doses. Only a few state legislatures have programs to help patients, and those have proved to be successful. Under the 2010 federal Affordable Care Act, grants are available for states to provide support services to assist patients with therapeutic regimens. More

Vote-by-Mail Gets a Second Look

Vote-by-mail is receiving renewed attention because savings from all-mail elections can be significant in some states. In others, it is estimated an all-mail election will increase costs as more employees will need to be hired to process the ballots. Also, vote-by-mail has increased voter turnout in some states but has hurt voter turnout in others. Still, in 2009, 29 states offered some form of absentee voting, and at least eight states considered bills to adopt all-mail balloting for certain elections.  More  

States Develop Energy Efficiency Resource Standards

Energy efficiency delivers the same service using less energy. State legislatures have been establishing energy efficiency resource standards (EERS) to reduce energy consumption, address emissions and limit the number of new power plants that need to be built. To meet the goals of an energy efficiency resource standard, utilities typically offer residential and commercial customers ways to save energy. Such programs include rebates for customers who purchase and install energy-efficient appliances, rebates for insulation, low-cost energy audits, and incentives that may cover a portion of customer costs for energy-efficient upgrades. More