Why Are Pedestrian Deaths at Epidemic Levels?

Link: https://www.governing.com/now/why-are-pedestrian-deaths-at-epidemic-levels

Graphic:

Excerpt:

For years, transportation consultant and writer Angie Schmitt has tried to pick apart why it works that way and how the U.S. could become a less car-centric and less dangerous place. In 2020 she published Right of Way: Race, Class, and the Silent Epidemic of Pedestrian Deaths in America, an examination of the toll that the nation’s auto-centric infrastructure takes on those who are not encased in steel and glass when they travel.

Schmitt found that even as reported rates of walking among Americans have been on the decline, pedestrian deaths have surged in recent years. Between 2009 and 2019, total driving miles increased by 10 percent but pedestrian deaths increased by 50 percent. In Europe, by contrast, they fell by 36 percent over the last decade. Since then, the U.S. toll has only grown worse.

…..

Schmitt: Design is important, but I think we also need to change cars. We can go a lot of the way there just with better vehicle safety regulations. The RAND Corporation estimated we could be saving at least 10,000 lives a year, maybe 20,000, if we were requiring some existing vehicle technologies in all cars like automatic emergency braking. Or blind spot detection and alcohol ignition interlocks. A combination of things like that already exists, and we could save tens of thousands of lives. We’re just not doing it. There’s been so little attention paid, it’s been hard to generate political will.

Author(s): Jake Blumgart

Publication Date: 23 July 2021

Publication Site: Governing

States Weigh Bans on Ransomware Payoffs

Link: https://www.governing.com/security/states-weigh-bans-on-ransomware-payoffs

Excerpt:

As ransomware attacks continue to wreak havoc on police departments, school districts and city and county governments, some state legislators say they’ve had enough.

At least three states—New York, North Carolina and Pennsylvania—are considering legislation that would ban state and local government agencies from paying ransom if they’re attacked by cybercriminals. A similar bill in Texas died in committee earlier this year.

Prohibiting ransom payments would help deter attacks because cybercriminals would know they couldn’t get paid and would have no financial incentive, the legislators say.

“If criminals know that Pennsylvania will not pay ransom, we are going to make ourselves a less likely target for these types of attacks,” said Republican state Sen. Kristin Phillips-Hill, who is sponsoring a no-ransom bill. “Our citizens’ personal information is on the line. We have to do everything we can to protect them.”

Author(s): Jenni Bergal, Stateline

Publication Date: 27 July 2021

Publication Site: Governing

Florida Alters COVID-19 to Show Artificial Decline in Deaths

Link: https://www.governing.com/now/florida-alters-covid-19-to-show-artificial-decline-in-deaths

Excerpt:

The downloadable data sets on cases and deaths included the report date as well as the date a person died or got sick, allowing journalists and independent researchers to select the best metric for their purposes. The daily reports showed additional cases and deaths added from one day to the next.

In June, as case numbers dropped and vaccination rates continued to rise, the health department discontinued the dashboard and changed to a weekly report. The only near-daily data was submitted by the health department to the CDC and published on the CDC Trend Tracker website.

At first, the data on the CDC website was updated in a largely predictable manner, similar to the way that the DOH had reported daily changes throughout the pandemic. Then on Aug. 10, without warning or any explanation from the health department or the CDC, the data for nearly every day of the previous year changed. Neither agency immediately explained the changes.

Author(s): Sarah Blaskey, Ana Claudio Chacin and Devoun Cetoute, McClatchy Washington Bureau

Publication Date: 31 August 2021

Publication Site: Governing

Waking from Bankruptcy Shock, Stockton Comes Back to Life

Link: https://www.governing.com/now/waking-from-bankruptcy-shock-stockton-comes-back-to-life

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Excerpt:

The metrics on the OGSP give a high-level view of how progress can be measured, but they are just part of the data that Regan’s office collects. Hundreds of other data points are in a performance scorecard that includes factors that contribute to attainment of large targets such as reduced crime rate.

High-level goals may take time to achieve. The StocktonStat portal, scheduled for launch on June 30, will include data on the number of potholes and streetlights repaired, or square feet of graffiti removed, says Regan. “The stat process, and this shared data, are part of a continuous conversation and relentless follow up toward our performance targets.”

Author(s): Carl Smith

Publication Date: 16 June 2021

Publication Site: Governing

Kansas May End Federal Jobless Aid to Encourage Workers

Link: https://www.governing.com/work/kansas-may-end-federal-jobless-aid-to-encourage-workers

Excerpt:

Gov. Laura Kelly said Thursday she was weighing whether to end Kansas’ participation in federal unemployment programs started during the COVID-19 pandemic, as many Republican states say they will pull out of the initiatives.

Businesses have complained of difficulties in hiring workers, something many Republicans have chalked up to a slate of programs aimed at cushioning the blow for residents laid off due to the economic turmoil of the past year.

Kelly’s office confirmed in a statement Wednesday that Kansas wasn’t following in the footsteps of Missouri, Iowa and about a dozen other state in ending their participation in the programs.

Author(s): Andrew Bahl, The Topeka Captial-Journal

Publication Date: 14 May 2021

Publication Site: Governing

Colonial Pipeline Hack Reveals America’s Vulnerabilities

Link: https://www.governing.com/security/colonial-pipeline-hack-reveals-americas-vulnerabilities

Excerpt:

If you want to get Americans’ attention, hit their ability to drive. Panic buying and gas lines were quickly seen in the Southeast. Midweek, 71 percent of the gas stations in car-burdened Charlotte, North Carolina, were dry.

Ransomware takes control of a company’s or organization’s software or data until the owners make a payment. Even paying a ransom doesn’t guarantee the owners will get control again.

Initial reports said Colonial refused to pay ransom. But Colonial handed over nearly $5 million to the hackers. Bloomberg reports that the payment was in difficult-to-trace cryptocurrency. In exchange, Colonial received a decrypting tool to help restore its disabled network.

DarkSide, believed to be based in Eastern Europe, released a statement saying, “We are apolitical, we do not participate in geopolitics … Our goal is to make money, and not creating problems for society.”

But no one is safe from cybercrime, whether the attacker is a shadowy group or tied to a nation-state, whether they want money or data or to paralyze infrastructure. Whether the victim is an individual who opened an email containing malware or a leading technology company.

Author(s): Jon Talton, The Seattle Times

Publication Date: 14 May 2021

Publication Site: Governing

The Bitcoin Boomlet Comes to Local Government

Link: https://www.governing.com/finance/the-bitcoin-boomlet-comes-to-local-government.html

Excerpt:

Lastly, Bitcoin is an investment vehicle that, if held in the city’s treasury, could help Miami’s fiscal prospects. After all, a currency whose per-unit value has increased 18,641 percent the last five years is more tempting than a currency that gradually declines in value. 

But just as Bitcoin has proven upwardly volatile, that volatility can spike downward (such as when Bitcoin lost one-third of its value in a two-week period in 2017). This means that any money Miami invests in Bitcoin could plummet in value if Bitcoin crashes. 

There are also technical issues with Bitcoin. The mining process consumes lots of energy, making it expensive and environmentally hazardous to produce. Bitcoin has an average transaction fee of $23, and relatively long processing times of between 10 minutes and several hours. And there are questions about whether, once all 21 million bitcoins are mined, monetary incentive will exist for the network of nodes to continue maintaining the blockchain. 

Author(s): Scott Beyer

Publication Date: 22 March 2021

Publication Site: Governing

How States Can Gird for the Coming Fights Over Taxing Digital Ads

Link: https://www.governing.com/finance/How-States-Can-Gird-for-the-Coming-Fights-Over-Taxing-Digital-Ads.html

Excerpt:

Maryland’s Legislature recently overrode a gubernatorial veto and enacted a new tax on digital advertising — the first of its kind among the states. It was inevitable that somebody would break the ice. Last August, I explored the revenue implications for states and localities of a federal tax on interstate digital commerce. Globally, the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated business migration to Internet platforms, making this the new frontier for tax policy.

Maryland legislators deserve credit for planting their semi-checkered state flag first, to stake their claim, but they are still far from the finish line. Anti-tax wonks point to a host of possible legal snags that could tie up the Maryland tax for some time. They complain that it’s unduly vague, imprecisely crafted, and invites double taxation. The social media goliaths are already protesting that it’s unconstitutional under the commerce clause, which gives Congress supreme authority to regulate interstate business. To salvage its tax, Maryland may find it necessary to make defensible amendments that can withstand judicial scrutiny. But rather than going it alone, the state could use some help from its peers eyeing digital ad taxes of their own.

States have been called the laboratories of democracy, and rightfully so. However, when it comes to national and international commercial activity that sweeps across state lines through complex multi-party transactions, let’s face it: Heterogeneity and administrative complexity are not desirable outcomes. Fifty separate labs tinkering with different tax formulas will drive companies nuts.

Author(s): Girard Miller

Publication Date: 13 April 2021

Publication Site: Governing

Vaccine Passports: Here’s How Excelsior Pass Works

Link: https://www.governing.com/now/Vaccine-Passports-Heres-How-Excelsior-Pass-Works.html

Excerpt:

The U.S. has its first official vaccine passport.

New York’s Excelsior Pass, developed by IBM, is essentially a simple digital wallet that can be accessed on mobile devices, which holds three items: your name, a QR code and a green check mark.

The idea is that people can use the app to prove to somebody — say, a ticket-taker at the door of a sports stadium, an airline or the staff at a large event — that they’ve received a vaccine against COVID-19. In actuality, the app can also prove that somebody’s received a negative test for the disease.

Author(s): Ben Miller

Publication Date: 8 April 2021

Publication Site: Governing

So, Can States Cut Taxes or Not?

Link: https://www.governing.com/finance/So-Can-States-Cut-Taxes-or-Not.html

Excerpt:

Most observers believe that the Treasury will interpret the law narrowly. Rather than seeking to claw back funds from any states passing tax cuts or credits, the feds are considered likely to challenge only those states that clearly use federal dollars to pay for them. “Nothing in the act prevents states from enacting a broad variety of tax cuts,” Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen wrote in a response to the AGs. “It simply provides that funding received under the act may not be used to offset a reduction in net tax revenue resulting from certain changes in state law.”

But the fact that the law blocks federal money from being used even indirectly to pay for tax cuts has state officials not just worried but angry. “Democrats in Washington and in the White House are not going to tell me, or the Georgia General Assembly, that we can’t cut taxes for hard-working Georgians,” Gov. Brian Kemp complained at a news conference last month.

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That prohibition lasts as long as the stimulus dollars are spent, which will be into 2024. And there are limits, Walczak notes, on where and how states can spend federal aid. They can use the money to address pandemic and health needs, for example. While those are clearly ongoing, much of the cost of vaccine supply and distribution has been underwritten by the feds. Other costs in these areas have already been addressed by last year’s federal CARES Act, which some states struggled to spend.

Author(s): Alan Greenblatt

Publication Date: 7 April 2021

Publication Site: Governing

Will States Resist Fresh Billions for Medicaid Expansion?

Link: https://www.governing.com/now/Will-States-Be-Able-to-Resist-Billions-for-Medicaid-Expansion.html

Excerpt:

As part of the most recent federal stimulus, states that haven’t expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act can receive additional matching funds. Rather than paying 10 percent of the cost for new recipients, they’d only have to pay 5 percent over the next two years. Additional subsidies mean they would actually cost themselves money by refusing to expand. Florida, for instance, would come out ahead by $1.25 billion, even after paying its share of expanded coverage. Still, Gov. Ron DeSantis and legislative leaders remain opposed.

….

It’s true that the 95 percent match rate will only last for two years. But plenty of states have put in place triggers that would end their expansion programs if the federal share ever dipped below 90 percent, notes Trish Riley, executive director of the National Academy for State Health Policy.

Author(s): Alan Greenblatt

Publication Date: 31 March 2021

Publication Site: Governing

Marin County Tries a Universal Basic Income Program

Link: https://www.governing.com/community/Marin-County-Tries-a-Universal-Basic-Income-Program.html

Excerpt:

Marin County, Calif., supervisors have allocated $400,000 to participate in a universal basic income experiment with the Marin Community Foundation.

The foundation plans to spend $3 million to give $1,000 a month to 125 low-income women for 24 months. To qualify, the women must have a child under the age of 18.

“The ultimate endgame for this demonstration project is to have an example of how cash aid can be really helpful in terms of alleviating poverty, to test the usefulness of this approach to addressing poverty and addressing some of the racial inequities that we know exist in the county and beyond,” Johnathan Logan, a foundation vice president, told the Board of Supervisors before the unanimous vote on Tuesday.

Author(s): RICHARD HALSTEAD, THE MARIN INDEPENDENT

Publication Date: 25 March 2021

Publication Site: Governing