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State Prison Populations Declining, Expanding Access to Paid Sick Days, A New Paradigm for Economic Development and Much More

A Formula for Decline: Lessons from Colorado for States Considering TABOR - Colorado’s so-called Taxpayer Bill of Rights, or TABOR, has contributed to a significant decline in that state’s public services, according to this Center on Budget and Policy Priorities report.  Colorado citizens voted to suspend TABOR for five years, but the long-term costs to Colorado are clear in schools with low-paid teachers, low university funding, new mothers not receiving prenatal care and other public health problems.

Prison Count 2010: State Population Declines for the First Time in 38 Years -  This first decline in prison population in nearly four decades is due, according to this report by Pew Center on the States to several states enacting reforms designed to get taxpayers a better return on their public safety dollars.  These strategies included diverting low-level offenders and probation and parole violators from prison, strengthening community supervision and re-entry programs, and accelerating the release of low-risk inmates who complete risk reduction programs.

An Industry at the Crossroads: Energy Efficiency Employment in Massachusetts - Massachusetts can get 6,000 good jobs by making the fast-growing weatherization field a “high road” industry, according to this report by the Green Justice Coalition and the Apollo Alliance.  The report recommends assuring that weatherization contractors be required to meet living wage, training, local hiring and safe workplace standards to upgrade the quality of those jobs.

Expanding Access to Paid Sick Leave: The Impact of the Healthy Families Act on America's Workers - With implications for state sick days laws, this Joint Economic Committee of the U.S. Congress report finds that, currently, going to work sick or “presenteeism” is a public health issue, with sick workers spreading contagious disease to fellow co-workers and customers.  The reduced productivity of workers who come to work sick and spillover impacts on other employees is bad for businesses.  Requiring paid sick days across the country would benefit over 30 million workers.

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families: Implications of Changes in Participation Rates - This Government Accountability Office report finds that 87 percent of the decline in Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) caseloads was a result of fewer very poor, eligible families participating in the program rather than a rise in family income.  The report indicates the results are due to the TANF program’s work requirements as well as the implementation of other programs intended to divert families from cash assistance.

A New Paradigm for Economic Development - The Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government finds that higher education institutions play a significant role in state economic development by providing knowledge-focused services to businesses, advancing innovation and research, and contributing to community development.  Higher education’s increasingly important role builds on, but goes well beyond, the research strengths of universities — incorporating efforts as wide-ranging as job training, business consulting, housing rehabilitation and even securing seed money for new businesses.

"Mutual Responsibility": A Study of Uninsured Immigrants' Perspectives on Health Insurance in New York City -  As Congressional negotiations over federal health care reform intensify this week, this study by the New York Immigration Coalition and New Yorkers for Accessible Health Coverage notes non-citizens account for 12 percent of New York state's population, yet still make up 29 percent of the state's uninsured -  and many would remain excluded from health care reform proposals.  Barriers to accessing insurance include the large number of immigrant low-wage workers without employer-based health care, immigrants without at least 5 years of legal status being barred from public health programs like Medicaid; and the reluctance of many immigrants with legal status to sign up for public health insurance for fear doing so will ultimately prevent them from obtaining permanent residency or US citizenship.