CSG Salutes Innovations in State Government
By Mary Branham, CSG Managing Editor, and Mikel Chavers, CSG Associate Editor
As states deal with continuing economic woes, many are seeking innovative solutions. For one state, that means collaborating with other states.
Wisconsin was recognized twice during The Council of State Governments Annual Meeting in November for projects working with other states. It joined with Minnesota in an effort to improve government efficiency by sharing services. The Wisconsin-Minnesota Collaboration Project won the 2009 Keon Chi State Governance Transformation Award.
“It’s tremendously powerful to learn from other states,” Aaron Olver, deputy secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Commerce, said in accepting the award Nov. 14.
The state also won a 2009 CSG Innovations Award for Egrants— Comprehensive Grants Management System, in which the Office of Justice Assistance in Wisconsin worked with Pennsylvania’s Commission on Crime and Delinquency on a project to streamline the grants process.
Pennsylvania had the idea first and developed a Web-based grants management system using the federal Edward Byrne Memorial State and Local Law Enforcement Assistance Grant Program. Pennsylvania’s Commission on Crime and Delinquency shared the source code for the process and Wisconsin implemented its e-grant program in 2006.
Seven other states were recognized with Innovations Awards, which annually recognize the best of the best programs in the states.
In addition to the Egrants program, the Midwest region was represented by the Michigan Water Withdrawal Assessment Process. The process is part of a regional effort to protect the Great Lakes and prevent large scale water diversion from the basin. The state developed models to illustrate the impact of water withdrawal. Based on the scientific evidence, Michigan lawmakers passed legislation that set standards for the amount of water that could be safely withdrawn.
The New Jersey Division of Parole’s Regional Assessment Center sends parolees who commit a technical violation of the terms of their parole—not a new crime—are sent to Regional Assessment Centers run by the Division of Parole instead of back to prison. Those parolees are interviewed and get help needed to address problems they may be facing.
The New York Department of Transportation GreenLITES program recognizes sustainable transportation projects. Many states already incorporate environmental sustainability in transportation departments to a degree. GreenLITES—which Stanley Gee, acting commissioner for the New York state Department of Transportation, likens to the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, Green Building Rating System—is a way to streamline those efforts.
Kentucky’s Re-entry Hotline is a 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week support line for people fresh out of prison or jail. It helps those people get in touch with needed social services, financial services, emotional support, substance abuse treatment, community resources and much more. Staffed completely by inmates, officials said the hotline is reaping rewards for those still in jail as well.
West Virginia’s eCDL program uses laptops equipped with global positioning system technology and video and audio recording to track trucks’ movements through the entire commercial driver’s license test. The state wants to make sure truck drivers really do take—and legitimately pass—the CDL driver test.
Wyoming’s Healthy Families Succeed is about moving families to self-sufficiency through health and job support. That’s just better for Wyoming’s economy, said Robert Lampert, director of the Wyoming Department of Corrections. In fact, the program found that healthier families—both health-wise and job-wise—rely less on state services. State costs decreased by an average of more than $1,900 per person enrolled in the program.
New Mexico’s Innovative Digital Education and Learning program, nicknamed IDEAL-New Mexico, is a technology platform where students and public employees can take classes and courses completely online. It’s free to school districts, state agencies and other public entities. The program has the power to reduce travel expenses through online classes as well as provide people in rural areas unprecedented access to classes they might not be able to take otherwise.