Staff Profile: Elise Gurney, senior policy analyst

Elise Gurney has been around the world on her quest to find meaningful work. She studied economics at Carleton College before finding her way to Washington, D.C. to work as a researcher and consultant.

“I enjoyed the work but wanted to do something more meaningful, so I joined the Peace Corps in June of 2019,” Gurney said. “I served in Malawi as an environment and food security educator, but was unfortunately evacuated after nine months due to COVID-19.”

She moved to Kentucky and was excited to join the staff at The Council of State Governments.

“Coming back from the Peace Corps, I realized that I could combine my research skills with my desire to make a meaningful and productive contribution,” she said. “CSG ended up being the perfect fit for that. I was also excited to work in the policy space, and to come to a new-to-me state.”

At CSG, Gurney works as a senior policy analyst on the education and workforce team. In this role, she develops and implements policies centered around disability employment, telework, apprenticeships and more.

“My role entails everything from writing policy briefs on specific topic areas — such as how to address the mental health needs of workers amid and following the COVID-19 pandemic — to completing research requests for states to organizing webinars on different topics,” she said.

When she is not working, Gurney enjoys playing guitar, trying to keep her pet rabbit from eating everything in her apartment and taking dance classes.

She enjoys working with the talented team at CSG.

“Everyone is smart and dedicated, but also has interests and passions outside of the office. I also appreciate the opportunity to work with smart, dedicated policymakers; they always inspire me to do more,” she said.              

CSG Staff Profile: Dexter Horne

Dexter Horne is the kind of person who will find solutions. When he meets an obstacle, he takes his passion for helping others and turns it into action. This is evident in his role as a senior policy analyst at The Council of State Governments.

“I wanted to work for CSG because I wanted the opportunity to dive deep into the big challenges of our time and attempt to find ways to overcome them,” he said. “CSG allows me to do that. This job combines my passion for service with my desire to continually learn new things. It’s a good fit for me.”

Horne is a graduate of Centre College in Danville, Kentucky, and holds a Master of Public Administration from the University of Kentucky’s Martin School of Public Policy and Administration.

“In my day-to-day work, I provide research and logistics support to CSG’s Healthy States National Task force which includes state leaders from across the three branches of government in all 50 states and six territories,” Horne said. “For me, key project tasks include conducting or assisting with data analysis, developing and conducting national scans of state policy, responding to research inquiries from state officials (and) writing research-based State Leader Policy Guides.”

Horne also works with project managers on convening partners and task force members together to discover best practices in civic health, economic and workforce health, fiscal health and human health.

Horne, a lover of doughnuts, is involved in his local community.

“A civic engagement enthusiast, I spend a lot of my time helping lead the Kentucky chapter of a nonprofit called the New Leaders Council (NLC),” he said. “Our mission is to connect and train young, progressive thought leaders across the state. As do-director, I manage a 17-member board and am responsible for ensuring that our work is aligned with our mission and values.”

Horne said his dream would be to a community organizer who could eliminate poverty.

“Were there no obstacles to me doing so, I would be an author and a philanthropist investing in grassroot efforts to eliminate poverty and homelessness in communities across the United States. I would create a fund, and actively campaign for others to invest in a fund, that would exist purely to support experiments in poverty and homelessness reduction, designed in part by people who have experienced one or the other,” he said.

Horne said his favorite part of working at CSG is being able to build relationships.

“Beyond the chance to continually learn more about the inner workings of government, policy and communities, I enjoy working with public servants who really care about their state and the people they serve. I’m often reminded in this job that there are a lot of people in the country who are working to make it better. I find that encouraging,” he said.

Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act: Broadband Affordability and Infrastructure

By Ben Reynolds

The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act1 — also referred to as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Package — passed the House on Nov. 5. President Joe Biden is expected to sign it today, Monday, Nov. 15. The bill contains $1.2 trillion in funding ($550 billion of which is new spending) for various infrastructure purposes, including roads and bridges, broadband, drinking water resources, airports, electrical vehicles and more. In this brief, analysts at The Council of State Governments break down the $65 billion in funding for broadband expansion and access.

Funding Breakdown

  • Establishing the Broadband Equity, Access, and Development Program to be administered by National Telecommunications and Information Administration to states through matching grants – $42.5 billion.
  • Investing in and making permanent the Affordable Connectivity Program (formally known as the Emergency Broadband Benefit Program administered by the Federal Communications Commission) to provide a monthly subsidy for low-income families purchasing internet service, with higher subsidies for qualifying families in high-cost areas and households participating in the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program – $14.2 billion.
  • Investing in the Digital Equity Act Competitive Grant Programs administered by the Department of Commerce – $2.75 billion.
    • State Capacity Grant Program for state efforts to achieve digital equity and inclusion.
    • Digital Equity Act Competitive Grant Programs (from Competitive Grant Program funds) focused on senior citizens, veterans, minorities and individuals with a language barrier – $250 million.
  • Investing in Tribal Broadband Connectivity Program – $2 billion.
  • Investing in Middle Mile Grants – National Telecommunications and Information Administration grant program for the construction, improvement or acquisition of infrastructure (prioritizing underserved areas and requiring buildout to be completed within five years of the grant being made) – $1 billion.

Broadband Equity, Access, and Development Program

NTIA will allocate the $42.5 billion of the Broadband Equity, Access, and Development Program three ways:

  1. Minimum of $100 million funding to each state, with an additional $100 million to be allocated equally among U.S. territories
  2. Allocates approximately $4.35 billion for broadband projects to underserved locations in high-cost areas. Eligible areas will be determined by NTIA based on a formula defined in the bill (e.g., remoteness, population density, poverty, etc.)
  3. Approximately $32.2 billion will be allocated for broadband projects in unserved locations.

The Broadband Equity, Access and Development Program is to be established no later than 180 days after the date of enactment of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. States that wish to participate in the program are to submit a letter of intent, initial proposal and final proposal. Once the NTIA allocates the grants, each state is responsible for submitting a five-year action plan that addresses the areas eligible and the proposed solutions. States can award subgrants to cooperatives, nonprofit organizations, public‐private partnerships, private companies, public or private utilities, public utility districts or local governments.

A matching contribution of at least 25% of the project costs must be provided by a state or its subgrantee. The state match generally has to be from non-federal funds, though some federal sources are explicitly permitted in the bill.

States are required to prioritize unserved service projects until the state can determine universal coverage of all unserved locations. States also must prioritize projects based on additional factors: poverty, speed of proposed services and compliance with federal labor and employment laws.

Sources and Resources

Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act: Roads and Bridges

By Dakota Thomas

The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act[1] — also referred to as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Package — passed the House Nov. 5. President Joe Biden is expected to sign it today, Monday, Nov. 15. The bill contains $1.2 trillion in funding ($550 billion of which is new spending) for various infrastructure purposes, including roads and bridges, broadband, drinking water resources, airports, electrical vehicles and more. In this brief, analysts at The Council of State Governments break down the $110 billion in funding going to roads, bridges and other major ground transportation projects through the lens of state needs. Itis the largest focus of funding in the bill.

Funding Breakdown

  • Increasing the Highway Trust Fund – $273.15 billion over five years.
  • Expanding eligible uses for Surface Transportation Block Grant funding, including electric vehicle charging, projects to increase tourism and wildlife collision mitigation efforts – $72 billion.
  • Establishing the Bridge Investment Program for renewal projects on bridges that are in fair or poor condition – $40 billion over five years.
  • Creating U.S. Department of Transportation grants for eligible projects including intercity rail, highway and bridge projects, public transit and rail crossings – $15 billion.
  • Creating the Promoting Resilient Operations for Transformative, Efficient and Cost Saving Transportation (PROTECT) Program (focused on natural resilience and hazard mitigation) – $7.3 billion.
  • Creating a Carbon Reduction Program (includes investments in sidewalks, bike lanes, public transit projects and technologies to reduce carbon emissions) – $6.41 billion.
  • Creating Rural Surface Transportation Grant – $2 billion over five years.
  • Establishing Wildlife Crossings Pilot Program through the Department of Transportation to reduce collisions with wildlife and improve habitat connectivity – $350 million over five years.
  • Investing additional funding to the off-system bridge set-aside – $258 million.

These are a selection of the largest investments contained in the infrastructure package. The Congressional Budget Office estimates the bill will add $256 billion to the national deficit. While it is difficult to know the full macroeconomic effects of the bill, Moody’s Analytics provides estimates of the effects on employment and the Gross Domestic Product by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. 

For a breakdown of formula highway and bridge renewal funding allocations by state, see the chart below. Note that figures are estimates and do not include the competitive grants for which states, territories and the District of Columbia are eligible to apply.

Condition of Highways and Bridges in States

Infrastructure needs vary across the U.S. According to estimates from USA Today, the funding from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act will likely benefit the following 10 states the most, as they have a relatively high proportion of roadways/bridges in need of repair. 

Unit% Roads in Poor Condition% Bridges in Poor Condition
Rhode Island24.6%23.1%
New Jersey16.8%8.1%
New York13.4%10.0%
West Virginia4.8%19.9%

Sources and Resources

Highway and Bridge Formula Funding (in millions USD)

District of Columbia$1,100$225
New Hampshire$1,100$225
New Jersey$6,800$1,100
New Mexico$2,500$225
New York$11,600$1,900
North Carolina$7,200$457
North Dakota$1,700$225
Rhode Island$1,500$242
South Carolina$4,600$274
South Dakota$1,900$225
West Virginia$3,000$506
American Samoa$24<-Combined
Northern Mariana Islands$24<-Combined
Puerto Rico$900$225
U.S. Virgin Islands$95<-Combined

Data Source:  White House State Fact Sheets.

Note that figures are estimates and do not include the competitive grants for which states, territories and the District of Columbia are eligible to apply.

[1] Also commonly known as the “Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework.”

How Do Emergency Responders Vote?

By Rachel Wright

When disaster strikes, first responders are on the front lines to protect vulnerable people and communities. But what happens if a disaster occurs close to an election? If emergency responders can’t vote in person, and if they’re unable to comply with traditional absentee voting deadlines and procedures, their ability to vote may be very limited.

Although many states have adopted general statutory provisions that facilitate voting among those who are experiencing a personal emergency, fewer have adopted provisions that specifically outline alternative voting procedures for emergency responders.

Currently, 11 states delineate alternative voting procedures for those who are called to work in response to an in-state or out-of-state emergency. Among these states, there is significant variation in the voting procedures afforded to emergency responders. These procedures can be broadly grouped as follows:

  • Extension of Uniformed and Overseas Citizen (UOCAVA) voting procedures
    • Extension of absentee ballot request period
    • General authority provided to the Secretary of State to take necessary measures to facilitate voting

Wyoming was the first state to adopt statutory provisions specifically delineating separate voting procedures for emergency responders. These measures were incorporated into statute in 1998. Virginia is the most recent state to adopt similar procedures, with legislation approved by the General Assembly in 2020. Currently, there is one bill in each house of the Minnesota legislature that would, if enacted, afford separate voting procedures to the state’s emergency responders.

Significant variation also exists in how states refer to and define emergency services workers in statute. Terms used range from “emergency services worker” in New Hampshire to “trained or certified emergency response providers” in Mississippi. Overall, few states provide explicit definitions of these terms and those that do refrain from listing specific qualifying professions as to not exclude those who may benefit from these provisions.

Statute often delineates which elected official has the authority to declare an emergency that permits alternative voting procedures for emergency responders to come into effect.

Most states recognize the authority of its Governor, any other state’s Governor, and the President. Three states don’t specify this authority while New York and Virginia recognize that of another “competent authority.”

Statutory Provisions – Date of Adoption

Apart from Wyoming, state adoption of legislation pertaining to voting by emergency responders has been a recent trend. In the mid-2000s, New Hampshire and California were among the first states to outline explicit procedures for emergency responders. The remaining eight states were soon to follow suit. Virginia is the most recent state to adopt such legislation, VA HB242, in in April 2020. Currently, there are two bills being considered in both Chambers of the Minnesota legislature, that if enacted would allow emergency responders to vote by absentee or UOCAVA ballot procedures. Figure 1: Date of Statute Adoption included below outlines the year in which each state adopted alternative voting procedures for emergency responders.

 Figure 1: Date of Statute Adoption

StateDate of Adoption
New Hampshire2006
California (in-state)2009
Alabama, California (out-of-state), Louisiana, Maine, and Oklahoma2013
New Mexico2015
New York2016

State Procedures for Voting by Emergency Responders

Extension of Uniformed and Overseas Citizen (UOCAVA) Voting Procedures

Four states — Maine, Mississippi, New Mexico and Virginia — extend uniformed and overseas citizen (UOCAVA) voting procedures to emergency responders. Of these states, Maine and Mississippi are the only to allow this group to utilize the Federal Post Card Application and Federal Write-in Absentee Ballot.

Extended Period for Ballot Request

Two states — New York and Oklahoma — permit an extended by-mail request period for emergency responders. For example, New York statute reads that an application or letter may be delivered to the Board of Elections “without regard to deadlines for the receipt of absentee ballot applications.”

California stands alone among the states in its provision of different procedures to emergency responders depending on whether they are called to work in response to an in-state or out-of-state emergency. Under California statute, personnel called in response to an out-of-state emergency are authorized to vote using a vote-by-mail ballot and to submit a request for this ballot even after the close of the application period specified for other by-mail voters.

General Authority Extended to the Secretary of State

Four states — Alabama, Louisiana, Wyoming and New Hampshire — delegate general authority to the Secretary of State to adopt the necessary procedures to facilitate voting among those called to work in response to an emergency. Potential measures include working closely with the state attorney general, local election officials and the United States Postal Service to ensure the timely transit and return of ballots.

Defining Qualifying Voters

Significant variation exists in state statute pertaining to the terminology used to define those covered by emergency responder provisions. Examples of terminology employed in the states include:

  • Emergency Services Worker (New Hampshire)
  • Trained or Certified Emergency Response Provider (Mississippi)
  • Emergency Responder (New York)

Four states — California, New Hampshire, New Mexico and New York — have provided definitions of those statutorily covered as emergency responders. Defining the term employed in statute provides clarity to who is exactly is covered. These definitions, however, refrain from specifying which professions are covered under statute, with the exception being New Hampshire.

New Hampshire statute does specify professions covered under emergency responder provisions (e.g., New Hampshire National Guard, utility workers, etc.). However, the statute provides authority to the Department of Safety to declare additional professions as emergency services workers. This serves to maintain clarity in the scope of the statute while not excluding those who are not traditionally considered emergency responders.

Declaring Authority

States differ in recognizing which elected official or officials have the authority to declare a state of emergency that allows for these alternative voting procedures to come into effect. In the states, a declaration of emergency is issued by the governor. At the national level, this authority rests with the president. The application of alternative voting procedures for emergency responders is often dependent upon the declaration of an emergency by one or a combination of these elected officials.

  • The majority of states analyzed recognize the authority of their state’s governor, any other state’s governor, and the president in declaring an emergency that permits the application of alternative voting procedures for those called to work in response.
  • Only three states — Louisiana, Oklahoma and Wyoming — fail to specify which public official has authority to permit the application of alternative voting procedures for emergency responders.
  • New York and Virginia are the only two states to recognize the authority of another “competent authority” to permit the application of these voting procedures.

New CSG Compacts Project Benefits Military Spouses

CSG partners with the Department of Defense to reduce workforce barriers for military spouses and other practitioners of licensed professions 


How can the states reduce workforce barriers for military spouses and other practitioners of licensed professions?  

That’s the question CSG is exploring through a competitive interstate compacts program in partnership with the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD). Following a competitive application process, CSG selected five professions to work with the CSG National Center for Interstate Compacts in developing model legislation that would help military spouses and other practitioners gain professional license portability through interstate compacts. The professions selected for compact assistance are cosmetology and barbering, dentistry and dental hygiene, massage therapy, social work and K-12 teaching. 

Kicking off the project, CSG hosted a webinar series that brought together state leaders, subject matter experts and members of the professions to discuss the background and importance of this project. The final installment of the series on Aug. 24 at 2 p.m. (Eastern) will explore the Dentistry and Dental Hygiene Compact. (Click here to register).  

Recordings of previous webinars are available on the CSG YouTube page: 

Massage Therapy Compact Kickoff Meeting 

Cosmetology and Barbering Compact Kickoff Meeting 

Social Work Compact Kickoff Meeting 

K-12 Teaching Compact Kickoff Meeting 

Occupational licensure compacts create reciprocity between states while maintaining the quality and safety of services and protecting state sovereignty. Compacts result in a more efficient distribution of licensed workers by supporting practitioner mobility.  

Prior to its partnership with the Department of Defense, the CSG National Center for Interstate Compacts led the development of interstate compacts for physicians, nurses, emergency medical services personnel, physical therapists, psychologists, occupational therapists, licensed professional counselors and audiologists/speech-language pathologists. More than 40 states and territories have adopted at least one of the compacts and over half have adopted three or more. 

“Military spouses work hard to earn professional credentials and establish themselves in licensed occupations while also being willing to sacrifice their professional lives in support of their spouse so they can serve our country,” said Wisconsin state Sen. Joan Ballweg, who serves as the national chair for CSG. “Creating interstate compacts for these occupations will reduce regulatory burdens substantially and restore the career options they deserve. CSG and the Department of Defense chose worthy occupations, and I am encouraged by their progress on this vital project.”