CSG’s Lansdale is

by Mary Elizabeth Lonergan

Soldier, attorney, father and program manager for The Council of State Governments Program Manager are just a few hats Taylor Lansdale can wear. Husband, captain and proud grandson are a few others.

Lansdale is the program manager for the Overseas Voting Initiative (OVI), a collaboration between CSG and the U.S. Department of Defense through its Federal Voting Assistance Program to educate state policymakers, election officials, and other election community stakeholders about unique voting challenges faced by uniformed services personnel and other U.S. citizens overseas, and methods for improving the voting process for these individuals.

Prior to working for CSG, Lansdale served as a public defender in Kentucky and as a captain in the Kentucky Army National Guard.

“When people would ask me, when I was a kid, what I wanted to do, I told them I wanted to be an army man,” Lansdale said.

Lansdale’s inspiration to serve came from his grandfather, who served in the military, and his great-grandfather, who died while serving in WWII.  “I wanted to carry on the tradition,” Lansdale said.

While a public defender, Lansdale came across an opportunity to work for CSG. The job combined his passion for positively impacting others, challenging work and his first-hand knowledge of veteran needs.

Lansadale said he was drawn to “the work that they were doing to make it easier for veteran skills to translate into skilled trades, and then the work occupational licensure does to make it easier on military spouses as they are moving from post to post. I thought that was a cool way to serve the people I was serving with.”

In his role today, Lansdale’s insight is essential to helping policymakers understand the unique needs of military voters.

Lansdale said military service members, including Army National Guard soldiers, stepped up to serve Americans on the front lines of war and during the pandemic.

“It is important for me this Veterans Day to recognize what was asked of Guardsmen and women…some of those folks worked in Louisville during the protests, turned around and ran COVID-19 hospitals, turned around and guarded D.C.,” he said, pointing to the Guard members who were deployed for most of 2020 and 2021.

He said Veterans Day is a special day to honor service members. America calls them heroes. Lansdale calls them friends.

“I do try on Veterans Day to visit my grandfather’s grave, only because he is the one I look up to so much,” he said. “It’s an opportunity to honor my friends who are still doing it. Several of the people I care most about in the world are still in it.”

Lansdale said his time in the Kentucky Army National Guard, along with becoming a husband and father, were the most rewarding experiences of his life.

“The thing I am most proud of is the soldiers that I trained and led who are now very successful officers or noncommissioned officers who are still doing really great things in the Kentucky Army National Guard,” Lansdale said.

CSG Launches Safety Awareness on Public Transit Project

The Council of State Governments (CSG) is launching a new project on public transit safety with a focus on human trafficking. Funded by the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), the Safety Awareness on Public Transit project will be centered around a virtual learning seminar for transportation industry stakeholders to discuss policy solutions and best practices for raising awareness about safety issues and human trafficking on public transit.

The Safety Awareness on Public Transit project will convene policymakers and subject matter experts in transit security to propose effective solutions for fighting human trafficking in public transit. While the U. S. does not specify that transportation must occur for human trafficking to take place — it is generally defined by the presence of exploitation — victims of trafficking can be better isolated from family and support systems when victims are physically moved long distances. Traffickers use multiple methods of transportation to capture and move their victims, but public transportation is most often used due to the anonymity it offers. Of 104 survivors who participated in a Polaris study, a plurality were trafficked by either public bus, subway or long-distance bus. Many victims are initially recruited at transportation hubs. In another survey, 54% of survivors felt transportation was a barrier to being able to leave their situation. Many need assistance — possibly in the form of donated credits, points, or vouchers — in order to use public transportation to return to their homes, shelters, and/or job interviews.

While it would be potentially dangerous to have transit personnel intervene in an active human trafficking situation, policy solutions can include requiring transit agencies to establish travel vouchers or points donation, post prevention-based materials, train staff to recognize signs of human trafficking, develop trauma-informed response protocol and display the National Human Trafficking Hotline number. Existing efforts, such as those in Wisconsin, often focus on raising public awareness of resources (such as hotline information) through social media, and training Department of Motor Vehicle and Department of Transportation employees. Additionally, the Iowa Department of Transportation has a map of victim services available on its website.

CSG will invite policymakers and stakeholders in the field of transportation safety to engage in a two-day virtual learning seminar to share strategies for safety awareness in public transportation, including initiatives related to human trafficking. After the virtual convening, a report will be written, summarizing the topics discussed at the seminar. Throughout the project, a series of blogs and articles will raise awareness and share policy solutions. By increasing awareness of the use of public transportation in human trafficking and collaborating to find and implement strategic solutions, policymakers and key stakeholders can do their part to increase safety on public transit. While transportation safety is a multifaceted issue, a focal point of the solution should be the role and responsibility of those in the transportation industry.

“We are thrilled to start this new project at CSG,” said Elizabeth Whitehouse, Chief Public Policy Officer at CSG. “This is an important issue for many states, and we are honored to be a part of facilitating a collaborative environment where state leaders can work toward solutions together.”

If you are interested in participating in this project, please contact Sydney Blodgett at [email protected].

CSG to Hold Safety Awareness on Public Transit Virtual Learning Seminar

On Nov. 17 and 18 at 1 p.m. (Eastern), The Council of State Governments will host a Safety Awareness on Public Transit Virtual Learning Seminar as part of the Federal Transit Authority (FTA) Crime Prevention and Public Safety Awareness project. CSG invites policymakers, stakeholders and subject-matter experts in public transportation to a two-day virtual learning seminar to engage with one another and share strategies for safety awareness on public transportation. Click here to register.

With a focus on human trafficking prevention, participants will be able to attend several sessions with speakers from different sectors in the transportation industry, sharing their experiences and best practices for mitigating safety issues. Participants also will have the opportunity to discuss the presentations with other attendees in breakout rooms as well as during a virtual action planning session.

The seminar will feature experts who are leading efforts to prevent human trafficking and strengthen public safety in public transportation.

Dharm Guruswamy, Public Transportation Safety Specialist: Dharm Guruswamy is an experienced transportation professional whose more than 20 years of professional experience spans the private, public, quasi-public and public multilateral sectors. More recently, Dharm has been a key player in the federal government’s first exercise of direct safety oversight of a rail transit agency, where he currently serves as deputy director of FTA’s Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority (WMATA) Safety Oversight Team. He is a member of the Rail Transit Systems Committee (AP065) and a former member of the Intercity Passenger Rail Committee (AR010) of the Transportation Research Board. Dharm holds a Transit Safety and Security Program Certification for Rail (TSSP-Rail) from the Transit Safety Institute of the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Polly Hanson, Senior Director of Security, Risk & Emergency Management: Polly Hanson is responsible for developing transit security, risk and emergency management standards and policies for the American Public Transportation Association. She performs peer reviews and assists with safety audits and serves as an advocate for transportation security, as well as a source matter expert on transit security, risk and emergency management issues. Hanson earned her master’s in applied behavioral science from Johns Hopkins University and her bachelor’s in communications from Temple University. In addition, she continued her education by attending the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s National Executive Institute, Law Enforcement Executive Development Seminar and National Academy. Hanson is working to obtain her FTA Transit Safety and Security Program (TSSP) and Safety Measurement System (SMS) certifications.

Allison Grossman, Director of Public Policy and Strategic Advocacy: Allison Grossman is the director of public policy and strategic advocacy at Polaris. She is an experienced strategist, advocate and nonprofit leader with expertise in issue advocacy, government relations and coalition building. Prior to joining Polaris, she served as the senior advisor for global policy and advocacy at RESULTS, a grassroots anti-poverty advocacy organization, where she led campaigns on global education and early childhood development. She also has worked with Save the Children and American Jewish World Service. Grossman started her career as an Eisendrath Legislative Assistant at the Religious Action Center (RAC).Grossman holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science from the University of Arizona. She earned her master’s in governmental studies from Johns Hopkins University.

Chris Van Eyken, Senior Program Associate, Improving Agency Practice: Chris Van Eyken’s work focuses on encouraging transit agencies to adopt best practices and needed reforms. Van Eyken has advocated for better transit as an agency staff member and as an external advocate. He has provided technical support to agencies in the U.S. and abroad. Chris holds a bachelor’s degree in international affairs from George Washington University and a master’s degree in urban planning from Hunter College.

Kristen Joyner, Vice President, CTAA Board of Directors: Kristen Joyner is vice president of the Community Transportation Association of America (CTAA), a national membership association representing rural, small-urban, specialized and non-emergency medical transportation (NEMT) providers. Joyner has represented the South West Transit Association (SWTA) on the CTAA Board since 2017. Currently, she serves as an advocate for transit issues and conducts leadership training and certification programs for transportation professionals. From 2012-16, she was a member of the White House Task Force for Transit Leaders. Recently, she led Operation Veterans in Public Transportation, a project that SWTA developed to acknowledge and support veterans in transportation.

Scott Bogren, Executive Director: Scott Bogren has been with the Community Transportation Association of America (CTAA) since 1989, serving the Association in a wide variety of roles before being named executive director in 2016. He is a passionate transit advocate and, prior to COVID-19, a daily transit user. His work always has focused on building and promoting safe, affordable, accessible and inclusive mobility for all Americans.

The Honorable Judge Jamie Cork of Minnesota: Jamie Cork was appointed to the First Judicial District Bench in August 2016, where she presides over a variety of cases. She co-chairs the Dakota County Domestic Violence Coordinated Community Response Team and the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI)-Elimination of Racial Bias Committee. She also is an active member of the First District Equal Justice Committee, Minnesota Children’s Justice Initiative (CJI), CJI Indian Child Welfare Act training faculty and subcommittee and CJI Parent Representation subcommittee. Judge Cork worked with Indian tribes and communities in an attempt to assure that families and children were able to obtain culturally appropriate education and services. Judge Cork helped establish Minnesota statewide policy, training and community outreach regarding the sexual exploitation of youth. She has brought awareness and education about human trafficking to the community through local, state, national and international presentations to judges, attorneys, law enforcement and other professionals.

Assemblymember Ash Kalra of California: Assemblymember Ash Kalra represents California’s 27th District, which encompasses approximately half of San José and includes all of downtown. He was first elected in 2016, becoming the first Indian American to serve in the California Legislature in state history, and was re-elected to his third term in 2020. Kalra is the chair of the Committee on Labor and Employment and also serves as a member on the Housing and Community Development, Judiciary, Transportation, and Water, Parks and Wildlife committees. He earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Communication from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and a law degree from Georgetown University.

Assemblymember Carol Murphy of New Jersey: Assemblymember Carol A. Murphy is currently serving her second term representing the Seventh Legislative District. First elected in 2017, Murphy is the first woman in over 20 years to represent the Seventh Legislative District, and the first Democrat from Mount Laurel to serve in the state legislature. She currently serves as the Assembly Deputy Majority Leader and is the Vice-Chair of the Assembly Judiciary Committee. She also is a member of the Assembly Budget Committee, the Assembly Financial Institution and Insurance Committee and the Assembly Oversight, Reforms and Federal Relations Committee. She also serves on the Assembly Special Committee on Infrastructure and Natural Resources.

Interested parties can reach out to Sydney Blodgett at [email protected] with any questions and register with the following link: https://csg-org.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZAqcuyuqjwrEtZ3wDdeDSNLdtzcmPl-n4-9.

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.”

CSG sends its sympathies following passing of former South Dakota first lady Jean Rounds

The Council of State Governments extends its deepest condolences to Sen. Mike Rounds on the loss of his wife, Jean.  

Jean Rounds not only served as first lady of South Dakota when her husband was governor, but also as the first lady of The Council of State Governments during the year her husband served as CSG national president.  

“We were saddened to learn of her passing earlier this week,” said CSG Executive Director/CEO David Adkins. “Jean served her state well — first during her tenure as a state employee, then as a civic and philanthropic leader and as a great ambassador for South Dakota. She embodied the best values of the American Midwest.  

“CSG extends our condolences to Sen. Rounds and to all who knew and loved Jean.” 

Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who followed Sen. Rounds as CSG national president, tweeted earlier this week, “Gayle and I are deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Jean Rounds. When Mike and I served as Governors together, the 4 of us became great friends. Jean was such a delight to be around and we will miss her friendship.” 

Jean Rounds, 65, passed away Tuesday, Nov. 2, following her battle with sarcoma cancer. A native of Lake Preston, South Dakota, she married Mike Rounds in 1978, and the couple have four children. She worked in the South Dakota State Planning Bureau and the Department of Transportation. 

Her husband released a statement following her death, which included, “South Dakota knew her as First Lady. We knew her as wife, daughter, mom and grandma. She was everything to us.” 

Infrastructure Impact: The Ramifications of Federal Spending

In this four-part series, we examine areas that could create long-term impacts in the lives of people in the U.S. should the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure spending bill become law.

One of the negative ramifications of large-scale federal spending is the risk of higher prices for goods and services. As more money is infused in the economy, consumer demand increases and supplies are strained, creating upward pressure on prices. The Wall Street Journal reported Aug. 11 that “Consumer prices rose 5.4 percent in July from a year earlier.”

Prices for hotels, restaurants, groceries and gasoline all increased from the month of June. However, some of the jump could be attributed to recovery from the economic shutdown as consumers release pent-up demand for goods and services.

The United States Bureau of Labor Statistic’s Consumer Price Index (CPI), a measure of average change over time in the prices paid by consumers for a designated market basket of consumer goods and services, found costs rose 5.4% since last year. In July, the CPI rose 0.5% on a seasonally adjusted basis. And the index for all items, less food and energy, increased 0.3% in July; up 4.3% over the past year. As the economy recovers, businesses face worker shortages, placing inflationary pressure on wages. The Bureau reports: “Compensation costs for civilian workers increased 0.7 percent, seasonally adjusted, from March 2021 to June 2021. Over the year, total compensation rose 2.9 percent, wages and salaries rose 3.2 percent, and benefit costs rose 2.2 percent.”

The Washington Post reports prices will continue to rise. “For months, the Fed (Federal Reserve Board) and White House have said inflation will keep climbing as consumer demand surges while supply chains struggle to catch up. Their expectation is that as supply backlogs have time to clear, inflation will settle back down closer to the Fed’s 2 percent annual target,” the article reports.

The Council of State Governments continues to follow the latest on the infrastructure bill and offers a full rundown of ways states can utilize potential funding and the impact that funding will have. To learn more, visit: web.csg.org/recovery.

What State Leaders Need to Know about the Build Back Better Proposal

The Biden administration announced Oct. 28 a proposed framework for its Build Back Better initiative. After weeks of negotiations and with still more to come as details and budget language are finalized, the approximately $1.8 trillion package includes substantial federal investments for: 

  • Free universal preschool education to children ages three and four. 
  • Subsidies for child care. 
  • A one-year extension in the expanded child care tax credit. 
  • An increase in the maximum Pell Grant award. 
  • Assistance for low-income renters. 
  • Subsidies for individuals who purchase insurance through the Affordable Care Act (until 2025).  
  • Hearing coverage under Medicare.  
  • Support for in-home and in-community elder care. 
  • Tax incentives to increase electric vehicle manufacturing and purchase and move utilities toward solar and other renewable energy sources. 

The proposal is paid for by a series of tax increases on corporations and high-income earners.  

The proposal does not include other discussed initiatives, including free community college access, paid leave for workers, expansion of Medicare to include vision and dental coverage and authorizing Medicare to negotiate drug prices. 

What this Means for State Leaders 

While details of the bill are finalized, the Biden administration’s Build Back Better framework provides state leaders insight into how this package will impact their states. The framework relates to state and local government efforts in facilitating access to preschool, child care, postsecondary education, health care and housing security. State and local government involvement will be further clarified as the legislative language is finalized. 

Bill Outlook 

The proposal is being developed only by Democrats in Congress and, as such, is intended to move toward passage in the Senate and House through a budget maneuver known as reconciliation. This process allows for a proposal to pass by majority vote in both chambers, bypassing several points of congressional procedure including the need for the Senate to approve a cloture motion (i.e. to end debate on a bill), which takes 60 votes. With the Senate divided among 50 Republicans, 48 Democrats and two independents (who caucus with the Democrats), reconciliation is the only vehicle forward in the absence of Republican votes. 

As the bill is finalized, it will be scored by the Congressional Budget Office to clarify the cost of the package and the revenue raised by the tax increases and other changes to ensure the bill is revenue neutral (i.e. pays for itself). The Senate Parliamentarian also will review the final measure to ensure everything in the package is sufficiently budget related (a requirement for the reconciliation process). A potential sticking point is whether proposed language related to changes in U.S. immigration policy are appropriate for reconciliation. For example, the proposal includes investments to streamline immigration processing to reduce the backlog of visa applications. 

Much of the negotiation centered around whether and how the proposal will be paired with the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill currently under consideration in the House. The Senate approved the measure in August (by a vote of 69-30), but progressive Democrats in the House have withheld support until agreement on the Build Back Better package is reached.  

The Biden administration announcement came in the shadow of two important dates. First, the president leaves Thursday for Europe, where he will attend a G-20 Summit focused on climate change. Democratic leaders in Congress wanted to provide assurance to other countries of the U.S. intent to invest in clean energy initiatives. Second, voters head to the polls to elect governors in New Jersey and Virginia. Congressional Democrats wanted to produce a result, even if unsettled, before the election in an effort to boost Democratic candidate chances in the two elections, which are expected to be close. Pundits have traditionally seen the results of these two elections as indicative of the public’s mood heading into the following year’s congressional elections. 

More information on the Build Back Better proposal is available here

As with the American Rescue Plan Act passed in March 2021, analysts at The Council of State Governments will continue analyzing the Build Back Better proposal and Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill and provide to members regular updates, particularly as it relates to how funds will be distributed among state and local governments and any guidelines attached to the funding. 

Stay Safe Online

October is Cyber Security Awareness Month. With so much of today’s business and communications managed with the help of the internet, the understanding and practice of cyber security is a requirement.

“Always be vigilant,” said Rob Main, interim state chief risk officer with the North Carolina Department of Information Technology. “If something seems too good to be true, it probably is.”
Main said that so often people fall prey online to the often unrecognizable “telltale signs of malicious intent.”

Main said that often someone might fill out a survey on social media that will ask questions that could be used as password clues for secure websites.

“Malicious intent involves the execution of social engineering methods which can occur through vishing, phishing, and smishing (among other means),” Main said. “These methods would include a sense of urgency, misspellings or mispronunciations, an enticement to reveal protected information and/or malicious content. The takeaway: a healthy dose of skepticism will help maintain vigilance when dealing with questionable communication.”

During Spring 2021, internet hackers were able to cause severe disruption to Colonial Pipeline, the nation’s largest refined oil pipeline. According to Bloomberg, hackers were able to access to the company’s network through a private account. From there, hackers were able to shut down operations, causing fuel delays along the East Coast. The hackers issued a ransom note for $4.4 million in cryptocurrency. The company shut down operations and ended up paying the ransom to restore fuel to Americans.

Bloomberg reported that, while the hacked account used a virtual private network (VPN), no multi-factor authenticator was used.

Main, who urges the use of multi-factor authentication, said he had spent time at Microsoft headquarters. There, a vice president with the company cautioned that 99.8% of security-related concerns would be mitigated by multi-factor authentication.

Stay Safe Online, a program of the National Cybersecurity Alliance, offers several tips to stay safe while using the internet.

Tips to Stay Safe

  • Use strong passwords, avoiding contact specific words like “MarysLaptop.”
  • Passwords should restrict common words.
  • Keep operating systems current.
  • If using a personal device, always keep antivirus and spyware software updated and turned on

For more safety tips, visit staysafeonline.org/cybersecurity-awareness-month.

Infrastructure Fallout: The Long-Term Ramifications of Federal Spending

In this four-part series, analysts at The Council of State Governments (CSG) examine areas that could create long-term impacts in the lives of American Citizens should the $1 trillion spending bill become law.

The $1 trillion Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill (BIB) proposes to allocate federal dollars to a multitude of projects. For example, $2 billion is designated for rural road expansion, bridges and surface transportation projects. BIB also provides $3 billion for the Tribal Transportation program over five years. The Tribal Transportation Program is the largest of the Office of Federal Lands Highway, receiving $505 million in Fiscal Year 2020, according to Public Law 114-94.

In July, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) joined the Coalition for Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment, lauding the infrastructure plan as necessary because the nation’s infrastructure systems are unacceptable for a 21st Century economy.

However, a 2015 article from McKinsey & Company, a global management consulting firm, points to potential negative ramifications of such large-scale infrastructure projects.

“The risks associated with megaprojects — those that cost $1 billion or more — are well documented. In one influential study, Bent Flyvbjerg, an expert in project management at Oxford’s business school, estimated that nine out of ten go over budget. Rail projects, for example, go over budget by an average of 44.7 percent, and their demand is overestimated by 51.4 percent. McKinsey has estimated that bridges and tunnels incur an average 35 percent cost overrun; for roads, it’s 20 percent. Given that many projects are approved with a 20 percent return on investment expected, this leaves governments to pick up the tab for the rest,” the article stated.

The article went on to assert such infrastructure project timelines often are underestimated and that these projects can often take 10 to 15 years to complete.

In addition, there is growing concern about delays caused by a shortage of skilled workers necessary to completing the projects. According to John M. Irvine, a senior vice president at Anchor Construction: “I’d be surprised if there’s any firm out there saying they’re ready for this. “We will have to staff up, and no, there are not enough skilled workers to fill these jobs.”

Overall, the timeline on some of these massive projects that will result from the Infrastructure bill that is currently sitting in the United States House of Representatives could potentially create more headaches in the immediate future — traffic jams and road closures — with final results decades away.