Southern States Approaches to Regulating Artificial Intelligence, Autonomous Decision-Making, and Machine Learning

In a brief nine-month period between late 2022 and early 2023, users in the United States conducted nearly 19 billion visits to the most popular generative artificial intelligence (AI) application on the web. These American users – more than 5.5 billion – represented more than 22 percent of these AI applications’ worldwide user base. Despite rising to prominence among the cultural zeitgeist, these tools are still in a state of early integration in business and public sector work, with the United States Census Buraeu’s Business Trends and Outlook Survey reporting that, as of November 28, 2023, less than 4 percent of U.S. businesses say they are using artificial intelligence to produce goods or services. Recognizing the urgent need to study how existing regulations apply and what new guardrails are needed for AI, state leaders are taking steps to understand this complex topic as its usage increasingly gains widespread commercial appeal.

In response to the proliferation of AI, state lawmakers across the U.S. introduced more than 780 pieces of legislation concerning aspects of artificial intelligence. From the first proposal filed in 2003 to the more than 200 measures proposed in 2023 alone, this issue has been on members’ minds for more than a decade.

Click Here to Download the Full Issue Alert

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A Tough Pill To Swallow: How States Are Facilitating School Responses to Youth Opioid Overdoses

From the small towns of Appalachia and the rural Deep South to the college towns in the heartland, the heights of the Ozarks and Smokey Mountains, the vacation destinations of the Gulf and Atlantic Coasts, and beyond, abuse and misuse of illicit or prescribed opioids is an epidemic without boundaries. Indeed, every state in the South has suffered dearly from this crisis. Nearly one in four (or 24.9 percent) individuals aged 12 or older reported illicit drug use or abuse in the past year. According to the 2022 National Survey on Drug Use and Health by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) of the United States Department of Health and Human Services, more than 3.5 million youth between the ages of 12 and 17 misused prescription or illicit drugs in the past year – including more than 420,000 who used or misused opiates. Most of these individuals (44.6 percent) reported receiving, stealing, or purchasing opioids from friends or relatives, while another 41.3 percent were prescribed or stolen from a healthcare provider. Others bought from a drug dealer or other unknown individual (8.5 percent) or obtained the drugs some other way (5.6 percent).

This is especially troubling given the seven states that dispense opioids at the highest rate are in the South – Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, and Tennessee – making youth in these states inherently more vulnerable to exposure to these dangerous drugs.

Click Here to Download the Full Regional Resource

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Regional leaders discuss housing crisis at CSG East summit

A congregation of state officials gathered in Connecticut’s state capitol over the weekend for a 2-day policy summit to exchange ideas about one of the major problems affecting the east – housing affordability. 

Policy leaders from 9 states, 2 Canadian provinces, and the Virgin Islands met, broke bread together, and shared the challenges and solutions from their respective states during multiple hearing-style panels featuring esteemed experts in the field. 

Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff opened Friday’s program by welcoming attendees to a tour of Hartford’s Billings Forge affordable housing development, a 113-unit mixed-income apartment complex offering workforce development programs and after-school activities for residents. Cory Fellows, vice president of development at Preservation of Affordable Housing, led the tour and shared insights about how his team redeveloped the property. One point was made clear: affordable housing developments are not a blight on the neighborhood.

The tour was followed by a panel session on the financial costs and challenges facing developers who build affordable housing, where Fellows was joined by Brandon McGee, deputy commissioner of housing in Connecticut, and Nandini Natarajan, chief executive officer for Connecticut’s Housing Finance Authority. The discussion was moderated by Representative Eleni Kavros DeGraw, co-chair of Connecticut’s Planning and Development Committee and a 2023 Eastern Leadership Academy fellow. Natarajan recalled significant findings from a recently conducted housing needs assessment, and noted the challenges of securing land that is free of contaminants and ready for development. After highlighting the Department of Housing’s efforts to educate constituents on tools for finding affordable housing, McGee emphasized inadequate infrastructure as an obstacle to building more housing in municipalities that would welcome new development. There was a dinner reception on Friday evening, where Commissioner Seila Mosquera-Bruno briefly highlighted key housing initiatives in Connecticut during her welcoming remarks. 

 

2025 OFFICER POSITION FOR CSG WEST

The CSG West Nominating Committee is accepting applications from Western legislators interested in serving as officers of CSG West or CSG National. The positions will be open and the legislators elected by the Executive Committee will succeed to the positions of chair in 2027. 

Pursuant to our Rules, this year the Nominating Committee will be interviewing candidates for the CSG West Vice Chair.
The Nominating Committee will be considering:

  • Democratic applicants for the open 2024 CSG West vice chair position.

Applicants will be scheduled for an interview with the CSG West Nominating Committee during the 77th CSG West Annual Meeting in Portland, Oregon. The Nominating Committee, upon finalizing its process, will recommend a slate of 2025 CSG West officers to the CSG West Executive Committee.

The deadline for receiving applications from all interested and eligible legislators is Tuesday, June 25, 2024. If you have any questions about the process or require additional information, please contact Edgar Ruiz, CSG West Executive Director, at (916) 501-5070 or via email at [email protected]

Below, please find links to the application information, the CSG West Rules, and officer descriptions. Prospective applicants are encouraged to discuss officer roles and responsibilities with current CSG West officers.

CSG West 2025 Vice Chair Position:

CSG West 2025 Vice Chair Application

CSG West Rules

CSG West Officer Descriptions  

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Southern Pulse Newsletter, March

As the days are growing warmer, sunsets are coming later, and the sounds of March Madness fills the air, we can only know that sine die is approaching soon for many of you. To all of our member states who are counting down the days, we hope that this month brings good luck to you.

In the CSG South office, we are still going strong with our state visits. We recently wrapped up Oklahoma and we will be visiting Tennessee this week, with Louisiana, Alabama, and Arkansas all in April!

Our planning for the Southern Legislative Conference (SLC) is continuing to steam ahead. Please continue to check your emails for any critical updates that will come within the next couple of months. Visit our registration website here for deadlines, sessions, and more details.

Finally, we want to feature your STAR state! Please check out our State Transformation in Action Recognition (STAR) Award. The winner will be honored at the closing state dinner at SLC at the historical Greenbrier in West Virginia.

Our members are truly the pot of gold under the rainbow – we are so lucky to have you all!

All the best,
Lindsey G.

Click Here to Read Southern Pulse – March 2024

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Rates of chronic absenteeism are much higher than pre-pandemic levels; Indiana is among the states with a new law to address it

The long-term consequences for habitually missing school are numerous.

A student falls behind in reading comprehension during the pivotal early grades. Social-emotional development is diminished. And it becomes more common that a young person will not graduate on time or will drop out of school entirely.

In every Midwestern state, students are considered “chronically absent” if they miss 10 percent or more of the school year. This attendance problem worsened during the pandemic, and despite a return to in-person learning, rates of chronic absenteeism have yet to drop back down to pre-pandemic levels (see table for the Midwest).

Getting to the root causes

The nonprofit initiative Attendance Works categorizes the root causes of chronic absenteeism, placing them into one of four “buckets” (see graphic).

A student’s socioeconomic status can play a role in how many buckets are filled or the severity of the contributing factors that keep them from school — for example, housing insecurity, community violence or a lack of transportation.

But Attendance Works founder and executive director Hedy Chang adds that all young people are susceptible to having attendance impediments, to becoming disengaged with learning, and to possessing a negative association with the school environment.

“Aspects of the buckets changed during the pandemic,” Chang says.

“[Chronic absenteeism is] deeper and more pervasive in some ways among economically challenged communities. And there are more kids who are not economically challenged who are chronically absent than ever before.”

To turn around this trend, Chang stresses the importance of collecting good, timely data. She points to Connecticut as an example of this approach.

During the pandemic, that state not only adopted a universal definition for both in-person and virtual-learning attendance, but also began collecting attendance data monthly instead of annually.

This new trove of data, plus a commitment to making attendance rates public and promptly addressing any reporting inaccuracies, led to the creation of a home-visit model: the Learner Engagement and Attendance Program.

Visits began being made to the homes of a targeted set of chronically absent students in order to make direct connections with students and their families. Though chronic absenteeism in Connecticut remains high, these interventions helped to reduce rates by almost 3 percentage points between academic years 2022 and 2023.

The visits also have led to student placements in after-school, summer school and other learning-enrichment programs.

Chang has said, too, that these visits “improved family-school relationships, increased feelings of belonging, improved access to resources, and [led to] greater gratitude and appreciation” — all of which can improve attendance.

Indiana’s new interventions

Tackling chronic absenteeism was a top priority this year for Indiana lawmakers.

“Almost one in five Indiana students were chronically absent last year,” Sen. Linda Rogers says. “There were 547 schools where a quarter of the students were chronically absent, and 84 schools where half of the students were chronically absent.”

She was a co-sponsor of this year’s SB 282. Signed into law in March, it requires school districts to develop truancy prevention plans while also creating a framework for future state action.

“Absent students,” those missing five days of school within a 10-week span, will be provided with wraparound services to increase the likelihood of attendance and be referred to counseling or mentoring.

The parents/guardians of “absent students” will be required to take part in a school-initiated conference about the attendance problem. They also will be informed about the legal consequences of a student becoming habitually truant, and may be expected to attend counseling or mentoring with their child.

Students with unique attendance barriers — for example, foster care placement, homelessness and life-threatening illness — will receive additional services.

SB 282 also gives Indiana’s attendance officer (who is appointed by the state secretary of education) a new responsibility: regularly collect ideas and recommendations for legislative action from local school officials, and then provide a yearly report to the General Assembly.

Initially, the bill included a more punitive approach: authorizing juvenile courts to impose civil fines of up to $1,000 on the parents/guardians of habitually truant students.

After receiving feedback from various stakeholders, Rogers says, she and her colleagues amended the bill with a “softer approach.”

Chang says she understands and believes in the idea of holding students and families accountable. But she also suggests that lawmakers be wary of punitive approaches, which often don’t take into account the root causes of absenteeism and also can lead to inequitable treatment.

“You have two kids who are both sick: One kid has a doctor and brings in a doctor’s note, and the other kid doesn’t have access to health care and doesn’t bring a note,” she says. “The kid without the note is going to have the unexcused absence.”

Chang also points to a 2020 report by The Council of State Governments Justice Center on findings from South Carolina. In that state, the CSG study found, the involvement of the juvenile justice system for chronically absent students resulted in even worse attendance rates.

Financial ‘nudge’?

This year in Ohio, lawmakers have been debating the efficacy of a new way to boost attendance — financial incentives.

Under HB 348, the state would establish two pilot programs. The first would provide cash transfers ranging from $25 to $500 to a select group of kindergarten and ninth-grade families whose students maintain an attendance rate of at least 90 percent within a two-week, quarterly or yearlong period.

The second pilot program would award selected students $250 for graduating high school, and an additional $250 for maintaining a grade-point average of 3.0.

“My seventh-grade social studies teacher always told us, ‘Always remember this, kids: Money isn’t everything, but it’s way ahead of whatever’s in second place,’ “ Rep. Bill Seitz, one of the bill’s two primary sponsors, said during a committee hearing on previous incentives that schools have offered to improve attendance.

The attendance-specific pilot program would target schools with the highest quartile of chronic absenteeism in Ohio.

For his committee hearing witness slip, the bill’s other main sponsor, Rep. Dani Isaacsohn, referenced a 2016 study by the National Bureau of Economic Research that evaluated the relationship between cash transfers and attendance and academic performance among a group of freshmen in Chicago Heights, Ill. One of the conclusions of that study was that cash rewards were the most effective, at least in the short term, for students just below the performance measure baseline.

Isaacsohn explains one of the variables this pilot would evaluate, if the bill passes, is the extent of cash as an input.

“[What we want to test is] how many people there are who could be nudged or who could be moved with a cash incentive to shift toward a culture of daily and regular attendance,” he says.

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CSG South Announces Collaboration with Casey Family Programs

Download Official Release Here

Atlanta, Georgia – March 22, 2024 – CSG South has partnered with Casey Family Programs to work with five Southern states to delve deeper into identifying child welfare system approaches that can better serve children and families. This partnership will provide increased knowledge, collaboration, and resources to the participant states and will provide a template for additional work throughout the South.  

The five states selected for this initial project are Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and West Virginia. In the next year, CSG South, with support from Casey Family Programs, will conduct focus groups and learning opportunities with stakeholders working to improve outcomes for children and families involved in or at risk of being involved with child protective services, including legislators and child welfare professionals.  

As part of the project, CSG South will hold webinars to provide training and technical assistance on relevant topics identified in the focus groups and develop products to help inform the rest of the field.  

“It is always our goal to do what we can to help children and families thrive,” said David Sanders, Casey Family Programs’ Executive Vice President for Systems Improvement. “We are grateful for the commitment and partnership of CSG South in seeking innovative practices and policies that can safely reduce the need for foster care, strengthen families, and ultimately help these five states better serve their communities.” 

“CSG South is excited to partner with Casey Family Programs, one of the most respected and well-known child welfare foundations in the country, to examine child welfare systems in five Southern states and collaborate on how to better serve children and families. While this is not a challenge unique to the South, this collaboration will place the South as leaders in addressing this issue,” said Lindsey Gray, CSG South Director.  

About Casey Family Programs 
Casey Family Programs is the nation’s largest operating foundation focused on safely reducing the need for foster care in the United States. Our mission is to provide and improve — and ultimately prevent the need for — foster care. Founded in 1966, Casey Family Programs works in all 50 states, Washington D.C., Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and with tribal nations across North America to influence long-lasting improvements to the well-being of children, families and the communities where they live. We are committed to Building Communities of Hope, a nationwide effort to prevent the need for foster care by supporting families in raising safe, happy and healthy children. 

About CSG South 

Established In 1947, The Council of State Governments Southern Office (CSG South) is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that exists to support members in all three branches of state government. At CSG South we act as an extension of state government, fostering the exchange of insights and ideas to help state officials and staff shape public policy and create problem-solving partnerships.  

The mission of CSG South is to promote and strengthen intergovernmental cooperation among its 15 member states: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia. Predominantly, this is achieved through the ongoing work of CSG South’s seven standing committees and supporting groups.  

Legislative leadership, members, and staff depend on CSG South to identify and analyze solutions for the most prevalent and unique policy issues facing Southern state governments. We facilitate outreach in state capitols, leadership development, staff exchange programs, domestic and international policy delegations, and other efforts to support state policymakers and legislative staff in their work to build stronger, more successful states.  

The Southern Legislative Conference (SLC) is the largest regional gathering of legislative members and staff. SLC boasts an array of well-established programs—focusing on both existing and emerging state government innovations and solutions—providing policymakers and staff diverse opportunities to interact with experts and share their knowledge with colleagues.   

  

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