Southern Pulse Newsletter, March 2022

As a legislator, March can be one of the busiest times for you and your team as budgets are finalized, bills are shuttled out of committees, and the crescendo towards your sine die gets nearer. We hope you are taking time out of your days to pause, breathe, and remember the constituents you fight for every day. Across the South, we thank you for your dedication and service. 
 
This month, four more wonderful states were up for a visit from our CSG South team. Georgia, Mississippi, Missouri, and South Carolina, we come prepared with answers to your questions and friendly faces eager to get you what you need. Feel free to stop us in the halls and say, “Hi” if we haven’t already scheduled a meeting. 
 
Here at the CSG South headquarters, Spring has arrived and it’s not just the warm weather that’s heating up our office – it’s the official launch of our brand-new website! Complete with a cleaner interface, easily navigable menus, and full information on all our past policy resources and future developments, we’re proud to present our online glow-up. Be sure to check it out at csgsouth.org.  We hope you love it!
 
With a new website, comes the official opening of the 2022 Southern Legislative Conference (SLC) registration – and we are thrilled to see those registrations rolling in!  
 
CSG South Chairman and Oklahoma Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Treat and his incredible staff have been hard at work curating a bold and unique SLC 2022 experience. We can’t wait to join them in just a few short months as a part of our April state visits, and then again in July for the biggest regional legislative conference in the nation- SLC 2022.  
 
As always, we thank all our members for the long hours they put in each and every day for their communities. If you have any questions or need assistance, our team is ready to help. 

Southern Pulse, March 2022

The post Southern Pulse Newsletter, March 2022 appeared first on CSG South.

Innovative Resource: New CSG Database Shares State ARPA Utilization and Additional Resources for State Leaders

One year ago today, President Joe Biden signed the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, a $1.9 trillion economic relief package that was intended to address the need for short-term economic relief and provided long-term investments for economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Enacted a year after the pandemic was declared in March of the previous year, the American Rescue Plan included $350 billion in new funding for state, local, territorial and tribal governments through the Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Fund. Within this fund, $195 billion is distributed directly to state governments and the District of Columbia through one or two disbursements. States must obligate this funding by Dec. 31, 2024, and expend it by Dec. 31, 2026.

In an effort to help states make decisions on how to spend this influx of money, The Council of State Governments has worked over the past year to provide timely resources and analysis on the ARPA.

CSG launched a website dedicated to fiscal policy updates in March 2021 and immediately began building a database that captures state utilization of these funds in order to help state leaders better understand restrictions and opportunities.

Using this large influx of funds to maximize economic recovery presents both opportunities and challenges for states. Recognizing the desire for our state leaders to learn and share best practices, CSG conducted an extensive 50-state scan of the allocation of ARPA funds, focused on the State and Local Fiscal Recovery Fund. State ARPA allocation data was collected by analyzing state actions, enacting legislation appropriating ARPA funding, and State Recovery Plan Performance Reports submitted to the U.S. Department of the Treasury. In collaboration with the National Association of State Budget Officers, a CSG affiliated organization, the state allocations were reviewed and verified by state budget offices.

Currently, the CSG State ARPA Utilization Database has all 50 states reporting and includes actions through October 2021. This data is actively being updated as new information reports. View the database at csgovts.info/arpadatabase.

“We hope state leaders will use the State ARPA Utilization Database to learn and share best practices which will help states make informed decisions that will lead to state economic recovery,” said Sarah Needler, director of research for The Council of State Governments.

This database includes information on categories of spending, legislative authority, summary of fund allocation, authorizing language, distributing entity, distribution method and more.

A few key findings from the states include:

  • The majority of state funds have been dedicated to the categories of Revenue and Taxation (22%) and Management and Administration (20%).
  • More than half of states have invested in the categories of Management and Administration (33 states), Revenue and Taxation (28 states) and Economic and Community Development (25 states).
  • States have dedicated funds to over 69 programs focused on Public Health and over 47 programs focused on Economic Development.

“State leaders are looking for opportunities to maximize the impact of this influx of federal funding,” Needler said. “We have received a broad range of requests from policymakers on the allowable uses of State and Local Fiscal Recovery funds, including inquiries about using funds for food pantries, trails and parks, behavioral health, workforce development and more.”

While there are some restrictions on the use of these funds, states have considerable discretion in deciding how best to use this funding to meet the needs of their states.

State allocations from State and Local Fiscal Recovery Fund can be used to:

  • Support the public health response.
  • Address the negative economic impacts caused by the public health emergency.
  • Serve the hardest-hit communities and families.
  • Replace lost public sector revenue.
  • Invest in water, sewer and broadband infrastructure.
  • Ensure premium pay for essential workers.

Resources, including analysis of various components of the American Rescue Plan and enacted federal support for states, are available on the CSG Fiscal Policy website. The CSG research team is also accepting requests from state leaders who have specific questions about the American Rescue Plan or other state recovery efforts. State leaders can submit questions via email to [email protected].

###

About The Council of State Governments: Founded in 1933, The Council of State Governments is our nation’s only organization serving all three branches of state government. CSG is a region-based forum that fosters the exchange of insights and ideas to help state officials shape public policy. This offers unparalleled regional, national and international opportunities to network, develop leaders, collaborate and create problem-solving partnerships. Learn more at www.csg.org.

State Responses to Crisis in Europe

By Ishara Nanayakkara

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24 and the ensuing war between the two countries have spurred global outcry. In response to the rapidly changing situation, the United States recently announced a series of unprecedented sanctions on Russian imports and investments, in alignment with decisions by allies in Europe and across the world.

Coinciding with federal efforts, state policymakers have taken bipartisan legal and regulatory action. Most measures involve stopping the importation of Russian alcohol, such as in Arkansas and Iowa, and divesting from Russian assets, as is underway in California, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. Multiple state legislatures also have passed resolutions expressing their strong support for Ukraine and endorsing the response of the federal government (Table 1). Some of these resolutions, such as those in Missouri, South Carolina, and South Dakota, alsoencourage the federal government to provide weapons and military assistance to the government of Ukraine.

In Arkansas, alcohol distributors are no longer acquiring alcoholic beverages from Russia “in an effort to support the U.S…sanctions upon Russia,” according to the director of the Department of Finance and Administration. While existing stock will not be destroyed, alcohol distributors will not import additional product. Governor Asa Hutchinson is urging private companies in the state to consider these sanctions. Governors of Iowa and New Hampshire have followed suit and ordered the removal of Russian-produced alcohol products from their state-run stores and wholesale lists.

In Missouri, Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe announced a bill that would require entities receiving public funding to suspend contracts with Russia. He also urged all businesses to stop selling Russian products and offered stores lists of alternative items. Strategic divestment of Russian holdings also is being discussed. Other states working to remove Russian alcohol and other products from shelves and halt imports include Tennessee and Virginia.

The second major sanction involves withdrawing investments in Russian assets. Earlier this month, Connecticut Treasurer Shawn Wooden made the decision to zero-out Russian investments from retirement plans and pension funds. Current government debt issued by Russia and investments in Russian companies add up to $218 million in the state. While Wooden’s motivation is to support Ukraine, he also sees this action as important to “protecting the long-term viability of [Connecticut’s] investments” and economic stability, as the national and global sanctions imposed against Russia make it a volatile market for investment. With similar intentions, California Senate Majority Leader Mike McGuire announced that bipartisan legislation would soon be introduced to divest from all Russian assets, totaling over $1 billion.  

The Idaho House State Affairs Committee voted recently on a resolution to sell $1.2 million of investments in Russia from Endowment Funds and roughly $300,000 in worker’s compensation funds. Colorado’s pension fund will remove $7.2 million from a Russian bank, Sberbank, which holds the majority of the $8 million Colorado has invested in Russian-owned companies. Similarly, New York’s Police Pension fund is in the process of withdrawing over $42 million in securities investments by Russian companies. Other states in the process of divesting Russian investments include Indiana, Kansas, Maryland, Montana, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, and Virginia.

In addition to these tangible maneuvers, multiple states have made symbolic gestures to show support for Ukraine. Notable sites such as Washington D.C.’s The Kennedy Center, San Francisco City Hall, The Lincoln Center in New York, Big River Crossing in Memphis and Niagara Falls have been illuminated in blue and yellow: the colors of the Ukrainian flag. Maryland went a step further and, on February 28, terminated ties with the Leningrad region in Russia. These sister-city ties were established to promote peace through local government connections in 1993.

Table 1. Passed and proposed legislation expressing support for Ukraine

StateBillStatusSummary
AlaskaSenate Joint Resolution 25In ProgressSanctions and export controls
ArkansasSenate Concurrent Resolution 2In ProgressEndorses sanctions and supports withdrawing investments
CaliforniaSenate Bill 1328In ProgressWithdraws investments
ColoradoSenate Joint Resolution 22-004Enacted, March 1Endorses sanctions
DelawareHouse Resolution 53Enacted, March 8Economic sanctions
GeorgiaSenate Resolution 603In ProgressCommits to imposing sanctions and divesting investments
HawaiiHouse Resolution 32In ProgressAll business and government contracts with the Russian and Belarusian governments and contractors to cease, along with all work-related travel to Russia or Belarus; all sister-city or state relations will be terminated
IdahoHouse Joint Memorial 6Enacted March 8Endorses sanctions
IllinoisHouse Joint Resolution 72In ProgressSanctions and coordination of resources for Ukrainian refugees
MarylandHouse Bill 1482In ProgressEndorses sanctions and supports withdrawing investments
MichiganSenate Resolution 111Enacted March 1Endorses economic sanctions
MissouriHouse Resolution 75In ProgressEndorses strong sanctions and the provision of weapons
New JerseySenate Resolution 88  In ProgressEndorses economic sanctions
OhioHouse Resolution 195Enacted March 2Expresses support for Ukraine
PennsylvaniaHouse Resolution 175In ProgressDivests funds and severs ties with banks, brokerage firms and investment companies
Rhode IslandSenate Resolution 2429Enacted March 1Supports federal response
South CarolinaSenate Bill 1112In ProgressSupports financial sanctions and the barring of Russian planes from entering European Union and Canadian airspace; Encourages the provision of weapons of Ukrainian Armed Forces
South DakotaSenate Resolution 702In ProgressEndorses strong sanctions and military assistance
TennesseeSenate Joint Resolution 1147In ProgressEndorses an import ban, divesting investments, and sanctions
VirginiaSenate Joint Resolution 189In ProgressEndorses economic sanctions
West VirginiaSenate Bill 730In ProgressWithdraws investments

State of the Union Takeaways for State Leaders 

by Bill Swinford 

In his March 1 State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress, President Joe Biden presented a number of policy plans and proposals. Among those matters most important to state policymakers, the president:

— Noting “…most Americans and most of the country can now go mask-free…”, announced an updated federal approach to the COVID-19 pandemic, including:

  • Continuing to protect against and treat the virus (including making antiviral pills available to anyone who tests positive at a pharmacy — called “test to treat”).
  • Preparing for possible new variants.
  • Preventing renewed shutdowns of schools and businesses.
  • Expanding availability of vaccines worldwide.

— Highlighted portions of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act:

  • “We’ll build a national network of 500,000 electric vehicle charging stations, begin to replace the poisonous lead pipes — so every child — every American — has clean water to drink at home and at school.
  • “We’re going to provide affordable high-speed internet for every American — rural, urban, suburban and tribal communities.
  • “Four thousand projects have already been announced…
  • “We will start fixing over 65,000 miles of highway and 1,500 bridges in disrepair.”

— Announced proposals designed to reduce inflation, including:

  • Investing in U.S.-based manufacturing.
  • Addressing supply chain challenges.
  • Subsidizing child care and elder care.
  • Reducing prescription drug prices (in part by letting Medicare negotiate drug prices).
  • Cutting energy prices through climate change initiatives:
    • “…investments and tax credits to weatherize your homes and businesses to be energy efficient.
    • “double America’s clean energy production in solar, wind, and so much more.
    • “lower the price of electric vehicles…”

— Called for passage of “…the Bipartisan Innovation Act sitting in Congress that will make record investments in emerging technologies and American manufacturing.”

— Called on Congress to strengthen privacy protections across social media platforms. As noted in the recently released CSG Capitol Ideas magazine, “Technology companies (“Big Tech”) regularly collect millions of points of data on an individual. From online searches to social media posts, activity is tracked and catalogued to create a profile of an individual which facilitates tailoring the ads, sponsored content and recommendations to which they become exposed…In 2019, a study by the Pew Research Center found 81% of people believe they are unable to control the data collected by companies.”

Associates in Action: CVS Health Provides 10,000 Free Lyft Rides to CVS Pharmacy Locations and Community Clinics 

by Victor Montgomery 

CVS Health, a CSG Associate, recently released a report highlighting the value it brought communities in 2021 through its enterprise response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Among other efforts, CVS Health partnered with Lyft’s universal vaccine access campaign to provide approximately 10,000 free rides for underrepresented minorities to vaccination appointments. Lack of transportation access and an inadequate number of pharmacies are the main practical barriers fueling health disparities in communities of color, according to health experts and research from the CDC

To help reduce travel times to clinics and pharmacies, CVS Health used the CDC’s Social Vulnerability Index to identify historically underserved areas and closely collaborated with nonprofit organizations, including Easterseals, the Black Church Network and the YMCA to establish 14 community clinics and 18 “pop-up” clinics across nine states. Thanks to these efforts and others, CVS Health leads the nation in both COVID-19 diagnostic testing and vaccination, with approximately 32 million tests and 59 million vaccinations administered in 2021. 

State and Local Leaders to Congress: Increase Flexibility for Existing Covid Relief Funds

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 

Friday, February 25, 2022 

MEDIA CONTACTS: 

USCM: Sara Durr, [email protected] 

NGA: Eric Wohlschlegel, [email protected] 

NCSL: Mick Bullock, [email protected] 

NLC: Olivia Hodge, [email protected] 

NACo: Paul Guequierre, [email protected] 

CSG: Blair Hess, [email protected] 

ICMA: Elizabeth Kellar, [email protected]  

State and Local Leaders to Congress: Increase Flexibility for Existing Covid Relief Funds  

Bipartisan Language Would Allow Existing Funds to go Towards Infrastructure, Disaster Relief 

Washington, DC – The seven leading organizations that represent state and local governments —The U.S. Conference of Mayors, National Governors Association, National Conference of State Legislatures, The Council of State Governments, International City/County Management Association, National Association of Counties, and National League of Cities—have sent a letter to congressional leaders urging them to include the bipartisan State, Local Tribal, and Territorial Fiscal Recovery, Infrastructure, and Disaster Relief Flexibility Act (S. 3011/H.R. 5735)  in the omnibus appropriations package for the 2022 fiscal year. As Congress works to conclude this full-year spending bill, the state and local government groups are calling for more flexibility in how they can invest American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds that were already provided, allowing this critical aid to be directed to infrastructure and disaster relief.  

The full text of the letter can be viewed here or found below:  

On behalf of the nation’s state, territory, and local governments, we urge inclusion of the bipartisan State, Local Tribal, and Territorial Fiscal Recovery, Infrastructure, and Disaster Relief Flexibility Act (S. 3011/H.R. 5735) in the Fiscal Year 2022 omnibus appropriations package. This legislation, approved by unanimous consent in the Senate on October 19, 2021 would provide additional flexibility under the Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds (CSLFRF) that was included in the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).  

Since enactment of ARPA, we have been working collaboratively with our respective memberships, the White House and the U.S. Department of the Treasury to implement the $350 billion provided under the law. We believe that this new legislation would both streamline and strengthen this historic program in a number of key ways, including:  

  •  Allowing the greater of $10 million or 30 percent of the total ARPA allocation provided to a state or local government to be used under a new, separate provision that further allows infrastructure- related activities authorized under federal surface transportation laws or Title I of the Housing and Community Development Act of 1974.  
  • Allowing CSLFRF funding to be used to provide, “emergency relief from natural disasters or the negative economic impacts of natural disasters, including temporary emergency housing, food assistance, financial assistance for lost wages, or other immediate needs.”  

America’s state, territory, and local governments have been engaged in our nation’s response to COVID-19 since the earliest days; and providing these governments with flexible, essential financial resources is the surest way to see that our nation’s preparedness and responsivity continues. As intergovernmental partners, we thank you for the support provided through ARPA and respectfully ask you to include S. 3011/H.R. 5735 in the FY 2022 omnibus appropriations package to help achieve our shared goals of mitigating, responding to and fostering a transformational recovery from this unprecedented national pandemic.  

### 

State and Local Leaders Urge Congress to Complete New Spending Bill 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, February 8, 2022 

State and Local Leaders Urge Congress to Complete New Spending Bill
Full Appropriations Measure is Critical to Implementation of Bipartisan Infrastructure Law 

Washington, DC –Today the leading organizations that represent state and local governments —The U.S. Conference of Mayors, National Governors Association, National Conference of State Legislatures, The Council of State Governments, International City/County Management Association, National Association of Counties, and National League of Cities—sent a letter to congressional leaders urging them to complete a full appropriations bill for fiscal year 2022. In the letter, the groups call for an end to governing by stopgap measures so that important state and local priorities can be fully funded. The letter notes that important economic recovery programs, including those in the bipartisan infrastructure bill, cannot be fully implemented without an updated spending bill. The groups write, in part:  

On behalf of the nation’s state, territory, and local governments, we strongly urge Congress to swiftly pass appropriations for fiscal year 2022. 

If lawmakers do not agree on dedicated FY 2022 funding, many programs, including those authorized by the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA/P.L. 117-58), will be constrained by last year’s levels. Many programs designed to bolster economic recovery and support critical state, territory, and local infrastructure projects will be unnecessarily delayed or severely hampered. 

For example, without action from Congress, states, territories, local governments, and public transit agencies will be unable to access the IIJA’s roughly 20 percent funding increase for highway formula programs and more than 30 percent increase for public transit formula programs, along with any new transportation initiatives that Congress provided for in the IIJA. Additionally, the U.S. Department of Transportation has estimated that roughly $45 billion in competitive resources provided for in the first year of the IIJA will go unrealized should Congress fail to enact a federal spending law for FY 2022. 

See here for the full letter.