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SARL Members and Alumni News

Georgia sees some progress on rural broadband

Ledger Enquirer | Posted on August 2, 2017

Last year there was a study committee on rural broadband issues and the growing digital divide facing our state. Residents of metro Atlanta and other densely populated parts of the state don’t witness this problem. Those living in rural Georgia too frequently deal with internet service that is slow, unreliable, or nonexistent.  The main work of the committee was to identify that there are really several major problems under the rural broadband umbrella. Access to service, speed of service, reliability of service, cost of service, and regulatory barriers impeding delivery of service are all subtopics worthy of understanding before any solution set is found.There also remains a question of the proper government role in solving this problem. Purists would suggest that the market will eventually self-correct. The problem with that frame of mind is that an entire generation of Georgians may lose out on education, commerce, and employment opportunities before economies of scale allow for modern broadband service to be deployed throughout the state. The problems of rural broadband deployment continue to be studied by legislators, this year under the much broader “Rural Development Council.” Broadband is being looked at as in context with economic development, education, rural healthcare, and other issues unique to the less developed parts of the state. The point is that all of these issues are interconnected, and solutions for one often depend on solutions for others.

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker signs marijuana rewrite into law

Mass Live | Posted on August 2, 2017

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker on Friday signed the long-awaited compromise marijuana bill into law, even as he voiced his disapproval with the controversial substance that Bay State voters broadly legalized in November 2016. "I don't support this," Baker said to reporters in his ceremonial office at the State House. "I worry terribly about what the consequences over time will be.""But look, the people voted this," he added. "And I think it's really important that we put a program in place that delivered a workable, safe, productive recreational marijuana market for them here in Massachusetts."The rewrite doesn't change personal home-growing and possession limits that went into effect in December 2016.

Dow, DuPont see increased benefits in building sustainable products

Reuters | Posted on August 2, 2017

Chemical companies Dow Chemical Co and DuPont are seeing increased benefits in building sustainable "green" products, as they look for newer avenues of growth and build a stronger connection with millenials. A growing demand for healthy food and environment-friendly detergents was in part responsible for DuPont's better- than-expected second-quarter results on Tuesday."In the traditional chemicals (business) there is not a lot of innovation happening. They have to find new innovation drivers for competitive edge and biology is in that space," Bernstein analyst James Oxgaard said. "It's the millenials who are driving this demand." Consumer demand for healthier products should result in more sales of products such as probiotics, DuPont said on a call with analysts.Its Danisco business, which makes probiotic cultures and emulsifiers used in baking, helped boost margins in its nutrition and health unit by nearly 1 percentage point. Apart from food, both Dow and DuPont are working on building products such as detergents that do not need hot water to clean, or paints that remove formaldehyde - a chemical linked to certain cancers - from the air.

Lawmakers Strike Back Against Voter-Approved Ballot Measures

Pew Charitable Trust | Posted on August 1, 2017

State legislators across the country fought back this year against a recent surge in citizen-generated ballot initiatives by modifying or scrapping voter-approved laws and passing new laws to make it harder for people to put measures on the ballot in the first place. South Dakota state legislators scrapped voter-approved campaign finance and lobbying restrictions. Maine lawmakers repealed a new tax on the wealthy. And in Florida, lawmakers decided a new law legalizing medical marijuana wouldn’t allow users to smoke it — prompting a lawsuit by one of the primary backers of the initiative. There were 76 citizen-initiated measures on the ballot in 2016, the highest number in a decade. The renewed interest in 2016 stemmed in part from legislatures’ reluctance to deal with controversial issues like marijuana legalization and minimum wage hikes.In addition, lower voter turnout in the 2014 elections meant that fewer signatures were needed to get a ballot issue before voters in some states. This year, some states took steps to make the ballot initiative process more difficult. “The intent of progressives in initiating initiatives and referenda [historically] was to circumvent legislatures that were not doing the people’s will,” Cunningham said. “Now referenda are often used by interests that can’t get something through the legislative process — hearings, amendments, debates — but can put a measure on the ballot and, by virtue of campaign spending, have a pretty good chance to get voters to pass it."

WV agriculture commissioner revives advisory board

West Virginia Gazette Mail | Posted on August 1, 2017

The state Commissioner of Agriculture is bringing back the West Virginia Agriculture Advisory Board with the goal of setting up a strategic plan to revitalize production in the state. Commissioner Kent Leonhardt said though the board is required to meet quarterly under state code, neither he nor his staffers can remember this going on whatsoever. The board will consist of the commissioner, the governor and the director of the cooperative extension service of West Virginia University. The board will also appoint a steering committee to further its goals.

In Conversation with #WomeninAg: Anne Hazlett

USDA | Posted on August 1, 2017

First and foremost, I want to assist Secretary Perdue in executing his vision for creating an environment where rural communities can prosper.   In that, I am specifically focused on taking action to improve the quality of life in rural America-- from greater access to broadband connectivity and medical care to distance learning.  Two issues that I am particularly passionate about are leadership and capacity development in small towns and assisting rural communities in responding to the growing nightmare of opioid misuse and the many underlying challenges that have contributed to this issue. Beyond these external goals, I would like to foster greater synergy between Rural Development and the other mission areas in USDA as well as other partners focused on rural programs within the federal family.  For example, how can Rural Development work more closely with other agencies to address challenges like food insecurity and child summer hunger.

Lawmakers Overwhelmed At Ga. Rural Health Care Meeting

WABE | Posted on July 29, 2017

Members of the Georgia House Rural Development Council said they were overwhelmed during a meeting at Bainbridge State College where they heard from rural health care leaders.  Jimmy Lewis wanted a group of rural Georgia lawmakers to feel for themselves how he said rural hospital CEOs feel every day. Lewis, the CEO of a network of rural hospitals named Hometown Health, flew through slides with complicated payment formulas and national headlines about the tens of millions of people who could lose insurance under federal policy proposals."While you look at how to fix rural hospitals you need to see how overwhelming and just completely devastating the current situation is for a rural hospital simply to survive,” he said. "Sitting in on a hospital closure is worse than going to a community funeral,” As the U.S. Senate debates health care, state lawmakers are trying to figure out what they can do. Follow the example of states like Oklahoma and Texas to get more federal money, suggested Gregg Magers, who makes a living saving hospitals in states like Georgia that haven’t expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. He’s the interim CEO of Memorial Hospital and Manor in Bainbridge.

Food Sovereignty

Maine Public | Posted on July 27, 2017

Maine has a new law that allows towns to regulate local food production without requiring state and federal rules.  We’ll learn what this means for Mainers and how it ties into the national food sovereignty movement. 

Reluctant States Raise Gas Taxes to Repair Roads

Pew Charitable Trust | Posted on July 27, 2017

Motorists don’t like to pay more at the pump, and lawmakers worry that if they raise taxes on gasoline, they’ll be voted out of office. But states rely on those taxes to build and maintain roads and bridges. With revenue lagging, those structures have been falling into disrepair in many places. Despite the tough politics, 26 states have raised taxes on motor fuels in the past four years. The eight states that raised taxes this year include Tennessee and South Carolina, deep-red states dominated by fiscal conservatives.Lawmakers say the sorry condition of their state’s roads and bridges compelled them to act.

NJ Telemedicine Law Delayed By Concerns About Veterinarian Use

mHealth Intelligence | Posted on July 27, 2017

New Jersey’s new telemedicine regulations are being held up as state officials try to determine whether they pertain to veterinarians. Gov. Chris Christie met this week with healthcare and veterinary officials to discuss the ramifications of S.291, which awaits his signature after unanimous passage last month by state legislators.The bill would, among other things, enable healthcare providers to use telehealth to establish a doctor-patient relationship, ensure the same standards of care as an in-person visit, and ensure coverage and payment parity for private payers, state Medicaid and some other health plans.While those guidelines are important for healthcare providers, they pose problems for veterinarians. And the issue could crop up in other states where telemedicine legislation doesn’t clearly define a difference between those practicing healthcare on humans and those treating animals."They never thought of veterinarians when they wrote this bill," Rick Alampi, executive director of the New Jersey Veterinary Medical Association, told the Veterinary Information Network . “The bill, which authorizes ‘the provision of health care services through telemedicine and telehealth’ governs such services provided by veterinarians, as ‘[h]ealth care providers,’ fails to acknowledge or provide for issues specific to veterinary medicine,” Nancy Halpern, an attorney with Fox Rothschild, LLP, recently wrote in JD Supra. “For example, several provisions require the ‘patient’s request’ before providing health care services through telemedicine. Clearly animal patients cannot request treatment or provide consent. The bill fails to distinguish a ‘patient’ from a ‘client’ or ‘animal owner’ or to permit such services at the request of a client/owner for the patient which is the fundamental way in which services are provided in a veterinary practice.”