Above the Fold 04.09.09

Foreign terrorists watchers of Fox’s 24 ?…Unemployment computers get a raise…States have renewed interest in renewables…Next Gen DMV system doesn’t pass driving test…Kentucky thinks Christmas will come in July…N.H. plays stash with duty-free customer info…Trans-gender bill passes N.H. houseIn case you’ve been under a rock the last 24 hours, the Wall Street Journal broke a story about foreign hackers breaking into the electricity grid and news has spread like wild fire. For our poignant commentary, we’ll focus on a storyline that has a bit more gravitas – Texas isn’t worried. The Houston Chronicle reports today that the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which operates about 85 percent of the state’s electricity, is ready to tango with any cyber spies. “We are constantly modifying and upgrading our protections as technology advances, business requirements change and new threats emerge,” said Bob Kahn, CEO of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas.

Bogged and overwhelmed state unemployment computer systems and phone lines are in for a reprieve, USA Today reports. Some $500 million from the Recovery Act is set to address the dozens of state unemployment systems, and the aid is separate from the package’s $7 billion for enhanced employment benefits so some Republican’s will still be able to “sleep at night” if they take this money.

New York Times Green Inc. columnist Kate Galbraith says renewable energy legislation is sweeping through a host of different state houses, looking to take advantage of clean-energy provisions in the Recovery Act. States like Texas, New Mexico, Utah, Kansas, and Nebraska all have pending legislation due for discussion in the coming weeks.

After seven years of work and $21 million in spending, Louisiana is kicking their DMV computer system to the curb, reports the Associated Press. The company contracted to perform the work, Unisys Corp., was told in January by State Police Superintendent Col. Mike Edmonson that they had better pack up shop. “I simply was not going to spend another nickel. Now, we’re probably going to end up in some sort of litigation with the company, but I feel comfortable we’re going to end up on top of this,” Edmonson told the Louisiana legislature.

Kentucky is hoping to put stimulus money to work fast, the Louisville Courier-Journal reports. Money for new police stations, expansion of jails, and hospital renovations and upgrades are on the state’s wish list. Michael Hicks, director of the Center for Business and Economic Research at Ball State University, which helped compile the list, said, “The thing that shocked me most — more than the number — is what I judge … to be the high quality of the projects.”

States with nuclear facilities are not happy about the likely demise of Yucca Mountain – a federal repository for nuclear waste management, according to Greenwire. Little action has been taken at the federal level, but state legislatures from places like Maine, Minnesota, Michigan and South Carolina have proposed the own solutions to either reopen the facility or invent an entirely different resolution.

New Hampshire is playing stash with their tax dollars. The Boston Globe reports today that New Hampshire has unanimously passed a bill that would prohibit retailers from disclosing private customer data to other states for collecting taxes – N.H. doesn’t have a sales tax and lures many out-of-town customers who want the duty-free goods. “It’s not something that’s really the vendor’s job, to find out where someone is going to use something they buy,” said New Hampshire Senator Peter Bragdon.

Rounding out today’s news brief is another story from New Hampshire. The Union Leader reports that a trans-gender rights bill passed the state House by one vote. Bill 415 allows “individuals to bring actions at the Human Rights Commission when they feel they have been discriminated against on the basis of their sexual identity, or the way they express it, such as with their clothing or makeup,” the paper said. Opposition is fierce and most expect this story to gain speed in light of stories coming from Iowa and Vermont.

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