Above the Fold 04.16.09

Govs., Mayors, vendors are for jazzed for broadband funds…It’s (the new) Electric…Putting an end to illicit Internet drug buying…A bad state to be in need of mental health…Texas needs computers or something…And paying for what you get in TX…12 million spent on Minn. senate seatBroadband has been top of mind this week for many state and federal legislators. BusinessWeek caught up with some eager state leaders who are hoping to use stimulus money to speed up their Internet infrastructure. Colorado’s director of the Office of Economic Development & International Trade, Donald M. Elliman Jr., says “It’s a huge deal for us. We will be pretty aggressive in how we seek that funding.” Meanwhile Virginia CIO Aneesh Chopra says their looking to bag nearly $100 million to help spread broadband to every business in the commonwealth. Cities and private vendors like AT&T and Verizon are also looking to cash in on the over $7 billion broadband purse.

And now for some electrifying factoids – A 48-megawatt solar farm is underway in Nevada, according to a report from Dow Jones. The project will be called Copper Mountain and Sempra Generation will build it near Boulder City, Nevada. California, Arizona and Nevada are actively looking for renewable energy contracts, the report states, because they are bound by state rules to use renewable sources for one-fifth of their retail power by 2010. The Arizona Republic reports that the Maricopa Association of Governments will partner with Nissan and Scottsdale-based Ecotality Inc. to set up charging stations for electric and electric-hybrid vehicles along the Valley. We know the consumer demand is there,” said Mark Perry, director of product planning and strategy for Nissan North America. And for all you waiting in frantic anticipation, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has released their roadmap for producing Smart Grid standards, Government Computer News reports.

Ohio is the first state to announce they are going to share prescription-drug histories of residents with other states, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports. The first state Ohio will share data with is Kentucky, but the Ohio Pharmacy Board hopes to reach data-sharing deals with other states as well. “When we’re able to share live data, physicians will be able to get better information on patients and hopefully discourage people from going to multiple doctors,” Danna Droz of the Ohio Pharmacy Board said. Drug-related deaths in Ohio rose 304 percent from 1999 to 2007 the Plain Dealer said. Meanwhile, Government Technology reports that new Drug Enforcement Administration regulations implementing the Ryan Haight Act went into affect on April 13 and the public has 60 days to submit comments to the DEA. “The Ryan Haight Act was named for an 18-year-old who died after overdosing on a prescription painkiller he obtained on the Internet from a medical doctor he never saw,” the GovTech report explains.

West Virginia has the dubious distinction of being known as the worst states for treating the mentally ill, the New York Times reports, and Governor Joe Manchin III is trying to fix it. A bill under debate in the state senate would add $6 million to the $162 million the state currently spends on mental health care. But some in the State Department of Health object because a provision in the bill would send most of that money to thirteen privately run regional mental health centers in the state. “What it amounts to is an earmark,” John Law, a department spokesman, said.

A major health network in Texas is looking to create a $150 million electronic health records system, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports. JPS Health Network board members are expected to vote today on a plan to overhaul medical records for $150 million and they’ll be deciding whether to pay $1.9 million to find someone to do it. According to Jamey Pennington, a JPS spokesman, that if JPS started this project, they would be in line for $11 million in incentives from the Recovery Act. “It’s not going to be an overnight process, and it is going to take a major investment on our part. But the benefits are going to be tremendous in terms of improving quality and patient satisfaction,” he said.

Also from the Fort Worth Star-Telegram is a report that state officials are trying to eliminate bonuses for those who turn in negative numbers for state investment pools. “You’re going to give a bonus to people who produce negative numbers?” asked State Board of Education member Rick Agosto, who is on the finance committee for the state’s $18 billion textbook fund. The trouble started when investment staff at the University of Texas received $2 million in bonuses for turning in a 27% drop in the fund’s value.

Finally – the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports that the Senate race between Republican Norm Coleman and Democrat Al Franken will never, ever be over. After Franken was declared the victor by a three-judge panel, Coleman has said he’ll appeal to the State Supreme Court (and then on to the National Supreme Court?). The Tribune reports today that an FEC filing shows the two candidates have spent $12 since the November election. No word yet on how much the state of Minnesota has paid, but those numbers will surely send you running for stress ball.

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