Above the Fold 04.23.09

Broadband in Appalachia…Texas goes solar in a big way…Climate change no way to approach sustainability…Money for the bean counters…The big 12 spar over deadly disease facility…Ohio no longer validates parking…State ID requirements given ‘Real’ hard thought…Being bitten by COBRA…

The Washington Post today profiles a piece of rural Appalachia to ask the question, do jobs follow broadband access? Two similar towns in Virgina, Lebanon and Rose Hill, both received broadband grants. But Lebanon’s high school diploma rate was around 71% whereas only 29% of Rose Hill residents had high school diplomas. The result? 700 jobs with average salaries of $50,000 with Northrop Grumman and CGI go to Lebanon.

The Texas legislature is on the verge of approving $500 over five years for a rebate program to encourage solar-power – the largest subsidy program for solar-power in the U.S. According to the Wall Street Journal, the bill also mandated that utilities use that extra solar-power by increasing the amount of electricity derived from renewable sources other than wind by nearly 60%. “These new bills would bring [Texas] into the forefront of states that have solar incentives and possibly help make them a leading producer of solar electricity,” said Glen Andersen, who tracks renewable energy for the National Conference of State Legislatures.

The New York Times blog Green Inc. reported that the National League of Cities organized a “Green Cities Conference” to address sustainability issues for state and local city officials.According to the blog, one of the points driven home by the conference is that urging people to care about climate change, and overlooking the more tangible benefits of sustainability will lead you nowhere. “If you go at it as a climate change issue, you won’t get anywhere,” said Christine McEntee, an executive vice president at the American Institute of Architects. “I believe it’s a huge moral problem, but not everybody does,” she said. “But everyone wants to see their energy bills lower and see daylight in their buildings and have more walking opportunities.”

A bill being considered by the Oversight and Government Reform Committee will provide additional funding to state auditors to oversee their respective slices of the Recovery Act’s $787 billion. Federal Computer Week reports that about $325 million is being dedicated to oversight efforts at the federal level, but specific amounts for state auditors were not available. But, Representative Edolphus Towns (D-N.Y.) knows they need help. “Not initially providing funds for state auditors under the [law] was an omission that should be rectified,” Towns said.

A fight is brewing between Texas and Kansas over who gets to have a laboratory filled with deadly biomedical pathogens. The Department of Homeland Security awarded a facility in Manhattan, Kansas the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility, but officials in Texas who lost the bid are now suing. The Texas Biological and Agro-Defense Consortium argues that political connections via Kansas Senators Pat Roberts and Sam Brownback guided a DHS official’s decision. The Texas facility would have been in San Antonio. The San Antonio Express-News broke the news Tuesday and has more details in today’s paper.

Ohio Governor Ted Strickland has frozen all nonessential purchas by state agencies today, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports. In an effort to keep balance sheets on the level through June 30, Strickland has stopped purchases like office supplies, BlackBerrys and some travel. “Our commitment to live within our means has required difficult choices and belt-tightening in an already austere budget environment,” Strickland said in a statement.

Stateline.org reports that legislation being circulated on Capitol Hill will give states more flexibility to comply with a four-year federal program called Real ID. The program requires states to issue more secure driver’s licenses by the end of this year, but state leaders argue they don’t have the money or the technology to comply. “We’ve been, over the last weeks, meeting with governors of both parties to look at a way to repeal Real ID and substitute something else that…accomplishes some of the same goals. And we hope to announce something on that soon,” said DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano.

Insurance for those who don’t qualify for COBRA after losing their job doesn’t exist, USA Today reports. People who wish to continue their job’s health insurance can do so if their state participates in COBRA, they have enough money to cover the $300 per month and are already in generally good health. “My health care between now and age 65 is like paying another mortgage”, says one person who doesn’t qualify for COBRA and is looking at $828 per month.

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