Above the Fold 05.01.09

British take aim at Rhode Island…Ill. contractor asks for $12 million for next week’s allowance…VA health department asks neighbors if they saw that same blip in their computer screens…States fresh out of H1N1 vaccines, ask the DOD if they’ll spot you a shot…N.Y. consolidates info security systems…

The cheeky British Economist magazine takes a look at the smallest state in the union’s big economic problems in its latest edition. The story looks at Rhode Island’s poor job and housing market, where one in ten is enrolled in food assistance program. It also examines how people are “leaving the state in droves,” and others are being taxed out. “If things don’t look up,” the article mourns, “the state may reconsider a 1971 proposal to impose a $2 levy on each act of sexual intercourse performed in the state. Only men would pay.”

Prescription-drug sellers will have to register certain sales with a statewide database, pending Florida Governor Crist’s signature, the Orlando Sentinel reports. The legislation was prompted by a report indicating that three times as many people in Florida die from prescription-drug overdoses than overdosess of illegal drugs. Clinic owners worry the legislation will make it hard for them to operate, or punish them for those who receive medication legally and then sell to others.

A contractor who manages the Illinois State Toll Highway system is asking for $12 million more from the state, but some legislators are questioning the request. The Chicago Daily Herald reports Electronic Transaction Consultants run the tollway’s I-PASS program, and they say they need the extra toward the “Spring Cleaning” program – a program that gives I-PASS users a partial break on late fees. ETC has been under fire before for a thirteen month delay in issuing violations that resulted in thousands of motorists being hit with hefty late fees because of the time lag.

The Virginia Department of Health Professions has been hacked, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch. All 36 computer servers were shut down after a message was received about a probable hack. “Part of the system may have been hacked,” said Sandra Whitley Ryals, director of the state agency that oversees licensing of health professionals, including doctors, nurses, dentists, funeral directors, physical therapists, social workers and others. “We are trying to verify that. That is why the precautionary measure was done to shut the entire system down.” State employees are working with Northrop Grumman to determine the extent of the security breach.

The Washington Post reports that most states are low on their swine-flu vaccination reserves. he District, Maryland and 26 other states are 10 million dosages short of the levels that the federal government has determined they should have in their stockpiles for a pandemic, including Tamiflu and Relenza. As with everything though, the poor states do not have enough money to pay for hoards of vaccinations. “We purchased as much as we could with the funds we had,” said Dena Iverson, spokeswoman for the District’s health department.

Government Technology yesterday reported that New York state has consolidated various county and state IT security contracts into one contract with McAfee. “We discovered a lot had to do with the cost; agencies couldn’t afford it. It was one of those unfunded mandates. Encryption was an expensive commodity,” said Rico Singleton, deputy CIO of New York. The new contract will cost the state $5.7 million over five years, whereas the original agreement would have cost $32 million.

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