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Governor Proposes Ban on Smoking Outside State Office Buildings
During his Jan. 19 State of the State address, Delaware Gov. Jack Markell announced plans to make all state government campuses smoke-free in an effort to slow the ever-growing cost of health care for state employees.
“It’s time to make all of our campuses, in their entirety, smoke-free. Otherwise, we are facilitating behavior that is not only harmful to those who engage in it, but that we know, with certainty, will heavily burden future generations of taxpayers,” Markell said during his address.
According to The News Journal of Wilmington, the state banned smoking inside workplaces with its Clean Indoor Air Act of 2002. Since its implementation, many of Delaware’s largest employers have moved to make their outdoor campuses smoke-free.
Some Delaware state facilities already have smoke-free campuses. In 2007, the state Department of Health and Social Services made its mental health and nursing facility campuses smoke-free. The Delaware Technical Community College campus most recently went smoke-free on Jan. 1, reported The News Journal.
The state already has a tobacco-cessation program, DelaWELL, in place. According to the state’s Office of Management and Budget, 766 employees, retirees and their dependents participated in the program during the 2011 fiscal year.
While the governor’s administration is working to change the tobacco policy, it is unclear if the Legislative Hall and state courthouses will be included in the ban. Because those are controlled by the other two branches of government, Markell’s ban may not apply according to the governor’s spokesman, Brian Selander.
The number of single-family home sales in Massachusetts in December 2011 dropped 5 percent from the same month last year, The Boston Globe reported. Data provided by the Warren Group showed a 4.2 percent drop in the median sale price of single-family homes in December to $267,250, down from $279,000 in December 2010. The December decline marked the end of a five-month streak of year-over-year gains in the volume of single-family home sales.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie announced two nominations to the state’s Supreme Court in January. According to the Star Ledger of Newark, Christie nominated Phil Kwon and Bruce Harris to sit on the state’s highest court. Kwon, if confirmed, would be the first Asian-American to serve on the state’s Supreme Court. Harris is the mayor of Chatham Borough. The two nominees would replace former Justice John Wallace and Justice Virginia Long, who faces mandatory retirement in March.
Vermont schools are on alert this year after a substantial increase in the number of reported whooping cough cases. The Vermont Health Department recorded 91 cases of whooping cough in December 2011, five times the total amount of all cases reported in the state in 2010, according to the Burlington Free Press. The state Health Department has advised school officials to keep an eye out for the highly contagious illness.
HIGHER EDUCATION FUNDING
Rhode Island increased its higher education funding by almost 14 percent for the 2011-12 fiscal year, the largest increase by any state this year. Rhode Island will spend$193.6 million, WPRI of Providence reported. The increase can be attributed to the $30.2 million in stabilization funds the state received. Rhode Island is one of only five states to have federal stimulus money for higher education in its 2011-12 budget.
Overtime costs at state agencies in New York rose 4.5 percent in 2011, according to records from the state’s comptroller office. According to the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, overtime costs increased from $449 million to $469 million between 2010 and 2011. A spokesman for Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office suggested much of the overtime was incurred when the state was hit by tropical storms Irene and Lee last year.