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FCC Emergency Access Advisory Committee Meeting Recap

Today, the Federal Communications Committee’s (FCC) Emergency Access Advisory Committee (EAAC) held a meeting focused on possible text-to-911 solutions. The EAAC’s mission is to recommend policies to the FCC that will help ensure individuals with disabilities have equal access to emergency services as part of the migration to next generation 911. This includes the deaf and hard of hearing who cannot communicate with 911 operators through traditional aural means. This meeting acted as a follow-up to an exhibition fair of text-to-911 mobile solutions the committee hosted earlier in the week. While the purpose of the committee is to focus on helping those with disabilities contact 911 operators, the implications of decisions made about text-to-911 will be far-reaching, particularly as younger generations increasingly choose text messaging over voice calls.

As more locations roll out NG911-capable systems, text-to-911 will soon become commonplace. At the present time, however, very few locations have this capability, and even those that do warn that it is not always advisable to use it. Text-to-911 should only be used in circumstances when the caller is incapable of voice communication, such as kidnapping situations, when waiting for messages to be sent and received could be the difference between life and death. At present, there are also no government-established standards for text-to-911, and the government should move swiftly to enact them. Enacting standards that can be put in place across the country will ensure a uniform application of text-to-911 services, so that no matter where a user is, they will have the same ability to reach help when it is most needed. The lack of standards should not discourage vendors from continuing to develop text-to-911 solutions; however, it should be kept in mind that the specific form of the solution may require tweaking once standards are in place. 

Subscribers have full access to the Recap, here.

 

The California Case Management System comes to a halt

On Tuesday, the California Judicial Council decided to scrap the California Court Case Management (CCMS) project, which would have modernized the state’s trial courts by linking all 58 of them and making it easier and more efficient to access court documents. The project has been in the works for the past decade, but mounting criticism over its costs and a bleak economic outlook forced the Judicial Council’s hand. At the beginning of this massive initiative, the CCMS project was estimated to cost $260 million, but recent estimates now put it around $2 billion. The courts have already had hundreds of millions of dollars cut from their budgets over the past couple years, and continuing state budget woes make the situation worse. The state is now going to use the CCMS technology and the state’s investment in the project to assist the 58 trial courts with their failing case management systems.

It should come as no shock that another government IT project has come in over budget. A recent report notes that more than half of government IT projects nationwide come in over budget, late, or without proper functionality. This CCMS now joins the likes of the New York Statewide Wireless Network (SWN) and the New York City 911 system upgrade as a high-profile IT project failure. New York state entered into a $2 billion contract with M/A-COM only to terminate it after spending millions because of performance and financial issues. New York City is currently working on upgrading its 911 system, but similar to the CCMS project, the cost estimate has gone from $1.3 billion to $2.3 billion. The 911 system upgrade was also supposed to be finished four years ago, but now is not expected to be complete until 2015.  

 

Looking outward more government IT projects are bound to fail, but which ones?  It seems like larger projects have an increased chance of failure. They tend to more complex, have more players involved, and cost significant amounts of money making them extremely difficult to manage. Could the next big failed project be the Los Angeles Regional Interoperable Communications System (LA-RICS)? It involves connecting over 80 agencies and will probably cost closer to a billion dollars when completed. Plus, it has already encountered severe problems that left the project in jeopardy. Will more problems ensue? Only time will tell.

The consequence of the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012

On February 22, President Barack Obama signed the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012 into law. The bill provides a variety of benefits to help middle class Americans, including Medicare payment extensions, social security payroll tax cuts, extension of job incentives to small businesses, as well as moving some public safety radio systems to a new broadcast spectrum (one that has yet to be defined).
In the same month that President Obama signed this bill into law, the Lancaster County, Penn., Board of Commissioners voted to negotiate with ARINC to build a new radio system on a television communications band (T-band). The new bill threatens this project, as it has created an incentive auction of the broadcast TV spectrum. Despite the possibility that this project, and 800 like it across the country, are put in jeopardy, Lancaster County’s public safety radio communications consultant from MWF Enterprises does not see this as a problem. The legislation would require the county to abandon the spectrum in nine years. In addition, the law includes a requirement for TV stations to change channels, which may be unlikely considering the significant branding that stations have for their channel numbers. Also, the legislation would carry a $1 billion price tag for the federal government, which might force a future change.
Analyst’s Take:
While it might be too soon to determine what the end result of this new legislation will mean for public safety agencies, vendors should not change course. They should continue with plans to develop T-band radio communication systems and should ensure that they offer full disclosure when providing plans for these systems, whether it is at the planning and consulting phase or in the implementation phase. Local governments may be hesitant to spend tens of millions of dollars on a system that may have to change bands in less than 10 years. As the federal government continues its plans for the spectrum, vendors must keep a watchful eye to determine how this may affect their radio system development.

Final Day of Supreme Court Rulings on Health Care Law

Today marks the last day of oral arguments in the Supreme Court’s ruling on health reform. Today’s arguments will involve a discussion on the theory of “severability,” which is the idea that if one element of the law is deemed unconstitutional, then all parts under it should be struck down as well. Under this concept, if the courts deem the individual mandate as unconstitutional, then two provisions under the health care law would have to go as well. This would prohibit insurance companies from 1) not selling health plans to individuals with pre-existing conditions and 2) charging higher premiums to individuals with illnesses.
 
Today’s session will also look at whether the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) Medicaid program expansion for the poor unfairly forces states to participate. Under the current Medicaid program, individuals cannot sign up for plans on the basis of being poor alone; they must also fall under categories such as being pregnant, a child, or over the age of 65. With the new health care law, individuals four times the poverty line would be able to benefit from Medicaid, which is expected to enroll an additional 17 million individuals.
 
Many are saying yesterday was not necessarily the best day for supporters of the health care law, as initial statements were a tad on the shaky side. However, there does seem to be some hope for upholding the individual mandate. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg brought to light the reality of the uninsured, stating, “Those who don’t participate in health care make it more expensive for everyone else.” The final ruling is expected to be released in June of this year, and it’s too early to predict what that ruling will be at this point.
 
In state news, Nevada released a solicitation this week procuring for its Silver State Health Insurance Exchange (SSHIX). The selected vendor will provide a Business Operations Solution (BOS) that will support the information technology and business functions of the exchange in order to enroll people by October 1, 2013. The vendor will also be expected to offer a software-as-a-solution (SaaS) that supports the following functionalities:
  • Application and Enrollment
  • Plan Management
  • Financial Management
  • Consumer Assistance
  • Communications
Proposals for the procurement are due on April 27, 2012.
 
To learn more about health insurance exchange initiatives across the U.S., download a copy of Deltek’s “Evolving Health Insurance Exchanges,” here. And as always, follow Deltek’s Health Care and Social Services Team on Twitter @GovWin_HHS and LinkedIn,

Oregon improves public contracting transparency

In an effort to increase transparency in public contracting, Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber recently signed Senate Bill 1518 into law. The bill prohibits state agencies from accepting bids from vendors who were paid to help write the solicitation. The bill will also allow information about jobs created to be reported and used in determining awards. The Department of Administrative Services will also now have to report to the legislature about procurements that have been allowed to bypass competitive bidding rules. Deltek is currently tracking 31 contracting opportunities that could possibly be affected by this law.

 

The new law could pose an interesting dilemma considering vendors who help create the solicitation will not be able to bid on the project the solicitation is for. Therefore, vendors who provide consulting services and tangible technology products may be forced to pick one or the other when doing business with the state of Oregon. It should also be emphasized that this legislation applies only to paid assistance for developing a solicitation; any unpaid assistance does not disqualify the vendor.

Day Two of Supreme Court Ruling on Health Reform

Yesterday’s Supreme Court ruling on health care centered on whether or not the hearing on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act could even take place. According to the Tax Anti-Injunction Act, the courts are exempt from hearing a suit to stop the government from imposing a tax until after the tax has been opposed. Officials in support of this argue that the “penalty” the federal government would impose on individuals failing to withhold health insurance is essentially a tax. With such reasoning, the Supreme Court would be precluded from hearing the case until after 2015. However, after yesterday’s ruling, the Circuit Courts have decided that the Tax Anti-Injunction does not prohibit the federal courts from entertaining the constitutionality of the individual mandate.
 
Today’s oral arguments will include whether or not it is constitutional to mandate citizens to have health insurance. Those in opposition believe it is not constitutional to require individuals to purchase “commercial products,” which they feel health insurance falls under. However, supporters of the mandate argue that such a law is crucial in order to reduce soaring health care costs. A mandate of such would also help lessen the burden of taxpayers already paying costly premiums in health plans and government programs like Medicaid.
 
About half of the states in the U.S. are challenging the individual mandate and harping on the notion that it violates personal freedom. However, many are at least still moving forward with setting up an insurance exchange portal. With such a system, it will at the very least make the purchase of health plans more accessible, and may help lower the issue of the overwhelming number of uninsured residents.
 
For further information regarding the health insurance exchange initiative, download a copy of Deltek’s “Evolving Health Insurance Exchanges,” here. And as always, follow Deltek’s Health Care and Social Services Team on Twitter @GovWin_HHS and LinkedIn, where we tweet and post our expert analysis of health IT initiatives across state and local government entities. 

Virginia picks up speed with health benefit exchange efforts

It looks like Virginia is no longer taking a back seat in setting up a health insurance exchange. Between the Supreme Court ruling, which kicks off today, and the looming 2014 deadline, the state has been making moves toward setting up mandatory requirements under the health care law. Well aware of the short time frame, Governor McDonnell’s administration has been coordinating efforts to make sure the state will be ready to implement a state-run exchange by 2014. The state plans to request proposals next month for a new information system that will handle Medicaid and other services such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The new gateway system is expected to phase out siloed agency computer systems through standardization of forms and services. The McDonnell administration also plans to seek proposals for information systems relating to the state’s health benefit exchange. Virginia will be applying for up to $50 million in federal funding to assist in implementation efforts for the exchange.
Vendors can expect to see similar behavior in ramping up insurance exchange initiatives. As mentioned before, the Supreme Court ruling on Health Care Reform begins today, and oral arguments will continue through Wednesday, March 28. The Supreme Court will be discussing the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, with a final ruling expected by June 2012.
To learn more about the health insurance exchange initiative, download a copy of Deltek’s “Evolving Health Insurance Exchanges,” here. And as always, follow Deltek’s Health Care and Social Services Team on Twitter @GovWin_HHS and LinkedIn, where we tweet and post our expert analysis of health IT initiatives across state and local government entities.

Will unspent FEMA grant money lead to a ‘return to sender’?

According to recent testimony at a congressional hearing on March 20, billions of dollars in Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) grant funds for state and local governments has gone unused. Since 2003, FEMA has provided $35 billion in funding for state and local governments to pay for equipment, training for first responders, and upgrades or replacements of current systems. Of that $35 billion, $8 billion remains unspent, which begs the question: Will FEMA take the money back?
For now, it appears unlikely that FEMA would request any of the funds from state and local governments be returned, as many agencies take a bit longer to build out new systems and complete training to prepare for a future natural disaster or terrorist attack. Many projects are underway and are complying with all the federal regulations for the grant funds; it will just take more time to complete certain projects. Therefore, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano provided grantees additional time and flexibility for the remaining funds.
With most grants, there are a variety of reporting requirements in order to ensure that the agency is using the money for specified projects and not squandering it elsewhere. Oftentimes, these reporting requirements can be a strain on smaller agencies, but a recent state audit found that 15 of the 20 audited states failed in their reporting of grant data. This is troubling, but it is possible that the strict reporting requirements have made it difficult for states, especially those that have experienced massive layoffs during the recession.
Despite the unspent funds, a 2010 study showed that three quarters of states and 80 percent of urban areas are equipped for a large-scale disaster. Many states and localities have developed emergency operation plans and other readiness tools for disaster preparedness.
Analyst’s Take:
While FEMA and other federal government agencies may be worried that certain grant funding has not been spent quickly enough, vendors should not be concerned about any loss of these funds. Agencies that have received grant money for specific projects will continue to receive these outstanding funds, though projects may take longer than expected. Agencies rely on these dollars, and with federal funding already in place for past programs, it would be highly unprecedented for the money to be revoked.

The New Jersey comeback: reality or rhetoric?

Governor Chris Christie’s FY 2013 Budget Proposal’s optimistic, albeit tempered slogan, “continuing the New Jersey comeback,” shines light on future priorities of the third-year Republican governor. The use of such lofty phrases by politicians can seem trite or lacking in veracity; however, through Deltek’s in-depth budget analysis, it’s become clear that in terms of all-funds spending, this assertion is largely correct.
 
In March 2010, shortly after his election, Christie stood in the well of the New Jersey Assembly and declared that “time has run out” on the state’s extravagant spending habits. Christie stated, “The bill has come due,” and the tab was staggering. New Jersey faced an $11 billion budget deficit for FY 2011, with $121 billion in unfunded health benefits and pension liability. Meanwhile, state spending increased by 56 percent from 2001, and taxes at all levels had ballooned to the highest rates in the nation. The remedy for what Christie termed “a lack of discipline” was to implement dramatic cuts to the state budget; the rollbacks were so steep that detractors called them draconian. General-fund spending in FY 2011 decreased; however, there was an actual increase in all-funds spending from the previous fiscal year. Nevertheless, the rhetoric was cast, and the narrative in place for a dramatic course change and an equally impressive recovery.
 
Figure 1: New Jersey All Funds Budget FY 2011 - 2013
 
In Figure 1, above, the governor’s all-funds budget requests from FY 2011 to 2013 can be plotted as a serious, nearly 4 percent decrease over two years. Steep cuts at the beginning to accomplish ambitious goals outlined in the FY 2011 budget address tapered to a modest, less than 1 percent decrease from FY 2012 to 2013. Since Deltek’s analysis looks at the funding requested in the governor’s budget proposal, the figure below only represents the numbers from the initial budget request at the beginning of the process. As mentioned, the graph shows a slight decrease in total funds from FY 2012 to FY 2013; however, the actual funds appropriated by the legislature in the FY 2012 final budget were in fact less than the governor’s request and the numbers represented below. In reality, there was a 0.83 percent increase in funding from FY 2012 to FY 2013. Thus, the real story is a year of dramatic cuts, with a slight funding increase for FY 2013. The comeback in spending has begun, though modestly.
 
Subscribers have access to expanded analysis, data, and the full article, here.     
 

 

 

Deltek releases annual state-of-the-states report

This week, Deltek released its latest report, State of the States 2012: IT Initiatives and Implications. The 32-page presentation offers in-depth analysis of 43 governors’ state-of-the-state (or budget) addresses to identify key trends and priorities for the year ahead. An extensive Excel table detailing more than 750 state goals across 11 vertical markets is also included.
 
Written by Chris Dixon, senior manager of Deltek’s Industry Analysis, the annual report allows vendors an early opportunity to plan and align their solutions with states’ current and future initiatives.
 
“By understanding your state and local prospects' goals and priorities, you can tailor your products and solutions toward overarching business needs rather than technology niches, and optimize your pursuit strategy and tactics,” said Dixon.
 
Key speech takeaways include a large number of governors citing victory over the budget crisis and focusing on future growth. Job creation, employment matching, and funding education are top priorities for many states. Medicaid cost reduction is also a major concern, and governors are seeking effective health care incentives to aid in the measure. Further, high corrections costs are still a major obstacle in the justice and public safety market, and several states are proposing alternative solutions for non-violent offenders.
 
This is just a taste from the wealth of data collected through Deltek’s thorough analysis of 2012 state-of-the-state addresses. For a complete breakdown of speeches and technology priorities, please view the full report here. Also, Dixon will conduct a webinar tomorrow, March 22, to present additional findings. Click here to register for the webinar.
 
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