The Pulse: Citizens League Issues Scan

"The Pulse", the Citizens League issue scan looks at topics of interest to members of the Citizens League (

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Friday, January 17, 2003
Public Services: e-Government. 60% of Taxpayers Can File Free Online. Leigh Strope wrote for the Associated Press on January 17,2003 on the Free Filing program launched Thursday, January 16, 2003. The Free Filing program is a partnership between the federal government and 17 private tax software companies that will allow about 60% of taxpayers or about 78 million filers, file returns online for no charge. The Internal Revenue Service first tried e-filing in 1986 with a pilot program in three cities. The goal now is for 80 percent e-filing by 2007. Filers can see if they qualify for free filing by completing an online questionnaire at: (295)

Post-Secondary Education. Elite Colleges Finally Embrace Online Degree Programs. Charles Forelle wrote on e-learning for the January 15, 2003 Wall Street Journal. Harvard University in December modified – for master’s degree programs only at this point -- a longstanding rule that required that degree recipients must spend at least one year on campus. Harvard University now plans to offer online education for their master of public health degree. A second program in health care management is to launch in 2004. Last semester the University of California at Berkeley offered its first online only undergraduate course in gems and gemology. Brown University is working with other institutions to develop an online medical curriculum. Stanford University has an online master’s program for working engineers in three disciplines and will add a fourth in bioinformatics. Many of the new programs target mid-career professionals who need advanced training. “The number 1 reason people take this way of learning is convenience” said Michael P. Lambert, executive director of the Distance Education and Training Council which is an accrediting body for distance-learning institutions. Lambert estimates that 2.5 million U.S. students took online courses for credit in 2002. The full story was published in the Wall Street Journal, January 15, 2003, pages B1 and B11. (294)

Thursday, January 16, 2003
Energy and Environment. U.S. Senators to Introduce Mandatory Greenhouse Gas Limits. According to the Council of State Governments Issues Alert, early in 2003, U.S. Senator John McCain of Arizona and U.S. Senator Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut will introduce legislation that would gradually establish mandatory greenhouse gas emissions restrictions and an emissions trading system so companies could trade credits earned by making emissions cuts. The full news item is available from the Council of State Governments at:
. (293)

Wednesday, January 15, 2003
State Budget. Minnesota Governor Pawlenty Proposes Plan to Eliminate $358 Million Deficit. A budget plan was proposed on January 14, 2003 to balance the budget for the balance of the current biennium in a run up to the $4.5 billion deficit for the biennium beginning July 1, 2003. The Governor's proposal is a mix of cuts, financing changes and use of reserve funds. The Governor's site has links to the budget detail at: (292)

Tuesday, January 14, 2003
Post-Secondary Education. Minnesota Falling Behind In Higher Education Funding. Tom Mortenson wrote a national analysis of higher education funding for the December 2002 issue of Post-Secondary Education Opportunity that is published by the Pell Institute for the Study of Opportunity in Higher Education. That analysis showed that in Minnesota, state appropriations for higher education per $1,000 of personal income fell almost 43 percent between 1977-78 and 2002-03. The state that spent $15.08 per $1,000 in the late 1970s now spends $8.62. Minnesota had a steeper percentage decline in ``investment effort'' toward higher education than all but eight states in the past 25 years. The AP news story quoted the author: ``I have a strong feeling that Minnesota is coasting on its past,'' Mortenson said. ``It's just too soon to see the cracks in the armor.'' The full story may be found at: (291)

Monday, January 13, 2003
Public Service Reform. Urgent Business for America. The National Commission on the Public Service chaired by Paul Volker released on January 7, 2003 a report entitled: Urgent Business for America. The report made 14 targeted recommendations for improving the state of the federal public service in order to better meet the needs of the 21st century. Specifically, The report called upon the President and the Congress for immediate action in five areas:
1) Debate concerning, and enactment of, broad reorganization authority,
2) Implementation of a proposal to speed and streamline the presidential appointments process,
3) Acknowledgement of the growing risk to the judicial system of inadequate salaries of federal judges.
4) Review of the salary compression at senior executive levels. Review and elimination of the linkage of executive branch salaries, judicial salaries and those of Congress
5) Concerted efforts to recruit and retain employees in the federal government
The full report may be accessed at: (290)

Sunday, January 12, 2003
Elections and Technology. Geneva Suburb Casts Ballots on the Internet in Test Project. Alison Langley wrote for the New York Times January 12, 2003 on Swiss plans to pilot Internet voting. Switzerland has a direct democracy and citizens vote four to six times per year on issue referenda. The government introduced voting by mail in 1993 and it is now used by 95 percent of voters in Geneva elections. The Swiss authorities estimate that Internet voting will cost about $350,000 more, per canton per election. Hans-Urs Wili, the chief of the Swiss government's political rights division said "So why promote them? [electronic elections] Because we do not know what will be the habits of citizens in 20, 30, 40 years' time." The full article may be found at: (289)