Category Archives: Public Sector

Facing the Future: Retirements, second careers to reshape state and local governments in the post-Katrina era

Source: Center for State and Local Government Excellence, March 2008

From the summary:
A new Center for Excellence poll finds that most Americans are unaware that state and local public health departments are facing a serious shortage of skilled professionals that could put the health and lives of citizens at risk.

See also:
Fact Sheet: The Impending Shortage in the State and Local Public Health Workforce

State and Local Government Retiree Benefits: Current Funded Status of Pension and Health Benefits, January 29, 2008

Source: Government Accountability Office, GAO-08-223, January 2008

Pension and other retiree benefits for state and local government employees represent liabilities for state and local governments and ultimately a burden for state and local taxpayers. Since 1986, accounting standards have required state and local governments to report their unfunded pension liabilities. Recently, however, standards changed and now call for governments also to report retiree health liabilities.

What Public Employee Health Plans Can Do To Improve Health Care Quality: Examples From The States

Source: Aaron McKethan, Terry Savela, and Wesley Joines, The Lewin Group, January 2008

In recent years, health system stakeholders have experimented with a wide range of efforts to stimulate quality improvement, often combined with efforts to contain costs. In this report, the authors explore strategies that public and private purchasers are using to improve care quality, focusing specifically on the role that states play as employers providing health benefits for public employees and retirees. Examples of innovations used by state public employee health plans include: promoting provider adherence to clinical guidelines and best practices, publicly disseminating provider performance information, implementing performance-based incentives, developing coordinated care interventions, and taking part in multi-payer quality collaborations. This report can be used by public employee health plans and other large purchasers making strategic decisions about how to develop or coordinate quality improvement initiatives.

Navigating Pennsylvania’s Dynamic Workforce: Succession Planning in a Complex Environment

Source: Kimberly A. Helton and Robert D. Jackson, Public Personnel Management, Vol. 36 no. 4, Winter, 2007
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Through its workforce and succession planning efforts, Pennsylvania is committed to proactively indentifying, preparing for and maintaining pools of well-trained and motivated state government employees to assume critical positions of leadership. But the concept of leadership extends beyond senior-level positions within agencies. The goal in Pennsylvania is to improve leadership capabilities in every work unit and to encourage all employees to use their skills to build stronger teams. Leadership at all levels means equipping employees with the tools, skills and expectations to communicate effectively and foster leadership at every organizational level. Leadership at all levels ensures that no lack of business continuity results from staff departures such as retirements, resignations, promotions or reassignments or other situations in which an individual is unable to or unwilling to continue his or her role within an organization.

National Government Ethics Survey 2007

Source: Ethics Resource Center, 2008
(Free registration required)

From press release:
With employees at all levels of government witnessing a high incidence of ethical misconduct – and with many local and state entities, particularly, failing to establish strong ethics programs – the public sector is at considerable risk of seeing major ethics scandals unfold, the Ethics Resource Center’s National Government Ethics Survey (NGES) shows.

“The next Enron could occur within government,” said ERC President Patricia Harned, Ph.D. “Almost one quarter of public sector employees identify their work environments as conducive to misconduct – places where there is strong pressure to compromise standards, where situations invite wrongdoing and/or employees’ personal values conflict with the values espoused at work. Government – especially at the state and local levels – simply is not doing enough to address the problem.”

The federal government fared slightly better when workers at all three levels were questioned about incidents of misconduct, their reporting of those actions and the existence and quality of programs to enforce ethical standards.

Compulsory Labor in a National Emergency: Public Service or Involuntary Servitude? The Case of Crippled Ports

Source: Michael H. LeRoy, Berkeley Journal of Employment and Labor Law, Volume 28, no. 2, 2007

The Thirteenth Amendment ban on involuntary servitude has new relevance as the United States grapples with national emergencies such as catastrophic hurricanes, flu pandemics, and terrorism. This article considers work refusal and coerced work performance in the context of life-threatening employment. Overwhelmed by fear, hundreds of police officers and health care workers abandoned their jobs during Hurricane Katrina. Postal clerks worked against their will without masks in facilities with anthrax. A report by Congress demonstrates concern that avian flu will cause sick and frightened medical personnel to stay away from work, thus jeopardizing a coherent response to a crisis. How far can the U.S. go in forcing reluctant civilians to perform essential jobs during a national emergency? The author explores solutions to his question by hypothesizing a large release of radiation–whether by terror attack, catastrophic accident, or major earthquake–in a vital Pacific port.

The $3 Trillion Challenge

Source: Katherine Barrett and Richard Greene, Governing, Vol. 21 no. 1, October 2007

No one knows much about how public pension funds are governed or who’s governing them. It’s about time we did.

Even governments that don’t have dramatically underfunded pension plans are facing unprecedented problems in paying for their liabilities, largely as a result of prior years’ decisions to put off actuarially required contributions and a more recent phenomenon: the growth in the number of retirees.

State-Employee Salaries Rise But Still Behind Private Sector: Advance Likely Reflects Better Finances After Years of Cutbacks

Source: PA Times, Vol. 30 no. 9, September, 2007

Salaries for state-employed professionals registered modest to health increases from 2006 to 2007, although most state employees still earn far less than their private sector counterparts, according to the 2007 AFT Public Employees Compensation Survey, the only national survey that tracks such trends. The median increase in average salaries across the 45 jobs surveyed was 5.7 percent from 2006 to 2007, the highest increase recorded in the last five years, the AFT study shows. … Across all 45 occupations, the collective-bargaining advantage averages about 14 percent.

Living Wage Ordinances in the Public Sector

Source: C.W. Von Bergen, William T. Mawer and Barlow Soper, Public Personnel Management, Vol. 36 no. 3, Fall 2007
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During the last decade more than 100 governmental units (primarily cities) have implemented living wage ordinances. These regulations require private sector employers who receive public funds through subsidies and contracts to pay their workforces a wage based on “need” rather than “skill.” Such ordinances feature a minimum wage floor that is higher–often much higher–than the traditional minimum wages set by state and federal legislation. This paper provides a history of the living wage movement and presents its benefits and challenges to assist local authorities in decision-making regarding this controversial and politicized issue.

Charter Schools and Collective Bargaining: Compatible Marriage or Illegitimate Relationship?

Source: Martin H. Malin and Charles Kerchner, Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy, Vol. 30 no. 3, Summer 2007

From the abstract:
The rapid increase in charter schools has been fueled by the view that traditional public schools have failed because of their monopoly on public education. Charter schools, freed from the bureaucratic regulation that dominates traditional public schools, are viewed as agents of change that will shock traditional public schools out of their complacency. Among the features of the failed status quo are teacher tenure, uniform salary grids and strict work rules, matters that teacher unions hold dear. Yet unions have begun organizing teachers in charter schools. This development prompts the question whether unionization and charter schools are compatible.