Category Archives: State Government

The Promise of Going ‘Lean’

Source: Ken Miller, Governing, May 21, 2009

In these incredibly tough budget times, you would think government agencies would be working extra hard to find ways of doing things more efficiently. Unfortunately, leaders across the country are grabbing the same old playbook — hiring freezes, travel restrictions, delaying maintenance and so on.

They’re not examining the actual work being done — the operations are fundamentally the same. Instead, they’re left with tired, overworked employees trying to do the same operations with fewer resources.

This approach creates an illusion of efficiency. Real efficiency is about looking at the systems — the way work itself is designed — and finding ways to streamline the work so that we do our important tasks very well in less time and with less hassle. Systems are where the costs are incurred. Systems are where the customers show up. Systems are where the value of the agency is created. And systems appear to be the last thing anyone is focusing on.

A Contract Campaign Across Unions

Source: Doug Swanson, Labor Notes, February 20, 2009

As Wisconsin faces a nearly $6 billion budget deficit, state employee unions are determined to make sure the crisis isn’t “solved” on our backs. All union contracts with the state will expire June 30. As we strategize, we’re remembering our successful campaign–“A Deal’s a Deal”–from 2003.

Assessment of States’ Operating Plans to Combat Pandemic Influenza: Report to Homeland Security Council

Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, January 2009

Pandemic influenza could produce a public health emergency that is more daunting than any other type of naturally occurring, accidental, or terrorist-instigated event that our nation has experienced or is likely to experience. First, an influenza pandemic could affect essentially every community in the nation almost simultaneously – i.e., within the space of a few weeks – and, if comparable to or more severe than the influenza pandemic of 1918, could result in 25 percent or more of the population ultimately experiencing life-threatening illness and/or being forced to dispense with normal activities to care for victims. Second, response activities within each affected community not only will need to be sustained for several months, generally with little or no outside help, but also might be degraded due to substantial influenza-induced absenteeism across the participating entities – public and private. Third, coping with degraded functioning in virtually every aspect of society could be so demanding as to preclude the initiation of significant recovery activities for many months.

Trade-off Time: How Four States Continue to Deliver

Source: Pew Center on the States, Issue Brief, February 2009

From the press release:
As governors and policy leaders put together their budgets this year in the face of serious shortfalls, states that use performance data to make decisions about where to cut and what to keep are saving taxpayer dollars.

More and more states, spurred by one of the most difficult fiscal environments in years, are making policy decisions based on research measuring the performance of government programs. Trade-off Time: How Four States Continue to Deliver, a report released today by The Pew Center on the States, features four states–Indiana, Maryland, Utah and Virginia–that are leaders in measuring the performance of government programs, and are making smarter budget decisions as a result.

Florida — Commission on Open Government Reform — Final Report

Source: Commission on Open Government Reform, January 2009

Generally considered a leader in the area of open government, Florida has a long history of providing access to the meetings and records of its government. This rich tradition of open government culminated in the 1992 general election when Florida voters overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment guaranteeing access to the records of all three branches of state government and to the meetings of the collegial bodies of state agencies and local governments at which public business is to be transacted or discussed.

Although both the open meetings law and the public records law have been amended since first enacted and some reforms made, never in Florida’s long history of open government have both laws been reviewed in their entirety. As a result, there are inconsistencies and redundancies in the law, and some argue that the state’s open government laws have failed to keep pace with today’s technology, resulting in an erosion of the public’s constitutional right of access to government meetings and records.

The Winter Commission Report Revisited

Source: Supplement, Public Administration Review, Vol. 68 no. S1, December 2008
(subscription required)

From the introduction:
The featured authors cast considerable light on developments since the release of the National Commission on the State and Local Public Service’s report “Hard Truths/Tough Choices: An Agenda for State and Local Reform.” They note which of the various recommendations embedded in the report have taken root and which have not. They address the implications of Katrina and other new developments that the commission did not anticipate when we drafted our report. In sum, they provide a knowledge base that, in the spirit of the original commission, can help inform those committed to a new reform agenda.
Articles include:
State and Local Governance Fifteen Years Later: Enduring and New Challenges – Frank J. Thompson
Executive Orders and Administrative Control – Margaret R. Ferguson, Cynthia J. Bowling
Continuity and Change in Executive Leadership: Insights from the Perspectives of State Administrators – Brendan F. Burke, Chung-Lae Cho, Deil S. Wright
Strengthening Local Government Leadership and Performance: Reexamining and Updating the Winter Commission Goals – James H. Svara
Personnel Reform in the States: A Look at Progress Fifteen Years after the Winter Commission – Lloyd G. Nigro, J. Edward Kellough
State and Local Government Procurement and the Winter Commission – Matthew Potoski
From Measurement to Management: Breaking through the Barriers to State and Local Performance – Mary Bryna Sanger
The Evolution and Continuing Challenges of E-Governance – Sharon S. Dawes
Electronic Funds and Benefits Transfers, E-Government, and the Winter Commission – Maureen A. Pirog, Craig L. Johnson
State and Local Fiscal Sustainability: The Challenges – Jeffrey I. Chapman
The Challenge of Strengthening Nonprofits and Civil Society – Steven Rathgeb Smith
Looking a Gift Horse in the Mouth: Challenges in Managing Philanthropic Support for Public Services – Charles Brecher, Oliver Wise
Learning from the States? Federalism and National Health Policy – Carol S. Weissert, Daniel Scheller
Federalism Revised: The Promise and Challenge of the No Child Left Behind Act -Kenneth K. Wong
Mega-Disasters and Federalism – Marc Landy

Performance Reporting: An Emerging Imperative with Unintended Consequences?

Source: Janet M. Kelly, State and Local Government Review, Vol. 40 no. 2, 2008
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
In November 2006, the Board of Trustees of the Financial Accounting Foundation confirmed that the Governmental Accounting Standards Board had the jurisdictional authority to require Service Efforts and Accomplishments reporting in its financial accounting and reporting standard-setting activities for state and local governments. Reaction from the Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA) and other organizations representing states and local governments was swift and negative. These organizations championed performance measurement as a management tool but resisted the board’s agenda to enhance accountability through performance reporting. Understanding this contradiction is aided by an exploration of how institutionalized performance reporting can redefine accountability, sometimes to the detriment of achieving the service objectives it is intended to advance.

Examining Local Government Service Delivery Arrangements Over Time

Source: Scott Lamothe, Meeyoung Lamothe, Richard C. Feiock, Urban Affairs Review, Vol. 44 No. 1, September 2008
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
While scholars of local service delivery arrangements are fully aware the process is dynamic, research has tended to take the form of cross-sectional studies that are inherently static in nature. In this article, the authors model the determinants of production mode accounting for past delivery decisions. They find, not surprisingly, that there are strong inertial effects; previous delivery mode is a strong predictor of the current service delivery arrangement. More interestingly, the impact of the transaction cost nature of services on production choice is conditioned on past decisions, such as the extent of contracting and the type of vendors used. There is also evidence that contract management capacity and the competitiveness of the contracting environment are influential.