Category Archives: State Government

Lobbying Across Venues: An Issue-Tracing Approach

Source: Charlotte Jourdain, Simon Hug, Frédéric Varone, State Politics & Policy Quarterly, Published online before print October 21, 2016
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
This study examines lobbying activity during four California policymaking processes and through the four institutional venues available in that state: the legislative, executive, and judicial branches, and the ballot initiative. It shows that past advocacy activity explains future mobilization on the same policy issue. Groups that fail to reach their policy goals will be more likely to mobilize later if the policy process changes venue, compared with those that have achieved their policy preference. Thus, the availability of multiple venues provides a counterweight to the possible advantages received by certain group types in each venue. Furthermore, public interest groups are more likely to mobilize across venues and repeatedly within a venue, while business groups are less likely to do so.

Approaches to Municipal Takeover: Home Rule Erosion and State Intervention in Michigan and New Jersey

Source: Ashley E. Nickels, State and Local Government Review, Online First, Published online before print September 21, 2016
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Municipal takeovers proceed by a state declaring that a municipality is in fiscal crisis and placing it in receivership, handing over most local processes to a state-appointed manager. This policy of aggressive state intervention calls into question two principles of local autonomy enshrined in home rule: that allowing local matters to be handled by local authority removes the need for state special legislation and that giving local governments functional autonomy allows them to solve problems without state intervention. This article presents case studies of New Jersey and Michigan to examine differences in home rule protection as well as approaches to municipal takeover.

Experts, Amateurs, and Bureaucratic Influence in the American States

Source: Graeme T. Boushey and Robert J. McGrath, Journal of Public Admin Research and Theory, Advance Access, First published online: August 27, 2016
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Over the past century, the size and reach of American state governments has increased dramatically, altering the balance of power across state capitols. Although state legislatures were historically privileged as “firsts among equals,” modern administrative reforms have transformed state governments from legislative-centric to executive-dominated systems. In many states, part-time citizen legislatures now operate alongside fully professionalized executives. We introduce a new measure capturing the relative professionalism of state legislative and executive branches, allowing us to explore the policy consequences of the rising imbalance of power across states governments. Drawing upon a large panel data set of proposed and adopted state regulations from 1990 through 2010, we demonstrate that the eroding policy expertise of state legislators has resulted in increased bureaucratic participation in the policy process, as amateur politicians rely more heavily on professionalized executive agencies to define problems and develop solutions. Our findings highlight intuitive, yet understudied, consequences of common institutional reforms and speak to recent and recurring debates about the separation of powers and public policymaking.

Blue Cities, Red States

Source: Abby Rapoport, American Prospect, August 22, 2016

As cities have moved left and states have moved right, the conflicts between them have escalated. ….

…..“PREEMPTION” LAWS ARE not new, nor are they necessarily about undoing local legislation. But with some notable exceptions, past preemption laws have generally enforced what can be called “minimum preemption”: They force localities to do something where they might otherwise have done little or nothing. As it’s often said, they set a “floor” for regulation. For instance, the federal government has been setting minimum standards of environmental protection for years, preempting the states from allowing lower environmental standards. Similarly, states often set a floor for various local regulations, whether regarding pollution, trade licensing, gun ownership, or other matters.

Most current preemption laws, by contrast, are what one might call “maximum preemption.” These laws aren’t about setting minimums; instead, they prohibit local regulation. States have prevented localities from creating paid sick leave requirements for businesses, or raising the minimum wage. Many who oppose these measures blame their proliferation on the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council, known as ALEC, which has drafted “model” preemption bills for state lawmakers to use. “Pretty much anything you can think of that matters to the American family is under assault by local preemption,” says Mark Pertschuk, the director of Grassroots Change, which fights preemption laws around the country……

Studying Governors over Five Decades: What We Know and Where We Need to Go?

Source: E. Lee Bernick, State and Local Government Review, Vol. 48 no. 2, June 2016
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From the abstract:
Governors are the most prominent political actor in state politics and a subject of continuous study by scholars. An analysis of the research produced over the past five decades reveals a pattern of topics investigated as well as trends in interest level of those topics. A brief review of some of the findings is presented as well as suggestions for additional research. Finally, a proposal to rethink how we study and evaluate governors is offered.

Women in State Government, 2016

Source: Council of State Governments, Capitol Research brief, July 2016

From the summary:
With Hillary Clinton as the first female presidential nominee from a major party, it is noteworthy that women are still underrepresented in state government leadership positions. In 2016, women make up less than one-quarter of state legislators and statewide elected executive officers, and less than one-third of all state court judges. The percentage of female state legislators has largely stalled over the last 20 years, while the number of women elected to statewide executive offices has fallen. Only the number of female state judges has seen significant increases in recent years.
Related:
Download the Excel Version of the Table: “Women in State Government, July 2016”

How you buy affects what you get: Technology acquisition by state governments

Source: Kawika Pierson, Fred Thompson, Government Information Quarterly, In Press – Corrected Proof, Available online June 24, 2016
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Research suggests that governments should rely on standardized information technology solutions rather than custom built ones. We find that, for many categories of taxes, states that have contracted out the development of their tax-processing systems to providers offering standardized solutions see statistically and economically significant increases in collections relative to states that have not. We find no evidence that financial administration expenditures increase for these states. At the same time, there are several categories of taxes where we do not find a positive impact. We reconcile these findings by developing a qualitative argument that standardized solutions in tax administration may be most effective for the types of taxes that are the most difficult to enforce.

Highlights
• Leverages a natural experiment to test government IT acquisition strategies.
• Uses tax collection as an objective outcome measure.
• Compares governments that adopt more standardized solutions with those that do not.
• Governments with standardized solutions show significantly higher tax collections.
• Collection improvements seem more likely in taxes that are harder to enforce.

Significant Reforms to State Retirement Systems

Source: Keith Brainard, National Association of State Retirement Administrators (NASRA), Spotlight On, June 2016

From the introduction:
Although states have a history of making adjustments to their workforce retirement programs, changes to public pension plan design and financing have never been more numerous or significant than in the years following the Great Recession. The global stock market crash sharply reduced state and local pension fund asset values, from $3.2 trillion at the end of 2007 to $2.1 trillion in March 2009, and due to this loss, pension costs increased. These higher costs hit state and local governments right as the economic recession began to severely lower their revenues. These events played a major role in prompting changes to public pension plans and financing that were unprecedented in number, scope and magnitude.

State and Local Government Workforce: 2016 Trends

Source: Center for State and Local Government Excellence, May 2016

From the summary:
For the third year in a row, state and local governments are reporting an increase in hiring. Pressure on benefits continues, with employees taking on greater shares of health care costs and contributions to pensions. As the rate of retirements accelerate, there is a greater sense of urgency about recruitment, retention, and succession planning.
Related:
The ‘Silver Tsunami’ Has Arrived in Government
Source: Mike Maciag, Governing, May 31, 2016

Significantly more state and local workers are retiring or quitting, according to a recent survey.

Understanding Workplace Flexibility in State Agencies: What Facilitates Employee Access?

Source: Xuhong Su, Xueyang Li, Endra Curry, The American Review of Public Administration, Published online before print April 6, 2016
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
The case for workplace flexibility has been largely established in the private sector, yet little is known about what facilitates or constrains employee access to flexibility options in governmental agencies. Focused on both flextime and flexible careers (career breaks, job sharing, and reduced hours), this study investigates how agency strategies, motives, resources, structure, and stakeholders shape employee access to workplace flexibility. The findings suggest that employee access to workplace flexibility is largely enhanced by strategic effort and agency motives, whereas agency structure shows limited impact. Agencies with bigger budgets provide employees more access to flextime, and those short of critical human capital tend to offer more options for flexible careers. This study concludes with the discussion of research findings and potential policy implications.