2006 Ballot Measure Overview

Source: National Institute on Money in State Politics

While voters may have the final say on ballot measures when they vote “yea” or “nea” at the ballot box, they have little to do with the funding of those measures. In 2006, only 23 percent of the $648 million raised to support or oppose ballot measures came from individuals, a new report finds.

And, only 15 donors gave most of that $147.5 million provided by individuals, according to the report by the National Institute on Money in State Politics stated. Businesses and special interests provided the lion’s share of funding for the measures, giving nearly $444.7 million. Labor organizations contributed another $48.2 million, while unitemized contributions — those that fall under the states’ reporting threshold for providing donor information — came to $3.3 million. The remaining $4.7 million came from party, candidate and leadership committees.

The 2006 election also saw a jump in the number of measures faced by voters: 219 measures appeared in 37 states, almost double the 111 measures in 28 states in 2004.

California led the pack in expensive campaigns, generating $359 million for 15 measures and accounting for more than half of the $648 million raised nationwide. One measure accounted for much of the money in California; Proposition 87, which would have imposed a profit tax on energy companies, drew $153.9 million in political donations.

The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly: Job Quality in the United States over the Three Most Recent Business Cycles

Source: Center for Economic and Policy Research

The number of good jobs -jobs that pay at least $17 an hour, and provide health insurance and a pension — declined by 3.5 million between 2000 and 2006, according to a new report by the Washington, DC-based Center for Economic and Policy Research.

The report, “The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly: Job Quality in the United States over the Three Most Recent Business Cycles,” (PDF; 274 KB) found that the economy has created fewer good jobs in the 2000s than was the case over comparable periods in the 1980s and 1990s.

The research defined a good job as one that pays $17 an hour, or $34,000 annually, has employer-provided health care and offers a pension. The $17 per hour figure is equal to the inflation-adjusted earnings of the typical male worker in 1979, the first year of data analyzed in the report.
Using this definition, the share of good jobs fell 2.6 percentage points, or about 3.5 million jobs, between 2000 and 2006. This decline was much sharper than what the economy experienced over comparable periods in the two preceding business cycles. Between 1979 and 1985, for example, the share of good jobs fell 0.5 percentage points. Between 1989 and 1995, the drop was just 0.l percentage points.

Press release

Nonfatal occupational injuries and illnesses requiring days away from work: 2006

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Both the rate and the number of occupational injuries and illnesses requiring days away from work decreased from 2005 to 2006, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department Labor. The 2006 rate was 128 per 10,000 workers, a decrease of 6 percent from 2005. There were 1.2 million cases requiring days away from work in private industry, which represented a decrease of 51,180 cases (or 4 percent). Median days away from work–a key measure of the severity of the injury or illness–was 7 days in 2006, the same as the prior two years.

News release (PDF; 227 KB)

Kaiser Issues New Resources Examining Medicare Part D Drug Plans

Source: Kaiser Family Foundation

As the next open enrollment period for Medicare prescription drug coverage approaches, the Kaiser Family Foundation has issued two data spotlights examining key changes and variations among the private Medicare drug plans available in 2008 across the country. More than 24 million seniors and disabled people receiving Medicare benefits are enrolled in a private Medicare drug plan, including 17 million in stand- alone drug plans and 7 million in Medicare Advantage drug plans. The first spotlight analyzes the premiums charged by the 1,824 stand-alone Medicare Part D plans that will be offered in markets across the country in 2008. The second spotlight examines the coverage gap, or “doughnut hole,” in Medicare drug plans.

In addition, Kaiser issued a new chartpack providing detailed information about Part D enrollment, by plan and by firm, in 2007.

Kaiser also has updated two relevant fact sheets — one that provides an overview of the Medicare prescription drug benefit and another that provides a state-by-state look at key features of the available 2008 stand-alone plans.

Pandemic Planning and Response for State IT: Where’s My Staff?

Source: National Association of State Chief Information Officers

Without the flow of electronic information, government comes to a standstill. When a state’s data systems and communication networks are disrupted, the problem can be serious and the impact far-reaching. The consequences can be much more than an inconvenience. Serious disruptions to a state’s IT systems can lead to public distrust, chaos, fear and potential loss of life. Traditionally, IT disruptions are planned for based on anticipated disasters both natural and man-made that can physically damage facilities and equipment. However, we live in a time that holds the potential for a pandemic outbreak in your city, state or possibly the nation. What would you do as state chief information officer (CIO) if one day your staff did not come to the office because of a pandemic outbreak?

Full report (PDF: 185 KB)

The Medium and the Anti-Union Message: Forced Listening and Captive Audience Meetings

Source: Comparative Labor Law & Policy Journal (via SSRN)

Employer captive audience meetings (CAMs) are a rare example in which people in a democratic society are forced to listen to opinions of others with which they may strongly disagree. Employees are not chained to a post, but they are nevertheless economically compelled to listen to their employer’s anti-union opinions. The uniqueness of being compelled to listen makes the CAM a powerful signaling device through which the message of economic vulnerability is transmitted to employees. The medium (CAMs) is its own message, and it should be regulated as such. The author explores the extent to which this approach is reflected in current labor law, and finds that the principle approach to CAMs in Canadian labor law is to treat CAMs as “message neutral” event that can “color” the content of the speech made in the meeting. He argues for an approach that treats the CAM as an independent signaling device. This approach would refocus the labor boards’ attention on the question of whether CAMs interfere with the formation of unions, and whether permitting employer CAMs advance sound labor policies that are consistent with the values underling the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP): Program and Funding

Source: Congressional Research Service (via National Council for Science and the Environment)

The Low-Income Home Energy Assistance program (LIHEAP), established in 1981 (P.L. 97-35), is a block grant program under which the federal government gives states, territories, and tribes annual grants to operate home energy assistance programs for low-income households. The LIHEAP statute authorizes two types of funds: regular funds, which are allocated to all states using a statutory formula, and contingency funds, which are allocated to one or more states at the discretion of the Administration.

Full Report (PDF; 144 KB)

The Pangloss Index: How States Game the No Child Left Behind Act

Source: Education Sector

Less than 40 percent of Birmingham students graduate from high school on time, according to Education Week. Test scores still lag the rest of the state; there are still large achievement gaps between black and white children; and the student body and budget continue to shrink every year. For the students who remain, most of whom are black and poor, “the promised land of racial justice” described by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. from the Birmingham jail must seem very far away.

But you wouldn’t know it by asking the Alabama Department of Education. It says everything is fine, that Birmingham City Schools made “adequate yearly progress” last year under the federal No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). And only five of the district’s 65 schools are “in need of improvement.” The serious consequences and strong interventions that NCLB’s authors envisioned for chronically underperforming districts like Birmingham are nowhere to be found.

The reason is simple: While NCLB was designed to raise achievement standards every year until 2014, when 100 percent of students are required to be “proficient,” the Alabama Department of Education has lowered standards annually, to the point where even abjectly failing districts like Birmingham make the grade. And it’s not alone–every one of the accountability-avoidance gambits used in Alabama has been adopted in many other states. Indeed, the most noteworthy thing about Alabama’s elaborate plan to avoid NCLB accountability, and the impact of those actions on Birmingham, is how mundane they really are. Similar stories could be written about states and districts across the nation.

Collectively, these states and districts provide a case study in how determined states can undermine even tightly constructed laws like NCLB. And, as importantly, they provide a cautionary tale for members of Congress working to write the next version of the nation’s most important education law.

Full Report (PDF; 232 KB)

Pensions and Retirement Plan Enactments in 2007 State Legislatures

Source: Ronald K. Snell, National Conference of State Legislatures, October 2007

This report summarizes selected pensions and retirement legislation that state legislatures enacted in 2007, some 2006 legislation not reported last year, and a few items of particular interest that failed to pass or were vetoed. Bills summarized below have been enacted into law unless there is a specific indication to the contrary. Not all legislation had been chaptered at the time this report was compiled. Some legislatures remain in session at the time of publication, October 2007.

From IWS Documented News Service

Engaging Citizens in Measuring and Reporting Community Conditions: A Manager’s Guide

Source: IBM Center for the Business of Government

Dr. Ho presents two case studies – one from Des Moines, Iowa; the other from Boston, Massachusetts – where government agencies and citizen groups reported their own or their government’s performance, respectively. While each of these cases reflects different strategic approaches, they both attempt to bring together what government does and what citizens see as being important in their community. In his report, Dr. Ho examines “how government officials can engage the public more directly in performance measurement and reporting efforts and how they can communicate more effectively about the efforts and accomplishments of public policies and programs.” The goal, he notes, is to “make performance measurement and reporting more relevant and meaningful to taxpayers.”

Full Report (PDF; 3 MB)