Influence: A Booming Business

Source: The Center for Public Integrity

The influence industry in state capitals continues to grow, as state lobbyists and the companies and organizations that hire them spent a record of almost $1.3 billion in 2006, according to the Center for Public Integrity’s sixth-annual review.

As legislative sessions open in January, lawmakers and lobbyists are certain to be busier than ever. In 2006, also an election year in most states, the nation’s 7,400 state legislators passed more than 33,000 laws and spent an estimated $1.3 trillion in taxpayer money, according to The Fiscal Survey of States for 2007, released jointly by the National Governors Association and the National Association of State Budget Officers.

More companies and organizations were signed up to send their own representatives to the statehouse: more than 56,000 in 2006, compared to just fewer than 50,000 in 2005. The total number of lobbyists remained about 40,000, still averaging out to more than five lobbyists for each lawmaker.

In the 43 states that reported lobby expenditures for 2006, the $1.3 billion total was almost a 10 percent increase in reported spending from 2005. And in those 43 states, the average spent per legislator on lobbying was more than $200,000.

Of the 42 states that provided totals in both 2005 and 2006, 21 recorded an increase in lobby spending.

New Medicaid Rules Would Limit Care for Children in Foster Care and People With Disabilities in Ways Congress Did Not Intend

Source: Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

On December 4, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services published interim final rules governing case management services provided by state Medicaid programs. CMS claims the new rules are necessary to implement changes Congress made in the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 (DRA). In fact, the rules go well beyond what Congress intended in the DRA and would have a detrimental impact on beneficiaries, particularly poor children in foster care and poor individuals with physical or mental disabilities or other chronic health conditions.

Report

Pew Study Finds States Face $2.73 Trillion Bill for Retiree Benefits

Source: Pew Center for the States

States have promised at least $2.73 trillion in pension, health care and other retirement benefits for public employees over the next three decades, according to a report released today by The Pew Charitable Trusts’ Center on the States. Promises with a Price, the first 50-state analysis of its kind, finds that states have saved enough to cover about 85 percent of their long-term pension costs, but only 3 percent of the funds needed for promised retiree health care and other non-pension benefits. All told, states already have set aside about $2 trillion to meet their long-term obligations. But they still need to come up with about $731 billion–a conservative figure that does not include all costs for teachers and local government employees.

Full Report (PDF; 1.1 MB)

Individual state fact sheets (PDFs)

2007: A Deadly Year for U.S. Law Enforcement

Source: National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund/Concerns of Police Survivors

From news release:
2007 has been a deadly year for law enforcement in the United States, with 186 officers killed nationwide as of December 26, according to preliminary statistics from the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund (NLEOMF) and Concerns of Police Survivors (C.O.P.S.). When compared with 2006, when 145 officers died, officer fatalities rose more than 28 percent this year. Outside of 2001, when 239 officers died — 72 in the September 11 terrorist attacks — 2007 is the deadliest year for American law enforcement since 1989, the NLEOMF and C.O.P.S. said in their preliminary report on 2007 officer deaths.

The number of officers killed by gunfire and in traffic-related incidents both increased in 2007, the latter reaching a record high of 81. So far this year, 69 officers have been shot and killed, up 33 percent from 2006, when there were 52 fatal shootings. Six times this year, two or more officers were gunned down in the same incident, including a shooting that killed three Odessa (TX) Police officers in early September.

Law Enforcement Officer Deaths, 2007 (PDF; 1.3 MB)

Parental Leave Policies and Parents’ Employment and Leave-Taking

Source: Institute for the Study of Labor

Utilizing data from the June Current Population Survey (CPS) Fertility Supplement merged with data from other months of the CPS, we describe trends in parents’ employment and leave-taking after birth of a newborn and analyze the extent to which these behaviors are associated with parental leave policies. The period we examine – 1987 to 2004 – is one in which such policies were expanded at both the state and federal level. We also provide the first comprehensive evidence as to how these expansions are correlated with employment and leave-taking for both mothers and fathers over this period. Our main finding is that leave expansions have increased the amount of time that new mothers and fathers spend on leave, with effects that are small in absolute terms but large relative to the baseline for men and much greater for college-educated women than for their counterparts with less schooling.

Full Paper (PDF; 531 KB)

State Personal Income: Third Quarter 2007

Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis

From news release:
U.S. personal income growth accelerated to 1.4 percent in the third quarter of 2007 from 0.9 percent in the second quarter. The acceleration returns the personal income growth rate close to its average for the last two years after a strong first quarter and weaker second quarter. (The growth rate swings in 2007 are a consequence of bonuses paid in the finance industry in the first quarter.) State personal income growth rates in the third quarter ranged from 0.8 percent to 3.6 percent, with growth accelerating or holding steady in all but 11 states.

Full release and tables (PDF; 862 KB)

Shrinking Boomer Social Security Retirement Benefits

Source: American Bar Association – Section of Taxation News Quarterly (via SSRN)

In 2008, the oldest of 78 million baby boomers will celebrate their 62nd birthdays. Before they blow out their birthday candles, they will have considered and likely decided whether to elect to take early Social Security retirement benefits (SSRBs). Recent and evolving changes in the normal retirement age under Social Security, Medicare premiums and increased exposure to income tax costs have reduced the net cash flow many senior boomers will enjoy from SSRBs. Because of the overall lack of transparency in the Social Security benefits formula and the complex interplay of continued work, Medicare, taxes, and the various timing-options, many boomers are unable to make informed decisions about critical retirement matters. This article presents these issues to assist in making informed retirement decisions.

Housing Bust Shatters State Migration Patterns

Source: The Brookings Institution

Analysis of the new Census Bureau annual estimates of state population changes for 2006-7 shows that the sinking housing market has yanked back high-flying states like Nevada and Arizona. An even bigger tug in growth occurred in Florida, another housing-boom driven state. With credit harder to get and the disappearance of housing deals, the allure of these states appears to have dimmed.

Meanwhile, the up-scale states–California, New York, New Jersey, and Massachusetts–are seeing fewer residents leave for a lower cost of living elsewhere. And those states benefiting from the previous flight to affordability–Nevada and Arizona in the west; Florida in the south; and Pennsylvania and New Hampshire in the east–have shown slower migration gains or greater declines.

Even the states surrounding Washington, D.C., another hot market, have attracted fewer migrants. Potential home buyers in the outer suburbs of Virginia and Maryland face trouble getting credit and recent buyers in the District and inner suburbs are stuck because they cannot sell.

The D.C. region has, in short, become a microcosm of the nation’s reaction to the housing bust. Like in Nevada and Arizona, the market for the region’s suburban buyers is drying up due to the credit crunch, and construction and in-migration is stalling. But the District and inner suburbs are more like coastal California, where housing-rich residents are waiting to sell in order to move to opportunities elsewhere.

Migration Statistics (PDF; 20 KB)

A Critical Review of the Sweeping Federal Civil Service Changes: The Case of the Departments of Homeland Security and Defense

Source: Review of Public Personnel Administration, Vol. 27, No. 4
By Jack Underhill and Ray Oman

This article critiques the proposed radical changes to the civil service system at the Departments of Homeland Security and Defense. It also summarizes the civil service problems and assesses whether the proposed changes would be likely to address those problems. It identifies the difficulties that one of the critical changes (merit pay or pay-for-performance) has encountered in the past. The article is critical of the proposed termination of the General Schedule system, which has served the civil service system so well in the past. It expresses concern about the proposed weakening of rights of employee appeals, protections, and meaningful union participation. The article argues that there are a number of problems facing the civil service, but that most of the changes do not address those problems. It lauds the major achievements of the federal service and cautions against radical changes that will have the effect of weakening it.

The Rise of Transgender-Inclusive Laws: How Well Are Municipalities Implementing Supportive Nondiscrimination Public Employment Policies?

Source: Review of Public Personnel Administration, Vol. 27, No. 4
By Roddrick A. Colvin

Whereas efforts that prohibit employment discrimination based on factors such as race or sexual orientation require certain organizational changes, creating a transgender-inclusive workplace requires organizational changes that include personnel, policy, legal, and medical issues unique to transgender people. At present, it is not clear whether communities are actually implementing these organizational changes, even after adopting transgender-inclusive nondiscrimination laws. This research project surveyed 74 municipalities with transgender-inclusive nondiscrimination employments laws, in order to assess and better understand the state of transgender-inclusive public workplaces. The initial results of the survey suggest that although innovation continues to increase, implementation and enforcement remain low, affecting managers’ and employees’ abilities to operate in a transgender-inclusive environment. Recommendations are made to improve implementation and enforcement of transgender-inclusive nondiscrimination laws.