NCSL 50-State Legislative Tracking Web Resources

Source: National Conference of State Legislatures

Updated August 2007: At the request of NCSL’s Legislative Research Librarians (LRL) staff section, NCSL has developed this resource of 50-state compilations covering various issues that concern state legislators and legislative staff. Here you will find a topical, alphabetical listing of legislative and statutory databases, compilations and state charts/maps.

Public Libraries in the United States: Fiscal Year 2005

Source: National Center for Education Statistics

This report includes national and state summary data on public libraries in the 50 states and the District of Columbia, with an introduction, selected findings, and several tables. The report, based on data from the Public Libraries Survey for fiscal year 2005, includes information on population of legal service area, service outlets, library collections and services, full-time equivalent staff, and operating revenue and expenditures. The report includes several key findings: Nationwide, visits to public libraries totaled 1.4 billion, or 4.7 library visits per capita. The average number of Internet terminals available for public use per stationary outlet was 11.2.

Full Report (PDF; 608 KB)

National Compensation Survey: Occupational Earnings in the United States, 2006

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

The National Compensation Survey (NCS) provides comprehensive measures of occupational earnings, compensation cost trends, benefit incidence, and detailed benefit provisions. This bulletin presents estimates of occupational pay for the nation. These national estimates originate from the NCS locality survey data and are weighted to represent the nation as a whole. Data for more than one-half of the 152 individual NCS localities used for national estimates have been previously published.

States failing FOI responsiveness

Source: Better Government Association and National Freedom of Information Coalition

Freedom of information laws are only as good as the response mechanisms built into the laws themselves. After all, if citizens can’t take action to enforce their right of access shy of filing suit, what good are FOI laws?
When it comes to responsiveness measures, not much good at all.

The Better Government Association (BGA) and the National Freedom of Information Coalition (NFOIC) have united to review the recourse afforded citizens in the public records laws of all 50 states, and the conclusions make for some relentlessly depressing reading.

The tools available to citizens to enforce their rights under state FOI laws are, with rare exceptions, endemically weak. The haphazard construction of state public records laws has resulted in an information gap that significantly affects the citizenry’s ability to examine even the most fundamental actions of government, the study found.

States failing FOI responsiveness (also available in PDF)

The war on whistle-blowers

Source: Salon.com and the Center for Investigative Reporting

Every year, hundreds of federal workers sound the alarm about corruption, fraud or dangers to public safety that are caused or overlooked — or even covered up — by U.S. government agencies. These whistle-blowers are supposed to be guaranteed protection by law from retaliation for speaking out in the public’s interest.

But a six-month investigation by the Center for Investigative Reporting, in collaboration with Salon, has found that federal whistle-blowers almost never receive legal protection after they take action. Instead, they often face agency managers and White House appointees intent upon silencing them rather than addressing the problems they raise. They are left fighting for their jobs in a special administrative court system, little known to the American public, that is mired in bureaucracy and vulnerable to partisan politics. The CIR/Salon investigation reveals that the whistle-blower system — first created by Congress decades ago and proclaimed as a cornerstone of government transparency and accountability — has in reality enabled the punishment of employees who speak out. It has had a chilling effect, dissuading others from coming forward. The investigation examined nearly 3,600 whistle-blower cases since 1994, and included dozens of interviews and a review of confidential court documents. Whistle-blowers lose their cases, the investigation shows, nearly 97 percent of the time. Most limp away from the experience with their careers, reputations and finances in tatters.

2007 Work Force Training: Expanding Companies Come To Depend on State Work Force Training Programs

Source: Expansion Management

Each state offers work force training programs, but each state is different. Eligibility rules vary, as do cost per employee, funding restrictions and wage requirements. Some states offer work force training programs free to qualified companies, while other states award grants to companies to cover the cost of training. Most states take full advantage of their community college systems, which are an ideal place to conduct work force training because that is, in essence, their mission.

Article

Chart: State Work Force Training Programs (PDF; 390 KB)

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.