The Courts Won’t End Gerrymandering. Eric Holder Has a Plan to Fix It Without Them.

Source: Ari Berman, Mother Jones, July/August 2019

While Democrats are fixated on 2020, Holder is fighting for fairer maps in 2021 and beyond. ….

….So Holder is pursuing a new strategy, trying to elect down-ballot candidates who can deliver fairer maps and voting laws. The NDRC invested $350,000 in the Wisconsin Supreme Court race, hoping that a liberal majority on the seven-­member court might strike down any egregious gerrymanders in the next round of redistricting in 2021. “I don’t think that 10 years or so ago, you would have a former attorney general campaigning for a state Supreme Court justice,” Holder told me. “This is a recognition on the part of the Democratic Party, on the part of progressives, that we need to focus on state and local elections to a much greater degree than we have in the past.”

But if Democrats are belatedly recognizing this need, few besides Holder are acting on it. He is playing a long game in a party driven by instant gratification and consumed by the mess in the White House. While the party’s presidential contenders are attracting big crowds, donors, and volunteers determined to defeat President Donald Trump in 2020, Holder is focused on 2021…..

Back From the Brink

Source: Savannah Gilmore and Erica MacKellar, State Legislatures, April/May 2019

Revenue Performance Is Rock Solid as States Climb Out of the Great Recession’s Abyss….

Fiscal on the brink Just 10 years ago state revenues were dismal, continually falling below estimates. Lawmakers were scrambling to plug budget gaps as best they could. Across-the-board cuts, employee furloughs and targeted program reductions were the topics of countless state budget conversations. Fast forward to today, and the state fiscal scene looks very different. Revenue performance is strong, even exceeding estimates in many states.

Unlocking Access

Source: Bennett G. Boggs and Lesley Kennedy, State Legislatures, May/June 2019

Free tuition programs are opening doors for some students—but are they making the grade?

….“Free college” has caught the attention of many. Seventeen states and more than 350 localities in 44 states have enacted free college policies, and 23 states considered or are still debating legislation this year…..

Calculation and Corporate Tax Incentives

Source: Rosolino Candela, Peter Jacobsen, GMU Working Paper in Economics No. 19-21, July 1, 2019

From the abstract:
Amazon’s HQ2 campaign drew both large support at the possibility of job creation and backlash for perceived cronyism. In this paper we evaluate corporate tax incentive policies in light of the Austrian contribution to the problem of economic calculation. In doing so we highlight the contextual nature of the knowledge problem associated with policy packages and the potential cronyism arising from such a problem. We argue that because political decision-makers lack the knowledge generated via competition in the market process, they are unable to allocate resources in a way that achieves economic growth. In the place of this knowledge, they tend to gain knowledge from the political process which helps them respond to political incentives and rent-seeking behavior by special-interest groups.

Alternative Realities: The Impact of Extreme Changes in Defined Contribution Plans on Retirement Income Adequacy in America

Source: Jack VanDerhei, EBRI Issue Brief, June 13, 2019
(subscription required)

From the summary:
In recent years there have been a number of policy proposals that call into question the value of existing defined contribution plans. However, the suggested alternatives do not provide a detailed analysis of the impact of terminating defined contribution plans on retirement income adequacy for American households. Previous research by the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI) has provided some tangential evidence with respect to the potential impact. In 2014 EBRI provided simulation analysis of the serious error introduced by models that ignored future contribution activity from defined contribution plans. In 2017 EBRI produced simulation results showing that, if there were no employer-sponsored retirement plans (defined benefit as well as defined contribution) and individuals were assumed to behave in the manner observed for those with no access to such plans, the aggregate retirement deficits would jump from $4.13 trillion to $7.05 trillion (an increase of 71 percent).

A Review of MCAD Public Hearings: Suggestions for Practice

Source: Michael Carlozzi, Employee Responsibilities and Rights Journal, OnlineFirst, June 29 2019
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Public hearing decisions from the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD) offer public administrators, private employers, and researchers actionable information. This article analyzes the outcomes of these decisions over a 16-year period (2002–2018). Key findings are that private-sector employers were significantly more likely to lose at hearings than public-sector employers and that this gap appeared to result largely from differences in organizational size and gender-based claims. Smaller companies, in particular, lost at hearings significantly more than larger organizations in both sectors. Additional findings are that employers who participated in an interactive process were significantly more likely to prevail in reasonable accommodation disability cases and that appeals were rarely overturned by the MCAD’s Full Commission. Implications for administrators and human resource managers are discussed.

Autonomy matters: Insights from U.S. water utility managers on governance structure

Source: Jennifer C. Biddle, Karen J. Baehler, AWWA Water Science, Vol. 1 no. 3, May/June 2019
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Organizational autonomy and insulation from political interference were cited as key attributes of governance influencing managers’ perceptions of utility performance according to 22 U.S. water utility managers. The further removed from direct management by local government, the more likely utilities were to experiment with true‐cost pricing and innovative management strategies that may lead to improved whole‐system performance. In addition, findings from this qualitative study support claims made by water sector professionals of the growing need for a shift in water utility governance systems to adapt to changing conditions and better respond to stressors and shocks. This research is part of a larger study that seeks to contribute to our understanding of which governance features are important for improving water utility sustainability. It also raises important questions for further research into the linkages between governance structure, larger sociopolitical factors, and water system performance.

Buying Smarter: Insights and best practices from the 2019 Governing Procurement Survey

Source: Governing, Special Report, 2019

States are becoming more data-driven and value-focused in their purchasing. Those are several take-aways from Governing’s 2019 Procurement Survey, which examined purchasing policies and practices in 29 states. This report analyzes the survey’s extensive findings to identify key purchasing trends, such as growing use of data analytics to drive efficiency, broad movement toward more responsive contracting solutions and the forging of closer relationships with vendors. It also presents real-world examples of how states are putting these ideas into practice.

Related:
Buying Better
Source: Liz Farmer, Governing, June 2019

Local Elections and Representation in the United States

Source: Christopher Warshaw, Annual Review of Political Science, Vol. 22, 2019
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
In recent years, there has been a surge in the study of representation and elections in local politics. Scholars have made progress on many of the empirical barriers that stymied earlier researchers. As a result, the study of representation and elections in local politics has moved squarely into the center of American politics. The findings of recent research show that local politics in the modern, polarized era is much more similar to other areas of American politics than previously believed. Scholars have shown that partisanship and ideology play important roles in local politics. Due to the growing ideological divergence between Democrats and Republicans, Democratic elected officials increasingly take more liberal positions, and enact more liberal policies, than Republican ones. As a result, despite the multitude of constraints on local governments, local policies in the modern era tend to largely reflect the partisan and ideological composition of their electorates.

The Political Theory of Universal Basic Income

Source: Juliana Uhuru Bidadanure, Annual Review of Political Science, Vol. 22, 2019
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Universal basic income (UBI) is a radical policy proposal of a monthly cash grant given to all members of a community without means test, regardless of personal desert, with no strings attached, and, under most proposals, at a sufficiently high level to enable a life free from economic insecurity. Once a utopian proposal, the policy is now widely discussed and piloted throughout the world. Among the various objections to the proposal, one concerns its moral adequacy: Isn’t it fundamentally unjust to give cash to all indiscriminately rather than to those who need it and deserve it? This article reviews the variety of strategies deployed by political theorists to posit that the proposal is in fact justified, or even required, by social justice. The review focuses mainly on the contemporary normative debate on UBI—roughly dating back to Philippe Van Parijs’s influential work in the 1990s—and is centered on the ideals of freedom and equality.