BOS 2010

Book of the States 2010: Table of Contents:

Chapter 1: State Constitutions

Chapter 2: Federalism and Intergovernmental Relations

Chapter 3: State Legislative Branch

Chapter 4: State Executive Branch

Chapter 5: State Judicial Branch

Chapter 6: Elections

Chapter 7: State Finance

Chapter 8: State Management, Administration, and Demographics

Chapter 9: Selected State Policies and Programs

Chapter 10: State Pages

 

Contrary to the claims of many pundits, voter initiatives have not constrained the California budget to the extent that fiscal crises are inevitable. I reach this conclusion by examining each of the 111 successful initiatives in the state’s history. For the 2009-2010 budget cycle, voter initiatives locked in about 33 percent of spending, most of which probably would have been appropriated even if not required, and placed no significant prohibitions on the two primary sources of state revenue—income and sales taxes.

Governors and state legislators need to re-evaluate the federal changes to voter registration and election administration and determine if the model for management of those functions is current to state needs and practices. Where the election process for more than two centuries has been principally at the local level through county and city governments, with states responsible for policy development and enforcement, Congress continues to make the states the chief administrative body. State administrative and legislative response to the dramatic changes in level of responsibility has not kept pace with the federal mandates.

The current fiscal crisis is provoking budget reductions so deep they threaten the basic mission of state courts. In the 2010 fiscal year, 40 state court budgets were cut, and for the 2011 fiscal year, 48 project budget cuts. The cumulative cuts have reached as high as 20 percent of the court budget, and for many state courts, the end is not in sight. The scale of the problem is enormous.

Efforts to prevent budget cutbacks from diminishing the quality of justice in this country kept the state courts in the news during 2009. That task was hindered by the continuing rise in the number of new cases filed. One repercussion of economic downturns is the potential for relationships between the branches of state government to fray, but hard times in 2009 also promoted interbranch cooperation on topics like mortgage foreclosure. Pennsylvania and Wisconsin were the only states to hold state supreme court elections, but two major U.S. Supreme Court decisions promise to reshape the election scene for judges nationally. State courts also made news as they confronted the rush of change associated with the growing influence of social media.

For those in the industry of government accountability, the term “unprecedented change in 2009” is an understatement. With the enactment of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, government financial management professionals embarked on a monumental undertaking: using existing limited resources to quickly develop a new, efficient, Web-based system of reporting and accounting for federal grant funds. Everyone recognized the enormity of the task; no one, however, could have foreseen the extraordinary levels of intergovernmental cooperation that would emerge.

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