BOS 2016

THE BOOK OF THE STATES 2016

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

 

The sweeping diversity explosion now underway in the U.S. will continue to impact the political landscape as the racial profiles of the electorate and voters continue to change. Testament to this is the election of the nation’s first black president, Barack Obama, which can be attributed, in large part, to a growing minority electorate both nationally and in previously Republican-leaning Sun Belt states. This article reviews the nation’s new racial demographic shifts with an eye to how it has changed the electorate and outcomes of the past three presidential elections, and suggesting what it may mean for the future.

The 2000 Election debacle led to the creation of the Help America Vote Act (HAVA). This article discusses whether the promise of HAVA, to modernize American elections, has been met, and reviews the current trends and innovations happening in elections across the country. The emerging technologies are making this an exciting time, but elections remain a people-driven and people-serving process, and we need to continue to encourage people to get involved as election specialists and poll workers.

Overall, state fiscal conditions showed modest improvements in fiscal year 2015. Revenue growth accelerated, mostly due to strong income tax collections, while total state spending from all fund sources increased at its fastest rate since 1992 due to additional federal funds from the Affordable Care Act. In addition, the number of states making mid-year budget cuts remained low, and states’ total balances reached an all-time high in actual dollar terms. In fiscal 2016, states expect both revenue and spending to grow slowly. However, some states are facing significant budgetary challenges associated with the decline in oil prices. It is likely that budget proposals for fiscal 2017 and beyond will remain mostly cautious with limited spending growth.

A comparison of U.S. Census data for 2013 and 2014, released in early 2016, shows that a greater portion of Americans in each state had health insurance in the more recent year. Nearly 8.5 million individuals gained health insurance coverage between 2013 and 2014. In 2014, all the provisions of the Affordable Care Act designed to increase access to affordable insurance were in place for states. Some states, however, decided not to expand income eligibility for Medicaid to 138 percent of the federal poverty level as the Supreme Court ruled in 2012 was the prerogative of the states, not Congress. The states that showed the greatest increase in coverage between 2013 and 2014 were states that expanded Medicaid income eligibility.

Just like the head and tail of a coin, there are two sides to every disaster—providing help to those who need it and paying for that assistance. It’s a tug-of-war that’s becoming more contentious every year. Federal law requires assistance in times of disasters, but as threats grow in complexity—possible infrastructure failures, vulnerabilities from electromagnetic pulses and unforeseen consequences from hydraulic fracturing to name a few—the burden of marshalling the necessary resources and funding is an ongoing struggle.

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