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

 

Looking to the global marketplace for economic development and paying attention to export and import trends is no longer an option for state policymakers—it is a necessity.

Critical to state education and economic goals, adult learners will represent a majority of college students in the near future, yet they are largely an untapped resource. States and higher education institutions must adequately address their unique needs, concerns and expectations with comprehensive, proactive and targeted strategies that reflect this new reality.

Only three governors were elected in 2015. Kentucky, Louisiana and Mississippi are the only states that hold their gubernatorial elections during the year prior to the presidential election. This means that these three states can be early indicators of any voter unrest that might unleash itself more broadly in the next year’s congressional and presidential elections, and we saw some of this in the two races where candidates were vying for open seats. Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant (R) was elected to a second term, running in a state that strongly favored his political party. Both Kentucky and Louisiana have elected Democrats and Republicans to the governorship in recent years, and each race was seen as up for grabs by many political pundits. In the end, each election resulted in the governorship turning over to the other political party.

Despite concerns about the long-term solvency and sustainability of the federal highway trust fund, the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation or FAST Act passed by Congress in December 2015 did not include what many said was a much needed increase in the federal gas tax, which has remained unchanged since 1993. Congress instead offset a transfer of general funds to supplement gas tax revenues by tapping a Federal Reserve surplus fund among other sources. The action came at the end of a year in which eight states did raise their own gas taxes. With the fuel efficiency of the nation’s vehicle fleet improving and the greater adoption of electric vehicles on the horizon, some states are also looking to a new revenue mechanism that some believe could one day replace the gas tax—a mileage-based user fee. Concerns about how the fees would be administered and whether it could ever be done as efficiently as the gas tax are causing doubts it will be ready in time to help fund the next long-term iteration of the federal program when the FAST Act expires in 2020.

Voters decided only 28 state-level ballot propositions in 2015, as direct democracy activity continued to cool in the 21st century. High profile issues included rejection of marijuana legalization in Ohio, selection of the chief justice in Wisconsin, and sales tax changes in Michigan and Washington.

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