BOS 2013

THE BOOK OF THE STATES 2013

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

 

States and local governments were faced with long lines and long wait times for some voters in Election 2012. What causes election problems? How does government get to the point where elections get off the front pages and return to stable events? The solutions are not simply limited to election administration. Smooth elections are a combination of policy, usually mandated at the state level by legislation or by regulation, resources allocated to the elections process, political considerations, and then administration of the process at the local level. What can states do to assure the best possible service to voters? What is the proper mix of policy, politics, practices and procedures?
 
America’s system of election administration is, in many ways, inefficient, unnecessarily expensive to administer and does not work as well as it can for the population it is intended to serve. To bring our elections into the 21st century, states should modernize how we register to vote, when we vote and how we manage the voting process.
 
In this difficult fiscal climate, every branch of state government feels the pressure of tightening budgets. State court systems are no exception.1 For the judiciary to manage caseloads effectively, dispose of court business without delay and deliver quality service to the public, adequate resources are essential.2 Meeting this challenge requires states to assess objectively the number of judges required to handle caseloads, as well as whether judicial resources are being allocated equitably and used prudently. State court systems are increasingly using the weighted caseload method of judicial workload assessment as a best practice. This article describes the basic mechanics of workload assessment and illustrates how it is being used in several states facing a variety of budgetary and judicial staffing issues.
 
Recent reports about state courts invariably highlight contention over how judges are selected and the unrelenting decline in court budgets. This report is no different. But behind the saga of inadequate court resources and the presence of big money, special interest influence and partisanship in the selection of judges, other significant stories are playing out. State courts are striving to innovate by applying the latest technology to the courthouse and courtroom. State courts also are looking for advice from new media experts about new ways to communicate with the public and improve court processes, as well as how to adapt those processes to ensure trials remain fair in a digital world. Evidence on the value of implementing procedural fairness as a mechanism for reducing recidivism was reinforced by a new community court evaluation.
 
Citizens and governing bodies are demanding more transparency regarding a government's overall financial condition and individual transactions than ever before. The movement toward more transparency began just before the economic downturn that emerged in 2008, but really gathered steam with the passage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act in 2009, which required quarterly reporting on a national website of Recovery Act-related expenditures. States and many local governments followed by creating their own transparency websites. In 2012, the Governmental Accounting Standards Board, known as GASB, issued two new accounting principles that are designed to provide increased transparency into one of government’s largest unfunded liabilities—pension systems. GASB, through the issuance of Statement No. 67 for pension plans and Statement No. 68 for employers, has dramatically changed the way pensions are calculated and reported in a government’s financial statement. This article will highlight the changes relating to Statement No. 68, focusing on how the new standard will assist state and local policymakers and the public to better understand their pension liabilities.
 

Pages