BOS 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


Several of the 135 amendments on the 2012 ballot attracted significant attention, including a California amendment increasing income and sales tax rates, a Colorado amendment legalizing recreational marijuana, and various amendments regarding the right to bear arms, same-sex marriage and affirmative action. Although voters in three states rejected automatically generated referendums on calling constitutional conventions, two recently established constitutional revision commissions were operating this year, thereby continuing a recent tradition of undertaking constitutional reform through piecemeal amendments and commissions rather than in conventions.

The U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in April 2013, in the matter of Tarrant Regional Water District v. Herrmann. While the specifics of the case pertain to a dispute between Texas and Oklahoma over water from the Red River, the court’s ruling will be watched closely by the numerous interstate compacts that regulate shared bodies of water. 

The passage of MAP-21, the federal surface transportation authorization bill, by Congress in 2012 provided some certainty for state transportation agencies that had dealt with short-term extensions of the previous bill for nearly three years. Moreover, the legislation included many policy changes they had long sought: the consolidation of federal programs, provisions to accelerate the delivery of transportation projects, an emphasis on performance measurement and an infusion of cash for a popular credit assistance program. But state transportation officials say the implementation of MAP-21 continues to present challenges even as the discussion must now turn to its successor--due in 2014--and the important question of how to fund the federal transportation program going forward.

Historically, community colleges have served as an entry point to higher education for many students, particularly nontraditional older students as well as those from low-income households. Community colleges provide general education courses that often, but not always, are transferable to public four-year colleges and universities. For students who persist, the outcome at community colleges has traditionally been a two-year associate degree. Over the past 20 years, however, the line in the sand separating two- and four-year postsecondary institutions has begun to erode. Twenty states have begun meeting the demand for more bachelor’s degrees by giving community colleges an expanded role and allowing them to offer four-year degrees. 

States are currently grappling with the cleanup of Cold War era, defense waste sites across the country. Leaking underground storage tanks of nuclear waste at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in February 2013 underscore the  urgency of resolving these long-term challenges in a timely manner before additional risk placed on the public However, Washington’s current fiscal problems and the heightened sensitivity of transporting and storing waste do not lend easy or immediate solutions.