Policy Area

While women continue to make gains in terms of their participation in the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of state government, more progress is needed before they will reach parity with their male counterparts. Women currently hold 25.3 percent of state elected executive offices, 24.3 percent of legislative seats and 29 percent of state court judgeships.

Since 1996, 18 states lifted their bans on food stamp eligibility for felony drug convictions, 26 states have issued partial bans for certain types of felony convictions, and only 6 states have full bans for those with any record of a felony drug conviction. The six states with full bans are Alaska, Georgia, Mississippi, South Carolina, West Virginia and Wyoming.

The average annual salary for U.S. governors in 2015 is $135,289—up just 0.5 percent from the average in 2014, a new survey by The Council of State Governments reveals. As in 2014, Maine Gov. Paul LePage, earns the lowest gubernatorial salary at an annual rate of $70,000, followed by Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who earns $87,759 per year. Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf has the highest gubernatorial salary at $190,823, followed by Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam’s salary of $184,632 per year, although Haslam returns his salary to his state.

Austin, Ind., a city of about 4,200 people in Scott County, Ind., off Interstate 65, has been the epicenter of an HIV outbreak, said Maureen Hayden, statehouse bureau chief for CNHI Indiana Newspapers. HIV has spread among intravenous drug users and more than 170 cases have now been reported. Hayden, a reporter who continues to cover the outbreak in southeast Indiana, was one of three presenters who discussed Indiana’s situation and substance abuse treatment options during a recent CSG eCademy webcast, “Harm Reduction: Needle-Borne Disease and Substance Abuse.”

During much of the past year, the White House has been engaged in an ambitious foreign policy agenda that includes restoring diplomatic relations with Cuba, finalizing a nuclear deal with Iran and negotiating a free-trade agreement with 11 countries along the Pacific Rim. In December 2014, President Obama announced he would re-establish diplomatic ties with Raul Castro’s Cuba. Six months later, Obama announced that the U.S. had reached an unprecedented multilateral agreement that would prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. In the next few months, the Obama administration is expected to finalize one of the largest free-trade agreements ever concluded. Following is a roundup of the administration’s recent foreign policy activities in each of these areas and what it means for states.

The irony of the Supreme Court agreeing to decide Harris v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission is inescapable. On June 29 in Arizona State Legislature v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission the Court held that Arizona’s redistricting commission could be solely responsible for congressional redistricting. In the first sentence of its opinion the Court noted Arizona voters adopted the commission to avoid partisan gerrymandering. The next day the Court agreed to decide Harris where the plaintiffs allege that Arizona’s redistricting commission engaged in partisan gerrymandering in state legislative redistricting that violated one-person, one-vote.  

It is noteworthy that the Harris plaintiffs don’t object to partisan gerrymander per se (which the Supreme Court has never held unconstitutional), just partisan gerrymandering that leads to unequal distribution of voters.

CSG Midwest
As Indiana Rep. Charlie Brown sees it, a new plan to enroll eligible inmates in Medicaid has the chance to be a win-win for his state and its taxpayers: Reduce recidivism by giving more people the health services they need, and cut long-term costs in the criminal justice system.
Signed into law earlier this year, HB 1269 (of which Brown was a co-sponsor) received overwhelming legislative approval, and it is part of a broader trend that has states looking for new ways to improve outcomes for state and local inmates, who have disproportionately high rates of mental illness and substance abuse.
CSG Midwest
Best known today for its use in the U.S. Senate, the filibuster is a legislative tactic that dates back centuries — even to the days of ancient Rome. But for most legislators serving in the 11-state Midwest, this maneuver to stall debate or block a bill’s passage is much more a curiosity than a legislative reality or obstacle.
The one exception is Nebraska, home to perhaps the most unique legislative branch among the 50 U.S. state governments. In that state, where 49 senators serve in a one-house, nonpartisan chamber, the filibuster — or the threat of it — is a common occurrence.
“We operate more like a senate here rather than like a house in that we give the members great latitude to discuss, debate, cajole their colleagues,” says Patrick O’Donnell, clerk of the Nebraska Unicameral Legislature.

CSG Midwest
In the last election cycle, partisan control of the U.S. Congress, the nation’s state legislatures and 36 governorships were all up for grabs. A vast majority of the nation’s youngest eligible voters seemingly didn’t care. Only 23 percent of 18- to 34-year-olds voted — the lowest participation rate in elections among this group since the U.S. Census Bureau began collecting the data in 1978.
Over the past three-and-a-half decades, their voting rate has fallen by more than 30 percent. (Declines are occurring from nearly every non-presidential election year to the next.) Meanwhile, participation among the nation’s oldest voters, those 65 and older, has remained steady, at around 60 percent.
CSG Midwest
In response to a greater demand for high-school degrees that emphasize skills and include a more rigorous curriculum, Indiana high schools can expect to see a revised diploma system within the next few years.
In 2014, the Indiana General Assembly passed legislation (HB 1213) to evaluate the state’s existing three-diploma system and explore a possible new graduation path for students, one focusing more on career and technical education. The Commission for Higher Education and the Indiana Board of Education will decide whether to approve the changes.
Any changes to state statute would then be voted on by the legislature during its 2016 session. The draft proposal, released this summer, would establish three new types of diplomas: Workforce Ready, College & Career Ready, and Indiana Honors.

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