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While the Supreme Court’s next term officially begins Oct. 6, its long conference is Sept. 29. The court will review a backlog of petitions that have been piling up over the summer. SCOTUSblog compiles a list of petitions it believes have a reasonable chance of being granted. Looking at long conference petitions and petitions that haven't yet been set for conference, four stand out as having a particularly significant impact on the states, if the court accepts them.

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Over the past year, Michigan legislators and a group of citizens have teamed up to pass measures using a lawmaking option available in only one other Midwestern state. Most recently, the Legislature passed a citizen-initiated statute on wolf hunting. According to mlive.com, the measure is an attempt to allow the hunting to continue. In December, legislators approved a citizen-initiated petition that prohibits insurers from including abortion coverage as a standard part of plans.
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Concerned about a steady decline in the proportion of state workers who are disabled, Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton is ordering agency heads to do more. His executive order also includes a workforce goal — that by 2018, 7 percent of the people employed by Minnesota’s state agencies be individuals with disabilities.

A May 2014 state-by-state survey conducted by National Public Radio (NPR) finds that the costs of the criminal justice system across the U.S. are increasingly being shifted to defendants and offenders. Specifically, defendants are now being charged for government services that were once free, including those that are constitutionally required. From the study:

Governments have now embraced performance measurement as an ongoing component of performance management. Additionally, over the last decade or so, the availability of tools - in areas like data analytics and visualization - has exploded, providing managers new opportunities to improve the information collected through their performance measurement programs. According to a recent report from the Urban Institute, that means that performance measurement and management are entering a "new phase". To assist leaders in both the private and public sectors, the report provides a number of recommendations for using those newly available tools to help transform and upgrade performance measurement systems. 

By Dennis L. Dresang

Officials in the executive, legislative and judicial branches of state governments need all the traits and skills required of leaders generally. They must have vision, passion and energy. They must be able to communicate and both command respect and be respectful. The institutions of government and the values of public service place unique demands on state government leaders ... the general characteristics of leaders are not enough when serving in the state legislature.

In certain cities across the United States, there is a battle for broadband brewing in the halls of municipal and state legislatures. Currently, 19 states have laws in place that make it difficult for municipal governments to provide broadband service via public power utilities. Cities like Chattanooga, Tennessee and Wilson, North Carolina are petitioning the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to preempt state laws that restrict the right to offer broadband.

Even though the Supreme Court’s next term won’t officially begin until October 6, the Court has already accepted about 40 of the 70 or so cases it will decide in the upcoming months. 

For a more detailed summary of all the cases the Court has accepted so far affecting states, read the State and Local Legal Center’s Supreme Court Preview for State Governments.

Here is a quick highlight of what is on the Court’s docket right now that will...

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Earlier this year, Roll Call — the news source dedicated to covering Capitol Hill — ran a short headline that summed up much of U.S. policymaking today. "It’s the states, stupid,” the magazine declared. Gridlock continues to reign in the nation’s capital, with power divided among two political parties that have become more ideologically distinct and among members of U.S. Congress who have become more ideologically distant from one another. That contrasts with trends at the state level, where a single party now controls the governor’s office and both legislative chambers in close to 80 percent of state capitols. That is the highest rate of unified government in more than 50 years.

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In Michigan, the state’s legislators meet year-round, earn among the highest legislative salaries in the nation, and get support from a staff of more than 700 people. For a time earlier this year, some inside the Capitol wondered if that might all soon change.
A petition drive to make Michigan a part-time legislature — with much lower staffing levels and legislative pay, along with session days limited to 60 days per year — was being pushed with plans to put it on the ballot later this year.
That drive has since stalled, though supporters of the change have vowed to continue to seek wider support statewide. And the recent activity in Michigan begs the question: Is one model, part-time legislature or full-time legislature, better than the other?

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