Government

The Council of State Governments officially opened its renovated national headquarters in Lexington, Ky., Monday, Aug. 31, with a rededication and ribbon-cutting ceremony that included CSG leaders, staff and members.

David Adkins, CSG's executive director, said the new building fosters collaboration and communication as the council continues to empower state leaders.

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.

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.

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

As the U.S. Congress considers legislation to better protect consumers from the threats posed by data breaches and identity theft, the nation’s state attorneys general have delivered a unified message: Don’t pre-empt state laws. Forty-four attorneys general (including 10 from the Midwest) signed the July letter to lawmakers. “Additional protections afforded consumers by a federal law must not diminish the important role states already play,” they wrote.

On Tuesday, the Legislative Council, which handles budget and business when the full legislature is not in session, voted 10-1 to file a lawsuit against Gov. Bill Walker over his unilateral executive action to expand Medicaid eligibility, according to the Alaska Dispatch News.

Gov. Walker, after unsuccessfully trying to get the legislature to approve his budget proposal to expand Medicaid eligibility during the 2015 session, followed the lead of governors in Kentucky and West Virginia and took action without the legislature’s approval.

The new Medicaid rules are to go into effect on September 1 and would made Alaska the 30th state to expand Medicaid as allowed under the Affordable Care Act.

Federal and state government relations are complicated, and tougher times may be ahead for state legislators as funding for services remains scarce. Three experts discussed the duties, powers and limitations of state governments during a recent CSG eCademy webcast, “How Does the Power Flow in Legislative Branch Federalism?” The webcast was the second in a series of three civics education webinars about the state of federalism.

Unfunded mandates. Congressional imposition. The erosion of federalism. These terms often are tossed around as state and the federal governments continue to navigate the tricky waters of federal-state relations, particularly in the legislative branch. In the second in a series of three all-star webinars about the state of federalism as it applies to the states and the federal government, CSG explores the roles of the Congress and state legislatures, highlighting the inter-workings of congressional and elected state legislators. Panelists provide concrete examples, including health care reform, to clarify this relationship, which is crucial to the smooth functioning of the states, but can sometimes be blurry and complicated.

In May, the World Trade Organization found country-of-origin labeling requirements, often referred to as COOL requirements, in the United States to be inconsistent with its international obligations. If Congress fails to repeal these requirements, Canada or Mexico may enact retaliatory trade actions valued at more than $3 billion against various companies across all 50 states.

A 2014 report by the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law predicts that the legalization of same-sex marriage could have a combined economic impact across all states of $2.6 billion during the first three years, primarily due to increased spending on weddings by same-sex resident couples and their out-of-state guests. In addition, the report estimates that legalization will boost state and local sales tax revenue by $184.7 million and support more than 13,000 jobs. The potential economic and fiscal impact varies across states.

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