Government

U.S. veterans involved in the justice system face unique challenges. Since 2008, court officials have begun to step in to prevent jail time for veterans suffering from mental health disorders. Judge Robert Russell of Buffalo, N.Y., has offered one solution--specialized veterans treatment court.

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More than 100 years ago, the state of Wisconsin started what has since become an indispensable part of the daily work of state legislatures — the nonpartisan legislative service agency. From bill drafting to a host of research services, agency staff help make the legislative process work in capitols across the country, as political scientist Gary Moncrief noted this summer in a presentation to the Midwest’s state legislators.

Since the 1970s, he said, state legislatures have been professionalized and their role in public policy enhanced thanks to a series of reforms, among them a rise in legislative staff. For example, between 1979 and 2009, the median number of legislative staff per member of the legislature has risen from 2.7 to 3.9. (That also includes partisan staff and staff for individual legislators.)

“These reforms were largely effective in making legislatures co-equal branches of government,” Moncrief told the Midwestern Legislative Conference.
But while all states rely heavily on nonpartisan staff, the structure and duties of these agencies can vary.
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Republicans took control of the U.S. Senate and maintained their control of the U.S. House of Representatives during the midterm elections Nov. 4.

Republicans also had success at the state level, winning governorships and seats in state legislatures across the nation. President Obama, acknowledging the election results, has expressed his intention to work in a spirit of cooperation with the Republican Congress for the next two years.

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The U.S. Senate has a full docket of White House nominations to consider when lawmakers return to Congress this week, including 35 ambassadorships, 16 federal district court judgeships and other administrative positions.

The most anticipated is the nomination of federal prosecutor Loretta Lynch to replace departing Attorney General Eric Holder. In addition to the nominees, President Obama has selected Kentucky Lt. Gov. Jerry Abramson as the new White House liaison to state and local governments. Abramson was Louisville’s longest-serving mayor and also was president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors in the early 1990s. Abramson’s priorities will include helping states coordinate on the second open enrollment process under the Affordable Care Act and helping push for a raise in the minimum wage in states and cities.

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After the midterm elections saw Republicans take control of the U.S. Senate and increase their majority in the U.S. House of Representatives, President Obama said he is willing and eager to work with a Republican Congress to address national priorities, including immigration reform.

Arizona’s Prop 122 – allowing the state to refuse funding for federal regulations – passed on Tuesday by the slimmest of margins, garnering 51.4 percent of the vote. The broadly defined amendment now gives the state authority to essentially nullify federal regulations and mandates by declining to dedicate state resources for enforcement.

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By Lisa Soronen, State and Local Legal Center Director

The Supreme Court will decide in Perez v. Mortgage Bankers Association whether a federal agency must engage in notice-and-comment rulemaking pursuant to the Administrative Procedure Act before it can significantly alter an interpretive rule that interprets an agency regulation.

The State and Local Legal Center argues in its...

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The U.S. Senate will return to Washington, D.C., Nov. 12, followed soon by the U.S. House of Representatives, according to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. It is unclear how long Congress will be in session, despite many issues remaining unresolved. Most importantly, Congress must act on the 2015 fiscal year budget, which is set to expire Dec. 11 to avoid a government shutdown.

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The Council of State Governments has been collecting data on governors’ salaries for The Book of the States since 1937. Governors’ salaries in 2014 range from a low of $70,000 per year to a high of $187,818, with an average salary of $134,390. When adjusted for inflation, the average salary in 2014 is very close to what it was 77 years ago, the first year CSG started collecting data.

The Council of State Governments has been collecting data on governors’ salaries for The Book of the States since 1937. The average governor’s salary has grown more slowly in recent years than in the past, with a number of states cutting their chief executive’s pay during and after the Great Recession.

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