Governmental Operations

“Data is the lifeblood of state government,” reported CSG Senior Fellows Katherine Barrett and Richard Greene in the June cover story of Governing magazine. Unfortunately, in case after case, states’ internal veins and arteries are full of data that’s inaccurate, misleading or out-of-date. In some instances, vital information is simply missing altogether for a variety of reasons, including a tendency of agencies to hoard their own data, missing out on opportunities to be achieved by sharing it with others in their state.

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 grew more slowly during and after the Great Recession, with many states instituting a ban on cost-of-living adjustments; however, as the economic and fiscal health of states has improved, the annual increases normally seen in executive branch pay are returning to a more historically customary level.

The U.S. Census Bureau measures state and local government activity through the Census of Governments and related surveys. The data produced from these efforts are standardized across states and are the only nationwide dataset that allows for comparability both across states and on a national basis. Even with this standardization, the activities of 50 different state political systems present unique challenges to those who collect and use these data. We will introduce the principles by which the Census Bureau classifies governments and their activities. Additionally, through specific case studies, we will illustrate the ways states differ in their operation and in how they conduct the business of public service. Through these illustrations, we will offer a perspective that enables data users to delve into the data with a more thorough and accurate understanding, allowing them to formulate analyses more accurately. 

Chapter 8 of the 2015 Book of the States contains the following articles and tables:

Economics webcast

In the aftermath of the Great Recession, an increasing number of states, including several in the SLC region, are focused on increasing accountability and transparency in the disbursement of taxpayer dollars. Performance-based budgeting—which focuses on efficiency and effectiveness in outcomes—has emerged as a viable tool for states looking for an alternative to routinely funding government operations on a pro forma basis. This webinar provided an overview of performance-based budgeting and highlighted measures initiated in Oklahoma and Mississippi to implement this spending strategy.

 

The opinion upholds the constitutionality of the redistricting commission as a method to draw congressional and legislative redistricting lines after a Census.     

Nearly half of state governments in the U.S. use a process outside of the legislature to draw congressional district lines. In the recent 5-4 decision, Arizona State Legislature v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission, the Court held that the Constitution’s Elections Clause permits voters to vest congressional redistricting authority entirely in an independent commission. Read more HERE. 

State legislatures should be interested inTyson Foods v. Bouaphakeo because it involves the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Given the difficulties of complying with this complex law, no employer is immune from the possibility of FLSA litigation.

One of two questions the Supreme Court will decide in Tyson Foods v. Bouaphakeo is whether a representative sample may be used calculate liability and damages for an entire class of workers. The other question is whether a class may include hundreds of members who weren’t affected.

Federal law (the Three-Judge Act) requires three-judge panels to decide constitutional challenges to congressional and legislative redistricting. But the single judge to whom the request for a three-judge panel is made may determine that three judges are not required to decide the case.   

The question on Shapiro v. Mack is whether a single judge may decide that a three-judge panel is not required because the complaint fails to state a claim under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, not because the complaint is frivolous.

In EEOC v. Abercrombie & Fitch Stores the Supreme Court held 8-1 that to bring a religious accommodation claim an applicant or employee need only show that his or her need for a religious accommodation was a motivating factor in an employment decision. The State and Local Legal Center (SLLC) filed an amicus brief arguing that to bring a failure to accommodate claim the applicant/employee should have to notify the employer of the need for a religious accommodation.

Abercrombie & Fitch’s “Look Policy,” prohibits employees from wearing “caps” because they are too informal for the store’s desired image. Samantha Elauf wore a head scarf to an interview at Abercrombie but didn’t ask for a religious accommodation. The assistant store manager who interviewed Elauf told the district manager she believed Elauf wore the headscarf for religious reasons. The district manager decided Elauf should not be hired as headwear worn for any reason violates Abercrombie’s “Look Policy.”

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