Policy Area

CSG Midwest
From time to time, a legislator makes headlines by invoking “immunity” when he or she is stopped by law enforcement. The news stories almost always bring up this question: Do lawmakers really have a “get out of jail free” card? The answer is, almost always, “no.” Most states have in their constitutions privilege for legislators, but the actual protections can be misunderstood by law enforcement, the public and lawmakers alike.
 
Legislative privilege has historical roots that date back to 17th-century Britain, says Steven Huefner, a professor at The Ohio State University. That tradition eventually took hold in the United States, but today, the immunity language in state and federal constitutions has very little relevance.
“It’s a bit of a historical anachronism from when there existed a ‘civil arrest’ to detain people. We no longer even have that in any meaningful sense; if you’re being arrested by the police, they have probable cause [for criminal arrest],” he says.
But the provision still grabs headlines today.
CSG South

This presentation was given by Sujit M. CanagaRetna of the Southern Legislative Conference before the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors (ACRE) in Columbia, South Carolina, November 13, 2004.

CSG South

The United States spends an enormous amount of money on education. According to the U.S. Department of Education, total public expenditures for K-12 education in 2000 was nearly $373 billion. The United States is at the top of the industrialized world in per pupil expenditures on education. Most of this money—more than 90 percent in most states—is from state and local sources. Education is the single largest categorical expenditure in state budgets throughout the South and, as enrollment has risen, the costs related to educating the nation’s youth have grown. This report summarizes the current school finance systems for the 16-member states of the SLC.

CSG South

Few other topics generate more spirited discourse and disagreement among policymakers than a discussion on devising a comprehensive retirement system to account for the huge number of “baby boomers” scheduled to retire in the next few years. The primary goal of this retirement system would be to sustain participants with adequate benefits for the duration of their retirement years. However, a spate of economic setbacks in the past few years, such as the sputtering stock market, rising deficits at the federal and state levels, rising fears over terror attacks, mounting corporate scandals affecting consumer confidence, dwindling corporate profits resulting in severe cutbacks and a jobless economic recovery, continues to cause stresses in the retirement plans of millions of Americans. Hence, it probably is not a stretch to maintain that an increasing number of Americans, particularly those nearing retirement age, remain extremely apprehensive about their retirement situation in the years ahead.

An effective system of interstate cooperation is essential to the operation of U. S. federalism. The research reported here shows that, on average, a state belongs to 25.4 interstate compacts and, during the 1990s, joined other states in 25 legal actions and enacted 7.7 uniform laws. However, the variation both across and within states as to the degree and type of cooperation reflects the tension between cooperation and competition.

The rapid pace of technological change and innovation that transformed government service delivery in the 1990s has been slowed in recent years by the bleak fiscal realities facing most states. Although the demand for online services and 24/7 access to information remains strong, information technology (IT) initiatives must now demonstrate a clear return on investment with an emphasis on system integration and infrastructure consolidation. States are also recognizing the importance of centralized IT oversight, common standards and shared solutions to save money and deliver more effective services to citizens and businesses.

States’ welfare challenges are becoming more complex. As the economy weakened, caseload decline either diminished or reversed. Employment rates declined for both welfare recipients  and those who recently left welfare. More who left welfare either have returned to it or are disconnected, living without a job, welfare, or someone else who can support them. Fortunately, more who left welfare are staying connected to other government safety net supports. States’ welfare offices must combine the message of work and assessment of work barriers with a complex array of services that remediate barriers, track families after they leave welfare, and support working poor families.

A survey of municipal leagues and county associations in 41 states reveals several state legislatures initiated actions to assist general purpose local governments by broadening their discretionary authority and establishing special assistance programs. Nevertheless, more than one-half of the respondents reported the legislatures had imposed additional mandates since  1990 and one-third reported the imposition of additional restraints. Only two respondents indicated court decisions generally favored local governments, six reported narrow interpretation of local powers and the remaining respondents reported mixed decisions.

By almost any metric, the performance of state workers’ compensation systems varies greatly, with large swings in claims, costs and disputes over just a few years. As a result of this  dynamic environment, a handful of states “reform” their workers’ compensation statutes almost annually.

Crime is down, but prison populations continue to rise. As state officials struggle with budget shortfalls, it is increasingly important to understand the changing nature of state corrections, both from a demographic perspective and a programmatic one. If state officials are to ever solve the “revolving-door-of-corrections,” they must provide effective programming and planning whose ultimate goal is the reentry of offenders into society.

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