Book of the States 2009

Secretaries of state and other officials are concerned about a push by Congress to federalize corporate disclosure laws. Those interviewed for this article say federal intervention is unwarranted, and they worry about the impacts of such a move on cash-strapped state budgets, as well as on small businesses. Meanwhile, several states that have been singled out for problems related to shell companies have amended their laws to help address real or perceived loopholes. Other states are working with national organizations to produce legislative language for states on this issue.

Crises demand leadership. The time to address an orderly succession of executive branch  power is before a crisis occurs. This decade offers states examples of questions and legal challenges which may arise if state constitutional language or statute on executive branch succession is incomplete, unclear or in conflict with other state statutes. The governor’s office may be vacated before the official completion of a term due to death, resignation, incapacitation, impeachment or recall. State law should define a clear and sufficiently deep line of gubernatorial succession. State leaders should consider establishing a specific process to declare a governor incapacitated, either temporarily or permanently. States may also review to ensure statute surrounding impeachment and recall provisions are not in conflict with Constitutional and other statutory language on succession.

The 11 gubernatorial elections that took place in 2008 increased the Democratic to Republican governors’ ratio to 29-to-21, but returned to the previous 28-22 ratio when former Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano resigned in January after she was confirmed as the new secretary of Homeland Security in President Obama’s cabinet. The cost of running for governor continues to be expensive. After several years of no forced gubernatorial exits from office, in March 2008 then-New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer resigned from office after he was linked to a prostitution ring. Then in January 2009 former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich was impeached, convicted and removed from office.

The full force of the fiscal tsunami has been felt by all 50 states. Governors are weary of the bad news and anxious about keeping state offices open, programs operating and support flowing to the public. Governors apprise residents in their states about their budget and policy direction each year through state of state addresses. This research assesses the 2009 addresses to determine the focus of state leaders’ agendas in this down economy. Findings indicate that governors talked explicitly with citizens about managing; their mood is somber, sometimes even angry. Still, these state leaders are surprisingly hopeful of the role states play in the everyday life of Americans. Most governors remained on task by providing the public with plans and ideas for expanding education and economic opportunities, and supporting healthy, safe and environmentally sound communities. A majority of governors even discussed advancements necessary regarding government accountability and responsiveness while close to one-third emphasized the need for greater transparency—issues that have been specifically targeted by the new administration in Washington.

Chapter 10 of the 2009 Book of the States contains the following articles and tables: