Book of the States 2009

In an age when information on just about anything is available with the click of a mouse, it is not surprising that governments are using technology to share financial data in the name of accountability and transparency. Accountability and transparency are essential components of what most would consider to be good government. But it also raises some questions. For instance, just because information can be made available, is it by default valuable or meaningful? Is data timeliness or accuracy more important? Can information shared by our governments for the sake of fiscal responsibility put us at risk? Transparency projects being implemented by the federal government and by states around the country are providing some answers to those questions.

State treasurers are responsible for providing independent oversight of public funds. They manage resources to meet state financial obligations and professionally invest money that is not immediately needed. Treasurers have numerous additional duties, including pension fund governance, administration of unclaimed property and college savings programs, and issuance of state debt. In these and other areas, they serve as guardians of the public purse.

As the chief legal officers of the states, commonwealths and territories of the United States, attorneys general serve as counselors to state government agencies and legislatures, and as representatives of the public interest. In many areas traditionally considered the exclusive responsibility of the federal government, attorneys general now share enforcement authority and enjoy cooperative working relationships with their federal counterparts, particularly in the areas of antitrust, bankruptcy, consumer protection, criminal law, cybercrime and the environment.

Each state provides its governor with an office staff dedicated to supporting the governor and to assisting the governor in the leadership and management of state government.

Democrats have been on a roll in legislative elections and increased their numbers again in 2008. Buoyed by the strong campaign of President Barack Obama in many key states, Democratic gains last year leave them at their best political position in legislatures in well over a decade. Democrats control 24 legislatures, Republicans control 14 and 8 are divided between the two parties.