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Only three governors were elected in 2015. Kentucky, Louisiana and Mississippi are the only states that hold their gubernatorial elections during the year prior to the presidential election. This means that these three states can be early indicators of any voter unrest that might unleash itself more broadly in the next year’s congressional and presidential elections, and we saw some of this in the two races where candidates were vying for open seats. Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant (R) was elected to a second term, running in a state that strongly favored his political party. Both Kentucky and Louisiana have elected Democrats and Republicans to the governorship in recent years, and each race was seen as up for grabs by many political pundits. In the end, each election resulted in the governorship turning over to the other political party.

State and local governments have been reshaping their finances since the Great Recession. They have been struggling with three major sources of fiscal stress: slow tax revenue growth, growth in pension contributions that has been heavily concentrated in a few states, and Medicaid spending growth driven by recession-related enrollment. In 37 states, pension contributions plus state-funded Medicaid grew by more than state and local government tax revenue between 2007 and 2014, in real per-capita terms. In response to these strains, state and local governments have cut infrastructure investment, slashed support for higher education, cut spending on K–12 education, cut spending on social benefits other than Medicaid, reduced administrative staff and reduced most other areas of the budget.

Critical to state education and economic goals, adult learners will represent a majority of college students in the near future, yet they are largely an untapped resource. States and higher education institutions must adequately address their unique needs, concerns and expectations with comprehensive, proactive and targeted strategies that reflect this new reality.

Chapter 8 of the 2016 Book of the States contains the following articles and tables:

Looking to the global marketplace for economic development and paying attention to export and import trends is no longer an option for state policymakers—it is a necessity.

The level of constitutional amendment activity in 2015 was generally on par with recent odd-numbered years but somewhat lower than historical rates of activity in odd-numbered years and dramatically lower than in even-numbered years. Several measures attracted considerable attention, including two amendments on the Ohio ballot: a failed amendment that would have legalized recreational marijuana and a successful amendment changing the process for state legislative redistricting. A number of amendments in other states dealt with road building, including a failed Michigan amendment that would have increased the sales tax to boost transportation funding, a successful Texas amendment allocating excess revenue from sales taxes to a highway fund and a successful Louisiana amendment providing funding for a transportation infrastructure bank.

States expanded allowable gambling options significantly in the past two decades, particularly in the wake of the Great Recession when more than a dozen states authorized new options in an effort to generate more revenues. Despite these expansions, state and local government gambling revenues have softened significantly in recent years. History shows that in the long run growth in state revenues from gambling activities slows or even reverses and declines. Therefore, states considering further expansions of gambling should take into consideration market competition within the state and among neighboring states.

Federalism is again a silent note in the presidential campaign, although some candidates advanced platforms or policies relevant to state-local relations. Despite partisan gridlock,Congress finally reauthorized the highway and education programs, with the latter increasing state and local discretionary authority, but regulatory enactments and Supreme Court diminutions of state powers continue apace. Legalized marijuana still experiences intergovernmental impediments; a revival of the Sagebrush Rebellion was a publicity failure; the federal government is poised to demand states’ compliance with REAL ID while also encroaching upon state regulation of the operation of autonomous motor vehicles.

How much will the increasing capacity of states to gather and manipulate large quantities of data help improve the use of performance measurement to make decisions? The possibilities are exciting and just begin with: an increased capacity to disaggregate performance measures, which helps attract public attention; better validation of performance measures and the capacity to make more use of information about the value-added aspects of programs.

This article reviews developments in interstate relations pertaining to uniform state laws, interstate compacts and administrative agreements, civil union and same-sex marriage, and other pertinent interstate legal matters since 2014.

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