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While the same-sex marriage and Affordable Care Act cases are the most significant of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2014–15 term in general and specifically affecting states, other cases will significantly impact states too. The court decided three tax cases, a Medicaid reimbursement case, two redistricting cases and a Fair Housing Act disparate impact case.

Voters who want to share a selfie with their marked ballot on Election Day need to think twice. Many states make it a crime to take photos or videos in the voting booth, and at least one state has adopted strict new penalties for sharing your ballot selfie via social media. States with such bans say the laws are necessary to ensure ballot secrecy and discourage vote selling, but election officials say the prohibitions are tough to enforce. In an era where more and more voters have smartphones, states are grappling with just how smart it is to ban ballot selfies.

Voters looked favorably on ballot propositions in 2014, approving 67 percent of the 158 measures they decided. Marijuana advocates scored important victories in Alaska, Oregon and Washington, D.C., and minimum wage advocates continued their unbroken run of successful measures in five more states.

In recent years the movement of women into state-level offices has slowed after several decades of gains, and the 2014 elections did not alter this pattern. Efforts to actively recruit women for elected and appointed positions will be critical in determining what the future holds for women in state government. 

Mixed messages of the current economy keep at bay a full recovery from the Great Recession that officially ended in June 2009. The drop in oil prices has put money in consumers’ pockets, but these consumers seem wary of returning it into circulation, with many using the extra cash to pay off or reduce personal debt. In some ways, governors are similarly disposed as they map the policy and budget way forward for their respective states. Several chief executives are asking for more stringent laws, constitutional requirements, for budget balance or regarding the payment of debt, to keep their states on a path toward fiscal sustainability. Watch words this year include “cautious optimism” and “continuous improvement.”1 

Fiscal conditions for states were somewhat mixed in the 2014 fiscal year as state general fund revenue growth declined due to the impact of the federal fiscal cliff, while total state spending growth accelerated due to increased federal Medicaid funds from the Affordable Care Act. The number of states making midyear budget cuts remained low and states maintained stable rainy day fund levels. In the 2015 fiscal year, states are expecting both revenue and spending to grow slowly, but below the historical rate of growth. It is likely that budget proposals for the 2016 fiscal year and beyond will remain mostly cautious with limited spending growth.

There were many issues facing governors in 2014. Even as the stock market rebounded and state budgets grew at a moderate pace, unemployment and underemployment remained high. Public discontent with government has been indiscriminate in its focus, levied at not only politicians in Washington, but also those in state capitals. This led to political fallout from voters as they vented their anger and frustration on elected leaders on Election Day.1

Fiscal conditions for states were somewhat mixed in the 2014 fiscal year as state general fund revenue growth declined due to the impact of the federal fiscal cliff, while total state spending growth accelerated due to increased federal Medicaid funds from the Affordable Care Act. The number of states making midyear budget cuts remained low and states maintained stable rainy day fund levels. In the 2015 fiscal year, states are expecting both revenue and spending to grow slowly, but below the historical rate of growth. It is likely that budget proposals for the 2016 fiscal year and beyond will remain mostly cautious with limited spending growth.

Every state has a system for asking voters to show that they are who they say they are. The most restrictive of such laws have drawn court challenge. This litigation is as varied as the voter ID regimes: cases have proceeded on different facts in different contexts, under different legal theories. 

A well-structured office of lieutenant governor gives a state a competitive advantage and increases governance efficiency. Thorough succession laws contribute to smooth transitions of governance when needed. Lieutenant governors impact states every day in all issue areas and by leading parts of government. Governors, lieutenant governors and legislators have roles to ensure the office of lieutenant governor is positioned to propel a state forward.

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