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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.

In recent years the movement of women into state-level offices has slowed after several decades of gains. Efforts to actively recruit women for elective and appointive positions will be critical in determining what the future holds for women in state government.

The U.S. Supreme Court will decide six big cases this term—five of them will directly impact the states. Redistricting and preemption cases are also popular with the court this term. The Supreme Court will decide four redistricting cases—including a “big” redistricting case—and four preemption cases. Justice Scalia’s death is likely to impact the outcome of many of the cases important to the states.

Over the last 40 years, local jails have increasingly become de facto psychiatric treatment facilities for the millions of people with mental illnesses and substance use disorders who become involved with the local criminal justice system. Counties and states are at the breaking point, many without the resources or capacity to address this population’s mental health needs while ensuring an appropriate criminal justice response and protecting public safety. The national Stepping Up movement offers state and local governments a roadmap for navigating the complicated process of addressing this urgent issue.

The handful of state elections in 2015 resulted in very little change to the state partisan landscape. Republicans maintained their historically strong hold on state governments.

As state leaders construct public policy to support increased educational attainment and workforce development, they need be mindful of the assumptions about college students and their attendance patterns embedded in most state financial aid programs. Reforming state aid is one necessary step to supporting student success.

In this presidential election year, many state government chief executives found themselves in the proverbial “hot seat.” Some had to deal with a precipitous drop in state revenues and so broached taboo topics in their state of state speeches, like painful cuts or new taxes. Others deflected criticisms related to religious liberty bills or defended themselves in the face of gross state mismanagement and ineptitude or even moral lapse. In light of a still sluggish economy and the caustic election climate, state chief executives, for the most part, keep their addresses short and focused. On average, governors addressed fewer issues than in the recent past. Also, the average number of topics addressed by at least two-thirds of governors dropped by half to two, from an average of four, evidenced over the last six years—that is, at least 66 percent of governors outlined their education and jobs agendas.1

Just like the head and tail of a coin, there are two sides to every disaster—providing help to those who need it and paying for that assistance. It’s a tug-of-war that’s becoming more contentious every year. Federal law requires assistance in times of disasters, but as threats grow in complexity—possible infrastructure failures, vulnerabilities from electromagnetic pulses and unforeseen consequences from hydraulic fracturing to name a few—the burden of marshalling the necessary resources and funding is an ongoing struggle.

As states harness technology to modernize their election systems, no area of policymaking has more momentum than voter registration. Online registration, automatic voter registration and Election Day registration are increasingly popular options, with election officials predicting unprecedented levels of eligible voter enrollment and government cost-savings in 2016. Yet as states move away from inefficient paper forms to embrace digital processes, new questions are emerging about verifying, sharing and securing voter registration data. 

A comparison of U.S. Census data for 2013 and 2014, released in early 2016, shows that a greater portion of Americans in each state had health insurance in the more recent year. Nearly 8.5 million individuals gained health insurance coverage between 2013 and 2014. In 2014, all the provisions of the Affordable Care Act designed to increase access to affordable insurance were in place for states. Some states, however, decided not to expand income eligibility for Medicaid to 138 percent of the federal poverty level as the Supreme Court ruled in 2012 was the prerogative of the states, not Congress. The states that showed the greatest increase in coverage between 2013 and 2014 were states that expanded Medicaid income eligibility.

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