BOS 2011


Table of Contents

Chapter 1 » State Constitutions

Chapter 2 » Federalism and Intergovernmental Relations

Chapter 3 » State Legislative Branch

Chapter 4 » State Executive Branch

Chapter 5 » State Judicial Branch

Chapter 6 » Elections

Chapter 7 » State Finance

Chapter 8 » State Management, Administration, and Demographics

Chapter 9 » Selected State Policies and Programs

Chapter 10 » State Pages

The number of people being released from prisons and jails is growing steadily in the United States. In 2000, about 600,000 people were released from prison; that number grew to more than 680,000 people in 2008.1 Between 1990 and 2004, the jail population increased from approximately 400,000 people to slightly more than 700,000.2 Unfortunately, there has not been a corresponding increase in the rate of successful reintegration into the community for people released from prison. A study of 15 states found more than two-thirds of state prisoners released in 1994 were rearrested and more than half returned to prison within three years of their release.3

Voters decided 184 ballot propositions in 38 states in 2010, approving two-thirds of them. No single issue emerged as a common theme across the country, but individual states featured high-profile battles over marijuana legalization, taxes on millionaires, secret voting in union elections and health care systems. The number of initiatives—new laws brought to the ballot by citizen petition—was only 46 for the year, the lowest annual total for an even-numbered year in a quarter century.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 provided $48 billion to states for transportation infrastructure projects. States achieved significant successes in 2010 in  meeting deadlines associated with the legislation, starting and completing projects on time and under budget, creating jobs and doing it all with little fraud or waste. Still, some questions have been raised about whether the stimulus could have had a greater impact, which types of projects were funded and which states received the most funding. Despite its political unpopularity in 2010, the Recovery Act proved its worth to state transportation officials around the country.

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. A large group of new state attorneys general were sworn in at the beginning of 2011, following the November 2010 elections. This year will bring a continued effort to fight financial fraud but attorneys general now have expanded enforcement authority under a new federal law. The National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG) is also making a priority of providing the highest quality legal training for those in state government service.

The state fiscal environment remains very weak despite the turnaround in revenue growth. It  will be at least several years before many states see revenues return to their previous peak levels and several years more before revenues reach similar proportions of the economy. Though states may be less inclined to seek the tax rate increases that occurred after previous recessions, many are examining ways to tax cross-border activity more effectively.