Executive Branch

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. 

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, or SEC, launched an initiative in 2014 to encourage issuers and underwriters of municipal securities to self-report certain violations of the federal securities laws rather than wait for their violations to be detected. The Municipalities Continuing Disclosure Cooperation, or MCDC, Initiative is intended to address widespread violations of the federal securities laws by municipal issuers and underwriters in connection with certain representations about continuing disclosures in bond offering documents. The SEC began issuing fines and penalties against underwriters in July 2015, and is now turning its attention to issuers.

Several situations in 2015 and 2016 challenged the attorney general’s role as representative of the state in litigation and his or her ability to determine when to seek judicial review, particularly in connection with policy issues that are being hotly debated. Additionally, attorneys general have the vital task of cooperatively enforcing state laws and promoting sound law enforcement policies. To that end, the second half of this article covers police body-worn cameras as part of a national AG initiative on 21st century policing.

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.

CSG Midwest
No state has eliminated its lieutenant governorship since Florida in 1885, but Illinois flirted with the idea earlier this year. A proposed constitutional amendment that would have axed the office and handed next-in-line succession to the state’s attorney general cleared the House, but was shunted aside in the Senate.
As HJRCA 5 made its way through the General Assembly, proponents cited the savings as part of their pitch — an estimated $1.6 million a year. The measure won easy passage in the House (95-10), but that question of succession never could get resolved. Some senators, for example, instead preferred a plan that would tap the next constitutional officeholder of the governor’s political party.

Chapter 4 of the 2016 Book of the States contains the following articles and tables:

The U.S. Economic Development Administration will hold a series of informational webinars for prospective applicants to the agency’s $15 million Regional Innovation Strategies Program competition.

The State and Local Legal Center (SLLC) for the first time ever has asked the Supreme Court to accept and decide a case. The SLLC is asking the Court to hear United Student Aid Funds v. Bible and overturn Auer deference to federal agencies.  

In Auer v. Robbins (1997) the Supreme Court reaffirmed its holding in Bowles v. Seminole Rock & Sand Co. (1945) that courts must defer to an agency’s interpretation of its own regulations (even if that interpretation is articulated for the first time in an amicus brief during litigation).

CSG Midwest
In most states, it doesn’t take long for a bill passed by the legislature to be acted on by the governor. The governors of Iowa, Minnesota and North Dakota have only three days to veto a measure once they’ve received it, and in most other state constitutions, the time frame for gubernatorial action is between five and 10 days.
But in Illinois, weeks can, and often do, go by between legislative passage and the governor’s signing or veto of legislation.
“There is lobbying that goes on with the governor’s office for sure,” Rep. Elaine Nekritz says of the waiting period. “The three governors I have served with have taken their time in evaluating and signing the bills. I believe all three took full advantage of the 60-day time frame.”
No state comes close to the 60-day window allotted to Illinois’ governors, but this unique constitutional provision is consistent with the “extraordinary veto power” granted to the executive branch, says former Illinois state senator Rick Winkel.

The Council of State Governments has been collecting data on governors’ salaries for The Book of the States since 1937. The average governor’s salary grew more slowly during and after the Great Recession, with many states instituting a ban on cost-of-living adjustments; however, as the economic and fiscal health of states has improved, the annual increases normally seen in executive branch pay are returning to a more historically customary level.

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