Governmental Operations

Executive Director David Adkins notes in his message to state officials on the CSG website, “Challenging times present many opportunities for innovation. The current economic crisis is no exception. The Council of State Governments was founded during the Great Depression and for more than 75 years, CSG has worked hard to provide state leaders with what they need to succeed in difficult times.” 

“Information, Insight, Innovation” is the theme of the upcoming CSG National Leadership Conference in May, 2012.

The Council of State Governments presents Innovation Awards to highlight creative and effective programs which improve state government operations. Today, many other organizations recognize innovative federal, state, and local programs, and the Internet makes it easy to share that information. Here are four examples.

Federal -, U.S. Department of Education, Office of Innovation and Improvement

State - Pure Michigan - Entrepreneurs and Innovators

Local -  National League of Cities

Academic/Other - Brookings-Rockefeller Project on State and Metropolitan Innovation

Government officials and the public can access similar efforts through this CSG Capitol Ideas / Innovation / Best Practices – Portal.        

Advancing Government Accountability (AGA) is pleased to announce its latest new audio conference on improving government performance and processes.

"The house of government is broken, and it needs a serious makeover from top to bottom. The presenter, who recently wrote, Extreme Government Makeover, discusses how the processes of government became so complicated and inefficient and how to start cleaning up the mess. Ken Miller, founder of the Change and Innovation Agency, suggests simple ways that public-sector leaders can tear down all the twisted, broken parts of government and rebuild it stronger, leaner and better equipped to help citizens. Miller will share clear and concise tips on increasing government’s capacity. If you need some new ideas to jumpstart your agency or government to think differently, don’t miss this audio conference. 

Today the Association of Government Accountants (AGA) released a new online resource designed to help officials at all levels of government to prevent, detect and deter fraud. The ToolKit is a valuable tool to help promote program integrity at all levels of government.

Government transparency made the news twice in November. First, when California Governor Brown shut down California's transparency website, and again last week when Vice President Biden and the Government Accountability and Transparency Board held a meeting that was closed to the press. That board was created in June 2011 by Section 3 of an Executive Order stating "There is hereby established a Government Accountability and Transparency Board (Board) to provide strategic direction for enhancing the transparency of Federal spending and advance efforts to detect and remediate fraud, waste, and abuse in Federal programs."

As state leaders begin to realize and utilize the incredible potential of technology to promote transparency, encourage citizen participation and bring real-time information to their constituents, one area may have been overlooked. Every state provides public access to their statutory material online, but only seven states provide access to official versions of their statutes online. This distinction may seem academic or even trivial, but it opens the door to a number of questions that go far beyond simply whether or not a resource has an official label.

The Great Recession has had an unprecedented effect on state and local government employment and will continue to affect levels of employment in the coming years. John Lonski, chief economist for Moody's Capital Markets Research, told Reuters, “We are looking at the worst contraction of state and local government employment since 1981.” The loss of stimulus funds will exacerbate the downward trend in public employment, especially in education. 

Minnesota’s government shutdown is entering its third week with no real end in sight. Rather than looking at the politics driving the shutdown, I thought it important to look at impacts on the 22,000 state government employees not getting paychecks.

Wyoming has gone Google.  Just a few years ago, the productivity of Wyoming state government was burdened by a complex patchwork of information technology software. As Renny MacKay, a spokesman for Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead puts it, “We had 13 different platforms for 10,000 employees, which made communicating more difficult than it should have been.”

West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin’s election to the U.S. Senate in 2010 set off a series of events the state hadn’t seen in 140 years and raised questions about the line of succession to the governor’s office. The situation mirrored one in New Jersey in the early 2000s, when several governors left the office and senate presidents took on the role of “acting governor.” As in  New Jersey, the change sparked debate about the need for the office of lieutenant governor.

The Citizens Jury process was one of the first, and yet most thorough, democratic processes created in the 20th century. It gathers a microcosm of the public to study an issue for at least five days, drawing upon witnesses from a number of points of view. It was used extensively in the 1990s and early 2000s on topics as diverse as the size of hog feedlots in a Minnesota county to global climate change, conducted in 2002 for the EPA. Its most recent major use has been to evaluate ballot initiatives in Oregon and to recommend changes to the election recount law in Minnesota. This article lays out some of the history of the process and how the Jefferson Center, its originator, hopes to use it in the future. Details about how the process is conducted can be learned at