Governmental Operations

Policymakers today have no shortage of information when considering a specific topic or legislation.
Supporters and opponents both use a wide range of information when arguing a position, and it is not always easy to tell if that information is based on sound science....

The Pew Charitable Trusts recently released its latest Elections Performance Index, or EPI, which now includes an interactive tool that allows states to compare their election administration performance to one another and across similar elections. The annual Pew study measures election administration by evaluting indicators like wait times at polling locations and voter turnout. The report found that, between 2008 and 2012, state election performance overall improved by 4.4 percentage points, and 40 states plus DC improved their score over the same time frame. 

There are 21.8 million government employees—federal, state and local—which make up 16 percent of total, non-farm employment.

Capitol Hill IDeas

Following the federal government shutdown, Congress reached a deal to go to budget conference, which it hasn't done for years. Since it's been a while since the traditional budget process was followed, here's a refresher for what is supposed to happen.

Two weeks and a day after the federal government shut down, and the day before a default on the national debt, Senate leadership reached a deal to reopen the government and avoid default. The shutdown was lengthy and, had the government defaulted on its debt, it would have been the first time in history—except for a technical, computer-glitch-inspired default in 1979.

According to Melissa Maynard of Stateline, many financially stressed state and local governments are turning towards creating special districts in order to provide services. Indeed 885 special districts have been created since 2007.

According to a recent Stateline article, federal disaster aid regulations are often unclear much to the exasperation of the governors’ of the states. Consider two contrasting examples: when wildfires raged in Arizona and Governor Jan Brewer asked President Obama to declare a federal disaster, he declined. However when a plant exploded in Texas and Governor Rick Perry asked President Obama to declare it a federal disaster, Obama did so.  FEMA does have a set of guidelines for categorizing disasters but most experts say that it is unclear and often ignored.

The Great Recession had an unprecedented effect on state and local government employment, as public employment continues to decline more than three years after the recession ended. According to CSG calculations of data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, state government employment reached a peak level in the middle of the Great Recession, hitting just above 5.2 million employees in August of 2008.  Since then, state governments collectively have seen a net decrease in employment in 37 out of 59 months, shedding a total of 189,000 jobs. Private sector employment, on the other hand, has seen slow but steady recovery since hitting a low in early 2010.

Chapter 8 of the 2013 Book of the States contains the following articles and tables:

While most states reimburse employees for work-related use of private vehicles at the federal rate set by the Internal Revenue Service, some states vary in their reimbursement rates. Thirty-six states in 2013 reimbursed public employees for work-related use of their own cars at the mileage reimbursement rate set by the IRS—56.5 cents per mile.