Policy Area

Government accountability, advancing technological progress, and market reforms combine to influence the future direction of our state chief financial officers. Well-managed state financial organizations are not just about managing cost; they are also synonymous with the rigor of control, the delivery of accountability, the execution of technology, and the expectation of well-managed change.

Legislatures are vital, strong, effective institutions. They are where the people and their representatives come together to debate conflicting values and interests, set priorities and shape public policies. They are the political institutions closest to the people and drive representative democracy. This essay describes the organization and work of state legislatures, identifies the trends shaping state legislatures and the challenges confronting them and briefly describes the critical policy issues legislatures faced in the 2003 legislative sessions.

How can we take a bird’s eye view of the economic development landscape and the features on it that are causing state legislators to rethink their workforce development strategies? As industries look farther afield for skilled workers, particularly in high-tech sectors, the states are doubling their efforts to educate and train people in order to attract and grow industry domestically. A state-by-state overview of new job creation initiatives follows the overview.

The office of lieutenant governor is gaining recognition for its power and possibility. Lieutenant governors are unique officeholders with many having power in both the executive and legislative branches. In states in which the lieutenant governor is elected as a team with the governor and does not preside over the Senate, a trend is emerging. Lieutenant governors are being named to lead state departments and major authorities.

These are challenging times for the state judicial branches. Funding has been cut, relations with the other branches of government are frayed, and election campaigns for judicial office can be injudicious. Significant innovation is occurring nonetheless. Effective practices in one  jurisdiction are being spread nationally. Reentry courts for felons released after long incarceration is one example of the reliance federal and state officials are placing on such court innovations.

The office of secretary of state is evolving into a position that demands increasingly specialized skills and knowledge, particularly a thorough understanding of technology and e-government policies, and for some, experience in international trade. Recent policy trends show that election reform and e-government are demanding an increasing amount of time and effort for these state executives. For those secretaries that handle election matters, the job also comes with a new level of media and public interest in how elections are run and administered.

California’s recall election gave voice to voter dissatisfaction with the state’s direction and resulted in a return to the type of moderate Republican governor that had led the state throughout much of the 1980s and 1990s. While exciting, it does not represent a sea change in California politics.

State treasurers are the chief financial officers of the states, and in this capacity, they are collectively responsible for management and investment of more than $1.5 trillion in state funds. From management of state investments in a time of profound budgetary grief to taking an active and central role in defining what is greater corporate governance, state treasurers are vital players in the healthy management of not only state budgets, but federal policy on a multitude of issues that affect citizens in each and every state of the union.

Congress enacted the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) in 2002. Supporters of HAVA would indicate that it is one of the few times that the federal government has established a national program that relies on the states to determine the best methods of implementing the mandates and goals, while opponents would point to its lack of clear direction and clear authority of the federal government to determine whether a program is meeting its objectives.

While recent economic news suggests that the short-term cyclical fiscal hemorrhage is healing, long-term structural challenges still exist that must be examined to enable states to weather the next fiscal storm. State officials will have the opportunity and challenge to pursue durable strategies that will improve fiscal stability.

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