Policy Area

While the past few years have held a tremendous amount of change for state procurement officials, 2005 demonstrated that the role of the procurement official has become more complex. The procurement official is now expected to be a leader in the charge to streamline the procurement process and eliminate procedures that are perceived as adding delay and cost without any commensurate benefit. These demands for change are occurring at a time that government’s reliance on purchased services and commodities is increasing; the services and commodities are less routine; and the role that public procurement plays within the executive branch is becoming more important to the success of essential government programs.

Most facets of coercive federalism—including federal aid shifted from places to persons, conditions and earmarks attached to federal aid, pre-emptions, limits on state taxation, federalization of criminal law, defunct intergovernmental political institutions, reduced federal-state cooperation in major programs, and federal-court litigation—remain vibrant. Only unfunded mandates and court orders requiring major state institutional change are less prevalent. State policy activism remains vigorous, but the Supreme Court is not enamored with state authority.

Hiring private sector contractors to perform functions and services that would otherwise be performed by government employees—now called “outsourcing”—is not new to state government, especially for Information Technology (IT). Many states have outsourced key IT functions and services, including all or part of their networks, since the 1990s. In fact, as early as 1999, the National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO) gave recognition awards to states with outstanding public-private partnerships. What has changed for states are (1) the increased importance of using IT outsourcing in ways that tangibly enhance efficiency and costeffectiveness; and (2) emphasis on successfully managing the outsourced IT function.

National-state relations have undergone a major transformation since 1965, when Congress sharply increased the pace of enactment of regulatory preemption statutes including those in regulatory areas that had been the exclusive preserves of the states. Protection of the reserved regulatory powers of the states against further congressional encroachment will necessitate enactment of new interstate regulatory compacts and/or uniform state laws.

Most state budgets were in very good shape at the end of fiscal year 2006, and election-year budgets for 2007 will lead to tax cuts. But beyond 2007 states will face challenges, including the need to fund or constrain rapid Medicaid growth, pressures to strengthen pension funding and begin financing newly disclosed liabilities for retiree health care, and the need to respond to large cuts in federal grants.

Forty-five states now have an officeholder using the title “lieutenant governor.” The experience and profile of the candidates for the office have grown for two years, and that trend continues in the 2006 elections. The duties of the office are also increasing: USA Today newspaper reported in August 2005 that the office of lieutenant governor is a significant, visible and often controversial office. As the office gains attention, future trends indicate state officials will examine the most effective uses of the office.

Similar to the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Hurricane Katrina shone a bright light on the nation’s level of preparedness and revealed serious gaps in the country’s ability to respond to another terrorist attack. Debate continues on whether the federal government’s focus on preparing for a terrorism incident has overlooked the more common threat of natural disasters. Adequate funding for allhazards is a major concern for all state and local emergency managers, particularly since federal mandates in preparedness and response increase regularly, without matching federal funding.

Secretaries of state make decisions every day that affect the lives of their constituents. While the decisions may sometimes seem small, they often affect how business is conducted or how government officials are selected. This piece highlights the varying roles of the secretaries of state and looks at issues that secretaries may soon be addressing, and how their decisions will affect their constituents.

The No Child Left Behind Act is the most ambitious piece of educational legislation ever enacted by Congress. Designed to promote accountability and prod states to address educational inequities, NCLB included significant new provisions regarding assessment, sanctions for low-performing schools and districts, teacher quality, and standards for educational research.

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. In many areas traditionally considered the exclusive responsibility of the federal government, attorneys general now share enforcement authority and enjoy cooperative working relationships with their federal counterparts, particularly in the areas of antitrust, bankruptcy, consumer protection, criminal law and cybercrime and the environment.

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