Book of the States 2003

This article reviews the most significant emerging trends in economic development and their ramifications for the states. It focuses on the role of information technology, the increasing regionalization of economic development and the new financing tools available to economic developers and how these tools have helped change the states’ development priorities.

The state fiscal boom of the late 1990s was driven by exceptional forces unlikely to be repeated in the years ahead. The bursting of this fiscal bubble has made the current budget crisis far worse than the relatively mild current economic weakness might suggest. Even after the economy recovers, state finances are likely to be tight for the next several years.

The regulation of political money continues to rank high on most states’ list of priorities. Experimentation continues in many areas as reform measures have been adopted both by state legislatures and statewide initiatives. Some discernable trends are clear, including more emphasis on public-funding programs (the “clean elections” movement); regulating the scope, nature and use of contributions; disclosure of political advertisements; stronger enforcement of existing laws and concern regarding independent expenditures.

Many of the state constitutional developments described in recent editions of The Book of the States have continued into the 21st century. Probably the most important of these is the absence of constitutional conventions and new constitutions. Instead, constitutional change is dominated by amendments and is piecemeal rather than comprehensive. Concerns about terrorism and the threat of war will most likely make it difficult to reverse this trend. Also important is the trend away from adoption of amendments designed to limit state governments’ capacity to govern and toward reforms that are arguably designed to make government more representative and efficient.