Book of the States 2011

The 2010 elections exacerbated party polarization and, along with it, a polarization of state federal relations, which is produced when one party controls most of the federal government and another party controls most of the states. The 2010 federal health care law aggravated this polarization and, because of its impacts on the states, produced an unprecedented challenge to its constitutionality by more than half the states. The 2010 federal financial regulation law and the U.S. Supreme Court’s application of the Second Amendment to the states also presage further federal incursions into state and local governance at a time when federal budget cutbacks and rising social welfare costs will heighten state and local fiscal stress.

Secretaries of state are warning about the increasing risk of business identity theft as the problem spreads across the states. Criminals have been altering online business records housed by their offices and using them to open up phony lines of credit to illegally obtain valuable goods and services. Secretaries of state are working to establish new safeguards against such fraud, as they alert state legislators and other key stakeholders about the magnitude of the issue.

The office of lieutenant governor constantly evolves to offer the greatest service and value to a state. For more than 200 years, states have found no more clear and viable line of gubernatorial succession than the office of lieutenant governor. A lieutenant governor may garner duties and authorities from the constitution, from statute, through gubernatorial appointment, through personal initiative or through a combination of these. This allows the office to evolve to lead on issues of the day or to address unique needs of the state. Electoral provisions, gubernatorial and legislative relationships, assigned duties, office structure and succession law itself impacts the efficiency and effectiveness of the office of lieutenant governor.

The recent economic recession has affected gubernatorial priorities. In the past five years, education has remained the primary focus of governors, but other traditional state functions have slipped off their radar. December 2007 was the official start of the Great Recession. In that year, the four issues most often discussed by governors in their state of state addresses after education, in descending order, were health care, natural resources, jobs and corrections. This year, the four top issues on the minds of governors after education, also in descending order, are jobs, government performance, taxes and health care. In fact, since 2007, corrections and public safety have not been in the top five issues for governors. Natural resources and energy concerns do not appear in the top five for either this year or last year. This research examines the 2011 state of state addresses of U.S. governors to explain their ideas for continuing to manage through the economic recession.1 Findings indicate a more focused consideration of education reform and job development, sustained attention on cost-cutting and efficiency measures, and continued gubernatorial intransigence regarding “no new taxes.”

This article reviews interstate relations developments since 2007 pertaining to uniform state laws, interstate compacts and administrative agreements, same-sex marriage, civil unions and other pertinent legal matters.