Policy Area

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.

The difficulty in drawing meaningful comparisons and identifying trends in standards created as a remedy to ethics concerns within the states is compounded by significant differences in the manner in which jurisdictions define “ethics” and regulate oversight. Conflicts of interest related to gifts and gratuities, and arising from family and unique private sector relationships, represent continuing ethics trends across the nation.

CSG South

Every year, states anxiously await the announcement of their students’ performance on the Scholastic Aptitude Test I (SAT), largely because these scores provide a yardstick for measuring progress toward school improvement and for assessing student performance. Alongside state assessments, the SAT often is cited as a benchmark toward the end goal of raising student achievement. But the information provided by SAT scores is more complex than the customary ranking of state composite scores by news organizations and the resulting crowing or hand wringing over high or low results. The SAT, like the other major college entrance exam the ACT, is a self-selecting assessment. Participation is not universal among all students and, indeed, it is generally taken by students who intend to continue to a four-year college. For these reasons, the SAT provides an excellent source of information about how well states compare in preparing students for college-level work in a broad range of contexts. This Regional Resource analyzes results from the 2003 SAT I, with particular attention to how students in various subsets perform compared to their peers in other states and to other subgroups within their state.

CSG South

The airline industry serves not just as an economic engine for states, cities and regions, but as a cog in the essential network of transportation within the United States. Yet the industry finds itself in a very difficult period. With the new focus on homeland security in the United States, exacerbated by war, the terrorist attacks of 2001, a downturn in the economy, and anomalies such as the SARS virus, the airline industry has found itself in a state of turmoil, loss and great trepidation. With the industry especially important to its birthplace, the Southern region, this report highlights the contributions of carriers to local and regional economies and the challenges that face them in Southern states.

CSG South

Ports across the United States play a critical role in the nation's economic life, impacting directly and indirectly at all levels-national, regional, state and local. By facilitating the nation's water transportation needs and serving as the initial point of contact for waterborne cargo, both domestic and foreign, ports are an integral component of the country's economic calculations. This presentation, given to the Warrior-TomBigbee Waterway Association, discusses the record of and challenges faced by ports in the Southern region.

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