Policy Area

In an effort to contain costs while also providing better consumer service, government agencies throughout North America are developing business plans and restructuring professional and occupational regulatory agencies. Increased technology use is bringing new security problems along with enhanced access for all stakeholders. The professional licensing stakeholder community is expanding to include international regulators.

The discipline of emergency management is at a critical juncture in history. Even before the horrific events of September 11th, 2001, emergency management and other public safety disciplines had recognized the growing implications and reorganized to deal with the growing threat of terrorism. The national effort towards achieving “homeland security” is challenging the resources, relationships, organizational responsibilities and fundamental principles of the entire emergency response community. The relationships between the community of emergency management and the new and evolving dynamic we call homeland security is yet to mature or be defined so that a clear and achievable future path to greater national security and safety can be pursued.

The intergovernmental balance has shifted to the national government. Federal deficits, debt service, defense spending, and entitlement pressures will reduce discretionary spending, and could rekindle interest in decentralization and devolution. State leaders need to network horizontally and vertically to rebalance the federal system.

States vary greatly in how they identify and define “ethics” in the public sector. Meaningful and accurate comparisons of remedial state ethics processes are therefore difficult to easily render. However, ethics governance that involves standards of conduct and protections against conflicts of interest within the states often shares common traits. These traits include the creation of boards designed with oversight independent of appointment authorities, often delegated a trio of educational, advisory, and enforcement authority, in order to administer uniform standards and financial disclosure for public officers. These bodies share a vital goal of securing increased protection to the broader public interest by recognizing and limiting the inherent or acquired personal and familial conflicts of interest of those public servants who make and implement public policy and expend public funds.

Recent events in our society have been the catalyst for rapid change in the way motor vehicle agencies do business. The need to balance highway safety, customer service and security of the homeland has created a challenge that very few industries will ever have to face.

In the last decade, many rural areas have been left behind. Yet federal and state rural development efforts have not proven up to the task. As a result, it’s time for a bold new approach to revitalizing rural America based on building competitive rural economies.

This article notes the importance of the United States Constitution’s full faith and credit clause relative to sister state recognition of same sex marriages in Massachusetts, interstate commerce clause in removing barriers to trade, and interstate compact clause in promoting interstate cooperation, and summarizes developments involving interstate administrative cooperation and controversies.

Ballot propositions continue to drive the policy agenda in the states, and 2004 spilled over into the presidential election. The most popular issue was marriage, with 13 states approving constitutional amendments defining marriage as between a man and a woman.

State park agencies have experienced significant growth during the last decade and made progress in personnel, funding and operations. The economy had an early positive impact on state parks during the mid to late parts of the last decade. Recent reductions in state revenues have begun to erode the progress made during the 1990s. State parks are challenged by reduced funding levels, decreases in visitation, and reduction in full-time staff. Entrepreneurship, external funding sources, and increased state park revenue generation are ongoing trends for state parks.

Severe weaknesses in the financial health of the nation’s public retirement systems rank as yet another force currently buffeting state and local government finances. Further compounding the problems faced by these public retirement funds are the following developments: the precarious financial position of private sector pensions and the federal Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation; the looming shortfalls expected in the Social Security and Medicare programs in coming decades; and the low personal savings rates of most Americans, coupled with the high rates of consumer and household debt. Given that the baby boomer generation is rapidly nearing retirement age and that America’s senior population is growing faster than the number of younger workers needed to cover their retirement needs, policy-makers across the country are paying a great deal of attention to this unfortunate confluence of events.

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