Policy Area

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.

The article provides an overview of several systematic factors contributing to the variation in faculty salaries. Institutional type is the most significant factor in determining faculty salaries overall; faculty members are also compared according to academic rank. Two other important factors are gender and region, and several individual factors are also identified. The article also discusses several policy issues related to the decline in state funding for higher education.

The roles and responsibilities of state treasurers are countless and critically important to the fiscal well-being of their states. Sound and profitable investments made by state treasurers  make it possible for budgets to be balanced, for taxpayer-supported programs to be maintained and grown, and for a positive and equitable level of investment growth for public funds to be achieved.

A modernized Medicaid system will give states greater flexibility with reduced administrative burden. The Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 gives states additional flexibility to provide health insurance coverage among low-income but healthy children and families that reflect the 21st century dynamics in health insurance and increased options for community alternatives rather than being stuck in the assumptions that are now 40 years behind the times.

If there is one thing the past year has taught us, it is to expect the unexpected. No one could have foreseen some of the events our nation has experienced during calendar year  2005—events that have had tremendous impact on citizens and, by default, also on governments. Uncertainty spawned by unpreventable natural occurrences, coupled with longstanding issues faced by state governments, has made this year an interesting one, to say the least. However, state governments continue working to learn from the past and make informed decisions for the future.

While the national economy began to ease its way out of the recession two years after economists declared an end to the debilitating condition, state economic development organizations continued their ardent efforts to further economic development in 2005 as though the recession was still nipping at the nation’s heels. States’ ardent drive for local economic advancement expanded in several areas, from increased efforts to lure filmmakers to developing comprehensive information Web site portals for businesses seeking to relocate.

Governors did seem to concentrate heavily on their education budgets this year, and then on the budgets of other activities that are primary to the mission of state government. Yet threaded through these addresses is a stronger consideration of a multi-pronged and multi-year view of government operations—understanding state education services on a continuum from pre-kindergarten to work force retraining, for instance. Governors are aware of the federal government’s slowing financial support as well as its poor reaction to Katrina and what this means for state coffers.

The clash over cash to corporate projects is headed to the country’s highest court, and is also the subject of a new bill in Congress. What emerges from those two branches of the federal  government may go a long way toward solving state and corporate uncertainty about incentive programs. Details of a case in North Carolina may offer some guidance as to what lies ahead.