Policy Area

Medicaid stands out as the program hit hardest by the economic downturn and rising health care costs. Governors, legislative leaders and Medicaid officials around the country see the program’s current cost trajectory as unsustainable in both the short-term and the long-term. Yet, states have faced similar situations before. As in previous eras of runaway cost growth, state leaders are marvelously adept at developing coping mechanisms. Emerging trends in state responses to the Medicaid crisis may indicate the future direction of Medicaid policy.

With continued threats of terrorism facing the country, states are struggling to maintain basic public safety programs while taking on the additional responsibility — and costs — of homeland security. The year 2002 produced a National Strategy for Homeland Security and legislation creating a new federal Department of Homeland Security, but little funding has been provided to support enhanced preparedness efforts by states. It will be important for states to think and plan regionally, utilize mutual aid and leverage limited resources to meet the challenge of making communities safe from terrorism and natural disasters.

Teaching quality seems likely to remain a state concern for the long-term, even though policymakers will come to see, if they haven't already, that it isn't a magic bullet. The impetus for that continued focus comes not only from the states’ pressing needs for well-qualified teachers, but also from the federal government.

The states’ current fiscal crisis is due not only to the country’s economic downturn but also to changes in fiscal federalism that have exposed state fiscal systems to the impacts of federal policymaking, economic developments and demographic changes to greater degrees than in the past. Essentially, the states face growing long-term contradictions between escalating spending pressures and eroding tax bases over which states have only limited control. Short-term crisis-management actions, such as cutting spending, increasing taxes, accelerating tax collections, delaying bill payments, expanding gambling and using up reserves, are damaging, stopgap tactics. Long-term solutions will require more fundamental remedial fiscal reform by both the federal government and the states.

Results-based decision-making in state government has gained considerable interest as part of government accountability. Use of outcome information by elected officials and managers in budgeting and improving services to citizens still falls far short of its potential. This article provides suggestions for more effective collection and use of performance information.

This article traces past and current trends in parole and probation. Lessons from history are framed in the context of implications for future trends in the 50 states. It discusses parole and probation’s public value in terms of public safety and justice, along with the cost-benefit  implications of past, current and future trends.

2002 was a major election year for legislatures, with over 85 percent of all seats up for election, resulting in more than 26 percent turnover among legislators in election states. The Republican Party netted more than 175 legislative seats across the country and wound up with more seats than the Democrats for the first time in 50 years. Republicans now hold control of 21 state legislatures, compared to 16 for the Democrats. Twelve legislatures are split between the two parties and Nebraska is nonpartisan.

Congressional preemption of state governments’ regulatory powers dates to 1790, but it generally did not have a major impact until 1965, when the number of preemptive statutes increased sharply. Most congressional preemptions involve commerce, the environment, finance and health. Technological developments and interest group lobbying will result in the enactment of new preemption statutes — particularly in the areas of banking, communications, finance services, insurance and taxation — unless states initiate actions producing harmonious interstate regulatory policies.

In his 2002 State of the Union message, President George W. Bush announced the creation of an umbrella citizen service initiative, the USA Freedom Corps, intended to dramatically increase volunteerism. Under this initiative, the Citizen Corps has the central responsibility for mobilizing local volunteers in emergency preparedness and response. Interviews of state officials who will implement Citizen Corps suggest a framework for understanding the success of federal volunteerism initiatives devolved to the state and local levels. Five factors appear important to implementation success: goal clarity, resource availability, promotional activity, management capacity, and the strength of the implementation network.

Until recently, literature about the effects of term limits was by necessity speculative in nature. However, a recent multistate study undertaken by three legislative organizations and a team of political scientists has begun to outline the changes taking place in term-limited state legislatures.
 

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