Policy Area

The National Association of Attorneys General is celebrating its 100th anniversary, and continues to provide attorneys general with an opportunity to work collectively for the common good. Attorneys general are at the forefront of a number of critical legal and law enforcement issues and play a vital leadership role as representatives of the public interest.

Despite an impressive list of advantages, the U.S. can no longer assume that foreign firms will continue to invest and employ people here at the same rate as in the past. The effects of lobalization and off-shoring trends have led to fluctuations in foreign investment, with the U.S. dropping to third place (from second) in 2005 as the most attractive future FDI location after China and India.

State treasurers are the chief financial officers of the states whose duties are to assure the absolute safety of all taxpayer dollars and to guarantee the prudent use of public resources that fund vital government programs. In several states, treasurers also improve the financial security of their residents by providing college savings opportunities and financial education, and returning unclaimed property.

Governors and legislators should develop a suite of policy options that would recognize market demand with environmental sensitivity to cost-effectively increase energy efficiency and deliver sufficient and timely clean energy resources to citizens they serve.

It is an old cliché—the only given in life is change. Not all change is bad, however painful it may be. State auditors and state comptrollers are learning to accept and embrace change as they face an evolving professional landscape that includes a new, younger work force, a plethora of new accounting and auditing standards, fluctuations in funding and leadership, and a daunting array of innovative technologies and related security threats.

State welfare caseloads in 2006 reflected the maturation of policies adopted in response to federal TANF legislation passed 10 years earlier. Caseloads continued to shrink, and many families on welfare received benefits only for the children. Significant shares of adults on welfare were exempt from work requirements due to illness or disability. Some received welfare through a time limit extension, and others were denied assistance because of a sanction. New federal rules requiring states to increase work participation will change the shape of future caseloads. States with large shares of their caseloads exempt from work requirements face the greatest challenge.

Ballot initiatives in four states sought fundamental, and in one state revolutionary, change to their judicial branch of government. All four were defeated at the polls but similar efforts are expected in the same and other states for 2008. A number of states again featured costly and ugly judicial elections. Also, it was clear that judicial candidates overwhelmingly chose to campaign within traditional expectations of what is appropriate in a fair and impartial court system. The state judicial branches in 2006 made significant strides in refining and creating methods for measuring their performance and demonstrating their accountability to the other branches of government and to the public. “High-performing courts” is one label for these efforts.

The successful renewal of the research and development (R&D) tax credit in the nation’s capital is just one of several economic development issues affecting states that continue to seek a head of steam in Congress, as supporters will try to convince the 110th Congress to make the Economic Development Act of 2005 into law. In the meantime, one state’s experience with incentives demonstrates that not all that glitters is gold.

Despite dire predictions that there would be major failures in 2006, state and local jurisdictions made the process come together exceedingly well. Ordinarily when a major change is ordered by Congress or a state legislature, it takes three decent-size elections to make the policy and procedure adjustments necessary to make the process work smoothly. Massive changes in virtually every part of the process were accomplished in this election cycle.

While enjoying an unprecedented level of cooperation in recent years on numerous cross- border policy issues, the United States and Mexico face important challenges that will affect the long-term prosperity of North America. These challenges include the need for both countries to address the contentious issue of immigration, promote a shared vision for competitiveness in the 21st century and give government the tools to manage binational concerns along the U.S.-Mexico border.