Audrey Wall

Author Articles

The 10th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution reserves powers to states in three broad spheres—a sphere most commonly controlled by local governments, a sphere controlled by state governments, and a shared state and local government sphere. Each state historically followed the English Common Law Ultra Vires Rule, and the state legislature exercised plenary powers over its political subdivisions.

The word “data” may appear to many policymakers and managers as a modern-day “open sesame,” to enter the cave of well-run states. But, while gathering facts and figures is a crucial first step, actually analyzing, utilizing and communicating them is the key to progress. That’s not easy.


The 2014 election resulted in Republican dominance of state legislative control unmatched in nearly a century. Riding a surge of disaffection with a president in the sixth year of office, combined with low, midterm voter turnout among Democrats, Republicans won big. They also continued to benefit from a built in redistricting advantage stemming from the 2010 election success by the party. Essentially, everything went one direction in the 2014 election—the direction of the Grand Old Party.

State policymakers hear frequently from employers that they cannot find skilled workers for open positions. Many of these positions are middle-skill jobs that require some form of postsecondary training, but not a bachelor’s degree. This article discusses state strategies to close skill gaps and meet employer skill needs.

The half-day introductory workshop established by The National Institute for Civil Discourse entitled, “Building Trust through Civil Discourse,” was an outgrowth of an effort by The Council of State Governments Midwest, which brought together two legislators from different political backgrounds and different states for a workshop at its annual regional conference in Cleveland, Ohio, in July 2012. Rep. Ted Celeste, a Democrat from Columbus, Ohio, and Rep. Scott Raecker, a Republican from Urbandale, Iowa, teamed up to facilitate this first session for legislators from the Midwest region. CSG promoted the session in its materials about the annual conference, but did not have any idea how much interest there might be in the program.

In recent years the movement of women into state-level offices has slowed after several decades of gains, and the 2014 elections did not alter this pattern. Efforts to actively recruit women for elected and appointed positions will be critical in determining what the future holds for women in state government. 

A well-structured office of lieutenant governor gives a state a competitive advantage and increases governance efficiency. Thorough succession laws contribute to smooth transitions of governance when needed. Lieutenant governors impact states every day in all issue areas and by leading parts of government. Governors, lieutenant governors and legislators have roles to ensure the office of lieutenant governor is positioned to propel a state forward.

The U.S. Census Bureau measures state and local government activity through the Census of Governments and related surveys. The data produced from these efforts are standardized across states and are the only nationwide dataset that allows for comparability both across states and on a national basis. Even with this standardization, the activities of 50 different state political systems present unique challenges to those who collect and use these data. We will introduce the principles by which the Census Bureau classifies governments and their activities. Additionally, through specific case studies, we will illustrate the ways states differ in their operation and in how they conduct the business of public service. Through these illustrations, we will offer a perspective that enables data users to delve into the data with a more thorough and accurate understanding, allowing them to formulate analyses more accurately. 

Chapter 1 of the 2015 Book of the States contains the following articles and tables:

Voters who want to share a selfie with their marked ballot on Election Day need to think twice. Many states make it a crime to take photos or videos in the voting booth, and at least one state has adopted strict new penalties for sharing your ballot selfie via social media. States with such bans say the laws are necessary to ensure ballot secrecy and discourage vote selling, but election officials say the prohibitions are tough to enforce. In an era where more and more voters have smartphones, states are grappling with just how smart it is to ban ballot selfies.

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