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Can cutting red tape in state government really make a difference when it comes to job creation and business support? At a time when many states are seeking ways to encourage economic growth and stability, secretaries of state are making efforts to ensure that state filing and licensing offices are business-friendly and streamlined for success through business one-stops, fee reductions and other incentives.

The office of lieutenant governor is the proven method of gubernatorial succession in the states and territories, having stood the test of time and experience for more than 200 years. The few states that ever abolished the office of lieutenant governor have reinstated it. History reveals five principles to well-written succession law utilizing the office of lieutenant governor. Moreover, states and territories continue to capitalize on the value of this office with lieutenant governors garnering power and responsibility from the constitution, statute or gubernatorial appointment, or through personal initiative. The trend line for the growth and value of the office is seen through new studies and increasing pay rates, growth in duties and political roles, and anecdotally through press.

Governors remain in the forefront of activity in the 21st century.  While the governorship was not the stepping stone to the White House for President Barack Obama - as it was for the country's two previous presidents, Democratic Gov. Bill Clinton from Arkansas (1993-2001) and Republican George W. Bush from Texas (2001-2009) - governors continue to be in the middle of addressing the problems facing the country's weak economy.  The demands on governors to propose state budgets and then keep them in balance have increased greatly during the current recession as severe revenue shortfalls have hit the states.  This has placed severe limits on states' abilities to address the many growing needs of people trying to live through tough times.  Politically, this has led to fallout from unhappy voters as they vent their anger and frustration towards leaders on election days. 

The National Bureau of Economic Research determined the end of the Great Recession in June 2009 because, “the trough marks the end of the recession that began in December 2007 and the beginning of an expansion.”2 Now three years into an expansion, governors are beating the bushes for ways to stretch a dollar. This year, governors presented many ideas for keeping government going, though primarily in the areas of education and economic development. Chief executives did not shy away from talking about revenues, though most of this talk addressed the creation of tax credits, exemptions or incentives to promote job creation. Continued fiscal stress in the states is evidenced by the fact that for the second straight year, the number of issues addressed by at least two-thirds of governors declined. Governors exhibit “funnel vision” as fiscal malaise continues; they have honed down their budget and policy agendas and focus on just the most primary of state functions.

First referenced in Article I, Section 10, Clause 3 of the United States Constitution, interstate compacts are the most formal mechanism available to policymakers seeking state-driven solutions to a wide range of policy challenges. Of all the tools available to state policymakers trying to work cooperatively across borders, interstate compacts are the most formal and perhaps the least understood.1 Compacts hold a unique place in American history for several different reasons. First, while the use of interstate compacts dates back to the founding of the country, the frequency with which they are used has expanded considerably over the last half century. Second, compacts provide state policymakers with a sustainable tool capable of promoting interstate cooperation without federal intervention. Third, interstate compacts can be used to address a wide range of policy challenges, ranging from insurance reform to environmental regulation and virtually everything in between. 

Congress slowly exercised its power of pre-emption to remove regulatory powers from state and local governments commencing from 1790 through the mid-1960s, when the pace accelerated. A significant number of acts contain mandates requiring state and/or local governments to initiate a compliance action(s) or impose prohibitions. No pre-emption mandate relief act has been enacted since 1996. This article focuses on the pre-emption acts signed by President Barack Obama since January 2009.

In the relatively few state legislative and gubernatorial elections in 2011, Republicans continued their winning streak in Southern states, coming closer to complete control of states in the region by taking over the Mississippi House for the first time since Reconstruction and by taking back functional control of the Virginia Senate. The four odd-year election states of Louisiana, Mississippi, New Jersey and Virginia staged regular elections for 578 legislative seats in 2011. In the end, Republicans picked up 25 seats in the off-year elections, adding to their dramatic gains from the year before and putting the party in its strongest position in state legislatures since 1928.

It could be argued that government is more transparent today than at any point in our country’s history. From the example set by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, state financial managers have worked to implement legislation envisioning ever greater access by citizens to government spending data. Transparency websites were first a trend for just a few states; they are now the norm. With each passing legislative session, the federal government hones its focus—and its mandates—on the concept of transparency. But how much is too much? At what point on the spectrum does the risk inherent in sharing so much financial data outweigh the potential benefits? These are not easy questions to answer. Regardless, it looks like transparency is here to stay.

Partisan polarization characterizes the current period of coercive federalism, shaping state-federal relations in often conflictual ways. Major clashes have occurred over health care, immigration, education, environmental protection, voting rights and numerous cultural issues such as abortion. State-federal disputes over health care and immigration have, moreover, generated two U.S. Supreme Court contests that could mark a pivotal advance or rollback of federal power over the states. At the same time, austerity and scrambles for tax revenue continue to characterize intergovernmental fiscal relations, while social welfare spending drives state budgets and squeezes funding for nonwelfare functions and for local governments.

Chapter 3 of the 2012 Book of the States contains the following articles and tables: