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Reduced levels of state constitutional activity and no major new trends were recorded in 2003, a typical “off” year. Among developments were a comprehensive tax and spending proposal and an official constitutional commission, both in Alabama, and the historic use of the state  constitutional recall election in California.

During the next few years, state government human resource professionals will be focused on building and maintaining the workforce of the future. With budget deficits, an aging workforce, and rising benefits costs, state governments are challenged and will continue to be so. State human resources is moving from an administrative, “paper-pushing” role to a consultative role allowing it to play a strategic part in the future success of state government.

Until now, the focus of states on the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) has been on compliance. States first struggled to figure out what was required by the legislation, and then concentrated on getting the state plan approved by the U.S. Department of Education. Now that this initial stage has past, states are turning their attention to implementation. They are now trying to understand how to incorporate NCLB into the state’s framework of educational governance, and how the legislation can be used to help the state meet its own goals for education performance.

An effective system of interstate cooperation is essential to the operation of U. S. federalism. The research reported here shows that, on average, a state belongs to 25.4 interstate compacts and, during the 1990s, joined other states in 25 legal actions and enacted 7.7 uniform laws. However, the variation both across and within states as to the degree and type of cooperation reflects the tension between cooperation and competition.

The rapid pace of technological change and innovation that transformed government service delivery in the 1990s has been slowed in recent years by the bleak fiscal realities facing most states. Although the demand for online services and 24/7 access to information remains strong, information technology (IT) initiatives must now demonstrate a clear return on investment with an emphasis on system integration and infrastructure consolidation. States are also recognizing the importance of centralized IT oversight, common standards and shared solutions to save money and deliver more effective services to citizens and businesses.

States’ welfare challenges are becoming more complex. As the economy weakened, caseload decline either diminished or reversed. Employment rates declined for both welfare recipients  and those who recently left welfare. More who left welfare either have returned to it or are disconnected, living without a job, welfare, or someone else who can support them. Fortunately, more who left welfare are staying connected to other government safety net supports. States’ welfare offices must combine the message of work and assessment of work barriers with a complex array of services that remediate barriers, track families after they leave welfare, and support working poor families.

A survey of municipal leagues and county associations in 41 states reveals several state legislatures initiated actions to assist general purpose local governments by broadening their discretionary authority and establishing special assistance programs. Nevertheless, more than one-half of the respondents reported the legislatures had imposed additional mandates since  1990 and one-third reported the imposition of additional restraints. Only two respondents indicated court decisions generally favored local governments, six reported narrow interpretation of local powers and the remaining respondents reported mixed decisions.

By almost any metric, the performance of state workers’ compensation systems varies greatly, with large swings in claims, costs and disputes over just a few years. As a result of this  dynamic environment, a handful of states “reform” their workers’ compensation statutes almost annually.

Crime is down, but prison populations continue to rise. As state officials struggle with budget shortfalls, it is increasingly important to understand the changing nature of state corrections, both from a demographic perspective and a programmatic one. If state officials are to ever solve the “revolving-door-of-corrections,” they must provide effective programming and planning whose ultimate goal is the reentry of offenders into society.

CSG South

The airline industry serves not just as an economic engine for states, cities and regions, but as a cog in the essential network of transportation within the United States. Yet the industry finds itself in a very difficult period. With the new focus on homeland security in the United States, exacerbated by war, the terrorist attacks of 2001, a downturn in the economy, and anomalies such as the SARS virus, the airline industry has found itself in a state of turmoil, loss and great trepidation. With the industry especially important to its birthplace, the Southern region, this report highlights the contributions of carriers to local and regional economies and the challenges that face them in Southern states.

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