Public libraries will continue to be buffeted by budget shortfalls at state and local levels. The rapid changes brought about by the Internet and electronic resources, as well as copyright, privacy issues, and censorship concerns, have presented major problems. Public libraries have adapted with new forms of service and new organizational structures.

Exploding health care costs have created a health insurance affordability crisis in the United States. According to a Families USA analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data, roughly 81.8 million people under age 65, or one out of three, were without insurance for some or all of 2002 and 2003. Not only has the number of people without insurance increased, but even individuals who maintain their coverage have seen higher out-of-pocket expenses as employers and insurers have instituted additional cost-sharing mechanisms. Given the situation, it is not surprising that health care is a top priority for state policy-makers. As the 2005 legislative session begins, the search is on for solutions that will both stabilize health care spending and allow more people to access affordable insurance products.

Coercive federalism has shown great continuity since the late 1960s, as characterized by a shift of federal aid from places to persons, policy conditions and earmarks attached to federal aid, preemptions, federal encroachments on state taxation, federalization of state criminal law, defunct intergovernmental institutions, reduced federal-state cooperation within major intergovernmental programs, and federal court litigation. However, unfunded federal mandates and federal court orders mandating major state institutional change have become less prevalent. State policy activism remains vigorous, but the U.S. Supreme Court’s state-friendly federalism jurisprudence has stalled since 2002.

State treasurers are the chief financial officers of the states who assume the duties of assuring the absolute safety of all taxpayer dollars as well as guaranteeing the prudent use of public resources that fund vital government programs. In several states, treasurers also improve the financial security of our citizens by providing college savings opportunities, financial education and returning unclaimed property.

In an effort to contain costs while also providing better consumer service, government agencies throughout North America are developing business plans and restructuring professional and occupational regulatory agencies. Increased technology use is bringing new security problems along with enhanced access for all stakeholders. The professional licensing stakeholder community is expanding to include international regulators.

The discipline of emergency management is at a critical juncture in history. Even before the horrific events of September 11th, 2001, emergency management and other public safety disciplines had recognized the growing implications and reorganized to deal with the growing threat of terrorism. The national effort towards achieving “homeland security” is challenging the resources, relationships, organizational responsibilities and fundamental principles of the entire emergency response community. The relationships between the community of emergency management and the new and evolving dynamic we call homeland security is yet to mature or be defined so that a clear and achievable future path to greater national security and safety can be pursued.

The intergovernmental balance has shifted to the national government. Federal deficits, debt service, defense spending, and entitlement pressures will reduce discretionary spending, and could rekindle interest in decentralization and devolution. State leaders need to network horizontally and vertically to rebalance the federal system.

States vary greatly in how they identify and define “ethics” in the public sector. Meaningful and accurate comparisons of remedial state ethics processes are therefore difficult to easily render. However, ethics governance that involves standards of conduct and protections against conflicts of interest within the states often shares common traits. These traits include the creation of boards designed with oversight independent of appointment authorities, often delegated a trio of educational, advisory, and enforcement authority, in order to administer uniform standards and financial disclosure for public officers. These bodies share a vital goal of securing increased protection to the broader public interest by recognizing and limiting the inherent or acquired personal and familial conflicts of interest of those public servants who make and implement public policy and expend public funds.

Recent events in our society have been the catalyst for rapid change in the way motor vehicle agencies do business. The need to balance highway safety, customer service and security of the homeland has created a challenge that very few industries will ever have to face.

In the last decade, many rural areas have been left behind. Yet federal and state rural development efforts have not proven up to the task. As a result, it’s time for a bold new approach to revitalizing rural America based on building competitive rural economies.