Spotlight Story

State Pension Funds: The Good and the Ugly | 11-17-2017

The economy is booming, tax cuts are looming and stock indexes are at record highs. But many public pension systems that provide retirement benefits to state and city employees and teachers are in trouble. Pension fund indebtedness has worsened in 43...

Supreme Court’s Current Term Big One for States | 11-10-2017

The U.S. Supreme Court’s fall term, which began last month, looks to be a momentous one, with the justices expected to weigh such matters as whether there’s a constitutional limit to partisanship in the drawing of voting districts and whether...

Lawmakers Look to End Harassment Under the Dome | 11-03-2017

What started as a flood of allegations of sexual harassment and assault against powerful Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein has morphed into an ever-widening outcry against such outrages regularly committed by men in all workplaces, including statehouses...

Higher Cost Of Disasters Could Portend Cost Shift To States | 10-20-2017

This past week, as firefighters continued to battle deadly wildfires in Northern California, officials there said this could become one of the Golden State’s worst ever fire seasons, coming on the heels of a historically wet winter and the hottest...

Will Massive Equifax Breach Spur State Regulation? | 10-13-2017

The unauthorized accessing of sensitive financial and personal information about 145.5 million consumers at Equifax, which the company made public last month , has prompted numerous lawsuits , congressional hearings , and investigations by federal agencies...

Obamacare Survives But Not Home Free | 10-06-2017

The Affordable Care Act, often called Obamacare, has had more narrow escapes than the legendary Harry Houdini. But although a law created solely by Democrats has amazingly survived in a Republican political landscape, its long-term survival is not yet...

CA Dialysis Regulation Effort Stalled...For Now | 09-29-2017

Three mornings every week for the last few years California resident Dave Kennedy grabs his headphones, a reading tablet and a few pillows and makes a 15-minute drive to the dialysis clinic nearest his home in the foothills east of Sacramento. Once there...

High Risks for States in NAFTA Talks | 09-15-2017

With the fate of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) hanging in the balance, trade experts and U.S. governors are warning that industrial and farm states would suffer economic damage if President Donald Trump carries out his threat to scrap...

Regulation Of Self-Driving Cars Picking Up Speed In States | 09-08-2017

Early last year SNCJ reported that while the development of autonomous, or self-driving, car technologies by Google, Uber, Tesla Motors and others was “progressing rapidly,” state efforts to regulate the testing and operation of such vehicles...

States Look To Grow ‘Middle Skill’ Workforce | 09-01-2017

When optometrist Dena Davidson decided she was ready to leave her profession behind, she knew two things. First, she was really interested in pursuing a career in human resources management. Second, she was less sure where or how to get started. ...

Growth Lag And Budget Caution In The States | 08-18-2017

The U.S. economy is expanding for a ninth consecutive year, unemployment is low, stock indices are near record highs, despite an early August slump, and the Great Recession of 2007-09 is a distant memory. Despite these positives, state budgets for fiscal...

States Attend To Issue Of Medical ‘Balance Billing’ | 08-11-2017

The practice among out-of-network healthcare providers of billing patients when the patients’ insurance carriers don’t cover the full cost of the providers’ services - known as “balance billing” - isn’t the healthcare...

Obamacare Lives, But Road Forward Is Rocky | 08-04-2017

After going through more resurrections than Jason Voorhees or Freddy Krueger, the GOP’s Congressional efforts to kill the Affordable Care Act finally seem to be dead. If so, the question becomes what happens now? While definitive answers are in...

Republican Governors Torpedo Obamacare Repeal | 07-21-2017

Republican governors played a leading, perhaps decisive, role in the collapse of their party’s long-promised legislation to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), known as Obamacare. With Gov. John Kasich of Ohio and Gov. Brian Sandoval of Nevada...

States Over-Riding Local Riding Rules | 07-14-2017

The gig business is becoming really big business. And as the number of people using ridesharing apps like Uber and Lyft has mushroomed in the last couple of years - with no sign of leveling off - local governments around the country have sought to regulate...

States Address Cybersecurity, Election Reform And Other Issues | 07-07-2017

Despite the unusual amount of uncertainty heading into this year’s state legislative sessions, a few of the issues we predicted last December might receive particular attention from lawmakers, such as cybersecurity and transportation funding, have...

States Carry On Amidst Federal Chaos | 06-30-2017

Last December, the SNCJ staff laid out its annual list of issues we felt would receive significant attention in statehouses across the nation in the year ahead. Although it is something we’ve done for many years now, no upcoming year had presented...

California: Exceptional, Green and Cheered in China | 06-16-2017

The day after President Donald Trump announced his withdrawal from the Paris climate accords California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) formed an alliance with other U.S. states to combat global warming and flew off to Beijing to discuss the issue with Chinese leaders...

Which ‘Lives Matter’ Movement Will Prevail In Statehouses? | 06-09-2017

Last year Louisiana became the first state to pass a law extending hate crime protections, like those granted to people of color and members of the LGBTQ community, to law enforcement officers. And four other states have enacted such “Blue Lives...

States Pushing Ahead With Private Sector Pension Plans | 06-02-2017

Undaunted by opposition from Wall Street, Congress and the Trump administration – or by potential litigation down the road – a growing number of states are moving forward with implementing state-run pension plans for millions of private-sector...

Medicaid Cuts Threaten Obamacare Replacement Bill | 05-19-2017

States would face demanding fiscal challenges, especially with Medicaid, if the pending Republican bill to replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA) becomes law. Proposed heavy cutbacks in Medicaid could potentially doom the American Health Care Act (AHCA...

Tougher Distracted Driving Laws On The Way? | 05-12-2017

The number of deadly crashes on U.S. roadways increased more in the last two years than in any other two-year period over the last half century, due at least in part to distracted driving. The surge in accidents is driving up auto insurance rates across...

Spike In Middle-Age Mortality Rates Defies Easy Answers | 05-04-2017

Life expectancy for most of the developed world has risen for years. But ongoing research by Princeton University economists Anne Case and Angus Deaton reveals that over the last two decades mortality rates have spiked sharply for one specific group of...

Sanctuary Cities Split Country | 04-28-2017

To anyone who has watched the national political culture split into two poles over the last decade or so, it should be little surprise that the country is moving in opposite directions on so-called sanctuary cities, those which bar local officials from...

States Battle With Trump Over Fuel Efficiency | 04-14-2017

Thirteen states, led by California, are engaged in what promises to be a protracted conflict with the Trump administration over stricter emission and fuel efficiency standards for cars and trucks. Following up on his campaign promises, President...

Republicans Consolidating Power In The States | 04-07-2017

Late last year, after Republican Gov. Pat McCrory (R) became the only incumbent governor ever to lose a reelection bid in North Carolina, the state’s GOP-led General Assembly passed legislation restricting appointment powers of Democratic Gov.-elect...

States Take Wide Tack on Battling Opioid Abuse | 03-31-2017

For policy makers at all levels of government, battling the national opioid epidemic can feel like a deadly game of Whack-a-Mole: No matter how many times they attack a particular element of the problem, another one just pops up somewhere else. But since...

Storms Could Signify Changing Climate In California | 03-17-2017

As spring arrives in California, scientists and public officials are taking stock of a stormy winter that eased the state’s five-year drought but exposed the vulnerability to age and climate change of the Golden State’s dams, levees, and bridges...

State Lawmakers Defying Will of Voters | 03-10-2017

American politicians’ opposition to direct democracy dates back to the earliest days of the republic. But that resistance has reached a new level recently in the states, where elected officials are taking aim at voter-approved ballot measures and...

States Ponder New Wave Of K-12 Education Options | 03-03-2017

Those seeking a broader menu of taxpayer-funded schooling options – ranging from more public charter schools to increasing vouchers for private and religious schools – have never had a stronger ally in the nation’s top education job...

Obamacare Repeal Remains Elusive | 02-17-2017

Donald Trump and Republican congressional leaders pledged during the election campaign to make repeal of the Affordable Care Act, often called Obamacare, their first order of business in 2017. But the controversial law is proving resilient. With insurance...

States Increasingly Targeted By Cybercriminals | 02-10-2017

The targeting of election systems in Arizona and Illinois by Russian hackers last summer received a lot of media attention. But those were far from the only or even the most serious recent attacks on government computer networks, which are increasingly...

States Embrace, Resist Trump Immigration Orders | 02-03-2017

In the immediate aftermath of blusterous reality TV star Donald Trump’s upset victory in the presidential race, pundits were quick to say his opponents always took his seemingly over-the-top campaign pitches too literally while not taking the whole...

States Face Revenue And Pension Pitfalls | 01-20-2017

The U.S. economy is entering an eighth year of recovery and the stock market has reached record heights, but at least 24 states face budget shortfalls in 2017 as revenues lag behind projections. Pension issues also continue to bedevil state and local...

California Gearing Up To Battle Trump Agenda | 01-13-2017

Last fall, California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) joked that if then-GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump won the election, the Golden State “would have to build a wall around California to defend ourselves from the rest of this country.” He was...

Trump Presidency Will Challenge States On Many Issues | 12-16-2016

States and local governments will face many challenges and opportunities as they navigate the turbulent waters of the coming Donald Trump administration. Despite uncertainty about the precise policies of President-elect Trump and the Republican...

Election Issues and Others Likely To Be Considered by State Lawmakers in 2017 | 12-09-2016

As part one of our legislative preview indicated , a great deal of uncertainty surrounds next year’s legislative sessions, but as a result of President-elect Donald Trump’s surprising victory and with Republicans in control of both legislative...

States Brace For Year Of Uncertainty | 12-02-2016

Uncertainty. There is no better way to describe what lawmakers across the nation will face once gavels come down on new statehouse sessions in January and beyond. While in a normal year the kind of broad gains Republicans made at all levels of government...

States Seek To Plug Retirement Gaps | 11-18-2016

Retirement has become a distant dream for millions of Americans. Nearly half of American families lack any retirement savings, according to the Economic Policy Institute. Pensions with defined benefits have become a rarity in the private sector and savings...

Trump Coattails Carry Legislators But Not Ballot Measures | 11-11-2016

The white rural voters who helped propel Donald Trump to his stunning victory in the presidential race and enabled Republicans to keep their majorities in both houses of Congress on Nov. 8 may have helped some GOP candidates further down-ticket too, with...

Artificial Intelligence, Lawmakers And The Future Of Work | 11-04-2016

When voters head to the polls this week, many will cast votes based on who they think will be better on critical economic issues like job creation. While much of the conversation has centered on jobs being shipped overseas or raising the minimum wage...

Beyond November: Health Care And Pensions Challenge States | 10-21-2016

As Election Day nears, Democrats seem on track to regain some of the ground they have lost to Republicans in statehouses during the Obama years. But celebrations by the victors, whether Democrats or Republicans, are likely to be muted as states confront...

Citizen Initiatives Push Ballot Measures Left This Year | 10-14-2016

In addition to state legislative elections that could flip party control of 18 chambers across the country, 157 statewide ballot measures will also be contested in 35 states on Nov. 8. The measures include an unusually high number of citizen initiatives...

The Politics Of Social Media | 10-07-2016

Like it or not, social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Periscope and Snapchat have become an indispensable part of political campaigns and the vast majority of lawmakers’ offices. And with numerous studies showing the overwhelming connection...

Opportunities Abound For Democrats In Legislative Races | 09-16-2016

Far below the radar of the fiercely fought presidential race, Republicans and Democrats are competing for control of legislative chambers in 13 battleground states. Democrats suffered severe losses in the statehouses during the last two midterm elections...

Voting Restrictions Running Out Of Steam In States? | 09-09-2016

New voting restrictions will be in effect in 15 states for the first time in a presidential election this year. But courts have blocked or loosened such restrictions in a few states. And legislative activity aimed at expanding voter access is outpacing...

Golden State Cap-And-Trade Program Faces Hazy Future | 09-02-2016

California lawmakers last month cemented their commitment to dramatically reducing the state’s carbon emissions, passing a pair of bills ( SB 32 and AB 197 ) that collectively extend the program by a decade and give the Legislature more oversight...

Warnings From The Golden State | 08-19-2016

Trend-setting California has issued national wakeup calls about the shaky state of public pensions and the soaring costs of health insurance for those covered under the Affordable Care Act. CalPERS, the nation’s largest pension fund for state...

Is Government Keeping Up With Technology? | 08-12-2016

Legislation and regulations have been coming thick and fast on a host of technological issues in the headlines in recent years, including ride-hailing, short-term home rentals, drones and daily fantasy sports betting. But how well is government doing...

Daily Fantasy Sports Industry Has Some Successes, Momentum | 08-05-2016

The daily fantasy sports industry had a few wins this spring in its first full year of pushing to make its games explicitly legal across the country. And while the question of whether the games are legal remains unclear in much of the nation, and their...