Driving the Future
INSIDE: Voting Matters International Students Wanted TABOR Revisited
Can Can state state legislators legislators economize economize and and still still address address constituents’ constituents’ needs? needs? In the 22 states plus the District of Columbia that In the 22 states plus the District of Columbia that have adopted Free File, the answer is yes. have adopted Free File, the answer is yes.
“Free File is a great service File is ataxpayers great service that “Free helps eligible prepare that helps eligible taxpayers prepare and file their taxes online with ease and file their taxes online with ease and free of charge. It’s an outstanding and free of what charge. an outstanding example canIt’s happen when the example of what can happen when the government and private sector partner government and private sector partner to provide a much-needed service.” to provide a much-needed service.”
“When Virginia joined the Free File Alliance, “When Virginiagained joined the the opportunity Free File Alliance, working Virginians to file both working Virginians gained the opportunity tofor filefree. both federal and state tax returns electronically federal and state returns electronically free. The benefit was tax immediate, especially forfor those The benefit was credits immediate, especially thoseTax claiming important like the Earnedfor Income claiming important credits like the Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit. Being able to keep 100% Credit and Child Tax Credit. Being able to keep 100% of a refund is important to working individuals and of a refund is important to working individuals and families and in turn it helps our Virginia communities. families and inAction turn itinhelps our embraces Virginia communities. Community Virginia Free File Community Action in Virginia embraces Free control File because it gives people the opportunity to take because it gives people opportunity to sense take control of their finances andthe gives them a real of of their financesempowerment.” and gives them a real sense of empowerment.”
– Rep. G.K. Butterfield (NC-1) – Rep. G.K. Butterfield (NC-1)
– Carolyn Spohrer, Virginia Community – Carolyn Action Spohrer, Virginia Community Partnership Action Partnership
“Not only does Free File allow “Not only does Free to Filedoallow hard-working Iowans their hard-working Iowans to saves do their taxes for free, but it also the taxes for free, but it also saves the government money. As families and government As families and governmentsmoney. alike continue looking governments alike continue looking for ways to cut costs and rein in for ways to cut that’s costs and rein in their expenses, a win-win.” their expenses, that’s a win-win.” – Rep. Tom Latham (IA-3) – Rep. Tom Latham (IA-3)
Free File provides free online tax preparation and e-filing options to 70 percent of all taxpayers. It is a public-private partnership between Free Fileand provides free online tax preparation and Thus e-filing to 70 states percentand of the all taxpayers. is a public-private partnership between the IRS commercial tax software companies. far,options twenty-two District of ItColumbia have recognized the benefits of the taxFree software companies. Thus far, states and the Districtindividuals of Columbia recognized the benefits FreeIRS Fileand andcommercial created state File programs modeled on twenty-two the federal partnership, enabling to have file their federal AND state taxof Free Fileforand created returns free at the state sameFree time.File programs modeled on the federal partnership, enabling individuals to file their federal AND state tax returns for free at the same time.
To learn more about Free File, visit: www.taxprephelp.org To learn more about Free File, visit: www.taxprephelp.org
STATE LEGISLATURES | 03. 2013
© 2013 BRUCE HOLDEMAN
VOL 39 No- 3 | CONTENTS
FEATURES 12 DRIVING THE FUTURE
By Anne Teigen, Alice Wheet and Jaime Rall Self-driving cars and smart phones that help you catch a bus are not as far-fetched as you may think. 16 TESTING WHAT WORKS
By Nina Williams-Mbengue Federal waivers give states the flexibility to discover what’s best for children in foster care. 20 TABOR AT TWENTY
By Tim Hoover Colorado’s well-known tax and spending measure is praised by some and criticized by others for its success at limiting government.
24 LIFE ON THE FAST TRACK
By Douglas Shinkle States and cities are finding ways to meet the growing demand for rapid transit and riderfriendly communities. 32 TESTED BY TRAGEDY
By Edward P. Smith New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver is the recipient of this year’s top legislative leadership award.
4 | CONTENTS | 03.2013
A NATIONAL CONFERENCE OF STATE LEGISLATURES PUBLICATION
28 TOOLS OF THE TRADE
Grappling With the Gun Issue 6
PEOPLE & POLITICS
Insight into what's happening under the domes 7
TRENDS & TRANSITIONS
Duty to warn and protect rules, smokefree laws and marijuana, private tax help, an unexpected effect of term limits and the Census Bureau gears up for 2020.
How to deal with difficult people 30 FOR THE RECORD
Doris Kearns Goodwin, presidential historian, Pulitzer Prize winner and author of the book on Lincoln, “Team of Rivals” 35 AS THEY SEE IT
Quotes and cartoons from around the states
News from around the nation—from digital documents to policy pioneers to furry ferrets
Executive Director William T. Pound
VISIT WWW.NCSL.ORG/MAGAZINE THIS MONTH TO:
Managing Editor Julie Lays
◆ Discover more resources on
international students, including links to several state consortia websites. ◆ Share your experiences with redistricting with the Census Bureau. ◆ Read all the recommendations on how to improve voting in America. ◆ Watch the webinar on dealing with difficult people. ◆ Listen to the entire interview with historian Doris Kearns Goodwin. ◆ View a 50-state chart with details on duty to warn and protect laws. ◆ Link to more resources on marijuana’s health effects.
THEN & NOW 25 YEARS AGO
DID YOU KNOW …
WHOSE CAPITOL IS IT?
FROM ROCKING CHAIR TO LEGISLATIVE BATTLE
“Nearly half the states have ‘silverhaired legislatures,’ whose elected members meet to identify issues and propose legislative solutions. Many of their proposals eventually become law.”
Copy Editor Leann Stelzer Contributors Morgan Cullen Jonathan Griffin Art Director Bruce Holdeman Advertising Sales Manager LeAnn Hoff (303) 364-7700 .................................... NCSL OFFICERS President Representative Terie Norelli, New Hampshire President Elect Senator Bruce Starr, Oregon Vice President Assemblywoman Debbie Smith, Nevada
Staff Vice Chair Tom Wright, Alaska Immediate Past President Senator Stephen Morris, Kansas
Washington, D.C. Office 444 North Capitol Street, N.W. Suite 515 Washington, D.C. 20001 (202) 624-5400 Website www.ncsl.org/magazine .................................... State Legislatures (ISSN 01470641), the national magazine of policy and politics, is published monthly by the National Conference of State Legislatures except July/August and October/November, which are combined. Postmaster: Send address changes to: State Legislatures, 7700 East First Place, Denver, CO 80230.
THE CHALLENGES AHEAD FOR RURAL AMERICA
“While rural residents and some education specialists tout the benefits of small schools, the pressure is still on for consolidation.”
Web Editor Edward P. Smith
Immediate Past Staff Chair Michael Adams, Virginia .................................... Denver Office 7700 East First Place Denver, Colorado 80230 (303) 364-7700
WHAT’S AHEAD FOR RURAL SCHOOLS?
Associate Editor Jane Carroll Andrade
Staff Chair Patsy Spaw, Texas
Articles from the March 1988 issue of
“While the crisis may be passing, rural economies around the country are not healthy. States are using a variety of tactics to rejuvenate their small towns and farm communities.”
Editor Karen Hansen
North Carolinians thought their capitol was too plain when it was built in 1794, so the General Assembly called for a statue of George Washington to add distinction. Thomas Jefferson desired a sculpture reflecting a Roman influence and recommended Italian artist Antonio Canova. When Washington arrived in Raleigh in 1821, he came dressed as a Roman general. The people adored it. Ten years later, however, Washington and the State House went down in flames. The marble copy that adorns the capitol today was built in 1970 by Romano Vio, using the original plaster model. Sources: N.C. Division of Travel and Tourism, Department of Cultural Resources, and the University of North Carolina and Raleigh: The First 200 Years.
© 2013, All Rights Reserved. Opinions expressed in this magazine do not necessarily reflect the policy of NCSL. Go to www.ncsl.org/bookstore/ to subscribe. United States—$49 per year; foreign—$55. Teachers only $25 (enter promo code SLMTEA). Single copy: $6.50.
To find out, go to: www.ncsl.org/magazine
Letters to the Editor may be mailed to the Denver office or sent by e-mail to: edward. firstname.lastname@example.org. Send requests for permission to reprint to Edward Smith in Denver. Send subscriptions and changes of address to the Denver office Attn: Marketing Department. Periodically, NCSL rents mailing labels to outside organizations. If you prefer your name not be used, please send a written request. State Legislatures is indexed in the PAIS Bulletin and Expanded Academic Index. It is also available in microform and electronically through University Microfilms Inc. (UMI) at (800) 521-0600.
03 .2013 | STATESTATS | 05
WHO ARE THE UNEMPLOYED?
nemployment numbers are on everyone’s minds. In September, 13.99 million Americans were unemployed, down slightly from a year ago, when 14.75 million people were. The current unemployment rate of 9.1 percent, however, hasn’t changed much since April 2010, but is down slightly from September 2010, when it was 9.6 percent. The number of long-term unemployed—those jobless for more than 27 weeks—is up from a year ago, from 6.15 million to 6.24 million. These people make up 44.6 percent of all the unemployed. And the number of people working part time because their hours were cut back or because they were unable to find a full-time job rose to 9.3 million.
Another 2.5 million people are “marginally attached” to the labor force, about the same as in 2010. These people looked for work sometime during the year, but not in the four weeks preceding the survey. Among this group, 1 million are “discouraged,” down by 172,000 from a year earlier. They have stopped looking for work believing no jobs are available for them. The other 1.5 million had not searched for work for reasons such as school or family responsibilities. Government employment continued to fall and drag down the economic recovery. In just the last year, local governments lost 210,000 jobs, state governments 49,000 and the federal government 30,000. More than a half million public sector jobs have been lost since September 2008.
State Government Job Losses States With Losses, From March 2010 to March 2011
Education Matters Unemployment rates by level of education Less than a high school diploma (14 percent)
■ ■ ■ ■
Less than 2% 2% to 3% More than 3 % No net job losses
High school graduate (9.7 percent) Associate degree, some college (8.4 percent) Bachelor’s degree and higher (4.2 percent) Recent college graduates under age (7.7 percent)
Why Are They Unemployed? Lost their job or completed a temporary job
58.3% Entered the job market for the first time
Reentered the job market
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Department of Labor, Sept. 2011.
Chose to leave job
6 | PEOPLE & POLITICS | 03.2013
SPEAKER MIKE CHENAULT (R) WAS UNANIMOUSLY RE-ELECTED to an unprecedented third term as leader of the
Alaska House of Representatives. Chenault has now held the position longer than any other representative in the state’s history. Much of the speaker’s success, many say, can be attributed to the widespread fairness he displays toward every member, regardless of their party or views on certain issues. After being re-elected speaker, Chenault told his fellow representatives that he thinks of them as “family.”
MINORITY DEMOCRATIC CAUCUS after six years in the House and switched parties to join the GOP. She began thinking about the change shortly after the election, but had been “moving toward” it her entire legislative career, she says. Her defection leaves the Democrats with 10 members in the 40-member body. Under House rules, a caucus of 10 or more automatically gets committee assignments.
SENATOR JACK A. HART JR., THE BOSTON DEMOCRAT HEAVILY FAVORED TO SUCCEED Senate President Therese Murray (D),
announced he is resigning from the legislature to join a law firm. His departure makes the contest “a wide-open scramble,” with several viable candidates. Murray is obligated by term limits to leave the Senate presidency in 2015, although there is speculation she may leave before that. A special election is likely to coincide with the election to fill U.S. Senator John Kerry’s seat, with a primary in April and general election on June 25. ABOUT 40,000 NEW STATE LAWS PASS EACH YEAR,
ALASKA REPRESENTATIVE LINDSEY HOLMES LEFT HER
and Florida Senator Nancy Detert (R) learned how just one can truly change lives. In 2002, Detert sponsored legislation to give stipends to 18-year-old kids leaving foster care to help them finish high school and go to college or get work training. Five young adults, all under 25, came to a hearing in Tallahassee to thank her personally for helping them make the transition out of foster care. The Road to Independence program helped one go to college and the others stay out of trouble and avoid homelessness. Detert has a reputation as a tough legislator—she even has a fireman’s ax in her office with the inscription “No Nonsense Nancy.” Now she’s working on legislation to extend foster care until age 21.
NEW MEXICO SENATOR MARY KAY PAPEN (D) BECAME
Senate president pro tem in 73 years when she was elected to the post by acclamation. Papen was the coalition candidate in a chamber dominated by Democrats, 25-17. Democratic Senator Pete Campos had been nominated by his caucus for the leadership position. But in a surprise move, he nominated the 80-year-old retired car dealer when it became apparent she had the votes among Republicans and conservative Democrats to win. It is the second time in four years a coalition-backed Democrat has been elected to the post. Papen presides over the committee that appoints committee members and chairs.
THE FIRST WOMAN
DEMONSTRATIONS CAN BE COSTLY. WHEN UNION PROTESTORS
descended on the Michigan State Capitol in Lansing in December to oppose right-to-work bills in the birthplace of collective bargaining, it came with a high price tag for the state—$901,132 of state police costs. The bills passed the Republican-controlled legislature with lightning speed and Republican Governor Rick Snyder signed them within a day. Snyder has asked the Michigan Supreme Court to rule on the constitutionality of the bills, which make it illegal for employers to require workers to pay union dues. The question is whether the laws interfere with the Civil Service Commission’s authority. In a letter to the court, Snyder said he is attempting to avoid “a proliferation of state and federal lawsuits.”
NOT MANY DEMOCRATS WANT TO RUN AGAINST NEW JERSEY’S REPUBLICAN GOVERNOR CHRIS CHRISTIE in this year’s election. Christie has been governor since 1997 and has a 74 percent approval rating. Senate President Stephen Sweeney took himself out of the race, saying he’s “decided my work needs to be focused on ensuring the Legislature remains in Democratic control.” Senator Richard Codey isn’t interested even though he was acting governor for 14 months after James McGreevey resigned amid a sex scandal. “I enthusiastically back whomever the nominee is,” he said. Democratic U.S. Representatives Frank Pallone and Bill Pascrell, both considered running then decided not to. Only Senator Barbara Buono has said yes to the challenge. She was first elected to the General Assembly in 1994, then to the Senate in 2002, and was majority leader from 2010-12. She has received the endorsement of most Democrats and appears to have the nomination sewn up.
TENNESSEE REPRESENTATIVE RYAN HAYNES (R) RENEWED HIS CONSTITUENTS’ FAITH IN POLITICS—and in youth. The 28-year-old second-
term lawmaker stopped along Kingston Pike in heavy traffic to pick up money, pictures and papers that had been run over and were blowing everywhere. They belonged to a constituent who had driven off with her wallet on top of the trunk of her car. Haynes tracked her down and returned the billfold. Lynn Dell McKinney, owner of the wallet, wrote in a letter to the Knoxville News Sentinel that it is “honest and caring people like Haynes who help restore our faith in our fellow citizens and neighbors.”
03 .2013 | TRENDS & TRANSITIONS | 7
Warning of Potential Violence
ental health professionals must maintain patients’ confidentiality. But many states also require or allow them to protect possible victims by disclosing information to potential victims or law enforcement about patients they believe may become violent. Most of these laws were passed following a 1976 California Supreme Court case that ruled psychotherapists have a legal duty to warn specific people at risk of violence from a patient. Some providers express concern that laws requiring, rather than permitting, a warning may discourage potentially violent people from seeking treatment or fully revealing their intentions, or that potential liability may dissuade therapists from treating such patients because their ability to predict violent behavior is limited. A lawsuit alleging breach of this duty has been filed against the psychiatrist whose patient allegedly killed 12 people and injured dozens more in a movie theater in Aurora, Colo. last July. New York lawmakers were the first to pass new legislation on this topic following the Newtown tragedy, modifying their law from allowing, to requiring, mental health professionals to report patients they believe may pose a danger to themselves or others. New York joins 28 other states, including Colorado, with mandatory requirements. Sixteen states and the District of Columbia allow, but do not require, providers to take action. In Georgia, providers have a duty to protect potential victims when a hospitalized patient makes credible threats and is released negligently; otherwise, courts there have continued to enforce confidentiality laws. Maine, Nevada, North Carolina and North Dakota have no duty to warn or protect. State laws vary in the details. The most common circumstance that triggers a duty to warn is when a patient communicates a serious threat of imminent physical violence against a specific person or an identifiable group. Determining the threat’s credibility usually depends upon the provider’s “reasonable” judgment. Laws may apply to psychologists, psychiatrists, marriage and family therapists, licensed professional counselors, licensed social workers, mental health institutions and support staff employed by any of the above. Both mandatory and permissive laws usually exempt the mental health providers from liability for breaking confidentiality laws or for failing to report if they act “in good faith.” Some states also require mental health professionals to seek voluntary hospitalization or emergency involuntary commitment for patients likely to be dangerous, and New York’s new law will allow law enforcement officials to remove any firearms the patients may own. —Amber Widgery and Amy Winterfeld
Duty to Warn or Protect Laws
Requires mental health providers to warn or protect Allows providers to warn or protect Requires providers to protect only in specific circumstances Has no duty to warn or protect Note: Arizona, Delaware and Illinois have different duties for different professions. Source: NCSL, Jan. 15, 2013.
To view a 50-state chart with more details on duty to warn and protect laws, go to www.ncsl.org/magazine.
8 | TRENDS & TRANSITIONS | 03.2013
06 .2013 | TRENDS & TRANSITIONS | 8
It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane, It’s Superdrone
ost Americans know drones as unmanned, 27-foot-long aircraft the U.S. military uses to monitor borders or to find, photograph and kill terrorists. But drones of all sizes are fast showing up in other settings, as well. Police in several states have enlisted small, unarmed drones to photograph crime scenes and track suspects. College journalism students have used them to help report droughts. Experts say drones—controlled from the ground and sometimes weighing less than five pounds—soon may routinely fight fires, monitor avalanches, film movies, track wildlife, survey crops, find lost people, detect gas spills, perform safety checks on trains and even deliver medical supplies—or pizzas—across town. But Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, as they are formally called, raise difficult privacy and safety concerns. Legislatures in at least 39 states have grappled with how to regulate them and where to draw the line between legitimate surveillance and illegal snooping. In April, Virginia enacted a two-year moratorium on police use of drones, except in emergencies, and Idaho passed a law stating police must get probable-cause warrants before using surveillance drones. Idaho’s law also prohibits anyone from using a drone to photograph private property without the owner’s written permission. In 2013, NCSL has tracked more than 80 bills and resolutions concerning drones. Several are similar to Idaho’s law, requiring police to obtain warrants before using drones, says Rich Williams, an NCSL criminal justice policy expert. A Maryland bill, for example, specifies that “a law enforcement agency may not use a drone to gather evidence or other information without a warrant.” Legislation in Florida waives the warrant requirement if there is “a high risk of a terrorist attack” or “reasonable suspicion that … swift action is needed to prevent imminent danger to life or serious damage to property.” A California measure would prohibit citizens from using drones to spy on people. A similar Arizona bill states it’s “unlawful for a person to use drones to monitor other persons inside their homes or places of worship,” while a New Jersey bill states that anyone with a drone “is guilty of a disorderly person’s offense.” In addition to police, government and commercial enterprises, backyard hobbyists are building them with model airplanes and cameras, and membership at DIYdrones.com is 39,000 and counting. Drones are likely to be on lawmakers’ radar for some time. President Obama has ordered that civilian drones be given greater access to U.S. airspace by 2015. Additionally, economic development groups in at least 37 states are competing to land one of six Federal Aviation Administration drone test sites. “Simply put, unmanned aircraft systems are the next big thing in the aerospace industry,” California Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi (D), chairman of the state’s select committee on aerospace, said at a hearing, as reported in the Los Angeles Times. —Mary Winter
03 .2013 | TRENDS & TRANSITIONS | 9
opper, aluminum and other nonferrous metals are increasingly in high demand as prices rise. Fetching about $3.50 per pound, copper is particularly precious to thieves who are willing to risk their lives to get it. They remove wiring and piping from homes, utility properties and electrical lines, occasionally causing power outages, expensive repairs and, in some cases, electrocution. In 2008, utilities reported 13 death resulting from copper theft, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. The cost of repairing damages from metal thieves directly affects ratepayers and far outweighs what the thieves themselves receive when they sell the stolen metal. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the damage from a theft of just $100 in copper wire can cost a utility more than $5,000 to repair. Lawmakers have responded. Since January 2010, 18 legislatures have passed laws that increase penalties for metal theft, tighten dealer licensing, or specify identification and payment requirements for buyers and sellers. For example, Iowa now requires salvage dealers to maintain complete, accurate and legible records and receipts of salvaged material purchases. Virginia requires anyone buying secondhand metal to pay by check, if the sale exceeds $1,000. Kansas requires all businesses that purchase regulated scrap metal to be registered. And Virginia requires dealers to obtain documentation that a seller lawfully possesses any metal being sold. The Institute of Scrap Recycling Industriesâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;a trade organization representing nearly 1,600 recyclers across the countryâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;has developed a Web-based alert system (ScrapTheftAlert.com) that allows subscribers to alert others of a metal theft. Subscribers within a 100-mile radius of where the theft occurred receive the alerts. This free tool is funded entirely by the scrap recycling industry and is available to states, law enforcement agencies and the public. According to the scrap recycling institute, there are 12,066 registered users; a little less than a third are law enforcement officers. Since its launch in 2008, the database has issued almost 6,000 alerts. In 2008, Michigan lawmakers enacted a law l requiring the use of an alert system, which referenced this new tool as a means of compliance.. Colorado enacted legislation last year that specifically requires the use of ScrapTheftAlert.com. Other states, such as Georgia and Minnesota, have developed their own alert systems, and several local jurisdictions also use alert systems. â&#x20AC;&#x201D;Jacquelyn Pless
10 | STATELINE | 03 .2013
WHERE THERE’S SMOKE
Utah recently joined Arkansas, California, Louisiana, Maine MORE SCHOOL SECURITY and Puerto Rico in prohibiting smoking in cars with children inside. “Second-hand smoke in cars can be especially harmful to Silent alarms, also called panic buttons, have been installed in 14 children because cars are small, confined spaces where children are schools in Marietta, Ga., so teachers can alert police instantly if they perceive a closer to the smoker and the smoke,” according to the U.S. Environmental threat. School districts in other cities are considering them—as are legislatures Protection Agency. In Utah, violators stopped for other driving infractions in California, Connecticut, Delaware and New Jersey—in the wake of the face fines of up to $45, which can be waived if they enroll in a program December 2012 shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut. A to quit smoking. Some opponents of the measure—amended to exclude bill by California Assemblywoman Kristin Olsen (R) would require classrooms, smoking in convertibles with the top down—argued it infringes on cafeterias, assembly halls and gyms to be equipped with alarms. “This is lowpersonal freedom. Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, hanging fruit in providing solutions that improve school safety for students, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, teachers, staff and administrators,” Olsen said in a written statement. Under the South Carolina, Vermont, Virginia and Washington considered bill, the alarms would be required only if federal funds were available. President similar bills in 2013. In February, a British study showed a Obama included $150 million for school safety in his proposals to prevent gun 12.3 percent drop in hospital admissions for childhood violence. Olsen’s staff estimated it would cost $10 million to $50 million asthma the first year after the country banned to equip California’s 10,221 schools with alarms. smoking in enclosed public spaces.
SIX MORE STATES GET REAL
HOW THE COOKIE CRUMBLES
Girl Scouts in Idaho will continue to collect a 6 percent state sales tax on their popular cookies, despite two lawmakers’ efforts this session to end the practice. (Hawaii is the only other state to charge sales tax on the treats.) Representatives Eric Anderson (R) and Grant Burgoyne (D) rolled out legislation to exempt the cookies from the tax—22 cents per $3.75 box—arguing the estimated $140,000 it adds to state coffers annually would be better used by the Scouts themselves. Girl Scouts are more likely to graduate from college and less likely to abuse alcohol or spend time in juvenile court, the lawmakers said. They persuaded their colleagues in the House; the Senate voted not to Tagalong.
PET THE BEARS, DON’T FEED THEM
Six more states—Alabama, Florida, Kansas, Nebraska, Utah and Vermont—have adopted the new standards for state-issued driver’s licenses required under the federal REAL ID Act. This brings the total to 19 states—home to about 30 percent of the nation’s driving-age population—that are in compliance. To be acceptable for federal uses, including boarding a commercial aircraft, licenses must meet these new standards. The original deadline for compliance was January 15 of this year, but the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has delayed it until at least this fall, when it will release a plan for phasing-in enforcement.
It’s illegal to ride a manatee in Florida or sell a box turtle in Indiana, but you can pet a bear cub in Michigan. A new law there allows people to interact with bears up to 90 pounds and 36 weeks old. It was written for Oswald’s Bear Ranch, an Upper Peninsula rescue operation and tourist attraction that for 15 years has funded itself by charging visitors to pet and photograph the cubs. But last year, wildlife officials said ranch owner Dean Oswald was violating the Large Carnivore Act, which prohibits public contact with large wild animals. The new measure, introduced by Senator Tom Casperson (R), amends that act. The ranch, in Casperson’s district, is open only Memorial Day through September, so “it’s important to get [Oswald’s’] season up and running this year,” Casperson told The Mining Journal in Marquette. Animal rights groups opposed the bill, arguing bears of any age are dangerous. “These are not golden retrievers,” said Jill Fritz, Michigan director for The Humane Society of the United States.
THE PRICE OF INJUSTICE
What is fair financial compensation for a person wrongfully imprisoned? At least 27 states have put a price on the injustice. Florida pays $15,000 for each year in prison, with a $2 million maximum. Louisiana pays $15,000 a year, with a $150,000 cap. And Colorado is considering $70,000 compensation for every year of wrongful incarceration. Since 1989, 303 Americans convicted of crimes have been exonerated by DNA evidence, according to the Innocence Project, which works to free the wrongly convicted. Of the 303 exonerated, 62 percent have been African-American. On average, they served 13.6 years, and 18 spent time on death row. The U.S. government pays wrongly incarcerated citizens up to $50,000 per year, with up to an additional $100,000 for each year spent on death row.
STREET FOOD, PRICED RIGHT
Montanans would get the green light to salvage road kill for consumption under a bill headed to Governor Steve Bullock’s desk. The measure calls for law enforcement officers to issue permits allowing people to remove the carcasses of elk, deer, antelope and moose from state roads for personal consumption or to give to charity. Supporters say meat should not to go to waste, but opponents question the safety of eating animal flesh scraped off asphalt. At least 14 other states have laws related to road kill. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals opposes hunting but supports the Montana measure on the grounds that meat shouldn’t be wasted.
03 .2013 | STATELINE | 11
POT OF GOLD? Advocates of legalizing marijuana have long argued states are missing out on millions of dollars by failing to tax the weed. But not everyone agrees. Now that Colorado and Washington voters have made recreational pot legal, state and federal lawmakers are crunching the numbers. “I’ve seen some estimates in the high tens of millions, as much as $100 million for [Colorado],” U.S. Representative Jared Polis (D) of Colorado told Politico. In California, pro-marijuana groups have estimated legalization would bring in at least $1.2 billion annually and generate $12 billion to $18 billion in economic activity. But Harvard economist Jeffrey Miron believes such estimates are on the high side. “This is not a cash cow that can solve anyone’s fiscal problems,” says Miron, who is also a senior fellow at the libertarian Cato Institute. A Colorado State University think tank report in April stated 2014 tax revenues from pot could be around $130 million. But the authors also concluded the cost to the state to regulate marijuana could exceed that.
APP OF FLORIDA’S EYE
The concept of bringing democracy to the people has taken on a whole new meaning in Florida, where the House of Representatives now offers a public mobile app. It includes more than 70 features optimized for iPhone, iPad, iPod, iPad mini, Droid smartphone and Droid tablet devices. With a few taps and swipes, Florida citizens can pull up the House calendar, find and track bills, watch live streaming video of committee meetings, contact their lawmakers, and receive notifications of House opening and closing times. Orlando-based Echo won the bid to develop the app, which House Speaker Will Weatherford (R) called “a model for the nation.” Legislatures in at least five other states and Puerto Rico offer public apps for mobile devices. Barbara Petersen, president of the First Amendment Foundation, praised the Florida chamber for “making tremendous strides to provide the public with greater access to state resources.” Download information is available at MyFloridaHouse.gov.
CAUCUS FOR CANINES
Colorado dog lovers are hailing a proposal that would require law enforcement agencies to train officers how to better handle canine encounters. Bill sponsors say police and deputies have shot 37 nonthreatening dogs in Colorado in the past five years. “I believe that Coloradans deeply love their dogs and really want us to work hard here at the Capitol to make sure that their dogs are protected,” said Senator David Balmer (R), a bill sponsor. It mandates that deputies and officers receive three hours of online training in how to recognize dog behaviors and to use nonlethal methods to control them. Jennifer Edwards of the Animal Law Center, who helped write the bill, told lawmakers: “You know, dogs are bipartisan. Everybody loves dogs. It doesn’t matter what side of the political fence you are on.” The legislation is the first of its kind in the nation.
12 | TRANSPORTATION | 03.2013
Driving the Future Self-driving cars and smart phones that help you catch a bus are not as far-fetched as you may think.
BY ANNE TEIGEN, ALICE WHEET AND JAIME RALL
he proliferation of wireless technology has transformed American life—from flipping through an old book to scrolling through an ebook on a tablet, from calling mom for directions to grandma’s to finding her with an app on your cell phone. Technology is also changing the way we move from place to place, bringing not only convenience and safety advances, but also a few privacy questions and safety concerns.
Let Your Car Do the Driving Most people would rather spend 45 minutes relaxing, listening to music or reading a book than spending time commuting in traffic. What if you could do both? What if you could read a book and wind down after a long day while your car drives itself? It may be possible in the near future with the development of autonomous, or self-driving, vehicles. Nevada became the first state to authorize the operation of these vehicles on its roadways in 2011. The law defines an —SENATOR ALEX PADILLA (D) autonomous vehicle as one that “uses artiCALIFORNIA ficial intelligence, sensors and global positioning system coordinates to drive itself without the active intervention of a human operator.” California and Florida followed Nevada’s lead in 2012, while four other states debated, but did not pass, similar legislation. Nevada issued the first license for an autonomous vehicle to be tested on public roads to Google, the first company to file an application. Google’s self-driving prototype has also been successfully tested in California. In addition, the U.S. Department of Defense, auto manufacturers and universities have tested driverless cars with varying degrees of success. Proponents of these smart cars note that approximately 35,000 highway fatalities annually and 95 percent of automobile accidents are caused at least in part by driver error. California Senator Alex
“Autonomous technology is not science fiction.”
Anne Teigen, Alice Wheet and Jaime Rall cover transportation issues for NCSL.
Padilla (D), who sponsored the bill there, is an advocate for the driverless technology. “Autonomous vehicle technology has the potential to reduce traffic accidents and save lives,” he says. Self-driving cars are designed to remove human error, in part by recognizing objects, other cars and hazards and choosing the best Senator route to reach a destination. In fact, Google’s Alex Padilla (D) California 12 vehicles have completed more than 300,000 miles of testing in a wide range of traffic conditions without a single accident.
Big Questions to Answer Autonomous vehicles may be the cars of the future but there are plenty of legal roadblocks to pass through. Laws in every state on operating motor vehicles, driving while impaired and insuring cars all make one big assumption—that a human is behind the wheel of a moving vehicle.
“I think you are going to see many states recognize this technology, begin to write rules and regulations to accommodate it, and hopefully do a lot of research.” —SENATOR JEFFREY BRANDES (R) FLORIDA
In self-driving cars, who’s going to be at fault in an accident—the person riding in the car or the developer of the vehicle’s software? Who should get the ticket when the police pulls the car over—the rider or the car? How will auto insurance premiums work? Who should carry the auto insurance and what should it cover? And what if someone hacks into the car’s computer or a virus attacks it or a worm wiggles in? Then there’s distracted driving to consider. Is it acceptable for a person in a car that drives itself to use a cell phone or tablet? What about texting? Nevada lawmakers answered a couple of these questions when they passed legislation—in the same year they authorized the autonomous cars—allowing the use of wireless devices while legally operating a self-driving vehicle. The legislation also prohibited those activities while driving. As this technology spreads, states with distracted driving laws will also have to address these issues.
Get Ready for Reality “I think you are going to see many states recognize this technology, begin to write rules and regulations to accommodate it, and hopefully do a lot of research,” says Florida Senator Jeffrey Brandes (R). For now, a few states are paving the way. In Senator Jeffrey Michigan, the DOT conducted an online survey Brandes (R) of companies involved in the industry to find out Florida what is needed for a successful testing environment. Many in southeast Michigan hope it will be considered as a location for the autonomous vehicle industry. California’s law requires the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to establish safety regulations for driverless vehicles before January 2015. Florida’s law requires a report from the DMV and Department of Highway Safety detailing the legislative action needed for autonomous vehicles by February 2014. “Autonomous technology is not science fiction,” says Califor-
14 | TRANSPORTATION | 03.2013
Capturing New Revenues: There’s an App for That Smart phones have GPS technology that helps us navigate to our destinations, whether by car, by bus or on foot. Now, the Oregon Department of Transportation is trying out a smart phone app that can report vehicle mileage for billing purposes. It’s part of a potential future trend in collecting user fees that may eventually replace the gas tax. States are looking for new ways to fund transportation projects in light of declining gas taxes and rising construction costs. One widely discussed possibility is a Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) fee, which would charge users based on miles driven instead of gallons of fuel consumed. No state has established a broad VMT fee, but at least 18 have conducted pilot projects on the concept. A new phase of Oregon’s well-known pilot project, which began in the fall of 2012, has four payment options, including a smart phone app. “As well as the gas tax has served the road needs of Oregonians in the past, it has become a declining revenue source,” says Senator Bruce Starr (R), chair of Oregon’s Road User Fee Task Force. “Oregon will be well served in finding a solution to this Senator concern before it becomes an emergency.” A report to the legis- Bruce Starr (R) Oregon lature was due in February. Federal officials are looking into a Vehicle Miles Traveled option as well. U.S. Representative Earl Blumenauer (D) from Oregon introduced a bill (H.R. 6662) last December to require a study of a national VMT fee. The idea reportedly has bipartisan support.
The States Driving Changes Bills on self-driving cars are gaining traction. nia’s Padilla. “We are living in the era of Moore’s Law, where every two years we double our computer processing speeds. This is allowing us to make exponential leaps in advanced technology. To a large extent, that progress has made self-driving cars possible sooner, rather than later.”
Putting Smart Phones to Work
Have passed autonomous vehicle laws Have considered legislation in the past two years Are considering legislation this session Source: NCSL, January 2013.
Each day, buses and trains take millions of Americans to work and back. These riders include people who may have few other options because of a disability or lack of income. Many others love the idea of being able to work, read or enjoy the sights while “somebody” else worries about parking spots, rush-hour traffic and the price of gas. Today, transit agencies, state transportation departments and private companies are using new technologies to make public transit more user-friendly. In some American cities, transit riders can use their smart phones to know exactly when the next bus or train will arrive at their stop. Transit systems are using social media and computerized displays at transit stops to share travel information. The Chicago Transit Authority now has a real-time information system—called “CTA Bus Tracker”—that follows city buses with GPS and displays their locations and expected arrival times on its website, in emails or text message updates,
03 .2013 | TRANSPORTATION | 15
Yesterday’s Science Fiction, Today’s Traffic Efficiency Cars that drive themselves and phones that tell you where your bus is? Even though these technologies are taking off, they still seem like science fiction. But just a few decades ago, some of the transportation technologies we now take for granted were also cutting-edge. Known as intelligent transportation systems, these advanced systems are now widespread, offering cost-effective strategies that help ease traffic jams and keep us safe on the road. Here are a few examples. Electronic Tolling. Remember when pitching change into toll baskets was the only option? Today, almost every toll agency in the country uses an electronic system to collect tolls through transponders—and often you don’t even have to slow down. Dynamic Message Signs. They didn’t even exist until the mid-1980s, yet it’s as if they’ve always been there: portable or permanent electronic signs with amber-colored texts that let you know when you need to slow down, when accidents or icy roads lie ahead, or how long it will take to get to your exit. High-Tech Traffic Signals. Tired of getting stuck at every stoplight? In many cities, traffic signals are now coordinated to improve traffic flow or to respond to real-time traffic conditions. Another common sight is traffic signals at on-ramps that pace how quickly vehicles get onto the freeway. Traffic Management Centers. Behind the scenes, high-tech “nerve centers” called traffic or transportation management centers allow crews nationwide to monitor highways 24-7 using traffic cameras and other data so they can keep traffic moving and respond quickly to emergencies. and via smart phone apps. In 2011, the transit authority also launched audio announcements on electronic signs at 400 bus stops to make real-time, GPS-powered bus information available to people who don’t have cell phones, or who have visual impairments. Many of these new technologies are developed by private companies and used by transit agencies and local governments. States can also help spur development, for example, by collecting and sharing the needed data. Massachusetts’ Department of Transportation openly offers data on its website to developers. The licensing agreement allows individual citizens and companies to use the real-time and static information to build mobile applications for travelers. As a result, more than 50 applications are available in Massachusetts, and residents are using them to find convenient public transportation. “Where there is valuable, customer-relevant data owned or maintained by state or local governments, it’s good practice to make it public,” says Josh Robin, director of Innovation and Special Projects at the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. “It helps government and it helps citizens,” he says. Nationwide, public transit ridership was up 5 percent in early 2012 from the year before, and the number of passenger-miles traveled by 16- to 34-year-olds increased by 40 percent from
2001 to 2009. The availability of real-time information may be one reason for the trend. According to a national survey, 45 of 276 transit agencies provide some information on mobile devices, and 15 of these offer the information to riders in real-time. But departments of transportation and transit agencies face challenges with these advanced technologies. Web pages and other interactive media require ongoing staff time and expertise, as well as attention to cyber security and privacy issues.
We Can Only Imagine A mere 40 years ago, the thought of riding safely in a car that steers itself would have been, for most people, not only absurd, but unimaginable. And the idea that you could find instant answers to just about any question with a swipe of a finger across a device that fits in a pocket would have been laughable. But now, knowing that you can send cries for help from that same little device if a crash sends your car into a ravine or that you can avoid the accident altogether because your car is driving itself, are no longer mildly amusing possibilities, but seriously wonderful realities. And for those who were not yet around 40 years ago, who may already be taking this technology for granted, imagine—if you can—what might lie ahead. It’s mind-boggling.
16 | CHILD WELFARE | 03.2013
Testing What Works Federal waivers give states the flexibility to discover what’s best for children in foster care.
BY NINA WILLIAMS-MBENGUE
ant to build a strong child welfare system, try programs that will save money and improve foster care? Seeking a child welfare waiver—allowed under the Child Welfare and Family Services Innovation Act of 2011, might be your answer. The federal act authorized the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to issue 10 waiver demonstration projects for 2012, and 10 more in both 2013 and in 2014. The waivers allow states to use money usually reserved for specific foster care expenses to test new ways of providing and financing child welfare services. Ideas submitted for approval must aim to safely shorten children’s stays in care, increase children’s safety and well-being, prevent child abuse or keep children from going back into care. Priority is given to projects that will improve the lives of children who have experienced trauma, contribute to the body of evidence about what works, and include other programs, such as mental and behavioral health services.
A History of Success State experiments with waivers as far back as 1995 have shown success in saving states money while keeping children safe. According to evaluators from the U.S. Health and Human Services Department, children in waiver demonstration programs in Illinois, Minnesota, Oregon, Tennessee and Wisconsin spent significantly less time in foster care than children in control groups. The programs focused on helping children get adopted, find permanent homes with relatives, or return home to their families. The waiver demonstration programs that tested flexible funding schemes also showed positive results. For example, Florida’s waiver allowed it to pay community-based agencies that serve children and families to provide substance abuse, mental health and crisis intervention services and help with rent, utilities and child care in order to keep children safely at home. This led to a 37 percent decline in the numbers of children in care between 2006 and 2011. As a result of fewer children entering foster care, especially expensive institutional care, the state’s foster care costs dropped significantly. Nina Williams-Mbengue is NCSL’s expert on state child welfare issues.
Evaluators also noted that programs in Indiana and Ohio reduced the time children spent in foster care. In Indiana, children receiving services under the waiver averaged 113 fewer days in care compared with a control group. In Ohio, children spent 1.77 fewer months in foster care before being adopted than they would have without the waiver program. The waiver program was initially authorized in 1994, but had expired in 2006. Previous successes, along with three years of hard work by state legislators and NCSL staff advocating for the program, led the federal government to reauthorize it in 2011. Last year, nine states received waivers: Arkansas, Colorado, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Utah, Washington and Wisconsin. If your state is interested in applying for a waiver, here’s what you need to know. 1. THERE’S STILL TIME
U.S. Health and Human Services will continue to accept waiver proposals even though the deadline for 2013 was Jan. 15, but they may not be reviewed by the end of the federal fiscal year on Sept. 30. Proposals not reviewed, however, will be carried over for consideration in 2014. States can submit letters of intent before submitting an application. The federal government provides states free assistance in preparing their applications as well as help after they are approved.
03 .2013 | CHILD WELFARE | 17 2. EXISTING PROGRAMS MAY QUALIFY
States can seek waivers for existing programs. For example, Colorado will use its 2012 waiver to develop four major initiatives that were already in the planning or early implementation stages. Arkansas will expand programs it has been testing, such as “permanency roundtables” in which child welfare officials focus on finding loving families for the children who have been in care for a long time because they have no home to return to, no relative to live with or almost no chance at adoption. 3. FOCUS ON TRAUMA
Many of these child welfare demonstration projects provide services that address the consequences of trauma caused by physical and sexual abuse, domestic violence or homelessness. Children and adults who suffer this kind of trauma often experience high rates of chronic health conditions, substance abuse, mental health disorders and criminal activity, according to the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Having a good understanding of what children and families who have suffered trauma may be experiencing helps to provide services that don’t re-traumatize them. 4. FEDERAL FUNDING CONTINUES
Waivers allow states to continue receiving the same amount of federal money, even if they reduce the number of kids in foster care. Any savings achieved by demonstration projects may be used for other child welfare purposes. For example, they can offer families additional services when out-of-home placements aren’t needed or when children return home after placements. 5. THERE ARE RULES TO FOLLOW
State officials have to demonstrate within three years that they have accomplished (or plan to) at least two of the following: ◆ Adopted a foster child bill of rights. ◆ Established a plan for meeting the health and mental health needs of children in foster care. ◆ Provided Title IV-E assistance to relatives who choose to be guardians. ◆ Extended foster care beyond age 18. ◆ Reduced the use of group homes. ◆ Kept siblings together in foster care when possible. ◆ Made efforts at recruiting and retaining foster families. ◆ Helped older kids reconnect with their biological families. ◆ Established programs to prevent foster care placements. 6. LEGISLATORS ARE KEY PARTNERS
Legislative leadership is key to examining and promoting any promising approaches. Legislative support can help child welfare agencies make better use of state funding sources and develop effective partnerships with other state agencies focused on improving the lives of children and families. Washington Representative Ruth Kagi (D), for example, served on an advisory committee to make recommendations to the state’s children’s administration about the Title IV-E waiver application.
Child Welfare Demonstration Waivers 2012 Arkansas. The state is shifting from out-of-home care to in-home services, including supporting children and their families after they are reunited. Colorado. The state is working on improving its ability to identify and treat the effects of trauma in abused children and to engage families in making the decisions needed to keep their children safe. Illinois. Focusing on babies and toddlers in Cook County, the state hopes to reduce the effects of trauma, find permanent homes sooner and lower the rates of repeat foster care due to abuse. Massachusetts. The state is focusing its efforts on families after children return home, older kids leaving foster care to live independently, and at-risk families so that children may remain at home. Michigan. The state is focusing on at-risk families by contracting with private agencies in three sites to coordinate services and work with families in their homes to prevent the need for foster care. Pennsylvania. Focusing on five counties, the state plans to reduce group home care, re-entry into foster care, and the number of days spent in foster care. Utah. The state is hoping to improve its in-home services, the assessment of the trauma experienced by abused kids, and the coordination of local and regional services. Washington. The state is developing its Family Assessment Response program, which allows the use of more than one approach when handling reports of child abuse or neglect. Wisconsin. To reduce re-entries into the system, the state is working to improve its services to families after children return from foster care, beginning with Milwaukee County. “The legislature strongly supported the waiver,” says Kagi. She’s pleased the state now has “the flexibility and tools to transform our child welfare system and keep many more children safely at home.” Lawmakers already passed four major bills last session to reform Washington’s child welfare system, including one to reinvest state funds from foster care caseload savings back into child welfare, a first of its kind in the nation. Last year in Nebraska, lawmakers created a committee to review, report and provide recommendations regarding the state’s application for a waiver demonstration project. The committee developed a plan and timeline for the application, and decided the focus of the project. “The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services worked with a committee of stakeholders and the newly created Children's Commission to develop our application,” says Senator Kathy Campbell (NP), who sits on the committee. She says she is confident the demonstration project “will assist Nebraska in its commitment to strengthening families and serving children in their homes." Kagi and Campbell echo the goals proposed across states in their various waiver demonstration programs—to strengthen families, to ensure children are safe and to place them in permanent homes with loving families. Waivers give state officials the flexibility to work toward these goals while addressing their state’s specific challenges, strengths and resources.
Representative Ruth Kagi (D) Washington
Senator Kathy Campbell (NP) Nebraska
For more information on waivers, go to www.ncsl.org/magazine.
MEET LEGISLATORS AND STA FROM ACROSS THE NATION
BRING HOME NEW IDEAS SOLUTIONS
Sandra Day Oâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;Connor First woman appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court, former Arizona state senator, assistant attorney general and county superior court judge
BE INSPIRED BY OUTSTAND
Roger W. Ferguson, Jr. Economist, lawyer and CEO of TIAA-CREF, former vice chairman of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors and an adviser to President Obama
BUILD ST STATES
AT THE 2013 NCSL LEGISLA
DING SPEAKERS AND SESSIONS
TRONG IN ATLANTA
David Gergen Political analyst for CNN, director of the Center for Public Leadership at the Harvard Kennedy School and former adviser to four presidents
20 | TAX POLICY | 03.2013
Tabor at Twenty Colorado’s well-known tax and spending measure is praised by some and criticized by others for its success at limiting government. their minds about the constitutional amendment. For most conservatives, TABOR’s 20th anniversary is a moment to rejoice. “Colorado has largely stayed away from the fiscal cliff that states like California went over. That, in and of itself, is cause for celebrating TABOR,” says Jon Caldara, president of the libertarian-conservative Independence Institute. “It has required more transparency of government, and that is worth celebrating. And most importantly, it has angered every politician and ‘taking’ group because now they have to lobby all of us instead of just taking out a few legislators to dinner to get what they want.” For liberals, the law acts more like an ever-tightening vise on state government. Wade Buchanan, president of the liberal Bell Policy Center, says Colorado’s unique experiment has failed. “It promised power to the people, but it gave us more of a Rube Goldberg mechanism for funding public structures and systems,”
BY TIM HOOVER
wenty years after Coloradans approved the most restrictive tax and expenditure limitation in the country, the Taxpayer Bill of Rights has reshaped state government and sparked debate on similar proposals across the country and now is under greater assault than ever before. At its inception, conservatives lauded TABOR for its promise to restrict the growth of government and to empower citizens. But its legacy has been one of near-constant controversy; it has never been completely replicated outside of Colorado; its defenders say TABOR foes have consistently tried to find workarounds; and there have been a few supporters who have changed Tim Hoover is a reporter with The Denver Post. This article appeared there on Dec. 23, 2012, and is reprinted with permission.
State revenue, expenditure and appropriation limits vary considerably in their features and restrictiveness. But generally, they fall into one of the following categories. Revenue limits tie allowable yearly increases in tax revenue to personal income growth or some other type of index, such as inflation and population. Taxpayers are refunded revenues in excess of the limit. Expenditure limits also are typically tied to personal income growth or another growth index. These limits are the most common, but how much of an impact they make depends on their parameters, such as what index they are tied to and what happens to excess revenues when spending levels have been reached. Some states tie appropriations to the revenue forecast, typically within the range of 95 percent to 99 percent of the expected revenues. Although this budgeting practice is not an absolute limit, because it does not tie growth to a measurable index, it is viewed as a variation of a spending limit. —Mandy Rafool, NCSL
03 .2013 | TAX POLICY | 21
Colorado Spending Under TABOR (As a Percentage of Coloradans’ Personal Income) Even though state spending has increased under TABOR rules, it has steadily decreased in relation to the size of the state’s economy as measured by personal incomes.
7% – 6.7% 6– 5–
4– 3– 2– 1–
Source: State Controller's Office, U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, The Denver Post.
Buchanan says, referring to the cartoonist’s whimsical drawings of imaginary and complex machines. “You’ve got a legislature that is supposed to make spending decisions and the people, who are supposed to make revenue decisions. You don’t really have a way of effectively rationalizing the two of those processes.”
Voters Get to Decide Under TABOR, state and local governments must ask voters to approve new taxes, and revenue growth is limited to increases in population and inflation. If revenues exceed limits, the government issues refunds to taxpayers. TABOR also contains a slew of other provisions that include prohibitions on local income taxes and on a statewide mill levy. Polling shows Coloradans like to vote on taxes. But it is this popular portion of TABOR that is now being targeted in a federal lawsuit filed in 2011 by Herb Fenster, a noted Republican lawyer from Boulder. There are 33 plaintiffs on the lawsuit, mostly Democrats. The suit alleges TABOR violates the U.S. Constitution’s guarantee that every state have a republican form of government, or one where elected officials govern, rather than a direct democracy. “The idea that the only way to have constrained government is through this expression of populism is absurd,” Fenster says, adding that he believes that if his lawsuit succeeds, a court is likely to throw out TABOR altogether, not just voter approval of taxes. TABOR supporters are taking Fenster’s challenge seriously. “TABOR is under more assault than it’s ever been, and the tac-
tics have changed,” Caldara says. “Their line of attack now is to go to the least accountable sector of government—old people in black robes—to try to rid the state of TABOR.” Critics of TABOR have talked before about asking voters to alter it, but currently there are no proposals to do so. TABOR foes say its effects are made worse by its interaction with two other voter-approved constitutional provisions, the Gallagher Amendment, which has lowered residential property-tax rates and shifted most of the burden for funding schools from local districts to the state, and Amendment 23, which requires annual spending increases on schools. The last attempt to alter TABOR failed in 2008 when voters rejected Amendment 59, which would have eliminated automatic refunds —Former Colorado Senate President and required that excess revenues go to schools. John Andrews (R) Douglas Bruce, the anti-tax crusader who put TABOR on the ballot, declined to be interviewed for this article. He made headlines most recently after being convicted of tax evasion for using his charity to shield millions of dollars from taxation and then using the money to anonymously fund ballot initiatives. He served 104 days in jail. The prohibition on lawmakers’ raising taxes has had a profound result over 20 years. Many services that once were funded by the state’s general fund are now funded by fees. This is especially evident in higher education. In 1993-94, funding for higher education represented 15.7 percent of the state’s general fund. In the current budget year, higher-education
TABOR “has shrunk government relatively, and that is a very good thing.”
States With Limits
Spending limits Revenue limits A combination of both No limits Note: Delaware, Iowa, Mississippi, Oklahoma and Rhode Island limit appropriations to a percentage of the revenue forecast. Source: NCSL, February 2013
22 | TAX POLICY | 03.2013 funding is 8.2 percent of the state’s general fund. While appropriations for colleges and universities have decreased, institutions have tried to make up for the losses with hefty tuition and fee increases. Bruce Benson, president of the University of Colorado, says even with those hikes on students, the university has had to cut services to fill the gap of state support for CU’s operating budget that has fallen below 6 percent. Benson, a prominent Republican who supported TABOR, now expresses regrets over its passage. “I’d just say that I think we did too much with TABOR,” he says. “Tax limitations are great, but you can over limit. “I think we probably should have done something differently [than TABOR].”
The Same Mistake We Made Other states have largely avoided TABOR-like legislation. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 22 states have spending limits, four have tax limits and three have both. No other state features TABOR’s prohibition on new taxes without voter approval. Efforts to replicate the stricture have failed. Recent efforts to enact TABOR’s revenue-limit formula in other states have faltered. In 2006, voters in Maine, which already had approved a revenue limitation tied to personal-income growth, rejected a proposal to change the formula to TABOR’s population growth plus inflation. The same year, voters in Nebraska and Oregon rejected similar limits by wide margins, and efforts to enact such stricter limits have failed in Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nevada and Oklahoma. In November, voters in Florida rejected a measure to replace the state’s current revenue limits, which are based on average personal income, with an inflation-plus-population limit like TABOR’s. In 2011, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer vetoed a bill that imposed a population-plus-inflation formula on state revenue. In her veto letter, Brewer, a Republican, pointed right at TABOR. “We should learn from the state of Colorado that experimented with a similar measure, and failed,” she wrote. Some of those who helped lead the charge against TABORlike measures in other states were Coloradans. Steve Johnson, a Republican who is a Larimer County commissioner and a former state senator, traveled to Maine, Nebraska and Florida to tell what he says are stories about the damage TABOR has done to Colorado. “One of the years I was in the legislature, we were refunding over $900 million to taxpayers at the same time we were making cuts,” Johnson says. “I didn’t want to see them (other states) make the same mistake that Colorado did.” Johnson says the growth limit based on inflation plus population is flawed because many of government’s costs rise faster than the cost of consumer goods and services. And Colorado’s graying population means there is a larger proportion of state residents with limited incomes who rely more on government services.
Government-Shrinking Device Former Governor Bill Owens, a Republican who helped campaign for TABOR when he was a lawmaker, says he’s still a
strong supporter, even though he was heavily criticized as governor for supporting Referendum C, a measure that TABOR purists say violated and weakened the law. Ref C, approved by voters in 2005, ended the “downward ratchet” in TABOR that required the state’s revenue limit to be reset lower every time revenues fell. Under the ratchet, if the state suffered a sudden, sharp drop in revenues, it couldn’t recover to prior spending levels if revenue rebounded the next year. That’s what happened during Owens’ first term in the early 2000s, when the decade’s first recession hit hard. Ref C also allowed the state to keep $3.6 billion in revenues over the TABOR limit for five years—money that otherwise would have been refunded—and set the new TABOR limit at the highest of those years, which came in 2006-07. And without the newly reset limit, the state would have had to refund $2.2 billion in the past two budget years, when there were deep cuts to K-12 schools, higher education and other services. Despite his support for Ref C, Owens argues that TABOR’s fundamental logic is sound. “The essence of TABOR has been that it allows government to grow at the sum of population plus inflation,” he says. “When someone says government isn’t allowed to grow under TABOR, they’re incorrect. It says government gets to grow at about the same rate as the nongovernmental sector unless the people allow it to grow more.” But former Representative Brad Young, a Republican from Lamar and a former chairman of the legislature’s Joint Budget Committee, agrees with many on the left who say TABOR reduces the size of government over time. He and others point to state spending as a proportion of Colo-
“I think we did too much with TABOR. Tax limitations are great, but you can over-limit.” —Bruce Benson, president of the University of Colorado
radans’ personal income, which has dropped from 6.7 percent of personal income in fiscal 1993-94, the first year TABOR took effect, to 3.9 percent in fiscal 2011-12, the budget year that ended in June. “The economy will grow faster than the TABOR line,” Young says. “It shrinks government relative to the economy. I would say that it’s a government-shrinking device. If you’re shrinking government relative to the economy, you’re shedding programs. In the long run, that’s what it was designed to do.” Former Senate President John Andrews (R) applauds that result. “It has shrunk government relatively, and that is a very good thing,” he says. “America as of 1992 and Colorado specifically had more government than was good for us and more government than our founders would have ever dreamed of or recommended.” Young and other critics say this shrinking aspect of TABOR wasn’t sold to voters, who understood mainly that they would have the right to approve tax increases. Yet Young says the voter-approval provision of TABOR, which even few Democrats openly question, is one of its biggest problems. In 1999, the Republican-controlled legislature reduced the state’s income tax from 5 percent to 4.75 percent and then, a year later, to 4.63 percent. Meanwhile, lawmakers cut the state’s sales tax from 3 percent to 2.9 percent in 2000. Colorado, like many states, was flying high in those years and could afford to simultaneously increase spending, give tax refunds and cut taxes. But because of TABOR, those effectively became permanent tax cuts, Young and others say.
03 .2013 | TAX POLICY | 23 Statewide Tax Hikes Hard to Pass Supporters of TABOR see an easy fix to this problem: Ask voters to increase taxes. Yet while voters are often willing to raise taxes at the local level, they are less willing to do so at the state level. In 20 years, voters have approved one statewide taxrate increase: Amendment 35 in 2004, which increased taxes on cigarettes. Multiple other statewide tax hikes failed, including a 2011 measure that would have returned income- and sales-tax levels to 1999 levels to fund education. Meanwhile, voters in all but four of the state’s 178 school districts have voted to allow their districts to keep revenue above TABOR limitations—or “de-Bruce” as the practice is known. And 459 municipalities, now including Denver, have de-Bruced completely or partially. The state’s 22-cents-per-gallon gasoline tax hasn’t been increased since 1991. The only recent infusion of funding for statewide transportation came in 2009, when a legislature controlled by Democrats increased car-registration fees to generate an estimated $250 million a year. Although TABOR allows lawmakers to increase fees, which are meant to be charged for a specific service, a lawsuit now challenges the 2009 fees as a violation of TABOR. Colorado ranks 45th in the nation in terms of combined local and state tax burden as measured by taxes paid per $1,000 earned. By that measure, Colorado’s combined state and local tax burden is lower than every one of its surrounding states. Two decades after its passage, conservatives consistently point to California’s fiscal problems as reason to be thankful for TABOR. Buchanan, of the Bell Policy Institute, says the comparison is inapt. “There’s only one California, and a whole bunch of states that don’t have TABOR aren’t California either,” he says. “I think it’s a silly argument. I think TABOR makes us much more like California. What is significant about California is that it has become virtually ungovernable. The thing that has made Colorado close to ungovernable is TABOR.” Fenster’s lawsuit challenging TABOR, to the surprise of many, cleared an important hurdle last summer when a federal judge ruled the suit could proceed to trial. The state has appealed that ruling to the U.S. Court of Appeals, and the outcome is pending. In any case, Fenster, a lifelong Republican who worked for Ronald Reagan’s presidential campaigns, expects that the lawsuit is likely to end up before the U.S. Supreme Court in two to three years, where the nation’s highest court will have to decide if taking the power to tax from lawmakers is unconstitutional. In the meantime, lawmakers and civic leaders continue discussions about going to voters and asking them to alter the constitution, something that could include change to TABOR. But there are no formal proposals at this stage, and even many involved in the talks say it’s unlikely voters would be asked to give up the right to approve tax increases.
24 | TRANSIT | 03 .2013
Life on the Fast Track States and cities are finding ways to meet the growing demand for rapid transit and rider-friendly communities.
BY DOUGLAS SHINKLE
ight rail in Charlotte, rapid buses in Cleveland, streetcars in St. Louis, commuter rail between Albuquerque and Santa Fe. Communities across the nation are responding to citizens’ demands for more transportation choices. In 2013 alone, more than 700 rail, streetcar and “bus rapid transit” projects are being planned or are already under construction, according to Reconnecting America, a national transit advocacy group. All levels of government have invested hundreds of billions of taxpayers’ dollars into these projects nationwide, stirring skeptics to question whether transit is a wise public investment. Given the high initial costs of some of these transit options, ensuring there will be enough riders is essential. In most instances, Doug Shinkle is a senior policy specialist for NCSL’s Environment, Energy and Transportation Program.
careful studies are conducted before any track is laid or lane is designated. New transit is much more likely to be used, however, if the area has been developed to encourage the use of public transportation—a strategy known as transit-oriented development. Lawmakers, developers, residents and business owners are anxious to capitalize on transit investments to bolster economic development, lessen traffic congestion and meet the increased market demand for transit- and walker-friendly communities, especially popular among young workers and empty-nesters.
Transit on the Incline Public transportation is in. People are choosing mass transit at levels unseen since the late 1950s, before many cities began to dismantle their systems. In 2012, people took 10.5 billion trips on transit systems, the second-highest number since 1957—surpassed only by 2008, a year with record high gas prices. Young people ages 16 to 34 especially are choosing transit, hopping
03 .2013 | TRANSIT | 25
11.0 – 10.5 – 10.0 – 9.5 – 9.0 – 8.5 – 8.0 –
95 – – 97 – 19 – 99 – 20 – 01 – 20 – 03 – 20 – 05 – 20 – 07 – 20 – 09 – 20 – 11 – –
on buses or light-rail trains a whopping 40 percent more than in 2001. The effect of the recession on household budgets may be playing a role. Taking transit instead of driving a car can save a person more than $10,000 a year in gas, insurance, maintenance and other costs, according to the American Public Transportation Association. More and more, state legislatures are considering the value and economic benefits of funding and supporting transit-oriented developments. In Utah, new tracks have been laid at a blistering pace, from zero miles in 1998 to 80 miles in 2013 to a projected 150 miles of light and commuter rail by 2015. These new transportation choices are proving popular with Utahans; ridership on commuter and light rail both increased almost 15 percent from 2011 to 2012. In 2010, to encourage economic investments and increase tax
“Transit-oriented developments” provide moderate- to high-density housing, shopping, services and businesses where people can easily walk, bike and take transit. These communities generate revenue for the public and private sectors, offer more transportation choices and boost transit ridership.
Riders in millions
“Bus rapid transit” is increasingly common across the globe but is relatively new in the United States. It refers to a bus system with limited stops that uses dedicated lanes and has a quick, easy way to collect fares. These bus systems are more reliable and faster than regular buses. They usually use existing roads and stations, making them a cheaper option than rail systems that require new construction. An analysis by the Government Accountability Office found the bus systems averaged a capital cost of $13.5 million per-mile compared to $34.8 million for light-rail. Business owners and transit riders, however, sometimes prefer the permanency and perceived economic development opportunities of rail lines.
Source: American Public Transportation Association.
26 | TRANSIT | 03.2013
TRANSIT By the Numbers 1827 The year the first transit service was offered in New York City—via horse-drawn buggy.
10.5 billion Transit trips taken by Americans in 2012.
40% Increase in transit miles ridden by Americans ages 16 to 34 from 2001 to 2009.
79% Local ballot measures on transit funding approved by voters in 2012.
3.4 million (1%) Americans who met the daily recommended 30 minutes of physical activity by walking to and from transit stops.
$10.578 billion Federal money dedicated to transit for 2013.
$1.9 billion Federal money in New Starts program for new and expanded rail, bus rapid transit and ferry systems for 2013.
Sources: The American Public Transportation Association, Frontier Group, the Center for Transportation Excellence, American Journal of Public Health, Budget and Tax Center/North Carolina Justice Center, Federal Transit Administration.
revenues for communities, Utah lawmakers passed legislation to improve access to and increase population density along these new transit routes. The law allows the Utah Transit Authority to enter into five public-private partnerships for mixed-use developments near transit stations. The government authority contributes the property while the private developers contribute the equity. The transit authority will receive a return on its investment and a share in the profits to offset future transit operating costs that otherwise would be funded by taxes and fares. “Utah is attracting more high-quality companies that require well-educated and well-trained employees,” says Representative Bradley Last Representative (R), House sponsor of the legislation. Bradley Last (R) “Some of the employees move from Utah other cities where public transit and limited use of cars is more prevalent. Transit-oriented developments could be a very natural fit.” The program already has two large mixed-use developments slated to break ground in 2013. These projects will be built to be convenient and efficient to attract and keep riders, the majority of whom use transit by choice, not by necessity. Utah Representative Greg Hughes (R) was skeptical of investing in new transit projects until he learned how Representative cost-effective they can be compared Greg Hughes (R) to building new roads. He’s now Utah
chairman of the Utah Transit Authority board and has come to believe that transit-oriented development is essential to capitalizing on the $3 billion already invested in transit projects in the region. “What a missed opportunity,” says Hughes, “if we don’t develop and take advantage of this growth.”
Connecting the Dots In Minnesota, the Metropolitan Council—created by the Legislature in 1967 “to coordinate planning and development within the Twin Cities metropolitan area”—announced $32 million in grants would be available to communities to develop the areas around transit corridors. The money comes from the Livable Communities Fund, created by lawmakers in the 1990s and funded primarily through property taxes. Minnesota Senator Scott Dibble (D), chairman of the Transportation and Public Safety Committee, says the fund is intended to support projects that reinforce a community’s commitment to transit-oriented develop- Senator ment and vice-versa—that developing Scott those kinds of communities will only Dibble (D) encourage more investment in mass Minnesota transit projects. The state has awarded $25 million so far for a wide variety of activities, including acquiring land, building affordable housing, cleaning up polluted land and designing pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods. This support is not only helping to provide transportation choices, says Dibble, but also is promoting the wise
03 .2013 | TRANSIT | 27 use of government funds by targeting investments in existing communities. “Chances are pretty good that new mixed-use transit development is going into areas that already have services and streets, making use of existing, expensive public infrastructure that is already paid for.”
Transit and the Transportation Funding Crisis
Location, Location, Location Housing in walkable communities near transit services is a hot commodity. A recent study in Denver found property within a quarter-mile of light-rail stops was fetching about 25 percent more from developers, and renters were willing to pay about 4 percent more to live near a light-rail stop. This trend, however, can hurt the very people who need affordable, close-by transit options. Although all workers use public transit more when they live near it, another Denver study found that low-income workers within a half-mile of a stop commuted by transit twice as often as any other group. With these dynamics in mind, most state laws require a mix of housing options in transit-oriented developments. “Locating homes and workplaces near transit stations relieves some of the burden on family budgets by increasing access to more affordable transportation options,” says Massachusetts Representative Joseph Wagner (D), chairman of the Representative Joint Committee on Economic Development and Joseph Emerging Technologies. In Boston, for example, Wagner (D) housing and transportation costs eat up nearly Massachusetts half of an average family’s income because affordable housing is difficult to find. Wagner hopes new transit-oriented development may help the venerable city provide more options for its families. In 2012, the legislature made this kind of development the centerpiece of MassWorks, a comprehensive infrastructure grant program intended to be a one-stop resource for municipalities and other public entities. Lawmakers allocated almost $96 million to it in FY 2012 and FY 2013. At least 67 percent of the funds must support infrastructure developments within a half-mile of a transit stop where two or more routes converge. MassWorks also supports affordable housing development within a quarter-mile of a transit station or ferry terminal. This supplements the $50 million the legislature allocated in the past decade for a Transit-Oriented Development Bond Program, which also helped provide affordable housing near transit services for lower-income families. Massachusetts’ efforts, combined with market forces and demand, appear to be making a significant dent in the housing scarcity. Between 2000 and 2010, the Boston region added more than 15,000 housing units near transit. Wagner believes transit-oriented development can be a key to improving the state’s overall economic competitiveness and promoting efficient use of limited infrastructure funds.
Moving Ahead Expanding transit systems in response to the demand may be an important element in moving the country forward, literally.
Transportation revenues continue to fall short of infrastructure needs. State transportation budgets rely heavily on federal and state gas taxes, which have steadily declined in light of the growing use of alternative-fuel and fuel-efficient vehicles, making it difficult to meet ever-rising construction costs. Traditionally, the federal government and local governing bodies have shared responsibility for building new transit projects, while states took the lead on roads. In recent years, however, states have played a greater role in providing affordable, accessible transit options—to the tune of around $13.6 billion in 2010, more than the federal government contributed, according to the most recent Survey of State Funding for Public Transportation. Transit projects have been an important part of many ongoing transportation funding debates in state legislatures. The Missouri General Assembly, for example, is looking at imposing a 10-year sales tax for transportation projects (including transit). The Minnesota Legislature is considering a sales and use tax for transit projects in the Twin Cities area, while Maryland is proposing to pay for transit by raising fares and tying them to inflation. And the Virginia General Assembly enacted a high-profile transportation funding overhaul that is expected to increase funding for highways, transit and rail. An idea to raise more money for transit and rail by hiking vehicle registration fees, however, did not make it into the final bill. Local governments, however, still provide the lion’s share of funds for transit, and some state legislatures are considering giving them more flexibility in their transit funding options. Lawmakers in Maryland, Michigan and Washington, for example, are considering whether to allow regional or local entities to collect additional fees or taxes to benefit transit, while Colorado legislators debate whether localities should be allowed to spend their portion of gas tax revenues on transit projects. —Jaime Rall Transit’s future will depend in part on developing communities where hopping on the light-rail or jumping on rapid transit bus is an easy, safe and inexpensive choice. “It would be a shame if we don’t take advantage of opportunities to develop these transit systems,” says Utah Representative Hughes. “They have the potential to serve a large part of the population in a very cost-effective and easy way.”
28 | TOOLS OF THE TRADE | 03.2013
Social Media Rules! To take full advantage of the power of social media, here are some lessons learned from the successes and failures of others.
BY JON KUHL
onnecticut Senator Bob Duff (D) doesn’t mind being called the “Cory Booker of Connecticut.” Booker is the social media master mayor of Newark, N.J., who has more than 1.3 million Twitter followers. Like Booker, Duff posts several times a day on Twitter and Facebook. He covers everything from useful traffic updates to important news from the state Capitol to fun Super Bowl polls. “The media are very fractured right now,” says Senator Duff. “I have to find many ways to communicate with my constituents.” In particular, Duff says social media allows him to reach more of his younger constituents. “Interacting with high school and college students on Facebook and Twitter helps them understand their government better. And if this helps keep them engaged, I think that’s great.” Having an active and large social media following allows him to communicate when it matters most, like when Hurricane Sandy took out the power for many of his constituents. With only their smart phones available for communication, Duff tweeted back and forth with them, keeping them up-to-date on developments until power was restored. “@SenatorDuff wow. We must have called [the electric company] a dozen times past few days. Can’t thank you enough for getting thru to them!” tweeted a happy constituent. The uses of social media continue to expand. In January, Indiana House Speaker Brian Bosma (R) hosted the state’s first “Tweet Seats” during Republican Governor Mike Pence’s State of the State address. Bosma chose five individuals to tweet live from the statehouse during the governor’s address. “We must continue to embrace technology and consider new ways to communicate to the public,” says Bosma. “It is evident that social media is not a trend, but is here to stay.” For him, social media is an extension of the work he has done to bring transparency to the legislative process, such as live-streaming the House chamber and committee rooms for constituents to watch online. Tory Flynn, communications director for the Indiana House Republicans, who organized Tweet Seats, was pleased that it “accomplished exactly what we had hoped for: an increase in
Jon Kuhl manages public affairs from NCSL’s Washington, D.C., office.
followers, reaching out to new people, and communicating about state government in an engaging manner. Flynn’s next project, “tweet sheets,” is an ongoing effort to build support for legislation sponsored by the Republican caucus. When a bill is introduced by a caucus member, Flynn sends out the legislator’s Twitter handle, photos and other information. These examples are just a couple of ways social media can be used effectively for communicating with constituents and the public, but there are also some things to be careful of. Appliance giant KitchenAid recently found out the hard way what not to do with social media. During one of the presidential debates last
Handles, Hashtages and Likes Facebook Like and Comment: The Like button allows users to show their support for a post or photo without having to write a comment. Clicking the Comment allows that. Twitter Handle: This is a fancy term for a username. For example, NCSL tweets under the handle @NCSLorg. Twitter Hashtag: Tweeters mark keywords or topics with the # symbol to draw attention to that topic. For example, when tweeting about immigration, one might use “#immigration” somewhere within the 140 character limit, which will alert others interested in immigration issues. Trending on Twitter: When many users tweet about the same topic or phrase, it is considered trending in the Twitter world.
03 .2013 | TOOLS OF THE TRADE | 29 fall, a KitchenAid social media team member mistakenly tweeted a derogatory comment about Obama’s grandmother’s death on the company’s official Twitter account, thinking he was sending it from his personal account. Outrage ensued and the company quickly released the following statement: “During the debate tonight, a member of our Twitter team mistakenly posted an offensive tweet from the KitchenAid handle instead of a personal handle. The tasteless joke in no way represents our values at KitchenAid, and that person won’t be tweeting for us anymore.” Whether it’s you, or someone tweeting on your behalf, it’s easy to get the personal crossed with the professional. And like it or not, once something is out there, it’s out there for everyone to see (just ask former Congressman Anthony Weiner). So, what are the lessons in these examples? For starters:
FAQs Are young people the only ones using social media?
No. According to a recent study by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project, although young people ages 18 to 29 use social media more than any other age group (83 percent), it is popular with older Internet users as well: 77 percent of 30- to 49-year-olds, 52 percent of 50- to 64-yearolds, and a third of the over-65 crowd. Which social media sites are the most popular?
Facebook takes the cake and more here, with 67 percent of Internet users on it. Twitter comes in second at 16 percent, and the photo sharing site Pinterest is moving up fast, now in third place with 15 percent, according to the same Pew study. Are voters active on social media?
Learn from others.
Yes. Facebook reported 71.7 million election-related comments made by U.S. users last Election Day. If you were following Senator Duff on Twitter, you would have received this friendly reminder: “If you believe in your heart that I’ve served you well, then I respectfully ask for your support and vote today. Polls are open from 6am-8pm.” and after 3 p.m. on Fridays. Facebook traffic picks up between the hours of 9 a.m. and 4 p.m., with Wednesday at 3 p.m. being the absolute sweetest spot. Having new content keeps your followers engaged and helps you attract new ones.
Follow those you admire. Read their social media posts regularly. Legislative caucuses in 40 states use Facebook and in 37 states use Twitter to get their messages out.
Keep it fresh. Make your comments concise, interesting, varied and authentic. Examples include your views on legislation, upcoming events for constituents, photos in the community, and interesting retweets, etc. The appropriate range is wide, as long as it stays professional.
Post regularly. The best time to tweet is between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. Monday–Thursday, according to Bitly, the URL shortening and bookmarking service. The worst times are after 8 p.m. any day
Think about what you’re posting before hitting the send button, and don’t send out anything you wouldn’t want to see on the front page of your local newspaper the next day.
Admit errors. Mistakes happen; misinformation gets disseminated. When something goes wrong, “own” up to it, and apologize quickly before it goes viral.
30 | FOR THE RECORD: DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN | 03.2013
“What Lincoln would say is that government should do for the people what they cannot do for themselves.”
ulitzer Prize winner and presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin has written books about Lyndon Johnson, Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, Abraham Lincoln and the Kennedy family. Her book on Lincoln, “Team of Rivals,” was adapted in part into the feature film “Lincoln,” which was nominated for 12 Academy Awards. She wrote a memoir “Wait Till Next Year” about growing up a fan of the Brooklyn Dodgers and was the first female journalist to enter the Boston Red Sox locker room. Goodwin has addressed sessions at NCSL’s Legislative Summit.
State Legislatures: What could today’s legislators learn from
Teddy Roosevelt, the subject of your next book, Doris Kearns Goodwin: There are universal traits our great leaders share that are applicable even when the context changes. What makes Teddy Roosevelt especially relevant is that he began his storied career in the New York State Assembly. He often said the state assembly was a great school for him. He learned the most important lesson in politics when he was just 23 years old— that he had to work with the other people, he had to compromise and figure out what would make the assembly work as a whole, and he brought that lesson to all the rest of his career. SL: What would Teddy Roosevelt think of today’s political climate? DKG: I think it would worry him a lot. He believed he could mobilize the public with his speeches, but in the end he knew he had to get a legislature—either Congress or the state assembly—to come together. I think the whole dysfunction of Washington today and the inability of the two sides to compromise would sadden him. SL: What was the role of the media in Teddy Roosevelt’s day? DKG: During his time, especially the magazine world, was
considered the golden age of crusading journalism. McClure’s, for example, was headed by this wonderful character (Sam McClure) who was a genius, manic depressive and crazy, but
incredibly brilliant. He would allow his writers—Ida Tarbell, Ray Baker, William Allen White, Lincoln Steffens—two years of research on their subjects, whether it was Standard Oil or railroad abuses or city corruption or food and drug problems, before they even had to write a word. So their pieces were really investigative, fact-based pieces. Today so much of the journalistic world has turned to entertainment. Because of the blogs and the need to be on the Internet, even our best journalistic attention is focused away from these longer pieces to shorter and shorter pieces, to Twitter at the end. The impact journalists used to have on public policy during the beginning of the 20th century, when they had such a close relationship with Teddy Roosevelt, were the happiest times of their lives. They said they felt they were part of the country’s progress at producing real regulatory legislation that lasted, not simply journalists. SL: President Obama is an admirer of your book “Team of Rivals.” Given today’s contentious political climate, is it possible for anything resembling a “team of rivals” to be assembled today? DKG: I think it’s much harder today. It’s even worse today than the contentiousness of the 1850s when you had people hitting each other over the head in Congress and almost killing each other on the Senate floor. Nonetheless, there was a sense in the old days that factions would come together and work out their difficulties. You also didn’t have the press in the 1860s telling everybody the feelings everybody had about one another. Even FDR brought two top Republicans, Frank Knox and Henry Stimson, into his cabinet on the eve of World War II. They didn’t agree with him at all about the New Deal, but he knew they agreed with him about the importance of the Allied cause against Hitler. Today you always get a token Republican in a Democratic administration and vice versa, but you don’t get a lot because they would be seen as traitors in their own party if they joined the administration of the other.
03 .2013 | FOR THE RECORD: DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN | 31 SL: You’ve written that the country needs to decide how big government should be. How big should it be? DKG: As big as it needs to be. What Lincoln would say—and he had the best argument—is that government should do for the people what they cannot do for themselves. I think you should say that the federal government should do for the country what state and local governments can’t do for themselves, states should do what local governments can’t. The lowest possible place where it can work is the best, that’s what the federal system is about. It’s been a continuing challenge from the beginning, from Jefferson and Hamilton. It’s a continuing strain in our nation’s life. To figure out how much government we really need without stifling private enterprise remains a huge problem for us—and a good one, one we should be fighting about.
SL: After the Supreme Court health care laws ruling, you tweeted quotes from Lincoln, including “With public sentiment, nothing can fail; without it nothing can succeed.” Why? DKG: Even though the Supreme Court decided that the health care law would not be repealed, that it was constitutional, there still remained the battle to persuade the public that this law benefitted them. That’s what Lincoln meant. If you’ve got something big that’s going to affect people, the most important thing is for them to understand it. Public opinion polls show people aren’t sure about the provisions of the law and aren’t happy with it. If the law is going to remain on the books, that educational challenge is what faces the Obama administration.
SL: How does being a baseball fan inform your work as a historian? DKG: It really is huge for me because I learned to love history through learning to love baseball. When I was 6 years old, my father taught me the mysterious art of keeping score at a baseball game. When he came home, I had recorded for him the history of that afternoon’s Brooklyn Dodger game. It makes you think there’s something magic about history, even if it’s just four hours old, to keep your father’s attention. I think I learned the narrative art from those nightly sessions. At first I would blurt out, ‘The Dodgers won’ or ‘The Dodgers lost’ which would take the drama out of this two-hour telling. I finally learned I had to tell a story from beginning to middle to end and that’s what history is: a storytelling. And you want to tell it without knowing ahead of time what happened.
To listen to the complete interview, go to www.ncsl.org/magazine.
Editor’s note: This interview is part of a series of conversations with opinion leaders. It has been edited for length and clarity. The opinions are the interviewee’s and not necessarily NCSL’s.
You can read previous interviews at www.ncsl.org/magazine with:
John Boehner U.S. House speaker Ohio
Jeb Bush former governor Florida
Cecile Richards president Planned Parenthood
Charmaine Yoest president Americans United for Life
Alan Simpson former U.S. senator Wyoming
Simon Johnson former chief economist International Monetary Fund
Grover Norquist Richard Ravitch president former lieutenant governor Americans For Tax Reform New York
Donna Brazile author and political analyst
Karl Rove author and political analyst
Jacques Chagnon president Quebec National Assembly
Neil Newhouse co-founder Public Opinion Strategies
James Guthrie superintendent of public instruction Nevada
Diane Swonk chief economist Mesirow Financial
John Engler president of the Business Roundtable
Peter Hart chairman Peter D. Hart Research Associates
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03 .2012 | LEADERSHIP | 33
Tested by Tragedy New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver is the recipient of this year’s top legislative leadership award.
BY EDWARD P. SMITH
s Americans watched the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, in horror, no state legislative leader in the country faced a challenge greater than New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. Not only was Silver the leader of the state’s largest legislative body, he also represented the district where the attacks occurred. Neighbors, friends and constituents died that day. “Great catastrophes, such as 9/11 or Hurricane Katrina, pose a broad spectrum of challenges,” Silver says. “It is easy to look at massive devastation and get lost in the enormity of it. Recovery requires leadership that can address the big picture but also ask the simple questions, such as, ‘What do Mr. and Mrs. John Q. Public need right now?’ ” Silver was evacuated from his office building after the attack. He quickly turned a high-tech Winnebago into a rolling district office. “We kept people informed, gave them a shoulder to lean on, took their problems to the appropriate government agencies, helped them deal with their insurance companies, and got them access to their apartments and cars.” New York Assembly Majority Leader Ron Canestrari said Silver’s leadership was crucial in the aftermath of the attacks. “His community was devastated. But Shelly communicated a sense of strength, purpose and resolve that helped people get through very difficult circumstances and helped them get beyond the tragedy as best they could,” Canestrari says. Silver was first elected to the Assembly in 1976 from his district in lower Manhattan, where he was born and still lives. He became speaker in 1994, and is the longest serving Democrat in the job and the second-longest serving speaker in state history. Silver is the recipient of this year’s William M. Bulger Excellence in State Legislative Leadership Award, the nation’s top legislative honor. The award is bestowed by the National Conference of State Legislatures and the State Legislative Leaders Foundation on leaders whose careers embody the highest principles of leadership and who are committed to protecting and strengthening their state legislature. “My immediate reaction to the news that I had won the award was a sense of great honor, considering the list of previous award winners—all true public servants who have had distinguished careers,” Silver says. “There was also that sense of satisfaction that comes with the recognition of your peers. I am truly humbled, because I have tried very hard to live up to the ideals of the Bulger Award—integrity, passion, vision and courage.”
Edward Smith is the managing editor of State Legislatures.
Education, a revitalized economy and ensuring access to health care for the working poor, children, the elderly, people with disabilities and immigrants are his priorities. His proudest accomplishment is the law creating universal preschool. “It is one of the best investments we can possibly make to ensure our future,” Silver says. But he also points to the broader accomplishment of ensuring the legislature’s role as a strong, independent arm of state government. “I have had the extraordinary opportunity to lead my conference during the terms of five governors, and never once have we acted as a rubber stamp,” Silver says. “I can tell you without question we have prevented policies that would have profoundly hurt New York’s most vulnerable citizens, and for that I am very proud.” William Pound, executive director of the National Conference of State Legislatures, says Silver “has strengthened the New York Legislature through his leadership of a diverse Assembly and in modernizing the legislative institution. One of the strongest and longest serving legislative leaders in America, he is a worthy recipient of this award.” Stephen Lakis, president of the State Legislative Leaders Foundation, says Silver is well-deserving of the award. “Courage, conviction, fairness, integrity and dedication to the institution of the state legislature are the hallmarks of his career. He has steered the course through tumultuous times in Albany, always serving as a steadying voice of reason and always with an eye to serving the people of New York.” To Silver, the job is the reward. “I have what I think is one of the best jobs in the world: Leading the New York State Assembly—an independent, member-driven institution where initiatives are crafted that often serve as a model for policies around the country and for the federal government.”
34 | AS THEY SEE IT | 03.2013
JEFF PARKER, FLORIDA TODAY AND THE FORT MYERS NEWS-PRESS
—Ohio Representative Lynn Wachtmann (R) about a bill to require training for used car dealers, in the Gongwer News. The bill passed 60-28.
JEFF PARKER, FLORIDA TODAY AND THE FORT MYERS NEWS-PRESS
“It is a joke that we’re going to change the perception of an industry that is one step above the public’s view of legislators.”
“We’re coming to get you. … And you’re going to go to jail. So, here’s your chance—throw it away tonight.” —Michigan Senator Rick Jones, (R) on a bill he sponsored banning retailers from selling synthetic marijuana, in the Detroit News.
“They’ve had all this time to figure it out and come up with a more humane way. I’d like to sit all 100 of them down and have duck and goose fat—better yet, dry oatmeal—shoved down their throats over and over and over again.”
“No matter what the governor does, to try to make it look prettier, it’s like trying to put lipstick on a pig.” —Virginia Senator A. Donald McEachin (D), about a new voter identification requirement and the governor’s decision to send new ID cards to everyone registered in the state, in the Washington Post.
—John Burton, chairman of the California Democratic Party, in the San Francisco Chronicle, about the chefs who are fighting the state’s ban on the sale of foie gras (which requires force-feeding grain to birds). Burton wrote the law when he was a senator in 2004; it had a seven-and-a-half year grace period.
“Don’t buy into all the BS you’ll get from lobbyists and people who are going to kiss your behind as an elected official. It doesn’t last. The real reward is serving your constituents.” —Louisiana House Speaker Jim Tucker (R), in the Advocate.
—Former Colorado House Speaker Terrance Carroll (D) on the high turnover of legislative seats, to USA Today.
MIKE KEEFE, CAGLE CARTOONS
“It’s a mixed blessing … legislatures occasionally need new blood, new ideas, fresh faces. They also need people who have been there and done that.”
Want the latest online news about federal and state public policy issues? Go to www.ncsl.org/magazine and look for the “Grasscatcher,” a collection of the day’s top news clippings. STATE LEGISLATURES
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