TABLE of CONTENTS January 2016

Cover Story

2016’s Top Legislative Issues to Watch

BY News Staff

These are the biggest policies and problems that states will confront this year.


Iowa’s Perennial Power Player

Republicans have the governorship and the state House in Iowa, but Democrats have Mike Gronstal, who adheres to the old-fashioned sense that voters elect politicians to work on policy before retreating to their respective partisan corners. BY Alan Greenblatt

What’s Keeping Pennsylvania From Passing a Budget?

Just like in Washington last year, Pennsylvania state lawmakers are still struggling to produce a state budget and avoid a partial government shutdown. BY Daniel C. Vock

The Curious Case of Disappearing Corporate Taxes

Over the past two decades, corporations have doubled their profits but contributed increasingly less to state revenues. Where is all the money going? BY Liz Farmer

Meet the People Who Run a Tiny Town’s Government

The small, rural town of Gifford, S.C., survives with help from just 12 enthusiastic public employees -- most of whom aren't even paid. BY David Kidd


Public Safety & Justice

Did California's Jail Reforms Cause an Uptick in Crime?

After voters eased penalties for several common crimes, opponents claim the reforms have led to a crime wave. BY Daniel C. Vock
Health & Human Services

The Nation's First Firehouse Where People Can Get Flu Shots

Reflecting a broader trend of merging health care with other services, a city in California recently opened a clinic next to a firehouse. BY Mattie Quinn

Why Billionaires' Big Donations Often Fail to Change Much

Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates have given millions to overhaul public education. But their cash has proven to be anything but free money or a remedy to systemic problems. BY J.B. Wogan

Love Urban Planning and Board Games? This Is For You.

Called Cards Against Urbanity, the game is a twist on the popular and politically incorrect Cards Against Humanity. BY Alan Greenblatt



Urbanophobia: A Growing Threat to Public Transit in America

In the ideological war over urban planning, anti-transit conservatives are gaining funding and allies. BY Alan Ehrenhalt
Potomac Chronicle

Detroit and New Orleans Have More in Common Than Most Think

Most important, their prospects for survival can teach us about the resiliency of urban areas everywhere. BY Peter A. Harkness

Breaking Down the 2016 Governors Races

Republicans could strengthen their power in many states this year, but Democrats only have realistic chances in two. BY Alan Greenblatt
Health & Human Services

Addicted and Pregnant: How States Deal With Drug Problems When You're Expecting

Roughly 1 in 20 pregnant women use illicit drugs. States are cracking down on the problem with starkly different approaches. BY Mattie Quinn
Infrastructure & Environment

To Save Bees, It Takes a Hive

Bees are vital to the food we eat, and they’re vanishing. Michigan State University is coordinating efforts to save them. BY Elizabeth Daigneau
Economic Engines

Why Moving Isn't All Bad

When lower-income Americans move, it's seen as a result of displacement instead of opportunity. This negative perception needs to change. BY Aaron M. Renn
Urban Notebook

Be Nice, It May Help Your City’s Economy

In some cities, the personality of its residents may play a part in economic success (or failure). BY Scott Beyer


Management & Labor

When It Comes to 311, the Customer Isn’t Always Right

As cities explore ways to use citizen complaints to enhance public services, research shows there are drawbacks to such data. BY Mike Maciag
Smart Management

Cheaper Isn’t Necessarily Better for Government

Many states and cities get hung up on low prices and fail to consider a company's performance when deciding whether to contract with them. BY Katherine Barrett & Richard Greene
Better Government

A Better Way to Attack Inequality Than Redistributing Wealth

Everyone talks about taxing the rich to give to the poor, but doing so would only have a small impact. There are ways to have a larger one. BY Mark Funkhouser
Tech Talk

Can Technology Help Prevent Drug Overdoses?

Massachusetts has begun using data analytics to predict where they might occur. BY Tod Newcombe
Public Money

Climate Change and Credit Ratings

The growing intensity of natural disasters is a threat to state and local governments’ fiscal stability. How can they protect their finances and the environment? BY Frank Shafroth
Infrastructure & Environment

Even Road Salt Can Be Controversial

After two brutal winters and allegedly being overcharged for road salt, Cleveland is ready for snow. BY Elizabeth Daigneau