Russell Nichols is a GOVERNING staff writer. He is a former city reporter for the Boston Globe and has written stories on business, education, health, arts and religion for numerous publications including the Los Angeles Times and Sacramento Magazine.

Russell Nichols
November 30, 2011

Governments Experiment With Risk-Free Financing

Massachusetts may be the first state to use social impact bonds, a unique model that started in the U.K. for financing social programs.
September 30, 2011

Georgia Overhauls Its Mental Health System

Georgia is the latest state to comply with a U.S. Supreme Court ruling to move mental health patients out of hospitals and into the community.
September 30, 2011

A Failing National Mental Health System

In 2006, the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI) graded states' mental health-care systems. The national average was a D. In a follow-up three years later, that average didn't change.
September 30, 2011

The Georgia Mental Health Deal

Under the agreement with the Justice Department, Georgia will end new admissions to state mental hospitals and develop assertive community treatment, intensive care management, supported housing and supported employment programs to serve 9,000 people with mental illness over the next four years.
August 31, 2011

Curiosity's Mars Landing Highlights State Space Race

The successful landing of NASA’s rover Curiosity on the surface of Mars is a reminder that America’s space exploration program is in a state of transition.
August 17, 2011

California Nonprofits Target Amazon with Boycott

A coalition of social welfare groups urges Californians to cancel Amazon accounts until the online retailer starts collecting state sales taxes.
August 3, 2011

Can California Learn from China's High-Speed Rail System?

California's high-speed rail project suffers another blow as federal cuts threaten its future. Can a trip to China help legislators put the project on the right track?
July 19, 2011

Do-or-Die Scenario Threatens California's Redevelopment Agencies

To save redevelopment agencies, cities and organizations have two bleak choices: sue or pony up $1.7 billion.
July 12, 2011

Could South California Be The 51st State?

Riverside County Supervisor Jeff Stone believes that the state is “ungovernable” and proposes that 13 conservative counties split from California.
June 30, 2011

Cloud Computing Is No Easy Fix

Companies have been pitching the cloud as a virtual field of dreams that can help make storage issues and server problems disappear. But is that true?
June 30, 2011

Attack on 'No Child Left Behind' Underway

In opposing the strict federal education law, state education leaders seek to take control by defying requirements.
June 28, 2011

In California, Violent Video Game Law Goes Down

In a recent ruling, the Supreme Court shot down a California law, which bans the sale of violent video games to minors.
June 21, 2011

Should California Kill the Death Penalty to Save Billions?

On the heels of a comprehensive study about the huge price tag on California's death row, one state senator proposes to abolish the death penalty once and for all.
June 17, 2011

Is California’s Three Strikes Law Due for a Change Up?

Stanford University lawyers gear up with a political consultant to pitch a reform initiative for one of the harshest sentencing laws in the nation.
June 14, 2011

40-Year-Old 'War on Drugs' Needs Fixing

After four decades of destructive drug control policies, will the U.S. change its ways?
June 9, 2011

Party Lines Don’t Reflect American People

Despite the popular picture of states divided by red and blue lines, researchers found that most citizens share a diverse range of liberal and conservative beliefs.
June 8, 2011

When Pressure Is On, Partisan Walls Fall

With a budget deadline approaching, California lawmakers can learn a thing or two from the Nevada Legislature on finding common ground.
June 6, 2011

For Foster Children, Every Little Bit Helps

Shortchanged foster parents in California are expected to receive long-overdue raises in payment rates, no thanks to the state Department of Social Services.
June 3, 2011

Fiscal Flexibility Comes at a Price

California schools use control over spending decisions to plug budget holes, special programs suffer, study finds.
June 1, 2011

States Getting 'Fracking' Acts Together

Across the country, the process of drilling for natural gas has created an explosion of controversy around the rules of disclosure.
May 31, 2011

Six Ideas for Fixing the Nation's Infrastructure Problems

Here's how to plan, fund and make a safer, more efficient transportation system.
May 27, 2011

In California, Walls Close In On Prisoners and Policymakers

Inmates in cramped cells and lawmakers outside of them feel the pressure of funding shortage.
May 25, 2011

Deficits Highlight Education Woes

California education cuts may be less severe then originally thought. But overall, schools still need help.
May 17, 2011

More Money, More Problems in California

Gov. Jerry Brown’s plan to demolish California’s wall of debt can’t get around GOP’s wall of doubt.
May 13, 2011

States Exploring Options for Future Transportation Projects

Even though states may not have the data to know how well their transportation investments fared, they still need to consider options that could maximize the value of any transportation spending.
May 10, 2011

Building Websites, Fences in Arizona

To get a bigger fence along the border with Mexico, lawmakers propose online donations and prison labor.
May 6, 2011

States Considering Electric Car Fees for Road Upkeep

To charge or not to charge? With gas tax revenues on the decline, states are exploring electric car fees as a way to help maintain roads.
May 5, 2011

Oregon Legislators Evaluate Post-Disaster Governance

In the wake of a catastrophe, an effective recovery effort requires a functioning government -- an issue a number of legislatures are addressing.
May 3, 2011

Failing the Future?

In this commentary, Russell Nichols writes that to recruit and retain great teachers, let’s start by razing our standards.
April 29, 2011

Working Prisoners Save Taxpayers' Money

States are increasingly utilizing prison labor to plug budget holes, but public employee unions aren’t happy.
April 29, 2011

Finding Balance in California's Budget

The only things certain in California are debt and taxes, and the country's oldest current governor is struggling to erase the former without raising the latter.
April 28, 2011

Helping Hands for Homeless in Hawaii

Gov. Neil Abercrombie calls on citizens to direct homeless people to medical, mental and housing services.
April 21, 2011

Looking for Cash in All the Right Places

To save more money, state lawmakers propose new exit strategies for inmates and patients.
April 18, 2011

Who’s at Fault for Not Repairing Calif. Schools?

Due to restrictive rules, money for urgent seismic repairs eludes California schools.
April 14, 2011

The Price of Recidivism

A study from the Pew Center on the States finds that more than four in 10 offenders return to prison within three years. The report comes at a time when prison spending has spiked over the years.
April 12, 2011

Corruption and Other Drugs

The war on drugs rattles the U.S.-Mexico border as illicit drug use in the U.S. rises and cartels infiltrate American law enforcement.
April 6, 2011

In California, Non-Violent Inmates Might Transfer to County Jails

Gov. Jerry Brown’s new law aims to reduce overcrowding, but the program lacks funding support and local sheriffs fear they’ll pay the price.
March 31, 2011

States Struggle to Regulate the Bond Industry

While critics question the fairness of the bail bonds industry, proponents argue that its services save states money and keep defendants from fleeing.
March 30, 2011

Progressive California Pays Price from Procrastination

Stalled energy projects drive up costs in a state already plagued by excessive debt, but is there a quick fix?
March 25, 2011

To Withstand Tsunami, Coastal Oregon Town Plans to Put City Hall on Stilts

Cannon Beach, Ore., aims to get the nation’s first tsunami evacuation building off the ground by 2014.
March 18, 2011

Radiation Fears Spread Throughout Western U.S.

With some 5,000 miles of Pacific Ocean between Japan and California, public health officials say there’s no reason for concern.
March 16, 2011

Are U.S. States and Cities Prepared for a Disaster?

On quakes, tsunamis and radiation leaks, one expert says, "the U.S. is not nearly as well prepared as Japan was."
March 14, 2011

California’s Children Suffer from Budget Cuts

Across the state, budget cuts threaten stability of programs and services that benefit children in need.
March 8, 2011

California’s Adult Ed Programs Collapse in Financial Crisis

Adult education throughout the state feels the burns of harsh budget cuts.
February 28, 2011

State Governments: The Latest Venture Capitalists

With venture capital firms scaling back, state governments are stepping in to fund early-state, high-risk startups.
February 10, 2011

New Group Targets California's Labor Unions

Californians for Public Union Reform seeks to end collective bargaining for public employees.
January 1, 2011

Dealing With Term-Limited Legislators

States with term-limited legislators are seeking ways to counteract the drawbacks of high turnover. Here, former Michigan state Sen. Dennis Olshove points to a picture of state Senators circa 2004, now out of office.
December 10, 2010

Museums Struggle to Stand the Test of Time

Grappling with strict budgets, governments redefine how local museums operate.
December 7, 2010

Governments Need Social Media Policies to Avoid Pitfalls

Over the past year, more states and cities started considering and creating social media policies to address acceptable uses and minimize risks.
December 1, 2010

The Pros and Cons of Privatizing Government Functions

Outsourcing may seem like a perfect solution for deficit-plagued governments, but the morning after can bring some unpleasant surprises.
November 10, 2010

Reports Find Unwarranted Police Stops Targeting Minorities

Reports on police stops in New York and in England and Wales bring attention to police departments regarding patterns of racial profiling.
June 30, 2010

Investing in Electric Cars

Will the needed investment in new infrastructure for electric cars pay off?