Outside Legal Counsel in SLC Member States
The attorney general is the chief legal officer in each state and serves as counselors to their legislatures and state agencies and also as the "People's Lawyer" for all citizens. Circumstances arise, however, in which the attorney general cannot or will not represent the state. When this occurs, state governments must hire outside legal counsel to represent the state.
In 14 of the 15 states in the SLC region,1 the attorney general is elected. This may lead to situations in which the attorney general is from a different political party than the governor and/or legislature. Sometimes in states with this arrangement, the attorney general may refuse to provide a defense for a law which he or she believes is unconstitutional. This currently is happening in North Carolina, where Attorney General Roy Cooper is refusing to defend multiple laws passed by the General Assembly and, in Mississippi, where Attorney General Jim Hood has refused to defend HB 1523, also known as the Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act,” or “has refused to defend HB 1523, the state’s religious freedom law.”
In other cases, the attorney general may decide that outside legal counsel has more expertise in the subject matter of a case and that the state would be better served by outside legal counsel. In some instances, the legal matter may not be central to the capital city and a law firm located in the relevant city may be better equipped to address the matter.
All 15 of the SLC member states allow for the use of outside legal counsel. In the majority of the SLC member states, there are laws or policies enumerating in which situations the use of outside legal counsel is permitted. The following sections details these laws and policies in all 15 SLC member states.
The use of outside legal counsel by the attorney general, in consultation with the governor, is permitted. Contingency fee contracts2 are permitted, if a government attorney(s) maintains supervision and control of the legal matter. A government attorney(s) must decide all settlement matters.
Debate on Proposals to Privatize State-Administered Alcohol Sales
Information from selected states on the debate regarding the privatization of alcohol and beverage control (ABC) operations follows. One of the major areas of discussion when states consider privatizing their monopoly of the sale of alcohol is the potential public health and safety implications of the change. A number of studies have been conducted on this topic, including the following:
Virginia is one such state and when then Governor Bob McDonnell floated the proposal after his election in 2009, George Mason University carried out the following study. The study's conclusions indicate that "government-spirits monopolies do not generate the health benefits that their proponents trumpet. The plain fact seems to be that alcohol-related problems are unrelated to whether or not a state government prevents private, competitive businesses from selling spirits to the general public." Also, in Virginia, in January 2015, Senator Ryan McDougle sponsored SB 1032 in an effort, in his words, to "allow ABC to operate like a business as opposed to a government agency." Similarly, in the Virginia House, Delegate Dave Albo, proposed HB 1776 with the goal of replacing ABC with the authority to operate outside of government authority.
North Carolina is another Southern state that has grappled with the option of privatizing their ABC operations. The North Carolina Institute for Constitutional Law released a detailed report entitled North Carolina's ABC System Needs Modernization. In addition, North Carolina's Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) Commission released its 2014 annual report recently. Also, of relevance in this connection is an interview with the chair of the NC ABC Commission, recently appointed by Governor Pat McCrory.
State Purchasing Regulations and Reform
States across the country continue to explore strategies to lower overall spending while providing citizens with critical services. In this connection, reforming their purchasing regulations and introducing procurement reforms remain a strong management feature in a number of states. In fact, given their reputation as the laboratories of democracy, many states have introduced innovative and creative ways with regard to their procurement processes by utilizing new tools and establishing best practices.
Four such states are Georgia, Virginia, Minnesota and Wisconsin, which, in recent years have enacted some significant and successful procurement reform efforts in a number of their state agencies that possibly could be adopted in other settings. Georgia and Virginia have enhanced their procurement systems to optimize savings and spending potential by adopting e-procurement tools and emulating successful procedures from the private sector. Similarly, Minnesota and Wisconsin have made groundbreaking strides in procurement reform by sharing resources, consolidating services and pursuing joint contracts.
"Nothing is simple when it comes to government contracting, especially for large technology projects. Yes, there are good reasons for having all those checks and balances in place. After all, taxpayers foot the bill for these projects, and there must be some assurance that the funds are being spent wisely, particularly given some of the high-profile failures of public-sector IT deployments. But the downside is these rules can be so restrictive that they choke off competition and innovation."1 More about some of the factors that stifle competition can be found here.
In Washington, a new state law went into effect on January 1, 2013, that consolidated procurement laws under the state's Department of Enterprise Services. The goal of the new law is to make the procurement process more transparent, competitive and efficient. Additional information about this law can be found here.
Statewide, Blanket Policies for Fee Adjustment for State and Local Government Services
(Accurate as of February 6, 2015)
State and local governments rely on an assortment of fees and charges to help fund services. The information request posed whether there were instances where certain fees were automatically adjusted based on a fixed number of metrics or inputs without the intervention of the legislative body, either state or local government. One such example of a fee or a charge automatically adjusting without legislative intervention involves the Motor Fuel Tax (MFT) in North Carolina. While the MFT is added to the cost of each gallon of gasoline and diesel sold in the state, North Carolina's MFT rate springs from two sources: a fixed portion and a variable portion. While the fixed portion remains unchanged, unless modified by state law, the variable portion is automatically adjusted and is based on the wholesale price of gasoline every six months, on January 1st and July 1st.
There are several examples of uniform fee adjustment policies within state agencies even though no blanket policies that crossed state agencies were discovered. Some statewide guidelines exist, such as those issued by the Massachusetts Department of Revenue and guidelines for local government user fees issued by the Wisconsin Legislative Audit Bureau. In addition, the Government Finance Officers Association has best practice guidelines for establishing government charges and fees, including recommendations for periodic review and updates.
Examples of statewide, departmental fees adjusted according to changes in certain inputs or metrics are outlined. Because fees usually are based on the cost of service provision, inputs or metrics can be highly specific to the service provided and adjustments typically incorporate inflation indirectly. For example, and as noted previously, North Carolina adjusts the MFT biannually, according to the wholesale price of gas; as changes in the wholesale price captures changes in inflation, so, too, does the adjusted motor fuel tax rate. Two examples of non-fee rates adjusted directly to inflation are state salaries and minimum wages.
State Best Practices/Reviews
How Do States Regulate Combat Sports?
(Compiled February 11, 2015)
Most states regulate contact sports through athletic or boxing commissions, housed within departments of labor and professional or occupational licensing and regulation.The conclusion of this document provides a detailed breakdown of how the 15 Southern Legislative Conference (SLC) states regulate and oversee contact sports. Within the SLC region, Arkansas and North Carolina are two exceptions: Arkansas houses its athletic commission within the Department of Health, while North Carolina houses its boxing authority within the Department of Public Safety. Outside the region, the Nevada Athletic Commission operates under the Department of Business and Industry.
The Arkansas General Assembly transferred the state Athletic Commission to the Department of Health after a series of organizational failures within the Commission and the resignation of the chair. Minutes from the Arkansas State Board of Health meeting on November 8, 2012, show that the governor had asked the Department to consider oversight of the Athletic Commission, as well as the Board of Sanitarians and Health Educators (see page 6 of Minutes). Prior to its transfer, the Board did not undergo a sunset review, though the Arkansas Division of Legislative Audit periodically reviewed the Commission’s internal controls and compliance.
Regulation of mixed martial arts (MMA) has progressed very quickly across the country, with New York being the only state where professional MMA still is illegal, and there currently is legislation in the Assembly and Senate to legalize the sport and establish regulations and taxes. As of late 2013, 16 states did not regulate the sport.
State Occupational Boards and Commissions Fees
Licensure, a policy mechanism designed to ensure minimum competency among practitioners in markets with high risk of harm, affords protection to the public by granting licensees exclusive rights of practice. In effect, no person without a license may legally provide those regulated goods or services. This definition offers an important distinction from certification and registration, which do not offer exclusive rights of practice. Typically, licensure guarantees certain practitioner training regarding public health, safety or sanitation, so consumers, for example, do not receive the wrong medication at a pharmacy or spread disease at a spa. It is a means of indirectly providing information to consumers about the quality of a service. Licensure, however, also has the effect of driving up service costs and practitioner wages by restricting market entry. Consequently, training or language and residency requirements for licensure may restrict qualified practitioners from offering services in a state, dampening job creation opportunities and economic growth.
Boards and commissions were examined in 10 states: Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Tennessee. States varied in organizational structure and consolidation of boards, as well as the number and distinction of occupations in each board’s jurisdiction and the complexity of fee schedules. For example, some states, like Tennessee and Nebraska, house occupational boards and commissions within administrative or executive departments, such as the departments of health or labor. Others, such as Georgia, have separate boards for cosmetologists and barbers. Most states did not report the number of licensees under each board, and no states reported the number of licenses by occupation. Table 1 depicts the name of each analogous board or commission, if it exists. Table 2 demonstrates the range of application or initial fees and renewal fees. These ranges capture the different occupations regulated by the boards. It does not capture, however, additional fees levied on firms, inspections or examinations that many boards impose.
What percentage of SLC member state employee health insurance premiums is contributed by the employer and employee?
The Pew Charitable Trust reports that between 1992 and 2012, the cost of insuring employees and their dependents doubled. To account for these rising costs, many states have had to reevaluate employee health benefits. The result has been a reduction in services provided, an increase in employee out-of-pocket expenses, or a combination of the two. The State Employee Health Plan Spending report, published by PEW in August 2014, represents one of the first times that state employee health plan data has been analyzed to offer some level of state-by-state comparison.
The following table shows how the SLC states compared on employee and employer contribution percentages in 2013. Each percentage represents the average contribution rate across all tiers of state health insurance plans. While most SLC states had a four-tier health plan structure in 2013, some state plans were divided into as few as two or as many as six tiers. The employer premium numbers represent the average percent of the total premium state employers contributed across all employee plans and all tiers in 2013.
(click on headers to sort by column)
|State/Region||Average Premium Contribution ‐ Employee Only||Average Premium Contribution ‐ Employee + Dependents||Average Employer Premium Contribution |
Rent for Non-Legislative Organizations in State Capitols
In a recent information request, the SLC was tasked with identifying state policies on rent for non-legislative organizations inside state capitols. We partnered with the National Association of State Facilities Administrators (NASFA) to conduct a multi-state survey. The results of the survey, displayed below, revealed that these policies are as different as the states that craft them.
|Does your State and/or department charge rent to non-legislative organizations and authorities who occupy office space in State Capitols?|
|Arizona||Yes, the State of Arizona, through its Department of Administration, charges rent for the buildings under its jurisdiction to Arizona’s state agencies, boards, and commissions except the Legislative branch pursuant to statute.|
|Connecticut||The Department of Administrative Services does not have care and custody of the State Capitol Building; per the response, no non-legislative organization has space within the State Capitol.|
|Idaho||The Department of Administration charges rent to cover managing the Capitol. This includes Elected Officials, the Legislature, state agencies, and organizations.|
|Minnesota||Yes. Minnesota charges a lease rate to non-legislative entities that occupy the Capitol Building.|
|Nebraska||The State Capitol houses all three branches of government and none of the branches, agencies, or departments are charged rent. Operations are funded through an appropriation from the State’s General Fund.|
|New Hampshire||The cost for all the space in the State Capitol is included in the building operating budget 100% general funds. As such, no one is charged rent in the State Capitol, either legislative or executive.|
|Oklahoma||Only one. A barber shop has a $10 a month lease.|
The following entities are charged for rent in the State Capitol:
What are the disability retirement benefits of state employees in the SLC member states?
(Click on a state to view relevant documentation)
Source: SLC research of member states' employee retirement systems
What are the government performance audit agencies in the SLC member states?
|State Auditor||Executive Agency / Inspector General||Legislative Agency|
|Alabama||Office of State Auditor - makes a full and complete report to the governor showing the receipts and disbursement of every character, all claims audited and paid out, and all taxes and revenues collected and paid into the treasury, and the source thereof. The Auditor also makes reports required by the Governor or the Legislature. Further, the Office performs post audits of the accounts and records of the Treasurer and the accounts and records of the Department of Finance.||Department of Finance, Executive Planning Office - manages Alabama's SMART initiative, designed to improve Alabama's government by requiring organizational planning, linking plans to budget requests and appropriations, and creating meaningful performance measurements.||Department of Examiners of Public Accounts - independent legislative audit agency with the authority to perform audits of the accounts of all entities receiving or disbursing public funds.|
|Arkansas||Auditor of State - general accountant for the State, keeping track of the fund and appropriation balances of all state agencies.||Division of Legislative Audit - serves the General Assembly, the Legislative Joint Auditing Committee, and the citizens of the State of Arkansas by promoting sound financial management and accountability of public resources entrusted to the various governmental entities. Under the authority of the Legislative Joint Auditing Committee, the Division annually issues over 1,000 financial audits, reviews, and special reports.|
|Florida||Auditor General - conducts financial audits of the accounts and records of State agencies; State universities; State Colleges; district school boards; and, as directed by the Legislative Auditing Committee, of local governments. Conducts operational and performance audits of public records and information technology systems and performs related duties as prescribed by law or concurrent resolution of the Legislature. Adopts rules for financial audits performed by independent certified public accountants of local governmental entities, charter schools, district school boards, and Florida Single Audit Act nonprofit and for-profit organizations. Reviews all audit reports of local governmental entities, charter schools, charter technical career centers, and district school boards.||Inspector General - The Inspector General Act of 1994 created an Office of Inspector General in each state agency "as a central point for coordination of and responsibility for activities that promote accountability, integrity, and efficiency in government." Under the guidance of the Inspector General (IG), this office performs audits, investigations and other engagements "for the purpose of promoting economy and efficiency in the administration of, or preventing and detecting fraud and abuse in, its programs and operations."||Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability - provides data, evaluative research, and objective analyses to assist legislative budget and policy deliberations. OPPAGA conducts research as directed by state law, the presiding officers, or the Joint Legislative Auditing Committee. One research component is performance evaluations and policy reviews of state government programs and follow-up reviews that assess whether agencies have resolved problems identified in earlier studies.|
Business License Regulations in Selected SLC Member States
Municipalities have the authority to charge license fees to any professional engaging in business within city limits. Certain professions are governed by a board or state agency that issue licenses and collect "reasonable" fees for their operation.
A business cannot be required to pay licensing fees by more than one city in the state unless it has more than one location. (AR Code § 26-77-102)
The taxation of specific product categories in the state code is fairly limited.
Professions generally are licensed and regulated by the Florida Department of Business & Professional Regulation. Counties and cities may have their own occupational license requirements and related taxes and fees.
If a business serves more than one municipality, it may need a separate license for each one. Also, local governments have the authority to create their own tax categories subject to licensing and fees.
The taxation of specific product categories in the state code is fairly limited.
Georgia has business licensing system where the privilege to do business is determined by the physical location of the establishment, rather than the place where business transactions occur. Thereby, a business obtains a license from the municipality or county where they are located, and this license gives them the right to do business statewide, with no further license fees required.
There still are multiple boards and agencies that regulate various occupations and establishments, with the regulatory agency dependent upon the nature of the business.
The taxation of specific product categories is fairly limited.
The code of Georgia specifically limits that businesses and practitioners "shall be required to pay occupation tax to only one local government in this state, the local government for the municipal corporation or county in which the largest dollar volume of business is done or service is performed by the individual business or practitioner." (GA Code § 48-13-7 (e))
At what age can state employees retire with full benefits in the SLC member states?
State employees, state police, members of the Teachers' Retirement System and (on an elective basis) qualified persons of cities, towns, and quasi-public organizations may retire at age 60 with at least 10 years of service or after 25 years of service at any age.
Public employees are eligible for retirement at:
The state recently enacted legislation to change the retirement age.
If initially enrolled in the FRS before July 1, 2011, state employees qualify for normal retirement when:
If enrolled in the FRS on or after July 1, 2011, state employees qualify for normal retirement when:
Georgia also has made changes to their state pension plan.
Under the Old Plan, the New Plan, and GSEPS, once state employees have reached Normal Retirement Age, they can retire and begin receiving monthly benefits. Normal Retirement Age is defined as the earlier of:
Once employees earn 10 years of Creditable Service, they have a vested right to a service retirement at age 60, even if they terminate employment before reaching age 60.
How much do state employees in the SLC pay toward their health insurance premiums?
State employee health insurance coverage policies vary widely in the SLC region. Therefore, a direct comparison of practices is unreliable. In order to accommodate for the discrepancies, the SLC collected state employee premium information for its 15 member states on a case-by-case basis. This information is available on the following table.
|Alabama||Link||State Employee's Insurance Board|
|Arkansas||Link||Employee Benefits Division, Department of Finance & Administration|
|Florida||Link||Department of Management Services|
|Georgia||Link||Department of Community Health|
|Louisiana||Link||Office of Group Benefits, Division of Administration, Office of the Governor|
|Mississippi||Link||Department of Finance & Administration|
|Missouri||Link||Missouri Consolidated Health Care Plan|
|North Carolina||Link||State Health Plan|
What are the sunset regulations, if any, in the SLC member states?
With legislatively mandated review of 77 states entities on a four-year rotating schedule, Alabama is one of the Southern states with the most thorough sunset review process.
In 1977, Arkansas adopted a sunset law to control and manage the proliferation of state boards and commissions. In 1983, led by then Governor Clinton and backed by both houses of the General Assembly, the state allowed its sunset law on boards and commissions to elapse.
The 2006 Legislature enacted the Florida Government Accountability Act that established an agency sunset review process to be used by the Legislature to determine if a public need exists for the continuation of a state agency, its advisory committees, or its programs.
The Florida Government Accountability Act provided for the creation of the Joint Sunset Committee to oversee the independent review process and make recommendations to abolish, continue, or reorganize the agency under review. The act also provides that the Senate and House may conduct independent reviews regarding the scheduled agency sunsets.
The Florida Government Accountability Act requires reports and assistance from state agencies and the Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability (OPPAGA), creates a schedule to abolish state agencies and advisory committees, and sets criteria to be used in the sunset review process.
A reviewed agency may not be abolished unless all of the services for which the agency had responsibility have been repealed, revised, or reassigned; and adequate provisions have been made for all duties and obligations relating to debt.
The Joint Legislative Sunset Committee was not funded in the FY 2010-11 General Appropriations Act, and the Committee ceased operations on June 30, 2010.
Permanent Property Rights Task Forces
Permanent Property Rights Task Forces or Commissions would seem to be rare. A number of states created temporary bodies to review state policy on eminent domain in response to the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in the Kelo v. City of New London case. Some states took the added step of establishing a permanent ombudsman responsible for resolving eminent domain disputes and abuse. In recent years, there has not been much legislative interest in eminent domain generally. The downturn in the economy has dampened much of the enthusiasm for public takings of private land for private economic development projects, thus reducing the friction that the Kelo case generated.
Following the Kelo decision, nearly 40 states took some action in response, including restricting the very kinds of developments that the City of New London undertook or strengthening and reinforcing public notice and the definition of both public purposes for which a property could be condemned or the conditions (blight) for which a public interest could be defined.
Washington State has an Eminent Domain Task Force located within the Office of the Attorney General. The Legislatively-created Task Force has continued to meet after its appointed term to monitor activity and make further adjustments to their recommendations. The Task Force issued its final report in 2009 making recommendations that would bar the use of eminent domain for private entities, reform the state's community renewal law, and seeking the adoption of best practices for the exercise of eminent domain. Another example of a state eminent domain task force can be found in Ohio, where the Task Force released its final report in 2006.
Which SLC states have codified judicial advisory councils?
|State||Entity||Code Section / Site|
|Alabama||Judicial Conference||§ 12-8-1|
|Judicial System StudyCommission||§ 12-9-1|
|Alabama Sentencing Commission||§ 12-25-1|
|Arkansas||Arkansas Judicial Council||Homepage|
|Florida||Judicial Management Council||AOSC06-62|
|Georgia||Judicial Council||§ 15-5-20|
|Kentucky||Judicial Council||§ 27A-110|
|Louisiana||Judicial Council||§ 13-61|
|Judicial Performance Program||§ 13-84|
|Mississippi||Judicial Advisory Study Committee||§ 9-21-21|
|Missouri||Judicial Conference||§ 476-350|
|North Carolina||State Judicial Council||§ 7A-409|
Legislative Orientation Programs in the Southern States
What are the methods of selection for leadership positions in the state Legislatures of the Southern Legislative Conference?
|State||Speaker||Speaker pro tem||Majority leader||Assistant majority leader||Majority floor leader||Assistant majority floor leader||Majority whip||Majority caucus chair||Minority leader||Assistant minority leader||Minority floor leader||Assistant minority floor leader||Minority whip||Minority caucus chair|
What are the budgets and the staff sizes of the Southern states' ethics commissions?
Members / Commissioners
General Fund Appropriation (FY 2007)
|Alabama Ethics Commission|| |
|Arkansas Ethics Commission|| |
|Florida Commission on Ethics|| |
|Georgia State Ethics Commission|| |
|Kentucky Executive Branch Ethics Commission|| |
|Kentucky Legislative Ethics Commission|| |
|Louisiana Ethics Administration|| |
Southern Legislative Conference and SLC are trademarks registered in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.