CSG is the Place to Be
By Gary Stevens, CSG’s 2013 Chair
This year, The Council of State Governments celebrates its 80th anniversary as a force for positive change. CSG has never been stronger or more relevant as an organization. Throughout our history, we have reflected the priorities of our members as we use our resources to focus on critical issues facing the states. I am very proud of all CSG does to build stronger states and to help state leaders successfully navigate the complex challenges we face.
Our mission is simple, to champion excellence in state governments to advance the common good. During my years as the national chair, I have enjoyed sharing the CSG story with our members throughout the nation. I consistently hear the refrain, “I didn’t know CSG did that!” With that in mind, let me share a few of the reasons all of us can be proud of CSG.
The CSG Justice Center makes a big impact in helping states invest resources more wisely and achieve better results in public safety and criminal justice. The growth of our Justice Center demonstrates the strong appeal of research based, data driven decision-making in our state capitols.
The CSG National Center for Interstate Compacts is finding new ways to craft cost-effective, multistate solutions.
CSG publications, from The Book of the States to this award-winning magazine, Capitol Ideas, inform and inspire leaders in the states.
The development of leadership skills remains an important focus of CSG’s work at both the regional and national level. We created more programming this year to bring leadership training directly to the state capitols.
CSG’s online resources continue to expand and the CSG Knowledge Center has become a go-to resource for best practices and solid data.
Our new policy academy series is bringing state leaders together around vital issues and providing valuable opportunities for issue leaders to share their success stories.
The organizations that affiliate with CSG also bring strength and expertise to the CSG family and allow all of our component parts to operate much more cost-effectively.
Our presence in Washington, D.C., has advanced the interests of states as we have advocated for legislation such as the Marketplace Fairness Act, sought to protect the tax-exempt status of municipal bonds and spearheaded the effort to secure funds to support state export promotion.
We also play a vital role in advocating for the states through the State and Local Legal Center, which provides a much-needed voice for the states in the federal courts.
CSG’s greatest strength is our four strong regional organizations.The activities and publications of our regional organizations are an invaluable source of information and the regional annual meetings are a great opportunity to learn from each other and forge strong friendships.
The partnership of many private-sector sponsors and associates helps to fund and expand our impact with state leaders. I am grateful for all the ways they invest in our programming.
This issue of Capitol Ideas focuses on federalism. That focus reflects my interest in making federalism a priority during my chairmanship. Over the two years of this biennium—including my chairmanship and next year during the chairmanship of Tennessee Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris, CSG will pursue a Focus on Federalism.
The purpose of this effort will be to examine remedies to both the perceived and actual imbalance of power between states and the federal government, with particular attention paid to fiscal federalism—or the implications of federal deficit reduction on the states.
According to the federal Office of Management and Budget, unfunded mandates and regulations cost states, cities and the general public between $44 billion and $62 billion
In the face of federal deficit reduction, it will be vital for states to have maximum flexibility in meeting the needs of their citizens, which is why we will carefully study the cost of federal mandates, regulatory action and pre-emption on the states. CSG’s work will aim to develop a framework to review and react to adverse policies adopted or under consideration at the federal level, including coercive, unfunded and underfunded mandates or overreaching pre-emptions.
Although this is a two-year focus, we plan to build a sustainable organizational emphasis on federalism to support this work at CSG in the years ahead. We look forward to building partnerships with others interested in advancing the proper role of the states in our federal system of government.
This work is not intended to focus on issues that divide us or that have strong partisan overtones. In keeping with CSG’s traditions, we will pursue this effort with a strict nonpartisan point of view and involve all three branches of government in the deliberations. That’s not to say we will shy away from having real discussions about the many complex facets of federalism—but it is to say we will convene this work in ways that advance understanding and bring state leaders together.
The 10th Amendment may be centuries old, but vigilance is still required today if we are to protect the spirit and intent of that amendment and respect the proper role of the states in our system of government.
The states remain our nation’s greatest hope for creating public policy solutions tailored to the needs of each state and region. Through CSG, we can work to forge multistate solutions that do not require federal oversight, mandates or pre-emptions. When states are free to innovate, are given flexibility to pursue customized solutions and are accountable to their own citizens, not agencies in D.C., good things happen for each state and our nation.
It has been my honor to serve as a leader of CSG’s national organization. I appreciate all of the ways in which state leaders support and sustain its work. Without the efforts of many, CSG would not be positioned to champion the cause of the states and empower all state leaders to achieve excellence. It is because of the dedicated state leaders that lead, participate in and support CSG that the organization remains a viable and essential tool for the states.
I have enjoyed the many friendships I have forged during my involvement and I look forward to many more years of helping CSG continue to make a difference for all of us. I invite all state officials to actively join CSG in the work of building a better nation.