Guide to Hawaii government

The 13th edition of Guide to Government in Hawaii has just been published. The Guide is a companion volume to the Directory of State, County and Federal Officials. Both are publications of the Library. The Guide describes state and county departments and their organization and agencies of the federal government having offices in Hawaii. Organizational charts of the state government, state departments, and the counties are also included.

Guide to Government in Hawaii (pdf, 255pp/2.2MB)
(available for complete download or by agency)

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Wiki governance

The Berkman Blog of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School (HLS) has a post on "Wiki-Government: How open-source technology can make government decision-making more expert and more democratic," an article by Professor Beth Noveck of New York Law School that appears in the Winter 2008 issue of Democracy, A Journal of Ideas. Prof. Noveck believes that new technology that makes possible "communal pooling of knowledge," such as Wikipedia, can also enable "governance by a professional elite" to evolve into one of greater public participation. She writes:
Our institutions of governance are characterized by a longstanding culture of professionalism in which bureaucrats--not citizens--are the experts. Until recently, we have viewed this arrangement as legitimate because we have not practically been able to argue otherwise. Now we have a chance to do government differently. We have the know-how to create "civic software" that will help us form groups and communities who, working together, can be more effective at informing decision-making than individuals working alone.
Prof. Noveck concludes:
Technology will not, by itself, make complex regulatory problems any more tractable, or eliminate partisan disputes about values. What this next generation of civic software can do, however, is introduce better information by enabling the expert public to contribute targeted information. In doing so, it can make possible practices of governance that are, at once, more expert and more democratic.

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Recent GAO reports

SMITHSONIAN INSTITUTION: Status of Efforts to Address a Range of Funding and Governance Challenges, GAO-08-250T (pdf, 32pp/1MB), December 12, 2007

This testimony by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) is a follow-up to its September 2007 report, Smithsonian Institution: Funding Challenges Affect Facilities' Conditions and Security, Endangering Collections, GAO-07-1127 (pdf, 90pp/2.7MB). The testimony focuses on three areas: (1) the Smithsonian's real property management efforts, (2) the Smithsonian's strategies to fund its revitalization, construction, and maintenance projects, and (3) governance changes made by the Smithsonian's Board of Regents.

PRIVATE PENSIONS: Low Defined Contribution Plan Savings May Pose Challenges to Retirement Security, Especially for Many Low-Income Workers, GAO-08-8 (pdf, 65pp/1MB), November 29, 2007

Based on the 2004 Survey of Consumer Finances (SCF), the latest available, GAO found: (1) only 36 percent of workers participated in a defined contribution (DC) plan; (2) the median account balance was $22,800; and (3) recent regulatory and legislative changes could promote DC plan coverage, participation, and savings.

AVIATION RUNWAY AND RAMP SAFETY: Sustained Efforts to Address Leadership, Technology, and Other Challenges Needed to Reduce Accidents and Incidents, GAO-08-29 (pdf, 92pp/5.3MB), November 20, 2007

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is implementing the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen) to handle increased volumes of air traffic. At airports, FAA provides safety oversight on runways while oversight of ramp areas is handled by airlines and the airports. GAO cites insufficient data hindering progress in promoting safety in these areas. GAO also faults the FAA's Office of Runway Safety for not fulfilling its leadership role. Among GAO's recommendations is to address air traffic controller overtime and fatigue issues.

DIGITAL TELEVISION TRANSITION: Increased Federal Planning and Risk Management Could Further Facilitate the DTV Transition
, GAO-08-43 (pdf, 54pp/1.3MB), November 19, 2007

The Digital Television Transition and Public Safety Act of 2005 requires all television stations to stop analog broadcasting by Feb. 17, 2009, and transition to digital television (DTV). The act also requires the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) to subsidize consumers' purchases of digital-to-analog converter boxes. GAO reports on the progress made in (1) facilitating the transition, (2) educating consumers, and (3) implementing the converter box subsidy program.

DIGITAL TELEVISION TRANSITION: Questions on the DTV Converter Box Subsidy Program and a DTV Inter-Agency Task Force, GAO-08-297R (pdf, 5pp/100kB), November 19, 2007

In the subsidy program, GAO sees "challenges" such as the readiness of retailers to accept coupons, issues relating to inventory planning, and especially the coordination of NTIA, its contractor IBM, converter box manufacturers, retailers, and consumers.

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Regs and small business

A Dec. 11 news release from the Rand Corporation announced the publication of a report from the Kauffman-RAND Institute for Entrepreneurship Public Policy, In the Name of Entrepreneurship? The Logic and Effects of Special Regulatory Treatment for Small Business, on the impact of regulations on small business. Among the issues examined are regs in four key areas--health insurance, workplace safety, corporate governance and business organization. In conjunction with the report, Rand also issued three related research briefs:

Do Benefits of Sarbanes-Oxley Justify the Costs?: Empirical Evidence in the Case of Small Firms. Rand reviewed the effects of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 (SOX), PL 107-204 (pdf, 66pp), in three measurable areas: (1) compliance costs for small firms compared with large firms, (2) stock-price reactions, and (3) leaving the public market. It appears that "SOX, at least initially, had a number of negative effects on small firms."

Is Special Regulatory Treatment for Small Businesses Working as Intended? Among the findings:
  • Small firms respond differently from large firms to regs
  • Regs designed to help small businesses don't always have the intended effect
  • It might be better to balance regulatory restrictions with encouraging entrepreneurship
  • When regs aren't working, policymakers can monitor or modify them, help small businesses to comply, or rescind the legislation
State Insurance Mandates and Consumer-Directed Health Plans: Are They Helping Small Business Provide Health Insurance to Employees? Among the findings:
  • No evidence that state mandates or consumer-directed health plans (CDHPs) have made health insurance for small businesses more accessible or affordable
  • Some small firms adjust their size to avoid the regulated market
  • New solutions, such as small-business purchasing pools, should be explored
  • The changing marketplace for CDHPs should be monitored



State greenhouse gases

This week the Congressional Research Service (CRS) issued a report on state greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

The report uses three variables, or emissions drivers, to calculate GHG emissions: population, per capita income, and GHG emissions intensity. Of the three, CRS considers GHG intensity the most relevant to climate change policy. GHG intensity is a measure of GHG emissions from state sources divided by the gross state product (GSP). Hawaii ranks 46th in GHG emissions and drivers. The report also covers CO2 emissions intensity, which account for 85% of GHG emissions in the U.S. In a ranking of CO2 emissions intensity and its drivers, Hawaii ranks 34th.

State Greenhouse Gas Emissions: Comparison and Analysis, CRS Report RL34272 (pdf, 34pp/200kB, from Open CRS), December 5, 2007

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Home "visits"

On Nov. 26 the Washington Post reported that the U.S. Supreme Court declined to review Sanchez v. San Diego (pdf, 49pp), a decision rendered by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. Sanchez upheld a program of the San Diego District Attorney whereby its investigators search welfare applicants' homes, unannounced and without warrants, to confirm their eligibility for aid. If they refuse the searches, they are disqualified from benefits.

A New York Times editorial (Nov. 28) was critical of the decision, stating in part:
This week, the Supreme Court let stand a disturbing ruling out of California that allows law enforcement to barge into people's homes without a warrant. The case has not prompted much outrage, perhaps because the people whose privacy is being invaded are welfare recipients, but it is a serious setback for the privacy rights of all Americans.
The editorial quoted from the dissenting opinion of seven judges that the majority decision "strikes an unprecedented blow at the core of Fourth Amendment protections."