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Chair's Corner | Linda Triplett (Mississippi)

Picture of 2017-2018 NLPES ChairFrom my perspective, this year is flying by. As we begin the transition to Shunti Taylor’s capable leadership as NLPES Chair effective at the fall Professional Development Seminar (PDS), I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the hard work of your NLPES executive committee during this past year.  

First, I would like to update you on our new members to the committee.  Following the procedures set forth in Article VI of our bylaws, we appointed Eric Thomas to fill the vacancy created by Kevin Ryan’s resignation from the committee after leaving his position at the South Carolina Legislative Audit Council.  Eric is the Audit Coordinator for Washington State’s Joint Legislative Audit and Review Committee (JLARC). Also, during our 2018 election cycle, we elected a new member, Erik Beecroft, who will begin his term at the fall PDS.  Erik is the Methodologist for Virginia’s Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC).  Yes, it is not a typo…we have two Eric(k)s who both work for a JLARC and we welcome both of them to the executive committee. With the re-election of Pat Berger and Jon Courtney to the committee (congratulations to both), that will bring our total membership to twelve, effective with the fall PDS.

The work of the executive committee is carried out through subcommittees established by each NLPES chair in accordance with Article VII of our bylaws.  At the beginning of my term as chair, I continued the first four subcommittees listed in the table, below, and added a new subcommittee for Advancement of the Fields of Legislative Program Evaluation and Performance Auditing, to address the first purpose of NLPES listed in Article I of our bylaws.

Subcommittee

Responsibilities

Members

Nominations and Elections

Oversees the annual process for nominating and electing members to the NLPES executive committee.

Greg Fugate (Chair)

Awards

Administers the NLPES Awards Program, considers revisions to awards criteria, makes recommendations for improvements to the Awards Program, and facilitates the awards presentation at the annual fall professional development seminar.

Shunti Taylor (Chair)
Melinda Hamilton

Communications

Monitors the content of the NLPES website, develops content for the NLPES newsletter and works with the NCSL liaison to publish the newsletter on the NLPES website, and recommends ways to improve communication with the NLPES membership.

Pat Berger (Chair)
Emily Johnson
Eric Thomas (replaced Kevin Ryan)

Professional Development

Assists with planning the annual fall professional development seminar, develops distance learning opportunities (e.g., webinars), and maintains professional development resources on the NLPES website.

Kiernan McGorty (Chair)
Karen Leblanc

Advancement of the Fields of Legislative Program Evaluation and Performance Auditing

Advances the fields of program evaluation and performance auditing through activities including but not limited to publishing articles in professional journals, identifies new issues that affect the practices, actively identifies other ways to advance the fields, and enlists NLPES members to assist in the effort.

Jon Courtney (Chair)
Kristen Rottinghaus

 

So far, this year, we can thank the hardworking members of the executive committee for:

  • producing two outstanding editions of our newsletter, The Working Paper;
  • creating two webinars, one featuring the research methodology used by the Utah Office of the Auditor General in its 2017 NLPES Excellence in Research Awards winning report, the other on Data Visualization (both of which are available on our NLPES Professional Development Resources webpage), and starting the process of developing a webinar on planning and scoping for the fall;
  • keeping our NLPES webpages up to date, including the addition of a testimonial “slider” that will continue to evolve with additional sliders featuring different NLPES members discussing new topics forthcoming;
  • supporting Louisiana Legislative Auditor staff in their planning of an exciting PDS in NOLA, which will include international representation for the first time that I am aware of (Malcolm Gaston, the Assistant Auditor General of British Columbia, Canada);
  • beginning work on the idea of creating a report library for facilitating access to the publications of our offices;
  • leading the effort to consider all applications for NLPES awards and naming thirty winners;
  • identifying professional journals and topic ideas for advancing our fields; and  
  • carrying out our annual elections to fill the three vacant positions on the committee.

We can also thank Brenda Erickson, our NCSL liaison, whose wealth of knowledge concerning state legislatures and NLPES combined with her hard behind-the-scenes work is invaluable to the success of our society.

In closing, I want you to know that I have thoroughly enjoyed serving you as chair during the past year.  Active participation in NLPES and NCSL is a wonderful way to develop your skills as a professional legislative staffer, to better understand the importance of the legislative institution that we all serve, and to establish connections and friendships that will benefit you both professionally and personally throughout your career.  I encourage you to consider serving on the NLPES Executive Committee when election time rolls around next year. We need you, your enthusiasm, and great ideas. I hope to see you in NOLA!

Linda Triplett is the 2017–2018 NLPES Executive Committee chair. She can be reached at Linda.Triplett@peer.ms.gov. 

Jazz Up Your Evaluation Skills at the 2018 NLPES Professional Development Seminar 

Image of a person playing a trumpetThe Louisiana Legislative Auditor’s office is excited to welcome evaluation and audit staff from around the nation to participate in panels, network with colleagues and improve their skills in one of the most interesting cities in the world—New Orleans, Louisiana. The PDS will be held September 10th – 12th in the Hotel Monteleone, one of the oldest, most historic hotels in the French Quarter. The Monteleone is known for its beautiful lobby, as well as its Carousel Bar, which slowly rotates as you enjoy local cocktails such as the Sazerac, the Hurricane, and the Ramos Gin Fizz.  And, hopefully one of the legendary ghosts will not greet you in the middle of the night! The week of the PDS is also “Restaurant Week” where so many excellent New Orleans restaurants will have fixed price, three-course meals.

The seminar includes a variety of plenary and concurrent sessions including technical skills and topics such as creative data analytics, discussions of reports on cost savings and revenue generation, and human resources/soft skills panels on recruiting and maintaining quality staff.  In addition, we are thrilled to have Malcolm Gaston, with the Auditor General in British Columbia, to discuss evaluations and audits in Canada. We will also have a session focused on improving your leadership skills using the GUMBO recipe for leadership success.

We can’t wait to give you a taste of our unique city, and this year is New Orleans’ 300th birthday so there will be plenty of opportunities to experience New Orleans’ one-of-a-kind culture. Our staff is compiling useful information to help you make the most of your stay in New Orleans. We will include restaurant recommendations and what each is known for, such as turtle soup at Commander’s Palace or fried oyster po-boys at Acme Oyster House. We will also include maps, music schedules (Frenchman Street is a must for jazz), and ideas for excursions that you can schedule on your own, such as swamp tours, the National World War II Museum or cemetery tours. New Orleans has so much to offer beyond the French Quarter so I encourage you to ride a streetcar uptown, shop on Magazine Street and see the beautiful houses on St. Charles. The weather in New Orleans in September will be HOT and HUMID, so please bring shorts, comfortable shoes and other warm weather attire.

We hope to see you in September! Please visit the 2018 NLPES PDS website to register soon. If you have logistical questions, you can contact Brenda Erickson, NCSL liaison to NLPES, at 303-856-1391. If you have questions about the panels and sessions, or want to participate in any of the sessions, you can contact me, Karen Leblanc, Director of Performance Audit at 225-339-3950. 

Laissez les bon temps rouler!

Fun Fieldwork

This column is a relatively new addition to the newsletter designed to highlight fun or unique fieldwork opportunities performance audit/program evaluation offices sometimes participate in to help understand agency programs and operations. If you have a fieldwork experience your office would like to highlight, please email submissions to emily.johnson@sunset.texas.gov.

Auditing in Small Town Georgia | Ian McCann (Georgia)

Here in Georgia, we have 159 counties and about 75% of them are rural. Our fieldwork often takes us outside of the metropolitan-Atlanta area to parts of Georgia where the culture is countrified (pronounced kuhn-truh-fahyd) and the food is crunchy-fried. Here’s one of our favorite “fun” experiences in small town Georgia. 

Picture of a small town in GeorgiaWe drove to a small town with no stop lights to interview the mayor.  The meeting was to begin at 9 a.m. and take place at the “town library” (see wooden building to the far left in the photo). The library was next to a local greasy spoon (the café) in a small “strip mall” (I use that term loosely here) along a two-lane country highway. We pulled up to the gravel parking lot in back of the “strip mall” and as we were about to exit our vehicle, I warned my colleague that a large animal just sauntered up to her door. All I saw was a blur of yellow, which I initially thought was a pig. (We’d witnessed a wild turkey crossing a four-lane highway on another segment of the trip, so a wild pig was not totally out of the realm of possibility.)  Turns out it was only a friendly stray dog. 

 After we leave the car, a friendly local exiting from the back door of the café noticed our business suits and asked why we were there. We told him and he responded “Oh I know Mayor so-and-so, I’m on the City Council.  He doesn’t usually come to the café for another hour—I’ll give him a call and make sure he’s on his way.” We proceeded to the front side of the café and took shelter (out of the rain) underneath the awning in front of the café.  Meanwhile, we had the friendly stray dog to keep us company. Soon after, a cook from the café on a smoke break noticed our suits and asked “Are y’all here for the Dollar General?” (the only large business we noticed on the drive in). We told him we were waiting to meet with the Mayor upon which he responded, “Oh I know Mayor so-and-so, he usually comes in around 10.” As we continued to wait, we were approached by another man who identified himself as (yet another) City Council member, who let us know the Mayor was on his way and he, apparently, thought the meeting was at 10 a.m. instead of 9 a.m.  The Mayor eventually arrived and, after a fruitful meeting, we found the stray dog had waited for us outside of the library and followed us back to the car.

Ian McCann is a team leader with Georgia’s Performance Audit Division. He can be reached at McCann@audits.ga.gov. Photo is from image capture © 2018 Google. The town library is the building to the left and the café is to the right of the library.   

New Technologies

Image of a cursor pointing to the word technologyThis column is a relatively new addition to the newsletter featuring technology trends that can be useful in improving our products and productivity.  

Washington's JLARC Leverages Software for Spatial Analysis| Ryan McCord and Suzanna Pratt (Washington)

Maps are an important tool for communicating geographic relationships. Many of our reports include maps, either to provide context for our conclusions or to illustrate our findings. Using a suite of geospatial processing programs called ArcGIS, Washington State’s Joint Legislative Audit and Review Committee (JLARC) has moved beyond basic maps and begun incorporating spatial analysis into studies.

JLARC staff use ArcMap (one of the ArcGIS programs) to view, edit, create, and analyze geospatial data. ArcMap gives us a new tool to better answer the Legislature’s questions. Three recent studies were heavily reliant on spatial analysis of geographic information.

1. Fees Assessed for Forest Fire Protection
At the request of the Legislature, JLARC staff reviewed assessments paid by forest landowners for wildfire protection activities such as preparedness and training. JLARC staff used geospatial information to analyze land parcels and to highlight pertinent issues in visual presentations to legislators. The analysis involved overlaying parcel boundaries with fire district information. This allowed staff to identify and report parcels that were unprotected – that is, not covered by a fire district or the assessment. Staff used high-resolution aerial imagery from the federal government to show legislators examples of parcels that paid the assessment and parcels that did not. In response to JLARC’s report, the state agency managing the assessment hired a staff member to develop a GIS-based solution to consistently apply the assessment to landowners.

Aerial image and parcel boundaries for some land in Washington



JLARC staff combined aerial imagery and parcel boundaries to show legislators examples of parcels that paid the assessment and parcels that did not. Source: JLARC staff
 

2. Measuring Outcomes of Land Acquisitions and Regulations
The 2016 Legislature directed JLARC to review the amount of habitat land protected by acquisitions and regulations. JLARC staff compiled geographic information from state agencies and stakeholders to shape the scope of the analysis. Staff collaborated with ecologists from the University of Washington to create datasets that represent the geographic area covered by over a dozen land use regulations and acquisition programs. The ecologists created new maps based on existing spatial datasets. For example, to map the area subject to Washington’s wetland protection regulations, they used ArcGIS to:

  • Identify water bodies that met certain criteria.
  • Map buffer zones of different widths around each water body according to the  regulations’ different protection areas for lakes and streams.


    Map of Okanogan County, Washington

    JLARC staff collaborated with ecologists at the University of Washington to create maps of acquired lands and areas subject to land use regulations. The above map shows these areas in Okanogan County, WA. Source: Joshua Lawler and JLARC staff.


     

The ecologists then used the maps to quantify the amount of habitat land covered by acquisition and regulation, and calculated how much of those areas would be usable habitat based on the specific needs of Washington’s terrestrial species. This helped answer the Legislature’s questions about the amount of habitat land protected by regulation and acquisition.

Images of great gray owl and maps of various locations in Washington





Ecologists at the University of Washington estimated the amount of habitat land that overlapped with areas that the state has acquired or is regulating. Acquired land and regulated land are shown in gray. Source: Joshua Lawler.


 

  1. Multifamily Housing in Mason County Tax Exemption
    One of JLARC's ongoing assignments is to evaluate the state's tax preferences, including exemptions, deductions, and deferrals from state taxes. For one property tax exemption for multifamily housing, JLARC staff needed to identify the property areas eligible for an exemption in Mason County, WA. JLARC staff used ArcGIS to identify residential target areas for the exemption – lands that are unincorporated and classified as urban growth areas, meet specific zoning requirements, and are served by a public sewer. Staff combined the resulting map with tax parcel information to identify multifamily parcels in the designated areas. This allowed JLARC staff to illustrate that multifamily housing exists in the target areas for the preference, but that there has been no new activity since the preference began. 

    Image of a community in Washington












    JLARC staff created a map of the community of Allyn in Mason County WA. The yellow areas are the residential target areas for the multifamily tax exemption, and the gray areas are tax parcels that are zoned as multifamily. Source: JLARC staff.


     


JLARC staff are always interested in learning about new audit applications for ArcGIS and other examples of spatial analysis. Many datasets have a spatial dimension, though it may not always be obvious. If your office has examples, ideas, or questions, please get in touch with Suzanna Pratt (suzanna.pratt@leg.wa.gov).

Report Radar | Chris Latta (Pennsylvania)

Image of a magnifying glass over document

“Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon, and the truth.” - Buddha

Good day, fellow seekers and those who aspire to truth and enlightenment as provided by program evaluation.  Welcome to the summer edition of the Report Radar, your holistic source for all things performance. I, your humble scribe, have scoured states (and commonwealths) from across the fruited plain to bring you interesting studies from Alaska, Kentucky, Minnesota, West Virginia, and New Hampshire. So let’s get started.

First in the hopper is a report from the Last Frontier State. The Alaska Legislative Budget and Audit Committee (LBAC) reports that the Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority’s board of trustees violated state law by diverting $44.4 million in cash from the Alaska Permanent Fund Corporation (APFC).  In their performance review, the Committee found that state statutes are explicit in requiring APFC to manage and invest their cash principal. Instead, the Authority directly invested $39.5 million in seven commercial real estate properties – five of which were not in Alaska. 

The investments were handled by the Alaska Trust Land Office (TLO). TLO also managed the properties. Six of the properties were then mortgaged and the cash was used for additional commercial real estate investments – all of which is outside the legal authority of the TLO.

LBAC took the additional step of contracting with an investment firm to evaluate the Authority’s asset management policies for compliance with state investment law and best practices. The investment firm determined the asset management policies lack an entity to address all the trust assets; lack guidance for the commercial real estate investment program; and fail to provide a rationale for using the TLO in the first place.

It gets better (or worse…). Finally, the audit concluded the Authority board did not comply with the Alaska Executive Branch Ethics Act, Open Meetings Act, and the Authority’s own bylaws.  In fact, multiple trustees were intentionally trying to avoid discussing board business in public. Please go HERE to read this report in its entirety. 

Next we turn to our brothers and sisters from the Bluegrass State, where the Kentucky Legislative Research Commission (LRC) conducted a study of that state’s foster care system. The LRC found only 44 percent of children in “out-of-home care” who were eligible for adoption were adopted annually. That percentage equates to 2,257 children who were adopted from 2012 to 2016. However, the percentage of children who are adopted has increased from 38.3 percent in 2012 to 49.2 percent in 2016. 

The LRC report also found lengthy delays in foster care adoption. Further, Kentucky’s Administrative Office of the Courts does not record enough information to accurately judge whether adoption cases are being handled in a timely manner. Contributing to this problem could be the fact that growth in the number of caseworkers has not kept pace with the increase in the number of children entering foster care in Kentucky. According to the LRC report, caseloads exceed national standards. To read this report in its entirety, please go HERE.

Moving north to Minnesota, we turn our attention to a North Star State evaluation of early childhood programs. In their report, the Minnesota Office of the Legislative Auditor found that early childhood programs in that state are complex and fragmented – mainly because of how the programs are funded and variation in eligibility requirements. They also found it impossible to determine the scope of duplication in program funding or services. Lacking a unique identification number for children enrolled in multiple programs overseen by various agencies is the primary culprit. 

The auditor makes several recommendations. The primary recommendations include aligning funding and eligibility requirements of early childhood programs to make them more understandable and efficient. Also, the various agencies that have oversight of the programs should identify the information needed to use a universal identification number for kids participating in early childhood programs. For more information on this report, please click HERE.

Next up, the Mountain State issued a special report on fleet management. The report, conducted by the Performance Evaluation and Research Division of the West Virginia Legislative Auditor, found that only 63 percent of state-owned vehicle met or exceeded the “Monthly Minimum Utilization Requirement” of 1,100 miles. Further, the Division found 603 vehicles with no utilization information whatsoever. Finally, the study found that 42 percent of four-wheel drive state-owned vehicles in Kanawha County were assigned to administrative or executive offices of the agencies the Division reviewed. 

The Legislative Auditor issued several key recommendations, including the following:

  • Discontinuing the use of commuting mileage towards the monthly minimum miles standard.
  • Using alternatives such as pool vehicles, rentals, and reimbursing employees for the use of a personal vehicle if the agency is unable to meet the minimum utilization requirement.
  • Conducting regular reviews of fleet utilization data.

Go HERE for a complete copy of this report. 

Last, but not least, we turn to New Hampshire, the Granite State. The Office of Legislative Budget Assistant (LBA) released a performance audit of the Department of Information Technology. The LBA found that the department struggled with internal challenges pertaining from a lack of “managerial controls, inefficient service delivery, and inefficient financial practices.” To address these findings, the LBA recommended that the Department develop policies and procedures to make sure agencies have an agency information technology plan; create service level agreements that identify baseline services and expectations covering Department service areas; evaluate business needs and mandate the use of systems to fulfill those needs. To review this report in its entirety, please go HERE.

There you have it – our highlighted reports for the summer of 2018.  If there’s a report you fell merits inclusion in the next edition of Report Radar, please feel free to send it my way.

Chris Latta is a project manager with Pennsylvania’s Legislative Budget and Finance Committee. He can be reached at clatta@palbfc.us. 

Research and Methodology


Image of person carrying question mark toward arrows marking different paths to takeLeveraging Compensation to Retain a Qualified State Workforce​ | Kate Agnelli (Virginia)

State governments employ a workforce with a diverse array of skills—from nurses to police officers to electricians—to meet the needs of citizens. Maintaining a stable workforce across sectors requires investments in compensation, but employee compensation is often viewed more as a burden on state budgets than an investment in efficient and effective programs. Given this dynamic, it is critical that states use their compensation dollars strategically to maximize the return on that investment.

In 2017, Virginia’s General Assembly directed the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC) to weigh in on this issue: How can Virginia strategically invest in employee compensation to ensure a stable, qualified workforce? To answer this question, we undertook a “turnover driver analysis,” a quantitative examination of the reasons employees leave their jobs, in conjunction with qualitative methods, to investigate (1) why employees decide to leave their jobs and (2) the role compensation plays in this decision. ?

Understanding turnover in Virginia's state workforce

To understand broadly why employees decide to leave their jobs, we first reviewed the research literature, which indicates that there are a variety of factors, including compensation, career advancement opportunities, and work-life balance, that affect the decision to leave. Through interviews and surveys of state employees, we narrowed the focus of analysis to a primary factor in employee decisions to leave state government: compensation, and in particular, salary (Figure 1). 

FIGURE 1: Pursuit of higher salary is the number one reason Virginia employees consider leaving their jobs

Chart showing reasons why Virginia employees consider leaving their jobs






NOTE: State employee survey (N=4,860 responses). “Reasons” percentages do not sum to 100; employees could select up to three reasons.

Turnover driver analysis and logistic regression

To complete this turnover driver analysis and address our study questions, we used a fixed-effects logistic regression with panel data to understand the link between compensation and turnover while controlling for other relevant factors. Logistic regression modeling is useful in evaluation research when trying to isolate the influence of independent variables on a binary dependent variable or outcome—in this case, whether or not employees leave their jobs. This method allowed us to estimate the effect of factors related to salary on actual employee turnover while holding other important factors constant.

  1. Building the analysis file
    We used state employee occupation, demographic, and salary data from Virginia’s Department of Human Resource Management for fiscal years 2013 through 2016. Using panel data required creating an analysis file that included one record per state employee for each year worked during the time period. The final analysis file included 236,377 observations.

    Constructing this file was the most time-intensive part of the analysis because we had to pull data from two state human resource databases with different file structures. Any offices undertaking a similar analysis should not underestimate the time needed for creating the analysis file.
     
  2. Developing the model
    The first step in building the regression model was to examine the relationship between turnover and each of our potential independent variables—such as occupation, demographic and compensation factors. We chose factors to examine based on our preliminary analyses, what we heard in employee and agency interviews and surveys, and the academic literature. Ultimately, we chose about a dozen variables for our test models.

    Because turnover rates vary widely across occupations, we had to test whether pooling data across occupations would be appropriate. To test this assumption, we ran the same regression model with 10 large occupations. Our results were mostly consistent across the 10 occupations, so we determined that pooling the data was appropriate.

    In the final model, we included fixed effects for occupation and fiscal year to account for the influence of occupation and time. (For a complete explanation of the model and final results, see Appendix G of the JLARC reportjlarc.virginia.gov/2017-state-compensation.asp.)
     
  3. Explaining the results
    Using the model, we found that employees who received a raise in the previous year—regardless of the size of the raise—were less likely to leave the state workforce for another job than those who did not. We calculated marginal effects to explain this relationship because odds ratios, the standard output for logistic regression, are not easily interpreted.

    Marginal effects show how much of a change in the dependent variable—in this case, turnover rate—occurs with a specified change in the relevant independent variable. We calculated marginal effects for each independent variable and found that whether an employee received a raise had a substantial effect on turnover rates (Figure 2). The turnover rate was 1.9 percentage points lower for employees who received a raise in the previous year.

    FIGURE 2: Salary Increases are associated with reduced employee turnover

    Graph illustrating salary increases are associated with reduced turnover





    Complementary analysis demonstrated that state employee raises have been inconsistent in the past 10 fiscal years. The results of the logistic regression analysis, coupled with employee and agency interviews, suggested that regular raises can improve retention. These results call for a consistent approach to investing in compensation, even if the size of that investment has to be smaller due to budget constraints.

    Regression modeling is useful for legislative evaluators, especially in the context of other evidence, but researchers rarely have access to all the variables that affect an outcome. This study was no different—there were factors like career advancement and work-life balance that we could not quantify and thus could not include in the model. Nevertheless, the analysis did support our qualitative evidence that salary increases are useful in maintaining a stable, qualified workforce, and that regular frequency of salary increases appears more important than the size of the increases. This analysis provides legislators with robust information about how to most strategically invest limited dollars for state employee compensation. As a result, the most recent Virginia budget includes raises for state employees, including some targeted to employees in high turnover and hard-to-fill positions.
     

Kate Agnelli is a senior associate legislative analyst  with Virginia's JLARC. She can be reached at kagnelli@jlarc.virginia.gov

news & snippets

A Moment of Personal Privilege: Farewell from a Former NLPES Executive Committee Chair

I’m different.  That is how I started my first column as chair of the NLPES executive committee. The column focused on the differences, and similarities, of the evaluation work we do here at Sunset versus the performance and program evaluation many of you do in audit-based offices. With 12 years passing (quickly) since that column I now feel the field of program and policy evaluation have in many ways merged. In any case, the differences have diminished. 

I see excellent work coming out of the many NLPES offices across the country. The legislatures’ use of the offices for special reports beyond typical program evaluation has clearly expanded. The work is high quality and meets the evolving needs of our legislatures. Much of this work has similarities to the work Sunset performs in Texas.  What it comes down to is this: Legislators want to know if the programs or laws they’ve created are working effectively, or what the expected, and unexpected, impacts have been. From what I’ve seen, you’re doing a darn fine job telling them the story.

As some of you may know, I’m fixin’ to retire at the end of the summer. So I’ll change my short starting sentence now to “I’m a dinosaur”. In my 37 years with the Sunset Commission and the Texas Legislature, I’ve seen enormous change — most very good, some not so much. But as long as program evaluators, and really all legislative staff, maintain civility, professionalism, balance and fend of  bias in our work, we will continue to meet the needs of legislators, and more importantly, the people of our states. Be well everyone!

Ken Levine
Executive Director of the Texas Sunset Advisory Commission

And the winners are...

Congratulations to our 2018 NLPES Award recipients! NLPES awards recognize exceptional performance among our offices. This year’s award winners are:

  • For Outstanding Achievement, the award goes to Dr. Gary VanLandingham.
  • For Excellence in Evaluation, the award goes to the Colorado Office of the State Auditor.
  • For Excellence in Research Methods, the award goes to the Washington Joint Legislative Audit and Review Committee.
  • Certificates of Impact were awarded to 25 states.

For a complete list of award winners and award winning reports, visit the NLPES awards webpage. All awards will be presented during the awards luncheon at the NLPES Professional Development Seminar in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Thanks to all the offices that submitted applications for awards. Beyond individual recognition, your participation promotes the exchange of ideas and information, which benefits all of our offices.

And a special thanks to our judges —your contribution to the success of this year’s awards cycle is greatly appreciated.

Awards Subcommittee: Shunti Taylor (taylorsh@audits.ga.gov) and Melinda Hamilton (mhamilton@audgen.michigan.gov). 

2018 NCSL Legislative Summit Recap​ | Greg Fugate(Colorado)

This year’s Legislative Summit was in sunny Los Angeles, Calif., and had a lot to offer legislative staff. The two general sessions, “CEO Forum: The Next Generation of Innovation” and “Healthy Workplaces: Culture Trumps Compliance,” highlighted the importance of organizational culture and set the tone for many discussions occurring throughout the Summit.

If you’ve never attended before, the scale and scope of the Summit is certainly bigger than what you might be used to from the NLPES fall Professional Development Seminar. But there are ample opportunities for professional development and knowledge building beyond the traditional auditing and evaluation topics. For me, the sessions for legislative staff included the following highlights: “Ethics in the Legislature: How to Avoid the Danger Spots,” “Understanding and Optimizing Workforce Diversity,” “Mentoring, Motivating, and Maintaining Staff,” “How to Measure and Shape Your Organization’s Culture,” and “Being Nonpartisan: The Art of Navigating a Political Landscape.” And, of course, the “Salute to Legislative Staff Luncheon: Play-by-Play Leadership Lessons” celebrated the many contributions and accomplishments of legislative staff. The luncheon’s keynote speaker, Amy Trask, NFL Analyst for CBS Sports, shared with us some of her most memorable leadership lessons in life and in business.

NLPES Chair and Immediate Past Chair on the Red Carpet at the NCSL SummitFinally, the evening social events were enjoyable, especially the closing event on the Paramount Picture Studios backlot. NLPES Chair, Linda Triplett (Mississippi) and I had the opportunity to walk the Red Carpet and mingle with the "stars!"

I encourage you to consider attending a future NCSL Legislative Summit. Each time I attend, I’m reminded about the important work that legislative staff do and the impact we have on improving the quality and effectiveness of our respective state legislatures.

Greg Fugate is the 2017-2018 NLPES Immediate Past Chair. He can be reached at greg.fugate@state.co.us. 

Staff Happenings

Georgia
Georgia’s Performance Audit Division welcomes five new management analysts to its team.

  • John Doerfler received his BA in Political Science and Philosophy from Furman University and has a Masters in International Affairs from Georgia Tech. 
  • Alexander Sawdye has two degrees from the Florida International University – a BA and an MA in History- and an MA from University of Miami in International Relations and Nonprofit Management. He is also an active member of the Army National Guard.
  • Alex Bryant has a BA Dual Degree in Communication and Rhetoric Studies and Spanish from Oglethorpe University as well as an MPA from The George Washington University.
  • Lacey Ricks is a recent graduate of the University of Georgia with a master’s degree in International Affairs. She also has a BA in Communications Studies and Political Science from UGA.
  • Catherine Greene is also a recent graduate of the University of Georgia with a dual bachelor’s/master’s degree in International Affairs and Public Administration.

We look forward to their contributions!

Kansas  
Kansas’ Legislative Division of Post Audit went through a leadership transition this spring. Scott Frank resigned as the legislative post auditor in February 2018 to become the director of performance audits for the Washington State Auditor. Justin Stowe was appointed as his successor in April. Justin served as the interim post auditor immediately after Scott’s departure and was previously the division’s deputy post auditor. He has been with Legislative Post Audit since 2006. Justin has a bachelor’s degree in political science and a master’s degree in public administration from Kansas State University. 

Along with Justin’s advancement, Chris Clarke was promoted from performance audit manager to deputy post auditor. Chris has been with the division since 1995.  She has a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Kansas and a law degree from St. Louis University Law School. While we’re sad to see Scott go and wish him all the best in his new role, we’re also looking forward to this next chapter with our new fearless leaders!

Please let us know if you have staff happenings to share! E-mail emily.johnson@sunset.texas.gov.

Stop the Presses! Performance Reports in the News | Dale Carlson (California)

Image of a boy holding a newspaper with the headline Extra!!

Performance reviews are great in 20-1-8.

OK, fine. I can accept the fact that my poetry is clearly not on the level of Walt Whitman, Shel Silverstein, Robert Frost, or Theodor Geisel. …or perhaps even a 4-year old.

However, don’t let that stop you from checking out the media attention linked below that our member offices received from performance audits or reviews they issued from December 2017 through June 2018.

And adieu, fellow performance practitioners! I now officially pass on the byline for Stop the Presses to my colleague Josh Hooper as I saunter off to other pastures. Keep on ensuring the public trust; Josh needs material for his future editions. 

ALASKA: Division of Legislative Audit

Special audit finds Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority violated multiple state laws

ARIZONA: Office of the Auditor General

Audit slaps TUSD on high costs for administrators, underused schools

State audit finds apparent misuse of ASU student fees

CALIFORNIA: State Auditor

State audit finds lengthy, inconsistent handling of harassment claims by UC

More hate crimes in California than police identified, state audit finds

Inadequate oversight allows poor care at California nursing homes to go unchecked, state audit finds

California does 'poor job' in assisting homeless: state auditor

Auditors Slam California State University System For Putting Student, Employee Health And Safety At Risk

COLORADO: Office of the State Auditor

Colorado audit of substance abuse treatment program reveals gap in state’s data security practices

CONNECTICUT: Performance Audit Unit

Auditors Discover ‘Conflict of Interest’, Overpayments at UConn Health

Audit: Economic Development Agency Erred On Tax Credits, Job Creation Numbers

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: Office of the D.C. Auditor

D.C. Auditor says overtime pay for government workers has 'ballooned' in recent years

Audit: D.C. fails to enforce law requiring contractors to hire out-of-work residents

FLORIDA: Office of Program Policy Analysis & Government Accountability

Florida watchdog proposes new ways to grow lottery sales, boost education funding

GEORGIA: Department of Audits and Accounts, Performance Audit Division

  Auditors: Georgia can’t prove $120 million in teacher bonuses did much

Georgia still diverting most tire-fee money meant to clean up dumps

Future Of Georgia’s Farmers Markets Debated After Audit

HAWAII: Office of the Auditor

Another Hawaii State Audit Questions OHA Grant Spending

State auditor blasts HTA for lax oversight and accountability

Auditors couldn't figure out what this state office does — or plans to do

IDAHO: Office of Performance Evaluations

Report: Children not always represented in Idaho protection cases

Working conditions ‘hostile,’ staff ‘belittled’ at agency overseeing nursing homes

ILLINOIS: Office of the Auditor General

State lease of former furniture store blasted by auditor general

Audit Dings Rauner Administration For Lost Property, Vacant Appointments

Audit finds a mess in $60 billion Medicaid MCO program

KANSAS: Legislative Division of Post Audit

Auditors unable to analyze KanCare data because documentation is so poor

LOUISIANA: Legislative Auditor

Louisiana makes improvements on child care spending

State auditor releases findings of BRPD officers who worked extra duty while on leave

More than 25,000 prescription drugs missing from LA state database

Audit: Sexual harassment lawsuits have cost Louisiana taxpayers $5.1M+ in past decade

MAINE: Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability

Watchdog report cites ‘poor job performance’ by DHHS in deaths of Maine children

MICHIGAN: Office of the Auditor General

Audit: State of Michigan computer systems are vulnerable to attack

Audit: Michigan Could Save Money By Steering Veterans To VA

State nurses working too much overtime, auditors warn

MINNESOTA: Office of the Legislative Auditor

Audit finds several dozen cases of ineligible voting in Minnesota; also some voters wrongly challenged

Legislative auditor: Minnesota failing to protect vulnerable adults in senior facilities

MISSISSIPPI: Legislative PEER Committee

Prison problems put Mississippi's bottle tree movement at risk

Future of Mississippi's waterparks, campgrounds the focus of PEER report

MONTANA: Legislative Audit Division

           Audit calls for more transparency at Montana Department of Transportation

NEW MEXICO: Legislative Finance Committee

New report reveals severe repeat offender problem in ABQ

NORTH CAROLINA: Program Evaluation Division

N.C. Assembly Report Finds Both LMR, FirstNet Necessary; No Duplication

NC audit: Bids, contract for I-77 toll lanes meet requirements

OREGON: Audits Division, Secretary of State

Audit: Public Utility Commission could strengthen oversight of Energy Trust costs

State tracks food stamp fraud

SOUTH CAROLINA: Legislative Audit Council

NEWS: Higher ed underfunded by billions, lottery audit says

TENNESSEE: Administration and Performance Audit Division of State Audit

Auditors ding The Bridge at South Pittsburg nursing home in three findings

TEXAS: State Auditor’s Office

Nearly 24,000 Texas state employees quit in 2017, report finds

Auditors find that water conservation district is out to permanent lunch

UTAH: Office of the Legislative Auditor General

Audit: Despite a steady decline of youths in Utah’s juvenile justice system, spending has increased in recent years

VIRGINIA: Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission

JLARC Considers Cost of Virginia529 College Savings Programs

WEST VIRGINIA: Post Audit Division

Audit targets 2 West Virginia Supreme Court justices

WISCONSIN: Legislative Audit Bureau

Auditors say UW System should tighten financial, ethics controls on foundations

Wisconsin audit critical of State Fair Park management of contracts

Audit: UW System failed to develop 'comprehensive IT security program'

Share your coverage with us! If you would like us to highlight media attention about your reports in our next newsletter, send the hyperlinks to emily.johnson@sunset.texas.gov.

Websites, Professional Development and Other Resources

image of the words Check It Out!

image of an email iconNLPES ListservThe NLPES listserv is an email discussion group for NLPES members. By sending a message to nlpes-l@lists.ncsl.org, you can reach all listserv subscribers simultaneously.  Listserv members can query other states about evaluation work similar to their own projects, receive announcements about performance evaluation reports and job opportunities from other states, and are notified when the latest edition of this newsletter is available!  To join the listserv, send an email to Brenda Erickson, NCSL liaison to NLPES, with the subject “SUBSCRIBE to NLPES Listserv.”  Include your name, job title, audit agency/organization name, mailing address (including city, state, zip code), phone number and email address.  A “Welcome” message will be sent to you once you are successfully added to the listserv.  See the listserv link on the NLPES website for additional information on how to post messages and “netiquette” niceties, like not hitting “Reply All” when answering a query posted to the listserv.  

Are you receiving our listserv emails? Some states’ systems block NLPES listserv emails. If you think you are not receiving our emails, please check your state’s security system and spam filters, and/or contact Brenda Erickson.

Legislative careers websiteKnow someone thinking about pursuing a career with a state legislature? Point them to the opportunities posted on  NCSL’s legislative careers website. Job seekers can explore the types of work legislative staffers perform, including performance evaluation, budgeting, fiscal analysis, legal and policy research and opinions, bill drafting, public relations, librarians, building security, and information technology support. Opportunities are posted by states offering positions under Legislative Jobs. Attracting young people to work as legislative staff will be increasingly important in the coming years. And even though baby boomers make up about a third of the national workforce, nearly half of legislative staff responding to a survey were 50 years old or older. Replacing those staffers will present challenges. Check out the welcome video, “A Day at the Capitol,” and learn more about the opportunities and rewards of working for state legislatures. Watch the videos under Career Paths to hear from staffers in different states describing their jobs and the satisfaction they gain from a public service career.

Image of a stack of booksNLPES' Professional Development ResourcesVisit our NLPES online training library for a variety of refresher and training materials! There are nearly two dozen resources on planning and scoping, fieldwork, writing and publication, and management. Most are PowerPoint slides; some are narrated; a few are webinars or podcasts. Check them out.

 

 

Image for Ask GAO Live Ask GAO LiveAskGAOLive is a 30-minute interface where GAO staff chat about a specific report and research, and answer questions that are emailed or tweeted in. Sessions are recorded and archived on the website. You can also “follow” GAOLive to receive advance notice of chat sessions. Topics include veterans and higher education, prescription drug shortages, prison overcrowding, state and local fiscal outlook, and government contracting.

 

 

 

Capitol dome image Ensuring the Public TrustWhat’s the most common internal performance measure for evaluation shops?  How many offices tweet?  What percentage of staff has fewer than 10 years of experience?  How can you contact a sister office in another state?  Ensuring the Public Trust, summarizes information about legislative offices conducting program evaluations, policy analyses, and performance audits across the country.

 

The Working Paper

The Working Paper is published two times a year by the National Legislative Program Evaluation Society, a staff section of the National Conference of State Legislatures. NLPES serves the professionals of state legislative agencies engaged in government program evaluation. The purposes of NLPES are to promote the art and science of legislative program evaluation; to enhance professionalism and training in legislative program evaluation; and to promote the exchange of ideas and information about legislative program evaluation.

The Working Paper is produced by the NLPES Communications Subcommittee.
Patricia Berger, 2017-2018 chair (PA)
Emily Johnson, newsletter editor (TX)


NCSL Liaison to NLPES
Brenda Erickson, 303-856-1391
brenda.erickson@ncsl.org
NCSL Denver Office, 303-364-7700