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July 2012

Contents

Picture of Capitol DomeChair’s Corner
Scott Sager (Wisconsin)


Summer is a time for blockbuster movies, vacations and sunburns in the shape of bicycle helmet vents on a rapidly balding head.  (I’m still adapting to this new hair situation.)  Summer is also a time to highlight what NLPES has been doing and to foreshadow coming attractions.

Peer Reviews
As you may know, with the assistance of performance evaluators and auditors from member offices, we work with NCSL to coordinate peer reviews.  Most recently, evaluators from three states completed a peer review of Nebraska’s Legislative Audit Office.  Agencies are already scheduling reviews into 2014, so we must be getting this thing right.

Reports and Guides
The Office of Program Policy Analysis & Government Accountability (OPPAGA) in Florida recently published the most recent edition of Ensuring the Public Trust.  This report continues to be a useful guide for member offices, legislators and their staff, and the public to help them understand the operations of evaluation offices throughout the states.  Thank you, OPPAGA staff for all of your hard work in developing this report.

In addition, the Legislative Staff Coordinating Committee, which is made up of officers of the NLPES Executive Committee and officers from other NCSL staff sections, recently completed the NCSL Self-Assessment Guide for Legislative Staff Organizations.  If you are looking to refocus or refine your organization, this guide can be a useful step in identifying soft spots.

Training Opportunities
If you are attending the NCSL Legislative Summit in Chicago, please note the several NLPES co-sponsored panels on audit effectiveness and oversight.  However, I am most excited about the 2012 NLPES Professional Development Seminar (PDS), which will be hosted by the Georgia Department of Audits and Accounts in Atlanta in October.  They are putting together a great program focused on skill-building and ways to address evaluation challenges.  I am also pleased to announce that NLPES is once again collaborating with the Pew Center on the States to offer stipends to PDS attendees. Please watch the listserv and the NLPES website for updates on conference registration and stipends.
 
Last, but not least, I would like to formally welcome Brenda Erickson, who is our new NCSL staff liaison. Brenda is instrumental in helping the NLPES Executive Committee stay organized and moving forward. If you have any questions about NLPES services or events, she is more than happy to assist you.
 
Thank you for your service to your states and to your communities.  Have a great summer.  –Scott Sager


 
Picture of Capitol DomeReport Radar
Angus Maciver (Montana)


Greetings fellow auditors and evaluators!  Welcome to another edition of Report Radar, your source for what is happening in the wonderful world of legislative program evaluation and performance audit.  The first half of this year has been typically productive. Highlighted here for your reading pleasure are reports on employment and jobs, education, financial and fiscal matters, the judicial branch, and state employees.

Jobs, jobs, jobs have been a focus for many offices this year.  Included in a clutch of reports addressing employment and workforce issues were reports addressing the federal Workforce Investment Act by the California State Auditor, and the workforce development system in North Carolina.  Both these reports provide good broad-based reviews of state workforce development programs.  Unemployment insurance continues to attract attention and was the focus of reports from three states; South Carolina, Delaware and Virginia have all released reports in the past few months addressing different aspects of their states’ unemployment insurance programs.

Increasing enrollments and tuition payments are resulting in a renewed focus on higher education in many states.  Student fees were the subject of an October report from Utah, and Utah focused on higher education again in November with a report addressing graduation rates.  Our people in Idaho have also been looking at higher education and released a report in January on reducing barriers to postsecondary education.  K-12 education has also been getting attention and we recommend a recent report from Florida, which looked at the relationships between teacher education levels and student readiness scores.  Teacher qualifications were also the focus of a report from Connecticut, which addressed different regulatory approaches for the teaching profession.  Finally, if charter schools are an area of interest in your state, you may want to read reports from Hawaii and New Jersey, both of which discuss the management and operation of charter schools.

Despite the somewhat brighter fiscal outlook in many states, financial and fiscal management issues continue to darken the horizon.  In January of this year, our friends in Georgia took a look at the state’s process for issuing general obligation bonds.  If you are interested in state investment practices, you should probably also check out a May report from Louisiana, which reviewed leveraged fund investments by the state’s retirement systems.  You may also be interested in a fascinating report from the Texas Legislative Budget Board addressing the fiscal impacts of drought and wildfires on state government.  Finally, as cost-conscious legislators demand detailed estimates of the financial impacts of new proposals, we could all benefit from reading two recent reports from Minnesota and West Virginia, which addressed the accuracy of fiscal notes used in the budgeting process.
 
The often-neglected branch of government, also known as the judicial branch, is the focus of three reports from our member offices.  The Texas Sunset Commission released a report in May on the state’s oversight of judicial branch officers and functions.  Also released in May was a report from Washington looking at judicial branch process for handling involuntary civil commitments.  Rounding out this category is a report from the Maryland Office of Legislative Audits, which addressed the timeliness of civil court cases.
 
This edition’s final category includes a trio of reports addressing state employees.  Kansas had a very interesting look at how much revenue could be generated by mandating state residence for state employees, Tennessee reviewed hiring and promotion practices in the state’s civil service system, and Illinois examined management of workers’ compensation programs for state employees.  All three are excellent products and worthy of your attention.
That makes 23 reports from 20 different states, any of which will be more satisfying than whatever your book club picked this month.  Happy reading auditors and evaluators!



Picture of Capitol DomeStaff Spotlight
Megan Garth (California)
 
 

(Ed. note:  This is the first of what we hope will be an ongoing series of articles written by staff who are relatively new to performance evaluations.  We believe these staff members all have unique stories that describe how they joined the profession and what they like about it so far.  We also believe that others in the profession would enjoy these stories.  If you would like to submit your own story, please send it to Brenda Erickson, NCSL Liaison to NLPES, at brenda.erickson@ncsl.org.)

My road to being a performance auditor with the California State Auditor was not as direct as I would have hoped.  But I’m glad I’m here now.  I remember standing in front of the job board in Pepperdine’s School of Public Policy when I saw a flyer for an internship with the California State Auditor. The Capitol building’s dome on the flyer was eye catching and I was immediately drawn in.  For many years I had dreamed of working in government and this flyer seemed to be calling to me.  As I read the details of the flyer, I remember thinking, “What does an auditor do?” My immediate thoughts lead me to think the internship had something to do with tax auditing.  I thought I was immediately out of the running because I had no knowledge of taxes and I’ve never been particularly good with numbers.

As I kept reading the flyer, I became highly impressed when I saw that the California State Auditor conducted performance audits to help keep California government agencies accountable.  The office’s published reports often resulted in substantial legislative influence.  Now this was something I could do! As a person who strives to do right by others, my community and my country, the idea of working for a government agency that aims to achieve these goals was the major clincher for me.  However, by the time I had seen the flyer, the deadline for the internship had passed.  Instead, I worked other internships with the Los Angeles Mayor’s Office, the Governor’s Office and even the Dubai School of Government.

The next time the California State Auditor came back into my life was when I met two of its recruiters at a career fair. In talking with them, I learned so much more about the California State Auditor.  Since the application was due in a week and I was nearing the end of my graduate studies program, I took a chance and applied for a full-time job there.  The multi-stage application process was challenging (in a good way) and I came away from it even more convinced that I could really put my deductive reasoning skills to use on the job.  In August 2011, the State Auditor offered me a job as an Auditor Evaluator.  I was very happy about the offer and accepted it immediately.

I believe that this time in my life is a good point to begin work with the California State Auditor.  I am originally from Riverside, California, and lived in Santa Barbara and Los Angeles for a time. I have held a variety of jobs, volunteered for organizations, fundraised, and run several marathons.  I believe that all of my life experiences, especially those in the last several years gave me the wherewithal and the maturity to handle performance auditing.  Now that I have been an Auditor Evaluator for a time, I can see that I’m right because I often draw upon my previous experiences in this position.

In my short time at the California State Auditor’s office, I have been on two performance audits, one for mutual aid provided during emergencies and the other for housing bonds. These audits have shown me that there are several aspects about my job that I love.  One thing is that I can be creative.  For instance, I can devise my own testing methods and decide what pieces of information are important.  Also, it amazes me how much my knowledge about a topic grows daily, from a shaky idea of what I might encounter to becoming an expert in my assigned subject.  For example, during my audit of the state’s mutual aid system, not only did I learn that such a system actually existed (I’d never heard of it previously), but I also learned about the various types of fire trucks, gallons-per-minute rates and other factors related to fighting wild fires.  It took a lot of personal energy and time to learn the overwhelming complexity of that system but I found it exciting to figure out how all of the various pieces of information fit together.  The challenging nature of auditing can be tough at times, but exciting as well.  Additionally, I enjoy the variability of my days.  While I usually have an idea of what I’ll be doing from one day to the next, things can change rather rapidly, depending on the circumstances of the audit.  This position has greatly expanded my skill set as well as given me an opportunity to do what I love: writing.

One final thing I like...my office is highly supportive. There are a plethora of training sessions offered, some of them mandatory, others optional. This provides a great way for me to improve my knowledge of auditing standards and procedures, as well as to learn how to avoid certain ethical situations that may impair my ability to be impartial. The atmosphere is one in which everyone is mutually supportive of each other’s progress and growth. Overall, my experience has been extremely positive and I’m grateful to know that my work can have an impact.  –Megan Garth, Auditor Evaluator I, California Bureau of State Audits


 

Picture of Capitol DomeNew NLPES Survey Released
Kathy McGuire (Florida)


How many evaluation shops use the yellow book, hold press conferences, or experienced recent political threats to downsize or merge?  The newly released Ensuring the Public Trust is the result of a nationwide survey of legislative program evaluation offices conducted by the National Legislative Program Evaluation Society. It summarizes information about these legislative program evaluation offices, including the roles these offices play, their products and the impact their studies have in their states. It also includes one-page profiles of each office and how to contact it.  This report is now available online through NLPES. 



Picture of Capitol DomeAnd the Award Goes to ...
Lisa Kieffer (Georgia)


It’s not easy to be a program evaluator!  Year in and year out, you work long hours, striving to improve your state’s efficiency and effectiveness. 

Your dedication is appreciated!  Each year, NLPES presents awards to several individuals or offices for their noteworthy accomplishments.  This year, NLPES is proud to recognize:

  • Phil Leone, retired director of the Virginia Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission, for outstanding achievement and contributions to the field of legislative program evaluation. 

  • The Texas Sunset Advisory Commission for excellence in evaluation.

  • The Idaho Office of Performance Evaluations, the Utah Office of the Legislative Auditor, and the Virginia Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission for excellence in research methods.

  • Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, New Mexico, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington and West Virginia for reports that provided a public policy impact within their states.

 Please join us in a round of applause to congratulate your NLPES colleagues!! 



Picture of Capitol DomeBylaws Amendment Proposed
Brenda Erickson (NCSL)


To clarify the process for filling vacancies, the NLPES Executive Committee recommends amending Bylaws Article VII to read: 

ARTICLE VII:  Vacancy
In the event of death, disability, removal or resignation of any member of the executive committee, the unsuccessful candidate who had the highest vote count in the most recent NLPES election shall be offered the seat for the remainder of the that seat’s term.  If there is no such candidate, then the executive committee shall elect appoint a member of NLPES to serve in that seat until the next election for the remainder of that seat’s term. 

Pursuant to Bylaws Article IX, NLPES members must be given notice of proposed amendments to the bylaws.  In June 2012, you received (hopefully) the first notice of the proposed amendment via the listserv.  Just in case, here’s another reminder.  The NLPES Executive Committee will take its final vote on the amendment during its meeting at the NCSL Legislative Summit in Chicago.  



Picture of Capitol DomeNLPES at the Summit
Brenda Erickson (NCSL)


The National Conference of State Legislatures will hold its 2012 Legislative Summit in Chicago, Illinois, August 6-9.  For legislators and legislative staff alike, the Summit is a time to learn.  More than 100 informational programs take place during the 4-day meeting. 
 
NLPES has planned several great sessions during the Summit.

  • On Monday, August 6th, NLPES will join the NCSL Legislative Effectiveness Committee in sponsoring the session, Using the Audit Tool:  A Critical Link to Effectiveness, which will look at audit and program evaluation organizations.

  • On Wednesday, August 8th, NLPES will join the Legal Services Staff Section and the National Association of Legislative Fiscal Offices in sponsoring the session, Legislative Oversight of Federal Funds, which will explore the general and legal roles of state legislatures in the federal grant-in-aid system.

  • On Thursday, August 9th, NLPES will join the National Association of Legislative Fiscal Offices in sponsoring two sessions:  Studying Retirement and Results First—Targeting Resources at Programs That Work.  The first session will address Virginia’s process for studying and evaluating its retirement system.  The second session will highlight a budgeting approach that enables legislators to identify and compare the return on investment that programs achieve with taxpayer dollars.

The Summit also is a time to network with colleagues from across the country.  Get together with your NLPES counterparts during a Dutch-treat dinner on Monday, August 6th and a networking breakfast on Wednesday, August 8th.  Or you can join your NLPES friends during the Illinois Host State events being held on Tuesday, August 7th and Thursday, August 9th.
 
For more information about programming during the 2012 NCSL Legislative Summit, see the Summit Page or the NLPES Agenda.




Picture of Capitol DomeMark Your Calendars
Lisa Kieffer (Georgia)



Picture of Atlanta CapitolMark your calendars for the
2012 NLPES Professional Development Seminar
 
Atlanta, Georgia
October 1-3, 2012
 
 
NLPES will host our Professional Development Seminar at the Georgian Terrace Hotel in Atlanta.  The seminar will offer professional development opportunities for program evaluators of all skill levels. 
 
Planned sessions include skills panels on topics such as interviewing and data analysis, as well as presentations on cost savings reports and other relevant content areas.  Additionally, Results First initiative of the PEW Center on the States will provide an update on states applying the cost benefit analysis tools.
 
Rates
Registration: $350
Hotel:  Georgian Terrace Hotel $149/night           
 
Mark your calendar and plan to attend!  
More details coming soon to the NLPES homepage. 


NLPES-NEWS is published 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.

 

2011-2012 NLPES Communications Subcommittee:

Dale Carlson (CA)
Charles Sallee (NM)
Karl Spock (TX)
NLPES website

www.ncsl.org/programs/nlpes/
NCSL Liaison to NLPES: 
Brenda Erickson
303-856-1391
brenda.erickson@ncsl.org
National Conference of State Legislatures • 7700 East First Place • Denver, Colorado 80230 • 303-364-7700