Building Capacity: Agencies, Officers and Labs
In recent years, many legislatures have looked to build capacity for their state’s use of data and evidence, frequently through the creation of new government agencies and officer positions. For example, Indiana lawmakers created the Indiana Management Performance Hub (MPH) in 2017 to build upon prior efforts to support data-driven decision-making and promote data sharing across state government. The agency, housed within the Office of Management and Budget, plays a key role in establishing data privacy and security standards, conducting operational and procedural audits of state agencies, and advising agencies on implementing continuous process improvement. In addition, MPH maintains the Indiana Data Hub, which securely houses actionable data from state agencies to promote analysis, collaboration and innovation. To increase state employee knowledge of data issues, MPH launched a data proficiency program in 2021. State employees can earn badges by completing lessons and passing quizzes focused on real world applications of data.
Indiana’s MPH is led by a chief data officer—a position several states have created to advise state agencies and lead state efforts on data issues. Connecticut, for example, established a chief data officer position through legislation in 2018 to promote data use and management and to facilitate data sharing across state agencies. Connecticut’s chief data officer, along with agency data officers, must also develop a state data plan and make recommendations concerning standardizing and integrating agency data systems. Several other states, including Arkansas, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon, Virginia and Texas, have also enacted legislation in recent years to create chief data officer positions.
Legislative action has also led to the creation of agencies such as Alabama’s Commission on the Evaluation of Services (ACES), established in 2019. The legislation that created ACES specifies that its purpose is to advise the legislature and governor regarding evaluations of services, which includes evidence-based policymaking. ACES is comprised of members of the legislature and governor appointees. The commission produces reports evaluating a range of state programs, from teacher recruitment to programs impacting crime.
Oklahoma has taken a different approach to bolstering its data use by launching a state agency housed within the legislative branch. Created by SB 1 during the 2019 legislative session, the Oklahoma Legislative Office of Fiscal Transparency, also known as LOFT, seeks to help the legislature “in making informed, data-driven decisions that will serve the citizens of Oklahoma by ensuring accountability in state government, efficient use of resources, and effective programs and services.” To that end, LOFT conducts financial analyses, performance evaluations and independent comprehensive performance audits to provide data and information about how state agencies are operating. A 14-member committee of state legislators oversees LOFT’s work and can direct the office to conduct agency investigations.
Within legislatures, states have also created task forces and other committees that seek to enhance data-driven governing and improve service delivery. A 2019 bill in Arkansas established a Data-Sharing and Data-Driven Task Force, which consists of 12 state legislators tasked with studying and exploring the potential for a statewide data sharing system.
States are also allocating funds for partnerships and collaborations with research institutions to enhance capacity and support evidence-informed policymaking. New Jersey’s 2021 budget provided $1 million to establish a policy lab at Rutgers University. The New Jersey State Policy Lab conducts rigorous research to improve data use in the development and evaluation of state programs. Recent reports produced by the lab have analyzed telemedicine’s impact on health equity gaps, how cannabis-related businesses affect home prices and the COVID-19 pandemic’s effects on childcare.
Measuring Performance: Budget Process and Beyond
State legislatures are also turning to performance measures to inform funding decisions and to better understand government operations. For example, Minnesota law requires agency performance data to be included in budget proposals to allow the legislature to determine how successful programs are, to encourage agencies to develop program goals and to strengthen accountability. Utah recently established a performance reporting system through 2021’s HB 326 (which was modified in 2023 by SB 296) that requires the Office of the Legislative Fiscal Analyst (OLFA) and the Governor’s Office of Planning and Budget (GOPB) to work with agencies to develop performance measures for certain funding items. In addition, OLFA and GOPB will develop a system to collect, track and publish these measures and report relevant performance information to legislative appropriations committees and the governor, respectively.
New Mexico’s Legislative Finance Committee has taken an innovative approach to promote data-driven conversations about agency performance by launching the LegisStat initiative in August 2021. As part of LFC’s “Legislating for Results” framework, the LegisStat initiative is centered on regular, committee-driven hearings that focus on tracking agency performance measures over time and addressing any issues through action plans. To date, several state agencies, including the Tourism Department, Department of Workforce Solutions, and Higher Education Department, have participated in the LegisStat process.
Outside the budgeting process, states are also using performance measures to track and report on progress in other areas. For instance, Washington state has incorporated data and performance metrics into its focus on promoting equity through the creation of the Office of Equity in 2020 legislation. Among other duties, the office is charged by statute with creating data collection standards and performance metrics to track population-level outcomes of communities. Part of this work includes creating an online performance dashboard that will show state agency performance on measures of equity.
State legislatures have myriad strategies and options to enhance data and evidence use in state government. From requiring evidence to support programs in targeted policy areas to creating agencies tasked with overseeing and facilitating the use of data and evidence, states have diverse tools at their disposal. If trends seen in recent years are any indication, state legislatures will continue to innovate and find new ways to incorporate the best available information, evidence and data into their funding decisions and ultimately drive better results.
NCSL’s Center for Results-Driven Governing has resources and tools for helping states use data and evidence to inform policy and budget decisions. Visit the CRDG homepage for more information.