A Treasure Trove of Management Action: Executive Orders
Executive orders from the governors can be difficult to read and often are surprisingly ignored by the local press. But they are critical documents and provide a powerful guide to gubernatorial executive office management direction, goals and strategic priorities.
The following is the first installment of a regular and unique quarterly Barrett and Greene, Inc. look at executive orders and the management trends they reveal. It covers the third calendar quarter of 2023 (plus October), Our periodic reviews will focus on management – and not politically charged issues. These reviews will also exclude emergency responses to natural disasters, occasional honorifics, personnel matters, and ultra specific actions (for example, demolishing a single structure on state land).
In this review, we’ve focused only on gubernatorial actions in the states with new governors: Arizona’s Katie Hobbs; Arkansas’ Sara Huckabee Sanders; Hawaii’s Joshua Green; Maryland’s Wes Moore; Massachusetts’ Maura Healey; Nebraska’s Jim Pillen, Nevada’s Joe Lombardo; Oregon’s Tina Kotek, and Pennsylvania’s Josh Shapiro.
For interested readers who want to track the executive orders in their own states or regions, the resources section of this website features a map that leads to links to executive orders in all fifty states.
Here’s the scoop for the period we just explored:
New task forces, study groups, and advisory bodies were a dominant theme. This is not surprising as governors in the first year of their first term launch multiple new programs and are actively looking for stakeholder and expert council. Examples include the Maryland Governor’s Council on the Chesapeake and Coastal Bays Watershed and a separate task force about oysters. In Arkansas, the Governor ordered a comprehensive analysis and report on water needs, while Pennsylvania’s governor established a behavioral health council and Massachusetts’ governor launched the Governor’s Youth Advisory Council and a new housing advisory council.
New commissions and governing boards also surfaced. They generally have greater ability to exert influence than advisory groups. Executive orders since July set up the Generative AI Governing Board in Pennsylvania; the Commission on Energy Infrastructure Siting and Permitting in Massachusetts, and the Commission on Unlocking Housing Production in Massachusetts.
Staff capacity issues in state and local government sparked several executive orders tied to specific shortages. In Nevada, a September order temporarily removes “Certain Hiring Criteria Regarding Minimum Qualifications and the Usage of Certain Selective Criterion in Hiring,” while also dealing with minimum qualifications for steps up the classification ladder.
Analysis and use of data and equity metrics are increasingly on the front burner. For example, On July 26, 2023, the 33rd anniversary of the passage of the Americans with Disability Act, an executive order in Massachusetts set up a “Digital Accessibility and Equity Governance Board,” with a newly created Chief IT Accessibility Officer, who is tasked with designing and implementing a way to track and report on digital accessibility and equity metrics – to be displayed on a “public facing dashboard.”
The importance of planning, also came up as reflected in Arizona’s August executive order, which covered “Extreme Heat Planning and Preparedness.”
Agency coordination, cooperation and collaboration, was seen in several states including Hawaii’s two proclamations relating to affordable housing in Mid-September and late October.
Evidence-based practices were demonstrated by Pennsylvania’s new behavioral health council which will recommend to the Governor a statewide action plan, that creates “timely and quality mental health and addiction care services, in a culturally relevant, trauma-informed, and recovery-oriented manner, through an evidence-based behavioral delivery system.
Many executive orders will hit on a topic and then cover multiple management and performance issues that relate. In Hawaii, for example, a “Second Proclamation Relating to School Bus Services” addresses the current shortage of school bus drivers, by ordering the suspension of some civil service laws that might stand in the way of hiring qualified personnel. That order also includes a temporary suspension of Hawaii procurement code that could serve as a block to providing school bus services.
Other management topics that surfaced repeatedly with this batch of executive orders reflected items in the news including infrastructure challenges, AI, climate change, affordable housing, behavioral health and substance abuse, and homelessness.