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MANAGEMENT UPDATE.

GOVERNOR EXECUTIVE ORDERS: THE LOWDOWN ON 4TH QUARTER 2023

In “A Treasure Trove of Management Action: Executive Orders,” which we published on October 31, we promised to review governor executive orders each quarter. 


We believe that this series is the only up-to-date coverage of this important topic available anywhere and it’s not a light lift. As Ballotpedia reported on January 16, U.S. Governors produced 1,514 executive orders in 2023.  Though many of them have short-term impact – for example orders to lower flags at half-mast – others provide a powerful way to fully grasp the most salient policy and management issues on governors’ minds. 



Some critical executive orders are reactive – based on the need to address a state tragedy or budget surprise. For example, on October 17, North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum signed an order calling for a special session of the legislature after the State Supreme Court ruled a many-faceted bill, containing its budget, unconstitutional.


We forged our way through all of the ones issued between October 1 and December 31, 2023, and closely examined the truly substantive ones; 75 in all in the 4th quarter of 2023. (We’ll do this again for the first calendar quarter of 2024.)


The most frequently covered topics in the last quarter concerned:


The state workforce and areas of staff shortage, including the following:


  • Maryland Gov. Wes Moore (November 17) – promoting apprenticeships and community hiring.

  • Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (December 8) – extending the use of the Florida National Guard to assist the Department of Corrections because of critical workforce shortages.

  • Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz (October 30) – downplaying the need for college education in hiring, focusing on equity considerations, retention problems, and better outreach, and another skill-based hiring one from Nevada Gov. Joe Lombardo on December 15.

  • Nebraska Gov. Jim Pillen (November 9) – requiring that all public servants employed by Nebraska should perform their work “in the office, facility or field location assigned to their agency and not from a remote location” starting on January 2, 2024. (The order granted exceptions for areas in which critical workforce shortages still exist.)


Note: Multiple orders from other governors earlier in 2023 also focused on decreasing minimum qualifications, downplaying educational credentials and pushing hiring authorities to focus on skills-based hiring. 


Substance Abuse and Mental Health, including:


  • Pennsylvania Gov Joshua Shapiro (October 10) – Establishing the Pennsylvania Behavioral Health Council, citing statistics that showed over half of the state’s adults with mental illness have received no treatment.

  • New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham  (December 29) Executive order to renew the “State of Public Health Emergency Due to Drug Abuse”

  • Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin (November 1) – Ensuring that schools notify parents in the case of drug overdoses that are school-connected. The order was made in reaction to an incident in Loudon County Schools in which there was a more than 20-day delay in notifying parents about drug overdoses treated with Naloxone in the county schools.


Election Security, Management and Policy, including:

  • Colorado Gov. Jared Polis (October 31) – Activating the Colorado National Guard to help deal with Election Cybersecurity Defense Efforts. 

  • Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (December 18) – Putting voting best practices into place for “all departments and autonomous agencies”. 

  • Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt (December 11) –creating the “Governor’s Task Force on Campaign Finance and Election Threats” 


Artificial Intelligence, including:

  • New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (October 10) – establishing New Jersey’s new Artificial Intelligence Task Force.

  • Oregon Governor Tina Kotek (November 28) – creating a State Government Artificial Intelligence Advisory Council.

  • These actions followed AI executive orders earlier in the year, including ones from governors in California, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Wisconsin. Add to that, a couple of new AI executive orders in January 2024 from Maryland and another from Virginia.


Some additional findings:

  • As with all state matters, gubernatorial habits and rules vary tremendously, with some governors signing very few while others – particularly newer governors – produce many. 

  • It’s not hard to tell party affiliation in the tone and subject matter of many of the executive orders. 

  • Certain issues come up in smaller less populated states that are not a concern (or at least not a concern anymore) in larger ones. For example, in New Hampshire, one of Gov. Chris Sununu’s 4th quarter 2023 orders focuses on his hopes to delay the need for a second state area code. (Only nine states currently have just one area code.)


A word on task forces, advisory boards, councils, commissions etc. 


You’ll notice that a number of task forces and advisory councils were mentioned in the four topic areas above. Our explorations of executive orders now and in the past have shown the creation of advisory bodies, study groups and new commissions can be the management tool of choice for governors who are intent on addressing state problems and finding solutions.


 In addition to those mentioned above, 4th Quarter 2023 saw new or reconstituted advisory bodies set up to consider criminal justice issues, equity, grants management, higher education, housing, infrastructure, and state-focused anniversaries.  


New commissions also were formed or continued on the prevention of “Intimate Partner and Gender-Based Violence (Arizona), to “Investigate the Facts of the Tragedy in Lewiston” (Maine), “Unlocking Housing Production (Massachusetts), “Early Learning Investment (Pennsylvania) and “Citizen Law Enforcement Advisory and Review” (Pennsylvania).


Please visit the resource page on our website to read Governor executive orders from every state, which we link to in a 50-state map. 


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