The Government Domain: State Government FundamentalsBy Peggy Garvin, Published on May 29, 2007
This column usually focuses on U.S. federal government web resources. For a change, we'd like to turn the spotlight to the states with a guide to some of the most useful, free web reference sources covering the governments of the fifty states. These resources are not specific to a single state, but rather provide nationwide coverage of state information. They can help you find state personnel, news, legislation, laws, regulations, policy updates, and statistics. The following list highlights helpful information available from many websites, but it is by no means comprehensive.
State Government Directories
On its USA.gov website, the General Services Administration (GSA) maintains direct links to the central websites for the fifty states, the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Federated States of Micronesia, Guam, Midway Islands, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. (GSA manages the dotgov Internet domain that state governments use.) The side panel of this USA.gov web page includes other directories, among them:
- State and Territorial Contact Directory. Phone numbers for each state's central information line and governor's office, along with web links, maintained by GSA.
- State Agencies by Topic.
- External links to lists such as Attorneys General, by State and Historic Preservation Agencies, by State
- Don't miss the link to Lottery Results from State Lotteries, compiled by GSA.
This commercial, advertising-supported guide to state websites is maintained by Hello Metro, a company that operates hundreds of online city guides and classified ad sites. Like USA.gov, this site compiles links to state agency pages by topic, such as parks, health, and public safety.
Before the web, many state governments published "blue books," official state government directories that were alternatively called legislative manuals or state manuals. Yes, the book covers were often blue. Some states still publish blue books in print, some have created online equivalents, and some have both print and online versions. Each blue book is different, but typically they are good sources for background information on state government, legislative districts, elections, history, state symbols, and statistics. The Oregon Blue Book online edition is an excellent example of adapting the manual to a website.
The National Governors Association (NGA) provides this portal to information on state governors, including contact information for current governors and their staff members, such as media contacts and Washington representatives.
Courts and Legal Directories
There are many mega-directories of online legal information. Washlaw Web, maintained by the Washburn University School of Law, is one of the longest-lived. State links are listed along the left side of the main page. For each state, Washlaw links to a wealth of online material including the administrative code and regulations, official legislative information, courts, statutes, state constitution, legal news, and the state bar. Another popular mega-site, Hieros Gamos, also has a US State Law page, which includes links to uniform laws and to professional associations related to state and municipal government.
The National Center for the State Courts (NCSC) maintains this directory of State Court Web Sites. It includes links to local and municipal courts. The site also links to tribal court sites and charts of the structure of each state court system.
LLRX.com provides this database of links to over 1,400 sources for state and federal court rules, forms, and dockets. Browse by jurisdiction (state), and choose the type of document and specific state you need to access. The contents can also be searched by word.
Researcher Kathy Biehl compiled this annotated guide to corporate filings information available from the fifty states. Business librarians at Rutgers University Libraries provide a similar, but pared down, list of links in their U.S. State Corporations Databases guide.
Many of the more comprehensive sites described above provide basic links to state legislatures and legislative information. The National Council of State Legislatures (NCSL) has a unique online database of state legislature links. Select one, several (hold down the Control key and select), or all states, and choose the type of information you need. The database includes links to the legislatures' home pages, bill status databases, issue reports, directories of legislators, press rooms, and more. NCSL also maintains a page reporting current and historical party composition of the state legislatures.
The National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS) website has a special page on elections and voting information. It includes:
- Election Official Directory, with mail, phone, and web address information for local election officials.
- NASS Calendar of 2008 Presidential Primary/Caucus Calendar, linked from the Presidential Primaries page.
Elections for statewide offices are being held in a handful of states in 2007. The Stateline.org interactive 2007 state office elections guide for the states can be viewed through the link from this news story.
This USA.gov page links to a selection of state and local statistics sources from both government and nonprofit websites.
The Census Bureau's Statistical Abstract of the United States includes rankings of the fifty states by such criteria as "Population 65 Years Old and Over" and "Energy Consumption Per Capita." The Statistical Abstract also reports on State and Local Government Finances and Employment.
News and Issues
This site from the National Center for State Courts links to resources from NCSC and elsewhere on court administration topics such as judicial compensation, grand juries, and family courts. Not all linked resources are online; some must be obtained from a library.
This is the web site for Governing magazine. Aside from the magazine, the site provides links to daily online newspapers for a variety of current news in such sections as In The States and The Feds (covering federal actions affecting the states). Governing.com also has plenty of related state government links on its own Internet Resources page.
NCSL maintains this database of fifty-state compilations covering various issues of concern to state legislators and legislative staff. Browse by topic - such as health, environmental protection, and telecommunications and information policy - to link to the resources.
Funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts, Stateline.org reports state government news and organizes it by state and by issue area, such as crime and courts, energy, and health care. Each issue area includes links to sources for further information. Stateline.org also provides RSS news feeds by state and by issue area.
Stateline.org offers a state-by-state list of blogs concerned with state politics and government.
The 13th Floor is Governing.com's lively blog on state and local issues. The blogroll in the left column links to blogs around the nation that comment of the affairs of state governments.
NCSL describes its blog as "a bipartisan blog by and for legislative junkies." Reports from the U.S. Congress and foreign legislatures make on occasional appearance alongside news from the state capitols.
The State Services Organization (SSO) coordinates services for the Washington offices of the states, U.S. territories, and associations of state officials housed in the Hall of States Building on Capitol Hill. One of the benefits SSO provides is an excellent library and information service. The SSO Library Blog alerts readers to information resources of interest, such as government and think tank reports on state data, immigration, health care, and other topics.