Thursday, September 16, 2010

Strategic Issues Program to study the future role of state governments

The University of Denver’s Strategic Issues Program (SIP) has assembled a panel of 21 experts in industry, advocacy, government and academia to develop recommendations for state government operations in the 21st century, Program Director Jim Griesemer announced Aug. 11.

During a news conference at the Colorado state Capitol in Denver, Griesemer said virtually all state constitutions were developed in the 18th and 19th centuries. Over time, the relationships between state, municipal and federal governments have evolved. And now, in the 21st century, states are saddled with myriad roles and are struggling in difficult economic times.

“The question is, ‘How do states deal with this new normal?’” Griesemer said. “Are there some things states are doing that they just don’t need to do?”

The panel will meet about twice a month through February to hear from leaders in virtually every aspect of state government operations. The first panel meeting will be Aug. 12, when panelists will hear from Charlie Brown, director of the DU Center for Colorado’s Economic Future, and Todd Saliman, director of the Colorado Governor’s Office of State Planning and Budgeting.

Brown’s center was asked by the state Legislature to examine Colorado’s revenue streams and funding mechanisms this year. The report is due to lawmakers by February.

Griesemer said that while the SIP panel will look at state revenues, its recommendations will address a broader spectrum of issues.

“There is a much more interesting and important question to address, and that is, ‘What is the role of state governments?’” Griesemer said. “If one were starting over, what would a state government do?”

Griesemer said the final report and recommendations will be available to policy leaders, lawmakers and the public next summer. The report is expected to address what services states should provide, what roles could be privatized and what roles could be shared with nonprofits and faith-based organizations. Nothing is off the table, he said.

“The panel has the luxury of working outside the box,” he said. “It’s a pretty large and pretty ambitious undertaking.”

The study is the fifth large-scale effort tackled by an SIP panel. Previous studies have examined and made recommendations on immigration, water use, and the state’s economic future.

Chancellor Robert Coombe said this year’s study will cover an extremely broad issue and have the freedom to pursue and examine whatever issues affect state governments.

“It’s going to be a fascinating, fascinating year,” he said.

A complete list of public meetings and a full list of speakers and panelists is online.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Live Chat Today at Noon (MST)

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Release of the 2009 Strategic Issues Panel Report on Immigration

Today, the University of Denver released its year-long report on immigration.

Read the report

Over the past year, the University of Denver Strategic Issues Program brought together a nonpartisan panel of business, civic and academic leaders to study the issue in depth and develop recommendations. Panel members received some 30 presentations from individuals in academia, government, business, labor, law enforcement, education, health care and other fields.

Watch videos of speaker presentations

The result is the report: Architecture for Immigration Reform: Fitting the Pieces of
Public Policy
. The report is comprehensive and specific. It contains 25 recommendations dealing with basic reform of the immigration system, illegal immigration, employment verification, use of national identification cards, English language proficiency, borderenforcement, visa simplification, family unification and many other topics.

As you read this report, you will find that in spite of the many dimensions of the issue and
the disparate perspectives brought to the table by the panel members, a thoughtful, factbased
approach did indeed bring consensus.

We hope that the work of the panel and the ideas presented in this report will stimulate similarly civil, thoughtful, fact-based debate among the public at large and its representatives in government, such that this broader conversation might lead to a consensus for action.

Monday, June 15, 2009

February 26, 2009 Immigration Issues Panel Meeting

Don Mares, the Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment and Ann Morse, the Program Director of the Immigrant Policy Project for the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) addressed DU’s Strategic Issues Panel on Immigration on Thursday, February 26, 2009.

Mares reminded the panel that immigration is a sign of a good country—people want to come here. However, because the federal government has failed to adequately deal with the issue, states are forced to address and deal with immigration, particularly illegal immigration.

Unfortunately, like many state departments who are forced to enforce state and national immigration laws, the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment has limited resources and personnel. His department has a direct role in enforcing Colorado’s HB 06-5 1017, passed during the 2006 special legislative session. The bill requires documentation and affirmation that employers have checked their employee’s immigration status. The Department of Labor is responsible for performing audits of employers. Given the Department’s lack of resources, Mares said, it focuses on employer education to assist Colorado’s employers in complying with the law.

Ann Morse of NCSL put forth the idea that state and local governments have a role in assimilating immigrants into their communities, specifically by assisting with language acquisition.

She described some of the recent state legislation re: immigration nationwide. Many states, she explained, are reacting to the federal government’s failure to reimburse them for the costs they’ve incurred in enforcing federal immigration laws. Individual states have also addressed the higher education and health care needs of illegal immigrant children. Of particular interest to states was 2005’s REAL ID Act which imposed requirements for state-issued drivers licenses and id cards.

Don Mares’ and Ann Morse’s full presentations can be viewed from the Strategic Issues Panel’s website:

2/12/2009: Interview with Josh Bernstein - Immigration Director, SEIU (Service Employees International Union)

On Thursday, February 12, 2009, DU’s Strategic Issues Panel on Immigration heard from business and labor representatives.

Josh Bernstein, the Immigration Director for the SEIU (Service Employees International Union) told the panel that there is broad agreement that current situation is a human rights and bureaucratic nightmare. Not only is the current system impractical, but it is inconsistent with our values.

As a fact of life, immigration itself isn’t good or bad, he reminded the panel.

Like Chuck Berry, Bernstein reiterated that immigration to the U.S. would probably decline due to the waning performance of our economy.

Immigrants represent 12% of the U.S. population. They and their families are interwoven into our society. They represent 15% of the U.S. workforce and 20% of the low-wage workforce.

He presented the questions: “Why have there been so many immigrants and why is the system broken?

In terms of percentage of our population, the U.S. does not have the highest number of immigrants.

Migration happens on a global scale and displaced populations result from destabilization in countries and regions all over the world. The U.S. is not the only country dealing with the fact of immigration.

Our response has been to try to control the numbers of immigrants. This approach has resulted in the professionalization of immigrant smugglers, Bernstein said. Whereas there once was a circular migration flow between the U.S. and Mexico, current U.S. immigration policies make it harder to leave. It then becomes more expensive and dangerous for Mexican workers to come here. Even though 40% of our illegal immigrant population have overstayed their visas, we have militarized our border and expanded prisons.

He provided the panel with an alternate approach: managing immigration. This vision would include:

  • Earned legalization
  • Investment in education – language support, job training, education
  • Integration for migrants into society and economy

You can hear and see more of Josh Bernstein’s presentation to DU’s Immigration issues Panel here.

2/12/2009: Interview with Chuck Berry – President, Colorado Association of Commerce and Industry (CACI)

On Thursday, February 12, 2009, DU’s Strategic Issues Panel on Immigration heard from business and labor representatives.

Chuck Berry, President of the Colorado Association of Commerce and Industry (CACI) presented his ideas for immigration policy reform.

In 2007, he said, CACI adopted the U.S .Chamber of Commerce's policy on immigration, which includes the following points:

- Increase national security
- Support the employee verification program
- Support a temporary worker program
- Recruit foreign workers when domestic workers are unavailable
- Provide a legal pathway to citizenship
- Require English language proficiency

The vast majority of employers, Berry said, don’t knowingly employ illegal immigrants. And while some states require the use of E-Verify, employers may operate in several states. Employers don’t want to enforce immigration laws set at the national and state levels.

He also recommended the use of a tamper-proof identification card which would help employers ensure they are hiring legally eligible workers. Such an ID card would use the technology we have available but which we aren’t now using to enforce immigration laws.

You can watch Chuck berry’s full presentation here.