Lessons from Research

The Little Hoover Commission – America’s only permanent, independent citizens commission working to improve state government – is charged with recommending policy reforms that promote “economy, efficiency, and improved service” for Californians. Since its founding in 1962, the Commission has issued over 265 reports on various policy areas designed to accomplish these goals.

Our blog posts, below, summarize the rigorous fact-based research that is the hallmark of Commission reports and tie that work to events in the news. In this way, we hope to provide valuable, real-time assistance to California policymakers. We hope you will check back in this space often as we connect the work of our Commission to the challenges of our state.

Pedro Nava
Chair
Little Hoover Commission
 

More Little Hoover Commission-Supported Bills Head to the Governor's Desk
September 7, 2022
 

Four Little Hoover Commission-supported bills are now on their way to Governor Gavin Newsom’s desk for his signature. If signed into law, these important bills—SB 975 (Min), SB 914 (Rubio), SB 863 (Min), and AB 1820 (Arambula)—would help protect some of California’s most vulnerable residents and strengthen the state’s response to heinous crimes.

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Examining Organics Recycling in California
July 19, 2022
 

The Little Hoover Commission’s study of organic waste disposal is an opportunity to help ensure that California fulfills its goals of attacking climate change, Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon said in opening the Commission’s first hearing on the topic.

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How California Can Effectively Address its Housing Crisis
April 26, 2022
 

New polling by UC-Berkeley and the Public Policy Institute of California shows that Californians remain deeply concerned about housing costs. In its report, California Housing: Building A More Affordable Future, the Little Hoover Commission provides targeted actions state leaders can take immediately to address the housing crunch and build a more affordable future for everyone. 

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Celebrating Sixty Years of Fighting for Good Government Reform

April 22, 2022
 

Sixty years ago -- on April 24, 1962 -- the Little Hoover Commission held its first meeting. Governor Pat Brown convened the meeting by citing the Commission’s broad authority to, “look into almost any aspect of the operation of state government in the interests of economy and efficiency.” Such work was critical, Governor Brown remarked, because “satisfaction and complacency are enemies of good government.”

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Californians Eager to Vote on Little Hoover Recall Reform Proposals

March 24, 2022
 

Californians are eager to vote on the Little Hoover Commission’s recommendations to reform the state’s system of recall elections, although none of the proposals currently garners majority support, according to new poll results from the Public Policy Institute of California.

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Putting People at the Center of Government
February 1, 2022
 

According to the White House, the annual paperwork burden imposed by executive departments and agencies on the public has been in excess of nine billion hours in recent years. The Biden-Harris Administration hopes to change this. 

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Building Public Trust in California's Election Infrastructure
January 27, 2022
 

Earlier this week, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors unanimously passed legislation that would authorize an open source voting pilot program to be conducted during the November 8, 2022 election in San Francisco. The legislation now awaits Mayor London Breed’s signature. If signed, the pilot program will also need to be approved by the California Secretary of State before it can be implemented.

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How California Can Better Harness the Power of Artificial Intelligence
January 25, 2022
 

The use of artificial intelligence in California is skyrocketing. Harnessing the opportunities of AI safely and responsibly is exactly what the Little Hoover Commission envisioned for California in its 2018 report, Artificial Intelligence: A Roadmap for CaliforniaYet more work must be done if California is to lead the race for AI superiority.

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Occupational Licensing Reform Can Help California Tackle Its Jobs Crisis
January 19, 2022
 

California’s current jobs crisis is two-fold. On one hand, the state is facing a shortage of workers in many licensed occupations that have played—and continue to play—an essential role during the pandemic. Many of these professions—including registered nursesteachers, and mental health professionals—were facing workforce shortages even before COVID.

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Addressing California's Highest in the Nation Unemployment Rate
January 13, 2022
 

California’s workforce is struggling to recover from the pandemic’s devastating impact. In November 2021—the most recent month for which state-level numbers are available—California had the highest unemployment rate in the nation at 6.9 percent, compared to a nationwide rate of 4.2 percent.

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Essential Reforms for California's Veterans Homes
January 11, 2022
 

The California Department of Veterans Affairs (CalVet) has identified six long-term options for the Barstow Veterans Home, which was built to house 400 veterans in the San Bernardino desert but has operated for years at less than half of its capacity. While CalVet does not conclude with a specific proposal for the future of the Barstow Home, the report itself, along with many of its long-term options, echoes recommendations made by the Little Hoover Commission in its 2017 report, A New Approach to California’s Veterans Homes.

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Little Hoover Commission: 2021 Year in Review
December 16, 2021
 

2021 has been a year of challenges and changes as we continue to navigate the pandemic’s impacts. The Little Hoover Commission took these obstacles in stride. We met remotely to save time and money. We produced more reports and more recommendations for policy reform. We reached out to policymakers and the public more – spreading the word about the work we do to make government better.

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Strategies to Improve Long-Term Forest Management
December 2, 2021
 

California is in the midst of yet another record-breaking fire season. Drier droughts and hotter temperatures, exacerbated by climate change, are resulting in longer, more severe fire seasons – and the impacts are devastating. A new report from the Bay Area Council Economic Institute analyzes the massive costs of wildfires and outlines strategies for intervention and resilience, many of which align with recommendations made by the Little Hoover Commission in its 2018 report, Fire on the Mountain: Rethinking Forest Management in the Sierra Nevada.

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The California Rebuilding Fund is Helping Small Businesses Recover from the Pandemic
November 18, 2021
 

Earlier this month, California State Treasurer Fiona Ma and the Small Business Majority co-hosted a webinar on the California Rebuilding Fund, an innovative public-private partnership supporting the state’s small businesses. During the webinar, the Small Business Majority emphasized that even in normal times, small businesses have difficulty accessing capital programs that are free from exorbitant fees or pre-payment penalties.  Because of the pandemic, there are a lot of funding options available to small business owners but many of these options are either too small or very temporary.

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Addressing the Salton Sea Crisis
November 15, 2021
 
California’s new Lithium Valley Commission is currently investigating the potential issues and incentives of extracting lithium, a metal used to make batteries for cars and electronics, at the Salton Sea and will reports its findings to the Legislature next fall. While the abundance of lithium in the Salton Sea is promising, California must also focus on the detrimental effects of the shrinking lake detailed in the Little Hoover Commission's 2015 report Averting Disaster: Action Now for the Salton Sea and in its 2016 letter to the Governor and Legislature on the same topic.
 

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Using Maps to Better Address California's Most Complex Problems
November 4, 2021
 
California’s Environmental Protection Agency (CalEPA) has released an updated version of CalEnviroScreen, an innovative mapping tool that uses geospatial information – data associated with a particular location – to identify communities in California with the highest pollution burdens and vulnerabilities. This project exemplifies the type of multi-agency, collaborative work the Commission called for in its 2019 report, Mapping a Strategy for GIS.
 

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Preparing for Rising Sea Levels
October 27, 2021
 

Some of the most dramatic effects of climate change are projected to occur along the California coast, where rising sea levels threaten communities, supply chains, and transportation hubs. The Little Hoover Commission examined how California should respond to this threat, along with other climate challenges, in a 2014 study. Recently, findings from a new report by Climate Central, an independent organization of scientists and journalists, showcase the continued importance of our study.  

 
Combatting Labor Trafficking
October 20, 2021
 

The Little Hoover Commission’s work on labor trafficking was highlighted at two national conferences this month, a symposium hosted by Arizona State University on Wednesday and the 2021 National Labor Trafficking Conference last week. At both events the Commission joined experts and advocates focused on combatting labor trafficking, a sinister crime that exploits innocent workers and traps them in oppressive situations. 

Adopting a Holistic Approach to Addressing Intimate Partner Violence
June 10, 2021
 

Last week, the Legislature’s Budget Committees approved $15 million for sexual and domestic violence prevention efforts and $100 million for crime victim services in the 2021-22 budget. The Little Hoover Commission emphasized the tragic prevalence and cost of intimate partner violence in its 2020 report Intimate Partner Violence: Getting the Money to Those on the Front Line and its 2021 report Beyond the Crisis: A Long-Term Approach to Reduce, Prevent, and Recover from Intimate Partner Violence

 
Steps to Effectively Enforce Gun Laws
May 18, 2021
 

Last year, California judges issued a record 1,285 gun-violence restraining orders under the state’s red flag gun law, which enables family members and law enforcement officers to request that courts order the removal of firearms from dangerous people. The Little Hoover Commission emphasized the crucial importance of taking guns away from those convicted of domestic violence offenses in its recent report, Beyond the Crisis: A Long-Term Approach to Reduce, Prevent, and Recover from Intimate Partner Violence

 
Mitigating Machine Bias
May 6, 2021
 
Artificial intelligence has the power to transform our society, yet it does not come without risk. In its 2018 report, Artificial Intelligence: A Roadmap for California, the Little Hoover Commission assessed the potential advantages and pitfalls of AI, and recommended a series of steps the state should take to develop strategic leadership. Now, a new report from the Greenlining Institute echoes many of the Commission’s concerns, and highlights the continued importance of our recommendations.
 

 
Innovative Upgrades for California Government
April 26, 2021
 
The COVID-19 pandemic has ushered in a new age of digital connectivity, yet low-income communities and communities of color are too often left behind. A new report from the National Urban League urging government to innovate and provide better digital services parallels recommendations from the Little Hoover Commission's 2015 report, A Customer-Centric Upgrade for California Government
 
 
 
Prioritizing Forest Management
March 5, 2021
 
A century of forest neglect has resulted in dangerous consequences for California. As lawmakers consider funding for forest management projects in the 2021-22 budget, they should consider the Commission's recommendations for promoting healthy, resilient forests. 
 
 

 
Guiding Digital Government Reform
January 5, 2021
 
California has seen a dramatic increase in the use of electronic health records, but has made less progress in connecting doctors and hospitals to systems that share those records. As the state works on that problem, policymakers should bear in mind the recommendations of the Little Hoover Commission’s 2015 report A Customer-Centric Upgrade for California Government.
 

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Customer-Centric Reforms for the Employment Development Department
August 19, 2020
 
The economic fallout caused by the COVID-19 pandemic is unprecedented. Nearly one-third of California workers have filed for unemployment benefits through the state’s Employment Development Department since mid-March, yet outdated technology, poor customer service, and chronic inefficiencies are preventing many Californians from receiving the financial help they desperately need.
 
 
Reforming Mental Health Care
August 4, 2020
 
Across the country, millions of Americans are experiencing increased levels of anxiety and depression due to the health and economic uncertainties of the COVID-19 pandemic. Recent surveys show that pandemic-induced stress and anxiety has negatively affected 56 percent of Americans, and 40 percent have reported feeling symptoms of anxiety or depressive disorders.
 
 

 
 
Evidence-Based Reforms to Reduce California’s Overcrowded Prisons
July 28, 2020
 
California’s overcrowded prisons have become a breeding ground for the coronavirus. The state’s Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation has reported a total of 7,703 confirmed COVID-19 cases in its 35 facilities since the start of the pandemic. As coronavirus cases continue to rise, many including lawmakers and criminal justice scholars have called on Governor Newsom to release some of the system’s 108,000 inmates.
 
 

 
 
Rebuilding Healthy Headwater Forests
July 6, 2020
 
Headwater forests are critical to California’s water supply, a fact made plain by recent state funding decisions. The Sierra Nevada Conservancy awarded more than $8 million in grants for forest health projects funded by Proposition 1 and Proposition 68. Other Conservancy funding went to projects focused on climate change, community resilience, and land conservation that also will benefit forest health.
 
 

 
 
Modernizing Veterans Homes
June 22, 2020
 
California’s steep economic decline brought on by the Coronavirus pandemic has left lawmakers scrambling to close a projected budget shortfall of more than $54 billion. To help shore up this gap, Governor Newsom’s proposed budget called for the closure of the Barstow Veterans Home facility by July 2022, among other changes to the state’s veterans homes program.
 
 

 
 
A Local Model for Wildfire Readiness
June 9, 2020
 
Recently, CAL FIRE announced it would ask property owners to complete “defensible space” self-assessments, as the department is limiting property inspections this year due to social distancing.
 
 

 
 
Wildfire Preparedness and Forest Management
May 20, 2020
 

Governor Newsom updated Californians last week on the state’s wildfire preparedness amid the Covid-19 pandemic and expected revenue shortfalls. Newsom announced that – conditions permitting – the state would soon complete the last of 35 priority forest management projects ordered in the governor’s March 2019 emergency proclamation for wildfire.

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Voting During the Coronavirus Pandemic
May 13, 2020
 

The coronavirus pandemic has challenged America’s electoral system in many ways. By mid-March, leaders in 16 states and Puerto Rico had decided to push back or cancel Primary Elections to limit spread of the virus through in-person voting.

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COVID-19: Preparing for Catastrophic Events
April 16, 2020
 

More than a decade ago, the Little Hoover Commission issued two reports offering recommendations to the Governor and Legislature on how California can better prepare for a catastrophic event and how the state’s public health system can operate more robustly. The COVID-19 pandemic has made it clear that the Commission’s recommendations on disaster preparedness are still vital to ensure that California’s government is prepared to serve its residents effectively during catastrophes.

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COVID-19: Serving the Vulnerable
April 16, 2020
 

From individuals experiencing homelessness or living in poverty to those suffering from mental illnesses, California’s most vulnerable residents are disproportionately affected by the COVID- 19 pandemic. More than 150,000 Californians are currently homeless, while nearly 7 million live in poverty

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COVID-19: The New Role of Tech
April 16, 2020
 

Beyond testing California’s capacity to respond to a massive public health emergency, the coronavirus pandemic has forced state agencies and departments to rapidly ramp-up digital government capacity and deploy technology tools in highly visible ways, with serious ramifications for individuals and communities alike. The coronavirus, though obviously a tragedy, has given digital government a unique opportunity to prove itself.

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COVID-19: Managing Government
April 16, 2020
 

The COVID-19 pandemic is having a dramatic impact on government operations. Large parts of California’s state government workforce have transitioned to remote work, the state is responding to an unprecedented increase in requests for public assistance, and state officials have sought to create an inventory of locations that could be used for hospital beds, shelter for  homeless people, and other forms of pandemic response. These are extraordinary management challenges for state government.

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COVID-19: Rebuilding a Strong Workforce
April 16, 2020
 

California is facing a workforce and educational shortage that is likely only to worsen due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Even before the crisis, the Public Policy Institute of California estimated that by 2030 California will have a shortage of 1.1 million workers holding a bachelor’s degree.

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