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 250 reports on various policy areas designed to accomplish these goals. Recently, we released a series of short essays that highlighted the ways in which past Commission research and recommendations can help guide policymakers as they struggle to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

We continue that work below, covering a range of issues confronting California lawmakers. We intend to publish similar pieces in the future, summarizing the rigorous, fact-based research that is the hallmark of Commission reports, and tying that work to events in the news. In this way, we hope to provide valuable, real-time assistance to 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
Little Hoover Commission

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workers have filed for unemployment benefits through the state’s Employment Development Department since mid-March, yet outdated technology, poor customer service, and chronic inefficiencies are preventing many Californians from receiving the financial help they desperately need.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.


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.



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.

Read more…


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



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.



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.



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.