Oversight in the 50 States

Checks and Balances in Action – Legislative Oversight across the States: The Levin Center at Wayne Law commissioned a study of each state legislature’s capacity to conduct oversight and the extent to which each state uses that capacity. Find out more about your state’s oversight performance in this unique resource.

Checks and Balances in Action: Legislative Oversight across the States

The Center for Urban Studies (CUS) investigation examines the practices and processes of legislative oversight across the 50 states, endeavoring to understand both the institutional oversight resources available to state legislators and the extent to which legislators actually use these resources to oversee the workings of state government.

The research team spent more than 18 months investigating checks and balances from the perspective of state legislative oversight of the executive branch. They focused initially on official policies and then moved on to examine the extent to which these powers are exercised in practice. To do this, they gathered data on state legislative oversight by examining documents and web sites, listening to committee hearings, reading committee minutes, searching news media accounts, reading audit reports, and conducting interviews with knowledgeable sources in the states. The availability of evidence of oversight differed significantly among the states, making the analysis for some states clearer and more detailed than others.

For ten states, chosen from those initially judged to have more extensive oversight resources, the researchers completed a more substantial case study of their processes and practices to determine how they use the tools they have.  For the remaining 40 states the report provides a basic summary of legislative oversight, emphasizing their resources and capacities. Although the study sought to provide a picture of these states’ use of oversight, in the time available, it was not possible to study the 40 in sufficient depth to be confident of their processes and practices. Therefore, these 40 summaries are a more preliminary assessment of oversight in these states.  The summaries did, however, despite their limitations, help identify some recommended best-practices as summarized in Appendix A that could be adopted by other states to facilitate solution-driven, evidence-based, and bipartisan legislative oversight.

For an accessible version of our 50 state study, please download the full report or select a state of your interest from the list of state reports. 

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Overall Institutional Capacity for Oversight

State Overall Institutional Capacity for Oversight Rating
Alabama Moderate
Alaska High
Arizona Moderate
Arkansas Limited
California High
Colorado High
Connecticut Moderate
Delaware Moderate
Florida Moderate
Georgia Moderate
Hawaii High
Idaho High
Illinois High
Indiana Limited
Iowa Limited
Kansas Moderate
Kentucky Moderate
Louisiana Moderate
Maine Moderate
Maryland High
Massachusetts Moderate
Michigan Moderate
Minnesota High
Mississippi Moderate
Missouri Moderate
Montana Moderate
Nebraska Moderate
Nevada High
New Hampshire Moderate
New Jersey High
New Mexico Moderate
New York Moderate
North Carolina Moderate
North Dakota Moderate
Ohio High
Oklahoma Moderate
Oregon Moderate
Pennsylvania Moderate
Rhode Island Limited
South Carolina High
South Dakota Limited
Tennessee Moderate
Texas Moderate
Utah Limited
Vermont Limited
Virginia Limited
Washington Moderate
West Virginia Moderate
Wisconsin Moderate
Wyoming Limited

Overall Use of Institutional Capacity for Oversight

State Overall Use of Institutional Capacity for Oversight Rating
Alabama Moderate
Alaska Moderate
Arizona Moderate
Arkansas Limited
California High
Colorado High
Connecticut High
Delaware Moderate
Florida Limited
Georgia Limited
Hawaii High
Idaho Moderate
Illinois High
Indiana Moderate
Iowa Limited
Kansas Moderate
Kentucky Moderate
Louisiana Limited
Maine Moderate
Maryland High
Massachusetts Moderate
Michigan Moderate
Minnesota High
Mississippi Moderate
Missouri Moderate
Montana Moderate
Nebraska Moderate
Nevada High
New Hampshire Moderate
New Jersey High
New Mexico Moderate
New York Limited
North Carolina Moderate
North Dakota High
Ohio Moderate
Oklahoma Limited
Oregon Moderate
Pennsylvania Moderate
Rhode Island Minimal
South Carolina Moderate
South Dakota Limited
Tennessee Limited
Texas Limited
Utah Moderate
Vermont Limited
Virginia Limited
Washington Moderate
West Virginia Moderate
Wisconsin Moderate
Wyoming Moderate

Oversight through Administrative Rule Review

Some legislatures have authority to review existing rules; many legislatures have authority to review proposed rules.  These powers vary widely across the states.

Click on a state to see that state’s rating.

StateOversight through Administrative Rule Review Rating
AlabamaLimited
AlaskaLimited
ArizonaMinimal
ArkansasModerate
CaliforniaMinimal
ColoradoHigh
ConnecticutModerate
DelawareMinimal
FloridaModerate
GeorgiaMinimal
HawaiiMinimal
IdahoModerate
IllinoisHigh
IndianaMinimal
IowaModerate
KansasLimited
KentuckyLimited
LouisianaModerate
MaineMinimal
MarylandModerate
MassachusettsMinimal
MichiganMinimal
MinnesotaModerate
MississippiMinimal
MissouriModerate
MontanaLimited
NebraskaMinimal
NevadaHigh
New HampshireModerate
New JerseyLimited
New MexicoMinimal
New YorkLimited
North CarolinaModerate
North DakotaLimited
OhioModerate
OklahomaLimited
OregonMinimal
PennsylvaniaLimited
Rhode IslandMinimal
South CarolinaModerate
South DakotaLimited
TennesseeModerate
TexasMinimal
UtahModerate
VermontLimited
VirginiaMinimal
WashingtonLimited
West VirginiaLimited
WisconsinHigh
WyomingMinimal

Oversight through Advice and Consent

Some legislatures must approve specific acts of the governor, such as appointments, reorganizations, and executive orders.  For some legislatures approval is optional.

Click on a state to see that state’s rating.

Oversight through Analytic Bureaucracies

Almost all states have an auditor general or an equivalent office. Many states also have other analytic bureaucracies, such as fiscal agencies. While the scope of authority, selection process, size, and power of these offices vary, they are a critical part of a state’s ability to conduct audits, evaluate programs, and oversee contracts.

Click on a state to see that state’s rating.

State Oversight through Analytic Bureaucracies​ Rating
Alabama Minimal
Alaska High
Arizona Moderate
Arkansas Minimal
California High
Colorado High
Connecticut Moderate
Delaware Minimal
Florida Moderate
Georgia Moderate
Hawaii Moderate
Idaho Limited
Illinois Moderate
Indiana Moderate
Iowa Moderate
Kansas Moderate
Kentucky Moderate
Louisiana Moderate
Maine Moderate
Maryland High
Massachusetts Moderate
Michigan Moderate
Minnesota High
Mississippi Moderate
Missouri Limited
Montana Moderate
Nebraska Moderate
Nevada High
New Hampshire Limited
New Jersey High
New Mexico Moderate
New York Limited
North Carolina High
North Dakota High
Ohio Moderate
Oklahoma Limited
Oregon High
Pennsylvania High
Rhode Island Minimal
South Carolina Moderate
South Dakota Minimal
Tennessee Moderate
Texas Moderate
Utah Moderate
Vermont Moderate
Virginia Moderate
Washington Moderate
West Virginia Moderate
Wisconsin High
Wyoming Limited

Oversight through Appropriations Process

As legislatures make decisions on the amount of money to provide to various departments and programs through appropriations, they commonly review prior performance.

Click on a state to see that state’s rating.

State Oversight through Appropriations Process Rating
Alabama Limited
Alaska High
Arizona Moderate
Arkansas Limited
California High
Colorado High
Connecticut Limited
Delaware Moderate
Florida Moderate
Georgia Moderate
Hawaii Moderate
Idaho Limited
Illinois Moderate
Indiana High
Iowa Limited
Kansas Moderate
Kentucky Moderate
Louisiana High
Maine Moderate
Maryland High
Massachusetts Moderate
Michigan Moderate
Minnesota High
Mississippi Moderate
Missouri Moderate
Montana Moderate
Nebraska Limited
Nevada High
New Hampshire Moderate
New Jersey High
New Mexico Moderate
New York Moderate
North Carolina High
North Dakota Moderate
Ohio Moderate
Oklahoma Moderate
Oregon Limited
Pennsylvania High
Rhode Island Limited
South Carolina Moderate
South Dakota Moderate
Tennessee Moderate
Texas Limited
Utah Minimal
Vermont Moderate
Virginia Limited
Washington Moderate
West Virginia Moderate
Wisconsin Moderate
Wyoming Limited

Oversight through Committees

Legislatures have standing committees responsible for authorizing and overseeing state agencies and programs.  Some legislatures also create committees with specific responsibility for audits and oversight.  Some legislatures create special committees, including interim committees, to address particular problems.

Click on a state to see that state’s rating.

State Oversight through Committees Rating
Alabama Limited
Alaska Moderate
Arizona Moderate
Arkansas Limited
California High
Colorado High
Connecticut Moderate
Delaware Limited
Florida Moderate
Georgia Minimal
Hawaii High
Idaho Moderate
Illinois Moderate
Indiana Moderate
Iowa Limited
Kansas Moderate
Kentucky Moderate
Louisiana Limited
Maine Moderate
Maryland High
Massachusetts Moderate
Michigan Moderate
Minnesota High
Mississippi Moderate
Missouri Limited
Montana Moderate
Nebraska Moderate
Nevada High
New Hampshire Moderate
New Jersey High
New Mexico Moderate
New York Moderate
North Carolina Limited
North Dakota Moderate
Ohio High
Oklahoma Limited
Oregon Moderate
Pennsylvania High
Rhode Island Moderate
South Carolina Moderate
South Dakota Limited
Tennessee Moderate
Texas Moderate
Utah Limited
Vermont Limited
Virginia Limited
Washington Moderate
West Virginia Moderate
Wisconsin High
Wyoming Moderate

Oversight through Monitoring Contracts

An increasing amount of state government work is being performed by private contractors.  A few state legislatures have undertaken the responsibility to oversee private contracts.

Click on a state to see that state’s rating.

State Oversight through Monitoring Contracts Rating
Alabama Moderate
Alaska Limited
Arizona Minimal
Arkansas Minimal
California Minimal
Colorado Minimal
Connecticut Limited
Delaware Limited
Florida Minimal
Georgia Minimal
Hawaii Moderate
Idaho Moderate
Illinois Limited
Indiana Minimal
Iowa Minimal
Kansas Limited
Kentucky Limited
Louisiana Moderate
Maine Minimal
Maryland Moderate
Massachusetts Limited
Michigan Minimal
Minnesota Minimal
Mississippi Limited
Missouri Minimal
Montana Minimal
Nebraska Minimal
Nevada Limited
New Hampshire Minimal
New Jersey Limited
New Mexico Minimal
New York Minimal
North Carolina Limited
North Dakota Limited
Ohio Limited
Oklahoma Minimal
Oregon Minimal
Pennsylvania Minimal
Rhode Island Limited
South Carolina Minimal
South Dakota Minimal
Tennessee Moderate
Texas Limited
Utah Minimal
Vermont Minimal
Virginia Minimal
Washington Limited
West Virginia Minimal
Wisconsin Limited
Wyoming Minimal

State Oversight Summaries

For more details or to discuss your state report, please email Benjamin.eikey@wayne.edu