SOA Symposium in Review

In November, the State Oversight Academy held its inaugural symposium – an all-virtual event dedicated to fostering meaningful conversations between scholars who study oversight and public servants who have dedicated their careers to it.

You can watch the full event on our website.

The symposium consisted of three panels. In each one, scholars who had submitted a working paper were paired with an oversight practitioner to provide comments on their work. The goal, as the State Oversight Academy’s Academic Director, Marjorie Sarbaugh-Thompson, put it, was to help “ground academic research in the realities of day-to-day governing and expand the options and perspectives of practitioners and academics in their work” – to bridge the gap between theory and practice.

Professors Seth Hill and Pamela Ban of the University of California San Diego presented their working paper, “Efficacy of Congressional Oversight,” which was reviewed by Joe Coletti, Oversight Staff Director at the North Carolina General Assembly.

Professor Dan Butler of Washington University of St. Louis presented a paper he coauthored with Professor Jeff Harden of the University of Notre Dame: “Can Institutional Reform Protect Election Certification?” It was reviewed by Kade Minchey, Auditor General for Utah’s Office of the Legislative Auditor General, whose office recently [IM1] [KG2] completed a performance audit of Utah’s election system just last year.

Finally, Professor James Strickland of Arizona State University presented his paper on conflicts of interest among the clients of multiclient lobbying firms: “Why Hospitals Hire Tobacco Lobbyists.” He received feedback from David Orentlicher, who serves in the Nevada House of Representatives, previously served in the Indiana House of Representatives, and holds both a JD and an MD. He is also a law professor at the University of Nevada Las Vegas.

The scholars who participated indicated that the symposium achieved its goal of making practical connections and broadening horizons. Said one, “The comments from our discussant were insightful and practical. He gave great direction on how to take our current project and make it something that would have a greater impact. It was a great experience, and we are really glad we did it!”

The State Oversight Academy focuses on making connections – connections between academics who study state oversight, connections between public servants across the country who do the work of oversight, and connections between scholarship and practice. The November symposium did just that.

Perhaps it is a cliché to suggest that “more research is needed” on an issue. When it comes to oversight in state government, though, it could not be truer. Most of the work of governance in the United States goes on not in the halls of Congress, but at the state level. At the same time, a disproportionate amount of academic attention is focused on Congress rather than on state governments, and on legislation rather than oversight.

The State Oversight Academy is here to change that, and this year’s symposium is just the start. If you are a scholar with an interest in government oversight at the state or local level, or if you are a practitioner looking to share your knowledge or sharpen your skills, let us know! Our team would be glad to hear from you, and you just might wind up in our 2024 Symposium.

To inquire about the 2024 Symposium, contact Kyle Goedert at