Our American States

By NCSL

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Episode Date
The “Why” Of Working in the Legislature | OAS Episode 129

This is a special episode of “Our American States” to observe Legislative Staff Week 2021. This annual event recognizes the enormous contributions that thousands of legislative staffers make every day in statehouses across the nation.

Our guests are Sabrina Lewellen, deputy director and assistant secretary of the Arkansas Senate, and Eric Nauman, lead fiscal analyst for the Minnesota Senate.

Our focus on this podcast on the “why” of legislative service. As legislatures have grown more partisan and often become more challenging environments in which to work, we asked our two guests, both longtime staffers, to talk about what motivates them, how they deal with the stress and what advice they would offer their colleagues.

Sabrina Lewellen, ArkansasEric Nauman, Minnesota

 

 

 

 

Resources

May 02, 2021
Children, Mental Health and Schools | OAS Episode 128

Sending kids back to the classroom is a goal across the country for many reasons. Along with concerns about falling behind academically and parents’ need to have children in school, experts also are concerned about mental and behavioral health needs. Studies indicate children in need of such services are much more likely to receive them at school.

Our guests include Craig Wethington with the Minnesota Department of Education. He discusses how his state has used collaborative improvement and innovation networks, or CoIINs, to improve the quality of school mental health services. He also talks about a community survey of students that indicates many kids were struggling with mental health issues even before the pandemic and how the legislature in his state worked to improve mental health programs.

Another guest on the show is Rebecca Astorga with the Arizona Department of Education. She discusses programs and resources states can employ to bolster their mental health services and the role that Project AWARE, a federal grant program, has played in expanding the capacity of the state to address mental health issues among young people.

We also talk with Noah Cruz, an NCSL policy researcher, who offers some background on the topic.

Noah Cruz, NCSLCraig Wethington, Minnesota Department of EducationRebecca Astorga, Arizona Department of Education

 

 

 

 

Resources

Apr 19, 2021
Evictions and the Pandemic | OAS Episode 127

Emily BenferMillions of people are evicted from their homes every year in America and the COVID-19 pandemic has only made the situation worse. While poverty in America has been studied extensively, much less is known about evictions. In the last 20 years, the Eviction Lab at Princeton University has gathered records on more than 80 million evictions. Matt Desmond, who created the Eviction Lab and authored the Pulitzer Prize winning book “Evicted,” was interviewed on an earlier episode of “Our American States.”

To discuss how the eviction crisis has grown during the pandemic, we invited Emily Benfer on the podcast. Benfer, a visiting professor of law at Wake Forest University and an expert on housing and health law, is the co-creator of the COVID-19 Housing Policy Scorecard with the Eviction Lab and principal investigator in a study of nationwide COVID-19 eviction moratoriums and housing policies. She also chairs the American Bar Association's COVID-19 Task Force Committee on Eviction.

Benfer explains how the pandemic has exacerbated the eviction problem, who is being evicted and how the recently extended federal eviction moratorium factors into the situation. She also explains the role state policymakers can play in implementing state eviction moratoriums and how some legal procedures can help people facing eviction.

Resources

Apr 12, 2021
Understanding the Quad Caucus | OAS Episode 126

The Quad Caucus is a coalition of the four national caucuses of color representing Asian-Pacific American, Black, Native American and Hispanic  legislators. Combined, the four groups represent more than 1,400 state lawmakers. The group came together in 2012 with the support of NCSL and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and is focused on promoting equitable outcomes in all communities focusing on people of color in the areas of health, education, economic security and justice.

On this podcast we talk with Washington Rep. Sharon Tomiko Santos (D) and Kansas Rep. Barbara Ballard (D). Both are veteran legislators and longtime members of the Quad Caucus. Santos and Ballard discussed the work of the caucus and the effort to create more diverse legislatures.

Kansas Rep. Barbara BallardWashington Rep. Sharon Tomiko Santos

 

 

 

Resources

Apr 05, 2021
Building Democracy: The Story of Legislatures | Episode 5

Overview

Podcast logoNCSL’s Our American States podcast presents a special six-part series, “Building Democracy: The Story of Legislatures.” This new mini-series covers the history, characters and stories of state legislatures in America, from the beginnings in Jamestown, to the present day and into the future.

Each episode in the series will contain interviews with experts from inside and outside the legislative world to provide a comprehensive view of historical events and their legacy in today’s legislatures. Extras will include extended guest interview clips, articles in NCSL’s State Legislatures magazine, blogs and resources for those who want to dive deeper into topics covered in the podcast.

Episode 5

The fifth installment of NCSL’s six-episode podcast series takes place in the not-too-distant past. The work of legislating changed dramatically between the 1960s and the 1990s, resulting in more responsive and representative legislatures.

By the early 1900s, legislatures had become increasingly dependent upon the executive branch, decreasing their coequal status in state government. Beginning in the late ’50s and early ’60s, demands on legislatures grew and lawmakers and their constituencies became more diverse.

In response to 20th-century challenges, lawmakers began to spend more time on the job, with sessions getting longer and more frequent, often including interim work. These changes, along with exponential increases in the number of legislative staff, brought the work of legislators and the mission of legislative institutions into a new age.

Delve into the characters, stories and organizations that believed in representative democracy and the legislative institution enough to come together and study, innovate and create stronger legislatures.

Guests

  • Representative Senfronia Thompson, Texas | Bio
  • Former Senator Fred Risser, Wisconsin | Bio
  • E. Dotson Wilson, former chief clerk, California State Assembly | Bio
  • Speaker Bryan Cutler, Pennsylvania | Bio
  • Bill Pound, former executive director, NCSL | Bio

Additional Resources

Mar 17, 2021
Trends in State Immigration Law | OAS Episode 125

Ann Morse, NCSLA new report from NCSL, “Immigrant Policy Project: Report on State Immigration Laws, 2020,” summarizes state laws and resolutions enacted between January and December 2020 and trends in immigration legislation throughout the year.

The report’s author, Ann Morse, is federal affairs counsel for NCSL’s Immigrant Policy Project and a longtime observer of state legislation related to immigrants. Morse is the guest on this podcast.

Morse discusses the findings in the report, including a trend to address occupational licensing laws to reduce barriers to employment for foreign trained professionals who are in the country legally. She also talks about legislation related to education, law enforcement, driver’s licenses and more.

It’s been 35 years since the federal government has enacted comprehensive immigration legislation and Morse explains how that has motivated states to take action on their own and the possibility of action at the federal level under the new administration.

Resources

Mar 14, 2021
Census Delays and Redistricting | OAS Episode 124

The U.S. census is an enormous once-a-decade undertaking aimed at counting everyone in the country. Despite its scope and importance, the census rarely makes headlines. This past year, however, upset virtually everything in society and the census was no exception. The data state legislatures rely on for redistricting congressional and state legislative seats will not be available until Sept. 30, six months later than usual.

James Whitehorne, chief of the Redistricting and Voting Rights Data Office at U.S. Census Bureau, is the first guest on the podcast. Whitehorne discusses how the pandemic affected the bureau’s ability to collect data, other challenges the bureau faced, the success of using online forms and offers some historical perspective on the 2020 count.

The second guest is Wendy Underhill, who oversees the Elections and Redistricting Program at NCSL.  Underhill discusses steps states are taking to deal with the delayed data delivery and how it might affect election filing dates, and also reminds listeners that he census forms the basis of how the federal government distributes about $1.5 trillion annually to states.

James Whitehorne, U.S. Census BureauWendy Underhill, NCSL

 

 

 

Resources

Mar 07, 2021
COVID-19 and the Criminal Justice System | OAS Episode 123

Like many areas of society, the criminal justice system has struggled over the last year dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. The Council on Criminal Justice, a nonpartisan think tank that works to advance understanding of the criminal justice system and help inform the development of public policy, decided to take a deep dive into the system to see how it was coping. The council formed a task force in mid-2020 to examine how the criminal justice system has responded to the pandemic, offer guidance in the short term on how to deal with those challenges and a longer term assessment to help criminal justice leaders develop policies for the future.

The guests on this podcast discuss what they discovered, the type of guidance the council offered leaders in the criminal justice system and what needs to change to prepare for the next catastrophe.

Our guests are  Abby Walsh, the council’s vice president for strategy and operations,  and Thomas Abt, director of the task force and an expert on criminal justice policy. He is also the author of “Bleeding Out: The Devastating Consequences of Urban Violence—and a Bold New Plan for Peace in the Streets.”

Abby Walsh, CCJThomas Abt, CCJ

 

 

 

Resources

Mar 01, 2021
Isolation and Loneliness Amid the Pandemic | OAS Episode 122

Social isolation and loneliness are topics most of us have first-hand experience with after a year of a pandemic has left us unable to spend time with family and friends. The ill effects of such  isolation are not just on our mental health but also can affect our physical health just as much as cigarette smoking or obesity.

Our guests are Julianne Holt-Lunstad, a professor of psychology at Brigham Young University in Utah,  and Lori Gerhard, director of the Office of Interagency Innovation at the U.S. Administration for Community Living.

Holt-Lunstad, who has studied the topic for decades, discusses groups in society most at risk for social isolation and how public policy can help address the problem. Gerhard addresses particularly how social isolation affects older Americans and how policies at the federal and state level can help them with these challenges.

Dr. Julianne Holt-LunstadLori Gerhard

 

 

 

Resources

Feb 15, 2021
Ending HIV/AIDS in the U.S. | OAS Episode 121

HIV/AIDS has killed about 700,000 people in the U.S. since it first emerged more than 40 years ago. But deaths have dropped dramatically since the mid-‘90s as new treatments have beome available. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in 2019 launched the Ending the HIV Epidemic Initiative that aims to eliminate the disease in this country.

On this podcast, we talk with Dr. Jonathan Mermin, director of the National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD and TB Prevention at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. He discusses the range of treatments available to fight HIV/AIDS, strategies to prevent spread of the disease and the role state policymakers can play in helping eradicate the disease.

Our other guest if Charlie Severance-Medaris, a policy expert at NCSL. Charlie explains the steps states are taking to help people to get access to critical medications, changes in laws that have criminalized some behaviors for people with HIV/AIDS, and other efforts at the state level to end the epidemic.

Dr Jonathan Mermin, CDCCharlie Severance-Medaris, NCSL

 

 

 

Resources

Feb 08, 2021
Let’s Make a Deal: The Art of Legislative Negotiation | OAS Episode 120

The ability to negotiate skillfully is critical to a well-functioning legislature. On this episode, our guest makes the point that negotiation skills are not only crucial to the legislature, they are similarly important in just about everything you do in life.

Our guest, Monica Giannone, is a consultant and trainer specializing in negotiation and conflict resolution. She also runs the Harvard Kennedy School Negotiation Project and is an adjunct lecturer in negotiation at Babson College.

Resources

Feb 01, 2021
States and COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution | OAS Episode 119

Every state in the country is involved in distributing and administering the two COVID-19 vaccines now approved for use by the US. Food and Drug Administration. Each state is working with a plan that it created in consultation with the federal government.

On this podcast we discuss how those plans were created, how they’ve had to change as the pandemic has progressed and what lies ahead.

Our guests are Hemi Tewarson, an expert in state plans to distribute the COVID-19 vaccines. She is a visiting senior policy fellow at the Margolis Center for Health policy at Duke University. As a health policy expert, she has studied the state vaccine plans and discusses how those are working, changes in federal guidance and when everyone will have access to the vaccine.

Our other guest is Tahra Johnson, a policy expert at NCSL. Tahra discusses state legislative action related to vaccine plans and how legislators can get involved in the planning process.

Hemi TewarsonTahra Johnson

 

 

 

Resources

Jan 18, 2021
The Fiscal Challenge of Emerging Gene Therapies | OAS Episode 118

A new category of gene therapies is offering life-changing treatments to people with some forms of cancer and other rare disorders. These revolutionary treatments, however, come with a large price tag, sometimes exceeding millions of dollars for a single patient. Often, these costs fall on state Medicaid systems.

On this podcast we discuss how states are dealing with this challenge. One of our guests is Anne Winter, a Medicaid strategist with the national research and consulting firm Health Management Associates. Winter, who has particular expertise in pharmacy benefit management, discusses some of the strategies state are employing.

Our other guest is Colleen Becker, a policy expert at NCSL, who lays out the scope of the challenge facing states.

Colleen Becker, NCSLAnne Winter, Health Management Associates

 

 

 

Additional Resources

Jan 11, 2021
State of State Legislatures 2021 | OAS Episode 117

Tim Storey, NCSLAfter a year like no other, legislators face some unprecedented challenges when they return to work in the 2021 sessions. COVID-19 and its effects on every aspect of society—the economy, the health care, education, criminal justice and more—will be front and center for every legislature in the nation.

Tim Storey, executive director of NCSL, is the guest on the podcast and offers his perspective on what it all means. We discussed how legislatures will meet, what their priority lists look like, how budgets are shaping up and what a new administration in Washington, D.C., means for states.

Additional Resources

Jan 04, 2021
Time to Redistrict | OAS Episode 116

Possibly the most underreported story during the November 2020 election was the effect it would have on redistricting, the once-a-decade effort to draw congressional and state legislative districts.

On the podcast, Ben Williams, an NCSL policy expert on redistricting, explains how the election sets up  legislatures to start the redistricting process, and discusses when the U.S. Census Bureau will supply states with the data they need to do both reapportionment and redistricting.  He also fills us in on upcoming three-day redistricting seminar offered by NCSL that will take legislators and legislative staff through the various challenges involved in the process.

Resources

Dec 17, 2020
Some Sage Advice for New Legislators | OAS Episode 115

As the 2021 legislative sessions begin, about 15% of the lawmakers will be first timers. As with any new job, a little advice from more seasoned colleagues can be helpful.

On this podcast, I’m joined by Alabama Representative Debbie Wood and former Maine Representative Matt Moonen. They bring different perspectives. Wood, a Republican, was elected in 2018, and is completing her first term. Moonen, a Democrat, was first elected in 2012 and retired this year because of term limits. He served as House majority leader.

They talked about what surprised them the most when they first arrived in the legislature; how they handle relationships with colleagues, lobbyists and constituents; and their best piece of advice for new legislators.

Alabama Rep. Debbie WoodFormer Maine Rep. Matt Moonen

 

 

 

Resources

Dec 14, 2020
CDC and States Working to Reduce Maternal Mortality | OAS Episode 114

An estimated 700 women will die  from pregnancy-related complications in the U.S. this year, and most of those deaths are preventable. In addition, Black and Indigenous women are two to three times more likely to die of pregnancy related issues than White women.

On this podcast, the focus is on maternal mortality. I talk with Dr. Wanda Barfield, the director of the Division of Reproductive Health at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. She  discusses efforts by the CDC to reduce the number of deaths, including sharing strategies with state legislators as they try to craft solutions that work best in their states.

My second guest is Khanh Nguyen, a policy expert at NCSL who tracks legislation related to maternal mortality. She shares examples of specific legislation and approaches employed by states, including a focus on helping Black and Indigenous women.

Dr. Wanda Barfield, CDCKhanh Nguyen, NCSL

 

 

 

 

Additional Resources

Dec 07, 2020
Building Democracy: The Story of Legislatures | Episode 4

Overview

Podcast logoNCSL’s Our American States podcast presents a special six-part series, “Building Democracy: The Story of Legislatures.” This new mini-series covers the history, characters and stories of state legislatures in America, from the beginnings in Jamestown, to the present day and into the future.

Each episode in the series will contain interviews with experts from inside and outside the legislative world to provide a comprehensive view of historical events and their legacy in today’s legislatures. Extras will include extended guest interview clips, articles in NCSL’s State Legislatures magazine, blogs and resources for those who want to dive deeper into topics covered in the podcast.

Episode 4

In this installment of NCSL’s six-episode podcast series, “Building Democracy: The Story of Legislatures,” we travel west to see how women fought and won their right to vote, as well as how they shaped state legislatures and life on the frontier well before the ratification of the 19th Amendment.

The story of the 19th Amendment and its dramatic ninth-hour ratification on the floor of the Tennessee House is well known and often told. Yet, momentous events in the history of women in the American West are overlooked. While their sisters fought in the salons, houses of worship and halls of government in the urban “civilized” East, women strode ahead helping to form governments in the rough and yet malleable West. Women in Wyoming, Utah and Colorado (to name only a few) fought against stereotypes and social expectations to win the recognition of their rights as American citizens. Each state’s suffrage movement had unique motivations and avenues to success. One common thread to their strategies? State legislatures.

Guests

  • Senator Affie Ellis, Wyoming│ Bio
  • Representative Meg Froelich, Colorado │ Bio
  • Rebekah Clark, historical research associate, Better Days 2020Bio
Nov 19, 2020
2020 Election: Big State Legislative Takeaways | OAS Episode 113

The presidential election, understandably, has drawn much of the attention of the media and the public following Election Day. But there also were more than 6,000 state legislators on the ballot and more than 120 statewide ballot measures. Some would argue those elections will have more effect on the life of the average American than those at the top of the ticket.

One of those people is Tim Storey, executive director of NCSL and a close observer of state legislative contests for decades. Even after the election, policymakers in Washington, D.C., are likely to remain gridlocked and the real action will be in state legislatures, Storey says. He breaks down the results of the election and how it will affect redistricting, action on the pandemic and the economy, and more.

Our second guest in Amanda Zoch, an NCSL expert on statewide ballot measures, who takes us through what passed, what it says about the policy concerns of Americans and a few of the more unusual measures that voters said yes to on Election Day.

Tim Storey, NCSLAmanda Zoch, NCSL

 

 

 

 

Resources

Nov 15, 2020
Clean Slate Streamlines Process to Clear Criminal Records | OAS Episode 112

Clean slate is a policy model that uses technology to automatically clear criminal records, usually for nonviolent misdemeanors, if a person stays crime free for a certain period of time. The first such law in the nation passed in Pennsylvania in 2018. It was cosponsored by Representatives Jordan Harris (D) and Sheryl Delozier (R).

On this podcast, we talk with Harris about what prompted him to pursue the legislation and how it has worked so far in his state. Our other guest on the program is Anne Teigen, a policy expert at NCSL who tracks clean slate and other criminal justice reform legislation. She offers perspective on efforts in other states and what the future holds for this approach to criminal justice reform.

Representative Jordan Harris (D-Penn.)Anne Teigen, NCSL

 

 

 

 

Resources

Nov 09, 2020
COVID-19 and the Challenges for Higher Education | OAS Episode 111

COVID-19 swept through some colleges and universities this fall as schools reopened with a variety of approaches. Beyond the headlines, however, higher education and post-secondary training have been profoundly affected by the pandemic in other ways.

Our two guests on this podcast fill us in on the challenges ahead and the role legislators will play in dealing with state colleges and universities.

Our first guest is Jamie Merisotis, president and CEO of the Lumina Foundation, a private foundation that is a major player in supporting efforts to expand higher education and post-secondary learning. He discusses how the pandemic has affected the world of higher education, how it has laid bare the need for more post-secondary training and how legislators can play a role.

Our second guest is Scott Jaschik, editor of the news website Inside Higher Ed. Jaschik gives us an up-to-date assessment of reopening efforts at colleges and universities around the country and discusses the fiscal landscape state legislators will face in the wake of the pandemic.

Jamie Merisotis, Lumina FoundationScott Jaschik, Inside Higher Ed

 

 

 

 

Resources

Nov 02, 2020
Election 2020: State Legislative Races and Statewide Ballot Measures | OAS Episode 110

While there is intense focus on the presidential contest and the fate of the U.S. Senate as Election Day approaches, critical contests are also underway for the control of state legislative chambers.

We’re pleased to have Tim Storey, the executive director of NCSL, as one of the guests on this podcast.  Storey has been observing these elections for decades and  shares his thoughts on the prospects for a blue wave, how many legislative chambers are likely to change control and if we’re likely to see a change in overall state control.

Also joining us is Mandy Zoch, an NCSL expert on statewide ballot measures. Zoch explains why there are fewer citizen initiatives on ballots around the nation this year and some of the more interesting measures voters will decide.

Tim Storey, NCSLAmanda Zoch, NCSL

 

 

 

 

Resources

Oct 19, 2020
Supreme Court Update | OAS Episode 109

Lisa SoronenOn this podcast we get an update on the U.S. Supreme Court from Lisa Soronen, the executive director of the State and Local Legal Center in Washington, D.C. The court started its new term on Oct. 5. 

We discussed the legacy for state legislatures of the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to replace her and the position of Chief Justice John Roberts on the shifting court.

Soronen also went over significant cases affecting the states from last term, cases to watch out for this term and, of course, the upcoming arguments over the Affordable Care Act.

Resources

Oct 12, 2020
State, Federal Policies Aim to Ease Transition Out of Foster Care | OAS Episode 108

Today’s podcast is focused on foster care and specifically on the challenges faced by young people as they transition out of the foster care system.

Our guests are Levi Smith Jr., a 23-year-old senior at Georgia State University studying social work.  Levi spent 10 years in foster care and discusses the challenges faced by older youth as they transition out of that system. Our second guest is Georgia Rep. Katie Dempsey (R), who has been involved with various pieces of legislation affecting youth in foster care during her 13 years in the legislature.

In the second segment of the show, I talk with Lynn Johnson, who is the assistant secretary overseeing the Administration for Children and Families at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Johnson  discusses the federal government’s role in aiding states as they work with young people transitioning out of foster care.

Levi Smith JrGeorgia Representative Katie DempseyHHS Assistant Secretary Lynn Johnson

 

 

 

 

Resources

Oct 05, 2020
Data Privacy, State Legislation and the Pandemic | OAS Episode 107

Ted ClaypooleConsumer concern about data privacy has been mounting for the last few years in light of numerous data breaches. Many people also are aware of recent major governmental actions to protect privacy. One of the most far-reaching was Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation, passed in May 2018. The California Consumer Privacy Act, passed in 2018, went into effect this year and was by far the most comprehensive law enacted in any state. 

This podcast focuses on data privacy and features a discussion with Ted Claypoole, an attorney with Womble Bond Dickinson in Atlanta and one of the nation’s top legal experts on data privacy. Claypoole has more than 30 years of experience representing clients in in the public and private sector on issues related to software, data management and security. He is also one of the contributors to the HeyDataData technology blog.

I talked with Claypoole about the ramifications of those laws, the prospect for more comprehensive data privacy laws in the states, the likelihood that Congress will look at a comprehensive data privacy law, and privacy issues related to artificial intelligence.

Resources

Sep 21, 2020
Keeping Kids Up to Date on Vaccines | OAS Episode 106

Today’s podcast focuses on childhood vaccinations and a troubling drop in the rate of routine immunizations for children in the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Our first guest is Dr. Melinda Wharton, the director of the Immunization Services Division at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Dr. Wharton, one of the nation’s preeminent experts on vaccine policy, discusses the reasons behind the drop, the steps the CDC is taking to help states bolster the immunization rate, the importance of keeping children on a vaccine schedule and what state lawmakers can do to help. She also reminds us that adults need vaccines as well as we enter flu season.

My other guest is Erik Skinner, an NCSL policy associate who tracks legislation related to vaccines. He offers a perspective on how state legislatures acted on vaccine policy.

Dr. Melinda Wharton, CDCErik Skinner, NCSL

 

 

 

 

Resources

Sep 14, 2020
Building Democracy: The Story of Legislatures | Episode 3

Overview

Podcast logoNCSL’s Our American States podcast presents a special six-part series, “Building Democracy: The Story of Legislatures.” This new mini-series covers the history, characters and stories of state legislatures in America, from the beginnings in Jamestown, to the present day and into the future.

Each episode in the series will contain interviews with experts from inside and outside the legislative world to provide a comprehensive view of historical events and their legacy in today’s legislatures. Extras will include extended guest interview clips, articles in NCSL’s State Legislatures magazine, blogs and resources for those who want to dive deeper into topics covered in the podcast.

Episode 3

In this installment, we explore how the states and their legislatures expanded west, split apart, and came together again.

The era of American history between 1803-1877 was one of massive territorial growth, conflict, and social and economic change. The U.S. evolved from a small grouping of former colonies and newly formed states on the East Coast to exponentially expanding territories across the South, Midwest and the wilderness of the West. Legislatures were the main venue for shaping these territories into states of diverse populations and environments. After the Civil War, state legislatures became the main setting for enforcing reconstruction policies and resistance to them. The struggle to integrate a huge population of formerly enslaved people into the citizenry led to incredible victories for the expansion of civil rights, only to see them shrink again, continuing the push and pull we continue to experience as a nation today.

Guests

  • Bob Davidson, former director, Mississippi Senate Legislative Services Office
  • Mark Hirsch, historian, Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian │BioBlog
  • Burdett Loomis, professor emeritus, University of Kansas │Bio
  • Kercheik Sims-Alvarado, assistant professor of Africana Studies, Morehouse College │BioBook

Special Guest Voice

  • Representative Billy Mitchell, Georgia │Bio

Additional Resources

Sep 08, 2020
COVID-19: A New Approach to Back to School | OAS Episode 105

Today’s podcast looks at how K-12 schools can reopen safely amid an ongoing pandemic and what that might look like for the foreseeable future.

Our first guest is Dr. Carissa Moffat Miller, the executive director of the Council of Chief State School Officers (CSCCSO).  Dr. Miller’s organization works with state education leaders around the nation and offers a national perspective on how schools are reopening.

Our second guest is Dr. Kristi Wilson, president of the American Association of School Administrators, which is the organization of school superintendents around the nation. She is also the superintendent of the Buckeye Elementary School District just west of Phoenix, and offers some perspective from the district superintendent level.

Carissa Moffat MillerKristi Wilson

 

 

 

 

Resources

Sep 07, 2020
Traffic Safety: Legislative Trends and the Effects of the Pandemic | OAS Episode 104

The focus of today’s podcast is transportation safety and the type of legislation states have enacted to address concerns in that area.

Our guests are two NCSL staffers, Doug Shinkle, who directs the Transportation Program, and Samantha Bloch, an NCSL transportation and traffic safety policy expert.

We discussed a range of topics—school bus safety, hand-held devices, alcohol and drug impaired driving. I also asked them to share their thoughts on how the COVID-19 pandemic might change some aspects of transportation and how states may respond.

Douglas ShinkleSamantha Bloch

 

 

 

 

Resources

Aug 17, 2020
COVID-19: Contact Tracing, the CDC and the States | OAS Episode 103

Dr. Kyle BernsteinToday’s podcast focuses on contact tracing, a longtime tool used by public health officials. During this pandemic, contact tracers identify people infected with the coronavirus and then contact others they’ve interacted with recently. Contact tracers then help people get testing and offer support for self-isolating.

While every state receives some funding from the federal government to support contact tracing, states have the flexibility to manage their contact tracing plans differently. At least 17 states and the District of Columbia have introduced legislation related to contact tracing, with at least and 11 states and D.C. having enacted these measures so far.

Our guest is Dr. Kyle Bernstein, chief of the Epidemiology and Statistics Branch in the Division of STD Prevention at the CDC and an expert in contact tracing.

This project is supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $120,000 with 100 percent funded by CDC/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement by, CDC/HHS, or the U.S. government.

Aug 10, 2020
COVID-19: Connecting Behavioral and Public Health | OAS Episode 102

This podcast focuses on how states can ensure that their public health systems are connecting people with physical and behavioral health services in an integrated system, an issue made even more urgent by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Our guests include:

  • Karmen Hanson, a health policy expert from NCSL.
  • New Jersey Assemblyman Herb Conaway (D), a longtime legislator, physician and a county director of health.
  • Dr. Anne Zink, chief medical officer for the state of Alaska.

Karmen HansonNew Jersey Assemblyman Herb ConawayDr. Anne Zink

Resources

This project is supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $250,000 with 100% funded by CDC/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by CDC/HHS, or the U.S. Government.

Aug 03, 2020
The ADA at 30: A Conversation With Former Senator Tom Harkin | OAS Episode 101

Former Iowa Senator Tom Harkin (D)Today’s podcast focuses on the Americans With Disabilities Act, which celebrates its 30th anniversary on July 26.

We’re fortunate to have former Iowa Senator Tom Harkin (D) as our guest. Senator Harkin, who spent 30 years in the U.S. Senate, was the author and chief sponsor of the ADA.

Senator Harkin shares the history of the ADA and how he came to play such a pivotal role. We also talked about his brother Frank, who helped inspire his work on the ADA; the political effort it took to pass the legislation; and the still unfinished business of ensuring that people with disabilities have the chance for a full life in American society.

Jul 16, 2020
Podcast Hits the Century Mark | OAS Episode 100

Today’s podcast is the 100th episode of “Our American States,” a milestone we marked by  bringing back the original host of the podcast, Gene Rose, and recalling some of our favorite moments from the last 3 ½ years. Those included interviews with political consultant Frank Luntz, historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and Matthew Desmond, who wrote “Evictions,” which won the Pulitzer Prize for nonfiction. 

We review some of the major policy issues that the podcast has covered, including how states have reacted to the COVID-19 crisis. We also share some clips from memorable interviews with a number of legislators and legislative staffers, as well as former NCSL Executive Director William Pound and current Executive Director Tim Storey.

Resources

Jul 13, 2020
COVID-19: Searching for a Vaccine | OAS Episode 99

Clement Lewinn Sanofi PasteurThis podcast is one in a series NCSL is producing about states and the coronavirus pandemic. You can find links to podcasts, webinars and other resources at www.ncsl.org/coronavirus

Today’s topic could hardly be of greater interest: the hunt for a COVID-19 vaccine.

And at the forefront of that effort are the world’s pharmaceutical companies, which are pursuing multiple initiatives to find a vaccine.

To discuss that effort is today’s guest,  Clement Lewin, associate vice president for Vaccines R&D Strategy at the pharmaceutical firm Sanofi Pasteur. Lewin, who holds a Ph.D. from the University of London in medical microbiology and has extensive experience in the field of vaccine development, discusses the overall efforts to create a vaccine for COVID-19, and also explain the role state legislators and other policymakers can play in the vaccine process.

This podcast was sponsored by Sanofi Pasteur, a member of the NCSL Foundation for State Legislatures.

Resources

Jul 06, 2020
COVID-19: Jeb Bush on Leadership, Federalism and the Challenges for States | OAS Episode 98

Jeb BushThis podcast is another in a series NCSL is producing about states and the coronavirus pandemic. You can find links to podcasts, webinars and other resources at www.ncsl.org/coronavirus.

Today we’re talking with former Florida Governor Jeb Bush. Bush recently wrote an op-ed article for the Wall Street Journal about leadership, federalism and the challenges facing states after COVID-19. We asked the governor to expand on those ideas and the tough task state lawmakers have ahead of them. We also asked the governor, whose signature policy area has been education ever since he was governor, for his thoughts on what schools will look like post pandemic.

Jun 22, 2020
COVID-19: States, the CDC and Suicide Prevention | Episode 97

Charlie Severance-MedarisThis podcast is another in a series NCSL is producing to focus on how states are responding to the coronavirus pandemic. You can find links to podcasts, webinars and other resources at www.ncsl.org/coronavirus.

Our topic for this podcast is a sobering one: suicide. The rate of suicide in the U.S. is one of the highest among wealthy nations. Nearly 50,000 people took their own lives in the U.S. in 2018. The COVID-19 pandemic has increased concern among experts that the nation may face an increase in suicides as people struggle during the crisis.

Our first guest today is Charlie Severance-Medaris, a policy expert on the topic at NCSL. Charlie provides an overview on suicide in the U.S. Our second guest is Dr. Alex Crosby, chief medical officer in the Division of Injury Prevention at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. He has expertise and long experience in dealing with the public health aspects of suicide and suicide prevention.

Resources

Jun 15, 2020
COVID-19: Juvenile Justice Reform and the Pandemic | Episode 96

Anne TeigenThis podcast is one in a series NCSL is producing to focus on how states are responding to the coronavirus pandemic. You can find links to podcasts, webinars and other resources at www.ncsl.org/coronavirus.

Today our focus is on the U.S. juvenile justice system. Efforts to reform the system have been going on for the past 20 years, driven by research, court decisions and other factors. We’re going to talk about where the reform efforts stood before the pandemic, how COVID-19 has affected juvenile justice and how the health crisis may change the system down the road.

Nate BalisOur first guest is Anne Teigen, an expert on juvenile justice with NCSL’s Criminal Justice Program. She’ll give us an overview of juvenile justice reform efforts and a rundown on actions states have taken. 

Our second guest is Nate Balis, director of the Juvenile Justice Strategy Group at the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Balis will discuss where spending is most effective in the juvenile justice system, how COVID-19 is affecting the system right now and what the system may look like post-pandemic.

Resources

Jun 08, 2020
COVID-19: Campaigning and Voting Amid a Pandemic | Episode 95

Wendy UnderhillThis podcast is one in a series NCSL is producing to focus on how states are taking action in response to the coronavirus pandemic. You can find links to podcasts, webinars and other resources at www.ncsl.org/coronavirus.

Elections in the age of the pandemic are getting a lot of attention lately, with much of the talk focusing on mail-in balloting for November. But there is a lot more than mail-in ballots to discuss, including election administration, cybersecurity, campaigns amid a pandemic, misinformation, turnout and more. And there are more than 6,000 state legislative seats on the fall ballot.

Helping us sort out all the details is Wendy Underhill, director of NCSL’s Elections and Redistricting program.

May 18, 2020
COVID-19: Coronavirus Modeling and Reopening the Economy | Episode 94

Dr. Nirav ShahThis podcast is one in a series NCSL is producing to focus on how states are taking action in response to the coronavirus pandemic. You can find links to sign up for these webinars and view archived versions along with links to a wide range of other resources at www.ncsl.org/coronavirus.

Today we’re talking with Dr. Nirav Shah,  a senior scholar at Stanford University’s Clinical Excellence Research Center and former commissioner for the New York State Department of Health. Dr. Shah discussed the myriad COVID-19 models, how to understand them and how they can be used as state leaders look at reopening the economy in their states.

Resources

May 11, 2020
Legislative Staff Week: Readiness and Resilience in a Pandemic

Laree KielyThis podcast is part of Legislative Staff Week, NCSL’s effort to recognize the crucial work of legislative staff across the nation. It is also one in a series NCSL is producing to focus on how states are taking action in response to the coronavirus pandemic. You can find links to podcasts, webinars and other resources at www.ncsl.org/coronavirus.

Today we’re talking with Laree Kiely, president and chief wisdom officer at the We Will consulting firm in California. She is an expert on leadership and management and talked with “Our American States” about readiness and resilience during the pandemic. Kiely also serves as a trainer at NCSL's Legislative Management Institute

May 04, 2020
Building Democracy: The Story of Legislatures | Episode 2

Overview

Podcast logoNCSL’s Our American States podcast presents a special six-part series, “Building Democracy: The Story of Legislatures.” This new mini-series covers the history, characters and stories of state legislatures in America, from the beginnings in Jamestown, to the present day and into the future.

Each episode in the series will contain interviews with experts from inside and outside the legislative world to provide a comprehensive view of historical events and their legacy in today’s legislatures. Extras will include extended guest interview clips, articles in NCSL’s State Legislatures magazine, blogs and resources for those who want to dive deeper into topics covered in the podcast.

Episode 2

The second episode tells the story of how a handful of colonial possessions became the first American states. How did deliberative bodies make the transition from colonial assemblies, to provincial congresses during the conflict, and then to democratically elected legislatures in a tumultuous time of uncertainty? It wasn’t easy and conflict arose in the hallowed halls of deliberative bodies, across geographic regions and even within families.

 Join expert guests, including legal counsel with the South Carolina House Clerk’s office, Richard Pearce; Professor Peverill Squire; and Professor Alexander Keyssar for an inside look at representative democracy amid the American Revolution.

Hosts

  • Megan McClure
  • John Mahoney
  • Nicholas Birdsong

General Thanks

  • To the NCSL Legislative Staff Coordinating Committee for the idea which led to the creation of Building Democracy and who’s support keeps it going.
  • To Podfly Productions for production and editing
  • To the House of Pod for recording and studio space
Apr 30, 2020
COVID-19: An Update From NCSL’s Executive Director | OAS Episode 92

Tim Storey, NCSL executive directorThis podcast is one in a series NCSL is producing to focus on how states are taking action in response to the coronavirus pandemic. The podcasts and a new webinar series look at public health responses, workplace issues, education and childcare, the economy, elections and continuity of government.

You can find links to sign up for these webinars and view archived versions along with links to a wide range of other resources at www.ncsl.org/coronavirus.

Today we’re talking with Tim Storey, the executive director of NCSL. Tim and other NCSL staffers have been talking with state leaders to understand what they need during this pandemic, and advocating on behalf of states to members of Congress and the administration.

Resources

Apr 27, 2020
COVID-19: Feeding Kids During the Pandemic | OAS Episode 91

This podcast is one in a series NCSL is producing to focus on how states are taking action in response to the coronavirus pandemic. The podcasts and a new webinar series look at public health responses, workplace issues, education and childcare, the economy, elections and continuity of government.

Today’s podcast started with a simple question: How are we feeding the 22 million children who get free or reduced-cost meals every day at school? To help answer it, we’re first talking with Carolyn Vega, senior manager for Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign, who offers a national perspective on what states are doing and can do. Our second guest is Montana Rep. Moffie Funk (D) who gives a state-level perspective, especially on the challenge of getting meals to children in rural areas.

Apr 20, 2020
COVID-19: Health Care in Rural America | OAS Episode 90

This podcast is one in a series NCSL is producing to focus on how states are taking action in response to the coronavirus pandemic. The podcasts and a new webinar series look at public health responses, workplace issues, education and childcare, the economy, elections and continuity of government.

On today’s episode, the focus is on rural health care.

Our first guest is Alana Knudson, co-director of the Walsh Center for Rural Health Analysis, part of NORC at  the University of Chicago. She’ll give us a national overview of rural health care and its challenges.

Later in the show we’ll talk with Dr. James Hotz. Nearly 40 years ago, Hotz founded the Albany Area Primary Health Care community health center in southwest Georgia. He continues to work as a primary care physician. He’ll fill us in on what frontline rural practitioners are seeing during this pandemic.

Apr 13, 2020
COVID-19: State and Federal Responses to Education and Child Care | OAS Episode 89

This podcast is one in a series NCSL is producing to focus on how states are taking action in response to the coronavirus pandemic. The podcasts and a new webinar series look at public health responses, workplace issues, education and childcare, the economy, elections and continuity of government.

On today’s episode, we talk with two NCSL experts about how the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted schools and child care and how the state and federal governments are responding.

Our first guest in Austin Reid, the director of NCSL’s Education Standing Committee and an expert on federal education policy. He reviews the funding for education in the recently passed $2 trillion federal stimulus bill, how student borrowers will be affected and steps states have taken to address the crisis.

Our second guest is Jeni Palmer, who follows a wide range of child care issues for NCSL. She explains that the child care system was not functioning well before the pandemic and the emergency has made a bad situation worse. She reports on what states are doing to shore up the system during the crisis.

Apr 06, 2020
COVID-19: Communicating in a Crisis | OAS Episode 88

This podcast is one in a series NCSL is producing to focus on how states are taking action in response to the coronavirus pandemic. The podcasts and a new webinar series look at public health responses, workplace issues, education and childcare, the economy, elections and continuity of government.

On today’s episode, we talk with two legislative veterans about communicating in a crisis.

Our first guest is Kit Beyer, director of communications for Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, who is also president of NCSL. Beyer shares her experiences in the current crisis and some advice honed from previous emergencies.

Our second guest is Mississippi Lieutenant Governor Delbert Hoseman (R), who has seen a remarkable number of natural disasters in his state. He shares his pragmatic approach to emergencies and talks about the value of optimism and a positive attitude in a crisis.

Resources

Apr 02, 2020
COVID-19: State Public Health and Fiscal Responses | OAS Episode 87

This podcast is one in a series NCSL is producing to focus on how states are taking action in response to the coronavirus pandemic. The podcasts and a new webinar series look at public health responses, workplace issues, education and childcare, the economy, elections and continuity of government.

On today’s episode, we talk with two NCSL experts.

Tahra Johnson, a member of NCSL’s Health Program, discusses actions states have taken in the public health arena and the still daunting challenges ahead.

Erica MacKellar from NCSL’s Fiscal Program reports on the blizzard of fiscal legislation that legislatures have  enacted in a very short period of time. She notes that while every state and territory wil be affected economically by the pandemic, those especially reliant on tourism and oil and gas production might be particularly hard hit.

Resources

Mar 30, 2020
COVID-19 | Continuity of State Government and Elections | OAS Episode 86

This podcast is the first in a series NCSL is producing to focus on how states are taking action in response to the coronavirus pandemic. The podcasts and a new webinar series will look at public health responses, workplace issues, education and childcare, the economy, elections and continuity of government.

On today’s episode, we talk with two NCSL experts. Natalie Wood, director of NCSL’s Center for Legislative Strengthening, discusses steps legislatures have taken in response to the pandemic and specific actions they’ve taken to ensure legislative operations can continue. Our second guest is Wendy Underhill, director of NCSL’s Elections and Redistricting Program. She discusses how the pandemic may affects voting and also how the U.S. Census Bureau is handling its one-a-decade count during the emergency.

Resources

Mar 23, 2020
Ready, Set, Count: Kicking Off the Census | OAS Episode 85

Kathleen Styles, U.S. Census BureauThe U.S. Census, the once-a-decade count of everyone in the country, starts this month. Coming right up is Census Day, April 1, by which time everyone should have received a notification to fill out the census. When you respond you tell the census bureau where you live on April 1.

To discuss the stakes in the census—everything from federal money to redistricting—we check in with Wendy Underhill, NCSL’s program director for Elections and Redistricting. Later in the show, we talk with Kathleen Styles, chief of decennial communications and stakeholder relations at the U.S. Census Bureau.

Resources

Mar 12, 2020
A Mountain of Money: Tackling Student Debt | OAS Episode 84

Winston Berkman-BreenThe level of student debt in this country is of mounting concern to state legislators. The more than $1.6 trillion owed by more than 44 million people is starting to affect when people buy homes, get married and make other major life decisions.

On this episode, we talk with two NCSL experts, Sunny Deye and Andrew Smalley, about the scope of the problem and steps states are taking to address it. In our second segment, we talk with Winston Berkman-Breen, who is the student advocate and director of consumer advocacy for the New York State Department of Financial Services. His role, essentially that of student debt ombudsman, is one step states are taking to help better manage the student debt challenge.

Additional Resources

Feb 27, 2020
Occupational Licensing: Economic Pros and Cons | Episode 83

About 25% of workers in the U.S. now need a license to work, an increase from about 5% in the 1950s. State legislators and other policymakers have taken an increasingly active role in developing new regulatory policies that strike a balance needed to protect consumers and promote economic growth and employment opportunity.

On today's show,, we talk with Dr. Morris Kleiner, an economist and professor at the University of Minnesota's Humphrey School of Public Affairs. Kleiner, an expert on occupational licensing, discusses the pros and cons of occupational licensing and its effect on the broader economy and different groups of workers.

On this episode we also hear from Gene Rose, the voice of "Our American States" for the past three years, on why he is handing over the podcast to a new host. 

Additional Resources

Feb 13, 2020
Building Democracy: The Story of Legislatures | Episode 1

Overview

Podcast logoNCSL’s Our American States podcast presents a special six-part series, “Building Democracy: The Story of Legislatures.” This new mini-series covers the history, characters and stories of state legislatures in America, from the beginnings in Jamestown, to the present day and into the future.

Each episode in the series will contain interviews with experts from inside and outside the legislative world to provide a comprehensive view of historical events and their legacy in today’s legislatures. Extras will include extended guest interview clips, articles in NCSL’s State Legislatures magazine, blogs and resources for those who want to dive deeper into topics covered in the podcast.

Episode 1

"First Assembly – Virginia 1619" examines life on the Jamestown colony, which has been called the first American startup, and introduces Sir Edwyn Sandys (pronounced "Sands"), "one of hte most influential characters in the history of the American colonies that no one ever heard of." A businessman charged with establishing a successful colony in America, Sandys' aspiration was to establish a society that was fairer than society in England. He helped write The Great Charter, which called for the election of representatives or “burgesses” to serve alongside appointed officials in a “General Assembly”, a direct DNA ancestor of today's legislatures.

Life in the colony was challenging and messy, chock full of scandals, corruption and infighting. Human beings became an early commodity through slave trade from Africa.

Join NCSL staffers and "Building Democracy" hosts John Mahoney and Megan McClure along with their expert guests, former Virginia clerk of the House, G. Paul Nardo; curator of American Slavery at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, Mary Elliott; and Jim Horn, president of the Jamestown Rediscovery Foundation, as they explore this history—the good and the bad—and how the first meeting of these colonial representatives was the starting point in the story of America’s state legislatures.

Episodes will be released every other month through the end of 2020. 

 

Hosts

  • Megan McClure
  • John Mahoney
  • Nicholas Birdsong

Guests

  • G. Paul Nardo, former clerk of the house and keeper of the roles of the Commonwealth of Virginia
  • Jim Horn, president, Jamestown Rediscovery Foundation
  • Mary Elliott, curator of American Slavery, Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture

General Thanks

  • To the NCSL Legislative Staff Coordinating Committee for the idea which led to the creation of Building Democracy and who’s support keeps it going.
  • To Podfly Productions for production and editing
  • To the House of Pod for recording and studio space

Additional Resources

Jan 23, 2020
State of State Legislatures 2020 | OAS Episode 82

To kick off 2020, we talked with Tim Storey, who took over as executive director of the National Conference of State Legislatures in mid-2019. Storey discusses the strength of state budgets and his view that there are not one or two big issues dominating legislative agendas this year, a change from previous years. And he discusses the upcoming redistricting of state legislative and congressional districts that make this election the "big kahuna" of the decade.

Jan 16, 2020
Living to 100: The Policy Implications |OAS Episode 81

For the first time, around 2040, there will be more older adults than children. By 2060, the U.S. Census Bureau says, nearly 1 in 4 Americans will be 65 years and older. And in that same year, the number of people 85 years and older will triple and the country will add a half million centenarians. We decided to explore what “Living to 100” means for state policymakers across the country.

Later in the program, we’ll talk with Karen Brown, who is an original and current member—and a former chair—of the Colorado Strategic Action Planning Group on Aging. The group was formed by the Colorado General Assembly since the state has one of the fastest growing senior populations.

Our guests are:

  • James Firman, president and CEO of the National Council on Aging.
  • Karen Brown, a member and former chair of Colorado’s Strategic Action Planning Group on Aging and CEO of iAging.

Additional Resources

Dec 12, 2019
Teens in Foster Care: Challenges and Solutions | OAS Episode 80

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services latest “Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System” says more than 430,000 people were in foster care in the last fiscal year. About a quarter of those in the system were teenagers. There is growing awareness that older teens in the foster care system need trained foster parents to help them transition to adulthood. Consequently, 28 states and the District of Columbia have extended foster care beyond the age of 18.

On this episode of “Our American States,” we talk with two state legislators who have first-hand knowledge of foster care and are actively involved in shedding light on this topic.

  • Alaska Representative Ivy Spohnholz (D), who is a foster and adoptive parent
  • Indiana Senator Erin Houchin (R), who is a former case worker

Additional Resources

Dec 05, 2019
How Kids Learn | OAS Episode 79

Researchers and scientists continue to make advancements in determining how young people learn and how their brains develop. State legislatures devote significant time to education policy and approve considerable state resources to improve the education systems in their states.

Our guest is Dr. Linda Darling Hammond, who is the president and CEO of the Learning Policy Institute. She explains what we are learning about brain development and how it affects how young people are taught today. She says the ideas from the research can work in any school, regardless of its socio-economic status. And, she says many of the principles can be applied in school systems without additional state funds.

Nov 14, 2019
States Build Paths to Employment for Vets With Disabilities | OAS Episode 78

Of the 18 million military veterans living in America today, about one-fourth of them with a service-connected disability. For post 9/11 veterans, that percentage increases to 41 percent. With Veterans Day 2019 approaching, our attention turned to what state services are available to these brave men and women who served our country. The National Conference of State Legislatures recently released a report, “A Path to Employment for Veterans with Disabilities.” It examines an extensive array of employment services and benefits designed to improve the lives of military veterans with disabilities.

State legislatures are taking actions to assist veterans with disabilities, who often face obstacles when they compete and apply for jobs. Our guests outline several state actions, including employment preferences, career development, job placement, apprentice programs, on-the-job training, occupational licensing and tax incentives for employers.

Our guests today are Jim Reed and Jennifer Schultz, the authors of this report. They both staff the Military and Veterans Affairs Task Force at NCSL.

Nov 07, 2019
Power Play: States Address U.S. Electric Grid | OAS Episode 77

Much of the nation’s network of electricity generation, transmission and distribution resources is aging and major upgrades are needed to for new technologies, changing market dynamics and shifting consumer preferences. This analysis comes from a new NCSL report, “Modernizing the Electric Grid: State Role and Policy Options.”

States are finding a challenge in keeping up with the way technology impacts our power grids, particularly those that still rely on larger power plants. “The challenge facing state policymakers is how to craft policies that promote cost-effective investment in the electric system while allowing innovative technologies and new energy management approaches to flourish and compete in a rapidly shifting environment,” says the report.

Our guest is Glen Andersen, who is the energy program director at the National Conference of State Legislatures, and one of the authors of the report. He talks about how new technologies affect public policy, how consumers are creating their own power, how smarter household appliances, electrical gadgets and electric vehicles affect the grid.

Additional Resources

Oct 31, 2019
U.S. Supreme Court: What to Watch This Term | OAS Episode 76

The U.S. Supreme Court opened its current term on the first Monday of October. The court is considering several cases of direct interest to state legislatures. For starters, the court will decide whether the Department of Homeland Security’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program is judicially reviewable and lawful.

Other potentially charged cases are reviews of state laws on insanity defense, sexual orientation, gun laws, abortion, and the separation of church and state. It could even decide the legal copyright of state law annotations. 

Our guest is Lisa Soronen, the executive director of the State and Local Legal Center, who watches and analyzes U.S. Supreme Court decisions. She explains these cases and more, and offers insight on how justices are likely to view them.

Additional Resources

Oct 24, 2019
Redistricting: Partisanship, Politics, Power | OAS Episode 75

Once every 10 years, America’s political landscape changes. While most people are aware the U.S. census takes place in years that end in zero, a smaller percentage know the data collected helps determine how the nation’s political power is divided. In most states, legislatures are charged with redrawing congressional and state legislative maps following the release of the census data. This means political control of the legislature and the governor’s office will be critical when maps are redrawn in 2021. We invited two guests to explain this process and what legislatures are doing in preparation for the historic event.

  • Wendy Underhill is the director of the Elections and Redistricting Program at the National Conference of State Legislatures. NCSL is producing a series of meetings on redistricting, with the next one taking place Oct. 24-27 in Columbus, Ohio. Future redistricting meetings will be held in Las Vegas, Portland, Ore. and Washington, D.C.
  • For the staff perspective, we talk with Michelle L. Davis, a senior policy analyst on redistricting and election law at the Maryland Department of Legislative Services. She is the editor of the website Redistrictingonline and its Facebook page.

Additional Resources

Oct 10, 2019
Homeless Youth: Risk Factors of the Vulnerable | OAS Episode 74

patricia julianelleA 2017 study by Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago discovered that around 4.2 million people between the ages of 12 and 24 experience homelessness at least once during the year. Of those, 700,000 are 17 or younger. And, the study found, youth homelessness occurs at the same rate in rural and urban areas.

In this episode, we learn why these young people experience homelessness, how public policy defines youth homelessness, why it’s difficult for these youth to access needed services and what state and federal initiatives are available to address this issue.

Our guest is Patricia Julianelle, director of program advancement and legal affairs at SchoolHouse Connection, a national nonprofit organization working to overcome homelessness through education. “We are forcing our teenagers into the hands of dangerous people when we don’t provide a legal structure for reputable service providers to be able to take care of them and keep them safe,” she says.

Additional Resources

Sep 26, 2019
How States Are Reacting to Drugged Driving | OAS Episode 73

Determining if a driver has too much alcohol in his or her system is now easily measured. But with more states approving the sale and use of recreational marijuana, knowing whether a driver is impaired with that drug—or other substances—is much more difficult to prove scientifically. In this episode, we explore actions states are taking to address this complex issue. Our guests are: 

  • Robert Ritter, director of the Office of Impaired Driving and Occupant Protection at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
  • Representative Jonathan Singer (D-Colo.), who successfully guided legislation through his state legislature on this issue soon after Colorado became the first to approve recreational marijuana.

Additional Resources

Sep 12, 2019
"Almanac" Offers Inside Track on American Politics | OAS Episode 72

Columnist George Will says it’s “the bible of American politics.” Started in 1972, the “Almanac of American Politics,” has been a valuable resource tool for people needing to have comprehensive knowledge of Congress, congressional districts and state governors. Published every two years, the 2020 version has just been released.

Our guest is Louis Jacobson, who is a senior correspondent for PolitFact and has written for publications such as Governing magazine, Roll Call, CongressNow and the National Journal. He is a senior author for the “2020 Almanac of American Politics.” He wrote the state overview chapters of the publication.

Jacobson offers listeners of “Our American States” a discount code to order the publication.

Visit the site to purchase the book and use the code LOUISANDFRIENDS

Additional Resources

Aug 22, 2019
End of an ERA at NCSL: Bill Pound Retires | OAS Episode 71

For the last 32 years, the National Conference of State Legislatures was led by Executive Director William  Pound. He worked for NCSL for 44 years, starting soon after the organization was started in Denver. He retired in mid-July and is being honored at NCSL’s Legislative Summit in Nashville this week.

We asked him to share his thoughts on legislatures, legislators, state legislative staff and other areas of interest. He provides us with a history lesson of the organization and reflects on his tenure as the leader of one of the country’s best known and respected public interest groups.

Additional Resources

Aug 08, 2019
States Embrace Flexibility in Medicaid Strategies | OAS Episode 70

Medicaid is a state-federal health insurance program designed to provide relief for the less fortunate, including low-income people, the elderly and people with disabilities. The program is a significant part of state budgets. State expenditures on Medicaid exceeded $600 billion in 2018, with about 1 in 5 Americans receiving coverage. The federal government accounts for about 60 percent of this financing with the rest coming from state budgets.

All 50 states participate in the Medicaid program. But, as we learn in this episode, states have flexibility in how to determine spending, eligibility and covered services. We learn how some states are looking to reduce their Medicaid spending and how others are moving to expand their services. We’ll also explore the relationship with the program and the Affordable Care Act, as well how mental health, behavioral health and living conditions are influencing policymakers’ decisions on how to appropriate funding.

To walk us through the various issues is Emily Blanford, a program principal in NCSL’s health program, specializing in Medicaid policy. 

Additional Resources

Jul 25, 2019
Supreme Court and the States: 2019 Wrapup | OAS Episode 69

In every term, the U.S. Supreme Court makes decisions that affect state and local governments. In 2019, the court addressed several such issues, including a blockbuster decision on political gerrymandering and an issue of critical importance to the census.

In addition to these two rulings, our guests offer perspective on whether certain monuments may be on public land, a challenge on duel sovereignty, taking blood from someone who is passed out from drinking, and regulations on wine selling and distribution. Our guests are:

  • Lisa Soronen, executive director of the State and Local Legal Center, who tracks decisions made by the Supreme Court. She discusses the major issues addressed by the court this term.
  • Susan Frederick, NCSL senior federal affairs counsel, who offers some extra perspective on the U.S. census citizenship question decided by the court.

Additional Resources

Jul 18, 2019
Criminal Justice Reform: A Bipartisan Issue | OAS Episode 68

While the country mostly hears how the political parties don’t work together, criminal justice reform is an untold story of how bipartisanship works. States are working together to reduce recidivism, provide released inmates a course for a productive future, and address the backgrounds and experiences of offenders to change behaviors.

To illustrate that point, our podcast focuses on laws approved in two states, Mississippi and Colorado. Our guests are:

  • Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant (R), who got bipartisan support for legislation to make major reforms on how the state works with former inmates. The former deputy sheriff says his thinking about nonviolent offenders has changed over time.
  • Colorado Representative Leslie Herod (D), who has gained bipartisan support for measures addressing education opportunities for offenders, expanding the definition of crime victims, and removing “the box” to help former inmates seeking jobs or education.

Additional Resources

Jul 11, 2019
The Latest in Online and Digital Privacy Laws | OAS Episode 67

Last year, the California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018 was signed into law, and the landmark bill has become a model for other states when it comes to online privacy. This year, the California State Legislature is looking to modify the bill to address concerns expressed by businesses and advocates.

In Utah, the Electronic Information or Data Privacy Act was signed into law this year. The bill gives electronic documents the same legal protection as printed documents. If law enforcement wants copies of digital files, they now must apply for a search warrant, as they would for other types of documents.

To explain these bills, we have two guests:

  • Assemblymember Jacqui Irwin (D-Calif.), who is sponsoring legislation to adjust the California Consumer Privacy Act. She explains why changes are needed and offers her perspective on privacy laws and the components state legislatures across the country need to consider when addressing such laws.
  • Representative Craig Hall (R-Utah), who successfully guided the Electronic Information or Data Privacy Act through the legislature and got it signed into law by the governor. He discusses how he worked with organizations on the left and right, as well as law enforcement, to address the digital privacy legislation.

Additional Resources

Jun 27, 2019
Measles, Vaccinations and the Role of Government | OAS Episode 66

Government and health officials from across the country have expressed concern in recent months as cases of measles have been reported in limited areas of the country—the most reported since 1992. The disease was declared all but eliminated in our borders in the year 2000. Maintaining that status is threatened by increased international travel and by the number of parents who are now hesitant to have their children vaccinated.

To get answers about current outbreaks, how the various levels of government have reacted, and how the nation is responding to parents who are hesitant to vaccination their children, we reached out to the nation’s foremost expert on the subject: Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. He talks about the current cases, the need for vaccinations, how certain states have addressed populations hesitant to vaccinate and the role that state legislators play in addressing public concerns.

Additional Resources

Jun 20, 2019
It’s Legit to Get Financially Fit | OAS Episode 65

What do children know about taxes, credit reports, mortgages, money management, insurance or investing? For that matter, what do parents know about these topics?

In this episode, we explore financial literacy. We talk with two guests who are working to get more financial education into our schools, creating more informed citizens about the complex and changing nature of finance issues.

Our guests:

  • Laura Levine is president and CEO of the Jump$tart Coalition for Personal Financial Literacy, a partnership of more than 100 national organizations and a network of 51 independent, affiliated state coalitions that share a commitment to advancing youth financial education.
  • Corey Carlisle is a senior vice president at the American Bankers Association (ABA), as well as the executive director of the ABA Foundation. He oversees the organization’s philanthropic efforts as well as programs that support the industry’s efforts around financial education, affordable housing, and other community development activities.

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Jun 13, 2019
Moon Landing at 50: STEM, States, Science | OAS Episode 64

On July 20, the United States will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing with traveling exhibits and special ceremonies at museums, the Johnson Space Center and the Kennedy Space Center.

In honor of the historic feat, we wanted to explore technical innovations, STEM education and a launch project designed to include contributions from all 50 states at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Ala.

Jody Singer is the director of NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, which is responsible for 6,000 civil service and contractor employers. She started her NASA career as an intern and spent 25 years with the Space Shuttle Program as an engineer and project manager. She says that while NASA is a federal program, her team is in constant communication with state legislatures and leaders across the country.

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May 23, 2019
For Victims, Policies on Rape Kits Hard to Understand | OAS Episode 63

An estimated 25 million Americans are rape survivors. The Bureau of Justice Statistics three years ago estimated only 23 percent of rapes or sexual assaults are reported. For those that do report their assaults, they are confronted with medial and legal procedures that are challenging and sometimes not understandable. And there is an assumption that if a rape kit is produced, it will be stored as long as the victim needs. But the local and state laws across the country are not uniform and victims are sometimes surprised their kits have either not been tested or are no longer available. We have two guests who have been deeply involved in this field.

  • Amanda Nguyen is the founder of Rise, a nonprofit that fights for the civil rights of sexual violence survivors. As a student at Harvard on a promising astrophysics track, she was raped. Her experience led her to work with Congress and the administration to pass the Sexual Assault Survivor’s Bill of Rights just two years later. Her work has resulted in changes in more than 20 states.
  • Kemp Hannon, as a New York state senator, successfully passed legislation that led to sweeping changes in how his state handles, processes and stores rape kits. He said many in law enforcement and even district attorneys believed rape kits were being tested and stored for future use. His research and work with advocate organizations found a different story and he was determined to change it.

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May 16, 2019
Principles of Debate Thinking | OAS Episode 62

With May 6-10, 2019, being Legislative Staff Week, we focus this episode on a critical skill: debate thinking.

In the heat of a disagreement, argument or debate, it can be difficult to plot a persuasive strategy that effectively articulates one’s point of view while rebutting the position of the other party. We explore the foundations of debate thinking, a model of thought that will sharpen the ability to think quickly and to develop compelling offensive and defensive arguments in real time.

Our guest is Curt Stedron, who is a trainer at the National Conference of State Legislatures. He explains lessons he’s learned in his research and work as an award-winning debate coach.

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May 09, 2019
Celeb Chef Hugh Acheson on Hunger in America | OAS Episode 61

At some point in 2016, 1 in 7 U.S. households was food insecure and more than 44 million people participated in the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The nonprofit No Kid Hungry says more than 13 million U.S. children live in "food insecure" homes.

The National Conference of State Legislatures created a Hunger Partnership to address food insecurity. With more than 20 legislators and three legislative staff, the partnership works to address hunger in America. Corporate and nonprofit partners, including the Congressional Hunger Center, support the partnership.

We get unique perspectives on this issue from our two guests:

  • Hugh Acheson, who has won major awards including the James Beard Award for best chef and Food & Wine’s best new chef, has been featured on several TV cooking shows. He discusses his involvement in providing meals for school children.
  • Senator Renee Unterman (R-Ga.) is co-chair of NCSL’s Hunger Partnership. She discusses the work of the partnership and how it works with the federal government to address food insecurity.

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Apr 25, 2019
2020 Census: What’s at Stake for States | OAS Episode 60

In less than a year, the United States will embark on its decennial charge to count every person living in the nation. And, as our guest explains, an accurate count is needed for both economic and political reasons. About $800 billion in federal funding is at stake, as well as each state’s apportionment in the House of Representatives.

Our guest is Wendy Underhill, director of the NCSL Elections and Redistricting Program. She tells us about changes to this year’s form and how technology is being used in the process.

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Apr 11, 2019
In Search of Civil Discourse | OAS Episode 59

What’s your sense of the state of civil discourse in America today? The answer is likely as diverse as political viewpoints today. So we decided to talk with someone who studies civil discourse and is an active participant.

Keith Allred is the executive director of the National Institute for Civil Discourse. He discusses the differences of civil discourse at the federal and state levels, and why his organization is promoting programs aimed at state legislatures, communities and the general public. He explains how the Institute came into being and why his board is filled with prominent Republican and Democratic leaders from across the country.

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Mar 28, 2019
Top Energy Official Talks Technology, Security | OAS EPISODE 58

In this episode of “Our American States,” we talk with one of the federal government’s top energy officials.

It’s easy to take energy for granted. From turning on the first light in the morning to fixing a meal, taking a hot shower and working on a computer—we generally accept that the energy we need is going to be there. And we become upset when it’s not.

For policymakers, though, the regulation and oversight of energy is a series of complex issues, and it’s often difficult for states to make decisions on changes and consider new choices.

Our guest is Neil Chatterjee, chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), an independent agency created by Congress in 1920, whose responsibilities include regulating retail electricity and approving all interstate transmission of natural gas, oil, electricity and pipeline projects. 

A common theme you will hear from him: the security of the nation’s energy sources. He’s a strong proponent of the rights of states in the federal system, but recognizes that with energy grids crossing state lines it’s going to take some coordination and cooperation to keep our energy secure.

We started by asking Chatterjee about the biggest opportunity in the energy field today—he says it’s technology. But it might also be the nation’s biggest challenge.

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Mar 14, 2019
Child Support Program Changes Result in Stronger Families | OAS Episode 57

The nature and demographics of employment are changing, with fewer men entering the workforce and the gig economy chipping away at traditional job relationships and structures. And state programs that oversee child support programs are taking notice.

We talk with officials in two states that are seeing success by working to address the issues and concerns of those who owe child support payments, and, as a result, are improving relationships between parents and their children.

Our guests are:

  • Larry Desbien, director, Colorado Division of Child Support Services
  • Noelita Lugo, assistant deputy director of Field Initiatives, Texas Attorney General’s Child Support Division

Additional Resources

Feb 28, 2019
What I Wish I Knew: Veteran Legislators Reflect (Part 2) | OAS Episode 56

In this episode, we complete our two-part series aimed at the more than 20 percent of the nation’s 7,383 state legislators who are new to the job in 2019. We talk with two current and two former state legislators—all who have held leadership positions—and ask them to give newly elected legislators advice or offer what they wish they knew when they walked into that legislative chamber for the first time. Our guests, in alphabetical order, include:

  • Utah Senator Curt Bramble (R), former NCSL president
  • Illinois Senator Toi Hutchinson (D), current NCSL president
  • David Long (R), former Indiana senator and Senate president pro tem
  • Terie Norelli (D), former New Hampshire House speaker and former NCSL president

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Feb 14, 2019
What I Wish I Knew: Veteran Legislators Reflect (Part 1) | OAS Episode 55

If you could write a letter to your younger self before starting your career, what would you say? That’s the premise of this special two-part presentation of “Our American States.”

“What I Wish I Knew” is aimed at the more than 20 percent of the nation’s 7,383 state legislators who are new to the job. In these episodes, we talk with two current and two former state legislators—all who have held leadership positions—and ask them to give newly elected legislators advice or offer what they wish they knew when they walked into that legislative chamber for the first time. Our guests, in alphabetical order, include:

  • Utah Senator Curt Bramble (R), former NCSL president
  • Illinois Senator Toi Hutchinson (D), current NCSL president
  • David Long (R), former Indiana senator and Senate president pro tem
  • Terie Norelli (D), former New Hampshire House speaker and former NCSL president

Additional Resources

Jan 24, 2019
Insuring the Insurers: States Work to Lower Health Premiums | OAS Episode 54

State legislatures recently began noticing that, because of the high-risk cases insurance companies must cover, individual premiums were escalating. As a result, they began to look into ways to create a pool to limit those losses and reduce premium costs. This led to the creation of reinsurance programs, which appear to be having the intended effect of reducing premiums and protecting insurance companies from financial disaster. We’ll discuss how two politically different states have addressed the issue and find out how it’s playing out in other states.

Our guests are:

  • Colleen Becker, policy specialist in the NCSL Health Program
  • Maryland Senator Thomas Middleton (D), who sponsored legislation in his state to establish a reinsurance program
  • Alaska Senator Cathy Giessel (R), who discusses actions her legislature took to become the first state to establish a reinsurance program

Blue Cross Blue Shield financially supported this episode of “Our American States.”

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Jan 17, 2019
Hot Issues for State Legislatures in 2019 | OAS Episode 53

For our first podcast of 2019, we take a look at the key issues America’s state legislatures will be considering this year. Our guest, William Pound, executive director of the National Conference of State Legislatures, breaks down those issues, offering his views on budgets, revenues, election reform, education, criminal justice and a host of other topics. He also walks us through the political landscape that was created after the 2018 elections.

Jan 10, 2019
Voters Decisions in 2018 May Affect Legislation in 2019 | OAS Episode 52

Voters across the nation were busy in 2018, electing their government officials at the federal, state and local levels. In addition, they considered 155 ballot issues throughout the year. Seventy-one of those were referred to voters by state legislatures. In this episode of “Our American States,” we delve into some of the key decisions they made and how their actions may affect the 2019 sessions of state legislatures.

Our guest is Wendy Underhill, a program director for elections and redistricting at the National Conference of State Legislatures. She will guide us through decisions voters made on a wide variety of topics. She’ll explain “ballot harvesting” and “lock boxes,” and give us insight on health, transportation, criminal justice, voting rights, energy, ethics for public officials and revenue issues that were on the ballot.

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Dec 27, 2018
The Art of Persuasion | OAS Episode 51

We are celebrating Legislative Staff Week with a special podcast on “The Art of Persuasion.”  Our expert will dive into the reasons why being able to persuade is important and how to use tactics to help others understand your point of view.

Our guest is Curt Stedron, who is a legislative trainer with the National Conference of State Legislatures. He’ll outline the importance of storytelling, describe how to reframe issues and examine how word choice is critical in communication.

Additional Resources

Dec 13, 2018
Brain Development and Childhood Adversity | OAS Episode 50

On this episode of “Our American States,” we explore two critical components of a child’s development. First, we’ll address adverse childhood experiences (often referred to as ACEs), which are stressful or traumatic events in childhood that have long-term impacts on health and well being. We talk to a national expert who will walk us through research on childhood trauma, and provide policymakers with ideas to address families facing stresses that cause ACEs.

We also discuss the importance of positive brain development, discover why the first three years are so critical for the nurturing of children, go over key research and find out what the policy implications are regarding early brain development. Our guests are:

  • Dr. Nadine Burke-Harris, founder and chief executive officer for the Center of Youth Wellness
  • Dr. Ross Thompson, a distinguished professor in the department of psychology at the University of California

Additional Resources

Dec 06, 2018
Women Elected to State Legislatures in Historic Numbers | OAS Episode 49

Following the 2018 midterm elections, more women will serve in state legislatures than ever before. Starting with the 2019 sessions, it appears that about 28 percent of the nation’s 7,383 state legislators will be women—a significant jump from a touch under 25 percent after the 2017 elections. In this episode, we dive into the historic numbers and discuss why they increased this year.

Our guest, Katie Ziegler, is the program manager for NCSL’s Women’s Legislative Network, the professional development organization that includes every female state legislator in the 50 states, U.S. territories and the District of Columbia. The Women's Legislative Network’s mission: to promote the participation, empowerment and leadership of women legislators.

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Nov 29, 2018
Eviction Database Shows America’s Housing Crisis | OAS Episode 48

Matthew Desmond went to Milwaukee to live with families being evicted from their homes. The personal stories he obtained there set the course for his book “Evicted,” which won the Pulitzer Prize in 2017. He then created a team at Princeton University to create a national database containing 80 million records on evictions since the year 2000. Data collected by this project shows that 2.3 million Americans in 2016 lived in a home that received an eviction notice.

Desmond is the principal investigator at the Eviction Lab, where the database is available to policymakers and the public and researchers can find valuable information on what is going on in their communities and states. But he says more work needs to be done to fully understand the issue. Join us for an insightful conversation on the causes and effects of evictions and how policymakers can use the collected information to make informed decisions on this public policy issue.

Additional Resources

Nov 08, 2018
Law Enforcement: Reform, Accountability and Communication | OAS Episode 47

Sates work to improve community safety in several ways, including the reduction of serious crime, ensuring fair enforcement of the laws and increasing police effectiveness. On this episode of “Our American States,” we examine the issues of policing, policy, costs, communication between communities and law enforcement agencies, and the need for criminal justice reform, including alternatives to incarceration of people needing mental health treatment. Our program gets insightful perspectives from those who deeply involved in these issues. Our guests are:

  • Barry Friedman, director of The Policing Project at the New York University School of Law, a nonprofit that works to ensure the community’s voice and sound decision-making techniques are part of the policing. He is the author of “Unwarranted: Policing Without Permission.”
  • Ron Serpas is a former police superintendent of New Orleans and the executive director of Law Enforcement Leaders, an organization of more than 200 current and former police chiefs, sheriffs, federal and state prosecutors and attorneys general from all 50 states working for a reduction in both crime and incarceration.

Additional Resources

Oct 25, 2018
State Capitol Symbols, Traditions and Styles | OAS Episode 46

Every state capitol is unique—but with some interesting similarities. We’ll dive into traditions, symbols and decorative features you can find in these impressive structures across our country. Our two guests have extensive experience and will share their knowledge with us on this episode of “Our American States.”

First, we talk with G. Paul Nardo, clerk of the House for the Virginia House of Delegates and the Keeper of the Rolls of the Commonwealth of Virginia. He’ll discuss traditions there, including the mace used in ceremonial procedures.         

Then, we will hear from Karl Kurtz, former director of the Trust for Representative Democracy, and now principle with LegisMatters. Kurtz has seen every U.S. capitol, including those in the territories and commonwealths. We’ll get his perspective on domes, artwork and legislative traditions.

Additional Resources

Oct 18, 2018
School Leadership: Study Looks at Stemming Principal Turnover Rates | OAS Episode 45

Our nation’s education system is constantly being evaluated and analyzed—including the area of school leadership and how it impacts teachers and the quality of learning students receive. The focus of this edition of “Our American States” is on principal supervisors.

The Principal Supervisor Initiative, a recently released national study, specifies five components for consideration that urge school districts to help stem the tide of principal turnover by ensuring supervisors provide leadership, rather than just focusing on compliance, legalities and evaluations.

Helping us to learn more about school leadership, principal supervisors and the study, is Dr. Mollie Rubin, a research assistant professor in the department of Leadership, Policy and Organizations at Vanderbilt University.

Additional Resources

Oct 11, 2018
2018 State Legislative Elections: Will History Prevail? | OAS Episode 44

More than 80 percent of all state legislative seats are up for election on Nov. 6, and, after the primaries, 21 percent of those seats have already turned over. That’s 2 to 3 percent higher than analysts normally see in a full election cycle, which means this could be one of the highest turnover rates in history.

And there’s more data that makes this an interesting election to watch. More women are running for office. The number of unopposed candidates has dropped dramatically. And Republicans, who control a solid majority of all state legislators and state legislative chambers, know that in a mid-term election the party of the president typically loses more than 400 seats. Democrats see an opportunity, but Republicans are working hard to hold off a blue wave.

Going over the data and explaining why the 2018 state legislative elections are critically important is our guest Tim Storey, director of State Services for the National Conference of State Legislatures. Storey, who has been analyzing elections for more than two decades, shares his expertise on what to look for and notes where the battleground states are in this election cycle.

Additional Resources

Sep 27, 2018
From Taxes to Marijuana: November Voters to Decide 160-Plus Policy Issues | OAS Episode 43

All voters will have the opportunity to elect federal, state and local government officials this November, but in more than 30 states more than 160 ballot issues on a wide variety of issues will also be on the ballot. NCSL maintains an election ballot issues database on all of the issues.

We asked Patrick Potyondy, a legislative policy specialist and ACLS-Mellon public fellow in NCSL’s Elections and Redistricting program, to walk us through some of the key measures. He discusses proposals on taxes, elections, redistricting, voting rights, energy, environment, transportation, criminal justice, marijuana and several other issues to give us a flavor of what voters will be looking at across the country.

Additional Resources

Sep 13, 2018
Bipartisan Efforts to Improve Economic Opportunities for Families | OAS Episode 42

The success and self-sustainability of families is critical to the overall well-being of our nation’s states. State legislators seeking to bolster economic opportunities for families in their districts have many challenging factors to consider and a wide field of policy options to choose from. To navigate this complex policy area, some of the best available tools for lawmakers are the wealth of knowledge developed by their colleagues and the work and guidance of national experts.

The National Conference of State Legislatures’ annual Economic Opportunities for Families meeting, now in its 16th year, is a rare opportunity when those resources converge. Since 2003, 40 states have participated in this gathering, developing multi-faceted policy plans to build their workforce, provide asset development options for families and give additional support to workers to keep them on track. Hundreds of new enactments have been developed here, and each year builds upon the lessons learned from the year before.

At the 2018 meeting, which took place in Denver, we interviewed three people to give their perspective on the value of the meeting and to share their thoughts on these critical issues. They include:

  • Illinois State Senator and NCSL President Toi Hutchinson (D)
  • Georgia State Representative Katie Dempsey (R)
  • Patrick McCarthy, president and CEO of the Annie E. Casey Foundation

Additional Resources

Aug 30, 2018
States Fighting Urge to Text and Drive | OAS Episode 41

Since the relative recent invention of texting, drivers have been tempted to check their phones. And pretty much at the same time, states have been looking at ways to temper that urge.

There are a number of challenges to effectively enforce distracted driving laws. Drivers find loopholes that give motorists a number of plausible excuses for holding or manipulating a mobile device. And no state or locality can afford a patrol to watch every driver on every road.

Still, an estimated 40,000 people die each year in traffic crashes. Our guests will provide the statistics and tell us what states are doing to drive that number down. And we’ll look at a program in Tennessee that literally has drivers and the media talking. Our guests are:

  • Liza Lemaster-Sandback, highway safety specialist, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
  • Lieutenant Bill Miller, public Information officer, Tennessee Highway Patrol

Additional Resources

Aug 16, 2018
Opioid Crisis Generates Bipartisan Solutions | OAS Episode 40

The U.S. Department of Health and Human services says 116 people die each day in the United States from an overdose of opioids. This includes prescription pain relievers, heroin and synthetic opioids. It says more than 2.1 million people had an opioid use disorder in 2016.

This year, the National Conference of State Legislatures created an Opioid Policy Fellows Program, open to chairs of health-related legislative committees. Through face-to-face meetings, the program is focused on health policies and programs related to the opioid crisis.

We held a conversation with three attendees of a recent Opioid Policy Fellows meeting in Denver, who explain how their state is addressing the crisis and why bipartisanship is critical in approaching legislation. Our guests are:

  • Maryland House Delegate Eric Bromwell (D)
  • Vermont Representative Ann Pugh (D)
  • Alaska Senator David Wilson (R)

Additional Resources

Aug 09, 2018
What the U.S. Supreme Court Told States This Term | OAS Episode 39

When the dust settled from the U.S. Supreme Court decisions in the term that ended in June 2018, states were left with a historic victory regarding the fairness of sales tax collections and the ability to decide for themselves on the legality of sports wagering. While there were other victories, some issues remained cloudy. But perhaps the biggest news of the term was the announcement from Justice Anthony Kennedy that he is retiring.

In this episode of “Our American States,” we ask Lisa Soronen, executive director of the State and Local Legal Center, to provide her analysis of the court’s 2017-18 decisions. She also gives her perspective on how Kennedy’s retirement may affect the court’s decisions on state issues in the future.

Jul 26, 2018
Taxes, Tariffs and Threats: A Look at the Still Booming U.S. Economy | OAS Episode 38

Christopher ThornbergFor most states, the fiscal year ended on June 30, 2018. We decided this would be a good time to get an overview of the national economy from an expert familiar to many state legislators and state legislative staff. Christopher Thornberg, the founding partner of the research firm Beacon Economics, is our guest on this episode.

He says a pressing concern for states is higher interest rates over the next 24 months and a lack of workers. He believes the economy will continue to grow over the next two years, but he sees stressors that make him worry how much longer the expansion can last. A “dangerously” low level of consumer savings is one of his concerns.

We get reaction to how the federal tax bill is affecting the economy and how tariff policies could affect states. He also explains why he believes Congress and the administration need to pay more attention to policies that have an impact on our economy. It’s part of his discussion he wants to share in his talk, “The Great Disconnect,” when he speaks at the NCSL Legislative Summit in Los Angeles on Aug. 1.

 

Jul 19, 2018
Ride Hailing Services: Wheelchairs and Seniors Waiting at the Curb | OAS Episode 37

On this issue of “Our American States,” we’ll take a look at how ride hailing services are having an effect on people with disabilities and older adults. Historically, the Americans with Disabilities Act has required taxi services to make accommodations for people with disabilities to ensure equal access to transportation services. This includes, for example, requirements that taxi companies have a certain number of wheelchair accessible vehicles, and allow service dogs to ride for free.

Our guests say the explosive growth of ride hailing services has had unintended consequences, such as a decrease in taxi services, a lack of training for contracted drivers and fewer wheelchair accessible vehicles available. In addition, apps do not have disability-friendly features. On the plus side though, it has opened up employment opportunities for older adults.

This episode features interviews with:

  • Carol Tyson, government affairs liaison, Disability Rights Education and Defense Funds
  • Jana Lynott, senior strategic policy adviser, AARP Public Policy Institute’s Livable Communities team

Additional Resources

Jul 12, 2018
Behind the Supreme Court Case That Gives States OK to Tax Internet Sales | OAS Episode 36

For more than 25 years, states have worked to close a loophole that allowed online companies to sell products tax free, while traditional brick and mortar stores were forced to collect and remit those taxes to states. The effort to put fairness in the marketplace and in state tax policy was led by the creation of a special task force formed by the National Conference of State Legislatures 26 years ago. The work paid off on June 21, 2018 when the United States Supreme Court reversed a 1992 decision that said businesses only had to collect sales taxes if they had a physical presence in the state.

In the new case, South Dakota v Wayfair, the court noted that the state had adopted the Streamlined Sales and Use Tax Agreement, which NCSL and other associations created to set a standard for the collection of taxes on online purchases. In this edition of “Our American States,” we have two experts who have worked intimately on this issue.

  • William Pound is the executive director of the National Conference of State Legislatures and worked with officers, state legislators and legislative staff 26 years ago to create the NCSL Executive Committee Task Force on State and Local Taxation. The group has worked tirelessly to bring fairness on this issue.
  • Max Behlke is the budget and tax director of the National Conference of State Legislatures State-Federal Relations Department in their Washington, D.C., office. He has staffed NCSL’s task force for several years.

Additional Resources

Jun 28, 2018
Summer Learning Programs Closing Achievement Gaps | OAS Episode 35

Taking classes in the summer was once seen as a punitive measure. Research, though, is showing that students of all ages and grades often suffer from a “summer slide,” or summer learning loss that makes re-entry to school in the fall more difficult. Our guests explain how this slide is tied into the achievement gap and affects students over time.

Matthew Boulay is the founder and CEO of the National Summer Learning Association. He discusses how students experience a “summer slide” and why it’s important to help students maintain gains from each school year.

Oregon State Representative Barbara Smith Warner (D) chaired the state’s Summer Learning Work Group, and is working to enhance summer learning programs for students in the state.

Jun 14, 2018