Our American States

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Episode Date
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 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.

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.

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 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 in 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. 

"Building Democracy" Podcast Homepage

 

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
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
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 are disabled from 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 disabled veterans, 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.

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.

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.

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. 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 medical marijuana.
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 Jacobsen, 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.

Jacobsen 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.

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. 

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.

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.

Additional Resources

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.

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.

Additional Resources

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.

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.
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.

Additional Resources

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.

Additional Resources

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.

Additional Resources

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

Additional Resources

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.”

Additional Resources

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.

Additional Resources

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.

Additional Resources

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