By William Pound 

The headline on the four-page, black and white publication proclaimed “State Legislative Organization Is Born.” It was Volume 1, Number 1 of State Legislatures Today. Dated January 1975, it marked the birth of an organization—NCSL—and a magazine, both 40 years old this month.

January 2014 cover of State Legislatures magazineBy the second issue, with a publication date of June/July, the magazine had shortened its name to State Legislatures, contained 22 pages printed in two colors—black and red—and reported on issues that are strikingly relevant today. Headlines included “Gun Control: the Controversy Continues;” “Congress Tries to Tame the Budget;” “Changes in State Marijuana Laws.” Other articles covered medical malpractice, growth and land use, and fair trade laws.

State Legislatures was shaped, as all publications are, by its advent in time. The 1970s were a tumultuous era. The Vietnam War ended, China opened up, terrorists murdered the Israeli Olympics team in Munich, Watergate ended the Nixon presidency, and the energy crisis stalled the nation’s economic growth with double digit inflation, soaring interest rates above 20 percent and the worst recession since the Great Depression.

The year 1975 itself was marked by events large and small, cultural and political. "The Wiz" opened on Broadway; Jimmy Hoffa disappeared; Haldeman, Erhlichman and Mitchell were convicted of perjury, conspiracy and obstruction of justice; PCBs were outlawed; Mohammad Ali beat Joe Frazier; and Bill Gates incorporated a new company called Microsoft. The public’s approval rating of Congress that year bounced between a low of 28 percent and a high of 38 percent. 

Through it all, State Legislatures reported on the news, ideas, innovations and challenges the states and nation faced, and illustrated time and again that states are indeed the laboratories of democracy.

For 40 years, State Legislatures magazine has cared about both emerging and perennial issues, innovative as well as proven solutions, politics and politicians, leadership and legislative staff, the balance between the states and Congress, the courts and seven administrations. Its focus is constant and its reporting relevant and fresh. We believed 40 years ago, as we do today, that the states—with their serious, bipartisan approach to solving problems—strengthen the nation and move it forward. 

At a time of gridlock and partisanship that has stalled Congress and frustrated the public, state legislators get down to work on what needs to be done. They meet the challenges of our country every day. The best ideas do indeed come from the states. And the best way to learn about those ideas is to read the pages of this magazine. 

William Pound is the executive director of NCSL.

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This blog offers updates on the National Conference of State Legislatures' research and training, the latest on federalism and the state legislative institution, and posts about state legislators and legislative staff. The blog is edited by NCSL staff and written primarily by NCSL's experts on public policy and the state legislative institution.


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