By Jeanne Mejeur

You’ve probably noticed the 40th anniversary logo on NCSL’s website and read some of the stories in State Legislatures magazine about our history. But NCSL isn’t alone in celebrating an anniversary this year.

RACSS—the Research and Committee Staff Section—is celebrating its 35th anniversary. RACSS, pronounced “RAX,” is one of NCSL’s organizations for legislative staff. There are 10 staff sections, all arranged around legislative functions, such as drafting, research, fiscal analysis, and library services, and several staff networks centered around issues, such as education or health.

RACSS came about back in 1979, shortly after NCSL was formed from the merger of three legislative organizations. Research directors and legislative council managers were gathering informally at NCSL meetings and decided there should be a separate staff group just for research and committee staff. The groups formed with the rather unwieldy name of the Research and Substantive Committee Staff Section. By 1982, the name was changed to the sportier Research and Committee Staff Section and RACSS was born.

Originally, RACSS focused on the needs and interests of research managers and directors but officers soon realized research and committee staff also needed professional development training and opportunities to learn from their colleagues in other states. As the focus broadened, so did the array of activities RACSS offered.

To date:

  • More than 1,500 staff have attended RACSS fall professional development seminars since 1994.
  • RACSS has presented approximately 450 training programs for legislative staff since 1982, at NCSL annual meetings and staff section seminars.
  • 56 legislative staff have served as RACSS officers or directors since 1991.
  • RACSS has published more than 70 newsletters since 1989.
  • RACSS has presented six webinars in the last six years and cosponsored several more.

Here are some of the milestones for RACSS: The staff section adopted bylaws in 1979, published the first RACSS Newsletter in 1988 and in 1991 began printing an annual 50-state directory of legislative research agencies and directors, which is now an online document. In 1994, RACSS presented its first annual professional development seminar, in Hartford, Conn., and has held 18 seminars since then.

At approximately 1,300 members, RACSS is one of the largest of NCSL's staff sections, and one of the most diverse, with both partisan and nonpartisan research staff, committee staff, legislative attorneys, caucus staff and individual member staff.

The staff section has continued to evolve, with a bigger web presence and e-learning projects, while continuing to present a fall seminar and sessions at the NCSL Legislative Summit.

For more on RACSS history, including the reflections of past chairs Joyce Honaker of Kentucky and Mary Janicki of Connecticut, read the spring issue of the RACSS Newsletter or visit the RACSS home page.

Jeanne Mejeur is a program principal in NCSL's Legislative Management Program. 

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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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