Frequently Asked Questions About the NCSL Standing Committees
What are the NCSL Standing Committees?
The NCSL Standing Committees are composed of legislators and legislative staff who are appointed by the leadership of the legislatures. The committees are the main organizational mechanism for serving NCSL members. There are 10 committees that deal with both state and state-federal issues.
The Standing Committees allow legislators and staff to benefit from the experiences of other states in shaping public policy, experimenting with new laws, and managing the legislative institutions. Committee members explore issues that states have to deal with, but committees do not recommend policy to the legislatures on issues that are internal to the states.
Committees do develop policy on state-federal issues to guide NCSL's lobbying efforts in Washington, D.C. NCSL's Washington staff lobby the Congress, the White House and federal agencies for the benefit of state legislatures in accord with the policy directives and resolutions recommended by the Standing Committees and adopted at the NCSL Annual Business Meeting. For information on these policies and NCSL's lobbying activities, see the standing committees' home page.
The committees' jurisdictions are divided by subject, like the committee jurisdictions in every legislature. The 10 committees' jurisdictions are listed in detail at the end of this document.
How do the Standing Committees accomplish their goals?
The Committees meet three times each year (the Fall Forum, Spring Forum, and in summer at the NCSL Legislative Summit), providing an exchange of information through dialog, meeting sessions, and networking opportunities. In addition to the meetings, committees disseminate information through special seminars, web sites, a variety of written documents, and webinars. As needed, committees also consider and adopt policy directives and resolutions for NCSL.
How are the Standing Committees structured?
There are 10 committees: Budgets and Revenue; Communications, Financial Services and Interstate Commerce; Education; Energy, Transportation and Agriculture; Environment; Health; Human Services and Welfare; Labor and Economic Development; Law and Criminal Justice; and Legislative Effectiveness.
The Fall and Spring Forums have a structure similar to that of the NCSL Legislative Summit and staff section training conferences. Plenary sessions address topics of wide interest, and each committee holds sessions on a variety of topics.
How are co-chairs and vice-chairs of committees selected?
The NCSL President and President-elect recommends legislators and the NCSL Staff Chair recommends legislative staff to serve as Co-Chairs and Vice-Chairs of all the Standing Committees. Legiislator committee officers serve a term of two years; staff officers serve a term of one year.
Who serves on the Standing Committees?
Each biennium, presiding officers and staff directors in all the states are asked to appoint members for each of the committees. Terms for members of committees are two years.
What are the expectations of committee members?
Members are asked to bring the perspective of their chamber to the state issues the committee addresses and to the state-federal policy directives and resolutions the committee develops. Members identify topics for the committee to explore and may serve as speakers or moderators for committee programs. Members consider and vote on state-federal policy directives and resolutions developed by the committee. Members are sometimes recruited to testify before congressional committees on committee policy directives and resolutions or to meet with federal agency officials. It's desirable for members to attend the committee meetings, but they also communicate their perspectives to committee officers and the NCSL committee staff. Only legislators present at committee meetings are allowed to vote on committee policy directives and resolutions.
What are the expectations of a committee officer?
Officers are expected to give leadership to the committees by helping to define the committee's agenda, plan activities at the forums, preside over committee sessions, and identify ways to disseminate information to committee members outside of the meetings. In addition, the officers of all committees work together to ensure that the committees are an effective outlet for the exchange of information among legislators and staff.
Do legislators and legislative staff have to be appointed to a committee to participate in meetings and activities?
No! Committee meetings, the Fall and Spring Forum, and the NCSL Legislative Summit are open to all legislators and legislative staff, regardless of committee membership. Participants at these meetings also typically include members of the private sector, public associations, state and local government, and others interested in state and federal policy. All those interested in the issues addressed by the Standing Committees are encouraged to attend meetings. Only legislators appointed to a specific committee can vote on policy directives and resolutions during that committee's business meeting.
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