Issue Forums

Issue Forums


Going the Distance

Choose from more than 150 issue sessions that give you information, ideas and solutions the critical problems America faces today. The links below will take you to descriptions of individual sessions.


A Voice For Rural Issues
Whether just established or long-standing, rural caucuses help ensure that the interests of rural constituencies are considered in state policymaking, allowing members to weigh in effectively on everything from rural hospitals to funding for agricultural research to broadband.

Criminal Justice

A Data-Driven Approach to Reducing Prison Spending
Strained state finances prompt states to explore how to be smart and tough on crime. Learn how states are using data-driven decision making to create policies that decrease recidivism, protect public safety and reduce prison spending.

Key Components of Juvenile Justice Reform
Foster children, juvenile delinquents, teen parents, dropouts—how do we improve the lives of kids? Health, education and families are key. Leading national experts will share innovative and cost-saving ways to improve the lives of young people through prevention and early intervention, with a focus on collaboration across systems such as juvenile justice and child welfare.

Reexamining the Death Penalty
Explore the current status and future prospects of the death penalty in states. Examine the lethal injection moratorium in Kentucky, the costs of capital cases, recent court rulings, the increase in blanket clemency and pardons, and other ways states continue to react to and reexamine the death penalty.


What’s Ahead for the Economy: Choppy Waters or Smooth Sailing?
Leading economists believe the U.S. recovery began sometime in the third quarter of 2009. But many officials wonder if the recovery is on track and what the future bodes for state economies. Hear one of the nation’s leading economists give his perspective.

Top 10 Management Characteristics of Highly Rated States
The current fiscal crisis has caused some officials to consider how they manage their state operations and how they can improve. What are some of the characteristics of states that are regularly rated as triple-A by the bond rating agencies?

Online Sales Taxes: Are They New Taxes?
States have been working for 10 years to streamline the collection of sales taxes to make it less burdensome for out-of- state sellers. Critics argue that this effort is really a new tax on a struggling industry—online sales. Two leading advocates debate the question.

Boosting Savings in Troubled Times
Americans who develop a savings habit create a cushion in case of emergency and strengthen the country’s financial foundation. Research shows that even the poorest Americans will save money with relevant incentives and access to savings opportunities. Learn about innovative public/private approaches—from outreach campaigns by banks to video games—that engage more people in traditional financial services.


Recovering from the Great Recession—The Role of Community Colleges
In a post-recession era, retraining workers is critical to decreasing unemployment in the states. Community colleges provide innovative, adaptable and real-time solutions by working closely with businesses and communities to meet state and regional workforce needs. Learn how states are emphasizing the role of community colleges in retraining workers, and how states can leverage federal and other money to supplement state money.

A New Path for Education Policy
Learn what NCSL’s bipartisan Task Force on Federal Education Policy recommends for a coherent, effective and efficient use of limited federal resources. Discuss how federal education policy and funding can better target disadvantaged students, focus on results rather than process, and support special needs programs. Find out how the federal tax code might be changed to invest more in the infrastructure of public education.

Getting Into the College of Your Choice
Parents and students will want to attend this excellent workshop on academic preparation and college admissions. Experts answer all your questions about academic planning, financial aid, admissions procedures and more.


2010 Fall Election Preview
This is a huge election year for the states, with 37 governors and 6,115 legislative seats up for grabs. The stakes are particularly high this year because control over redistricting hangs in the balance. Preview key races and ballot issues in the states.

Citizens United v. FEC: Political Blockbuster or Not?
The Citizens United decision sent waves of speculation out onto the political landscape. Explore how the decision will affect democracy, politics and state legislative election campaigns.


America’s Energy Future
The United States is facing some of the most significant energy challenges in its history as well as considerable opportunity. Updating our 20th century system to meet 21st century needs will require foresight, knowledge and resources. Explore the challenges in adapting the energy grid to new domestic energy resources while ensuring clean, reliable and affordable energy for all.

Health Care

Taming Health Costs: States Making a Difference
States are struggling to rein in health costs and promote more efficiency, knowing that health spending accounts for more than 30 percent of many state budgets. Legislatures have suggested a variety of promising practices that could produce short-term savings, or “bend the cost curve” toward affordability for the long term. Hear the latest results from NCSL’s health cost containment project.

Quality and Cost: Achieving Value in Today’s Health Care Climate
With states battling increased health costs, can they afford to focus on quality? Explore the current state of health care quality and the use of evidence-based medicine, and how these factors can affect costs. Hear from a professional whose network of hospitals and clinics has been described as a model for health reform.

Investing in Children's Health
State lawmakers seek cost-effective solutions to control health spending. Investing in prevention and health care for children saves states money. Learn about promising practices and comprehensive approaches that coordinate programs and services.


Jobs, Jobs and More Jobs
Despite signs that the nation may be recovering, unemployment remains high and state finances continue to suffer. With funds already scarce, many states have taken new approaches to spark their economies without further expenditures. Hear about what’s worked and what else states can do to encourage job growth.

Creating Jobs in a Recession—Subsidized Employment
Investments in subsidized jobs surged during the recession as states sought to train workers in green jobs, high tech and health care, among others. Officials had to gear up quickly and balance efforts to create jobs for unemployed workers while building their skills for the future. Learn about new funding sources for subsidized jobs and strategies for effectively engaging employers to increase opportunities for low-skilled workers and fuel economic development.

Containing Costs for Workers’ Compensation
States are enacting new medical cost containment strategies to stem the rising costs for workers’ compensation. Examine the effectiveness of medical fee schedules, regulating hospital and surgical charges, and limits on prescription drug costs, and explore other options to control costs for workers’ compensation claims.

Legislators and staff Training

The Transparent Legislature
An open government—one that is transparent, participatory and collaborative—is increasingly the new paradigm at all levels and branches of government. How can legislatures provide access and transparency while ensuring that important privacy, security, data integrity and institutional values are not compromised?

The Best Quote Ever
The press calls, they want a quote, now what? Our experts will teach you how to craft key message points that turn into great quotes in the morning paper.

The Art of Public Debate
Having information is not today’s challenge. Being heard and getting your point across is. Learn key techniques for making your point and making it stick in a variety of public settings.

Town Hall Meetings That Work
Town hall meetings are a unique American experience. Learn critical skills and strategies for making them work for you and your constituents.

Redistricting: What Every
Legislator Needs to Know The decennial ritual of legislative district line drawing is upon us. Learn essential information on redistricting law, drawing the maps and the census to effectively participate in this challenging and politically charged process.

Leadership in Challenging Times
Designing innovative solutions to thorny issues is important in tough budget times, particularly when the public’s trust in government is waning. Learn the essential leadership skills to motivate and inspire that can make a difference in policymaking and personnel management.


Preparing for Battle: Trained Troops and Happy Families
As the United States wages battles in Afghanistan and Iraq, the nation’s troops and their families continue to face the ups and downs of life in the military. Preparing for battle involves much more than combat-readiness. Hear from top Pentagon leaders how the Department of Defense keeps our troops trained and ready for battle while balancing the needs of military families.

State Pensions and Retiree Health Care

Legislators’ Guide to Public Pensions
Examine legislators’ power and responsibilities in the design and oversight of state retirement policy. Discuss the complicated question of state governments’ ability to reduce the benefits promised to current employees and retired people. And learn how to make good policy in this technical and complicated area of law.

Current Issues in State Retirement Policy
Weak state revenues and loss of assets are not the only issues public retirement funds must cope with. The public workforce is aging, people would like to retire early, and in some states the workforce is shrinking. People are living longer. All these changes have to be factored into retirement policy. What’s the best way to keep track of all these moving parts?

State Responses to the Pension Crisis
Since mid-decade, states have taken unprecedented action to ensure they can sustain the long-term commitments to employee pensions. Hear about the kinds of responses states have been taking, and the Pew Center on the States’ important report on how well state governments are responding to the pension crisis.

Financing Public Retiree Health Care
The Government Accountability Office says that state governments’ fiscal conditions will decline over the next half-century—through 2060—largely because of the cost of health care. Retiree health care is a large part of the problem. Hear from experts on options designed to make health care costs more manageable.


Investing in our Nation’s Infrastructure
Highways, bridges, drinking and waste water facilities, telecommunications, smart grid, high-speed rail. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act made significant investments in our nation’s infrastructure, both the aging systems and those still in their infancy. Explore the future of our nation’s infrastructure and how we continue to maintain these critical systems.

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