Legislative Effectiveness Committee Meeting

April 14-15, 2011

Washington, D.C.

Meeting Session:

NCSL: Get Your Money’s Worth

Overview and Faculty:

NCSL provides meetings, information, advice and technical assistance to legislatures and legislators. This help can take many forms, such as testifying at committee hearings about practices in other states, leading workshops to learn tips about working with the media and briefing legislators on the impact of recently enacted federal legislation. Is your state getting its money’s worth from NCSL? This session explained how to put NCSL’s experts to work for you.

Moderator: Tim Rice, Executive Director, Legislative Information Systems, Illinois, NCSL Staff Chair

Presenters: Representative Rosie Berger, Wyoming
Larry Morandi, Director, State Policy Research Division, NCSL
Representative Dwight Evans, Pennsylvania
 

Summary:

Tim Rice began by pointing out that this session was designed to help legislators and staff go beyond the NCSL basics. In addition to major meetings like the Legislative Summit and the Spring and Fall Forums, NCSL offers lots of assistance, publications and other services for their members. Sometimes it takes some investigating to figure out the “inside dope,” but the key is for legislators and staff to ask for what they need. Tim introduced the panelists.

Larry Morandi described some important first steps for those trying to find out about NCSL services. He suggested starting on the website (www.ncsl.org), clicking on “About Us” and then going to “Member Services.” This leads to a five-step process for learning how to get your money’s worth from NCSL. There is a research option that can link you to all of the research that NCSL’s experts have conducted on the topics facing legislators. The issue experts and contact information are also listed. The website notes NCSL’s upcoming meetings with links to further explanations and registration procedures. NCSL also has created a number of e-learning opportunities, including webinars and CDs from the “effective legislator” series. Lastly, the website lists the NCSL state contact for each state, so legislators and staff always have a “first call for help” available. Larry finished by talking about specific examples of NCSL assistance to states, including performance evaluation agency reviews in Nebraska and Hawaii, welfare briefings in Arkansas, family economic success team building in Iowa and ethics training in Illinois.

Representative Dwight Evans mentioned the practical value of attending invitational meetings that NCSL has created in partnership with the Annie E. Casey Foundation. These meetings focus on the needs of working families, bringing together state teams of legislators, state officials and key stakeholders to hear experts and spend planning time to develop their own initiatives. Representative Evans noted that his district had a community with no grocery stores and the state team was able to develop a fresh food financing alliance. The NCSL/Annie E. Casey meetings were crucial, as it really allowed the state group to develop trust in each other and become a problem solving team.

Representative Rosie Berger noted that NCSL is extremely important for a small state like Wyoming, where they have only 38 full-time staff. She distributed a handout that listed all the recent technical services, presentations, testimony and legislator and staff training that NCSL has provided. Key components included a comprehensive study of the Legislative Services Office, reviews of IT and performance evaluation capacities, presentations on voting and heath care, a member satisfaction survey regarding the staff legal division and direct assistance with the new member orientation program. Representative Berger also mentioned the great value for legislators to find a home within NCSL. For her, the Women’s Legislative Network has allowed her to make friends and connections with colleagues across the country. Starting there, she opened herself to a variety of experiences with NCSL committees and meetings that have included membership on NCSL’s Executive Committee and participation with some foreign workshops and study tours. NCSL has provided her and her state with some excellent opportunities.

  • Handout:  "Wyoming and NCSL: Getting Our Money's Worth" (PDF)