By Olivia Berlin
Twenty-eight legislators and legislative staff representing seven states gathered in downtown Denver last week to consider a range of economic issues affecting families during NCSL’s 14th-annual Leadership Forum on Economic Opportunities for Families.
The two-day forum featured speakers from across the country leading discussions on everything from workforce innovations to higher education to child care.
Utah Representative Becky Edwards (R) said she appreciated the opportunity to focus on these important issues. “Listening to other states’ challenges and ideas have helped me see the universality of these issues, that we’re not alone in this. Everyone’s dealing with job creation needs; everyone’s dealing with education needs. This gives us a chance to hear each other’s innovative ideas and get out of our own silo,” she said.
Ideas and innovations presented at the forum include data on the demographics of wealth distribution from Bill Emmons of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, the value of public-private partnerships from Metropolitan State University of Denver’s Stephen Jordan and IBM’s Ray Johnson, and the need for state and local programs to reduce the cycle of generational poverty from Ron Haskins of The Brookings Institution and Nate McDonald of the Utah Department of Workforce Services.
For many legislators, however, the most valuable aspect of the forum is the built-in state team time, in which the legislators from each state break off to discuss their priorities as a state and develop an action plan to implement when they return home.
“The process enabled us to find those elements currently missing or needing improvement in Utah,” said Utah Senator Howard Stephenson (R). “It helped us focus and reach consensus on a plan to achieve those elements moving forward.”
Maryland Senator Katherine Klausmeier (D) attended the forum for the seventh time this year, and urged state legislators across the country to take part whenever possible. “This is the most beneficial conference anyone can attend,” she said. “From beginning to end, the different speakers offer a wealth of information, and the breakout time gives us the opportunity to plan to help the working families in Maryland.”
The meeting is made possible by support from The Annie E. Casey Foundation. Visit the meeting agenda page to see the speakers’ presentations. For more information, contact NCSL’s Mary Fairchild.
Olivia Berlin is an intern in NCSL’s Communications Division.