By Kae Warnock
Legislative staff are often known for their quiet resolve to do the best job they can preserving and strengthening the legislative institution.
Margaret “Peggy” Piety exemplified that ideal for 18 years. Her quiet retirement surprised many in the Indiana General Assembly and her peers in state legislatures. She worked as a paralegal for a law firm in Indianapolis during the 1970s, and colleagues encouraged her to pursue a legal degree.
“We’re all very grateful that Peggy heeded that career advice and became an attorney," says Ross Hooten, director of the Office of Bill Drafting and Research.
Piety spent 11 years on the legal staff of the city of Indianapolis before taking a position as an attorney with the Legislative Services Agency (LSA) in September 2000.
Piety drafted a clear majority of the pension legislation considered by the Indiana General Assembly while with the LSA. During her legislative career, she staffed the Senate standing committee on pensions and labor and the Senate committee on elections. Her work on the elections committee meant that she worked through two redistricting cycles and her colleagues referred to her as steady, unflappable and nonpartisan.
When NCSL interviewed Piety in 2015, she said, “I’ve come to understand that public service is not a career for wimps. It’s hard and often underappreciated, but extremely critical.”
In addition to working on elections and pensions, Piety drafted labor and employment laws and served as a consultant to other staff on budget issues related to those topics. Her superior grasp of the importance of federal law to the members of the General Assembly and her knowledge and expertise meant that “legislators trusted her when she advised them as they considered legislation in these complex areas," Ross says. "She was also a very precise drafter with a thorough approach. Peggy was like a superstar baseball player who hits and fields with equal distinction. She was highly adept at both drafting for and counseling the Indiana General Assembly."
For those of us at NCSL, Piety has been a solid “go-to” person to speak on numerous legal issues for the professional staff associations. She served as chair of the Legal Services Staff Section from 2012-13 and NCSL staff chair from 2014-15. Notably, she is one of a handful of legislative staff to receive the Legislative Staff Achievement Award twice, in 2006 and again in 2015.
Piety has always kept civic engagement in mind and has been involved in the We the People program of the Center for Civic Education for many years.
Her service to the Indiana Legislature and NCSL have been exemplary and, as Ross put it, “she could not have been a better colleague or a greater asset to the agency and the General Assembly.”
I’ll second that. I’ve had the privilege of working with Piety since 2007 when she joined the executive committee of the Legal Services Staff Section. She brought a wealth of state and institutional knowledge to our many joint projects over the last 11 years. I am proud to say that I have worked with Peggy Piety.
Kae Warnock is a policy specialist in NCSL’s Legislative Staff Services program. She serves as NCSL’s liaison to the Research, Editorial, Legal and Committee Staff (RELACS) (formerly the Legal Services Staff Section), one of nine professional staff associations at NCSL.