By Megan McClure
In the newest episode of NCSL’s special podcast miniseries, "Building Democracy: The Story of Legislatures," we explore the not very distant era of legislative strengthening.
Not to toot our own horn, but NCSL’s history is integrally tied to the titanic efforts, personalities and organizations that sought to bolster the legislative institution in the second half of the 20th century.
In the summer of 1974 in Albuquerque, N.M., the National Conference of State Legislative Leaders, National Society of State Legislators and National Legislative Conference voted to dissolve the three separate entities and become the National Conference of State Legislatures.
The formation of NCSL was an indirect consequence of the legislative strengthening movement that was inspired by the Citizens Conference on State Legislatures and "The Sometime Governments," an extensive study of all 50 state legislatures, which were rated and scored according to how functional, accountable, informed, independent and representative (FAIIR) each legislature was. Scores were based on factors such as length and frequency of session, legislator compensation, staff size and specialization, facilities, committee structure and the dynamic between minority and majority parties and between the legislative and executive branches.
The formation of NCSL was a recognition that stronger and more effective state legislatures needed a more unified and professional national organization. As time went by, NCSL gained the expertise and, as an organization comprised of legislatures, the credibility to become the go-to source on legislative strengthening, organization, and procedure.
NCSL provides specialized training, policy expertise and in-depth research on topics at the forefront of legislative innovation and carries on the mission of strengthening state legislatures, representative democracy and the legislative institution.
Want to know more about how legislatures innovated and grew into the modern institutions we recognize today? Join our hosts and their guests, Texas Representative Senfronia Thompson; former Wisconsin Senator Fred Risser; Pennsylvania Speaker Bryan Cutler, former chief clerk of the California Assembly E. Dotson Wilson; and former NCSL executive director, Bill Pound as they explore this pivotal time in modern American representative democracy.
Megan McClure is co-host of NCSL’s Building Democracy Podcast and a research analyst II in NCSL’s Legislative Staff Services Program.