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THE NCSL PODCAST

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Building Democracy: The Story of Legislatures | Episode 4
Overview NCSL’s Our American States podcast presents a special six-part series, “Building Democracy: The Story of Legislatures.” This new mini-series covers the history, characters and stories of state legislatures in America, fr...

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NCSL TODAY

Read today's national headlines on issues that matter to state legislatures. 

NCSL LATEST RESOURCES

The Canvass October 2020
With the general election just one month away, we asked a handful of election experts to talk about what are they watching for, preparing for or hoping for this November.

Student Loan Bill Tracking Database
This interactive database tracks state legislation related to student loan debt across several categories, including forgiveness, licensure, oversight and taxes.

Veto-Proof Majorities in State Legislatures
Republicans maintain veto-proof majorities in 15 states, while Democrats maintain them in six (potentially seven depending on Vermont). Find charts listing the veto-proof majorities in state legislatures by party and the thresholds involved by state.

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THE NCSL BLOG

DnnForge - LatestArticles

Alaskans Approve Sweeping Election Changes

Election results might be old news in most states, but in Alaska, it’s still breaking news.

COVID-19 Appears to Exacerbate Risky Driving Behaviors

A couple of months after the COVID-19 pandemic hit the U.S., traffic safety experts expressed concern over what they were seeing on the country’s streets and highways. While many Americans were homebound by stay-at-home orders, road fatalities were not decreasing at the expected rate.

States Leading the Way on Immigrant Integration

NCSL’s Task Force on Immigration and the States has been examining immigration challenges and proposing common sense reforms since it was formed in 2006. This week, task force cochairs Nevada State Senator Mo Denis and Nebraska State Senator John McCollister highlighted success stories in their states for the National Immigration Forum’s Leading the Way conference.

Celebrating State Innovations on National Rural Health Day 2020

Rural residents across the U.S. may be at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19 due to the aging population, higher rates of underlying chronic disease, and higher likelihood of having a disability.

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NCSL NEWS | IN MEMORIAM
a view of coors field in downtown denver

Former Ethics Center Director Peggy Kerns Dies

Kerns, who died Nov. 14, was the first director of NCSL’s Center for Ethics in Government, after a lengthy career in the Colorado General Assembly and service in the Clinton administration. She was widely recognized as a national expert on state ethics laws and norms.

LABOR AND EMPLOYMENT
male worker with broken leg recovering on hospital bed

Disability Benefits: State and Local Programs Versus Social Security

A new study finds that most state and local programs for workers who are outside the Social Security system provide “adequate” disability coverage. In fact, some offer more comprehensive benefits for longer-tenured employees than SSDI does.

NCSL NEWS | WOMEN’S HISTORY
suffragists ride in a car with banners promoting votes for women, in Montana, 1914

Podcast Explores Women’s Suffrage as Female Lawmakers Gain Influence

As women’s numbers and influence in state legislatures grow, lawmakers and historians discusses the often untold stories of how women fought for and won their right to vote and how they shaped government and life on the frontier well before the 19th Amendment was ratified.

HEALTH | IMMUNIZATIONS
closeup of elderly patient receiving vaccine injection in her arm

National Framework, State Plans Emerging for COVID-19 Vaccine Allocation

While the end goal is to offer vaccines to the entire U.S. population, the federal government, states and local jurisdictions want to be sure it goes first to those who need it most.

LEGISLATURES | REOPENING
aerial view of Utah Capitol building in Salt Lake City

Masks, Plexiglass on Tap for Upcoming Legislative Sessions

The coronavirus is raging out of control in many parts of the country, and most state legislatures will reconvene in a few short months. To do it safely, lawmakers are weighing a variety of potential changes.

EDUCATION | COVID-19
young student in school classroom uses hand sanitizer at her desk

New Resources Track School Reopening Guidance, Requirements

As COVID-19 continues to upend instruction and operations for schools nationwide, resources developed in recent months can help policymakers and school leaders decide on the instructional methods that work best for their states and districts.

ELECTION 2020 | LEADERSHIP CHANGES
exterior of the Minnesota Capitol building seen from the front

Mapping the Postelection Chamber Leadership Landscape

The 2020 election brought with it a fair share of legislative leadership changes—though many were decided well before voters went to the polls on Election Day. That doesn’t mean there weren’t some surprises, however.

ELECTION 2020
closeup image of man putting ballot in ballot box

Analysis: Voters Opt for Status Quo in State-Level Races

NCSL’s executive director, Tim Storey, and other elections experts discuss the outcomes of state legislative races and ballot measure questions after an election that resulted in little change in most chambers nationwide.

NCSL NEWS
blurred image of students walking in school hallway

NCSL Education Experts on Nation’s Report Card, E-Rate Funding and More

Even before the pandemic hit, high school seniors’ test results were lackluster. Average scores in 2019 were unchanged in math but lower in reading compared with 2015, and scores decreased in both subjects for the lowest performing students, according to the latest Nation’s Report Card.

POLICY BRIEF | HEALTH CARE
health care worker comforting elderly man seated in wheelchair

Time Is Right to Examine Delivery of Long-Term Services and Supports

State performance in providing long-term services and supports for older adults, people with disabilities and family caregivers remains steady, and more than 20 states showed improvement in a handful of areas, according to a new report.

POLICY BRIEF | FINANCIAL SERVICES
male and female finance professionals looking at computer display

National Bank Charter for Payments Companies Would Preempt State Authority

A recent decision to grant national bank status to companies that do not accept deposits as traditional banks do would preempt state regulatory authority and undermine the dual banking system established by Congress.

POLICY TREND | SCHOOL FUNDING
blurred image of students walking in a school hallway

School Officials Await Potential COVID-19-Related Budget Cuts

As states grapple with budget shortfalls caused by the pandemic, funding for elementary and secondary education will inevitably be reduced for at least the next two fiscal years.

ELECTIONS | BALLOT MEASURES
closeup of hand holding pencil to fill out ballot

Voters Pass Majority of 2020 Ballot Measure Issues

Nationwide, voters decided on a total 124 ballot measures, 38 of them citizen initiatives. Besides a couple of staple issues—taxes and abortion—voters weighed in on marijuana, redistricting, gun rights and reestablishing an endangered species.

LEGISLATURES
the wisconsin capitol building in madison

Back to the Future: The Past Year Will Guide Planning for 2021 Sessions

What to expect for legislatures in 2021? Nearly a year’s worth of pandemic-related adaptations could give state lawmakers guidance in planning their upcoming sessions.

ELECTIONS | PARTISAN CONTROL
a sign reading 'vote here' outside a polling place

Republicans Fend off Democrats in Statehouse Fights

Democrats failed to break the GOP’s grip on state legislatures Tuesday, bolstering conservative policy priorities and giving Republicans increased power leading into the crucial redistricting process in 2021.

EDUCATION | REOPENING SCHOOLS
students wearing anti-virus masks sit in a school classroom

States Act to Give Schools COVID-19 Liability Protection

With schools concerned about their liability as students returned to the classroom this fall, some legislatures have considered measures to provide them with state-level protection.

POLICY BRIEF
a woman standing in an open field operating a drone

Drone Policies Soar in 2020

From aiding in the pandemic response to helping in the fight against invasive Burmese pythons, lawmakers put unmanned aerial systems to a broadening variety of uses this year.

ELECTIONS
Closeup view of a woman's hands as she counts ballots

On Election Day, NCSL Looks Back at Expert Q&As From ‘The Canvass’

Nearly 100 million Americans had already cast ballots when the polls opened this morning. And while the presidential and congressional results are top of mind for many, on Election Day, NCSL is your go-to source for news and analysis on what’s happening in state elections.

ELECTIONS | SAFETY AT THE POLLS
Police officer from behind showing gunbelt

Police Have ‘No Clear Playbook’ for This Election, Experts Say

With tensions high and many observers concerned about voter intimidation, local election officials plan to add security at polling places and police prepare to face challenges they haven’t encountered in modern memory.

WOMEN’S REPRESENTATION
Group photo showing the women of the Minnesota Senate in 2019

Women Aim to Build on Legislative Gains of Last Two Years

Since 2018, women have won seats in state legislatures in record numbers. Many of the more than 3,400 female candidates in this year’s election hope to build on that progress.

TWILIGHT ZONES
Male hands changing the time on an old-fashioned alarm clock

A New Wrinkle in Time: Will Lawmakers End Our Clock-Changing Grind?

In the last five years, virtually every state has considered bills to stop changing our clocks in and out of daylight saving time, with 13 states enacting such measures. Still, federal law prohibits states from enacting DST permanently, so the states will need help from Congress.

REMOTE HEALTH SERVICES
A female patient receives telehealth treatment from a dentist

States Turn to Telehealth During the Pandemic

By letting health care providers screen, triage and treat symptoms remotely, states are coping with workforce shortages and reducing the risk of patients being exposed to coronavirus while visiting health care facilities.

LEGISLATORS | DEMOGRAPHICS
A wide-angle view of a state legislative chamber

The ‘Average’ State Legislator Is Changing, Slowly

The average legislator today is a white male baby boomer with an advanced degree—just as in 2015. But that seemingly static, big-picture takeaway belies significant shifts in legislator demographics over the past five years.

EDUCATION | ONLINE LEARNING
A doctor writes on a patient's medical chart in a health clinic

States Use CARES Act Funds to Address Digital Divide

Funding streams available through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act are helping states to provide students with the resources they need to keep learning online during a pandemic-disrupted school year.

HEALTHY HOLIDAYS
A Halloween pumpkin is decorated with a medical face mask

How to Have a Boo-tifully Safe Halloween

As Halloween approaches, complete with a rare blue full moon, a group of private partners has launched a website that breaks down how to get in the spooky spirit while minding health officials’ safety recommendations.

HEALTH INSURANCE | ACA
A doctor writes on a patient's medical chart in a health clinic

Amid Uncertainty, Open Enrollment Begins Nov. 1

The pandemic and the subsequent economic crisis have led to a disruption in coverage for many, especially those losing employer-sponsored insurance. Furthermore, the U.S. Supreme Court will soon hear arguments to overturn the entire federal health law.

NEWS BRIEFS
woman's face illustrating facial recognition software concept

Most People Trust Science and AI, Poll Finds; Robotic Dogs Help Police

Most people around the world trust scientists to act in the public interest and say the development of artificial intelligence has been good for society, according to a new survey. And robotic dogs are doing potentially dangerous tasks so the police don’t have to.

ELECTIONS | ABSENTEE VOTING
secure metal ballot drop box located in a parking lot

Rise in Use of Ballot Drop Boxes Sparks Partisan Battles

Supporters of drop boxes say they make voting easier and safer, especially during the pandemic. Opponents say they worry about ballot security. The conflict has led to court cases, political back-and-forth and uncertainty for local election officials and voters.

POLICY BRIEF | MAIL VOTING
closeup showing hands holding a mail-in ballot

What States Have Done to Avoid Glitches With Mail-In Voting

With just two weeks to go until the election, absentee/mail voting continues to be a headline issue among election administrators and policy pundits. What have states done to ensure the election operates smoothly?

TOOLBOX | WORKPLACE DIVERSITY
diverse group of employees, including one in a wheelchair, meeting around a table

Three Questions to Help You Uncover Unconscious Bias

There are various ways to reveal exclusion and unconscious bias in an organization—and eventually eradicate them—but you can start the process by asking yourself these three questions.

ELECTIONS | VOTER COMMUNICATIONS
base camp racial disparities

Task Force Gets Accurate Information Into Voters’ Hands

The nonpartisan Voter Communications Task Force is making voting easier by providing, and helping others to distribute, accurate information about when, where and how to cast ballots.

NCSL NEWS
base camp racial disparities

Recent Meeting Highlights Value of Afterschool Programs

NCSL’s two-day virtual meeting “Afterschool During COVID-19 and Beyond” spotlighted the importance of the 21st Century Learning Centers initiative and the renewed urgency of the “Fight Crime: Invest in Kids” report, which shows that kids and communities benefit when students have access to afterschool programs.

INNOVATIONS | TELEWORK
base camp racial disparities

States Craft Remote Work Policies That Work

Legislative staff directors and human resources staff are working hard to create and refine remote-work policies and to find new, creative ways for staff to get their jobs done from afar—without impeding the legislative process.

POLICY TREND | UNEMPLOYMENT
base camp racial disparities

Workshare Programs Help Businesses Weather a Socially Distanced Economy

Workshare or short-time compensation programs can help businesses survive a virus-constricted economy by letting employees work reduced hours and still receive a portion of their typical pay.

NCSL BASE CAMP 2020
base camp racial disparities

Two Perspectives on Addressing Racial Disparities

National experts joined NCSL Base Camp to share their thoughts and experiences, and to challenge assumptions, broaden worldviews and provide potential solutions to racial disparities.

TAXATION
redistricting us supreme court

Remote Work Boom Complicates State Income Taxes

With millions of people working remotely, and business experts predicting that many of them will continue to do so after the pandemic ebbs, tax departments in more states will be examining the feasibility of taxing remote workers.

IN MEMORIAM
redistricting us supreme court

Remembering Tim Rice, Former NCSL Staff Chair

Tim Rice, former executive director of the Illinois Legislative Information System who served a term as NCSL staff chair, and who was an enthusiastic supporter of the National Association of Legislative Information Technology, died Oct. 2. He was 64.

COMMUNICATIONS
redistricting us supreme court

4 Ways Legislatures Are Making Citizen Participation Easier

The legislative process relies on input from the public. Contacting a legislator may sound straightforward, but it’s not always so easy—especially if someone has a disability. Legislatures, however, are making public participation easier by offering reasonable access to auxiliary communication mechanisms.

POLICY TREND | TRAFFIC SAFETY
redistricting us supreme court

Pump the Brakes or Hit the Gas? Lawmakers Debate Speed Limits

Lawmakers continue to allow local officials to lower vehicle speed limits, while they raise limits on highways and interstates. A new challenge is reining in the surge in speeding brought on by the pandemic in some states.

EDUCATION
redistricting us supreme court

Will the Pandemic Change the Way We Deliver K-12 Education?

School looks and feels different this fall. In some communities, if school buildings are open at all, it’s only to teachers and administrators who guide instruction remotely. Other districts have welcomed students back but with strict health-safety rules. Still others are combining face-to-face teaching with distance learning.

ELECTION 2020 | POLL WORKERS
poll worker at polling place wearing ppe

Wanted: Poll Workers Able to Brave the Pandemic

Election officials in many states are looking for people to run the polls on Nov. 3. The pandemic has exacerbated an already-critical shortage of poll workers at the same time many people anticipate a larger-than-average voter turnout.

POLICY TREND | PUBLIC PENSIONS
redistricting us supreme court

Three Ways to Measure Public Employee Retirement Security

Market losses incurred in the early weeks of the pandemic have largely been offset by recent rebounds, but increases in market volatility and uncertainty resulting from the crisis have prompted concern over the investment portfolios of many individuals and institutions.

POLICY TREND | UNEMPLOYMENT
redistricting us supreme court

State Strategies for Stopping Unemployment Fraud Amid the Pandemic

Scammers have seized the opportunity to defraud state unemployment systems out of millions of dollars. A report by the Secret Service found that the scams are being operated by organized crime using stolen personal information to submit false applications.

POLICY TREND | REDISTRICTING
redistricting us supreme court

Why Only Some Redistricting Cases Get Three-Judge Courts

In an era where the Supreme Court hears fewer than 100 cases per term, why would redistricting hold such a prominent position in its docket? The answer lies in the procedural rules set out by Congress.

POLICY TREND | HEALTH
racism public health crisis

Nevada Declares Racism a Public Health Crisis, Other States Explore Similar Action

Citing the stark racial health disparities evident before and magnified by the coronavirus pandemic, the Nevada Legislature passed a resolution declaring systemic racism a public health crisis and urging action to address it.

NCSL BASE CAMP 2020
legislative leadership in a crisis ncsl base camp 2020

Legislative Leaders, Our Real American Superheroes

In a year unlike any other, legislative leaders have been thrust into the spotlight—guiding their chambers through a global pandemic’s myriad challenges. At NCSL Base Camp last week, five legislative leaders shared what they learned about leading and legislating beyond crisis.

NCSL BASE CAMP 2020
jessica buchanan kidnapping ncsl base camp 2020

Jessica Buchanan on Building Resilience in Trying Times

Jessica Buchanan was working as a humanitarian aid worker in 2011 when she was kidnapped by Somali land pirates and held outside in the scrub desert for 93 days before being rescued by Navy SEALs. She shared the lessons she learned and offered advice during a salute to legislative staff session.

NCSL BASE CAMP 2020
elections and emergencies ncsl base camp 2020

Elections: What to Expect When the Unexpected Happens

In this session, six legislators—Wisconsin Senator Kathy Bernier (R), Kansas Senator Elaine Bowers (R), Nebraska Senator Adam Morfeld (D), Nevada Senator Pat Spearman (D), Indiana Senator Greg Walker (R) and New Jersey Assemblymember Andrew Zwicker (D)—kindly agreed to take part in an unscripted election exercise.

NCSL BASE CAMP 2020
jenny yang discrimination and diversity ncsl base camp 2020

State Actions to Create Safe, Inclusive Workplaces

In addition to shining a spotlight on horrendous personal behavior, the #MeToo movement launched a wide-ranging dialogue resulting in significant state legislation aiming to fill legal gaps in laws dealing with workplace inequities and discrimination.

SPOTLIGHT | EDUCATION
covid college campus education

COVID-19 Brings New Uncertainty for Schools at All Levels

The COVID-19 pandemic has radically reshaped higher education. From admission to graduation, no aspect of the college experience is unchanged, and the disruptions are far from over. States face daunting funding challenges, and the very survival of some institutions is in doubt.

NCSL BASE CAMP 2020
transportation predictions ncsl base camp 2020

Transportation Predictions for 2021

Those attending the NCSL Base Camp session “Transportation: Predictions for 2021” made it clear from the start what was on their minds: money. Specifically, where can we get more of it to pay for roadway and transit improvements?

NCSL BASE CAMP 2020
redistricting ncsl base camp 2020

The Future of Redistricting

Ohio Senator Matt Huffman (R), North Carolina Senator Dan Blue (D) and Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the nonpartisan Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, kept attendees engaged with their insight and advice for the upcoming round of redistricting.

NCSL BASE CAMP 2020
art of legislative negotiation ncsl base camp 2020

Deliver, Don’t Deny: The Art of Legislative Negotiation

“A legislature is a constant clash of agendas and goals and objectives,” Curt Stedron, NCSL’s director of legislative training, says. “If we’re always negotiating, are we doing it in the best possible way to come up with the most optimal solutions?”

SPOTLIGHT | PRIVACY
facial recognition technology privacy

Facial Recognition Gaining Measured Acceptance

Facial recognition technology has state lawmakers, government officials, businesspeople and consumers everywhere exploring the opportunities and benefits it may offer. So why have Amazon, IBM and Microsoft announced plans to limit their sales of the technology?

NCSL BASE CAMP 2020
state-federal energy mix and issues ncsl base camp 2020

Experts Weigh In on State-Federal Clash Over the Energy Mix

NCSL hosted a discussion on the state and federal role in shaping energy markets and resource mix with experts Ari Peskoe, director of Harvard Law School’s Electricity Law Initiative and Richard Doying, executive vice president of markets for the Midcontinent Independent System Operator.

NCSL BASE CAMP 2020
police policy and reform leslie herod, barry friedman ncsl base camp 2020

Perspectives on Policing Policy

The deaths this year of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Daniel Prude, among others, during confrontations with law enforcement have sparked demonstrations and national conversations about policy, along with calls to create better police accountability.

NCSL BASE CAMP 2020
arne duncan, margaret spellings education ncsl base camp 2020

Arne Duncan & Margaret Spellings on Education During a Pandemic

The former U.S. education secretaries, joined Gavin Payne, an education policy consultant and former legislative staffer, to discuss what kinds of impacts the coronavirus has had on the American education system.

NCSL BASE CAMP 2020
larry kudlow economy ncsl base camp 2020

Larry Kudlow, Ben Harris Talk Current U.S. Economy

Larry Kudlow and Ben Harris presented NCSL Base Camp 2020 attendees with two very different visions of the current state of the economy in what sometimes seemed like two different countries.

NCSL BASE CAMP 2020
tim storey state elections ncsl base camp 2020

'A Big Election Year in the States'

Every time Tim Storey gives a presentation on legislative elections, he notes, in earnest, that, “It’s a big election year in the states.” Well, this year it’s a really, really, really big election year in the states, NCSL’s executive director told a session of NCSL’s Base Camp 2020.

NCSL BASE CAMP 2020
dr deborah birx ncsl base camp 2020

Dr. Deborah Birx on COVID-19 Vaccine, Testing and More

When a vaccine for COVID-19 is developed, manufactured and distributed, the final decisions on its delivery into Americans’ biceps will be heavily influenced largely by state and local officials, says Dr. Deborah Birx, coronavirus response coordinator for the White House Coronavirus Task Force.

NCSL BASE CAMP 2020
johnny c taylor jr shrm ncsl base camp 2020

Advice for Managing in Challenging Times

Much is being said about the unprecedented time we’re living in. COVID-19, ongoing racial unrest, wildfires in the West, an emotionally charged election season. And all of this is, Johnny C. Taylor Jr. reminds us, the backdrop for work.

NCSL BASE CAMP 2020
cyberattacks session ncsl base camp 2020

Cyberattacks on the Rise During Coronavirus Pandemic

Are state governments in a position to handle these growing threats, and what can lawmakers do to help prevent them? Those were among the questions addressed in the web presentation “Taking Advantage of a Crisis: Cyberattacks in the COVID-19 Pandemic.”

NCSL BASE CAMP 2020
chris evans a starting point ncsl base camp 2020

Chris Evans and A Starting Point Aim to Shield Democracy

The actor, along with actor/producer Mark Kassen and tech entrepreneur Joe Kiani, recently launched A Starting Point, a video-based website and app aimed at creating bipartisan communications between elected officials and voters.

NCSL BASE CAMP 2020
amy walter presidential race ncsl base camp 2020

Amy Walter Looks Ahead to the Presidential Election

The national editor of The Cook Political Report presented a session on the November election, noting that, at this point, Biden's lead in the polls, along with other factors, point to the president remaining “a very serious underdog for reelection.”

NCSL BASE CAMP 2020
mark zandi moody's ncsl base camp economy

Mark Zandi Talks U.S. Economic Outlook

The U.S. economy is growing but is largely moving sideways. That was the view from Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, during the first session of NCSL’s Base Camp 2020.

SPOTLIGHT | ELECTIONS
voting elections buttons

State Elections 2020: A Voting Season Unlike Any Other

Labor Day is in the rearview mirror, campaigning is in full swing and pundits are out in force. And yet there are only two safe predictions any of them can offer: November’s elections will be unlike any other (just like 2020 as a whole is a year unlike any other), and—eventually—we’ll know which party will have control of Congress, the presidency and state legislatures.

TOOLBOX | EMAIL
computer email office

3 Tips to Ensure Your Email Message Is Read

Writing and reading emails consume a considerable chunk of time for many employees every day. Don’t waste people’s time. Here are three ways to ensure sure your message isn’t confusing or misunderstood.

NEWS BRIEFS
flying cars

Flying Cars, QAnon and Workplace Coronavirus Protections

For the week of Sept. 7: Flying cars are up, up and away in New Hampshire; some legislative candidates tilt toward QAnon; and a new Nevada law protects hospitality workers from the virus and employers from lawsuits.

2020 CENSUS
census form 2020

What Is Going on With the 2020 Census?

This decade’s census has been rocked by uncertainty based on a global pandemic and eleventh-hour administrative changes. COVID-19 has forced the Census Bureau to reevaluate and redesign its plans. As questions keep swirling around census operations and data, here are the best answers we have.

POLICY TREND | ELECTIONS
voting sign

More People With Felony Convictions Can Vote, but Roadblocks Remain

Advocates want to amend state constitutions to make voting a right that includes people on probation and parole, people who haven’t paid court costs and people in prison. But ongoing legal disputes show how complicated the issue is.

POLICY TREND | EDUCATION
education, online learning

How States Are Using the Coronavirus Relief Fund to Address Education Challenges

According to NCSL’s latest tracking, 27 states have allocated a total of $11.5 billion of CRF aid for education, with $7.2 billion for K-12 education and $4.3 billion for higher education.

POLICY TREND | TRAFFIC SAFETY
alcohol, keys, drunk driving

2020 Impaired-Driving Trends to Watch

Alcohol-impaired driving continues to kill thousands of Americans every year, while drug use compounds the problem. Lawmakers continue to seek strategies to use in battling this persistent public health issue.

POLICY BRIEF | HEALTH
teledentistry, oral health, dentist

COVID-19 Forces New Approaches to Delivering Oral Health Care

Dentists, orthodontists, oral surgeons and other oral health professionals, who face an especially high risk of exposure to the coronavirus, found teledentistry helpful during the worst of the pandemic.

TOOLBOX | VIRTUAL MEETINGS
virtual, remote meeting

How to Make Your Next Virtual Meeting More Engaging

Since it looks like meeting remotely and attending virtual sessions are here to stay, at least occasionally, it’s time to look at what we’ve learned over the past few months on what works. By following these simple principles, and coaching your co-presenters in advance to do so as well, almost anyone’s virtual gathering can improve.

NEWS BRIEFS
american democracy game ncsl

Views on How Government Is Dealing With COVID-19, Patriotic States Ranking

More Americans would rather put their lives in the hands of state government than in those of either congressional leaders or the president, and a recent ranking of states by their level of patriotism.

NEWS BRIEF | CIVICS EDUCATION
american democracy game ncsl

American Democracy Game Makes Learning Civics Fun

The American Democracy Game teaches the concepts of representative democracy—that every individual has equal rights and value, for example, that compromise is necessary at times and that the minority still has rights under majority rule.

ELECTIONS
elections mail in ballots post office voting

Postal Service Schedules and Election Timelines: A Disconnect?

Recent changes at the U.S. Postal Service have raised concerns about mail delivery, particularly for absentee ballots given that mail voting has skyrocketed this year. Some states may consider pushing back their deadlines for requesting and returning mail-in ballots. Others will focus on educating voters to cast ballots early and make use of drop boxes. And still others may maintain the status quo.

ON THE SAME PAGE | CRIMINAL JUSTICE
gavel courtroom

Clearing Criminal Records for Those Who’ve Earned a Second Chance

Lawmakers are questioning the value of a “once a criminal, always a criminal” mentality. Having a record, even for minor offenses, can affect a person’s job and housing choices, voting rights and educational opportunities.

NEWS BRIEF | STUDENT-ATHLETES
college football field

News Brief | College Athletes Could Get ‘Bill of Rights’

California's “Fair Pay to Play” law, enacted in September last year, lets student-athletes endorse products and use their name, sport and school to identify themselves, but prevents them from using school logos or other trademarked property in the endorsements.

POLICY TREND | HIGHER EDUCATION
education finance

The Hidden Costs of College Can Take Students by Surprise

College costs a lot more than the tuition. Some institutions rarely mention housing, food, transportation and other related expenses, which can catch students by surprise. Several states want to change that.

STATE LEGISLATURES SPOTLIGHT
ncsl state legislatures spotlight video unemployment

A Closer Look at August’s Cover Story

Tune into the new edition of State Legislatures Spotlight, a video series that takes an in-depth look at our feature stories. In this episode, we chat with NCSL’s Suzanne Hultine, co-author of “Are High Unemployment Rates Here for the Long Term?” The story looks at industries hit especially hard by the pandemic, what states are doing to keep workers safe and what’s new on the jobs horizon.

NEWS BRIEF | FISCAL
coronavirus

Small Businesses Face Difficult Post-Pandemic Recovery

After the Great Recession, larger companies needed four years to recover their contribution to the GDP, but small businesses on average took six years to rebound, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration.

POLICY TREND | ELECTIONS
elections voting

2020 Ballot Measures: A Preview

As of Aug. 17, voters across the country will weigh in on at least 106 ballot measures on Election Day, though that number will likely inch upward through September as states continue to certify measures for November.

STATE-FEDERAL
us capitol building

NCSL on the Hill

New this month: NCSL, Big 7 coalition host congressional briefing on FMAP; NCSL’s Living Room Town Hall series on federal stimulus funding; state, local groups press Congress and administration to find agreement and more. 

LEGISLATOR PROFILE
tennesee rep kirk haston

Tennessee Representative Kirk Haston

Kirk Haston, who won a scholarship to Indiana University to play basketball under legendary coach Bobby Knight and had a brief stint in the NBA, is now a freshman member of the Tennessee House of Representatives. But much to his surprise, there’s one aspect of legislative work that reminds him of his playing days: the sportsmanship present on the House floor.

POLICY TREND | HEALTH CARE
dr. erica swegler, austin, pew stateline

Patients Fled Primary Care During COVID-19

The pandemic has wreaked havoc on all levels of medicine, not least of which are primary care doctors, whose patient visits dipped as low as 30% of normal as people avoided routine doctor visits during the height of coronavirus infections.

STATE BUDGETS | FISCAL LEADERS
fiscal money

How 3 State Finance Committee Chairs Plan to Weather Economic Storm

No one sees a promising short-term outcome to the current fiscal disaster, but legislators on the front line of budget battles have some suggestions about what to do and where to find hope, reminding us that disruptions like the pandemic often drive innovation and create opportunities.

NEWSMAKERS
nikema williams and john lewis

Legislative Leaders in the News | August 2020

Alaska Representative Gary Knopp dies in plane crash, Georgia Senator Nikema Williams replaces the late U.S. Representative John Lewis on November ballot, former Indiana House Speaker Brian Bosma retires, Ohio elects new speaker, and more.

NCSL NEWS | NCSL BASE CAMP 2020
ncsl base camp 2020 logo

NCSL Base Camp 2020: New Event for Legislators, Staff

NCSL created NCSL Base Camp 2020 for state legislators and state legislative staff to meet online Sept. 15-17. The event is a three-day experience providing unique opportunities to engage with national thought leaders, ask burning questions and walk away with new ideas, covering every angle of state policy.

POLICY BRIEF | UNEMPLOYMENT
job search unemployment covid-19

Amid Coronavirus Outbreak, Nearly 3 in 10 Young People Are ‘Disconnected’

In June, 10.3 million young people—double the number in February—were either unemployed or not attending school. That is the highest number for June since 1989 and an indicator of the difficulties young people are facing during the pandemic.

POLICY TREND | BUDGETS
coronavirus fiscal budgets

State Uses of the CARES Act Coronavirus Relief Funds

As Congress debates a fourth stimulus bill, state lawmakers and governors have been doing the hard work of deciding how to spend the funds from the previous stimulus, the CARES Act, which provided $150 billion in direct assistance to state, territorial and tribal governments.

POLICY TREND | RURAL HEALTH
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Rural Hospitals Hang On as Pandemic Reaches Smaller Communities

Federal money has helped struggling rural hospitals stay afloat. But as Congress considers additional aid, advocates and policymakers would like to move beyond stopgap measures to change the hospitals’ long-term trajectory.

TOOLBOX
redistricting drawing maps

10 Tips to Help Get You Through Redistricting Successfully

Redistricting is filled with conflicting legal mandates, and newly adopted maps are often litigated. Because redistricting requires so many specialized skills—data analytics and GIS proficiency, legal acumen, negotiation prowess—these 10 pieces of advice will help you navigate the process successfully.

POLICY FEATURE | CRIMINAL JUSTICE
gavel criminal justice court

Data Analysis Is Driving Justice Reforms

Lawmakers are examining all parts of their criminal justice systems with an eye toward making meaningful reforms, based on data. They’re learning that data is essential to improving pretrial practices and refining the rules on who goes to jail or prison and for how long.

NEWS BRIEFS | CORONAVIRUS
coronavirus

News Briefs | COVID-19: Census Impact, Asian Americans Targeted, Travel Options

New Census Bureau survey measures food and housing security and physical and mental well-being; racist behaviors directed at Asian Americans increased with virus’ arrival in U.S.; only 44% of Americans are planning an overnight vacation in 2020, according to a survey conducted for the hard-hit hotel industry.

POLICY TREND | HEALTH INSURANCE
health insurance claim form

Are Health Insurers Panicked by the Pandemic? Not Yet

The early panic over possibly large increases in health insurance premiums because of COVID-19 has not played out as previously anticipated—at least not yet.

U.S. SUPREME COURT
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3 Recent Cases With Implications for States

The U.S. Supreme Court heard fewer cases than usual this term due to the coronavirus outbreak, but as always, its decisions were of interest to the states. The court’s recent rulings on abortion, “faithless electors” and copyright of statutory annotations are discussed below.

NCSL NEWS FROM THE HILL
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Congress Passes Great American Outdoors Act With Bipartisan Support

The House passed the Great American Outdoors Act, 310-107, on July 22, sending the bill to the desk of President Donald Trump, who is anticipated to sign it into law, given the bill’s broad support and his encouragement of it on Twitter.

LEGISLATOR PROFILE
texas representative tom oliverson

Meet Texas Representative Tom Oliverson

Since his election in 2016, Texas Representative Tom Oliverson—an anesthesiologist who is vice chair of the House Committee on Insurance—has earned a reputation for civility, for working across party lines and for learning about the nuts and bolts of policy.

NEWS BRIEF
coronavirus covid-19

Many Americans View Virus Along Party Lines

Republicans and Democrats largely disagree over the seriousness of several major problems currently facing the country, even as the United States grapples with issues including a surge in new coronavirus cases and an economic recession.

POLICY TREND | INFRASTRUCTURE SECURITY
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Protecting Critical Infrastructure and Peoples’ Right to Protest

As the debate over climate change has heated up, so have protests targeting energy pipelines, electric power lines and other projects, sometimes causing significant delays to work. In response, several states have passed laws criminalizing unlawful entry to such facilities or enhancing penalties associated with those offenses.

TOOLBOX
emotional intelligence

3 Ways to Increase Your Emotional Intelligence

Research suggests that a high EQ is far more important than a lofty IQ in determining our success at connecting with and influencing others.

INNOVATIONS
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Legislatures Get Creative in Adapting to the New Business as Usual

From March Madness to the Olympics, cancellations due to COVID-19 are unprecedented. Even NCSL’s Legislative Summit was canceled. No legislative sessions were completely canceled, however, and legislatures found ways to operate: innovating, getting creative and temporarily changing business as usual.

POLICY TREND | MARIJUANA
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States Move to Clear Records of People With Previous Pot Convictions

Recreational marijuana was first legalized in 2012, through ballot measures in Colorado and Washington. The movement has since spread to 11 states, the District of Columbia and the Northern Mariana Islands. As legalization has increased, so too has legislation to clear the records of those convicted previously of minor cannabis offenses.

STATESTATS
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Revenue Declines Put State Budgets in Turmoil

Decreased consumer spending and shuttered businesses have lowered sales tax revenues. Travel restrictions are cutting into lodging, car rental and other tourism-related taxes. Job losses and weak economic activity will reduce personal and corporate income tax collections.

SPOTLIGHT
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Legislative Leaders Pivot to Non-COVID-19 Challenges

Every legislature’s—indeed, each legislator’s—experience during the coronavirus pandemic has been different. Yet chamber leaders across the country tell similar stories. They are trying to coordinate with their governors while coping with budgets that suddenly went from sound to sapped.

FEATURE STORY
featured artile

Mississippi Removes Confederate Battle Emblem From Flag

Lawmakers have introduced bills in the Mississippi Legislature for at least 40 years to replace the flag that prominently displays the Confederate battle emblem. The bills have always suffered a quiet death on deadline day, however, so no one had reason to think this year would be different. They were in for a big surprise.

NCSL PODCAST
ncsl podcast

NCSL Celebrates 100th ‘Our American States’ Podcast

NCSL jumped on the podcast bandwagon at the end of 2016, and posts its 100th podcast today. “Our American States” has hosted a number of remarkable people and has focused on topics of interest to legislators and staff: election security, marijuana legalization, cybersecurity, the opioid crisis, and many more. What will the next 100 cover?

NEWSMAKERS
ncsl podcast

Legislative Leaders in the News | July

Pennsylvania Representative Bryan Cutler (R), was elected the chamber's 141st speaker (watch his speech), Senate Republicans name a new minority leader in New York, Delaware's longest-serving lawmaker retires and more.

LEGISLATOR PROFILE
alaska state representative tiffany zulkowsky

Meet Alaska Representative Tiffany Zulkosky

The only Alaska Native woman serving in the House, Zulkosky is something of a rising star, with a professional background that has prepared her well for membership on the Energy, Education and Environmental Conservation committees and for her role as chair of the House Health and Social Services Committee. 

FROM THE EDITOR

We’ve Gone Digital!

It wasn’t an easy decision, but after 45 years of producing State Legislatures, NCSL’s magazine that covers state policy and politics, we’ve decided to take the publication digital, offering a new online version to better keep you updated on the people and news surrounding state legislatures. Love it in print? Watch out for two keepsake editions each year for in-depth looks at the issues our members care most about.

ON THE SAME PAGE
iowa black caucus police reform bill

Iowa Passes Bipartisan Police Reform Bill

In Washington, D.C., lawmakers face a large gap to bridge as Democrats and Republicans are split on banning chokeholds and qualified immunity, among other partisan policy differences. Iowa’s legislation, meanwhile, achieved unanimous support in both chambers after two days of deliberation. Including the drafting of the bill, the whole process took a total of 10 days.

STATE LEGISLATURES SPOTLIGHT

A Closer Look at Our Cover Story

Tune into State Legislatures Spotlight, a new video series that takes an in-depth look at our feature stories. In this episode, we chat with Alan Greenblatt, author of “Legislative Leaders Pivot to Non-Virus Challenges in a Spirit of Cooperation,” about how leaders are dealing with the pandemic, working virtually and an increased spirit of cooperation.

POLICY TREND | EMPLOYMENT
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The Americans With Disabilities Act Turns 30

The legislation was the culmination of decades of political activism by and for the 50 million Americans living with a disability who were seeking equal rights after centuries of discrimination, isolation and dehumanization. It's also one of the rare pieces of legislation that has touched the lives of every American. 

POLICY TREND | ELECTIONS

Pandemic Has Lawmakers Eying Remote Elections

Since COVID-19 hit, interest in casting absentee ballots—aka voting by mail and voting at home—has increased due to concerns about maintaining social distancing at polling places. Here’s how some states fared during primaries with increased voting by mail strategies in place.

TOOLBOX 

9 Tips for Success When Working Remotely

Is “working from home” beginning to feel more like “living at work?” Check out this expert advice on how to maintain a work-life balance—along with tips on decreasing distractions and feelings of isolation—when your office is simply a few steps down the hall.

CAPITOL STORIES

State Capitols Take Steps to Avoid Fire Destruction

Fire has always been an enemy of old buildings. State capitols are no exception: Fire destroyed at least 25 of our early state capitols in the 19th and 20th centuries, and at least five of Virginia’s pre-independence capitols burned down. Here’s how capitol restoration teams are adding safety measures and suppression systems to prevent losing more of these treasures.

POLICY TREND | ENERGY

Could Hydrogen Be the Next Energy Star?

Hydrogen, regarded as a potential clean energy solution for decades, may finally be ready for the spotlight. The gas burns cleanly, can be used in power plants like natural gas, or in fuel cells to power vehicles or buildings. And it’s declining production costs and ability to produce power free of carbon emissions are driving interest in a “hydrogen economy” in which the gas could take the place of traditional fuels.

NCSL ON THE HILL
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D.C. Fly-In Goes Virtual With COVID-19, Fiscal Briefing

NCSL hosted its first virtual Capitol Hill briefing recently to educate select staff on the dire fiscal conditions states are facing due to the pandemic. Watch the briefing and read more on the latest news from D.C.

POLICY TREND | TRANSPORTATION

The Challenge of Recycling Electric Vehicle Batteries

With more than 1.2 million electric vehicles in the United States—a number predicted to soar to 18 million by 2030—concerns of the recovery, safe handling and recycling of the lithium-ion batteries used to charge them is emerging. Learn what states, as well as the federal government, are doing to address the issue.

NCSL NEWS | HUMAN SERVICES
baby checkup doctor office

NCSL, U of Texas Join Prenatal-to-3 Partnership

To deepen its support for policymakers with an interest in prenatal-to-3 policies, NCSL’s Children and Families Program is partnering with the new Prenatal-to-3 Policy Impact Center at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin.

POLICY TREND | TRANSPORTATION
distracted driver cellphone

3 More States Say Yes to Hands-Free Driver Laws

Starting July 1, Idaho, Indiana and South Dakota began banning drivers from using cellphones behind the wheel, unless they’re hands-free. They join 22 states and the District of Columbia, which already have hands-free laws for all drivers.

LEADERSHIP | COVID-19
coronavirus legislatures mask

Coronavirus: How It’s Changing State Legislatures

COVID-19 moved quickly through the states, and legislatures sprung to action just as swiftly. It didn’t take long for lawmakers to realize the disease was going to be more devastating than first believed.

POLICY TREND | LABOR
Woman teleworking from home with her son nearby.

Workers Fit for the Future

The way we work is evolving. Technological advances demand highly skilled workers, and gig jobs require people who can be paid by the task or project, not by the position they hold in a company. The transformation of today’s workplace has left businesses, educators and policymakers playing catch-up. COVID-19 has only accelerated the pace of change.

STATE STATS | FISCAL
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States Got More Than a Rainy Day With COVID-19

To prepare for a possible recession, state lawmakers have been building up their budget stabilization—or rainy day—funds for nine years straight, reaching a record combined total of $74.9 billion in fiscal year 2019, according to The Pew Charitable Trusts.