Previous Award Recipients
Legislative Editing Team, Maryland Department of Legislative Services
The Legislative Editing Team of the Maryland Department of Legislative Services was selected as the RELACS recipient of the Legislative Staff Achievement Award. This team took an untenable situation and turned it into an example of legislative staff tenacity. The team took the initiative to learn new software and create an electronic editing process for an office that had historically relied on paper and colored pens. The team created an interactive online training module to onboard seven new employees seamlessly. As the team’s directors said, “Simply put, they exceeded all reasonable expectations.” As active members of RELACS, these legislative editors have served on panels, participated in discussions and contributed to the value of meetings both in-person and virtual.
Richard Pearce, legal counsel to the clerk, South Carolina House of Representatives
Richard Pearce, legal counsel to the South Carolina House, is RELACS’ 2021 Legislative Staff Achievement Award recipient. His focus has been to assemble teams to conduct research, draft legislation and amendments, and talking points for debate. He is known for offering commonsense legal advice, and one member said he is adept at creating “word pictures that boil down complex legislative issues in a very comprehensible and useful manner.” His engagement with NCSL has included participating in webinars and other training and most recently serving as a guest on NCSL’s “Our American States” podcast to discuss representative democracy during the American Revolution.
RELACS Special Commendation Award
David R. Miller, research administrator, Legislative Research Unit (LRU), Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability, Illinois
The Research, Editorial, Legal and Committee Staff Association selects David R. Miller to receive the RELACS Special Commendation Award for his 43 years of exemplary service to the Illinois General Assembly. During his tenure with the Research Unit, he was instrumental in the development of the agency and in the training of the research staff both in methodology and in communication for multiple generations. He has supported the legislative institution by helping to maintain a strong, nonpartisan research organization. His written work has contributed a body of work that is used regularly by the legislature and his expertise in several areas including the Illinois Constitution have been invaluable. His legal expertise is relied upon for complex nonpartisan analysis.
Tanya Lieberman, chief consultant, California Assembly Committee on Education
The Research, Editorial, Legal and Committee Staff (RELACS) association is proud to select Tanya Lieberman to receive the Legislative Staff Achievement Award for her outstanding contribution to the Committee on Education, the California Legislature and the field of K-12 education. Tanya has served on the committee for five years, assuming the role of chief consultant in 2018.
Tanya’s work bringing together researchers, practitioners and policymakers to improve each group’s work is a testament to her professionalism, competence and integrity. Tanya creates connections between these groups and creates an environment for her staff to do the same. Tanya identified a need to improve the policy proposals from member offices. Her multipronged approach included ways to support junior staff via mentoring, committee open houses, time with committee consultants, best-practices workshops, and ways to officially recognize outstanding staff work. These initiatives have proven highly successful and have been adopted by other committees in the legislature.
Tanya was asked by the Office of the Speaker of the Assembly to serve in a leadership capacity in the development of overall professional staff development throughout the Assembly. Her leadership among committee chiefs is apparent in her advocacy for initiatives to improve professional learning, communications and the policy process within the Assembly. From her completion of committee analyses on a range of education topics to her commitment to take on several fellows from the California Science Fellows Program and her deep expertise in the areas of special education and English Language Learners, Tanya’s commitment to quality work, professionalism, learning and professional development is unparalleled.
Tanya contributes to the work of NCSL as ECS co-chair of the Legislative Education Staff Network, where she not only shares California’s experience and lessons, but also brings innovative ideas back to the Assembly as evidenced by the development of new rubrics and techniques to more effectively recruit, interview and onboard new staff.
Mark Andrews, policy analyst, Office of Legislative Research and General Counsel, Utah Legislature
The Research, Editorial, Legal and Committee Staff (RELACS) association proudly selects Mark Andrews to receive the Legislative Staff Achievement Award for his professionalism, competence, integrity and commitment to public service. During his more than 30 years with the Utah Legislature, Mark primarily has served as a policy analyst staffing the health and human services subject area.
Mark is the go-to for both subject area expertise in health and human services and improving the legislative process. Mark was a key staffer in coordinating public hearings on the politically sensitive topics of medical cannabis and Medicaid expansion. He constantly seeks to improve the legislative processes by making information available to members and always asking how legislative staff can support the democratic process. He has provided rigorous, neutral and nonpartisan information and options for consideration when lawmakers are tacking complex legislation related to health care price transparency and pharmacy benefit managers, and so much more.
Mark’s professionalism, integrity and commitment to serve the legislature and its constituents make him a model for his peers. His openness to new ideas and eagerness to learn keeps him continuously looking for means of improvement personally, as a team and the legislative institution. During the chaos of the COVID-19 response, Mark’s methodical approach to problem solving has been meaningful and appreciated by his team. Not only is Mark dedicated to the Utah Legislature and his team but also to NCSL as evidenced by his longtime participation in the former Legislative Health Staff Network and continued participation in RELACS.
Mark Cutrona, deputy director, Division of Research, Delaware General Assembly
The Research, Editorial, Legal and Committee Staff (RELACS) association proudly selects Mark Cutrona, to receive the Legislative Staff Achievement Award for his tenacity, passion and dedication to improving the legislative process in the Delaware General Assembly. Mark has worked for the state of Delaware for eleven years and has served as the Deputy Director for the Division of Research for the General Assembly for the last six years.
Mark has earned the respect of legislators, legislative staff, lobbyists and even the executive branch for his knowledge of legislative drafting, the legislative process and the legislative institution. Over the years, Mark has worked to educate others involved in the legislative process on the components of good legislative drafting by teaching classes for per diem caucus attorney drafters and executive branch agencies. He rewrote the Legislative Drafting Manual in 2013 and has continued to update the document as he discovers new techniques and methods that will enhance the quality of bill drafts for the General Assembly.
Mark has been a member of the RELACS Program Planning committee for the last four years and has served as vice-chair and as chair. His dedication to assuring that RELACS programming at the NCSL Legislative Summit and at the RELACS Professional Development Seminar is reflected by the high marks RELACS sessions garner. Mark is currently a director on the RELACS Executive Committee.
Colorado Revised Statutes Title 12 Recodification Team of the Office of Legislative Legal Services, Colorado General Assembly
The Research, Editorial, Legal and Committee Staff (RELACS) association is proud to select the Colorado Revised Statutes Title 12 Recodification Team of the Colorado Office of Legislative Legal Services (OLLS) to receive the Legislative Staff Achievement Award for completion of the three-year recodification. The team consists of Christy Chase, assistant director; Thomas Morris, managing senior attorney; Jennifer Berman, senior attorney; Patty Amundson, senior legislative editor; and Jessica Wigent, legislative editor.
The effort to recodify Title 12, Colorado Revised Statutes, from a bloated, largely repealed, duplicative, repetitive and difficult-to-understand title to a svelte, modern, well-organized and understandable title was nothing less than Herculean and required more than three years of painstaking work in addition to the regular duties of this team.
Part of the recodification process was for the Committee on Legal Services (COLS), which had oversight of the project, to sponsor two dozen bills to relocate 36 articles and parts from Title 12 (and four provisions from Title 24) to their more appropriate titles in the Colorado Revised Statutes.
Throughout the three-year process, the team demonstrated extraordinary thoughtfulness, planning, organization, communication, skill, leadership, professionalism and sheer dedication to the successful execution of this statutory recodification effort. Most people will never know the hundreds of hours of work that went into completing this recodification project, from drafting and editing, to working closely with stakeholders and ensuring that the incredibly complex process was, from start to finish, done to serve the public interest. In the case of the Title 12 Recodification Project, this team embodies what it means to be public servants.
Sharon Eubanks, director, Office of Legislative Legal Services, Colorado
The Research, Editorial, Legal and Committee Staff (RELACS) association proudly selects Sharon Eubanks to receive the Legislative Staff Achievement Award for her distinguished career in service to the Colorado General Assembly and for her exceptional service facing extraordinary challenges during the latter half of 2017 and the 2018 legislative session. Sharon joined the Office of Legislative Legal Services (OLLS), the nonpartisan staff counsel for the Colorado General Assembly, in 1986, and by the mid-1990s was already well versed in state budgeting, tax, and fiscal matters and recognized as one of Colorado’s foremost experts with respect to the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, Colorado’s initiated constitutional tax and expenditure limit. Sharon subsequently developed subject matter expertise in many other areas such as the initiative process, legislative rules and procedures, legislative ethics, and open records and open meetings requirements and led both subject matter and administrative teams within the OLLS. Throughout her career she has provided timely, precise, and thorough legal, procedural, and practical advice to the leadership of the General Assembly, other legislators, prior OLLS directors, other OLLS attorneys, and legislative staff agencies.
In October 2017, after serving as deputy director of the OLLS for 13 years, Sharon became director. During her first two weeks on the job, and with characteristic calm and competence, she led the OLLS through a politically contentious special session and the sudden tragic death of longtime OLLS attorney Debbie Haskins. While still acclimating to being “the face” of an OLLS that had lost over one hundred years of attorney experience to turnover, Sharon adroitly deployed and oversaw the OLLS staff in identifying and providing advice regarding legal issues including an investigation that resulted in the expulsion of a Colorado state legislator (for only the second time in the state’s history and the first time since 1915).
Sharon has been a speaker for RELACS sessions and has served on the NCSL Legislative Effectiveness Committee for many years, including serving as co-chair from 2012-13. Sharon has always been willing to pitch in on planning, moderating or whatever is needed for the committee.
Lilli Hausenfluck, chief editor, Division of Legislative Services, Virginia
The Research, Editorial, Legal and Committee Staff (RELACS) association is proud to select Lilli Hausenfluck to receive the Legislative Staff Achievement Award for her expertise and dedication to the Virginia Legislature and to the legislative process, which have been invaluable in enabling the Division to provide high quality work products. She is the Chief Editor for the Virginia Division of Legislative Services. Lilli's career with the Division began in 1997 as a member of the Virginia Code Commission staff with editorial responsibility for the Virginia Administrative Code and the Register of Regulations, a bi-weekly publication of proposed and final agency regulations. She served as project leader of an interagency team that developed the state and national award-winning Regulatory Information System (RIS) that streamlined the filing and publication of regulations and provided daily updates to the online Administrative Code.
Lilli became Chief Editor for the Division in 2009. As such, she supervises two full-time editors and a team of three to four temporary proofers. Each session, Lilli and her team proof and edit more than 6,000 pieces of legislation, along with corresponding summaries, drafted by the Division's legal and committee staff.
Notably, Lilli and her editorial staff go far beyond fixing grammar and spelling errors. They also ensure that style and usage in legislative drafts follow Division guidelines and conform with that found in other sections of the Virginia Code, verify that the most recent Code sections have been used and that all Code sections relevant to the purpose of the draft have been included, and perform a critical review to determine if the legislative draft seems to accomplish what it set out to do. The General Assembly's calendar compresses most of this work into just a few months, and Lilli's skillful preparation and direction of her staff consistently help ensure that quality drafting products are provided to legislators in a timely manner.
Lilli oversees the maintenance and revision of the drafting manual used by Division's legal and committee staff. She has been an active participant in NCSL, serving as a panel moderator at the 2012 and 2014 LSSS & RACCS Joint Professional Development Seminars.
Lori Christiansen, Director of the Division of Research, General Assembly, Delaware
The Research, Editorial, Legal and Committee Staff association selects Lori Christiansen to receive the 2017 Legislative Staff Achievement Award for her work ethic in her duties for the Delaware General Assembly, as well as her commitment to NCSL and her support of legislative staff.
Ms. Christiansen is the Director of the Division of Research and has worked for the General Assembly for 22 years. She spent seventeen years with the Controller General’s Office, where she served as a senior policy and fiscal analyst specializing in health policy and the State’s grant-in-aid process. During the last 5 years, she has served as Director of the Delaware Division of Research.
Her focus for the division was to improve the quality of legislative drafting by directing a rewrite of the Legislative Drafting Manual, creating drafting training sessions to ensure accurate, clear, and uniform legislation, and striving to provide high quality, nonpartisan research and legal services to all members of the General Assembly.
Ms. Christensen has encouraged staff involvement with NCSL through attendance at the Legislative Summit and the Research, Editorial, Legal and Committee Staff professional development seminar and by participation on RELACS committees. She has been a member of the NCSL Legislative Effectiveness Committee since 2013. She was asked by Raúl Burciaga to serve on the NCSL Legislative Staff Coordinating Committee.
Andrew Hedges, Senior Staff Attorney, Legislative Services Agency, Indiana
The Research, Editorial, Legal and Committee Staff association selects Andrew Hedges to receive the 2017 Legislative Staff Achievement Award for his dedication to the Indiana Legislature and the Legislative Services Agency.
Mr. Hedges joined the Office of Bill Drafting and Research at the Indiana Legislative Services Agency in 2000. He has worked primarily in the courts, civil law, and criminal law subject matter, and has been one of a handful of attorneys who staff three standing committees. Mr. Hedges is always available to listen to and advise his colleagues. He is also a critically important mentor to the newer attorneys working in his subject matter areas.
Mr. Hedges was reassigned from the Senate Committee on Civil Law to the Senate Committee on Public Policy for the 2017 legislative session. His rapport with the members of the Senate, intellectual agility, and work ethic equip him to handle the varied subject matters of the bills assigned to the committee. He had an important role in the preparation of a legislative response to an alcoholic beverage licensing issue so novel and unexpected that it prompted public comment from both the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President Pro Tempore of the Senate when the issue came to light mid-session.
His work in 2017 has included: electronic cigarettes and vaping, the medicinal use of cannibidiol oil, abortion, riverboat gambling, firearms, alcoholic beverage licensing, immigration, and the selection of superior court judges in Indianapolis/Marion County in the aftermath of a federal court ruling that the current system was unconstitutional. This list is remarkable both for its length and for the breadth of issues covered.
Even when he is not the primary drafter of the legislation, Mr. Hedges provides wise counsel to his colleagues and the members of the General Assembly. Andy's presence at several high-profile meetings was crucial as he has the trust of the members of the General Assembly and a well-earned reputation as a problem solver.
RELACS Special Commendation Award
Othni J. Lathram, Director, Legislative Services Agency, Alabama
The Research, Editorial, Legal and Committee Staff Association selects Othni J. Lathram to receive the first RELACS Special Commendation Award for his expertise and legal support to the Alabama legislature. RELACS acknowledges that he is an outstanding legislative staff member and worthy of special recognition. This award is being presented to Mr. Lathram in connection with his outstanding work, for the Alabama House of Representatives’ Judiciary Committee, relating to the investigation of former Governor Robert Bentley. Receiving this award speaks volumes about Mr. Lathram’s character, dedication, and work ethic in his duties for the Alabama Legislature.
Mr. Lathram is the director of the Alabama, Legislative Services Agency. The office provides non-partisan legal advice, fiscal advice, and bill drafting services to the Alabama Legislature. He served as the director of the Alabama Law Institute from 2012 – Sept. 2017; and interim director of the Legislative Fiscal Office, and the Legislative Reference Service from July 2015-Sept. 2017. He has served the Alabama legislature since 2008.
He is an elected member of the American Law Institute, is a commissioner with the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws, and serves on the Alabama Supreme Court’s Standing Committee on the Rules of Civil Procedure. He has previously served on the executive committee of the Legal Services Staff Section of the National Conference of State Legislatures and The Alabama Supreme Court’s Criminal Pattern Jury Instructions Committee. He is the co-author of Alabama Civil Procedure: a LexisNexis Practice Guide.
Research and Committee Staff Section (RACSS) and Legal Services Staff Section (LSSS) merged in Aug. 2016 to form Research, Editorial, Legal, and Committee Staff Professional Staff Association (RELACS) and began presenting awards in 2017.
Legal Services Staff Section (LSSS) Award Recipients 1997-2016
- Jon Heining, general counsel, Texas Legislative Council
- Matt Gehring, House research attorney, and the House Research Department, Minnesota
- Rich Dillard, staff attorney, Senate Minority Caucus, Delaware
- Margaret "Peggy" Piety, staff attorney, Office of Bill Drafting and Research of the Indiana Legislative Services Agency
- Gerry Cohen, director, Bill Drafting Division, North Carolina General Assembly
- Doug Himes, senior legislative attorney, Office of Legal Services, Tennessee General Assembly
- Richard L. Merkel, Judiciary Division chief, Legislative Service Commission, Ohio
- J. Patrick Ford, senior manager, Legislative Function, Office of Policy Analysis, Department of Legislative Services, Maryland
- Deborah Haskins, assistant director, Office of Legislative Legal Services, Colorado
- Richard D. Taff, chief legislative attorney, Legislative Commissioner's Office, Connecticut
- Jerry Payne, staff attorney, Colorado Office of Legislative Legal Services
- Anne Sappenfield, attorney, Wisconsin Legislative Council
- William Gilkeson, principal legislative analyst and staff attorney, Research Division, North Carolina General Assembly
- Richard Sweet, senior staff attorney, Wisconsin Legislative Council
- Michael J. Chernick, research counsel, Legislative Council, Vermont
- M. Gay Taylor, general counsel (retired), Utah Legislature
- Mark Brown, Director (retired), Legal Division, Texas Legislative Council
- Greg Petesch, director/code commissioner, Montana
- Nancy Cyr, senior legal counsel, Legislative Research Division, Nebraska
- Pam Ray, staff attorney, Legislative Council Service, New Mexico
- Richard Johnson, director, Legal Services Division, Iowa Legislative Services Agency
- Steve Miller, chief, Legislative Reference Bureau, Wisconsin
- Doug Brown, director, Legislative Legal Services, Colorado
- Teresa Beck, director, Legislative Services Office, House of Representatives, Mississippi
- Ellen C. Tewes, director, Legal Services, General Assembly, Tennessee
- Alice Boler Ackerman, deputy director, Office of Legislative Legal Services, Colorado
- Paula Tackett, director, Legislative Council Service, New Mexico
- William P. Russell, chief legislative council, Vermont
- Becky Lennahan, deputy director, Office of Legislative Legal Services, Colorado
- Marcia Goodman, Connecticut (Innovation Award)
- Peter Wattson, Minnesota (Innovation Award)
Research and Committee Staff Section (RACSS) Awards Recipients 1997-2016
- Clare Dyer, deputy director, Research Division, Legislative Council, Texas
- Sarah Freeman, senior staff attorney, Legislative Services Agency, Indiana
- Bryant Howe, deputy director, Legislative Research & General Counsel, Utah Legislature
- Sabrina Lewellan, deputy director and assistant secretary, Arkansas Senate
- Estella Smith, administrator, Committee, Staff Services, Research Services Division, Bureau of Legislative Research, Arkansas
- Walker Reagan, division director, Research Division, North Carolina
- Mark Mitchell, committee staff administrator, Kentucky Legislative Research Commission
- John Q. Cannon, managing policy analyst, Office of Legislative Research and General Counsel, Utah
- H. Pepper Sturm, chief deputy research director, Research Division, Legislative Counsel Bureau, Nevada
- David Ortbahn, principal research analyst, Legislative Research Council, South Dakota
- Guy Cherry, senior policy analyst, Office of Policy Analysis, Department of Legislative Services, Maryland
- Patrick O'Grady, executive director, Legislative Research Unit, Illinois General Assembly
- Jamie Jo Franklin, chief of staff, House Majority Caucus, Kentucky
- Terry Sullivan, director (retired), Division of Research, North Carolina
- Michael Nugent, division manager, Research and Legislation Division, Legislative Services Office, Idaho
- Daniel Chapman, assistant director, Administration, Legislative Council, Colorado
- Mary Janicki, director, Office of Legislative Research, Connecticut
- Citizens Guide Project Team, Office of Legislative Research and General Counsel, Utah
- Sheila Mason, research coordinator, Legislative Research Commission, Kentucky
- Staff Team for the Washington Electronic Bill Book Project, House of Representatives Office of Program Research and the Legislative Service Center, Washington
- Virgil F. Puskarich, executive director, Local Government Commission, Pennsylvania General Assembly
- David L. Sallach, section chief, Law and Public Safety Section, Office of Legislative Services, New Jersey Legislature
- Bryant Howe, research analyst, Office of Legislative Research and General Counsel, Utah
- Kirk Mlinek, manager, Policy Research and Committee Staff Section, Legislative Council, Colorado
- Robert Erickson, research director, Legislative Counsel Bureau, Nevada
- Terry Anderson, director, Legislative Council, Wisconsin
- Richard V. Strong, director (retired), Office of Legislative Research and General Counsel, Utah
- Karl Aro, executive director, Department of Legislative Services, Maryland
- Darrell Jackson, director of research, House of Representatives, Missouri
- Sandy Deaton, committee staff administrator, Education Committee, Legislative Research Commission, Kentucky
- Diane Bolender, director, Legislative Service Bureau, Iowa
- David Hite, deputy director, Legislative Council, Colorado
- Larry Barish, director, Reference and Library Services, Legislative Reference Bureau, Wisconsin
- Allan Green, director (retired), Office of Legislative Research, Connecticut
- Joyce Honaker, committee staff administrator, Legislative Research Commission, Kentucky
- Carvel Payne, director (retired), Department of Legislative Reference, Maryland