Founded in 1975, the NCSL Leadership Staff Professional Association (LSPA) has about 410 legislative staff members. The purpose of LSPA is to help staff become effective leaders and to provide a forum to share information. In an effort to expand our membership, LSPA amended the bylaws to be more inclusive. Sheron Violini, LSPA chair and deputy secretary of operations of the California Senate, invites all young and new professional staff to join LSPA.
One goal of LSPA is to provide support for legislative staff in leadership roles and to prepare new staff to fill those roles. This electronic newsletter features articles on a wide variety of topics written by and for legislative staff, as well as resources for leadership development and information about NCSL meetings and trainings across the nation. LSPA hopes that you will enjoy our newsletter enough to become a member and/or a contributor.
To join the LSPA membership and email list, please email NCSL liaison to LSPA, Megan McClure (email@example.com)
By Sheron Violini, California
On behalf of the Leadership Staff Professional Association (LSPA) leadership team, Josh Nacey (Kentucky), Justin Cajindos (Oklahoma) and me (California) we hope this newsletter finds you and your families healthy. Our 2020 goal is to bring you professional growth opportunities. We are disappointed that due to the COVID-19 social distancing mandate, we will not be together this year. The Program Development Committee is working along with NCSL to bring you professional development trainings. We look forward to seeing you on Zoom!
With great regret, NCSL has decided to cancel the 2020 Legislative Summit scheduled for Aug. 10-13 in Indianapolis. This decision was made in consultation with our partners in the Indiana General Assembly. The leadership and staff in Indiana had a blockbuster meeting planned, making the decision especially difficult. We are forever grateful to them for their support. The only silver lining is that we are able to gather in Indianapolis again relatively soon—for the 2023 Legislative Summit.
After spending weeks considering options to conduct a large meeting under social distancing guidelines that are very likely to remain in place through the coming months, it was clear NCSL could not convene thousands of legislators, staff and others safely without severely compromising the high-quality event we are committed to. We postponed the decision as long as we possibly could, hoping to find some way to move forward. However, due to our desire to give you notice as soon as possible, as well as the need to review and renegotiate contracts, it was time to make the difficult choice.
This will be the first time in 45 years NCSL is not holding the Legislative Summit. The loss for our community of legislators, legislative staff, Foundation for State Legislatures partners, the NCSL staff and many others is palpable.
Having said that, I know we will be back, and I think we will be stronger and better. As horrible as the public health and economic circumstances are, I believe we must look for opportunities to innovate. We must work to get even better at achieving the mission of NCSL—to strengthen the legislative institution. That is what we will do.
NCSL remains committed to providing the tools and information necessary to support you as you focus on getting your state back on track. NCSL has developed massive COVID-19-related research and produced numerous webinars and networking calls between states in just the past few weeks. Online resources are updated daily and shared with our members constantly through dozens of communications channels.
Finally, stay tuned. We are working on some cool plans for virtual events in the late summer to provide you with opportunities to learn and connect.
If you have any questions, thoughts or comments, please email me at Tim.Storey@NCSL.org and I will make sure someone from NCSL gets back to you quickly.
With challenges come opportunities. Because it is not possible to meet in person for this year’s Legislative Staff Management Institute (LSMI), we are adapting to an all-digital experience, which means this experience has never been more affordable and accessible for legislative staff. But hurry, as the deadline to apply is June 5.
Skip the trip and save. In response to the COVID-19 crisis, this best-in-class leadership and management program is shifting to a month-long online experience. No travel costs, no per diem and no time away from family is required. Additionally, the reduced tuition makes this a sound investment in yourself that pays dividends for your legislature.
New platform, same high-quality program. For more than 30 years, NCSL’s LSMI has served as the premier management and leadership skills training program designed specifically for legislative staff. Visit our website to learn more about the program and to apply.
The LSPA Executive Committee and award selection subcommittee are thrilled to announce this year's recipients of the 2020 LSPA Legislative Staff Achievement Awards:
Mechelle Evans, Louisiana House of Representatives
Mechelle has served with LSS/LSPA for over 30 years! Participating in innumerable subcommittee and planning positions and rising through the ranks of directors and officers to become chair of the association in 1999/2000. Mechelle has been a perpetual presence in the activities of LSS/LSPA and has returned to lead when the association needed her to fill any role needed. She has served as immediate past chair for the last three years when chairs have been unable to complete their terms and she helps recruit and mentor new members every year. Mechelle won the LSS Legislative Staff Achievement Award in 2011, which is ample evidence that her presence at the LSPA professional development seminars and her expertise and wealth of experience is highly valued by her peers.
From Speaker of the House Clay Schexnayder: "When ! was elected to serve as a Louisiana state representative in 2012, it didn't take long for me to learn that Mechelle Evans was one of a kind. Her ability to get things done efficiently and effectively were immediately obvious. I have greatly appreciated her dedication and loyalty to any and everything that makes it easier for legislators to serve their constituents. It is an honor to have her as a staff member of the Louisiana House of Representatives."
Branden Pursinger, Oregon Senate
Branden is a valuable member of his team and a leader among staff in the Oregon State Senate. In addition to helping train new legislative aides, he is also a policy analyst for 16 different Senate committees. He understands the legislative process and parliamentary procedures and is always a "go-to" for information among staff and members of both parties. Branden has been working in the Oregon Legislature since 2013, having started as committee staff in the House Business and Labor Committee. Senator Bill Hansell hired Branden as a new legislative director in November of 2014. He was dubbed as an honorary East Oregonian, having ridden a horse multiple times in the "Cowboy Mounted Band" for the Pendleton Roundup, one of the largest rodeos in the nation and cornerstone of events in Hansell's legislative district, not to mention the state of Oregon. In 2018, the late Senator Jackie Winters, offered Branden a position as a policy analyst in the caucus office. It was during this time Branden began working with NCSL. In 2018, he served on the LSPA Awards Committee, Bylaws Committee, and Finance and Fundraising Committee.
Then in 2019, he was elected to the LSPA Executive Committee as a director for, and is currently serving on, the Communication and Outreach Committee and the Program Development Committee. Branden is a worthy recipient of this award as he has a passion for politics and the legislative process and is a leader among his fellow staff. Branden wants staff to succeed. He will always take the time out of his day to answer questions from his fellow staff (of both parties), pointing them in the right direction and explaining the process if questions arise. Every year he will block out a portion of his time to sit down with students from Eastern Oregon University and help lead a Politics 101 course. Regardless of someone' s party affiliation, Branden listens to everyone's ideas and has been asked to find agreements and compromises between individuals, legislative members and executive agencies. Branden has chosen to devote his professional career to helping Oregon citizens and Legislative staff succeed. With his experience and reputation inside and out of the Oregon Capitol, it is no wonder our caucus office chose him to be the staff working on the Coronavirus issue—both during the crisis but also Oregon's reopening plan. He helps every office succeed and devotes 100% to everything he is involved in.
by Justin Cajindos, Democratic leadership staff, Oklahoma Senate
Like all legislatures, the Oklahoma Legislature has grappled with how to handle legislative session in the midst of a pandemic. Oklahoma’s regular legislative session runs from January until May each year. After Oklahoma’s governor issued his first COVID-19 executive order on March 15 implementing social distancing guidelines, the Oklahoma Legislature took steps to limit activity in the state capitol.
The Oklahoma House of Representatives, which has 101 members, voted to temporarily change its rules to allow one member from each caucus to cast proxy votes on the House floor for their colleagues. The Oklahoma Senate, which has 48 members, did not change its rules in this way, but instead decided to amend its rules during the duration of the health emergency to allow remote voting for committee meetings and floor proceedings.
Working together, Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Treat (R-Edmond) and Senate Democratic Leader Kay Floyd (D-Oklahoma City) made a motion on the Senate floor to make the change to the Senate Rules. Bipartisan cooperation smoothed the way for this change to be implemented. The Senate was already meeting in a special session to adopt emergency health measures and to address a budget hole, caused in part by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Holding a special session, even for only one day, in the middle of a pandemic required extraordinary measures. Legislators, a limited number of staff, and reporters had their temperature taken at the entrance to the Capitol. In the Senate, a special voting procedure was adopted for the day so that no more than 10 senators, all wearing masks and gloves, would be on the Senate floor voting at any given time.
Moving forward, as long as the health emergency is ongoing, the Senate will be holding remote committee meetings and floor proceedings, using the Microsoft Teams program, which allows for video meetings. Before the first committee meeting held this way, some senators and staff conducted a number of practice meetings to make sure the software was working properly. All meetings held this way will still be broadcast live on the Senate website to maintain robust public transparency and participation. To maintain as much similarity to in-person meetings as possible, senators adhere to the same protocols and procedures used in a normal committee meeting, including dress code, decorum and parliamentary procedure.
Is this new remote process working? As with any changes to longstanding procedures, there was a bit of a learning curve for members and staff, and some occasional glitches with audio and video. However, after a week of committee meetings as of this writing, business is being conducted as usual and legislators are doing their jobs, serving the public. As so many Americans have been required to do during this crisis, the Oklahoma Legislature and legislatures across the country are adapting and doing the best they can under challenging circumstances.
By Sheron Violini, deputy secretary for operations, California Senate
In a time when we are working from home in close quarters with our new colleagues, who may include our pets, partners or children, what does self-care look like? Let’s take a deep breath, explore what self-care means, and take the opportunity to identify new and creative ways to connect with others and ourselves.
Does working from home blur the lines between your personal family and work time? For many of us, the answer is “yes.” So, what action can you take to separate work and home time? For some of us, a schedule is a good place to start. A schedule helps you and everyone sharing your space understand the difference between work, play and family time. This is also a time to be curious and ask what others need from you. You might be surprised to learn what people need. Needs could range from a decadent bowl of mac and cheese to taking an extra shift helping the kids with their school work or maybe just a little private time to reflect. Taking the time to recognize and respect everyone’s needs, including your own, can make all the difference.
Celebrating a special event—birthday, graduation, etc? Do not despair! In the new age of virtual platforms like Zoom, Google Team and others, you and your friends can still connect. It’s time to get creative on how to make your event special. You can schedule a Netflix party. If you have children, maybe an after-school project can include decorating a room or making cards to celebrate the occasion.
Do you feel like you are losing your connection to the outside world? If you live in a rural area and the weather is nice, have a picnic with your family. For people who live in an urban area, support a local restaurant and have food delivered to your home. Invite a friend to FaceTime or Zoom over dinner. Believe me, I am not suggesting this is a perfect way to celebrate, but it is an alternative.
Click on the link below for more ideas on how to stay connected with friends:
While sheltering in place, consider hosting a game night. Most people have a monopoly game or cards. These games are old-fashioned but are a great way to connect with your children.
See the link below for more suggestions for kid-friendly activities:
Have you decided that the “19” in “COVID-19” is the amount of weight you might gain during the quarantine? I encourage you to make the choice by asking yourself this question: “How can I come out of this period better than when I entered into it?” I know it’s a hard ask, but we are resilient people; otherwise, we wouldn’t work in the political arena. Start by doing something simple like walking or riding your bike. You could do some jumping jacks, jump rope, stretch or use soup cans are barbells. You’re only limited by your imagination.
These links will provide you with workout ideas:
This is a very stressful time so what options are available to you to help you cope? It might be a good time to start meditating with a free app from Insight Timer or HeadSpace. You might consider yoga or taking a class on YouTube on breathing to promote calmness. Listening to instrumental music might also be helpful. Would you believe that Spotify offers several COVID-19 playlists? My favorite is the Disney Instrumental theme song playlist—great for all ages!
I am sure self-care means something different to each of us, but being mindful and taking the time to care for yourself will make you a better parent, partner and co-worker. It’s a difficult time and people are struggling, but the one thing I know for sure: If you live your best life in the present situation and embrace the changes, you will feel more accomplished and empowered than ever before. I leave you with this:: Take care and be kind to yourselves!
by Magali Bearden, policy advisor, Arizona House of Representatives
During this pandemic, we are all trying to establish a new normal for our offices. While some of us are starting to gear up for our legislative session while others might be trying to wrap it up. The following are some questions to think about in these unprecedented times for the interns who are contributing to the legislative process.
Interviewing for Session:
NCSL’s Legislative Staff Coordinating Committee (LSCC) serves in an advisory capacity to NCSL’s Executive Committee. LSPA officers serve as members of the LSCC to represent the interests of LSPA members and legislative staff before NCSL. The chair and vice chair of each of the professional staff associations of NCSL are members of the LSCC and each member of the LSCC is appointed to a workgroup and a subcommittee. Similar to legislative committees, these LSCC committees conduct the work of the LSCC and you can see the scope, goals and membership of each of the LSCC committees here.
The Spring LSCC meeting that was scheduled for the first week of June in Quebec City, Canada has been cancelled. The LSCC will be holding a virtual meeting on Friday June 5th.
by Branden Pursinger, policy analyst, Senate Republican Office
For many Americans, legislative staff included, we are living in a time of confusion, social distancing, worry, anxiety, and economic shut down. Never has the entire nation experienced something quite like what we are experiencing on a daily basis. COVID-19 is becoming a new normal, not one we like or enjoy, but a new normal, nonetheless.
Some states are starting to reopen their economies and ending the “Stay Home, Save Lives” initiatives while others are still “closed” and are calling for a lot more testing and data before they start the process of reopening. At the time of writing this article, my home state of Oregon is headed into week seven of this COVID crisis and week five of the stay-home orders. I love being home with my family, but I, like many of you I am guessing, are ready to change the view outside our windows; ready to get back to our offices; ready to get a cup of coffee and spend time in the coffee shops; ready to go to parks and playgrounds with our children; ready to … the list goes on and on.
I was asked to write an article for the NCSL Staff Section Newsletter regarding morale. How do we keep morale up during a time of being apart and extensive working from home measures are in place? When we must be more than 6 feet away from our neighbors and coworkers and the only people you are allowed to be near are those in your household.
For us in Oregon, the crisis feels like it will always be here. So, we have to get creative. If your office is like mine, we have daily conference calls where we give updates on what we are working on, we answer questions that come up from members and we keep grinding away to find a way out of the crisis we are living in. However, it is easy to get into a rut when you are doing the same things on a daily basis without any change, or even the ability to leave your home.
So I give to you my five ways for ensuring office/team morale is high during the time of COVID-19.
1) Start your days off with a question to the team that is not at all work related…
I think it is important to have a conversation every day that has nothing to do with work. We all know the jobs that have to be done and the timelines we have to accomplish them; but by talking about unrelated things, even for just a few minutes a day, this will keep us sane for the long haul. Asking questions like: What is your favorite thing to do outside? What is your favorite taco? What is the first thing you will do when the orders are lifted and you can leave your house? What was the one thing that you did when you were a child that got you into the most trouble? I promise, some of the answers people share will have you and your coworkers smiling, laughing and forgetting about the virus, even if it is just for a minute. By asking questions which could lead to humor or deeper conversations, you get to know your co-workers on a deeper level and form connections.
2) Start or end your meetings with a joke.
By having a joke in your day, you are able to smile and laugh in a time where there is not a lot to smile about. Why do seagulls fly over the sea … because if they flew over the bay, they would be bagels. By finding ways to add humor to our meetings, our days go by a lot faster. Hey out of curiosity, what did Batman say to Robin before they got in the car?... “Robin, get in the car.”
3) Relax and take some “me” time.
Don’t overwork. It is important that you take some personal time. If you are able, take a personal day to destress from the constant ‘go-go-go,’ do it. If you can’t, and all you get is a lunch break, during that break, read a book or watch part of a television show you have been wanting to watch. Do something that is not work-related. Listen to music or take a walk with your dog or child around the block. By getting out of the house and away from your computer / desk, you not only will get the vitamin D from the sun, but you will also get some fresh air that is also very important right now. Hard to be stressed when listening to good music with a cool breeze in your face.
4) Just because you are not together in the office doesn’t mean you should forget about important events.
To keep your employees’ spirits up during the work-from-home time, it is very important to continue celebrating employee milestones. Birthdays and work anniversaries are just as important as personal accomplishments. If you would have celebrated the event at work, celebrate it remotely on technology instead. You can recognize the accomplishments of your employees by sending out virtual cards or hosting a virtual celebration.
5) Office / Team-wide contests
Everyone loves friendly competition. You can throw a virtual contest for your team or your chamber to boost your employee’s moral. Have your employees submit creative ideas for things to do during quarantine – host a variety of contests to keep employees engaged through any given week or month. If your office has the financial means, you can offer the winner a food voucher for a restaurant or business near the capitol building. Support the local businesses around your state houses as they also are having a hard time in this unknown situation we find ourselves in.
This is by no means all you can do. Find interesting ways to connect with your co-workers. By telling stories and engaging with your team on a level that is not just work-related, you are able to have better comradery, a better outlook on this “new normal,” and you will be able to handle a lot more than you think you can.
Keep your head up my friends. This is hard, but this too shall pass. You can do it. You have friends out there that can help when you need it. You are not alone. We are all in this together. If I am able to help in any way, please let me know.
And, as I said above, either start or end with a joke, so, I will leave you with a favorite joke in my house right now, courtesy of my three-year-old co-worker. Carrot. (That’s it… that’s the whole joke. Just Carrot…)
In the midst of Covid-19, many of us across the nation transitioned to a remote work environment. For many of us this is a completely new experience, and there’s quite a bit to get used to. This brief article provides a glimpse into my transition from the Sacramento State Capitol Legislative Office Building to my new home office. I will share what I have learned, read and experienced.
The first thing you should know is that technology terrorizes me. I have always had an IT department to back me up at my office. During this transition, I was using my own equipment, setting up a new HP printer and learning how to merge calls from an IPhone. To those who are technologically challenged take a deep breath, because if I can do it so can you!
Early on, I purchased a new HP printer at my own expense to replace my old printer that kept crashing. Since I am old fashioned and like to see printed material and this solved the problem, this investment helped me not only print documents at home but reduced my anxiety. The HP printer is easy to set up and they monitor remotely so you will not run out of ink. Whether you purchase a new printer, or you have an old one, find out if the company has an automatic ink refill program. If you sign up for HP’s ink program, more ink can be delivered to you for a fee. I know I will not always need this service but it is nice to have right now. It might be helpful if you are working on a deadline.
To stay connected with my team I used my iPhone to merge up to five phone numbers. As a best practice, I found that having the entire phone numbers in your contacts makes the merge easier. If you are going to hold a call, it is a good idea to email a calendar notice and an agenda using your Outlook calendar. Start the call on time and give everyone a chance to check in. Follow your preset agenda and ask staff to announce themselves when speaking.
If you have a large team, you can use FreeConferenceCall.com. This is free and easy to use. Due to high call volume, they recommend you have calls start five minutes after the hour or half-hour.
Zoom is also becoming a popular platform to help you stay connected. It is an easy and free platform to use. You can use it from your smart phone, iPad or desktop/laptop. Remember. if you want to participate beyond the chat feature, you will need a working camera and microphone. Because there are privacy and security concerns with Zoom, please make sure to check with your IT department or at the very least read/watch their security videos to avoid meetings being hacked.
If you are curious what to wear during a Zoom meeting or virtual call, I offer you this article:
Balancing your screen time in the virtual world can be daunting. Make sure to take breaks between calls to give your eyes a rest. This recent article might be helpful:
After setting up your workspace, how do you stay connected to your coworkers? I have found that a weekly or bi-weekly call is helpful. Managers can email notes of encouragement, mail a card via the US Postal Service or just call to check to see how each one of the staff is doing.
On April 30th, LSPA held its first ever LSPA National Zoom Call. With over 20 attendees from14 states and 5 gracious speakers the group was given a brief update on what’s happening with state budgets from NCSL’s Erica MacKellar with the Fiscal Affairs program. After this update speakers, Sheron Violini (CA), Justin Cajindos (OK), Alicia Henry (DC) and Branden Pursigner (OR) lead the group in robust discussion covering topics such as, how to keep communication open and morale up in your office, self-care tactics, safety measures that are being looked at for re-opening legislative buildings and offices and what the sequence of events were in their states as lockdowns were or weren’t announced and some capitols closed or restricted access. It has been proposed that LSPA hold calls such as these National Zoom Calls on a regular basis. We are in the process of gauging interest in continuing these calls. If you are, please take a moment to follow THIS LINK to take a quick three question survey to help us plan for future calls.
Here’s a brief synopsis of what Erica told the group on the call:
News clippings and online articles tailored for staff interested in developing their leadership skills.
The following resources ar related to Antibody Testing for COVID-19 and were compiled by Jevonni Brooks, chief of staff to the Speaker of the House, New York House of Representatives
Statewide Antibody Testing Will Begin Tomorrow
Phase II Results of Antibody Testing Study Show 14.9% of Population has COVID-19 Antibodies
Are you a young or new legislative staffer? Join NCSL’s YNP (Young & New Professionals) Network for access to relevant legislative resources, career development and connections to your peers serving in similar roles throughout state legislatures! Email YNP@ncsl.org to join for free.
If you are a legislator or legislative staff member dealing with redistricting, you'll want your copy of NCSL's new book on redistricting law. It's the comprehensive resource for redistricting, covering 10 legal topics critical to redistricting. Legislators and legislative staff, login to order your free copy.
NCSL is committed to providing our members with timely responses to state research requests and the essential knowledge needed to guide state action. This page is updated daily to reflect new resources in policy areas ranging from education to health care costs and access. Check back often—resources will be updated as they become available.
Let’s Talk About Voting Outside the Polling Place. Wednesday, May 27, 2020 | 1 p.m. ET/ 12 p.m. CT/ 11 a.m. MT/ 10 a.m. PT. This meeting will cover changes to elections due to COVID-19, absentee voting, mail elections, challenges to in-person voting and more. With expert speakers and opportunities for questions and discussion.
Larry Schooler, a regular presenter for LSPA sponsored webinars and constituent engagement expert, debuted his new YouTube reverse town hall on May 15th. A View From You showcases a one-of-a-kind, national broadcast conversation where the public takes center stage. Consituents and members of the general public have the chance to talk directly to community leaders, sharing what they need now and the actions required by elected officials to get past this crisis. Unlike most “town halls,” the public participants won’t be asking the questions but answering them! Check out Larry's novel new way of running a public meeting for gathering input from consituents rather than giving information from the top down.
Training new staff can present myriad challenges and logistical issues. How do you train someone when you already have your plate full with your daily duties? How do you train staff in the middle of a session? Or on a shoestring or nonexistent budget? Below is a list of NCSL resources to help you train new and old staff without overstretching your time, ability and budget.
Voting Outside the Polling Place—four events, Wednesdays in May, each with the nation’s experts on absentee/mail voting.
Making the Maps: The Redistricting Webinar Series—12 events total, and we’re at the half-way mark. There is a fee for these webinars, discounted, of course, for legislators and staff.
If you need to be informed, you need LegisBriefs. Concise. Easy-to-read. Informative. For people who want to know all sides of the emerging issues. Each two-page report gives you a wealth of insight into the issues that affect the states. Examples of recently published LegisBriefs:
The main LegisBrief homepage and archives can be found here.
Megan McClure, research analyst II
NCSL Liaison to the Leadership Staff Professional Association
303-856-1355 | firstname.lastname@example.org
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to be included in future issues to Sheron Violini,
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