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 (firstname.lastname@example.org)
By Sheron Violini, California
On behalf of the Leadership Staff Professional Association (LSPA) leadership team, Josh Nacey (Kentucky), Justin Cajindos (Oklahoma) and I (California) extend a warm welcome and encourage your participation. As a national organization, NCSL provides a rich source of information and opportunities for staff engagement. We hope you will reach out to let us know what interests you. Part of the fun is getting to know your colleagues in other states while identifying similarities. Please reach out if we can help you improve your current systems, organization or if you just want to meet new folks.
Our goal for 2020 is to bring you professional growth opportunities! Remember: Leadership is a verb! Hope to see you at the Summit and in Atlanta at the Super PDS.
The Leadership Staff Association held its 2019 Professional Development Seminar in Nashville, Tenn., the day and a half before Summit began in August 2019. The host state of Tennessee allowed us to use its newly renovated, spacious and comfortable accommodations in the Cordell Hull Building. LSPA would like to thank our gracious hosts, Connie Ridley, director of the Office of Legislative Administration, and Tara Jenkins, of the Office of the House Clerk, for their generosity and help in making the meeting successful.
Sessions covered a variety of topics including best practices in new member orientation, collaborative problem solving, policy issue speed learning and much more. Speakers included LSPA members from across the U.S. and NCSL subject matter experts. Click here for the full agenda and details and keep an eye out for details for the upcoming 2020 Super PDS to be held in October 2020 in Atlanta.
After the LSPA PDS wrapped up it was time for the 2019 NCSL Legislative Summit, which offered a huge selection of topics and learning opportunities for thousands of legislative staff and lawmakers from across the nation and the world. LSPA co-sponsored sessions included "Evolving Workplace Harassment Policies," "Public Service in the Selfie Age," "Emerging Ethics Reforms" and many more. For resources, recordings of live-streamed sessions and all the details, click here.
During the LSPA Business Meeting, held at the close of the PDS, LSPA recognized the 2019 Legislative Staff Achievement Award winners. This year’s winners were Christie Getto Young, chief of staff to Senator Sal DiDomenico (D-Mass.), and Aurora Hauke, chief of staff to Representative Chris Tuck (D- Alaska).
Christie has worked in the Massachusetts Legislature for 11 years. Her career in public service began as a research analyst for the Massachusetts Legislature’s Joint Committee on Human Services from 1993-1995. After pursuing a career in the nonprofit sector, Christie returned to the legislature in 2010, working for DiDomenico, first as his budget and policy director and eventually becoming his chief of staff in 2013. For nearly a decade, Christie has been a steadfast leader in the Massachusetts Senate and a go-to resource for legislative staff, nonprofit organizations, and advocates working to pursue policies that support the commonwealth’s children and families.
Aurora has worked for the Alaska State Legislature for almost 20 years and is currently working for Tuck as his chief of staff and Legislative Budget and Audit Committee aide. She has spent the majority of her legislative career in leadership offices, helping to train and mentor staff and build a sense of team amongst the personal staff of individual caucus members. Aurora has been actively involved in the Leadership Staff Professional Association since attending her first meeting in Anchorage in 2007, serving as chair from 2014-2015, and has helmed the Bylaws Committee through many important improvements to LSPA’s governance. She was appointed to the NCSL Executive Committee in 2018 and is proud to advocate for the largest group of legislative staffers as the only personal staffer serving on the Executive Committee.
Congratulations to Christie and Aurora!
We asked leadership staff from across the U.S. to show us how their legislatures celebrate the holidays:
By Magali Bearden
The holiday spirit at the Arizona Capitol Complex starts with beautiful holiday songs. This year marks the 54th annual Choirs in the Capitol, where schools from across the state come to the Arizona Capitol Museum and perform from Dec. 2-20. Along with the songs that fill the Arizona Capitol Museum, the Governor's Tower has a 25-foot tree grown in Arizona that is decorated and was lit in on Dec. 3.
By Sheron Violini
Music and merriment have been a part of California’s Capitol since December 1869, when a large music celebration was held to commemorate the official opening of the building. Governors of California soon established a tradition of adorning the Capitol with garlands and placing decorated trees in their offices. The earliest photographs show Governor James Rolph (R) in 1931 in front of a large decorated tree. Holiday trees were featured in the first-floor rotunda and in the East Annex until 1983, when fire concerns forced the trees outside on the west lawn.
That same year, under the direction of Governor George Deukmejian (R), the Department of Developmental Services began the tradition of creating thousands of handcrafted ornaments for the Capitol tree, made by children and adults with developmental disabilities. Another tradition that continues today is the selection of a child with a disability to place a symbolic ornament on the tree and turn the switch that lights the tree during the annual tree lighting ceremony.
In 1996, the legislature reintroduced historic decorations and flower arrangements in the first-floor rotunda. That same year, the annual Holiday Music program was officially established. Each year, close to 70 musical groups perform traditional holiday music between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. In 2015, a new tradition began for the first-floor historic museum rooms. Each year, volunteers decorate the rooms with authentic Victorian ornaments and garlands.
From the giant fir tree outside, with its hand-made ornaments and thousands of lights, to the authentic Victorian embellishments inside and holiday music throughout, California’s State Capitol captures the spirit of the holiday.
By Angelika McClelland
Each year, the Ohio Statehouse hosts a Holiday Festival and Tree Lighting that is free and open to the public. The event, attended by hundreds of Ohioans young and old, features carolers, family-friendly activities and refreshments, as well as historical characters and modern dignitaries, including Santa and Mrs. Claus to light the official Statehouse tree. Also during the month of December, the Statehouse hosts free, lunchtime concerts with high school musical groups from around the state.
Members and staff of the Ohio Senate, who work in the Statehouse, collect toy donations each year for children in need or unable to spend the holidays at home. This year, the Senate will deliver toys, personal care items, and a visit from Santa to moms and children at Moms2B, a nonprofit organization that provides prenatal and first-year-of-life education, nutrition, clinical and social support for pregnant women in high-risk neighborhoods. Reducing Ohio’s infant mortality rate is a bipartisan priority for the Senate, and this special event provides legislative staff an opportunity to not only give back to their community, but also see their policy work in action.
By Justin Cajindos
Governor Kevin Stitt (R) kicked off the state holiday celebrations in Oklahoma with a tree lighting ceremony. Due to ongoing renovations at the Capitol, this was the first lighting ceremony in decades that wasn’t held at the Capitol but at the Oklahoma History Center. Students from 25 schools across Oklahoma were involved in the festivities leading up to the tree lighting. Each participating class chose a theme and decorated an indoor, 4-foot-tall Christmas tree with ornaments based on that theme. And student performing groups were on hand to provide musical entertainment.
The governor was assisted in his tree lighting duties by a 7-year-old Oklahoma boy who had recently been adopted by his foster parents.
Our member profile for Winter 2020 is Josh Nacey. Leadership Staff for the Kentucky House and LSPA 1st vice-chair.
Q: How long have you been with the Kentucky General Assembly?
A: Since January 2012.
Q: What has your journey to the Kentucky General Assembly been?
A: I was a legislative assistant for a U.S. Congressman for a few years after law school. When I moved back to Kentucky, I litigated for several years as a public defender and then as a staff attorney for the state Division of Water. I finally got the opportunity to work at the Legislative Research Commission as a nonpartisan analyst for the Capital Projects and Bond Oversight Committee. After a year-and-a half, I was promoted to staff administrator for that committee. After the 2016 elections, I was asked to join the newly elected Speaker’s Office as a policy advisor for the Judiciary and Banking and Insurance committees. I have been in that role ever since. It has been an immense privilege to work at LRC.
Q: What’s a valuable lesson you have learned in your time in the Kentucky House?
A: Be patient with people and try to listen more than you speak.
Q: What “hot issues” are you working on this coming session?
A: I anticipate a lot of activity involving criminal justice reform efforts and pretrial release reform.
Q: What’s one of your favorite places or features in the Kentucky State Capitol Building?
A: I enjoy viewing the dome and visiting the rotunda. My office with the Capital Projects committee had a terrific view of the dome. The sun’s reflection off of it brightened the office. The rotunda is my favorite place to visit when I go over there. It contains statues of some of Kentucky’s most important figures including Henry Clay and Abraham Lincoln (he was born here, not Illinois).
Q: How do you spend your time outside of your work at in the Kentucky House?
A: With my wife and two kids. When the weather is good, we try to spend time outdoors either walking/riding bikes, playing in the yard, or chatting with the neighbors. When the weather isn’t so good, we often get together with the neighbors on the weekends for a game of cards.
By Justin Cajindos, Oklahoma
With the end of the year approaching and the start of the 2020 legislative session just around the corner, many legislative caucuses are gathering for their pre-session legislative retreats. What exactly is a caucus retreat and what is the secret to putting together an effective one?
When the word “retreat” comes to mind you may be picturing trust falls and cheesy ice breakers, but caucus retreats are a great opportunity to conduct serious business before session begins. There is no standard template for how to run a caucus retreat, but there are some best practices.
Most important is to have a clear set of goals and an organized agenda. What does the caucus want to accomplish at the retreat? Some caucus leaders may decide to set the agenda themselves, others survey their caucus to get some direction. Common retreat goals include setting the caucus legislative agenda for the legislative session and crafting a message or communications plan. Some caucus retreats include a training component to help prepare newer legislators or provide a refresher to the veterans, covering areas such as parliamentary procedure. The agenda may also include guest speakers on legislative topics expected to be considered during session.
How long should the retreat be? This can vary greatly depending on how ambitious the agenda is. Some caucuses decide to do only one day, others can be as long as three days. Many state legislators hold other employment during the interim, so their work schedules should be considered. As close to full caucus participation as possible makes for a more effective gathering. Where should the retreat be held? Some caucuses choose to meet at their state capitol, while others prefer to meet off campus at a conference center or a state university. Exotic locations should generally be avoided; these are working meetings, not vacations.
That being said, caucus retreats don’t have to be dull or academic. In many states, caucuses hold their retreat during the interim when legislators may have not seen each other for several months post-session. The retreat can be a great opportunity for legislators in the same caucus to catch up or get to know each other better. A social component is important for caucus team building.
“Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision. The ability to direct individual accomplishments toward organizational objectives. It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results.” —Andrew Carnegie
Still have questions about how to put together your caucus retreat? Don’t hesitate to ask NCSL for help. The organization has many resources on how to put together effective retreats and can even offer facilitation, ideation and development or training for your caucus. Take advantage of NCSL's help, and impress your caucus when you organize a retreat they’ll be proud of!
For more information on NCSL’s retreat and training services, contact email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
NCSL’s Legislative Staff Coordinating Committee (LSCC) serves in an advisory capacity to NCSL’s Executive Committee. LRL 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 LSCC meets four times a year and recently held its fall meeting in Honolulu on Oct. 11, 2019. Many thanks to Sheron Violini for representing LSPA in person during the meeting and to Josh Nacey for calling into meetings when possible.
Staff Association Officers Work Group Report
The Professional Staff Association Officers Work Group will be working on a few projects during this conference year. These projects include reviewing NCSL’s Overhead Allocation Formula for Professional Staff Associations, studying the feasibility of giving an award to a professional staff association for the best webinar, developing a policy for staff association designees at the LSCC in order to ensure continuity of work and creating a conference safety guidelines flyer for distribution at PDS meetings. I will be on a small workgroup to examine the staff association overhead allocation and Eric will participate in studying the feasibility of giving an award for the best webinar.
The LSCC is also leading the way in organizing a pilot certificate program for legislative staff. This one-day program will be on Oct. 6, 2019, in Atlanta, prior to the start of the 2020 Super Professional Development Seminar. It is for newer legislative staff and will focus on five core competencies every legislative staffer should know: parliamentary and fiscal procedures, the legislative institution, code of conduct, leadership and communication.
Also, as you may know, LSPA will be participating in the Super PDS, which will be held Oct. 7-9 in Atlanta. I serve on the planning and oversight committee for the meeting and am ensuring that LSPA is represented throughout the planning process.
NCSL Legislative Institutions Subcommittee Report
In October, the Legislative Staff Coordinating Committee Legislative Institutions Subcommittee met to establish annual priorities. Our subcommittee was broken up into workgroups to tackle the following areas:
Staff engagement and retention is a challenge for both public and private sector employers. As the workforce retires institutional knowledge is lost. As legislative staff, we are not immune to this trend. I welcome your suggestions and input to further enhance our survey.
Despite being an odd-numbered year, 2019 provided plenty of action in state elections all around the country. This month voters went to the polls for general elections in Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Jersey and Virginia, in addition to special elections in several other states.
In Kentucky, most of the attention went to the governor’s race, where Democratic Attorney General Andy Beshear defeated incumbent Republican Governor Matt Bevin by just over 5,000 votes. In Louisiana, Democratic Governor John Bel Edwards was reelected in a close race with Republican businessman Eddie Rispone. Republicans won a supermajority in the Louisiana Senate, but fell short of winning a supermajority in the Louisiana House.
In Mississippi, Republican Lieutenant Governor Tate Reeves defeated Democratic Attorney General Jim Hood in the open race for governor. Republicans had a net gain of three seats in the Mississippi Senate, where they will hold a 36-16 majority. In the Mississippi House, Republicans maintained their supermajority, winning 75 of the 122 House seats.
In New Jersey, Democrats maintained their majority in the General Assembly, however, Republicans gained four seats, putting the Democratic majority at 50-30.
The biggest change was in Virginia, where Democrats took control of the Virginia Senate and House. Democrats will have a 21-19 majority in the Senate and a 55-45 majority in the House, giving Democrats total control of state government in Virginia for the first time since 1993. In the House, the new speaker will be Democrat Eileen Filler-Corn, who will be the first woman to serve as speaker in Virginia history. Filler-Corn just announced her new chief of staff will be Kevin O’Holleran, former chief of staff to the Virginia attorney general.
For additional analysis, party composition, as well as results from special elections and ballot measures, visit the NCSL StateVote 2019 page.
News clippings and online articles tailored for staff interested in developing their leadership skills.
Leading and Succeeding Where Organizational Boundaries Are Unclear
Route 50—Connecting State and Local Government Leaders
How to Find a Mentor and Make it Work
How to be a Good Mentor
A collection of TED Talks
What Is Managing Up?
Association of Talent Development
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.
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.
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 | email@example.com
We want to hear from you! Email your suggested topic
to be included in future issues to Sheron Violini,
deputy secretary for operations, California State
Senate at firstname.lastname@example.org