LSCC Annual Report

12/23/2020

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The Legislative Staff Coordinating Committee (LSCC) advises NCSL’s Executive Committee. The LSCC oversees the legislative staff division of NCSL, coordinates the work of NCSL’s nine professional staff associations, promotes professional development of legislative staff, and reviews and evaluates NCSL services to legislative staff.

Message from the 2019-2020 NCSL Staff Chair

Martha Wigton, Director

House Budget and Research Office

Georgia General Assembly

NCSL is the only national organization that puts staff at the decision-making table. The Legislative Staff Coordinating Committee (LSCC) is composed of 49 staff from across the nation who meet throughout the year to discuss, plan and instigate staff training materials and professional development, networking, and other enrichment activities just for us.  We’ve been on an uphill climb this year and now it’s time to look over the miles we covered and celebrate the immense contributions legislative staff have made—and continue to make—to the process, as well as build on our accomplishments to provide even greater public service in the future.

As your staff chair, I asked the members of the LSCC to work on goals focused in three Cs—career, connection,  and creativity. And this year’s accomplishments of the LSCC to meet these goals have been staggeringly successful, especially in light of the abrupt interruptions that caused us to pivot three-quarters of the way into our year. Your staff advisory committee did it with the technical precision and the grace more worthy of a pirouette and here we are—check off the creative and connected goals as complete! 

The future looks amazing. While honoring the traditions that brought us this far, there is opportunity to reshape and modernize the institution for generations to come. We can all be contributors to ensuring that our branch of government remains viable and resilient in the face of pandemic, political unrest or whatever comes our way.

Thank you to the members of the LSCC. You all are dynamic and driven, and we all have reaped great benefit this year from your time and ideas! 

A special thank you to Past Staff Chair Jon Heining (TX) and the 2019-2020 work group and subcommittee officers:  Eric Nauman (Minn.), Martin Brock (N.C.), Betsy Theroux (Ga.), Lonnie Edgar (Miss.), Jennifer Jones (Texas), J.J.  Gentry (S.C.), Wendy Jackson (Wis.), Jennifer Jackson (Texas), Charlotte Carter-Yamauchi (Hawaii), Sabrina Lewellen (Ark.), Othni Lathram (Ala.), John Snyder (Ky.) and Linda Triplett (Miss.)

2019-2020 LSCC Work Groups and Subcommittees

  • Professional Staff Association Officers 
  • Standing Committees 
  • Strategic Planning 
  • Certificate and Career Development 
  • Legislative Institutions 
  • Programs and Professional Development
  • Information Technology, Social Media, E-Learning and Outreach

Career

One of my highest priorities for the conference year was to focus on providing a continuum of career development for legislative staff. NCSL continued to provide ongoing professional development for staff through the professional staff associations and standing committees, at the 2019 Capitol Forum and the very successful NCSL 2020 Base Camp, during the 2020 Legislative Staff Week and the 2020 Legislative Staff Management Institute (LSMI). We were also able to kick off two new professional development programs—a legislative staff certificate program and a senior staff leadership development program.

New programs included:

  • The Legislative Staff Certificate Program. This month-long training program is for newer legislative staff seeking a broader context about legislatures and the legislative process, and focuses on five core competencies: the legislative institution and parliamentary procedure, legislative fiscal concepts, the model code of conduct for legislative staff, clear and concise communications, and leadership within the legislative ecosystem. Staff with at least one legislative session and two to five years of legislative experience were invited to apply, with the approval of their director/supervisor. This unique program provided newer legislative staff important perspectives and insights about their roles in supporting the legislative institution. We received more than 200 applications for this new program and accepted 106 applicants, with 105 accepting the invitation to participate. Certificates of completion will be presented to the program participants in mid-November.
  • Senior Staff Leadership Development Program. NCSL’s inaugural Senior Staff Leadership Development Program, “1775 to Today: Lessons in Leadership,” was an executive leadership workshop exclusively for legislative staff directors, senior department directors, chamber, caucus or leaders’ chiefs of staff. A nor’easter that resulted in 15 inches of snow did not stop this three-day workshop, which was held Dec. 1-4, 2019, in Lexington, Mass. Sixteen senior-level legislative staff, representing 15 states, participated. Using the events of 1775 and the first shots of the American Revolution as a touchstone, attendees explored their own leadership challenges while learning about the adaptive leadership framework.
  • Professional Development and Networking for Staff Directors. Shortly after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, NCSL brought together staff directors to share current and evolving information about how their agency or chamber was responding to the COVID-19 crisis. Five roundtable/networking discussions were held in 2020. In addition, NCSL offered a three-part professional development series for legislative staff directors focused on leading and managing during uncertain times. This series covered empathy, decision-making, communication, emotional intelligence and unconscious bias.  

Select continuing activities included:

  • Legislative Staff Management Institute (LSMI).  Celebrating its 31st anniversary this year, LSMI moved its eight-day in-person residency program to a month-long virtual program. Forty-five participants representing 20 states were accepted into this year’s program. The LSMI curriculum focused on self awareness and social awareness and covered nine content areas including feedback, resilience, negotiation and influence, and leading in an environment of risk. There was a heavy focus on creating connection and helping facilitate networking opportunities. Evaluation results will be shared with the LSCC at the January 2021 meeting.
  • Legislative Staff Week.  The third spring Legislative Staff Week was held May 4-8, 2020. The purpose of Legislative Staff Week is to celebrate legislative staff and recognize their contributions to their legislature and NCSL. This event took on new meaning as most legislative staff were forced into remote work overnight while legislatures figured out how to operate during a pandemic. The theme of the week was resiliency and recognition. This event included 387 standing ovations for legislative staff, numerous blogs, a webinar on “Managing, Leading and Growing in Uncertain Times,” a podcast about resiliency and readiness, and tweets that shined a light on staff contributions during these unprecedented times and encouraged legislative staff participation in NCSL programs and activities.
  • Legislative Staff Achievement Awards.  We also created a plan for heightening the awareness of the 2020 Legislative Staff Achievement Awards, 2020 Notable Document Awards and 2020 Online Democracy Award.  These awards were presented as part of the NCSL Base Camp.

Other activities supporting legislative staff career development:

  • Created an online standing committee officer roster with pictures.
  • An updated Standing Committee FAQ was made available on the NCSL webpage. This site will serve as a resource for legislative staff interested in learning more about the NCSL Standing Committees.
  • Developed NCSL job descriptions for NCSL staff chair, standing committee staff officer and staff at-large executive committee member.
  • Reviewed NCSL’s Young and New Professionals network and increased its support and services.

Connection

The LSCC is always looking to increase and improve opportunities to promote engagement of legislative staff with NCSL and to provide a forum for staff to connect with their peers across the country. With COVID-19, the LSCC and NCSL made a quick shift to continue to provide virtual opportunities for staff to connect. 

Select activities this year included:

  • Continuing efforts by the LSCC subcommittees and workgroups to work virtually after the COVID-19 pandemic forced cancellation of all NCSL in-person meetings through 2020.
  • Creating suggestions/guidance for the implementation of Legislative Staff Exchange Programs by the professional staff associations.
  • Developing a multi-pronged communications strategy and general outreach plan for legislative staff, which was updated to respond to COIVD-19. 
  • Overseeing and providing feedback on the rollout of NCSL’s new database management system (Fonteva), which includes the development of a preference center. This preference center allows legislative staff to customize the information they receive from NCSL to better assist them in their work. 
  • Overseeing the development of a new state data/engagement report.
  • Providing online programming by each of the nine professional staff associations in lieu of their annual professional development seminars because of the pandemic. These programs consisted of roundtable discussions around certain topics related to operating during the pandemic to professional development. 
  • Requesting that each professional staff association ensure they have a designee policy to ensure continuity in the LSCC.

Creativity

“Creativity is not an option.” This was the message from Amy Climer during the 2019 Legislative Staff Breakfast. “As legislative staffers, you have an obligation to create,” she added. The LSCC was challenged to think creatively about how to provide services to staff and honor the importance of the legislative institution. 

Select activities this year included:

  • Provided support and guidance in the development and execution of the podcast “Building Democracy: The Story of Legislatures.” This special six-part series covers the history, characters and stories of state legislatures in America from the beginnings in Jamestown to the present day and into the future.  Episode No. 3—“Louisiana Purchase Through Reconstruction”—has  recently been made available while episode No. 4—“Women’s Suffrage in the West Before 19th Amendment Passage”—is well underway and is now in production. 
  • Updated NCSL's 2020 Guide for Writing a State Legislative Personnel Manual.” The guide was revised in 2019, published in June 2020 and promoted through NCSL communications channels in July 2020. NCSL consulted with Sapir Schragin, LLC, a New York-based employment law firm to ensure the guide was crafted with legal expertise and input. The workgroup recommended the table of contents in the guide be reviewed every two years by the Legislative Institution Subcommittee and that the guide have a comprehensive review every five years. The subcommittee recommended consideration be given to adding a section on emergency preparedness and continuity of operations.
  • Initiated conversations about creating an “Oral History of the Institution” video with past NCSL staff chairs and an award, or recognition, program for webinars produced by the professional staff associations.

Other

Other activities included:

  • Developing an at-a-glance guide to NCSL Rules of Procedure and parliamentary procedures for use during standing committee business meetings.
  • Making recommendations for revised professional staff association overhead allocation formula.
  • Drafting safety guidelines for traveling to be made available for NCSL meetings.
  • Developing and disseminating an annual LSCC report.