Legislative Staff Coordinating Committee

Meeting Summary

Jan. 29, 2010
Savannah, Ga.

Welcome and Introductions
Nancy Cyr, NCSL Staff Chair, called the meeting to order and introduced LSCC members. She welcomed John Bjornson, Counsel, North Dakota Legislative Council, as a new member of NCSL’s Executive Committee replacing Norman Moore, Chief Clerk of the Arizona House of Representatives, who retired December 31.

Preview of Executive Committee Meetings
Nancy Cyr reviewed the Executive Committee agenda and encouraged LSCC members to participate.

Subcommittee Reports
Professional Development and Outreach. Peggy Piety, subcommittee chair, said the subcommittee met jointly with the Technology and E-Learning Subcommittee for part of the agenda. The subcommittee approved the Legislative Staff Management Institute (LSMI) budget. It discussed ways to promote outreach to personal and district staff, including contact with legislators to encourage their staff to participate and development of a web page to provide social networking opportunities. Peggy described enhancements to the Statehouse Ambassadors program, including monthly updates of NCSL activities, a special event at Legislative Summit and online legislative updates.

Marti Harkness, subcommittee vice chair, said the NCSL and You brochure has been posted online, but needs updating, including embedded video content. He noted that the subcommittee had reviewed a potential speakers list for the two Legislative Staff University sessions at Legislative Summit and had narrowed the names down to four—Massachusetts Representative Jay Kaufman, FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate, former Nebraska Senator David Landis and author Jonah Lehrer.

Gary Schaefer, subcommittee vice chair, said there would be an orientation for first-time staff participants at Legislative Summit on July 26. He described recommendations from an LSCC working group to encourage joint fall professional development seminars (PDS) to reduce costs in seven potential hub locations in 2011 and 2012. He concluded by noting that an updated list of staff serving on standing committees has been posted on the NCSL web site and that work will be done to update the staff appointing authorities in each state.

NCSL Executive Director’s Report
Bill Pound, NCSL Executive Director, indicated that the projected FY 2010 general fund budget shortfall had been cut to about $55,000 through reduced meeting costs, consolidated staff section PDS and increased revenue from national seminars. He noted that staff attendance at the 2009 Fall Forum was one-third less than the previous year, but legislator attendance remained about the same. He emphasized the importance of new e-learning initiatives to reach legislators and staff that cannot travel, especially webinars. Bill thanked staff that had participated in the initial NCSL focus groups, and said the next one is scheduled for the end of March. A final report will be submitted to Executive Committee in May.

Subcommittee Reports
Legislative Institutions. Roger Norman, subcommittee chair, described two priority work products—updating the Separation of Powers web page, and promoting legislative service as a career. He noted that Dick Sweet, subcommittee vice chair, is leading the Separation of Powers work and participated in the meeting via audio conference. LSCC then watched two videos prepared by the subcommittee that demonstrate different staff roles and will be used to promote legislative service as a career—one from the Pennsylvania House Republican Caucus; the other from the Kentucky Legislative Research Commission Office of Budget Review.

Technology and E-Learning. Michael Adams, subcommittee chair, described the subcommittee’s ongoing review of NCSL’s web site. He updated LSCC on the status of the $35,000 e-learning grant program—every staff section and half of the standing committees have applied for grants and either produced or were in the process of completing content that will be posted on the NCSL web site. Approximately $11,000 remains for new projects in 2010. Michael noted that LSCC has applied for a grant to sponsor a webinar on April 15 entitled Writing for the Legislative Audience that will feature Stan Stenersen, a writing consultant who formerly worked with the U.S. Government Accountability Office. He stressed the importance of being able to measure the value of e-learning products produced under the grant program and finding a way to sustain the program after the grants run out. Michael concluded his report by reviewing an outline of the NCSL University web page.

Staff Section Officers. Linda Pittsford, chair of the National Association of Legislative Information Technology, presented the officers report. She summarized discussions of the status of potential hub locations for joint-PDS in 2011 and 2012; planning for 2010 PDS; e-learning program grants; collaboration with the Legislative Institutions Subcommittee in promoting legislative service as a career; coordination with the Standing Committee Officers and the Professional Development and Outreach Subcommittee in marketing Spring and Fall Forums; and the new staff section officers orientation program at Legislative Summit. Linda encouraged each of the staff sections to cosponsor the April 15 writing skills webinar and contribute $100 to help cover costs.

Shelley Day, chair-elect of Legislative Research Librarians, reviewed the staff section PDS held in St. Paul, Oct. 14-17. The agenda included several sessions at the State Capitol, a tour of West Thomson Reuters and a discussion of the Minnesota U.S. Senate race election recount. Shelley noted that 13 staff section members attended and the PDS made a profit as the staff section was able to use the State Capitol for meetings and did not have a hotel contract.

Strategic Planning Work Group. Tim Rice, NCSL Staff Vice Chair, reported that the work group would meet the following day from 11:30 am – 1:00 pm. The primary focus is on collecting and analyzing previous LSCC documents and records to discover trends and issues of interest that may warrant further discussion. Tim noted that a background report that includes a history of LCSS and its major policies and work products is being prepared and will be posted on the NCSL web site.

Fall Forum
Total attendance at Fall Forum in San Diego, Dec. 9-12, was 660. This included 71 legislative staff. The evaluation forms were very positive, with the meeting receiving a grade of 4.1 on a 5-point scale. The standing committee sessions garnered an even higher 4.7 rating. Spring Forum is scheduled for April 7-10 in Washington, D.C. Carl Tubbesing, NCSL Deputy Executive Director, announced his retirement at Fall Forum after serving 34 years with the organization.

LSMI Update
Dr. Timothy Hodson, LMSI Co-Director at California State University, Sacramento, said the Legislative Staff Management Institute is scheduled for Aug. 14-21, in Sacramento. He noted the positive evaluations this nationally recognized management and leadership skills training program has received every year from participants, while at the same time recognizing the impact difficult budget times may have on this year’s attendance. Dr. Hodson emphasized the importance of recruiting at least 20 participants to make the program workable and to break even financially. Gary VanLandingham, NCSL Immediate Past Staff Chair, encouraged staff to take advantage of the unique experience LSMI provides, and said he would be seeking testimonials from previous participants to help market the program.

Civic Education Update
Gary VanLandingham described a pilot program that Project Citizen is launching in seven states to engage legislative staff in working with students to promote greater understanding and participation in state government. As many as 120 staff initially may be involved.

Other Business
Carl Tubbesing thanked legislative staff for their support and involvement in NCSL over the years, and said he would miss working with them as he embarks upon retirement.

The meeting adjourned.