The NCSL YNP Newsletter is a biannual collection of news, events and member profiles created by and for legislators and legislative staff who are new to the Legislature.
The mission of the NCSL Young and New Professionals Group is to engage, educate, and support the state legislative leaders of tomorrow through targeted professional development, networking opportunities and recognition.
On the heels of the highly successful 2020 Legislative Staff Certificate Program, NCSL is excited to announce that applications for the 2021 program will open in June.
NCSL’s Legislative Staff Certificate Program will be held online in October 2021 during five two-hour sessions. This month-long training program is for newer legislative staff who are seeking a broader context about legislatures and the legislative process and will focus on five core competencies. Staff with one to three years of legislative employment are invited to apply, with the approval of their director/supervisor.
This unique program will provide newer legislative staff important perspectives and insights about their roles in supporting the legislative institution. Participants will also have an opportunity to engage in peer-to-peer learning and networking with legislative colleagues from across the county. Participants will be awarded a certificate of completion.
Information presented during this program provides a broad view of state legislatures, including the legislative and budget process and ethics, and covers general communication and leader skills. Participants may have the opportunity to engage with program faculty, one-on-one, to obtain in-depth information about the topic being presented. This program is interactive, with breakout rooms, polls, chats and classroom discussions being utilized during each module. Participants will be asked to complete nominal homework in advance of each module. The purpose of the homework is to encourage participants to think about the topic being presented prior to attending the module.
Aug. 3-5, 2021
In a dynamic online setting, NCSL Base Camp 2021 brings together policy experts on a wide range of topic areas to educate policymakers and legislative staff.
Nov. 3-5, 2021
The Legislative Summit is NCSL’s premier annual event and provides a platform for legislators, staff and other public policy professionals to learn from the nation’s foremost experts, as well as each other, about solutions to the country’s most pressing issues. Watch for registration and hotel details in early June 2021.
How long have you been with your member’s office?
Since October of 2019
Tell us more about your role.
My role as a legislative aide consists of managing the senator’s schedule and assisting our constituents in LD7. When a constituent calls us with an issue they’re having with a state agency or need help with an ongoing problem such as unemployment or housing, I will engage with our department legislative liaisons or the county Board of Social Services, and other nonprofit providers to get them the assistance they need. Additionally, I will often staff the senator at both in-person and virtual events including his monthly “Serve with Senator Singleton” volunteer events. Being in a district office is a great way to build connections and develop understandings on how multiple sectors of government operate.
What motivated you to work in the legislature?
Amongst many of my interests, one of my biggest passions is animals. Knowing I wanted to work with them was a no-brainer, but never knowing exactly where to start was a challenge. At one point, becoming a veterinarian crossed my mind, but I decided advocating by bringing justice to light to protect animals from cruelty was my calling. I figured why not start where laws are created: the legislature. Most people cringe when discussing some of the harsh realities behind this. But, if nothing is addressed, nothing changes. Offering my voice to defend the creatures of the world that society depends on is crucial. To this end, Senator Singleton has been a vocal animal advocate, and has written many bills and laws in this space related to shark fins, cat declawing and Moose’s Law among others.
What work are you most proud of?
Multiple requests from constituents coming into a legislative office, whether related to a bill or personal issue one is facing, puts into perspective hardships some may stumble upon. The year 2020 and the continuation into 2021 is nothing anyone would have ever expected. The countless number of hours, emails, phone calls and meetings Senator Singleton’s team has encountered definitely portrays what our office is here for, which is our constituents, or as the senator says, our bosses. Helping constituents with dire housing needs and unemployment has been the most exhausting yet rewarding challenge. One story that specifically comes to mind was helping a family in need right before the holiday season. This family was experiencing multiple hardships such as seeking housing, social services support and disability support along with child support and custody. While networking and brainstorming with colleagues, our office was able to successfully secure affordable housing through a local nonprofit organization, help said parent obtain social services funds, and help said parent claim custody as a caregiver. The outcome was remarkable and inspirational. Anything can be achieved with perseverance and teamwork.
Aside from working on constituent casework, I’ve been presented with the opportunity to engage in different aspects of policy. In early 2021, the New Jersey Senate Commerce Committee held a meeting discussing multiple bills, one of them being bill S 1726 which prohibits the sale of cosmetic products that have been tested on animals. Both the New Jersey state director of HSUS and I requested Senator Singleton to sign on as a co-sponsor. Without hesitation, he said yes among many other senators and assembly members. Researching, presenting a supporting/opposing case to a legislator regarding a bill (or any idea in mind), and asking to sponsor a bill are great first steps that can lead to major significant change.
What’s one thing you love about your state?
One thing I love about our state is the proximity to everything and anything! Whether wanting to visit the Jersey Shore, beautiful farmland that aids in making us the Garden State, or cities such as Jersey City, Hoboken, New York City, or in my case, Philadelphia, it’s only a car or train ride away. There’s so much to explore, so much culture and so much diversity.
As someone new to the legislature, what’s the most unexpected/helpful thing you’ve learned?
There are so many avenues to government I didn’t even know existed. When exploring interests, I have learned to choose a few as a starting point. Staying involved, focused and connected to those who can help guide you in the right direction help tremendously. You would be surprised at how many others have similar interests and who is willing to help. The possibilities are endless.
What advice would you offer to those walking in on their first day at a state legislature?
Make sure you are working with a purpose and toward some type of goal, even if you’re still trying to figure it out. Keep an open mind, network like crazy, try new opportunities that come your way, and don’t be afraid to ask for help or suggestions.
How can seasoned legislative staff help introduce newer staff to the legislature?
Be personable and kind. We were all new at one point. Encourage your new staffer to become active and engaged within the legislative process, introduce them to others, listen to their ideas and be a helping hand.
By Selena Saucedo, policy specialist, NCSL
Conversations about evolving employee culture aren’t new, but recent events are spurring both private and public sector employers to commit to examining and improving their workplaces. State legislatures have undertaken diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiatives in different forms to educate legislators and legislative staff.
Training is one approach legislatures have taken to integrate diversity, equity and inclusion into the legislative environment. Some states offer or require training on diversity and/or anti-discrimination for legislators and/or legislative staff. The Alabama Legislature offers several legislator trainings, including diversity training. Non-discrimination or anti-discrimination training is required for Minnesota senators, New Jersey legislators and partisan staff, and Wyoming legislators.
In at least six states, the legislature or a legislative chamber offers implicit bias training for legislators or legislative staff. Implicit bias training is offered to staff in the California Senate and to legislators and staff in the Connecticut General Assembly and New York Legislature. The Maine Legislature included this training for legislative staff last year and the Vermont General Assembly has required implicit bias training annually for legislators and staff. The Washington Senate has offered this training to staff and partnered with the Washington House to offer implicit bias training to the entire legislative branch staff in 2020.
Read the full NCSL LegisBrief on Raising Awareness About Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.
Legislative work, as any staffer knows well, is not easy. Public service is rewarding, but legislatures are unique and demanding workplaces and it takes time to learn to navigate them successfully. On the eve of the 2021 legislative sessions, NCSL sat down (virtually) with five staffers—who between them have more than a century’s worth of experience—to learn their top tips for being effective legislative employees.