Legislative Research Librarians

Newsline Newsletter

Volume XXXVI, No. 2
Spring 2011

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Chair's Column
Shelley Day
Legislative Research Library, Utah

Dear LRL Friends,

When you get involved, you feel the sense of hope and accomplishment from knowing that you're working to make things better. As chair, my focus is to increase LRL visibility, member outreach and networking options. With a mixture of appreciation, hope and congratulations, I'm pleased to provide a summary of activity for this year.

Enhanced Recognition of Notable Document Award Recipients. The recommendation to recognize recipients of the Notable Document Awards along with Staff Achievement Award and Online Democracy Award recipients during the Salute to Staff at the Annual Summit is a work in progress. Tim Rice, NCSL Executive Committee Staff Chair, is working with NCSL to determine how to recognize all award recipients and to celebrate legislative staff service at the Legislative Summit.

Increased Regional Coordinator Outreach. Regional coordinators were invited to join our LRL executive committee conference calls on three occasions. Suggestions, concerns and a variety of outreach efforts were addressed and implemented to demonstrate NCSL's support for increased morale and involvement among members.

NCSL Executive Committee Member Appointed. After not having any LRL representation for several years, Cathy Martin (North Carolina) was officially appointed in May as a discretionary member of the NCSL Executive Committee.

Webinars Launched. We launched our first two successful webinars during the last quarter of 2010, with another one scheduled this fall. Functioning as effective outreach measures for professional growth and development, Webinars are affordable, archived and available to members via the LRL website. An e-roundtable discussion for all LRL members to participate is currently in the planning stage.

Your ongoing teamwork remains impressive, and I'm fortunate to be associated with such wonderful colleagues from around the nation. Your intelligence, humor, dedication, innovation and camaraderie are unrivaled. My experiences in working with each of you are equally valuable.

Thank you,


A Legislative Librarian's "Beginner's Mind"
By Cathy Martin, North Carolina 

In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert's there are few.
Shunryu Suzuki-Roshi

Ahhh . . . “Zen moments.” We all need those, right?

“Beginner’s mind” is another useful Zen concept, encouraging us to consider something from the new and open perspective of someone who’s never thought about the subject before.

With our new session came many changes—new legislators, new leaders, difficult economic realities—and I needed a beginner’s mind. How best could we meet the challenges we faced? How could we stay relevant and best serve the needs of our institution and its new leaders, particularly in the face of hard budget times?

In April, I asked other LRLers whether taking on nontraditional library work might be some “salvation” for some of us. Not to say the old ways and services are bad or wrong, just that we might want to think about our work in a different way. I noted the NC Legislative Library’s handling of the boards and commissions database as a vital legislative function, but not necessarily “traditional” to legislative libraries, and asked you to describe odd jobs in your own libraries.

Many thanks to the 10 LRLers who responded, as they shared some interesting endeavors: some truly unusual, some borderline traditional and some that might be expected in one legislative library setting but not necessarily another. Here’s a sampling:

  • Redistricting duties—Kristin Ford, Idaho, wins the “off the library charts” award!
  • Acting as Fire Zone Wardens—Colo. is a close second to Idaho;
  • Content designer for entire legislative website (not just the library site);
  • Coordination of the NCSL Back to School Program;
  • Web site “gadfly” and similar website watchdog roles;
  • Capitol art and memorials database maintenance;
  • Membership on various outside committees (Capitol Building Advisory Committee; Council of Government; statewide task force on the accessibility of websites);
  • Building guides; and
  • Lots of borderline/crossover roles: Proofreading the budget bill; legislator biography databases; boards and commissions databases; sole archivists of executive branch documents.

The sample was too small for me to make any broad statements, but a couple of things come to mind.

First, wouldn’t a comprehensive LRL survey be fascinating? Second, five months into our session, I’ve seen that the traditional jobs may actually be what keep us afloat during transitional times. As legislative people change, the library itself remains the keeper of the legislative memory flame, with its macro perspective on institutional history and the micro tools we’ve developed (databases, charts and lists of the firsts, the lasts, the longest, the shortest, the most, the least, ad infinitum). We know stuff and we know how to find stuff, and that’s what keeps us relevant.

In conclusion, it seems many LRLers already have beginner’s mind and are adaptable indeed! So, be on notice—you, too, may become a Fire Zone Warden, but please don’t make me handle redistricting!

Legislative Staff Membership on the 2011-2012 NCSL Executive Committee
By Tim Rice, Illinois, NCSL Staff Chair

NCSL's 2011 Legislative Staff Nominating Committee is seeking nominations for legislative staff to serve on the 2011-2012 Executive Committee as staff vice chair or at-large members. The task of the 2011 Legislative Staff Nominating Committee, which meets at the NCSL Legislative Summit in San Antonio, Texas, in August, is to nominate a slate of 16 members and three officers of the NCSL Executive Committee for conference year 2011-2012.

Nine current members of the Executive Committee are eligible for nomination for another one-year term. There are seven vacancies among at-large legislative staff positions on the Executive Committee this year. The vacancies are created because Executive Committee members have reached their limit of three consecutive one-year terms or have served an interim appointment of less than six months.

Legislative staff interested in serving on the 2011-2012 NCSL Executive Committee should review the nominating procedures information and write a letter of declaration, which must be postmarked or electronically transmitted by the following deadline dates:

  • Staff Vice Chair Candidates:

The letter of declaration must be postmarked or electronically transmitted no later than July 1, 2011.

  • At-Large Membership Candidates:

The letter of declaration must be postmarked or electronically transmitted no later than July 15, 2011.

  • Letters of Support:

All letters of support must be postmarked or electronically transmitted no later than Aug. 1, 2011.

Declarations and letters of support shall be addressed to Sharon Crouch Steidel, Chair, NCSL 2011 Legislative Staff Nominating Committee, in care of the NCSL office in Denver at address below. NCSL will acknowledge their receipt and notify all members of the nominating committee.

Submit all letters to NCSL using the following address:

Sharon Crouch Steidel, Chair
NCSL 2011 Legislative Staff Nominating Committee 
Attn: Joyce Johnson
National Conference of State Legislatures
7700 East First Place
Denver, CO 80230
or email to joyce.johnson@ncsl.org.

State News
By LRL Regional Coordinators

From Maeve Roche, California:

Greetings from California . . . We have a "new" governor in office—Jerry Brown has returned! The first three months of 2011 were extremely busy for us. We started a new legislative session in January—and with many new legislators and a new governor in office, staff were working hard to keep up with the reference and research requests we received. Now, things have settled down a bit, and we're waiting to see if the Legislature will pass the budget on time. When we're not busy answering research questions, we have plenty of projects to keep us busy. Some highlights: digitizing important legislative and executive-level publications for greater access and searchability—the Assembly and Senate journals, the Governor's State of the State and Inaugural speeches, Executive Orders, and many other titles on our wish list. We also anticipate moving toward an electronic reference ticketing and tracking system, called AltaRama, within the next few months. We're also enjoying some wonderful summer weather right now, after a very winter-like spring!

From John Barden, Maine:

The Maine State Law and Legislative Reference Library wishes to note the retirement of Robert Michaud, associate law librarian, on March 31, after 28 years of service, and Sheila Bearor, principal law librarian for technical services, on June 28, after 21 years of service. Congratulations to these two dedicated employees on achieving this goal!

From Tracey Kimball, New Mexico:

New Mexico's new Republican governor, Susana Martinez, finished her first legislative session by vetoing 98 of the bills passed and partially vetoing two others. Two of the line-item vetoes are being challenged by legislators who say the governor exceeded her constitutional powers.  

In one instance, Martinez reduced an appropriation in the state's main budget bill from $150,000 to $50,000 by striking one digit – the "1" from $150,000. Four Democratic House and Senate members sued, saying that the governor can eliminate an entire allocation of money with a partial veto but can't alter the amount. The suit calls this "an invasion into legislative powers" that, "if allowed, would provide the governor with vast abilities to manipulate the legislative power of appropriation."

The second suit, filed by six Democratic members of the House and Senate, regards the governor's veto in a separate bill of an increase in tax rates that businesses pay into an unemployment fund. Martinez and the legislators disagree that the tax provision is an appropriation of money subject to a line-item veto.

The state Supreme Court hearings for both suits have been scheduled for late June. In three other cases in the first three months of her administration, the Court has ruled against Martinez' actions to dismiss members of a Public Employee Labor Relations Board and to stop implementation of environmental rules from the previous administration regarding greenhouse gas emissions and groundwater pollution caused by dairies.

From Patricia Reichert, Wisconsin:

Since the Winter newsletter, the budget adjustment bill has been introduced and passed with some controversy; perhaps you’ve heard about the protests in the news. The LRB is located across the street from the Capitol. Although we were not in the thick of the protests, we just had to step outside to see the protesters. Other prominent legislation that has been introduced and either passed or will pass include the biennial budget, a voter ID bill, and a concealed carry bill.

Marian Rogers, managing librarian, retired in March after working for the Legislature for 39 years. She worked for the Assembly Chief Clerk’s Office for a short while when she first moved to Madison and was promoted to managing librarian in 1998. We miss her knowledge, experience and contributions to the M&M jar. The search for her replacement has not begun.  

Less than one month after successfully tackling a leak in our basement storage, there was a leak above our stacks that affected two shelves of materials. Fortunately, we were able to treat this leak in-house. Most materials were dried and returned to the shelf, a few were available on the Internet and reprinted, and a half dozen pieces were withdrawn. Now if the weather would just settle down so we can enjoy the summer . . . .

NCSL Legislative Summit
LRL Preliminary Agenda

The NCSL Legislative Summit is the largest and most important meeting of the year for legislators and legislative staff. Over these four days—with opportunities that will bring you to new heights in your legislative career—you will go from good to great.

LRL Preliminary Agenda

Monday, August 8

1:00 pm – 2:45 pm
Tour of the Daughters of the Republic of Texas Library
The Daughters of The Republic of Texas Library is dedicated to advancing the understanding of the unique history of the Alamo and Texas along with the lives of those who experienced it.

7:15 pm – 9:15 pm
LRL Dutch Treat Dinner
Join librarian colleagues from around the country for a great evening at a local restaurant. Spouses and guests are welcome.

Tuesday, August 9

7:45 am – 8:45 am
Orientation for New Staff Section Officers
New and potential NCSL staff section officers will learn about their responsibilities, their role in the Legislative Staff Coordinating Committee (LSCC), and the staff role in the NCSL Executive Committee and Standing Committees. Breakfast provided.

3:30 pm – 5:00 pm
Legislative Staff University: Ethics at the Box Office
Hollywood films often feature ethical dilemmas, mirroring ones we face in real life. This lively and interactive workshop puts you in the director's chair to examine different models for making ethical choices as they play out in movie clips and mini case studies for an entertaining glimpse into how we make ethical decisions in the workplace.

6:00 pm – 8:00 pm
Social Event: An Evening in Old San Antonio
Delight in the flavors, vibrant colors, sounds and tastes that make San Antonio unique. The historic downtown village of La Villita will be transformed into an authentic Mexican fiesta representing the diverse customs of the city. From brightly colored piñata poles, mariachi music and the delicious menu, you will salsa your way through the heritage-themed plaza and streets. Viva NCSL!

Wednesday, August 10

11:45 am – 4:30 pm
LRL Tour of the Texas Legislative Reference Library
This tour is open to all LRL members. Texas librarians will conduct a tour of the legislative library. Lunch will be provided.

Thursday, August 11

10:45 am – 12:30 pm
NCSL Business Meeting
The Business Meeting includes consideration of policy resolutions that will guide NCSL's advocacy efforts before Congress and the administration, election of NCSL officers and approval of the Conference budget. All legislators and legislative staff are urged to attend; all other meeting participants are welcome to attend as observers.

12:30 pm – 2:00 pm
LRL Business Meeting Luncheon
The Legislative Research Librarian Staff Section will discuss staff section business, elect new officers, present the Notable Documents and LRL Legislative Staff Achievement awards.

2:15 pm – 3:45 pm
Salute to Legislative Staff
Just as strong states make a strong nation, strong legislative staffs make strong legislatures. Come celebrate the contributions staff make to their legislatures and to NCSL.

4:00 pm – 5:30 pm
Moving Beyond PowerPoint Fatigue
We’ve all sat through presentations that were sabotaged by the accompanying PowerPoint slides: sometimes boring, sometimes distracting, but all too often, just ineffective. Look at techniques for improving PowerPoint presentations and explore other options to present information effectively.

6:00 pm – 9:30 pm
Social Event: Texas Dancehall Review
Grab your cowboy hat and get ready for a boot scootin’ good time at the Texas Dancehall Revue, featuring a star studded cast of Texas performers including Grammy Award-winning Ray Benson and the band, Asleep at the Wheel. The evening will be a truly Texas-size experience, with authentic chuck wagon barbeque and world famous Texas music.

NCSL Publications


  • Charter School Finance—Shen (not for sale)
  • Improving Women’s Health: State Policy Options—Wheeler/Saunders (not for sale)
  • Guide to Leaders and Legislators 2011—Ziegler/Rogers
  • Improving Latino College Completion—Bautsch/Bell (not for sale)
  • Tennessee Resource Mapping Case Study—Finzel (WEB)
  • 2009 State Child Care Legislation Summary—Mbengue (WEB)
  • Major State Transportation Legislation 2010—Wheet, Rall (WEB)
  • Making State Gas Pipelines Safe and Reliable: An Assessment of State Policy—Pless (WEB)
  • National Board for Professional Teaching Standards: What Legislators Need to Know—Exstrom
  • Ready by 21st Challenge: A New Approach Helps Minnesota Legislators Define Goals for Youth—Flores/Finzel (WEB)
  • Transportation Governance and Finance: A 50-State Review of State Legislatures and Departments of Transportation—Rall/Reed (WEB)
  • Strong Leaders Strong Schools—Shelton


March 2011

  • Caring for a Loved One with Alzheimer’s—Vol. 19, No. 13
  • Ethics Commissions: Gathering Momentum or Under Fire?—Vol. 19, No. 14
  • Injury Prevention—Vol. 19, No. 15
  • Public-Private Partnerships for Transportation—Vol. 19, No. 16
  • Personal Staff in State Legislatures—Vol. 19, No. 17
  • Photo Voter ID—Vol. 19, No. 18

April/May 2011

  • Judicial Selection—Vol. 19, No. 19
  • Immunizations and the Affordable Care Act—Vol. 19, No. 20
  • Domestic Child Sex Trafficking—Vol. 19, No. 21 
  • Preventing Pregnancy Among Older Teens—Vol. 19, No. 22
  • Cogeneration: Moving Toward a Sustainable Future—Vol. 19, No. 23
  • Tapping School Facilities for Community Health: Joint-Use Agreements—Vol. 19, No. 24

June/July 2011

  • Community Health Workers Can Help Improve Cancer Care—Vol. 19, No. 25
  • Re-Examining the Death Penalty—Vol. 19, No. 26
  • Healthy People 2020: A Road Map for Health—Vol. 19, No. 27
  • National Civics Report Card—Vol. 19, No. 28
  • Not Just a Drop in the Bucket: Drinking Water for Schools—Vol. 19, No. 29
  • Managing Arthritis: Improving Lives—Vol. 19, No. 30