NCSL Legislative Effectiveness Committee
Planning for the 2010-11 Conference Year
Themes for Committee Work in 2010-11
Helping Legislatures Succeed - At the core, the Legislative Effectiveness Committee has to be a forum for sharing best practices, lessons learned and innovative ideas. Especially in tough budget times, state legislatures must examine their practices and procedures to make them more efficient, effective, transparent and open to the citizens. Also, this sharing of advice is critical in our term-limited legislatures, where legislators are often termed out just as they begin to develop a broader sense of institutional perspective.
- Promoting Integrity and Ethics in the Legislature - At a time when there is citizen distrust of government and deep partisan divides in the nation and legislatures, we need to promote the integrity of the legislature. When we promote and practice civility, respect and other key values, we teach citizens about the positive aspects of legislatures. The committee will examine the various approaches legislatures are using to promote ethical behavior and handle cases of misconduct. This theme also includes the idea that legislatures, legislators and staff must address the process of moving from campaigning to legislating after contentious elections.
- Connecting Citizens to the Legislature - Legislators are constantly looking for better ways to reach out to their constituents. Although technology is opening new possibilities for getting information to and creating dialogue with the public, constituent service is still based on working with people one on one and in community meetings. Legislators benefit by sharing ideas on how to best help their constituents become active participants in the process.
- Recognizing the Importance of Staff - Although staff size varies greatly, all legislators rely on staff information, advice and work products to do their work. Legislators, however, don’t want to spend their time dealing with personnel issues or settling work disputes. This theme will explore how to lead and motivate staff to give legislators the help they need.
- Using NCSL - NCSL provides information, advice and technical assistance to legislatures and legislators. This help can take many forms, such as testifying at committee hearings about practices in the other states, providing workshops to learn tips about working with the media and briefing legislators on the impact of recently enacted federal legislation. Is your state getting its money’s worth from NCSL? Put NCSL’s experts to work for you.
- Using Technology in the Chamber - Legislaturesare making criticaldecisions these days involving incorporating technological changes in bill drafting, voting, floor and committee recordkeeping, member use of computers and related issues. What have we learned and what procedures help lead states to thoughtful and fiscally prudent decisions?
In keeping with the committee theme #5 on using NCSL, the committee will work with others in NCSL and with available funds to provide a webinar after the upcoming election. Entitled “What NCSL Can Do for You,” the webinar will be designed to reach out to the newly elected members and make them aware of the range of help and information that they can get from us.
Suggested Committee Sessions for Fall Forum
Using Technology in the Chamber - Theme #6 above is timely for our December 2010 Fall Forum meeting. Legislative sessions will be right around the corner and many states have committees or task forces examining their use of technology in the legislature and the state. We will hear from states that have recently brought new systems into practice and provided services that meet the varied demands of legislators and staff.
- Moving from Campaigning to Governing - Legislators often have a tough time putting a contentious campaign behind them and transitioning to the attitude of respect and consensus building that is needed to create strong legislation. Anger and a sense of cutthroat competition may linger throughout the session, thwarting the kind of atmosphere that leads to good legislative results. Staff can be deeply affected by this as well. This session looks at how new member orientation and other opportunities can be used to make the switch.
- Ethics: Becoming the Problem Solvers - We need to share information on how states successfully prevent or resolve ethical problems. With state legislatures varying from part-time to full-time status, ethical procedures and standards don’t come in a one-size-fits-all package. This session will analyze some of the procedures currently in place with an emphasis on examining how legislatures can avoid problems and work swiftly to solve the problems that do occur.
- Civility - NCSL President Richard Moore (Senator, Massachusetts) has identified civility as one of the points of emphasis for his term. In the increasing bitter partisan divide, how can state legislatures show the way to resolve differences in a civil and respectful way? This approach recognizes that we have strong distinctions in beliefs and priorities, but we have common ground in our desire to respectfully work through those differences and make considered legislative decisions. [Committee would be a sponsor of this Issue Forum]
- Security, Privacy and Civility in Cyberspace - Social media tools like Facebook and Twitter are now considered mainstream, but what guidelines govern their use. Whether a user’s private behavior is disclosed or their personal information is pirated, the loss can be devastating. [The connection for the Legislative Effectiveness Committee is to have a representative of the National District Attorneys Association be part of the faculty for this session and share best practices from NDAA’s perspective on working with legislatures and legislators.] [Committee would be a sponsor of this Issue Forum]
- Comittee Business Meeting - The committee will meet in a business meeting to plan the Spring Forum sessions and discuss other committee projects.