Our American States | An NCSL Podcast

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The “Our American States” podcast—produced by the National Conference of State Legislatures—is where you can hear compelling conversations that tell the story of America’s state legislatures, the people in them, the politics that compel them, and the important work of democracy.

You can listen to the podcast on this page, you can subscribe through iTunes, Google Play, Spotify or Stitcher, or you can use the RSS icon at the right to copy a feed URL for your podcatcher. 

25

This is the second of a two-part series on the Quad Caucus, a coalition of the four national caucuses of color representing Asian-Pacific American, Black, Native American and Hispanic legislators. Combined, the four groups represent more than 1,400 state lawmakers.

On the earlier podcast, we spoke with Washington Representative Sharon Tomiko Santos (D) and Kansas Representative Barbara Ballard (D) about their work with the Quad Caucus.

On this show, we talk with Senator Daniel Ivey-Soto (D), president of the National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators, and Senator Benny Shendo (D), chair of the National Caucus of Native American State Legislators. Both are from New Mexico.

They discussed the work of their caucuses, the census and redistricting, some of the challenges facing their communities and more.

Senator Daniel Ivey-Soto, New MexicoSenator Benny Shendo, New Mexico

 

 

 

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Category: Quad Caucus
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18

Teresa BejanCivility in politics seems to be a subject of almost constant discussion. Our guest today has written and spoken extensively on the topic. Teresa M. Bejan is an associate professor of political theory and fellow of Oriel College at the University of Oxford. She is the author of “Mere Civility: Disagreement and the Limits of Toleration,” published in 2017.

Bejan will be the keynote speaker at NCSL’s online Base Camp event on Aug. 4 at 11 a.m. ET.

In this podcast, she talks about how civility works in politics, the difference between civility and talking about civility, the polarized state of our politics and more.

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Category: Legislators
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11

Steven Cliff, NHTSATraffic safety is an issue of critical concern to state leaders, especially after a year that saw a sharp increase in traffic deaths.

On this podcast to address the issue is Steven Cliff, the acting administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration or NHTSA.

Cliff spent several years in a variety of roles at the California Air Resources Board and previously worked as a research professor at the University of California at Davis. He holds a Ph.D. in chemistry.

Cliff discussed how NHTSA and the states can work together on traffic safety issues, the increase in traffic fatalities during the pandemic, ongoing efforts to combat impaired driving and much more.

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Category: Transportation
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20

Paul MannaThe guest on this podcast is Paul Manna, a professor of government and public policy at William & Mary in Williamsburg, Va. Manna has written extensively about federal and state education policy.

A key focus of Manna’s research concerns the role of principals in K-12 education and ways to identify and groom candidates to become principals.

Manna talks about the critical role principals play, how a principal pipeline can work and why the investment in principal training is worthwhile. He also shared some thoughts for how legislators can approach the issue and policies that can help foster school leaders.

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Category: Education
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13

States faced myriad challenges trying to acquire everything from personal protective equipment to hospital sinks during the pandemic. The guests on this podcast—George Schutter, chief procurement officer for the District of Columbia, and Lindle Hatton, the CEO of the National Association of State Procurement Officials (NASPO)—know those challenges all too well.

Our two guests discuss when the emergency first became clear, the rush to acquire goods, how emergency operations centers were activated during the crisis and the key lessons learned. They offer advice to legislators, suggest policy and process changes for the next emergency and reflect on what they learned.

George Schutter, DCLindle Hatton, NASPO

 

 

 

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Category: COVID-19
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07

There is an increasing focus at the state and federal level on policies to require greater cost transparency in health care. While there’s debate about how effective these policies are, the goal is to allow comparison shopping on the part of consumers and employers with the aim of controlling the increasing cost of health care.

The guest on the podcast is an expert in the area of health data and analytics. Niall Brennan is the president and CEO of the Health Care Cost Institute, a nonprofit that focuses on data to analyze key issues affecting the U.S. health care system. Brennan previously was chief data officer for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Brennan discusses the pros and cons of price transparency, examples of where it’s been effective and his skepticism about the individual consumer’s use of the information. He also shares some surprising examples of price variation for the same medical procedure in the same area—even in the same hospital group. 

Niall Brennan, Health Care Cost Institute

 

 

 

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Category: Health
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24

The federal minimum wage has been a hot topic this year and was debated during discussion of the 2021 Raise the Wage Act before Congress. The wage has been $7.25 an hour since 2009, and proponents of an increase say it is not adequate given the rising cost of living. Opponents argue an increase will place an undue burden on businesses, especially small businesses just coming out of the pandemic.

Many businesses have set higher minimum wages and 29 states and Washington, D.C., also have rates above the federal minimum.

On the podcast to discuss the topic are Dave Cooper, a senior economic analyst at the Economic policy Institute and an expert on the minimum wage. Also on the show is Saige Draeger, an NCSL policy expert.

Cooper, whose organization did research that informed the legislation, discussed who earns both the federal and state minimum wage and how raising it might affect public benefits and small businesses. He also talked about pros and cons of state legislators setting the minimum wage for their states. Draeger explained how states have taken action regarding the minimum wage.

Dave Cooper, Economic Policy InstituteSaige Draeger, NCSL

 

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16

As people slowly head back to the workplace as the pandemic begins to fade, there is concern about whether people with disabilities will face steeper hurdles to employment. In the recovery following the Great Recession, for example, employment growth for people with disabilities lagged years behind those without disabilities.

Illinois Senator Dan McConchie, the Senate minority leader, is one of the guests on the podcast. McConchie, who lost the use of his legs following a traffic accident more than a decade ago, has been a strong advocate for enforcement of the accessibility requirements in the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). He talks about the pros and cons of the trend toward teleworking for people with disabilities and the role state lawmakers can play in ensuring those with disabilities are treated fairly and included in the economic recovery. He also reflected on the 30th anniversary of the ADA and where states can go from here to make it better.

The second guest is Saige Draeger, a policy expert at NCSL, who discusses the roles of state legislators in this area, a new NCSL report that dives into the topic and other resources NCSL can provide to lawmakers.

Illinois Senator Dan McConchieSaige Draeger, NCSL

 

 

 

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02

This is a special episode of “Our American States” to observe Legislative Staff Week 2021. This annual event recognizes the enormous contributions that thousands of legislative staffers make every day in statehouses across the nation.

Our guests are Sabrina Lewellen, deputy director and assistant secretary of the Arkansas Senate, and Eric Nauman, lead fiscal analyst for the Minnesota Senate.

Our focus on this podcast on the “why” of legislative service. As legislatures have grown more partisan and often become more challenging environments in which to work, we asked our two guests, both longtime staffers, to talk about what motivates them, how they deal with the stress and what advice they would offer their colleagues.

Sabrina Lewellen, ArkansasEric Nauman, Minnesota

 

 

 

 

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19

Sending kids back to the classroom is a goal across the country for many reasons. Along with concerns about falling behind academically and parents’ need to have children in school, experts also are concerned about mental and behavioral health needs. Studies indicate children in need of such services are much more likely to receive them at school.

Our guests include Craig Wethington with the Minnesota Department of Education. He discusses how his state has used collaborative improvement and innovation networks, or CoIINs, to improve the quality of school mental health services. He also talks about a community survey of students that indicates many kids were struggling with mental health issues even before the pandemic and how the legislature in his state worked to improve mental health programs.

Another guest on the show is Rebecca Astorga with the Arizona Department of Education. She discusses programs and resources states can employ to bolster their mental health services and the role that Project AWARE, a federal grant program, has played in expanding the capacity of the state to address mental health issues among young people.

We also talk with Noah Cruz, an NCSL policy researcher, who offers some background on the topic.

Noah Cruz, NCSLCraig Wethington, Minnesota Department of EducationRebecca Astorga, Arizona Department of Education

 

 

 

 

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Category: Education
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