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 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 or Google Play, or you can use the RSS icon at the right to copy a feed URL for your podcatcher. 

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This podcast is one in a series NCSL is producing to focus on how states are taking action in response to the coronavirus pandemic. The podcasts and a new webinar series look at public health responses, workplace issues, education and childcare, the economy, elections and continuity of government.

On today’s episode, we talk with two legislative veterans about communicating in a crisis.

Our first guest is Kit Beyer, director of communications for Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, who is also president of NCSL. Beyer shares her experiences in the current crisis and some advice honed from previous emergencies.

Our second guest is Mississippi Lieutenant Governor Delbert Hoseman (R), who has seen a remarkable number of natural disasters in his state. He shares his pragmatic approach to emergencies and talks about the value of optimism and a positive attitude in a crisis.

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Category: COVID-19
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This podcast is one in a series NCSL is producing to focus on how states are taking action in response to the coronavirus pandemic. The podcasts and a new webinar series look at public health responses, workplace issues, education and childcare, the economy, elections and continuity of government.

On today’s episode, we talk with two NCSL experts.

Tahra Johnson, a member of NCSL’s Health Program, discusses actions states have taken in the public health arena and the still daunting challenges ahead.

Erica MacKellar from NCSL’s Fiscal Program reports on the blizzard of fiscal legislation that legislatures have  enacted in a very short period of time. She notes that while every state and territory wil be affected economically by the pandemic, those especially reliant on tourism and oil and gas production might be particularly hard hit.

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Category: COVID-19
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This podcast is the first in a series NCSL is producing to focus on how states are taking action in response to the coronavirus pandemic. The podcasts and a new webinar series will look at public health responses, workplace issues, education and childcare, the economy, elections and continuity of government.

On today’s episode, we talk with two NCSL experts. Natalie Wood, director of NCSL’s Center for Legislative Strengthening, discusses steps legislatures have taken in response to the pandemic and specific actions they’ve taken to ensure legislative operations can continue. Our second guest is Wendy Underhill, director of NCSL’s Elections and Redistricting Program. She discusses how the pandemic may affects voting and also how the U.S. Census Bureau is handling its one-a-decade count during the emergency.

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Kathleen Styles, U.S. Census BureauThe U.S. Census, the once-a-decade count of everyone in the country, starts this month. Coming right up is Census Day, April 1, by which time everyone should have received a notification to fill out the census. When you respond you tell the census bureau where you live on April 1.

To discuss the stakes in the census—everything from federal money to redistricting—we check in with Wendy Underhill, NCSL’s program director for Elections and Redistricting. Later in the show, we talk with Kathleen Styles, chief of decennial communications and stakeholder relations at the U.S. Census Bureau.

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Category: Public Policy
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Winston Berkman-BreenThe level of student debt in this country is of mounting concern to state legislators. The more than $1.6 trillion owed by more than 44 million people is starting to affect when people buy homes, get married and make other major life decisions.

On this episode, we talk with two NCSL experts, Sunny Deye and Andrew Smalley, about the scope of the problem and steps states are taking to address it. In our second segment, we talk with Winston Berkman-Breen, who is the student advocate and director of consumer advocacy for the New York State Department of Financial Services. His role, essentially that of student debt ombudsman, is one step states are taking to help better manage the student debt challenge.

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Category: Education
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About 25% of workers in the U.S. now need a license to work, an increase from about 5% in the 1950s. State legislators and other policymakers have taken an increasingly active role in developing new regulatory policies that strike a balance needed to protect consumers and promote economic growth and employment opportunity.

On today's show,, we talk with Dr. Morris Kleiner, an economist and professor at the University of Minnesota's Humphrey School of Public Affairs. Kleiner, an expert on occupational licensing, discusses the pros and cons of occupational licensing and its effect on the broader economy and different groups of workers.

On this episode we also hear from Gene Rose, the voice of "Our American States" for the past three years, on why he is handing over the podcast to a new host. 

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occupational licensing, job licensing
Category: Public Policy
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Overview

Podcast logoNCSL’s Our American States podcast presents a special six-part series, “Building Democracy: The Story of Legislatures.” This new mini-series covers the history, characters and stories of state legislatures in America, from the beginnings in Jamestown, to the present day and into the future.

Each episode in the series will contain interviews with experts from inside and outside the legislative world to provide a comprehensive view of historical events and their legacy in today’s legislatures. Extras will include extended guest interview clips, articles in NCSL’s State Legislatures magazine, blogs and resources for those who want to dive deeper into topics covered in the podcast.

Episode 1

"First Assembly – Virginia 1619" examines life on the Jamestown colony, which has been called the first American startup, and introduces Sir Edwyn Sandys (pronounced "Sands"), "one of hte most influential characters in the history of the American colonies that no one ever heard of." A businessman charged with establishing a successful colony in America, Sandys' aspiration was to establish a society that was fairer than society in England. He helped write The Great Charter, which called for the election of representatives or “burgesses” to serve alongside appointed officials in a “General Assembly”, a direct DNA ancestor of today's legislatures.

Life in the colony was challenging and messy, chock full of scandals, corruption and infighting. Human beings became an early commodity through slave trade from Africa.

Join NCSL staffers and "Building Democracy" hosts John Mahoney and Megan McClure along with their expert guests, former Virginia clerk of the House, G. Paul Nardo; curator of American Slavery at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, Mary Elliott; and Jim Horn, president of the Jamestown Rediscovery Foundation, as they explore this history—the good and the bad—and how the first meeting of these colonial representatives was the starting point in the story of America’s state legislatures.

Episodes will be released every other month through the end of 2020. 

 

Hosts

  • Megan McClure
  • John Mahoney
  • Nicholas Birdsong

Guests

  • G. Paul Nardo, former clerk of the house and keeper of the roles of the Commonwealth of Virginia
  • Jim Horn, president, Jamestown Rediscovery Foundation
  • Mary Elliott, curator of American Slavery, Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture

General Thanks

  • To the NCSL Legislative Staff Coordinating Committee for the idea which led to the creation of Building Democracy and who’s support keeps it going.
  • To Podfly Productions for production and editing
  • To the House of Pod for recording and studio space

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Category: Legislatures
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To kick off 2020, we talked with Tim Storey, who took over as executive director of the National Conference of State Legislatures in mid-2019. Storey discusses the strength of state budgets and his view that there are not one or two big issues dominating legislative agendas this year, a change from previous years. And he discusses the upcoming redistricting of state legislative and congressional districts that make this election the "big kahuna" of the decade.

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For the first time, around 2040, there will be more older adults than children. By 2060, the U.S. Census Bureau says, nearly 1 in 4 Americans will be 65 years and older. And in that same year, the number of people 85 years and older will triple and the country will add a half million centenarians. We decided to explore what “Living to 100” means for state policymakers across the country.

Later in the program, we’ll talk with Karen Brown, who is an original and current member—and a former chair—of the Colorado Strategic Action Planning Group on Aging. The group was formed by the Colorado General Assembly since the state has one of the fastest growing senior populations.

Our guests are:

  • James Firman, president and CEO of the National Council on Aging.
  • Karen Brown, a member and former chair of Colorado’s Strategic Action Planning Group on Aging and CEO of iAging.

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The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services latest “Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System” says more than 430,000 people were in foster care in the last fiscal year. About a quarter of those in the system were teenagers. There is growing awareness that older teens in the foster care system need trained foster parents to help them transition to adulthood. Consequently, 28 states and the District of Columbia have extended foster care beyond the age of 18.

On this episode of “Our American States,” we talk with two state legislators who have first-hand knowledge of foster care and are actively involved in shedding light on this topic.

  • Alaska Representative Ivy Spohnholz (D), who is a foster and adoptive parent
  • Indiana Senator Erin Houchin (R), who is a former case worker

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Category: Human Services
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