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Entries for January 2020



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. 



  • Megan McClure
  • John Mahoney
  • Nicholas Birdsong


  • 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

Additional Resources

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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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