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. 

COVID-19

01

Like many areas of society, the criminal justice system has struggled over the last year dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. The Council on Criminal Justice, a nonpartisan think tank that works to advance understanding of the criminal justice system and help inform the development of public policy, decided to take a deep dive into the system to see how it was coping. The council formed a task force in mid-2020 to examine how the criminal justice system has responded to the pandemic, offer guidance in the short term on how to deal with those challenges and a longer term assessment to help criminal justice leaders develop policies for the future.

The guests on this podcast discuss what they discovered, the type of guidance the council offered leaders in the criminal justice system and what needs to change to prepare for the next catastrophe.

Our guests are  Abby Walsh, the council’s vice president for strategy and operations,  and Thomas Abt, director of the task force and an expert on criminal justice policy. He is also the author of “Bleeding Out: The Devastating Consequences of Urban Violence—and a Bold New Plan for Peace in the Streets.”

Abby Walsh, CCJThomas Abt, CCJ

 

 

 

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15

Social isolation and loneliness are topics most of us have first-hand experience with after a year of a pandemic has left us unable to spend time with family and friends. The ill effects of such  isolation are not just on our mental health but also can affect our physical health just as much as cigarette smoking or obesity.

Our guests are Julianne Holt-Lunstad, a professor of psychology at Brigham Young University in Utah,  and Lori Gerhard, director of the Office of Interagency Innovation at the U.S. Administration for Community Living.

Holt-Lunstad, who has studied the topic for decades, discusses groups in society most at risk for social isolation and how public policy can help address the problem. Gerhard addresses particularly how social isolation affects older Americans and how policies at the federal and state level can help them with these challenges.

Dr. Julianne Holt-LunstadLori Gerhard

 

 

 

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07

Today’s podcast looks at how K-12 schools can reopen safely amid an ongoing pandemic and what that might look like for the foreseeable future.

Our first guest is Dr. Carissa Moffat Miller, the executive director of the Council of Chief State School Officers (CSCCSO).  Dr. Miller’s organization works with state education leaders around the nation and offers a national perspective on how schools are reopening.

Our second guest is Dr. Kristi Wilson, president of the American Association of School Administrators, which is the organization of school superintendents around the nation. She is also the superintendent of the Buckeye Elementary School District just west of Phoenix, and offers some perspective from the district superintendent level.

Carissa Moffat MillerKristi Wilson

 

 

 

 

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10

Dr. Kyle BernsteinToday’s podcast focuses on contact tracing, a longtime tool used by public health officials. During this pandemic, contact tracers identify people infected with the coronavirus and then contact others they’ve interacted with recently. Contact tracers then help people get testing and offer support for self-isolating.

While every state receives some funding from the federal government to support contact tracing, states have the flexibility to manage their contact tracing plans differently. At least 17 states and the District of Columbia have introduced legislation related to contact tracing, with at least and 11 states and D.C. having enacted these measures so far.

Our guest is Dr. Kyle Bernstein, chief of the Epidemiology and Statistics Branch in the Division of STD Prevention at the CDC and an expert in contact tracing.

This project is supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $120,000 with 100 percent funded by CDC/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement by, CDC/HHS, or the U.S. government.

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03

This podcast focuses on how states can ensure that their public health systems are connecting people with physical and behavioral health services in an integrated system, an issue made even more urgent by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Our guests include:

  • Karmen Hanson, a health policy expert from NCSL.
  • New Jersey Assemblyman Herb Conaway (D), a longtime legislator, physician and a county director of health.
  • Dr. Anne Zink, chief medical officer for the state of Alaska.

Karmen HansonNew Jersey Assemblyman Herb ConawayDr. Anne Zink

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This project is supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $250,000 with 100% funded by CDC/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by CDC/HHS, or the U.S. Government.

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06

Clement Lewinn Sanofi PasteurThis podcast is one in a series NCSL is producing about states and the coronavirus pandemic. You can find links to podcasts, webinars and other resources at www.ncsl.org/coronavirus

Today’s topic could hardly be of greater interest: the hunt for a COVID-19 vaccine.

And at the forefront of that effort are the world’s pharmaceutical companies, which are pursuing multiple initiatives to find a vaccine.

To discuss that effort is today’s guest,  Clement Lewin, associate vice president for Vaccines R&D Strategy at the pharmaceutical firm Sanofi Pasteur. Lewin, who holds a Ph.D. from the University of London in medical microbiology and has extensive experience in the field of vaccine development, discusses the overall efforts to create a vaccine for COVID-19, and also explain the role state legislators and other policymakers can play in the vaccine process.

This podcast was sponsored by Sanofi Pasteur, a member of the NCSL Foundation for State Legislatures.

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22

Jeb BushThis podcast is another in a series NCSL is producing about states and the coronavirus pandemic. You can find links to podcasts, webinars and other resources at www.ncsl.org/coronavirus.

Today we’re talking with former Florida Governor Jeb Bush. Bush recently wrote an op-ed article for the Wall Street Journal about leadership, federalism and the challenges facing states after COVID-19. We asked the governor to expand on those ideas and the tough task state lawmakers have ahead of them. We also asked the governor, whose signature policy area has been education ever since he was governor, for his thoughts on what schools will look like post pandemic.

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15

Charlie Severance-MedarisThis podcast is another in a series NCSL is producing to focus on how states are responding to the coronavirus pandemic. You can find links to podcasts, webinars and other resources at www.ncsl.org/coronavirus.

Our topic for this podcast is a sobering one: suicide. The rate of suicide in the U.S. is one of the highest among wealthy nations. Nearly 50,000 people took their own lives in the U.S. in 2018. The COVID-19 pandemic has increased concern among experts that the nation may face an increase in suicides as people struggle during the crisis.

Our first guest today is Charlie Severance-Medaris, a policy expert on the topic at NCSL. Charlie provides an overview on suicide in the U.S. Our second guest is Dr. Alex Crosby, chief medical officer in the Division of Injury Prevention at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. He has expertise and long experience in dealing with the public health aspects of suicide and suicide prevention.

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08

Anne TeigenThis podcast is one in a series NCSL is producing to focus on how states are responding to the coronavirus pandemic. You can find links to podcasts, webinars and other resources at www.ncsl.org/coronavirus.

Today our focus is on the U.S. juvenile justice system. Efforts to reform the system have been going on for the past 20 years, driven by research, court decisions and other factors. We’re going to talk about where the reform efforts stood before the pandemic, how COVID-19 has affected juvenile justice and how the health crisis may change the system down the road.

Nate BalisOur first guest is Anne Teigen, an expert on juvenile justice with NCSL’s Criminal Justice Program. She’ll give us an overview of juvenile justice reform efforts and a rundown on actions states have taken. 

Our second guest is Nate Balis, director of the Juvenile Justice Strategy Group at the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Balis will discuss where spending is most effective in the juvenile justice system, how COVID-19 is affecting the system right now and what the system may look like post-pandemic.

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18

Wendy UnderhillThis podcast is one in a series NCSL is producing to focus on how states are taking action in response to the coronavirus pandemic. You can find links to podcasts, webinars and other resources at www.ncsl.org/coronavirus.

Elections in the age of the pandemic are getting a lot of attention lately, with much of the talk focusing on mail-in balloting for November. But there is a lot more than mail-in ballots to discuss, including election administration, cybersecurity, campaigns amid a pandemic, misinformation, turnout and more. And there are more than 6,000 state legislative seats on the fall ballot.

Helping us sort out all the details is Wendy Underhill, director of NCSL’s Elections and Redistricting program.

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