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. 

08

With the completion of Super Bowl 52 this past weekend, we decided to take a look at states and sports, in particular the laws that regulate sports gaming and daily fantasy sports. An estimated $150 billion or more is wagered illegally on sporting events each year.

Currently, sports gambling is allowed only in Nevada and a few other exceptions. A case before the U.S. Supreme Court, which is looking at The Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992, could allow more states to allow these types of wagers. And it could open the doors for greater acceptance of daily sports fantasy contests.

Providing background, insight and perspective on these issues are Ethan Wilson, policy director of NCSL’s Commerce and Financial Services Standing Committee,  and Jake Lestock, an NCSL policy specialist in the State-Federal Relations Division. 

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Category: Public Policy
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25

Sexual harassment, spurred primarily the #metoo movement, has been front to the forefront of every sector—including government. In this episode, we talk with three experts to get a sense of what types of changes are happening in state legislatures and to find out what types of best practices they should consider.

First we talk with Jonathan Griffin, a program principal at the National Conference of State Legislatures, who tracks state legislative policies and procedures regarding sexual harassment. He provides an overview of some of the major changes happening in state legislatures.

Jenny Yang, a recent commissioner on the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, provides her perspective on sexual harassment. She discusses how it is tied to discrimination, proper procedures and why institutions should consider changes in culture and behaviors.

Closing out the program is Jonathan Segal a recognized national expert on sexual harassment issues. He shares his thoughts on accountability, the role of leadership and how to restore trust in sexual harassment systems. And, he points out that we all have a responsibility to take a stand when we observe or overhear inappropriate behavior. 

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Category: Legislatures
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10

William Pound, executive director of the National Conference of State Legislatures, offers his insight on major issues state legislatures will be addressing in their 2018 sessions. Based on a January article in State Legislatures magazine, “Top 10 in 2018,” we get his insights on:

  • States reaction to the federal tax cut bill
  • State revenue health
  • Opioids
  • Recreational and medical marijuana
  • Immigration
  • Reduction of federal regulations
  • Cybersecurity
  • Health
  • Education
  • Driverless vehicles
  • Energy
  • Infrastructure
  • Sexual harassment
  • Election administration

Resources

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21

Following each school day, more than 10 million students take part in afterschool programs in this country, taking advantage of a system that provides additional educational opportunities, social engagement, exposure to new skills. For parents, those programs provide comfort, knowing their child is safe and in a structured environment.

The Afterschool Alliance says data demonstrates significant value for students that take part in these opportunities, but acknowledge that the quality and accessibility of afterschool programs varies across the country. They estimate that more than 11 million other children take care of themselves each day after school.

In this episode of “Our American States,” we talk with Jodi Grant, executive director of the Afterschool Alliance to find out what is happening nationally, and Texas State Representative Trent Ashby, to get a perspective on how these programs work on the state level.

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Category: Education
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07

About 31,000 people work for state legislatures, serving in a variety of jobs. The National Conference of State Legislatures is celebrating Legislative Staff Week. So we decided to take this opportunity on  “Our American States” to interview three legislative staffers and find out more about what it's like to work for a legislature in today's political environment. They tell us about their jobs, how they got there and why it's the best job they've ever had. 

None of them entered the workforce considering a public service career in state legislatures. One person moved from the public information office to the budget office. Another volunteered for a campaign and is now directing an important legislative department. And our other guest had an exciting career as a television news anchor, but has now found a position that she enjoys more. All of them appreciate the fact that every day presents new challenges. And, they all agree that young people should consider public service jobs in the legislature. 

Our guests on this episode are:

  • Chuck Truesdell, legislative fiscal analyst, Budget Research Office, Legislative Research Commission, Kentucky
  • Martah Wigton, director, House Budget and Research Staff, Georgia
  • Lauren Hieger, communications director, Senate Majority Caucus, Missouri

Resources

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23

"Our American States" took its first road trip to Fort Collins, Colo., to watch a legislative town hall in session. Despite being the Saturday before Thanksgiving, temperatures in the low 40s and a Colorado State University football game kickoff game less than three hours away, about 70 people crammed into a library conference room to learn and ask questions about transportation issues. 

Town halls are held by state legislators across the country on a regular basis, and this meeting is just one example. The citizens of Fort Collins have a strong history of attending community forums. We provide a taste of this forum, and talk with an expert on legislative community engagement to find out what's happening around the country.

In this episode, we talk with Colorado state Representative Joann Ginal (D) and Angela Andrews, program director of the Legislative Staff Services Program at the National Conference of State Legislatures.

In addition to the Fort Collins example, we find out about outreach in other states such as Massachusetts, West Virginia and Hawaii. We'll discuss trends in engagement outreach such as tele-town halls, logistics, safety, reaching Millennials, and how to have better and deeper conversations with citizens. And, both our guests bring up the value of circles.

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Category: Legislators
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09

America owes a great debt to the men and women who have served in this nation's military. The National Conference of State Legislatures several years ago created the Task Force On Military & Veterans Affairs to examine issues affecting military-community relations and the health and well-being of service members, veterans and their families.

As we approach Veterans Day, we asked the new co-chairs of the task force—Representative Tina L. Orwall (D) of Washington and Representative Dan Saddler (R) of Alaska—to talk about the future work of the task force. We discover how several major policy issues affect the well-being of former soldiers, and get a glimpse of why the two legislators are deeply invested in veterans issues.

Issues they say the task force will be looking at include jobs, energy, health care, transition, environment, courts, addiction recovery, economic development, mental health and suicide prevention. 

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26

Five cases that the U.S. Supreme Court has put on its docket for the current term could have a significant impact on states. State legislatures are waiting for decisions on these cases, and could cause them to change state laws depending on how the court rules. And a potentially explosive sixth case is waiting in the wings.

Our guests on this episode of “Our American States” are Lisa Soronen, executive director of the State and Local Legal Center, and Susan Frederick, senior federal affairs counsel at the National Conference of State Legislatures.

The cases we examine are:

  • Gill v. Whitford, a Wisconsin case in which the court may decide whether partisan gerrymandering is unconstitutional.
  • Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, looks at whether Colorado's public accommodations law violates a cake artist’s First Amendment free speech and free exercise rights.
  • Janus v. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees the court will address whether unions can collect dues from nonmembers.
  • Husted v. A. Philip Randolph Institute looks at Ohio’s procedures to remove voters from their rolls after four years of inactivity.
  • Christie v. National Collegiate Athletic Association may decide how far Congress can regulate states and localities in the absence of comprehensive federal regulation.

And, as a bonus, we’ll discuss what could happen if the court accepts a South Dakota case that could overturn the 1992 Quill Corp v North Dakota, which said states could not force business to collect sales or use taxes unless it has a physical presence in a state.

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12

Each day, a half million school buses are on the road transporting students. The safety record is impressive. The design of school buses, known in the field as “compartmentalization,” has limited fatalities each year. However, experts have been looking at adding seat belts on school buses to increase safety.

Our guests are intimately involved in the issue.

Kris Poland is a senior biomechanical engineer in the National Transportation Safety Board’s and describes her agency’s investigations of crashes and the development of federal policy to maintain and improve the safety record of school buses. She explains what they’ve learned about seat belts on buses and how they continue to learn from each crash episode.

Tennessee State Representative JoAnne Favors, who last November had a tragic school bus crash in her district that resulted in six students losing their lives. The incident prompted her to push for seat belts on state school buses. While the effort stopped short of passage, she feels the legislature is close to an agreement and offers advice to colleagues on what to look for sponsoring similar legislation. 

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28

After hurricanes that have hit Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico in recent weeks, "Our American States" takes a look at how governments prepare, handle and react to natural disasters. We talk with two guests with intimate experience on how the federal, state and local governments work in times of these horrific events.

Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick (R) provides an update on recovery efforts in his state, and offers two pieces of advice to states on how to prepare for natural disasters. Then Virginia Tech associate professor Patrick S. Roberts, who has written a book "Disasters and the American State: How Politicians, Bureaucrats and the Public Prepare for the Unexpected," discusses changes in government approaches to natural disasters since Hurricane Katrina.

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Category: Legislatures
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