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. 

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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 3

In this installment, we explore how the states and their legislatures expanded west, split apart, and came together again.

The era of American history between 1803-1877 was one of massive territorial growth, conflict, and social and economic change. The U.S. evolved from a small grouping of former colonies and newly formed states on the East Coast to exponentially expanding territories across the South, Midwest and the wilderness of the West. Legislatures were the main venue for shaping these territories into states of diverse populations and environments. After the Civil War, state legislatures became the main setting for enforcing reconstruction policies and resistance to them. The struggle to integrate a huge population of formerly enslaved people into the citizenry led to incredible victories for the expansion of civil rights, only to see them shrink again, continuing the push and pull we continue to experience as a nation today.

Guests

  • Bob Davidson, former director, Mississippi Senate Legislative Services Office
  • Mark Hirsch, historian, Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian │BioBlog
  • Burdett Loomis, professor emeritus, University of Kansas │Bio
  • Kercheik Sims-Alvarado, assistant professor of Africana Studies, Morehouse College │BioBook

Special Guest Voice

  • Representative Billy Mitchell, Georgia │Bio

Additional Resources

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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

 

 

 

 

Resources

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Category: COVID-19
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The focus of today’s podcast is transportation safety and the type of legislation states have enacted to address concerns in that area.

Our guests are two NCSL staffers, Doug Shinkle, who directs the Transportation Program, and Samantha Bloch, an NCSL transportation and traffic safety policy expert.

We discussed a range of topics—school bus safety, hand-held devices, alcohol and drug impaired driving. I also asked them to share their thoughts on how the COVID-19 pandemic might change some aspects of transportation and how states may respond.

Douglas ShinkleSamantha Bloch

 

 

 

 

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Category: Transportation
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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

Resources

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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16

Former Iowa Senator Tom Harkin (D)Today’s podcast focuses on the Americans With Disabilities Act, which celebrates its 30th anniversary on July 26.

We’re fortunate to have former Iowa Senator Tom Harkin (D) as our guest. Senator Harkin, who spent 30 years in the U.S. Senate, was the author and chief sponsor of the ADA.

Senator Harkin shares the history of the ADA and how he came to play such a pivotal role. We also talked about his brother Frank, who helped inspire his work on the ADA; the political effort it took to pass the legislation; and the still unfinished business of ensuring that people with disabilities have the chance for a full life in American society.

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Category: Public Policy
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13

Today’s podcast is the 100th episode of “Our American States,” a milestone we marked by  bringing back the original host of the podcast, Gene Rose, and recalling some of our favorite moments from the last 3 ½ years. Those included interviews with political consultant Frank Luntz, historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and Matthew Desmond, who wrote “Evictions,” which won the Pulitzer Prize for nonfiction. 

We review some of the major policy issues that the podcast has covered, including how states have reacted to the COVID-19 crisis. We also share some clips from memorable interviews with a number of legislators and legislative staffers, as well as former NCSL Executive Director William Pound and current Executive Director Tim Storey.

Resources

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Category: Legislatures
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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.

Resources

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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.

Resources

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