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. 

25

Medicaid is a state-federal health insurance program designed to provide relief for the less fortunate, including low-income people, the elderly and people with disabilities. The program is a significant part of state budgets. State expenditures on Medicaid exceeded $600 billion in 2018, with about 1 in 5 Americans receiving coverage. The federal government accounts for about 60 percent of this financing with the rest coming from state budgets.

All 50 states participate in the Medicaid program. But, as we learn in this episode, states have flexibility in how to determine spending, eligibility and covered services. We learn how some states are looking to reduce their Medicaid spending and how others are moving to expand their services. We’ll also explore the relationship with the program and the Affordable Care Act, as well how mental health, behavioral health and living conditions are influencing policymakers’ decisions on how to appropriate funding.

To walk us through the various issues is Emily Blanford, a program principal in NCSL’s health program, specializing in Medicaid policy. 

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Category: Health
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18

In every term, the U.S. Supreme Court makes decisions that affect state and local governments. In 2019, the court addressed several such issues, including a blockbuster decision on political gerrymandering and an issue of critical importance to the census.

In addition to these two rulings, our guests offer perspective on whether certain monuments may be on public land, a challenge on duel sovereignty, taking blood from someone who is passed out from drinking, and regulations on wine selling and distribution. Our guests are:

  • Lisa Soronen, executive director of the State and Local Legal Center, who tracks decisions made by the Supreme Court. She discusses the major issues addressed by the court this term.
  • Susan Frederick, NCSL senior federal affairs counsel, who offers some extra perspective on the U.S. census citizenship question decided by the court.

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11

While the country mostly hears how the political parties don’t work together, criminal justice reform is an untold story of how bipartisanship works. States are working together to reduce recidivism, provide released inmates a course for a productive future, and address the backgrounds and experiences of offenders to change behaviors.

To illustrate that point, our podcast focuses on laws approved in two states, Mississippi and Colorado. Our guests are:

  • Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant (R), who got bipartisan support for legislation to make major reforms on how the state works with former inmates. The former deputy sheriff says his thinking about nonviolent offenders has changed over time.
  • Colorado Representative Leslie Herod (D), who has gained bipartisan support for measures addressing education opportunities for offenders, expanding the definition of crime victims, and removing “the box” to help former inmates seeking jobs or education.

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27

Last year, the California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018 was signed into law, and the landmark bill has become a model for other states when it comes to online privacy. This year, the California State Legislature is looking to modify the bill to address concerns expressed by businesses and advocates.

In Utah, the Electronic Information or Data Privacy Act was signed into law this year. The bill gives electronic documents the same legal protection as printed documents. If law enforcement wants copies of digital files, they now must apply for a search warrant, as they would for other types of documents.

To explain these bills, we have two guests:

  • Assemblymember Jacqui Irwin (D-Calif.), who is sponsoring legislation to adjust the California Consumer Privacy Act. She explains why changes are needed and offers her perspective on privacy laws and the components state legislatures across the country need to consider when addressing such laws.
  • Representative Craig Hall (R-Utah), who successfully guided the Electronic Information or Data Privacy Act through the legislature and got it signed into law by the governor. He discusses how he worked with organizations on the left and right, as well as law enforcement, to address the digital privacy legislation.

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20

Government and health officials from across the country have expressed concern in recent months as cases of measles have been reported in limited areas of the country—the most reported since 1992. The disease was declared all but eliminated in our borders in the year 2000. Maintaining that status is threatened by increased international travel and by the number of parents who are now hesitant to have their children vaccinated.

To get answers about current outbreaks, how the various levels of government have reacted, and how the nation is responding to parents who are hesitant to vaccination their children, we reached out to the nation’s foremost expert on the subject: Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. He talks about the current cases, the need for vaccinations, how certain states have addressed populations hesitant to vaccinate and the role that state legislators play in addressing public concerns.

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13

What do children know about taxes, credit reports, mortgages, money management, insurance or investing? For that matter, what do parents know about these topics?

In this episode, we explore financial literacy. We talk with two guests who are working to get more financial education into our schools, creating more informed citizens about the complex and changing nature of finance issues.

Our guests:

  • Laura Levine is president and CEO of the Jump$tart Coalition for Personal Financial Literacy, a partnership of more than 100 national organizations and a network of 51 independent, affiliated state coalitions that share a commitment to advancing youth financial education.
  • Corey Carlisle is a senior vice president at the American Bankers Association (ABA), as well as the executive director of the ABA Foundation. He oversees the organization’s philanthropic efforts as well as programs that support the industry’s efforts around financial education, affordable housing, and other community development activities.

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23

On July 20, the United States will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing with traveling exhibits and special ceremonies at museums, the Johnson Space Center and the Kennedy Space Center.

In honor of the historic feat, we wanted to explore technical innovations, STEM education and a launch project designed to include contributions from all 50 states at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Ala.

Jody Singer is the director of NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, which is responsible for 6,000 civil service and contractor employers. She started her NASA career as an intern and spent 25 years with the Space Shuttle Program as an engineer and project manager. She says that while NASA is a federal program, her team is in constant communication with state legislatures and leaders across the country.

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Category: Technology
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16

An estimated 25 million Americans are rape survivors. The Bureau of Justice Statistics three years ago estimated only 23 percent of rapes or sexual assaults are reported. For those that do report their assaults, they are confronted with medial and legal procedures that are challenging and sometimes not understandable. And there is an assumption that if a rape kit is produced, it will be stored as long as the victim needs. But the local and state laws across the country are not uniform and victims are sometimes surprised their kits have either not been tested or are no longer available. We have two guests who have been deeply involved in this field.

  • Amanda Nguyen is the founder of Rise, a nonprofit that fights for the civil rights of sexual violence survivors. As a student at Harvard on a promising astrophysics track, she was raped. Her experience led her to work with Congress and the administration to pass the Sexual Assault Survivor’s Bill of Rights just two years later. Her work has resulted in changes in more than 20 states.
  • Kemp Hannon, as a New York state senator, successfully passed legislation that led to sweeping changes in how his state handles, processes and stores rape kits. He said many in law enforcement and even district attorneys believed rape kits were being tested and stored for future use. His research and work with advocate organizations found a different story and he was determined to change it.

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09

With May 6-10, 2019, being Legislative Staff Week, we focus this episode on a critical skill: debate thinking.

In the heat of a disagreement, argument or debate, it can be difficult to plot a persuasive strategy that effectively articulates one’s point of view while rebutting the position of the other party. We explore the foundations of debate thinking, a model of thought that will sharpen the ability to think quickly and to develop compelling offensive and defensive arguments in real time.

Our guest is Curt Stedron, who is a trainer at the National Conference of State Legislatures. He explains lessons he’s learned in his research and work as an award-winning debate coach.

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25

At some point in 2016, 1 in 7 U.S. households was food insecure and more than 44 million people participated in the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The nonprofit No Kid Hungry says more than 13 million U.S. children live in "food insecure" homes.

The National Conference of State Legislatures created a Hunger Partnership to address food insecurity. With more than 20 legislators and three legislative staff, the partnership works to address hunger in America. Corporate and nonprofit partners, including the Congressional Hunger Center, support the partnership.

We get unique perspectives on this issue from our two guests:

  • Hugh Acheson, who has won major awards including the James Beard Award for best chef and Food & Wine’s best new chef, has been featured on several TV cooking shows. He discusses his involvement in providing meals for school children.
  • Senator Renee Unterman (R-Ga.) is co-chair of NCSL’s Hunger Partnership. She discusses the work of the partnership and how it works with the federal government to address food insecurity.

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Category: Health
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