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 or Google Play, or you can use the RSS icon at the right to copy a feed URL for your podcatcher. 

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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debate, legislative staff, critical thinking
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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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11

In less than a year, the United States will embark on its decennial charge to count every person living in the nation. And, as our guest explains, an accurate count is needed for both economic and political reasons. About $800 billion in federal funding is at stake, as well as each state’s apportionment in the House of Representatives.

Our guest is Wendy Underhill, director of the NCSL Elections and Redistricting Program. She tells us about changes to this year’s form and how technology is being used in the process.

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Category: Legislatures
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28

What’s your sense of the state of civil discourse in America today? The answer is likely as diverse as political viewpoints today. So we decided to talk with someone who studies civil discourse and is an active participant.

Keith Allred is the executive director of the National Institute for Civil Discourse. He discusses the differences of civil discourse at the federal and state levels, and why his organization is promoting programs aimed at state legislatures, communities and the general public. He explains how the Institute came into being and why his board is filled with prominent Republican and Democratic leaders from across the country.

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Category: Legislators
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14

In this episode of “Our American States,” we talk with one of the federal government’s top energy officials.

It’s easy to take energy for granted. From turning on the first light in the morning to fixing a meal, taking a hot shower and working on a computer—we generally accept that the energy we need is going to be there. And we become upset when it’s not.

For policymakers, though, the regulation and oversight of energy is a series of complex issues, and it’s often difficult for states to make decisions on changes and consider new choices.

Our guest is Neil Chatterjee, chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), an independent agency created by Congress in 1920, whose responsibilities include regulating retail electricity and approving all interstate transmission of natural gas, oil, electricity and pipeline projects. 

A common theme you will hear from him: the security of the nation’s energy sources. He’s a strong proponent of the rights of states in the federal system, but recognizes that with energy grids crossing state lines it’s going to take some coordination and cooperation to keep our energy secure.

We started by asking Chatterjee about the biggest opportunity in the energy field today—he says it’s technology. But it might also be the nation’s biggest challenge.

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Category: Public Policy
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28

The nature and demographics of employment are changing, with fewer men entering the workforce and the gig economy chipping away at traditional job relationships and structures. And state programs that oversee child support programs are taking notice.

We talk with officials in two states that are seeing success by working to address the issues and concerns of those who owe child support payments, and, as a result, are improving relationships between parents and their children.

Our guests are:

  • Larry Desbien, director, Colorado Division of Child Support Services
  • Noelita Lugo, assistant deputy director of Field Initiatives, Texas Attorney General’s Child Support Division

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14

In this episode, we complete our two-part series aimed at the more than 20 percent of the nation’s 7,383 state legislators who are new to the job in 2019. We talk with two current and two former state legislators—all who have held leadership positions—and ask them to give newly elected legislators advice or offer what they wish they knew when they walked into that legislative chamber for the first time. Our guests, in alphabetical order, include:

  • Utah Senator Curt Bramble (R), former NCSL president
  • Illinois Senator Toi Hutchinson (D), current NCSL president
  • David Long (R), former Indiana senator and Senate president pro tem
  • Terie Norelli (D), former New Hampshire House speaker and former NCSL president

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24

If you could write a letter to your younger self before starting your career, what would you say? That’s the premise of this special two-part presentation of “Our American States.”

“What I Wish I Knew” is aimed at the more than 20 percent of the nation’s 7,383 state legislators who are new to the job. In these episodes, we talk with two current and two former state legislators—all who have held leadership positions—and ask them to give newly elected legislators advice or offer what they wish they knew when they walked into that legislative chamber for the first time. Our guests, in alphabetical order, include:

  • Utah Senator Curt Bramble (R), former NCSL president
  • Illinois Senator Toi Hutchinson (D), current NCSL president
  • David Long (R), former Indiana senator and Senate president pro tem
  • Terie Norelli (D), former New Hampshire House speaker and former NCSL president

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17

State legislatures recently began noticing that, because of the high-risk cases insurance companies must cover, individual premiums were escalating. As a result, they began to look into ways to create a pool to limit those losses and reduce premium costs. This led to the creation of reinsurance programs, which appear to be having the intended effect of reducing premiums and protecting insurance companies from financial disaster. We’ll discuss how two politically different states have addressed the issue and find out how it’s playing out in other states.

Our guests are:

  • Colleen Becker, policy specialist in the NCSL Health Program
  • Maryland Senator Thomas Middleton (D), who sponsored legislation in his state to establish a reinsurance program
  • Alaska Senator Cathy Giessel (R), who discusses actions her legislature took to become the first state to establish a reinsurance program

Blue Cross Blue Shield financially supported this episode of “Our American States.”

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Category: Health
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10

For our first podcast of 2019, we take a look at the key issues America’s state legislatures will be considering this year. Our guest, William Pound, executive director of the National Conference of State Legislatures, breaks down those issues, offering his views on budgets, revenues, election reform, education, criminal justice and a host of other topics. He also walks us through the political landscape that was created after the 2018 elections.

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Category: Legislatures
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