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. 

27

Voters across the nation were busy in 2018, electing their government officials at the federal, state and local levels. In addition, they considered 155 ballot issues throughout the year. Seventy-one of those were referred to voters by state legislatures. In this episode of “Our American States,” we delve into some of the key decisions they made and how their actions may affect the 2019 sessions of state legislatures.

Our guest is Wendy Underhill, a program director for elections and redistricting at the National Conference of State Legislatures. She will guide us through decisions voters made on a wide variety of topics. She’ll explain “ballot harvesting” and “lock boxes,” and give us insight on health, transportation, criminal justice, voting rights, energy, ethics for public officials and revenue issues that were on the ballot.

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Category: Elections
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13

We are celebrating Legislative Staff Week with a special podcast on “The Art of Persuasion.”  Our expert will dive into the reasons why being able to persuade is important and how to use tactics to help others understand your point of view.

Our guest is Curt Stedron, who is a legislative trainer with the National Conference of State Legislatures. He’ll outline the importance of storytelling, describe how to reframe issues and examine how word choice is critical in communication.

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Category: Leadership
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06

On this episode of “Our American States,” we explore two critical components of a child’s development. First, we’ll address adverse childhood experiences (often referred to as ACEs), which are stressful or traumatic events in childhood that have long-term impacts on health and well being. We talk to a national expert who will walk us through research on childhood trauma, and provide policymakers with ideas to address families facing stresses that cause ACEs.

We also discuss the importance of positive brain development, discover why the first three years are so critical for the nurturing of children, go over key research and find out what the policy implications are regarding early brain development. Our guests are:

  • Dr. Nadine Burke-Harris, founder and chief executive officer for the Center of Youth Wellness
  • Dr. Ross Thompson, a distinguished professor in the department of psychology at the University of California

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29

Following the 2018 midterm elections, more women will serve in state legislatures than ever before. Starting with the 2019 sessions, it appears that about 28 percent of the nation’s 7,383 state legislators will be women—a significant jump from a touch under 25 percent after the 2017 elections. In this episode, we dive into the historic numbers and discuss why they increased this year.

Our guest, Katie Ziegler, is the program manager for NCSL’s Women’s Legislative Network, the professional development organization that includes every female state legislator in the 50 states, U.S. territories and the District of Columbia. The Women's Legislative Network’s mission: to promote the participation, empowerment and leadership of women legislators.

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08

Matthew Desmond went to Milwaukee to live with families being evicted from their homes. The personal stories he obtained there set the course for his book “Evicted,” which won the Pulitzer Prize in 2017. He then created a team at Princeton University to create a national database containing 80 million records on evictions since the year 2000. Data collected by this project shows that 2.3 million Americans in 2016 lived in a home that received an eviction notice.

Desmond is the principal investigator at the Eviction Lab, where the database is available to policymakers and the public and researchers can find valuable information on what is going on in their communities and states. But he says more work needs to be done to fully understand the issue. Join us for an insightful conversation on the causes and effects of evictions and how policymakers can use the collected information to make informed decisions on this public policy issue.

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25

Sates work to improve community safety in several ways, including the reduction of serious crime, ensuring fair enforcement of the laws and increasing police effectiveness. On this episode of “Our American States,” we examine the issues of policing, policy, costs, communication between communities and law enforcement agencies, and the need for criminal justice reform, including alternatives to incarceration of people needing mental health treatment. Our program gets insightful perspectives from those who deeply involved in these issues. Our guests are:

  • Barry Friedman, director of The Policing Project at the New York University School of Law, a nonprofit that works to ensure the community’s voice and sound decision-making techniques are part of the policing. He is the author of “Unwarranted: Policing Without Permission.”
  • Ron Serpas is a former police superintendent of New Orleans and the executive director of Law Enforcement Leaders, an organization of more than 200 current and former police chiefs, sheriffs, federal and state prosecutors and attorneys general from all 50 states working for a reduction in both crime and incarceration.

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18

Every state capitol is unique—but with some interesting similarities. We’ll dive into traditions, symbols and decorative features you can find in these impressive structures across our country. Our two guests have extensive experience and will share their knowledge with us on this episode of “Our American States.”

First, we talk with G. Paul Nardo, clerk of the House for the Virginia House of Delegates and the Keeper of the Rolls of the Commonwealth of Virginia. He’ll discuss traditions there, including the mace used in ceremonial procedures.         

Then, we will hear from Karl Kurtz, former director of the Trust for Representative Democracy, and now principle with LegisMatters. Kurtz has seen every U.S. capitol, including those in the territories and commonwealths. We’ll get his perspective on domes, artwork and legislative traditions.

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Category: Legislatures
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11

Our nation’s education system is constantly being evaluated and analyzed—including the area of school leadership and how it impacts teachers and the quality of learning students receive. The focus of this edition of “Our American States” is on principal supervisors.

The Principal Supervisor Initiative, a recently released national study, specifies five components for consideration that urge school districts to help stem the tide of principal turnover by ensuring supervisors provide leadership, rather than just focusing on compliance, legalities and evaluations.

Helping us to learn more about school leadership, principal supervisors and the study, is Dr. Mollie Rubin, a research assistant professor in the department of Leadership, Policy and Organizations at Vanderbilt University.

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Category: Education
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27

More than 80 percent of all state legislative seats are up for election on Nov. 6, and, after the primaries, 21 percent of those seats have already turned over. That’s 2 to 3 percent higher than analysts normally see in a full election cycle, which means this could be one of the highest turnover rates in history.

And there’s more data that makes this an interesting election to watch. More women are running for office. The number of unopposed candidates has dropped dramatically. And Republicans, who control a solid majority of all state legislators and state legislative chambers, know that in a mid-term election the party of the president typically loses more than 400 seats. Democrats see an opportunity, but Republicans are working hard to hold off a blue wave.

Going over the data and explaining why the 2018 state legislative elections are critically important is our guest Tim Storey, director of State Services for the National Conference of State Legislatures. Storey, who has been analyzing elections for more than two decades, shares his expertise on what to look for and notes where the battleground states are in this election cycle.

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Category: Elections
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13

All voters will have the opportunity to elect federal, state and local government officials this November, but in more than 30 states more than 160 ballot issues on a wide variety of issues will also be on the ballot. NCSL maintains an election ballot issues database on all of the issues.

We asked Patrick Potyondy, a legislative policy specialist and ACLS-Mellon public fellow in NCSL’s Elections and Redistricting program, to walk us through some of the key measures. He discusses proposals on taxes, elections, redistricting, voting rights, energy, environment, transportation, criminal justice, marijuana and several other issues to give us a flavor of what voters will be looking at across the country.

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Category: Elections
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