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

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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30

The success and self-sustainability of families is critical to the overall well-being of our nation’s states. State legislators seeking to bolster economic opportunities for families in their districts have many challenging factors to consider and a wide field of policy options to choose from. To navigate this complex policy area, some of the best available tools for lawmakers are the wealth of knowledge developed by their colleagues and the work and guidance of national experts.

The National Conference of State Legislatures’ annual Economic Opportunities for Families meeting, now in its 16th year, is a rare opportunity when those resources converge. Since 2003, 40 states have participated in this gathering, developing multi-faceted policy plans to build their workforce, provide asset development options for families and give additional support to workers to keep them on track. Hundreds of new enactments have been developed here, and each year builds upon the lessons learned from the year before.

At the 2018 meeting, which took place in Denver, we interviewed three people to give their perspective on the value of the meeting and to share their thoughts on these critical issues. They include:

  • Illinois State Senator and NCSL President Toi Hutchinson (D)
  • Georgia State Representative Katie Dempsey (R)
  • Patrick McCarthy, president and CEO of the Annie E. Casey Foundation

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16

Since the relative recent invention of texting, drivers have been tempted to check their phones. And pretty much at the same time, states have been looking at ways to temper that urge.

There are a number of challenges to effectively enforce distracted driving laws. Drivers find loopholes that give motorists a number of plausible excuses for holding or manipulating a mobile device. And no state or locality can afford a patrol to watch every driver on every road.

Still, an estimated 40,000 people die each year in traffic crashes. Our guests will provide the statistics and tell us what states are doing to drive that number down. And we’ll look at a program in Tennessee that literally has drivers and the media talking. Our guests are:

  • Liza Lemaster-Sandback, highway safety specialist, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
  • Lieutenant Bill Miller, public Information officer, Tennessee Highway Patrol

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Category: Transportation
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09

The U.S. Department of Health and Human services says 116 people die each day in the United States from an overdose of opioids. This includes prescription pain relievers, heroin and synthetic opioids. It says more than 2.1 million people had an opioid use disorder in 2016.

This year, the National Conference of State Legislatures created an Opioid Policy Fellows Program, open to chairs of health-related legislative committees. Through face-to-face meetings, the program is focused on health policies and programs related to the opioid crisis.

We held a conversation with three attendees of a recent Opioid Policy Fellows meeting in Denver, who explain how their state is addressing the crisis and why bipartisanship is critical in approaching legislation. Our guests are:

  • Maryland House Delegate Eric Bromwell (D)
  • Vermont Representative Ann Pugh (D)
  • Alaska Senator David Wilson (R)

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Category: Health
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26

When the dust settled from the U.S. Supreme Court decisions in the term that ended in June 2018, states were left with a historic victory regarding the fairness of sales tax collections and the ability to decide for themselves on the legality of sports wagering. While there were other victories, some issues remained cloudy. But perhaps the biggest news of the term was the announcement from Justice Anthony Kennedy that he is retiring.

In this episode of “Our American States,” we ask Lisa Soronen, executive director of the State and Local Legal Center, to provide her analysis of the court’s 2017-18 decisions. She also gives her perspective on how Kennedy’s retirement may affect the court’s decisions on state issues in the future.

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19

Christopher ThornbergFor most states, the fiscal year ended on June 30, 2018. We decided this would be a good time to get an overview of the national economy from an expert familiar to many state legislators and state legislative staff. Christopher Thornberg, the founding partner of the research firm Beacon Economics, is our guest on this episode.

He says a pressing concern for states is higher interest rates over the next 24 months and a lack of workers. He believes the economy will continue to grow over the next two years, but he sees stressors that make him worry how much longer the expansion can last. A “dangerously” low level of consumer savings is one of his concerns.

We get reaction to how the federal tax bill is affecting the economy and how tariff policies could affect states. He also explains why he believes Congress and the administration need to pay more attention to policies that have an impact on our economy. It’s part of his discussion he wants to share in his talk, “The Great Disconnect,” when he speaks at the NCSL Legislative Summit in Los Angeles on Aug. 1.

 

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Category: Fiscal
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