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 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. 

Legislative Staff

04

Laree KielyThis podcast is part of Legislative Staff Week, NCSL’s effort to recognize the crucial work of legislative staff across the nation. It is also one in a series NCSL is producing to focus on how states are taking action in response to the coronavirus pandemic. You can find links to podcasts, webinars and other resources at www.ncsl.org/coronavirus.

Today we’re talking with Laree Kiely, president and chief wisdom officer at the We Will consulting firm in California. She is an expert on leadership and management and talked with “Our American States” about readiness and resilience during the pandemic. Kiely also serves as a trainer at NCSL's Legislative Management Institute

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10

Once every 10 years, America’s political landscape changes. While most people are aware the U.S. census takes place in years that end in zero, a smaller percentage know the data collected helps determine how the nation’s political power is divided. In most states, legislatures are charged with redrawing congressional and state legislative maps following the release of the census data. This means political control of the legislature and the governor’s office will be critical when maps are redrawn in 2021. We invited two guests to explain this process and what legislatures are doing in preparation for the historic event.

  • Wendy Underhill is the director of the Elections and Redistricting Program at the National Conference of State Legislatures. NCSL is producing a series of meetings on redistricting, with the next one taking place Oct. 24-27 in Columbus, Ohio. Future redistricting meetings will be held in Las Vegas, Portland, Ore. and Washington, D.C.
  • For the staff perspective, we talk with Michelle L. Davis, a senior policy analyst on redistricting and election law at the Maryland Department of Legislative Services. She is the editor of the website Redistrictingonline and its Facebook page.

Additional Resources

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census, redistricting, elections
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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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debate, legislative staff, critical thinking
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10

Working in state legislatures is a very demanding job. State legislative serve in an institution where workload changes can come often and swiftly. The shifting nature of legislation and the mixture of public opinion, rules, procedures and process make session work stressful. But for the estimated 30,000-plus legislative staff that work in legislatures during session, most will tell you the work is rewarding.

This week, the National Conference of State Legislatures is celebrating Legislative Staff Week and we’re devoting this episode of “Our American States” to the topic of mindfulness—keeping oneself in the present and maintaining a calm demeanor even under stressful conditions. Our guests are:

  • Tammy Wright, who is the clerk of the New Hampshire Senate. She talks about how she uses mindfulness in her role as she works with leadership and her staff during the legislative session.
  • Megan Jones Bell, the chief science officer of Headspace, a company that merges technology and meditation. She will be a featured speaker at NCSL’s annual meeting in Los Angeles this summer.

Additional Resources

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07

About 31,000 people work for state legislatures, serving in a variety of jobs. The National Conference of State Legislatures is celebrating Legislative Staff Week. So we decided to take this opportunity on  “Our American States” to interview three legislative staffers and find out more about what it's like to work for a legislature in today's political environment. They tell us about their jobs, how they got there and why it's the best job they've ever had. 

None of them entered the workforce considering a public service career in state legislatures. One person moved from the public information office to the budget office. Another volunteered for a campaign and is now directing an important legislative department. And our other guest had an exciting career as a television news anchor, but has now found a position that she enjoys more. All of them appreciate the fact that every day presents new challenges. And, they all agree that young people should consider public service jobs in the legislature. 

Our guests on this episode are:

  • Chuck Truesdell, legislative fiscal analyst, Budget Research Office, Legislative Research Commission, Kentucky
  • Martah Wigton, director, House Budget and Research Staff, Georgia
  • Lauren Hieger, communications director, Senate Majority Caucus, Missouri

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22

Working in the legislative arena is not always easy. There are long hours, long stretches of sitting at a desk, a need to multitask and often a lack of sleep. Stacy Householder of the National Conference of State Legislatures shares six brain rules designed to help legislators and legislative staff be more effective. Her recommendations are based on research and its relevance for those working in legislative chambers.

“Scientists have learned more about the brain in the last 20 years than they have from the previous five centuries,” she says. Her advice includes “lap the Cap,” getting sleep and focusing on the task at hand. 

Find out if you are a lark or night owl and how that might affect your work. All this and more in this edition of “Our American States.”

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08

With 5,000-6,000 legislators, legislative staff and those interested in public policy expected to descend on Boston for the 2017 Legislative Summit, our guest today recommends being prepared to being engaged.

Catherine Johns, a communications expert with experience as a Chicago talk show radio host, gives honest advice about how to start conversations, how to follow up with those business cards you'll get and even how to do a proper handshake. You'll learn how to listen in conversations, create a better approach to Elevator Speeches and how to gracefully get out of those conversations that have gone too long.

“A good part of good conversation is really being present with the person I'm engaged with,” she says. See if her advice helps you prepare for the Summit on this edition of  “Our American States.”

Catherine Johns will lead a workshop, “Making Your Case: Effective Communication,” at the 2017 NCSL Legislative Summit in Boston on Sunday, Aug. 6, 8-11 a.m.

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