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. 

Legislators

16

To kick off 2020, we talked with Tim Storey, who took over as executive director of the National Conference of State Legislatures in mid-2019. Storey discusses the strength of state budgets and his view that there are not one or two big issues dominating legislative agendas this year, a change from previous years. And he discusses the upcoming redistricting of state legislative and congressional districts that make this election the "big kahuna" of the decade.

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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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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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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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22

The list of duties and responsibilities for state legislators is long. Still, a number of state senators and representatives carve out time from their busy schedule—which often includes another full-time job—to talk with students about government and the importance of participating in the process.

The National Conference of State Legislatures encourages state legislators to take part in its “America’s Legislators Back to School” program, offering tips on how to engage with students.

We get two unique perspectives on how talking with students has an impact. Kentucky Senate Pro Tem Jimmy Higdon, who represents a largely rural area, and Boston metropolitan state Representative Christine Barber, offer their perspectives on engaging students. They will reveal how students not only learn, but how young people can have an impact on state issues.

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23

"Our American States" took its first road trip to Fort Collins, Colo., to watch a legislative town hall in session. Despite being the Saturday before Thanksgiving, temperatures in the low 40s and a Colorado State University football game kickoff game less than three hours away, about 70 people crammed into a library conference room to learn and ask questions about transportation issues. 

Town halls are held by state legislators across the country on a regular basis, and this meeting is just one example. The citizens of Fort Collins have a strong history of attending community forums. We provide a taste of this forum, and talk with an expert on legislative community engagement to find out what's happening around the country.

In this episode, we talk with Colorado state Representative Joann Ginal (D) and Angela Andrews, program director of the Legislative Staff Services Program at the National Conference of State Legislatures.

In addition to the Fort Collins example, we find out about outreach in other states such as Massachusetts, West Virginia and Hawaii. We'll discuss trends in engagement outreach such as tele-town halls, logistics, safety, reaching Millennials, and how to have better and deeper conversations with citizens. And, both our guests bring up the value of circles.

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10

Women, who make up a little more than 50 percent of the U.S. population, only hold about a quarter of the nation’s 7,383 state legislative seats. While it’s a dramatic increase from the 1970s, the percentage has been stagnant for several years.

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Category: Legislators
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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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27

In today’s podcast, we will take a close look at the political landscape of state legislatures, examine the top 10 issues they will tackle this year, take a look at how the new Trump administration will affect their work, and talk about the possibility of a national constitution convention.

Today's guest is William Pound, the executive director of the National Conference of State Legislatures, otherwise known as NCSL. Bill has directed NCSL for around 30 years, and is one of the nation’s foremost experts in state legislatures and how they operate.

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