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. 

Public Policy

16

Former Iowa Senator Tom Harkin (D)Today’s podcast focuses on the Americans With Disabilities Act, which celebrates its 30th anniversary on July 26.

We’re fortunate to have former Iowa Senator Tom Harkin (D) as our guest. Senator Harkin, who spent 30 years in the U.S. Senate, was the author and chief sponsor of the ADA.

Senator Harkin shares the history of the ADA and how he came to play such a pivotal role. We also talked about his brother Frank, who helped inspire his work on the ADA; the political effort it took to pass the legislation; and the still unfinished business of ensuring that people with disabilities have the chance for a full life in American society.

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12

Kathleen Styles, U.S. Census BureauThe U.S. Census, the once-a-decade count of everyone in the country, starts this month. Coming right up is Census Day, April 1, by which time everyone should have received a notification to fill out the census. When you respond you tell the census bureau where you live on April 1.

To discuss the stakes in the census—everything from federal money to redistricting—we check in with Wendy Underhill, NCSL’s program director for Elections and Redistricting. Later in the show, we talk with Kathleen Styles, chief of decennial communications and stakeholder relations at the U.S. Census Bureau.

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13

About 25% of workers in the U.S. now need a license to work, an increase from about 5% in the 1950s. State legislators and other policymakers have taken an increasingly active role in developing new regulatory policies that strike a balance needed to protect consumers and promote economic growth and employment opportunity.

On today's show,, we talk with Dr. Morris Kleiner, an economist and professor at the University of Minnesota's Humphrey School of Public Affairs. Kleiner, an expert on occupational licensing, discusses the pros and cons of occupational licensing and its effect on the broader economy and different groups of workers.

On this episode we also hear from Gene Rose, the voice of "Our American States" for the past three years, on why he is handing over the podcast to a new host. 

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occupational licensing, job licensing
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31

Much of the nation’s network of electricity generation, transmission and distribution resources is aging and major upgrades are needed to for new technologies, changing market dynamics and shifting consumer preferences. This analysis comes from a new NCSL report, “Modernizing the Electric Grid: State Role and Policy Options.”

States are finding a challenge in keeping up with the way technology impacts our power grids, particularly those that still rely on larger power plants. “The challenge facing state policymakers is how to craft policies that promote cost-effective investment in the electric system while allowing innovative technologies and new energy management approaches to flourish and compete in a rapidly shifting environment,” says the report.

Our guest is Glen Andersen, who is the energy program director at the National Conference of State Legislatures, and one of the authors of the report. He talks about how new technologies affect public policy, how consumers are creating their own power, how smarter household appliances, electrical gadgets and electric vehicles affect the grid.

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20

Government and health officials from across the country have expressed concern in recent months as cases of measles have been reported in limited areas of the country—the most reported since 1992. The disease was declared all but eliminated in our borders in the year 2000. Maintaining that status is threatened by increased international travel and by the number of parents who are now hesitant to have their children vaccinated.

To get answers about current outbreaks, how the various levels of government have reacted, and how the nation is responding to parents who are hesitant to vaccination their children, we reached out to the nation’s foremost expert on the subject: Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. He talks about the current cases, the need for vaccinations, how certain states have addressed populations hesitant to vaccinate and the role that state legislators play in addressing public concerns.

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13

What do children know about taxes, credit reports, mortgages, money management, insurance or investing? For that matter, what do parents know about these topics?

In this episode, we explore financial literacy. We talk with two guests who are working to get more financial education into our schools, creating more informed citizens about the complex and changing nature of finance issues.

Our guests:

  • Laura Levine is president and CEO of the Jump$tart Coalition for Personal Financial Literacy, a partnership of more than 100 national organizations and a network of 51 independent, affiliated state coalitions that share a commitment to advancing youth financial education.
  • Corey Carlisle is a senior vice president at the American Bankers Association (ABA), as well as the executive director of the ABA Foundation. He oversees the organization’s philanthropic efforts as well as programs that support the industry’s efforts around financial education, affordable housing, and other community development activities.

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16

An estimated 25 million Americans are rape survivors. The Bureau of Justice Statistics three years ago estimated only 23 percent of rapes or sexual assaults are reported. For those that do report their assaults, they are confronted with medial and legal procedures that are challenging and sometimes not understandable. And there is an assumption that if a rape kit is produced, it will be stored as long as the victim needs. But the local and state laws across the country are not uniform and victims are sometimes surprised their kits have either not been tested or are no longer available. We have two guests who have been deeply involved in this field.

  • Amanda Nguyen is the founder of Rise, a nonprofit that fights for the civil rights of sexual violence survivors. As a student at Harvard on a promising astrophysics track, she was raped. Her experience led her to work with Congress and the administration to pass the Sexual Assault Survivor’s Bill of Rights just two years later. Her work has resulted in changes in more than 20 states.
  • Kemp Hannon, as a New York state senator, successfully passed legislation that led to sweeping changes in how his state handles, processes and stores rape kits. He said many in law enforcement and even district attorneys believed rape kits were being tested and stored for future use. His research and work with advocate organizations found a different story and he was determined to change it.

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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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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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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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