Testimonials to Alan Rosenthal: July-August 2013 | STATE LEGISLATURES MAGAZINE




Alan Rosenthal dedicated his life’s work to legislatures—to understanding them, making them strong, and extolling their value to generations of students, legislators, governors and political scientists. As an author, he graced the pages of State Legislatures magazine many times for many years. He believed, as we do, that legislatures are the most responsive, innovative and effective institutions in government, and he went out of his way to prove it to our readers every chance he got. And they were many. A Rosenthal article in the magazine was always witty and insightful and full of passion for the institution he loved best. His perspective was like no one else’s, because no one else knows legislatures as completely as he did.

Alan died on July 10, 2013. It is our honor to pay tribute to his life’s work on the pages of the magazine he wrote for so prodigiously. Thank you, Alan.

—The editors


Alan Rosenthal’s insight and intellect touched many in the world of state government and politics. His wide influence is reflected in these testimonials given by some who were fortunate enough to have known him and been inspired by him.

John Turcotte► I asked Alan in 2008 to give our newly formed staff advice. Alan said, “Give legislators bold and timely and intelligent recommendations on major policy issues and be damned quick about it.” I omitted a few of his adjectives and adverbs.
—John Turcotte, director, North Carolina Program Evaluation Division

Bob Garton► Alan Rosenthal is the unparalleled guru of state legislators. The information he compiled and shared created change and improvement in state legislatures throughout the nation by making them more efficient and effective. His leadership of the Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers University inspired new respect for what state legislators do and the way they do it. Whenever I was with him or heard him speak, I took notes.
—Bob Garton, former president of the Indiana Senate

► The phrase ‘one of a kind’ is certainly overworked but it fits Alan Rosenthal. No one else is able to be so deeply immersed in a deadly serious cause while maintaining such a playful sense of humor and delightful overall disposition. In Alan’s case the cause, of course, is one that deserves better than it is currently getting: representative democracy particularly as it is embodied in our country’s state legislatures. I shudder to think where this noble cause would be without Alan’s tireless work over these past several decades.
—John Hibbing, professor of Political Science, University of Nebraska

John Engler► Federalism in the 20th century owes a debt to the life's work of Alan Rosenthal. His faith in the importance of state government and state and local decision-making has led him to report on and write about leadership and creative problem-solving in 50 states. He has inspired many to imitate the successes and more than a few to go where none had previously gone. I know because I was one who read Alan's work, didn't wait for Washington, and in the end made a small difference. Thank you, Alan. None of this would be possible without you making a big difference.
—John Engler, president of the Business Roundtable, former governor of Michigan and majority leader of the Senate

► Alan Rosenthal certainly merits a tribute from state legislators and legislative staff for his work over the years. I hope that a new generation of political scientists will pick up his legacy and do multi-state studies that will help to strengthen state legislatures.
—Bill Kelly, former member of the Minnesota Legislature

Richard Finan► Alan came to Columbus while I was president of the Senate to observe the Ohio General Assembly. While there, he decided to test the old saying, “Two things you should never watch being made: sausages and laws.” After watching our legislature he wanted to observe sausage being made. I made several phone calls and got him an appointment at Thurn's Sausage. When he returned from touring the sausage factory, he concluded that the saying was a total myth. Sausage-making was much uglier.
—Richard Finan, former president of the Ohio Senate  

Jim Florio► Alan is a scholar who has gone beyond books to better understand government in general and the legislative process, in particular. He has interacted with The Players and has been actively involved in our unruly wonderful way of making our laws.
—Jim Florio, former governor of New Jersey

Carl Tuebbesing►“I looked up from my desk one day not long after I started work at NCSL in 1975 and there was Alan Rosenthal. I didn’t know it at the time, but that first conversation, so full of passion and enthusiasm and insight, typified Alan and his lifelong affair with state legislatures. He respects them, their members and their staffs, even when they stumble. He’s helped them when they’ve asked for it, and sometimes when they haven’t. He’s analyzed them, reformed them and laughed with them. I think it is safe to say, that he’s loved them, even though in the past few years, he has perversely concluded that, in fact, it is governors who have “the best job in politics.’ ”
—Carl Tubbesing, former deputy director of NCSL

Changes in Connecticut

The Eagleton Institute conducted eight state legislative strengthening studies in the mid and late 1960s in New Jersey, Rhode Island, Maryland, Wisconsin, Connecticut, Mississippi, Florida, and Arkansas (in order of completion). Alan Rosenthal was heavily involved in writing the first four. For the last four, he hired former Eagleton Fellows to join the Rutgers faculty and live onsite for six to nine months. He oversaw the later studies, consulted with the authors on recommendations, and reviewed and sometimes edited the draft reports.

Alan always said that the Connecticut report, submitted in December 1968, was the most successful of the eight. As the author of that report and later implementer of its recommendations, I am particularly familiar with what transpired. The Connecticut General Assembly adopted the report’s recommendations to:

  • Change from biennial to annual legislative sessions with retention of a biennial budget subject to review in the second session
  • Adopt a comprehensive and unique new bill process (still in use) that focuses the work of the legislature's bill drafting staff on drafting legislation that the committees consider most likely to receive serious consideration
  • Create new nonpartisan offices of legislative research and fiscal analysis to provide committee staff support and individual member research
  • Establish partisan caucus staff offices for each party in each house
  • Create a Joint Committee on Legislative Management comprised of the top leaders in each house to oversee all legislative budgetary and non-political operations
  • Transfer control over the Capitol Building from the executive branch to the Legislative Management Committee Computerize the bill preparation and documentation process ( Connecticut became the first legislature in the country to have a completely computerized process)
  • Triple legislative salaries that were among the lowest in the nation in 1970. 

A few years later Alan received a grant to develop a model legislative oversight process and selected Connecticut as the pilot state. This project resulted in the creation of a bipartisan Joint Program Review and Investigations Committee, the third of its kind in the nation after New York and Virginia, to conduct in-depth studies and evaluations of executive branch programs and departments.
—David B. Ogle, former director of Connecticut Legislative Services

Patrick O'Donnell► Alan Rosenthal stands as one of the preeminent academic researchers of state legislatures. His keen insights have, for many years, painted a picture of how state legislatures live and breathe. His observations on institutional strengths and weaknesses have provided a roadmap for institutional self assessment. Through his work state legislatures have improved their operations, become more accessible and accountable to their constituencies, and become better in their most important responsibility, making public policy.
—Patrick O’Donnell, Clerk of the Nebraska Legislature

Kevin Sullivan► In Connecticut, Alan Rosenthal is somehow always with us. His research and guidance made our state legislature a co-equal branch of government. Later, he supported our efforts (including my own as a young staffer) to apply program review to education policy and to launch school finance reform. Then, during my twenty-some years as a senator, Senate president pro tem and lieutenant governor, Alan Rosenthal's writings on governance and ethics were among my most well-thumbed references. Now, as State Revenue Commissioner, I have the good fortune to work with one of Alan's latest generation of research fellows here on assignment in the governor's office.

So, either Alan is stalking me or I am just one of thousands serving in state governments whose lives and works bear the imprint of his scholarship, great practical sense and guidance that helps remind us to keep purpose in politics.
—Kevin Sullivan, Connecticut Commissioner of Revenue Service

Talbot D'Alamberte► Since the mid-1960s, Alan has been the most important person in the academy in dealing with systemic reforms to state legislatures. His efforts to track and evaluate changes in lawmaking and promote the spread of good practices have had an incredible impact throughout the nation. In Florida, he strongly influenced legislative leaders like Dick Pettigrew, the best Speaker of the Florida House in history. Alan enjoys mixing with people who are active in politics, and this gives him insights that others miss. For those of us in the legislative process, Alan is a legend and we continue to benefit from his good sense, good works and good humor.
—Talbot “Sandy” D’Alamberte, former state legislator, former president of Florida State University and the American Bar Association

Joe Roberts► Alan Rosenthal understands and respects the legislative process more than any other academic I've ever encountered. He understands the nuances and the challenges. He consistently imparts that sense to his students. He has helped to educate some of the brightest scholars and the next generation of legislators and legislative experts. Rutgers University is honored by this nationally acknowledged leader.
—Joe Roberts, former speaker of the New Jersey Assembly

► Alan Rosenthal has had a great deal of influence on the Louisiana Legislature and the House in particular. In a state with a tradition of executive branch dominance, Alan has encouraged members and staff to strengthen the legislative branch for more than 40 years. Speaker E.L. “Bubba” Henry, who led efforts to strengthen the House in the early 1970s, participated in Eagleton programs and stayed in close touch with Alan. Alan helped Louisiana strengthen its Legislature through his relationship with Speaker Henry.

In the early 70s, the Louisiana House participated in Eagleton's program to demonstrate how standing committees might conduct effective program evaluations. Over the years Alan has assisted the Louisiana House in legislative orientation and staff training. More recently we participated in his development of a civic education program for teachers to use in schools, and he spent several days here working with teachers to get their help with this program. Alan’s work in defining the "good legislature" was of major use to Louisiana legislators and staff as we made changes in the Legislature to adjust to the imposition of term limits.

Alan's most significant contributions have come through more than 40 years of working with key legislative staff, both formally and informally, to develop and hone our vision and awareness of the legislature as an institution. He has encouraged practical approaches to improving and strengthening the institution as changes over time have presented different challenges. If legislative staffing is, as Alan has said, a vocation, he has been an ever-present intellect and voice encouraging us in that vocation. His influence is inestimable.
—Anne Dunn, director, Louisiana House Legislative Services

Steve Sweeney► Alan embodies the best of what we could hope for in those who commit to education and public service. His service, dedication and usually spot-on advice have spanned decades, and have been given freely to those across the spectrum of politics. Alan's knowledge of the legislative process and how the gears in Trenton turn is second-to-none. It's why governors, legislators, and other elected officials have called on him to help resolve the issues that shape the state of New Jersey.
—Steve Sweeney, president of the New Jersey Senate

Tom Berg► Alan is not only a distinguished professor who is generous with his time, he is an engaging writer. His knack for taking knotty ideas about legislatures and federalism, and making them clear and relevant has helped thousands of students, journalists, and government officials understand the complexities of governing. His commitment to improving our nation's fifty "Engines of Democracy" has made America a better place.
—Tom Berg, former Minnesota legislator and author of "Minnesota’s Miracle: Learning from the Government that Worked"

Buddy McKay► In the absence of scandals and indictments, legislative reform is one of the rarest events in American government. For the legislative strengthening movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s to have been successful all across America, led by an outsider—an academic no less—is almost beyond belief. Alan Rosenthal’s expertise is unchallenged, as is his commitment to representative democracy. What has made him accepted by practitioners, however, is his keen sense of humor, appreciation for the absurd, and acceptance of the earthy realities involved in developing public policy in a body that truly looks like the public it represents. For this, all of us owe Alan a great debt of gratitude.
—Buddy MacKay, former Florida state legislator, governor and member of Congress

► I have known Alan Rosenthal for over 35 years. No teacher – elementary, secondary, college or graduate school – had a bigger impact on me and on my career than Alan. His love of state legislatures led me to work in one when I left Eagleton. When further opportunities took me to Washington, he was supportive of the move. While he may be best known for his research, his books, and service to legislatures, he is first and foremost a teacher. There is no higher praise.
—Lyle Dennis, New Jersey lobbyist, former congressional and state legislative staffer

Roger Moe► Alan Rosenthal is the nation’s preeminent scholar of state legislatures and legislators. His scholarly research and writings have contributed to a better understanding of the people, policy, politics, processes and, yes, even the warts of our 50 state legislatures. Where many find our legislatures messy, confusing and intimidating, Alan finds them to be dynamic, productive and an amazing reflection of our society. I have listened to Alan’s speeches and read his books and articles and always come away more enlightened about our diverse state governments. Not only is he a great guy but he is one of only a few Americans today that admits to liking our state legislatures and legislators!
—Roger Moe, former Minnesota legislator

► I became a student of Alan Rosenthal shortly after the Supreme Court decision of Baker v. Carr. New districts, new members, and the need for updated procedures attracted a young political scientist to a life’s pursuit. Alan appreciated the legislatures’ potential, and loved the legislators who were so committed to public service with little resource. I was thrilled to have a professor like Alan who was involved with the practical aspects of government and politics. His scholarship and the example of active involvement in making government work more effectively were important guideposts for me in my work for the Citizens’ Conference on State Legislatures, NCSL, and the California Legislature. Congratulations to Alan on his first 50 years working with and for State Legislatures!
—Paul Sweet, former student

► I am a Navy SEAL turned law student who applied for a fellowship at the Eagleton Institute while I was still in law school. I was awarded the fellowship and placed in Alan’s class for a semester where he taught Legislative Policy, I then spent the following semester in the NJ Senate Republican Office. Alan was an amazing teacher who was confident enough in his abilities to veer away from rote lectures and into open debate with the students. He also moderated heated debates amongst the students. When the class was finished and I was placed into the New Jersey Senate Republican Office, Alan gave me his cell phone number and told me that I could call him if I ever ran into any problems or had any questions. Alan later organized meetings at his home with the students in the class and power brokers in New Jersey. Alan had the ability to connect us to important people in the legislature and moderate discussions in a bipartisan fashion. It is to Alan’s credit that though he may have Democratic tendencies, he has close friends on both sides of the aisle. I learned lifelong lessons from Alan both in and out of the classroom which unfortunately is an outlier in today’s academic environment.
—Ryan Peters, Pennsylvania, attorney

David Frohnmayer► Alan Rosenthal has labored for decades to bring knowledge and vitality to the study of state legislatures. His good humor, keen intellect and incessant curiosity have enabled him to make lasting contributions to our understanding of these vital institutions of representative government. In very few fields of political science scholarship is so much owed to the efforts of a single pioneering investigator. Alan Rosenthal is owed a debt of gratitude by all who study or serve in state governments.
—David Frohnmayer, president-emeritus of the University of Oregon and former state legislator

► Having worked with Alan in the field of ethical standards for the Legislature, I found that he belies the proverb of the Book of Job that: "Great men are not always wise."
—Albert Porroni, director, New Jersey Office of Legislative Services

► Professor Alan Rosenthal is the preeminent expert on state legislatures, governors and state politics as a whole. He is both naturally inspiring and intellectually engaging; a man of refreshing candor. As demonstrated through his body of work, Professor Rosenthal is a political force in his own right. It was an honor and a privilege to be one of his students.
—Abdur Yasin, Henry J. Raimundo Fellow, Eagleton Institute of Politics, firefighter/EMT, West Orange, NJ

Burdett Loomis► Over the years as I’ve done research and writing on state legislative politics, the one constant has been the work and presence of Alan Rosenthal. As a grad student I read his early research and advocacy on “strengthening state legislatures,” later I read one of the best books ever on legislatures, “Legislative Life,” and still later I was honored (and tickled) to be asked to collaborate with him, along with John Hibbing and Karl Kurtz, “Republic on Trial: The Case for Representative Democracy.” Alan could not have been a more generous, helpful, and encouraging co-author on a project where four co-authors had to balance analysis with advocacy, scholarship with a popular presentation. It was great fun for me, and a real learning experience – one that I share, I’m sure, with dozens of Alan’s collaborators, and hundreds of his students.
—Burdett Loomis, professor of Political Science, University of Kansas

Tom Loftus► Alan Rosenthal is a founding father of the modern state legislature. He cares that these uniquely American institutions succeed and play their intended role in our representative democracy. As speaker of the Assembly in Wisconsin for almost a decade I cherished Alan's advice, interest and friendship. Being the speaker is a rather lonely job in the sense that a friend without an agenda is hard to find. Alan was that friend. And, he was that friend to hundreds of others. Whether the legislator was of the Machiavellian bent or the Peter Pan innocent, Alan was a counselor. The state legislature as an institution is a frail thing, more like a garden that needs constant tending than an edifice that endures. To remind the current members they only are the next season and not the start of history is Alan's enduring legacy.
—Tom Loftus, former speaker of the Wisconsin House, ambassador to Norway and author of “The Art of Legislative Politics”

Martin Sabo► I met Alan when I was a young legislator. He taught me and others in the Minnesota Legislature the importance of the legislative institution and the responsibility to nurture it. He is an academic who understands politics.
—Martin Sabo, former speaker of the Minnesota House and member of Congress

► Alan Rosenthal’s work explaining the importance of the legislative institution and the need to defend it has left a positive mark on the Wyoming Legislature. Every time Alan comes to Wyoming, whether it is to address legislators, work with civics teachers, or to speak to citizens, he always reminds us that the legislative process works and works “pretty darn well.” When I introduce Alan as the “rock star” of state legislatures, he thinks I am teasing him, but I am not. For those of us involved in educating the public about the importance of this institution, he is our champion and his work is the well from which we drink. I always leave Alan renewed and inspired by his words and ready to continue spreading the gospel of representative democracy.
—Wendy Madsen, Wyoming legislative staffer

Richard Bagger► Alan is the leading "real world" academic in the study and teaching of state government, including political practitioners like me. When I was a legislator, I considered Alan's insights into the leadership and dynamics of legislatures to be a roadmap for success in the legislative branch. Later, as a governor's chief of staff, I found reading Alan's work and visiting his classes to be a practical source book for advancing policy initiatives in the executive branch. Alan's enthusiasm for state government and admiration for the people who work there make him a much admired mentor in the states.
—Richard Bagger, former New Jersey state legislator and governor’s chief of staff

Alan Simpson► Alan Rosenthal shaped my legislative life. We first met when I was a young Wyoming state legislator. Here was this amazing, creative, inspiring, warm, wise and witty man. He became my mentor as to how to make legislating work. He was a game changer for me. My life is richer for having shared a portion of it with him. I consider him to be one of the greatest influences in my life as a legislator. There have been many other influential people in other areas of my life, but he won the prize in that field. He was “The Wizard” in my mind. God bless him.
—Alan Simpson, former state legislator and U.S. senator, Wyoming

► The writing, in-depth analysis, and advice of Alan Rosenthal have been an amazing asset to individual legislators, legislative leadership, and the practice of good government. Alan's respect for and love of the legislative process have remained solid and genuine over the decades. He is a true friend of representative democracy in this nation.
—Barbara Roberts, former state legislator and governor of Oregon

Robert Jauch► Along with former Congressman Lee Hamilton, Alan Rosenthal is one of the strongest voices in America in advocating for legislators to strengthen the legislative institution and improve the legislative process. Both of them strongly believe in the legislative institution and have dedicated their entire lives to improving the legislative process to sustain a vibrant representative democracy.

Alan is the conscience of state legislatures, and his work provides an honest blueprint for how legislators can rise above partisan electoral driven politics and succeed in creating an effective legislative process that works for all, not just the power brokers and special interests. He provides basic principles of good government and his recommendations are the antidote to the dysfunctional partisan behavior that has led to public cynicism and record low approval ratings for Congress and many legislative bodies. He reminds us to rise above individual, partisan and ideological philosophy because the public’s confidence in the legislature is based upon lawmaker commitment to making it work so that the will of the people indeed becomes the law of the land.

He constantly reminds lawmakers that real power rests in the hands and voices of the American public and that our foremost responsibility is to act as stewards of a public trust to assure ongoing public confidence in our democratic institutions long after we leave.
—Robert Jauch, Wisconsin state senator

Norma Paulus► My association with Alan Rosenthal exposed me to the ideas and workings of other states and allowed me to see innovative approaches that might apply to Oregon's legislative process. It created a tremendous opportunity to make a positive impact in our home states.
—Norma Paulus, former Oregon legislator and secretary of state

►Alan’s work and involvement with the functions of state legislatures made it possible for us in Maine to move out of the 19th century. In the 1970s and 1980s, the Maine Legislature was able to become a co-equal branch of government.
—John Martin, former speaker of the Maine House of Representatives

► Professor Rosenthal is a breath of fresh air. His take on politics is grounded in reality, casting aside ideology in favor of making certain his students understand exactly how state legislatures work. Through an endless number of guest speakers working in the trenches of state politics; to mock exercises in reading political surveys, gerrymandering districts, and handling the crisis of a corrupt member of one's political party during an election season; to pushing us into the field to talk with legislators' district staff, Professor Rosenthal's teaching style is a political boot camp designed to ensure that his students' feet hit the ground running instead of getting trampled by the difficult art of politics. I have never experienced a professor quite like him, and am better equipped to tackle the challenges of legislative policymaking because of his class.
—Randy Gray, student at Rutgers University

► As a young political science student at Boise State University, I was molded by the words of Rosenthal to look into the unique structure and individualism of state legislatures. After going to Rutgers to pursue a masters under his guidance, I got to experience firsthand his mentorship and expertise. He has had an undeniable impact on so many lives, bringing the importance of state legislatures into relatable words.
—Kate Henry, Maryland Department of Legislative Reference, former Eagleton Institute student

Jim Edgar► During the past 50 years Alan Rosenthal has chronicled and at times nudged state government in its evolution since one man one vote. And during this time period no one from the academic world has had a greater impact nationwide on state government than Alan Rosenthal.
—Jim Edgar, former legislative staffer, state legislator and governor of Illinois

David Obey► Without Alan Rosenthal’s work, state legislatures today would have very few staff and little expertise. There would be more politics and less substance in state government. His work with visionary leaders like California Speaker Jesse Unruh and Wisconsin Senate President Bob Knowles resulted in legislatures becoming equal in power to governors.
—David Obey, former Wisconsin state legislator and member of Congress

Sen. Ben Cardin► Alan Rosenthal did more than any other person to modernize the Maryland General Assembly. He not only gave us a roadmap for change, but helped us to develop a legislature that met the needs of a much more complex and challenging political environment. Many of the General Assembly staff were trained by Alan, who was always available for advice. He was not just an outstanding academic, he was the master of execution—he was our five-star general, preserving the critical and unique role of state government in America's contribution to democracy. I will always remember my visits as a guest lecturer to the Eagleton Institute of Politics at Rutgers University, where I learned as much as the students from the discussions. Alan Rosenthal is the best at what he does—guiding state legislatures to meet the needs of its citizens.
—U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin, former speaker of the Maryland House

Paul Sarbanes►A leading scholar of state legislatures and governors, Alan Rosenthal played a major role in bringing about improvements in state government. He was a strong believer in American democracy which has been substantially strengthened by his advocacy and studies.  Alan was a close friend whose wise counsel and warm friendship I treasured. He will be deeply missed.
—Paul Sarbanes, former U.S. senator and Maryland state legislator