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Legislative Staff Week Kicks Off With New Podcast Series

The first episode covers the long-term effects of the pandemic and how legislatures coped with the emergency.

By State Legislatures News Staff  |  May 5, 2024

In Arkansas, the COVID-19 pandemic hit like an “intense medium quake,” says Sabrina Lewellen, assistant secretary of the Arkansas Senate and current NCSL staff chair.

“We were called into a special session by our then-governor in March of 2020, and we also had to have a fiscal session after that special session,” she says. “So, just for a little context on the time period for me and my state, between March of 2020 through April 10, 2024, at noon when we gavel in for our fiscal session, Arkansas will have convened for 10 legislative sessions in the last 50 months.”

In the first of a three-part podcast series that will roll out over the next few months, Lewellen joins Anne Sappenfield, director of the Wisconsin Legislative Council, and Jay Hartz, director of the Kentucky Legislative Research Commission, to discuss the long-term effects of the pandemic and how their institutions coped with the emergency.

This podcast kicks off Legislative Staff Week, an annual NCSL celebration of the more than 30,000 people working to support legislators and the institution across the country. The three legislative staff leaders talked about how their institutions were affected, some of the innovations staff devised to cope with the emergency and some of the lasting changes resulting from the pandemic.

“The challenge was really to balance the needs to provide services in the manner expected by the legislature, but while also respecting staff concerns about getting COVID,” Sappenfield says. “And, of course, different staff weighed these factors very differently. Some worry a lot about the agency’s reputation if we didn’t proceed as if everything was back to normal. And then some were very worried about getting sick and maybe giving COVID to an elderly parent. What we ended up doing was just meeting as a staff and talking about those factors and how to weigh them.”

Listen to the podcast.

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