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National Conference of State Legislatures

ncsl staff legislative issues

The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) was founded in 1975 with the conviction that legislative service is one of democracy's worthiest pursuits. Representing the citizens of a district and the people of a state is the very essence of free government.

NCSL is recognized as the preeminent bipartisan organization dedicated to serving the lawmakers and staffs of the nation's fifty states, its commonwealths, and its territories. It is known nationally for its leadership. All the nation's legislators and legislative staff are members of NCSL. A sixty-member executive committee, elected yearly and composed of legislators and staff, governs NCSL under the leadership of seven officers.

With a focus on service, NCSL is a source for research, publications, consulting assistance, meetings, and seminars. It is the only organization that provides an open, bipartisan, national forum for lawmakers to communicate with one another and share ideas. NCSL is an effective and respected voice for the states in Washington, D.C., representing their interests before the U.S. Congress, the presidential administration, and federal agencies.

The issues legislatures confront are increasingly complex. Each year NCSL answers more than 16,000 questions from legislators and staff. The researchers at NCSL provide lawmakers and their staffs with expert information on a variety of issues, including welfare reform, education, criminal justice, energy, environment, transportation, health care, children and families, the legislative institution, economic development, state finances, uninsured children, automobile insurance, workers' compensation, nuclear waste, clean air and water, gaming, education funding, immigrants, managed care, ethics, and many others.

Each year, NCSL produces some 160 books, newsletters, briefs, and other publications, including State Legislatures magazine, on topics of interest to the states. Its Internet site provides thousands of documents from states as well as those published by NCSL. The site includes numerous databases, features listservs through which lawmakers and staff can communicate, and provides users the ability to perform comprehensive research using multistate searches of legislation, statutes, audits, and other legislative documents.

NCSL assists lawmakers in crafting legislation and in seeking expert witnesses to testify before committees. NCSL also conducts special workshops on specific issues and training programs for legislators and staff. NCSL specialists work with legislative leaders on direct consultation projects on legislative organization and management, rules and procedures, committee operations, personnel policies, strategic planning, and related institutional issues. Nearly half of the sixty-member NCSL executive committee is composed of state legislators.

Legislators and legislative staff have numerous opportunities to attend NCSL meetings on a variety of issues and topics throughout the year. The annual meeting provides more than 160 informative sessions and presents nationally renowned speakers on important concerns. Like legislatures, NCSL is structured to allow free and open debate in committees. The Assembly on Federal Issues is comprised of lawmakers who are interested in federal issues and how they relate to the states. The assembly helps guide NCSL's lobbying efforts in Washington, D.C., through the work of nine committees, and its members are appointed by the presiding leaders in the states. The leader-to-leader meeting, held in Washington, D.C., each year, is the premier gathering for state legislative leaders to discuss pressing federal issues with congressional leaders, cabinet officers, key members of the administration, and often the president. Both legislators and staff can be appointed to the Assembly on State Issues. Through its eight standing committees, members address a set of topics from cultural and economic development and fiscal matters to science and technology.

Legislatures cannot run effectively without professional, high-quality staff. NCSL offers a wealth of learning and professional development opportunities for staff. Among them are an annual seminar to help staff sharpen their skills in research, program evaluation, fiscal analysis, bill drafting, and legislative procedures. Specialized meetings cover presentation skills, media relations, legal research, and skills development in other areas.

NCSL has ten professional staff organizations for researchers, fiscal officers, leadership staff, legal services staff, legislative clerks, secretaries, computer staff, research librarians, program evaluators, and security personnel. With the Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota, NCSL also cosponsors the Legislative Staff Management Institute, an intensive, two-week executive management seminar for senior legislative staff.

NCSL's Leaders' Center assists legislative leaders in meeting the challenges of managing the institution, crafting the best possible public policy, creating consensus out of dissension, communicating with Congress and key administration officials, and protecting and promoting the legislative institution. The Leaders' Center offers specialized services including publications, timely policy information, and ideas for innovative management, and sponsors the annual Leadership Institute for emerging leaders. NCSL offers leaders opportunities to enhance skills, communicate with colleagues in other states, and meet with members of Congress and the administration.

NCSL created the foundation for state legislatures in 1982 to support the innovative research, seminars, and publications for NCSL and the work of two major programs: the Acclaimed Trust for Representative Democracy and the Center for Ethics in Government. The foundation is committed to the important work of strengthening America's legislatures, counteracting cynicism and distrust of the legislative process, and helping lawmakers confront and solve the critical issues of the time.

NCSL's Center for Ethics in Government was created to address a most critical, fundamental and far-reaching problem facing the United States: the loss of public trust and confidence in representative democracy. The center is founded on the principles of belief in representative democracy and the legislative process and that all who work in the public sector have a particular responsibility to operate with high ethical standards. By facilitating ethics sessions for legislators, staff, and state government affairs professionals and through its research arm, the center is a leading force in promoting responsible behavior in legislatures and educating the public on the importance of the legislative process.

NCSL is an extension of the legislature. Its mission is to improve the quality and effectiveness of state legislatures, to serve as the forum for exchanging information and ideas among legislatures, and to ensure that legislatures have a strong, cohesive voice in the federal system.

INTERNET RESOURCE

NATIONAL CONFERENCE OF STATE LEGISLATURES. 2002. <www.ncsl.org>.

GINGER SAMPSON

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