Our American States show

Our American States

Summary: The Our American States podcast 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.

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  • Artist: NCSL
  • Copyright: (c) National Conference of State Legislatures


 What the U.S. Supreme Court Told States This Term | OAS Episode 39 | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: Unknown

  When the dust settled from the U.S. Supreme Court decisions in the term that ended in June 2018, states were left with a historic victory regarding the fairness of sales tax collections and the ability to decide for themselves on the legality of sports wagering. While there were other victories, some issues remained cloudy. But perhaps the biggest news of the term was the announcement from Justice Anthony Kennedy that he is retiring. In this episode of “Our American States,” we ask Lisa Soronen, executive director of the State and Local Legal Center, to provide her analysis of the court’s 2017-18 decisions. She also gives her perspective on how Kennedy’s retirement may affect the court’s decisions on state issues in the future. Transcription of Episode 39

 Taxes, Tariffs and Threats: A Look at the Still Booming U.S. Economy | OAS Episode 38 | File Type: audio/mp3 | Duration: Unknown

For most states, the fiscal year ended on June 30, 2018. We decided this would be a good time to get an overview of the national economy from an expert familiar to many state legislators and state legislative staff. Christopher Thornberg, the founding partner of the research firm Beacon Economics, is our guest on this episode. He says a pressing concern for states is higher interest rates over the next 24 months and a lack of workers. He believes the economy will continue to grow over the next two years, but he sees stressors that make him worry how much longer the expansion can last. A “dangerously” low level of consumer savings is one of his concerns. We get reaction to how the federal tax bill is affecting the economy and how tariff policies could affect states. He also explains why he believes Congress and the administration need to pay more attention to policies that have an impact on our economy. It’s part of his discussion he wants to share in his talk, “The Great Disconnect,” when he speaks at the NCSL Legislative Summit in Los Angeles on Aug. 1. Transcription of Episode 38  

 Ride Hailing Services: Wheelchairs and Seniors Waiting at the Curb | OAS Episode 37 | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: Unknown

On this issue of “Our American States,” we’ll take a look at how ride hailing services are having an effect on people with disabilities and older adults. Historically, the Americans with Disabilities Act has required taxi services to make accommodations for people with disabilities to ensure equal access to transportation services. This includes, for example, requirements that taxi companies have a certain number of wheelchair accessible vehicles, and allow service dogs to ride for free. Our guests say the explosive growth of ride hailing services has had unintended consequences, such as a decrease in taxi services, a lack of training for contracted drivers and fewer wheelchair accessible vehicles available. In addition, apps do not have disability-friendly features. On the plus side though, it has opened up employment opportunities for older adults. This episode features interviews with: Carol Tyson, government affairs liaison, Disability Rights Education and Defense Funds Jana Lynott, senior strategic policy adviser, AARP Public Policy Institute’s Livable Communities team Additional Resources Transcription of Episode 37

 Behind the Supreme Court Case That Gives States OK to Tax Internet Sales | OAS Episode 36 | File Type: audio/mp3 | Duration: Unknown

For more than 25 years, states have worked to close a loophole that allowed online companies to sell products tax free, while traditional brick and mortar stores were forced to collect and remit those taxes to states. The effort to put fairness in the marketplace and in state tax policy was led by the creation of a special task force formed by the National Conference of State Legislatures 26 years ago. The work paid off on June 21, 2018 when the United States Supreme Court reversed a 1992 decision that said businesses only had to collect sales taxes if they had a physical presence in the state. In the new case, South Dakota v Wayfair, the court noted that the state had adopted the Streamlined Sales and Use Tax Agreement, which NCSL and other associations created to set a standard for the collection of taxes on online purchases. In this edition of “Our American States,” we have two experts who have worked intimately on this issue. William Pound is the executive director of the National Conference of State Legislatures and worked with officers, state legislators and legislative staff 26 years ago to create the NCSL Executive Committee Task Force on State and Local Taxation. The group has worked tirelessly to bring fairness on this issue. Max Behlke is the budget and tax director of the National Conference of State Legislatures State-Federal Relations Department in their Washington, D.C., office. He has staffed NCSL’s task force for several years. Additional Resources Transcription of Episode 36

 Summer Learning Programs Closing Achievement Gaps | OAS Episode 35 | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: Unknown

Taking classes in the summer was once seen as a punitive measure. Research, though, is showing that students of all ages and grades often suffer from a “summer slide,” or summer learning loss that makes re-entry to school in the fall more difficult. Our guests explain how this slide is tied into the achievement gap and affects students over time. Matthew Boulay is the founder and CEO of the National Summer Learning Association. He discusses how students experience a “summer slide” and why it’s important to help students maintain gains from each school year. Oregon State Representative Barbara Smith Warner (D) chaired the state’s Summer Learning Work Group, and is working to enhance summer learning programs for students in the state.

 Putting the “Human” in Human Resources | OAS Episode 34 | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: Unknown

In this edition, we talk with the president and CEO of the world’s largest human resource association, Johnny Taylor. His organization, the Society for Human Resource Management, represents human resource professionals in 165 countries and has more than 300,000 members. Taylor provides his expertise and discusses how state legislatures can benefit from stronger human resource offices and policies. We get his advice for human resource directors and he explains why it’s important to have those directors at the table when important organizational decisions are being made. He leaves us with a look at the biggest trends affecting human resource management today: workforce, artificial intelligence and culture. Taylor will be featured as a keynote speaker at NCSL’s Legislative Summit this summer. Additional Resources Transcription of Episode 34 2018 NCSL Legislative Summit

 Mindfulness: Legislative Staff Elixir | OAS Episode 33 | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: Unknown

Working in state legislatures is a very demanding job. State legislative serve in an institution where workload changes can come often and swiftly. The shifting nature of legislation and the mixture of public opinion, rules, procedures and process make session work stressful. But for the estimated 30,000-plus legislative staff that work in legislatures during session, most will tell you the work is rewarding. This week, the National Conference of State Legislatures is celebrating Legislative Staff Week and we’re devoting this episode of “Our American States” to the topic of mindfulness—keeping oneself in the present and maintaining a calm demeanor even under stressful conditions. Our guests are: Tammy Wright, who is the clerk of the New Hampshire Senate. She talks about how she uses mindfulness in her role as she works with leadership and her staff during the legislative session. Megan Jones Bell, the chief science officer of Headspace, a company that merges technology and meditation. She will be a featured speaker at NCSL’s annual meeting in Los Angeles this summer. Additional Resources Transcription of Episode 33

 Online Sales Tax Decision Up to the Supreme Court | OAS Episode 32 | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: Unknown

In 1992, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that online retailers did not have to collect sales or use taxes unless the company had a physical presence in a state. Soon after, the National Conference of State Legislatures and other state and local government organizations, championed efforts in Congress and in the states to fix the remote sales tax issue.  NCSL President and South Dakota Senator Deb Peters (R), who has been active with NCSL in addressing this matter, filed legislation in her state designed to challenge the issue. On April 17, 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court heard the case, South Dakota v. Wayfair, which could result in retailers collecting the sales tax owed on purchases. We discuss the legislation and background leading up to the case with Senator Peters, and also talk with Supreme Court expert Lisa Soronen, who is executive director of the State and Local Legal Center. Additional Resources Additional Resources Remote Sales Tax Collection Transcription of Episode 32

 700 Billion Reasons to Care About the Census | OAS Episode 31 | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: Unknown

In 2020, the U.S. will conduct its next census. The result of that census will determine the amount of federal funds appropriated to states—nearly $700 billion federal aid is at stake. It also will determine the number of seats in Congress a state receives, as well as redistricting for state legislative and local seats. This episode will explain why an accurate count is critical to government, businesses, nonprofits and other organizations. Preparations are underway and states are taking a lead role, with many already creating statewide complete count commissions to ensure accurate counts. Our guests will explain the process of collecting the data of more than 327 million people and what will happen between now and when official data are collected. They also say state legislators have a critical role to play in the process. Our three guests are: Tim Olson, associate director for field operations, U.S. Census Bureau. Terri Ann Lowenthal, census consultant and former staff director of the House Census Oversight Committee. Patrick Potyondy, a legislative policy specialist and ACLS-Mellon public fellow in NCSL’s Elections and Redistricting program. Additional Resources Transcription of Episode 31

 Students and Legislatures—A Two-Way Street | OAS Episode 30 | File Type: audio/mp3 | Duration: Unknown

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. Additional Resources Transcription of Episode 30 America's Legislators Back to School Program

 The Economic Argument for Early Childhood Education | OAS Episode 29 | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: Unknown

For a little more than two years, states have been implementing a federal law called the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), a bipartisan federal education law that the Wall Street Journal characterized as “the largest devolution of federal control to the states in a quarter-century.” ESSA enhances state’s ability to close “opportunity gaps,” which occur when one group of students consistently receives more educational inputs than another group. In this podcast, economist Art Rolnick explains how investing in early childhood education can pay off in big ways for the states, by closing opportunity gaps before they become achievement gaps. Through research, he has quantified the economic benefits to states. We also talk with Utah state Senator Howard Stephenson (R), who shares how working with incarcerated youth in his state changed his perspective on the value of early childhood education programs. For more on early childhood education and closing opportunity gaps, review NCSL’s research. Additional Resources Transcription of Episode 29

 Pot Puts States, Feds at Odds | OAS Episode 28 | File Type: audio/mp3 | Duration: Unknown

For the nine states and the District of Columbia that have approved the sale of recreational marijuana, and the 29 states and three territories that allow the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes, there is great concern about the federal government’s desire to seek criminal prosecution over the possession of marijuana. U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has made it known he would like to enforce federal laws that prohibit the possession of marijuana for any purposes. This could be of special concern for the estimated 2.5 million Americans who use the drug for medicinal reasons. Our guests, both experts from the National Conference of State Legislatures, guide us through this issue. Susan Frederick, senior federal affairs counsel at NCSL, walks us through the attorney general’s actions and explains what is at stake for states. Karmen Hansen, a program director in NCSL’s health program, breaks down the statistics on state laws, including how much revenue is being generated and what is on the horizon following the attorney general’s actions. Additional Resources Transcription of Episode 28

 Place Your Bets: States, Sports Gambling and Fantasy Sports | Episode 27 | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: Unknown

With the completion of Super Bowl 52 this past weekend, we decided to take a look at states and sports, in particular the laws that regulate sports gaming and daily fantasy sports. An estimated $150 billion or more is wagered illegally on sporting events each year. Currently, sports gambling is allowed only in Nevada and a few other exceptions. A case before the U.S. Supreme Court, which is looking at The Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992, could allow more states to allow these types of wagers. And it could open the doors for greater acceptance of daily sports fantasy contests. Providing background, insight and perspective on these issues are Ethan Wilson, policy director of NCSL’s Commerce and Financial Services Standing Committee,  and Jake Lestock, an NCSL policy specialist in the State-Federal Relations Division.  Transcription of Episode 27

 Tackling Sexual Harassment in the Legislature | OAS Episode 26 | File Type: audio/mpeg | Duration: Unknown

Sexual harassment, spurred primarily the #metoo movement, has been front to the forefront of every sector—including government. In this episode, we talk with three experts to get a sense of what types of changes are happening in state legislatures and to find out what types of best practices they should consider. First we talk with Jonathan Griffin, a program principal at the National Conference of State Legislatures, who tracks state legislative policies and procedures regarding sexual harassment. He provides an overview of some of the major changes happening in state legislatures. Jenny Yang, a recent commissioner on the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, provides her perspective on sexual harassment. She discusses how it is tied to discrimination, proper procedures and why institutions should consider changes in culture and behaviors. Closing out the program is Jonathan Segal a recognized national expert on sexual harassment issues. He shares his thoughts on accountability, the role of leadership and how to restore trust in sexual harassment systems. And, he points out that we all have a responsibility to take a stand when we observe or overhear inappropriate behavior.  Transcription of Episode 26

 State of State Legislatures 2018 | OAS Episode 25 | File Type: audio/mp3 | Duration: Unknown

William Pound, executive director of the National Conference of State Legislatures, offers his insight on major issues state legislatures will be addressing in their 2018 sessions. Based on a January article in State Legislatures magazine, “Top 10 in 2018,” we get his insights on: States reaction to the federal tax cut bill State revenue health Opioids Recreational and medical marijuana Immigration Reduction of federal regulations Cybersecurity Health Education Driverless vehicles Energy Infrastructure Sexual harassment Election administration Resources Transcription of Episode 25


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