NCSL Annual Summit: No “foolish venture”

On my return from the Annual Summit of the National Conference of State Legislatures in New Orleans today, I found an intriguing editorial in the News & Observer today, obviously written by someone who was not there, and had apparently not read the agenda. Here are some of the most enlightening portions of the editorial:

“No doubt there are things legislators can learn from each other, and issues that states have in common. But in a time when North Carolina, along with every other state, is feeling an economic pinch, and when many citizens fear for their jobs and already struggle to make ends meet, this meeting is a foolish venture. The Jones Street world of Tar Heel lawmakers can be a bit cloistered — one where it’s easy to … not recognize, through the insulation of Big Shot-hood, the negative appearances of a trip like this. … But some of that could be accessed at home via the Internet or on the phone or with staffers consulting with each other … ”

Before leaving for New Orleans, I culled from the agenda the meetings most relevant to me, which I list below.  I attended at least one of the meetings listed below in each and every time block below. Many times, there were multiple meetings at the same time and I attended parts of two or more You might notice the heavy emphasis on issues like redistricting, ethics, public records, and access to emails. There were a total of 273 DIFFERENT meetings listed on the master agenda. 

“Foolish venture”?  NOT.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

7:45 am – 9:45 am Internet Archive and the Ontario Legislative Assembly Collaborative Project
Hilton Riverside Eglinton Winton–Second Floor Legislative Research Librarians

How can researchers get access to old and fragile legislative books and records without jeopardizing venerable materials? Learn about the collaborative project between the Internet Archive and the Ontario Legislative Assembly, in which journals are scanned and made available to the public through the Internet Archive. Discuss the implications and gain practical advice for implementing a similar project.

    • Moderator: Judy Smith, State Library of Louisiana
    • Speakers: Peter Ellinger, Library Technology Applications, Legislative Assembly of Ontario
    • Robert Miller, Internet Archive, California
8:00 am – 8:30 am Redistricting and Elections Committee Networking Time
Convention Center R08-R09–Second Level Redistricting and Elections Committee  

Gather and meet colleagues before committee sessions begin at 8:30 a.m.

8:30 am – 9:30 am The Post-November Political Landscape
Convention Center R08-R09–Second Level Redistricting and Elections Committee  

For more than 20 years, the Cook Political Report has offered objective analysis on political races for the president, members of Congress, governors and American political trends. Publisher Charlie Cook will talk about the likelihood of major changes in the fall elections.

    • Moderator: Sue Landske, Senate Assistant President Pro Tempore Office, Indiana
    • Speaker: Charlie Cook, The Cook Political Report, Washington, D.C.
9:30 am – 10:00 am State Primary Systems
Convention Center R08-R09–Second Level Redistricting and Elections Committee  

In this mini-session, the committee will hear about Washington state’s move to a “top-two” primary system similar to the “Cajun-style primary” system used in Louisiana.

    • Speaker: Tom Intorcio, NCSL
    • 10:15 am – 11:45 am General Session: Energy, Economic and Environmental Sustainability
      Convention Center La Louisiane Ballroom–First Level    

      Rising energy prices and U.S. dependency on foreign fuel have brought our vulnerable energy supply to the forefront of state policymakers’ agendas. How can the U.S. maintain the delicate balance between energy, economic and environmental sustainability? Hear Fred Krupp, president of the Environmental Defense Fund, and Marvin Odom, president of Shell Oil, discuss possible solutions.
      Excellence in Legislative Leadership Awards

      • Presiding: Representative Donna D. Stone, NCSL President, Delaware
      • Moderators: Dr. William Jenkins, Louisiana State University
      • William Pound, Executive Director, NCSL
      • Speakers: Fred Krupp, President, Environmental Defense Fund, New York
      • Marvin Odum, President, Shell Oil, Texas
12:00 pm – 1:00 pm Lunch, Roundtable and Committee Business
Convention Center 206–Second Level Redistricting and Elections Committee  

Discuss state redistricting and election developments during 2008 legislative sessions while sharing an informal lunch.

1:00 pm – 2:15 pm U.S. Supreme Court Set to Examine Issue of Race and Redistricting…Again
Convention Center 206–Second Level Redistricting and Elections Committee [CLE]

When the Supreme Court convenes in October, one of the first arguments that it will hear is a complex redistricting case from North Carolina examining the necessary percentage of minority voters to include in a district in order comply with the Voting Rights Act. Are “coalition/influence/crossover” districts permissible, or required, under the act?

    • Moderator: Representative Richard Gallot Jr., Louisiana
    • Speakers: Mark Braden, Baker & Hostetler, Washington, D.C.
    • Bill Gilkeson, Legislative Research Division, North Carolina
    • Sam Hirsch, Jenner & Block, Washington, D.C.
2:30 pm – 3:45 pm Overview of Redistricting Process, Law & Technology
Convention Center 206–Second Level Redistricting and Elections Committee [CLE]

The decennial round of line drawing is around the proverbial corner. Whether you need to brush up on the daunting legal fundamentals or to embark on the arduous journey of learning the process, this session will touch all the bases.

    • Speakers: Kim Brace, Election Data Services, Washington, D.C.
    • Debra Levine, Reapportionment Task Force, New York
    • Peter Wattson, Minnesota Senate
    • Jeffrey Wice, New York Senate
2:30 pm – 4:00 pm LSCC Megasession: Juggling Power, Principle and Professionalism–Ethics and Legislative Staff
Convention Center 222–Second Level Legislative Staff Coordinating Committee  

Join a distinguished ethicist for skills and practical tools needed to uphold your personal and professional integrity, while juggling your numerous roles within the legislature.

    • Moderator: Nancy Cyr, Legislative Research Division, Nebraska
    • Facilitator: Dr. Carol Lewis, University of Connecticut
4:00 pm – 5:00 pm The 2010 Census and the 2011 Redistricting Cycle
Convention Center 206–Second Level Redistricting and Elections Committee  

Learn about new methods being incorporated into the 2010 count and what it means for states from the director of the Census Bureau. Also, find out about data available through the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey and how it might affect redistricting.

    • Moderator: Senator Jeff Wentworth, Texas
    • Speakers: Steve Murdock, U.S. Bureau of the Census, Washington, D.C.
    • Nancy Torrieri, U.S. Bureau of the Census, Washington, D.C.
4:00 pm – 5:00 pm Out with the Old, In with the New: Succession and Retirement Planning in State Legislatures
Convention Center 222–Second Level Leadership Staff Section
Legal Services Staff Section
Legislative Education Staff Network
National Association of Legislative Information Technology
National Legislative Program Evaluation Society
Research and Committee Staff Section

Baby boomers are reinventing what succession planning and retirement means. In response, the Oregon Legislative Assembly developed a program to retain boomers that allows time to recruit and train new employees. Learn about their plan and discuss how retirements will affect legislative staff offices across the country.

    • Speaker: Lore Christopher, Legislative Administration, Oregon

Thursday, July 29, 2008

8:00 am – 9:45 am Legislative Staff Breakfast: Becoming Resilient Change Masters — Staying Right side Up in a World that is Upside Down
Convention Center La Louisiane Ballroom–First Level    

Discover the three characteristics of resilient people and how to develop five attributes that allow individuals and organizations to thrive in a constantly changing world. You’ll find food for thought, substance for your soul, and humor for your spirit in this provocative presentation.
Legislative Staff Achievement Awards
Committee Staff Chair Awards
Online Democracy Award

    • Presiding: Sharon Crouch Steidel, Virginia, NCSL Staff Chair
    • Speaker: Eileen McDargh, Motivational Speaker and Author, California
    • Welcome: Cantor Joel Colman, Temple Sinai, Louisiana
8:30 am – 9:45 am Government E-Mail: Laws and Policies
Convention Center 222–Second Level Communications, Financial Services and Interstate Commerce Committee [CLE]

Is all government e-mail a public record? Do citizens have any privacy rights regarding electronic communications with government officials? What policies are needed for retention of e-mail records? Hear experts discuss current laws, policies and court cases.

    • Moderator: Karen Cochrane-Brown, General Assembly, North Carolina
    • Speakers: Robert Joyce, School of Government, North Carolina
    • Jeremiah Hawkes, House of Representatives, Florida
    • Lisa Wallmeyer, Joint Commission on Technology and Science, Virginia
    • Peter Wattson, Senate, Minnesota
8:30 am – 9:45 am Technology and Redistricting
Convention Center 217–Second Level Redistricting and Elections Committee  

Meet vendors of redistricting software, and learn how the technology will be different than 10 years ago.

    • Speakers: Rich Leadbeater, ESRI, Washington, D.C.
    • Howard Simkowitz, Caliper Corporation, Washington, D.C.
10:00 am – 11:30 am LSCC Megasession: Millennial Makeover
Convention Center 203-205–Second Level Legislative Staff Coordinating Committee  

Baby boomers, move over: the generation of Millennials (born between 1982 and 2003) have already begun to make over politics, and will make over America, according to authors Mike Hais and Morley Winograd. They see a seismic change occurring with the coming of age of the Millenials, one that can reshape American life and politics. Mike Hais will talk about their book, Millennial Makeover, and the kind of change this generation will bring.

    • Moderator: Nancy Cyr, Legislative Research Division, Nebraska
    • Speaker: Mike Hais, Author, California
10:00 am – 11:30 am Using Political Power in the Public Interest
Convention Center 223–Second Level    

The often ambiguous world of public service is filled with ethical judgments. With a nationally known ethicist, explore the challenges of political power, public scrutiny, and ethical leadership, and how to balance often competing ethical claims and legislative responsibilities

    • Facilitator: Dr. Carol Lewis, University of Connecticut
10:00 am – 11:30 am Watching the Retirement Dollars
Convention Center 210–Second Level    

State retirement funds range from billions to hundreds of billions of dollars that, in most states, legislators are not well-equipped to monitor. Hear how state pension commissions and state pension studies strengthen legislators’ abilities to meet the responsibility of oversight.

    • Moderator: Andrea Wilko, Legislative Fiscal Analyst Office, Utah
    • Speakers: Patricia Bishop, JLARC, Virginia
    • Aristotle Hutras, Ohio Retirement Study Council
    • Matthew Smith, Office of the State Actuary, Washington
11:30 am – 1:00 pm Legislative Staff Directors Luncheon
Convention Center 209–Second Level    


1:00 pm – 2:30 pm Bridging the Transportation Funding Gap
Convention Center 229-230–Second Level    

By 2015, transportation funds will fall short of needs by an estimated $1 trillion. The Minnesota bridge collapse lends urgency to finding solutions. What are states doing to bridge this funding gap?

    • Moderator: Karl Spock, Sunset Advisory Commission, Texas Legislature
    • Speakers: Rakesh Mohan, Office of Performance Evaluations, Idaho Legislature
    • Carla Perez, Office of Governor Bill Ritter, Colorado
    • Jim Reed, NCSL
    • Governor Ed Rendell, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
2:45 pm – 4:00 pm General Session: A Conversation About Solving America’s Challenges
Convention Center La Louisiane Ballroom–First Level    

A Conversation on Solving America’s Challenges Newt Gingrich, former speaker of the U.S. House, and Lee Hamilton, director of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and former congressman, will discuss what is needed to move America beyond gridlock to solving our biggest issues, including health care, education and the environment, with innovation and originality.

Pennnsylvania 2009 Kickoff

    • Presiding: Senator Don Balfour, Georgia
    • Moderator: Robert Hoopes, Vox Global Mandate, Washington, D.C.
    • Welcome: Mayor Ray Nagin, New Orleans, Louisiana
4:15 pm – 5:45 pm E-Discovery and the Law
Convention Center 217–Second Level Legal Services Staff Section [CLE]

Examine the federal and the NCCUSL uniform rules for electronically stored information. Legislatures are getting more requests for electronic information (e-mail, phone records, etc.). Who is the custodian of these records? How long should we keep them? How does this affect the attorney-client privilege between legislator and drafter?

    • Moderator: Steve Miller, Legislative Reference Bureau, Wisconsin
    • Panelists: John Carroll, Cumberland School of Law, Alabama
    • Sharon Eubanks, Legislative Legal Services, Colorado
    • Richard Johnson, Legislative Services Agency, Iowa
4:15 pm – 5:45 pm Legislative Websites–Enhancing Access to Information
  • Speakers: Peter Capriglione, General Assembly, North Carolina
  • Scott Darnall, Legislative Research Council, South Dakota
  • Linda Pittsford, Legislative Council, Texas
  • Joel Redding, Kentucky Legislature, Kentucky

Friday, July 25, 2008

8:00 am – 9:30 am A New Life for Online Government
Convention Center 220-221–Second Level    

Web 2.0–a second generation of the Internet–offers new ways to provide services and collaborate with citizens on health, education, public safety and civic life. Explore Second Life and other social networking tools being used by Congress, NASA, the CDC and others.

    • Moderator: Mark Stencel, Governing Magazine, Virignia
    • Panelists: Ric Cantrell, Senate, Utah
    • Norven Goddard, Alabama Department of Homeland Security
    • Leigh Rowan, The SLAgency, California
    • James Walker, Alabama Department of Homeland Security
8:00 am – 9:30 am REAL ID: REALly Moving or REALly Stalled?
Convention Center 203-205–Second Level    

Is REAL ID really on the move now that there are final rules? Will states comply with these standards for state-issued driver’s licenses and ID cards? Review federal action on REAL ID and state reactions to the final rules.

    • Moderator: Ed Smith, NCSL
    • Panelists: Representative Judy M. Burges, Arizona
    • Senator Emmett W. Hanger Jr., Virginia
    • Representative Boyd P. Marley, Maine
    • Senator Steve L. Murphy, Minnesota
    • Representative W. Curtis Thomas, Pennsylvania
    • 9:45 am – 11:45 am General Session: The Changing Face of America and Annual Business Meeting
      Convention Center La Louisiane Ballroom–First Level    

      James Johnson, a noted demographer, will demonstrate how our changing racial and ethnic population will transform the nation and create a new demand for a diverse workforce in our social, economic and political institutions.

      Presiding: Speaker Joe Hackney, North Carolina
      Speaker: Dr. James Johnson, University of North Carolina, Kenan-Flagler Business School, North Carolina

      The second half will feature the NCSL Annual Business Meeting, whose agenda includes debate on policy resolutions that will guide NCSL’s lobbying work over the next 12 months.
      Presiding: Representative Donna D. Stone, Delaware, NCSL President
      Speaker: Representative David Clark, Utah, NCSL Standing Committee Chair

12:00 pm – 1:30 pm LSSS Business Meeting and Luncheon
Convention Center 223–Second Level Legal Services Staff Section  

All legislative lawyers and other staff employed in legal services are welcome to this lunch, which features the election of new LSSS officers and presentation of the annual LSSS Staff Achievement Award.

12:00 pm – 1:30 pm RACSS Business Meeting and Luncheon
Convention Center 209–Second Level Research and Committee Staff Section  

RACSS members hold their annual election of officers and recognize the recipients of the 2008 Legislative Staff Achievement Awards.

    • Presiding: Phil Price, Arkansas Legislative Council
1:30 pm – 4:00 pm Roundtable on Legislative Internship Programs
Hilton Riverside Cambridge–Second Floor    

Join a roundtable discussion and share information on recruiting, training and supervising legislative interns. Find out about academic credit, program support and more.

    • Moderator: Sheila Mason, Kentucky Legislature
2:00 pm – 3:30 pm Is the Presidential Primary Process Broken?
Hilton Riverside Jefferson Ballroom–Third Level    

Critics say the presidential primary process starts too early and takes too long. With states breaking party rules and public confusion about super delegates, the country finds itself asking, again, “Is there a better way?”

    • Moderator: Senator Jeff Wentworth, Texas
    • Speakers: Bob Bennett, Ohio Republican Party
    • David Norcross, Republican National Committee, Washington, D.C.
    • James Roosevelt, Democratic National Committee, Massachusetts
2:00 pm – 3:30 pm Move your Message with Technology
Hilton Riverside Melrose–Third Level Legislator Training Track  

Blogging is just the latest techno-craze available to legislators to move their message out to voters. This session will cover the waterfront of technology-based communications options for elected officials (blogs, MySpace, etc.), how they work, and how you can make them work for you.

    • Panelists: Chris Anderson, The Winston Group, Washington, D.C.
    • Saulius Anuzis, Michigan Republican Party
    • Representative Tricia Ann Cotham, North Carlolina
    • Aaron Smith, Pew Internet and American Life Project, Washington, D.C.
3:45 pm – 5:15 pm Protecting Legislative Digital Records
Hilton Riverside Melrose–Third Level National Association of Legislative Information Technology  

Learn how to ensure that electronic records are accessible for legal discovery, business continuity, and disaster recovery purposes. Discuss the importance of data transfer and archiving methods. Learn about a model way to preserve legislative electronic data and digital records.

    • Moderator: Paul Schweizer, House of Representatives, Minnesota
    • Speakers: Robert Horton, Library, Publications and Collections, Minnesota Historical Society
    • Sean McGrath, Propylon, Ireland

One Response to NCSL Annual Summit: No “foolish venture”

  1. John A. Shaw says:

    You did the right thing by attending the NCSL meeting. Conferences such at the NCSL Summit are an important and necessary way for members of a profession to exchange ideas, share experiences, learn from other’s mistakes and successes, and pick up new ideas.

    This type of idea exchange does not take place over the phone or the Internet. It requires face to face meetings both in organized sessions and in contacts outside the meeting rooms.

    A couple of decades ago I was attending a planning meeting preparing for an annual conference in my profession, industrial automation engineering. I stayed in the same hotel as attendees of an NCSL conference. I met one NC legislator in the elevator. One morning a couple of us engineers shared a table in the crowed hotel coffee shop with a couple of NCSL attendees. I remember very little of the discussion, except the distinct impression that the NCSL attendees were benefiting as much from their conference as we engineers benefited from our conferences.

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