NCSL Podcasts

The Critical Role of Supporting State Governments | LTIS Episode 17

Episode Summary

Tim Storey, NCSL’s CEO, and David Adkins, executive director and CEO of the Council of State Governments (CSG), sat down to talk about state government on this episode of the podcast. CSG works with all three branches of state government and its goal, much like NCSL, is to empower those in state government through collaboration, research and technical assistance Tim talks with David about his lifelong interest in politics and government, and how his parents—a dad who was a Kansas state trooper and a mom active in Republican politics--stoked that passion. Adkins reflected on the changing nature of American politics during his time in the Kansas statehouse, and over the last 15 years running CSG. They talked about civility and how to foster it and the increasing value of nonpartisan, credible organizations that can support those working in state government.

Episode Notes


Episode Transcription

TS:      This is “Legislatures: The Inside Storey.”  Thank you for listening. I’m the host Tim Storey, CEO of the National Conference of State Legislatures NCSL. My guest is David Adkins, the executive director and CEO of the Council of State Governments or CSG. The organization that David oversees works with all three branches of state government including legislatures and their goal, much like NCSL, is to empower those in state government through collaboration, research and technical assistance so that they can excel in serving the people in their states. I talked with David about his lifelong interest in politics and government and how his parents--a dad who was a Kansas state trooper and a mom active in Republican politics--stoked that passion. David reflected on the changing nature of American politics during his time in the Kansas state house and over the last 15 years running CSG. We talked about civility and how to foster it and the increasing value of nonpartisanship and credible organizations that can support those who work in state government.


            David Adkins, I’ve really been looking forward to having you on the podcast. I mean that sincerely. Thank you for making some time for me today. 


DA:     Well Tim, it’s great to be with you. 


TS:      You know we’ve been doing this for a year or so now and I have to go into some detail about who we are talking to, but this is not something we have to spend a lot of time on. I think you are well acquainted with the legislature world and legislative staff, legislatures and that’s what’s this is about so we are trying to bring this back to that unique ecosystem in the world, so I don’t have to do a whole lot of that. But that’s why I wanted you on, you know, wanted to have a conversation, is that you do have this terrific history with legislatures. And now you’ve got this you know important key role in guiding the nation’s state governments. How did you get here?


DA:     We have to go back to the plains of Kansas. My dad was a Kansas highway patrol officer, and I grew up just incredibly proud of him and the uniform that he wore. As a result of that, when the tornado hit our town, the governor would be in the car with him, and he would be showing the governor the damage. When Dwight Eisenhower passed away, Abilene was just the next town over and my dad would be in charge of security and President Nixon would be there. My mom was very involved in Republican politics. At that time, Kansas elected a governor every two years, so she was one of those local volunteers. And I can remember playing with my matchbox cars on the carpet of the law office when she would be making calls to get people to come out to vote or to get a yard sign. In some ways I was around state government because my dad had a nonpartisan role. My mom was involved in politics, and I was a Boy Scout who loved all of that. I couldn’t catch a football or hit a tennis ball, but politics became kind of the sport that I grew up with. Bob Dole was a fixture in our state and somebody that I got to see and know. He visited my 6th grade class. And so, I don’t know. Politics just kind of was in my blood early. You know I ran for Boys State governor and was elected and was my high school student body president, my college student body president. I just loved I loved the process of politics. And so, when I graduated from law school, I had clerked at a law firm founded by a former governor of Kansas. Five years in, I became a partner and the state representative in the district that I lived in, he said that he was leaving the legislature, and I thought well, OK, now is the time to try to run. That was in 1992. I have to say that it was one of the most rewarding experiences in my life. You make absolutely no money. You are making incredible sacrifices. Your family has to give up a lot, but I wouldn’t trade the education and the experience that I had, the friendships that were forged. It was a great experience.


TS:      And that led you to CSG?


DA:     I was active in CSG. Attended NCSL meetings as well. I became a regional chair of CSG. It’s one of the unique aspects of our organization is that we have four regional components. When it was Kansas’ turn to host the Midwestern legislative conference in a very circuitous way, I was selected to be the chair or the nominee from Kansas. I was a Toll fellow, one of our leadership development programs. After I left the legislature, I’d been an executive vice chancellor at the University of Kansas Medical Center for about five years. And this job came open. I loved what I was doing, but some people suggested I ought to apply for it and it’s one of those great situations where when you don’t need a job you approach the search process in a way that I think is kind of liberating. And when it ultimately came down to being a finalist, have a visit with your family to say are we going to do this. And my wife was willing to take the jump and that was almost 15 years ago that we moved to Lexington, Kentucky, and started this job.


TS:      Talk about CSG just generally for a minute or two. You know make sure that everybody understands exactly what it is all about.


DA:     Yeah, CSG if one of those things that it can be whatever it needs to be for the people who plug into it in the ways in which they want to connect to it which makes it really difficult to say in a succinct sentence what’s our brand. But, if I had to say in a nutshell, we were founded in 1933 by a former Senator from Colorado Henry Toll who brought together a group of friends initially as part of the National Legislator’s Association. And then that morphed into the Council of State Governments. In its early years, it actually was created in statute in most states as sort of an intergovernmental intrastate affairs commission that was designated in each state. And they participated in the council. You can imagine in 1933, the worst year of the Great Depression, there wouldn’t have been interstate highways. A long-distance phone call would have been very expensive. But the nation was confronting one of its greatest challenges with the Great Depression and my guess is state governments at that time would have been fairly nascent. They would have been small in scope and power, but they had a lot to learn from each other. And so, I think this confluence of states getting together and talking about solutions probably led to a lot of the kinds of developments that later would have the federal governments and states working to you know address the real challenges of the Great Depression. As federal power grew, the organization morphed into trying to be a voice for the states. But when it’s all said and done, what we try and do is much like what NCSL tries to do. We connect. We engage. We inform. We seek to inspire and ultimately empower state officials in all three branches of government both elected and appointed to solve problems and do that in a nonpartisan way. And that continually evolves and adapts to the priorities that our members have. Like NCSL, we are supported by state dues. States pay us dues that are, you know, create the foundation upon which our organization is built, but ultimately with grants and foundation support, we are a $50 million plus annual budget with 300 employees across the nation.


            (TM):  7:08


TS:      And you bring together, but also the judicial branch right and the executive branch as well as legislative branch. So that three branches is really fundamental cause I’ve heard you talk about that a number of times.


DA:     We actually have as our sweet spot this idea that it’s unique and rare, but when executive branch officials, judicial branch officials and legislators get in the same room, there is a synergy that is created that we think accelerates the ability to craft solutions that are meaningful and efficacious. It’s remarkable how in the course of being in the state capital if you are in a legislative role, your interactions with the judiciary are very seldom. And frankly in many cases your interactions with the executive branch are mainly in an oversight function. There’s not many chances where you sit down and say here are the issues. What do we need as separate and equal branches of government to try to bring what we can bear to the solution. You think about just any number of issues from sort of mass incarceration to the foster care system to the fentanyl crisis. Those all have executive, judicial and legislative engagement that is required to craft solutions. We’ve seen particularly through our justice center how bringing together those state officials to focus on criminal justice and public safety issues can be really effective. 


TS:      Founded in 1933. You know your hundredth anniversary is not that far away. But of course, the world has changed a lot right. No interstate highway system. Now we have you know the Jetsons phone. You can video call somebody in a nano second and not just in the United States, but all over the world for the most part. Information is overwhelming and fast. There is an ocean of information right. So, like NCSL. I mean I’m sort of asking you because I know how I would take this question, but like why we still need CSG and NCSL both, right. And times have changed so much from a time when you basically couldn’t get together much at all and it was just really a day’s long effort. How are we still backing up legislatures in this world?


DA:     Yes, Tim I reflect on the building I’m sitting in now which is the CSG headquarters building in Lexington, Kentucky. We started in Chicago, but moved to Kentucky when the commonwealth said you know come here. We will build you a building and that was 1969. And I remember when we renovated this building, huge spaces of it were dedicated to libraries and secretarial pools. I would say probably at least half the building was a library where hard copies of reports were necessary and that was the only place states could get that kind of comparative analysis. I always say that particularly among legislators the question is that always on their mind is what are other states doing and how is my state compared to those other states and what can I learn from those other states that will help me do it better in my state. So, you know there is Google for that now in many instances. So, I think some of the strengths that CSG leans into are certainly camaraderie and the ability to bring people together in a nonpartisan way where they can be vulnerable. They are in a safe space. We aren’t trying to sell them something. We’re not trying to advocate to them. We really are facilitating a network of self-supporting public servants who are people of purpose, who have a passion for public service, and they are hungry to get together and commiserate to learn from each other. I’ve always said that we put on great conferences, but oftentimes it’s the conversations they have next to each other on a bus going from one place to another where they are digging into what are you doing about fuel taxes in your state. And what did you do about fentanyl in high schools in your state or I hear you are doing a drug court. What’s that all about. And it’s that camaraderie – that sense of we are in this together. And oftentimes my own experience with CSG or NCSL, I was often in rooms, and I didn’t know who was a Democrat or a Republican and I didn’t care. Some of my best friends that emerged from my participation in CSG would be people that weren’t politically aligned with my, you know, my particular positions at that time, but it didn’t matter. And I still think there is the humanity. I’ve seen the humanity in public servants and giving them a place where they can come together is really the sacred calling of our organizations. 


Now, I would also argue that the complexity of public policy issues has grown exponentially. If you think about so, how are we going to address climate change or weather resiliency. How do you figure out issues like gun violence and what are appropriate responses given all of the inputs and demands. And all of those things you talked about the speed of communication, social media. It just increases the stakes or apparently increases the stakes for the space that legislators have to craft solutions and to think about these issues. I actually think that if we can provide them with trusted guidance and information that is properly curated and reflects their priorities, we are not feeding the disinformation machine. We are not part of the eco-chamber. I think there is a certain credibility that when NCSL checks in on something or CSG checks in on something, it has a certain stamp of credibility in state capitals and that is something we protect, as I know you do, pretty passionately. 


TS:      Glad you mentioned that. I’ve been thinking about this exact thing which is that we are steadfastly bipartisan and nonpartisan in some ways. We have characteristics of both. We have partisans who are active, and we serve people from the far, far right ideologically to the far, far left just as you do. One of these incredibly complex questions that is confronting all states in society is what is the truth right cause now with deep fake videos. You know you can see something, and your eyes will it deceives the eyes, and this is an area where states are going to have to step in and start to legislate what the truth is. You know so what’s evidence in court when you can create a video that looks like anything, and you don’t have to be a Hollywood producer with an unlimited budget to create fake video and information and audio for that matter so or documents. So, these are the kinds of things we have to figure out. I was with five legislative leaders yesterday and all former leaders actually were doing a panel and they talked about this notion of like we are getting into a narrow, narrow group of trusted sources because everything has spin. Every media outlet feels like there is more spin. They are kind of leaning left or right more than ever so this notion that our organizations are maybe more important than ever. As long as we keep the firewalls up to maintain that you know trusted source. Information that is just information. So, I’m glad to hear you echo that. 


            (TM):  14:21


DA:     Yeah, both of our organizations have been blessed to have leaders who understand that their role in our organization is not the same role that they play in the political venue of their legislators. They have the ability to work at a higher level of consensus and comedy that you know allows pluralism to emerge from conversations on issues that frankly aren’t that partisan now. The politicization of every issue is certainly a challenge, but as you know the vast majorities of what legislatures and state governments do to govern really isn’t a democrat or a republican conservative or progressive right or left kind of an issue. And so, there is still a huge issue set around which I think people can come together and learn from each other. I do think thought that I absolutely agree with you. Artificial Intelligence you know the whole surveillance state whether the Chinese are looking in on us on TikTok or a balloon in the sky or the ways in which our data and information and our preferences, our likes are all harvested and then monetized. State legislatures are just now starting to really try to determine where can those lines be drawn before people’s privacy and commerce and all the ways we as individual citizens value our privacy but so willingly surrender it just to have access to some site on the Internet.


            You add to that artificial intelligence and the ways in which, you know, we talked about having this library of things and then google came along and now legislators may be able to say into an app give me three pages of testimony on a certain bill and it will automatically be created. And what it does is it just goes out and scrapes the Internet to the extent that disinformation or misinformation is out there, it will be incorporated into those products. And that’s where I think I think equipping citizen legislators with a greater capacity for discernment, a greater capacity for curiosity you know competence in curiosity. Understanding how to truly understand rather than vilify or how to overcome polarization by seeking to really to use good conflict to help resolve public policy challenges rather than just buying into the high conflict of vilifying your political opponents. I think that is a skillset that in today’s world we can’t take for granted. The default will be to go back to your tribe to lean into the eco-chamber and there will be a certain base of voters that are always susceptible to the litmus test of are you one of us or are you not. But we are smart enough to know that complex problems don’t get solved in that space and you know articulating grievances isn’t a political strategy that ultimately results in governing. It may be successful in the short term politically and I think our organizations are that place where you know the people who participate with us aren’t screaming into the wind. They are actually interested in the art of governing and that’s where you know we read all the stories about this legislator did something that made the news, or somebody said something that you know got them cancelled. The press loves to exaggerate and elevate those, but as you know, and this is the blessing of the positions that we have we get to work every day with really dedicated smart public servants that are making tremendous sacrifices to serve their states. But I’m just always amazed at the talent and passion and commitment that they bring to that task and it sounds like you know it sounds sycophantic to say it, but if in my role, I can help celebrate those unsung heroes that are just getting the job done that are focused in an ethical way with integrity to really serve the people who put them in the state capital, well that’s a role that I relish that does take me back to those days when I was in grade school and my mom was involved in politics and I had the chance to be exposed to leaders that I admired and respected. 


TS:      I want to bring this back to a couple of things. One I don’t think I’m going to insult any of my listeners or all of the legions of fans of this podcast when I say this civility thing is real and you touched on it. It’s one of the five things you touched on I would like to go deeper on. I’m becoming more aware of the distortion that political consultants are putting into their lives. There is a consultant class that has grown I think sort of quietly in a way because they do work a little bit in the shadows, and we’ve always talked about these purveyors of the dark arts of campaigns and that. But I think their power has grown and they really discovered legislatures because there is money there right. I mean the campaigns and the money they are raising to run you know for a seat in the legislature is just seems like it’s going up way faster than inflation. And then the consultants come in and say yeah scorched earth that is strategy one and then strategy two is double scorched earth. And it takes real leaders to say I’m not going to send that mailer. You know it may be technically true, but I’m not going to destroy this person on the other side.


DA:     Well Tim I think all we have to do is look to Washington and recognize that there is a natural tendency for politics to be on a pendulum. So, I’m not a person who engages in a lot of hand ringing worried that the demise of democracy is upon us, but I do believe that we always have to be vigilant about our institutions. And I know that NCSL and CSG has as part of its sort of sacred mission this idea that we are advocates for the institution of state legislatures. We saw though the pandemic real ability to call out innovations and champion the ways in which legislatures were innovating during that time period. But you look at Washington. And I would just tell you the story of my intern in the legislature who ultimately got elected to congress. He obviously had a much more promising political career than I did but went off to Washington and was well liked and ultimately became a subcommittee chair on the appropriations committee. But he was telling me the story of being called into the whip’s office on a Monday morning. They were asking him who he had been hanging out with over the weekend because there had been pictures posted in social media in which he, as a Republican, had been with a Democrat and he was seen at a bar with a Democrat. And the rule was anything you say can and will be used against you. And so, in the old days, yeah, in the old days you know another one of my great friends was Senator Pat Roberts from Kansas. He had been on the staff of a congressperson for 18 years and then he was the congressperson for 18 years. Then he was elected to the U.S. Senate. He chaired both the House and the Senate AG committees. I visited him at his house in Virginia and his wife was from Virginia. His kids grew up in Virginia and went to school in Virginia. His friends were the spouses and members that all had moved to Washington and created a community that they interacted with each other. It’s the Warren Hatch-Ted Kennedy story. They were best friends and that was possible in a time when you weren’t flying to Washington on a Tuesday morning going to fundraisers every night and flying back to your district on Friday. 


            I see a convergence of several forces that concern me. One is that we celebrate the states as Brandeis said as the laboratories of democracy. We truly believe that in this 50-state system of sovereign states coming together to create a federal union that there is the opportunity for innovation and discovery that is unparalleled in any other nation, and it is one part of American exceptionalism that each state has the ability to chart its destiny around a set of issues that is reserved exclusively for that state. Now as federal power has grown and the ability of states to chart their destiny has been diminished by coercive federalism, some aspects of the laboratories of democracy have given way to sort of federal preemption and mandates. But I believe that that still exists in many ways. Now what worries me is that with the gridlock that is in Washington, there is now a real heightened interest in what’s going on in state legislatures. And with that, sort of the tendency is towards nationalizing every issue. Bringing money in from national groups into state legislative races and I worry, and I know that some scholars have studied this. But that it undermines the sort of leeway that any state has to be this laboratory of democracy to innovate and to be unique and addressing a particular problem and then being able to compare well how did Massachusetts deal with the problem compared to how did Arizona deal with the problem. That sort of learning from each other that takes place. The harvesting of the laboratories of democracy is undermined when essentially the legislative agenda of every state becomes the same because the national interest with their money flowing into these legislative races undermines that creativity. And then candidates they understand they are going to be interested in getting donors to help support their campaigns and with the media that is required to be elected you know these campaigns when I ran you know you might have $20,000 would be a lot in a house race. And now it’s not uncommon for a state senate race to be a million dollar, a multimillion-dollar campaign.


            Tim, I’ll tell you when I was in the legislature it was 1996 and we’d gone through a process to reform juvenile justice in Kansas and I was in the House. I had been appointed by the governor to chair the Kansas Youth Authority, so I had sort of an executive branch role in facilitating a number of stakeholders to put together the proposal. But I can remember we had a huge mini page Bill, but I cosponsored that with the House minority leader who was the ranking member of the Judiciary Committee for the democrats. So, it was not unusual to say at the beginning of a session if I want to get a big Bill passed, I need to have 2 or 3 major democrats sponsoring that with me. It inoculated the politics. And I worry that today maybe that’s not so much the case. 


            (TM):  25:03


TS:      You know a story I heard. I won’t say the state. I heard from a leader in a medium sized state yesterday who was saying that their in this case it was a Republican-dominated state and but the best Democrat in the minority had passed you know had the best record. They had more bills passed than the rest of the caucus combined. They were all bipartisan and they actually got like I forget what the number was like 90 pieces of legislation passed. Got taken out in the last primary because they had worked too much with the majority party. And everything that they had done was, you know, probably good stuff, right. It wasn’t partisan. They weren’t, you know, these weren’t bills to on lightening rod issues. These were just good government bills. OK, so how do we fix it?


DA:     I don’t have any personal policy preferences here so I want to make sure that I have that disclaimer, but I am interested in how open primaries and rank choice voting will maybe inoculate some candidates from that being taken out in perhaps a multicandidate primary in which a plurality wins and the nominee that wins may just be the person who is able to energize a more extreme element of the base that isn’t much interested in governing. I don’t know that there is much of a governing dividend in the primary, but I do think it is interesting to look at some of these states where rank choice voting, or you know all candidates are put on the same ballot and the top 4 emerge or the top 2 emerge and they might be from the same party. When it is all said and done obviously civic education and getting more people to be engaged in politics is so important to having the results of elections be an expression of true, we the people the majority rules. But if you look even at our presidential primaries these early states, it doesn’t take much of polarity to be declared the winner of a primary. And those early states you know you might have 25% of the vote but if you stack that up 2 or 3 states in a row in a big field, you end up being the nominee for president of the United States. It’s over pretty quickly.


TS:      I feel like there is a little tide turning. I get the sense from you know hardcore partisans and people in the middle that they are like this thing has gotten too far off on civility, on civic discourse. On thinking that your opponent you know has horns and smells of sulfur because they wore the other team’s jersey and hopefully, we will we are making a little turn there. And then you got you touched on another thing I didn’t get back to this whole notion of how you know gosh we’ve been complaining about the media for 35 years as long as I’ve been around this world. And it’s like is it worse or better, but yeah, they do pluck out that viral moment or the one member who says something stupid and now that’s got a chilling effect. All our members you know they are worried about becoming tomorrow’s meme and I think that then inhibits them to ask what they may think is an honest question, a stupid question. That’s what we do. We ask a lot of stupid questions but truly there are no stupid questions. I mean it should be okay for a legislator to say you know help me out here. But now they are all kind of frozen a little bit by the viral moment.


DA:     And the state house press corps in so many states have just been decimated so in their place are in some cases a blog that have an agenda. In many other cases and this is where my optimism is, there are emerging nonprofit journalism, civic journalism that frankly is covering states in really creative and engaging ways. I am interested in how that ultimately can sustain and support the best instincts of engagement with government and transparency and accountability. The press plays that role. But I can remember very clearly now keep in mind that I served in the legislature when there was no social media at all. I’m not even sure that we were issued laptop computers by the state. I know we didn’t have we didn’t have smartphones, but I can remember a state house reporter who I had the greatest respect for. He was one of those people that could walk into any committee hearing. Be there about 15 minutes and he could get the peanut. He knew exactly what the peanut was. He’d get the lead out on the AP wire and every newspaper in Kansas would have a story about what went on in that committee hearing and then usually a couple of editorials that flowed from that. Well, this same reporter ultimately left the newspaper I think took an early buyout, but he was there long enough to see social media come in. And his performance was judged by number of clicks and when number of clicks determines your salary and your performance in a newspaper well you know what you are going to go for. You are going to cover the horse race. You are going to cover the most extreme crazy folks and there’s always going to be that attention getting narcissist that wants to be the flashing red light that frankly just doesn’t hold much sway in the way in which the institution actually does its job. 


            (TM):  30:20


TS:      That’s what is on my mind. I think one of our challenges is to start to convince legislators stop paying attention to social media. That is not what people really think. Now you are challenging my optimism because this is not a good development, but we will keep you know smart people will think about this and figure out how to push back on it.


DA:     And this is what I will say that some of the isolation of the pandemic which I think will have lasting and, in many cases, you know fairly negative consequences right now. But the isolation of the pandemic I think did open up people’s scrutiny of the actions of their state leaders and governors were having press conferences daily and people were tuning into legislation hearings that had gone virtual. And I think both legislators saw a new way of doing business and constituents saw a new way of doing business that I think frankly brought a whole lot of new people into the public square. In some cases, it may not have been as productive as we would want it. But in many cases, it was folks that were hundreds of miles from the state capital that would never have been able to testify on a bill. Never able to offer their opinions. Who now were able to do so. And legislators who because they were isolated from the public and in many cases, capitals were closed to the public, they felt like they didn’t have lobbyists breathing down their neck and they actually could talk with each other and talk with their constituents. 


            And I don’t know what kind of institutional norms let along reforms may emerge from all of that, but I do think it was a, you know, a little glimpse into there might be better ways to do it. And one of my frustrations as a legislator and particularly as chair. I’ve chaired the appropriations committee. The taxation committee. But you are up on this dais and there’s maybe 2 or 3 rows of people who are sort of looking out onto a sea of chairs. When we did have the opportunity for subcommittees or select committees that didn’t have a hearing room assigned to them. It was kind of make do. Find a conference room. It was usually a smaller group, but we would sit around a table, or we would share a meal together. It was a public meeting, but it was still we were looking at each other. And I actually think one of the reforms that I would consider is how do we build spaces in our capitals that ultimately impact behaviors in positive ways. You know Winston Churchill was the one who after the bombing of Westminster had the chance to design the house of commons and he wanted to make sure that the opposition was very close to the government. In fact, the distance between the two leaders is 2 sword lengths and a fist. The swords can’t touch, but that’s as close as you can get without touching your swords. You know I went to Connecticut. I love looking at state capitals. But the Senate sits in a circle and democrats are on one side and republicans on the other. In a lot of committee rooms, it’s democrats on one side and republicans on the other. I think there are ways for us to think about just the space in which lawmaking takes place that could have profound impact on how we think about everyone’s standing in that space. There’s always going to be the caucuses you know the Republicans, the Democrats are always going to have their time together.


TS:      Yeah, these are political institutions, we can’t pretend otherwise. I will say it’s been 15 years at least since we’ve bemoaned the implementation of strict ethics regiments right because it took away the evening gatherings and the social glue that held it together and so it’s not like this is a new problem. You know maybe that was sort of the we mark that as the beginning of this era in bringing people together and just understanding like we are all in the same boat. And that is the thing you could pull the most lunatic wackadoodle person on any side of the thing, and you know the one thing they will almost always have in common is they want their state to be better. And that’s what our organizations do. We really want the US, the states to be better.


DA:     You know the majesty of our form of government is really remarkable and so truly revolutionary that for eons the king, the authoritarian ruler said this is the way it is going to be, and everybody said okay. And power was concentrated in just so few. And I know we have so many challenges and issues concentration of economic wealth and other equity issues and systemic concerns that underlie some of the reasons that we have yet to achieve that goal of a more perfect union. A place in which all persons are equal, but this notion that we the people are the ones in charge. That the power of the government is derived from the people and the people elect these legislators. People who live in their neighborhoods. People who in many cases go to the state capital for just 30, 60, 90 days and then go back and live in the communities in which they serve. There is something just majestic to this notion that over time as you know with each legislator 25 maybe 30% of the members of that legislature are new that it is always reinventing itself. It’s just remarkable that we don’t. We take that for granted that we don’t truly celebrate how remarkable that is and the fact that we get to be a part of being stewards of that tradition in our roles just makes our jobs among the best that I can imagine ever having. And so, I love working with you and with our peers at other organizations of elected officials. But we have a pretty special role and I ultimately believe that the American story is one of always reinvention and ultimately moving incrementally ever so slowly. In some cases, ever so frustratingly towards that notion of a more perfect union. And if at the end of our careers, we get to look back and say hey we got to contribute to that in some small way. Well, that’s a legacy that is a lot to be proud of. 


TS:      The operative word one of my favorite words is stewards. You know we get our time. You and I have these really incredible. We are both very blessed to have these roles. We can do what we can. We know that there were problems before we still grapple with those. There will be problems in the future, but we are going to leave these institutions better. And you know we have institutions of our own. CSG and NCSL these are institutions that are connected to the legislative institution of democracy. So once again beautifully said and eloquent in a way I feel like I will always aspire to. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate you in bringing us home on a really terrific note. 


DA:     Well Tim thank you so much. And good luck to everyone listening to this. NCSL and CSG will continue to work together for the betterment of the states, and we look forward to doing that absolutely.


TS:      I’ve been talking with David Adkins the executive director and CEO of the Council of State Governments and a friend of NCSL and a friend of mine. Thank you for joining me and David on this episode of “Legislatures: The Inside Storey” brought to you by NCSL, the National Conference of State Legislatures.


Ed:      You can check out all the podcasts from the National Conference of State Legislatures by searching for NCSL podcasts wherever you get your podcasts. Tim Storey, NCSL CEO, hosts “Legislatures:  The Inside Storey”where he focuses on leadership and legislatures. The “Our American States”podcast dives into some of the most challenging public policy issues facing legislators. And “Across the Aisle”host Kelly Griffin tells stories of bipartisanship. Also check our special series “Building Democracy” on the history of legislatures. 


            (TM):  38:03 music