Legislative Branch

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When Wisconsin lawmakers authorized the establishment of a “working library” to be housed in the state Capitol in 1901, the seed was planted for what soon became an invaluable resource for the Legislature and the citizens of Wisconsin.
More than 100 years later, the Wisconsin Legislative Reference Bureau — the nation’s first nonpartisan legislative service agency to provide drafting and research services to legislators — boasts an impressive record of innovation and public service and remains a vital facilitator of the legislative process in Madison.

State policymakers looking for an innovative policy response to an issue they face can find it in The Council of State Governments’ cookbook for state policy—Suggested State Legislation. The program, commonly known as SSL, is one of the oldest tools CSG offers in its efforts to serve the states.

by Michael Christensen

Michael Christensen, chair of CSG West’s Legislative Service Agency/Research Directors Committee, has been director of Utah’s Office of Legislative Research & General Counsel for 13 years. His staff of 60 helps state legislators be more effective. Here are his tips for new and experienced lawmakers on how legislative staffers can help.

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Michigan legislators have added the state Capitol building and its grounds in Lansing to the list of designated state historic sites. The same legislative package (SB 665, SB 666, HB 5134 and HB 5135) also creates a new state commission that will be...

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Kansas legislators can carry concealed weapons inside the Capitol this year as the result of a 2013 law, the Lawrence Journal-World reports. Under the measure (HB 2052), the operators of a government or public building must screen all visitors for weapons if they want to prohibit concealed-carry permit holders from bringing a gun inside the building.
In Iowa, legislators can meet in session as long as they like — no state statutes or legislative rules prescribe a maximum number of days.
But the Iowa Code does provide at least one incentive for legislators to finish the state’s business in a timely manner. After 110 calendar days in odd-numbered years and 100 days in even years, per-diem payments for state legislators ($134 a day for most of them) end.

Stateline Midwest ~ July/August 2013

A decision by Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn in July to block the salaries of state legislators has resulted in a constitutional showdown between the legislative and executive branches of government. According to the ...

An 1895 article in The New York Times described the tense and chaotic scene this way: “Revolvers were flourished and blows struck with such articles of furniture as the combatants could lay hands on conveniently.” The place where the mayhem broke out? The floor of the Indiana House of Representatives after a dispute over a gubernatorial veto. This historical anecdote, told by political scientist Peverill Squire during a keynote session in July at the CSG Midwestern Legislative Conference Annual Meeting, was a reminder that political passions and partisan strife are not new.

The CSG Committee on Suggested State Legislation convened on Saturday, June 22, 2013 to review 81 bills on the second and final docket of the 2014 SSL cycle. Several topics including online gaming, teacher tenure, gun safety, and law enforcement use of drones were addressed by the committee.

Why not federalize Medicaid? The question was theoretical, but Robert Kerr, South Carolina’s former Medicaid Director, gave attendees at The Council of State Governments’ Medicaid Policy Academy in June something to think about.