Does my participation in NCSL help those I
By Senator Richard T. Moore
July 27, 2012 ... Sometimes people ask me how my participation in the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) helps my constituents. That's a fair question, since I attend three or four meetings a year that are usually held out of state, even though I pay my own travel expenses.
NCSL is a bipartisan professional association that serves every one of the 7,328 elected state legislators and the staff who serve in state legislatures. The meetings provide extremely helpful information on policy issues that state lawmakers must consider such as illegal immigration, health reform, improving schools, funding roads, bridges, and public transportation, and a host of other issues. Most of the issues that come up in the Massachusetts Legislature are also matters that are debated in other states. Consequently, sharing potential solutions to common problems rather than "reinventing the wheel" is a real benefit to the residents of Massachusetts.
Each time I attend an NCSL meeting, and often when I review newsletters and issue briefings or participate in webinars, I gain information from other states that helps me to be a better legislator as well as ideas about legislation that I might sponsor here in Massachusetts. I try to put those lessons learned to use in drafting or improving the bills that I sponsor.
Another important function of NCSL is to represent state concerns within our federal system. NCSL's lobbying efforts have helped to increase federal aid to state and local governments and prevented the imposition of some expensive federal mandates. State legislators are able to urge our Congressional counterparts to pay close attention to the needs of their home states. In addition, NCSL's Washington office helps states resolve issues with federal regulations as federal programs that affect state and local government are implemented in areas such as education, health care, and transportation.
In the past few years, Milford and Bellingham - and ultimately, every city or town - have been affected by stormwater runoff regulations from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that will cost communities and local businesses millions of dollars. In an effort to ease the impact of this federal mandate, I was able to get the NCSL Environment Committee, and ultimately the entire NCSL membership, to call for federal funding of such an expensive new requirement and to consider the economic impact of the regulations. This position is now part of NCSL's federal lobbying effort.
Last year, when Southbridge was threatened with being declared ineligible for FEMA disaster relief following the June 1, 2011 tornado, and other communities in Worcester County were told they would not qualify for winter storm assistance because of a quirk in federal regulations, I was able to get NCSL to support changes in federal disaster assistance policy to correct these unfair policies and to advocate this position in meetings with the Department of Homeland Security.
For the past four years, I've been honored to serve as an officer of NCSL, including the position of President in 2010-2011. Serving as an officer and executive committee member since 2002 has helped me to get to know key legislators from other states who have been able to help me resolve issues for my constituents or their relatives in those states.
The benefits of my participation in NCSL even extend to helping individual constituents. Only this year, one of my constituents contacted me about her mother needing to be accepted for Medicaid in South Carolina, and she wasn't getting any response from South Carolina bureaucrats. A call from me to a state senator in South Carolina who serves with me on NCSL executive committee, who then called his state Medicaid agency, got the paperwork processed. Another constituent concerned about the health of a relative who was incarcerated in Florida was able to be addressed by my contact with a Florida state representative who also serves with me on the NCSL executive committee.
People in business or the professions usually belong to a chamber of commerce or professional association, some workers belong to unions, many of us belong to associations that support programs in which we may have a personal interest. We learn from those organizations and the organizations give their members a collective clout in dealing with issues of importance to their members. The National Conference of State Legislatures is just such an organization for state legislators and those who staff our nation's state legislatures. Being an active member helps me to better serve the people who I am honored to represent and makes me more effective in working with my fellow legislators as we work to address statewide issues.