Recent SLC News and Updates
February 8, 2019 | Atlanta, Georgia
On Friday, February 8, 2019, legislative staff from Alabama, Louisiana, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Virginia attended a policy workshop organized by the Southern Legislative Conference (SLC). Staff whose committee purviews include health and human services, public safety and criminal justice received briefings and participated in roundtable discussions about issues important to children’s safety and well-being, including foster care, sexual exploitation, school climate and behavioral health.
Staff heard from medical professionals and public health officials about the impact of the ongoing opioid epidemic on states’ foster care systems, followed by a comprehensive overview of the Family First Prevention Services Act, signed into law in February 2018 to improve child welfare outcomes across the nation. Staff also had an opportunity to hear from three Georgia-based experts about the state’s approach to addressing sexual abuse and exploitation of children, promoting safe and healthy school climates, and providing robust behavioral health services for all students.
Presenters included representatives from the Georgia Department of Education; National Alliance on Mental Illness; Casey Family Programs, the nation’s largest operating foundation focused on reducing the need for foster care; and Georgia Cares, a statewide coordinating agency connecting services and treatment for child victims of sexual exploitation and trafficking.
December 11-14, 2018
Agriculture & Rural Development Committee Delegation
A delegation of presiding officers from the Southern Legislative Conference (SLC) recently travelled to Havana, Cuba, to gain insight into the nation’s growing private sector, agricultural trade opportunities, internationally acclaimed biomedical research, and to participate in high-level briefings with ministry officials.
Despite a history of economic sanctions, the United States has emerged as a major exporter of agricultural goods to Cuba, which imports up to 80 percent of its food. Given Cuba’s geographic and economic position, states in the Southern region of the United States have competitive export advantages in terms of production, quality, logistics and proximity. Of all states exporting to Cuba, Southern states comprise nine of the top 10.
Delegates toured Visa Hermosa ranch, a 67 hectare agroecological farm dedicated to closed-cycle agricultural and livestock production that supplies local privately owned restaurants. Participants learned about the history of the farm, growing techniques, the distribution and sales of their products and how the farm has impacted the lives of the workers.
Mr. Carlos Fernández de Cossio Dominguez, Director General of the United States General Division of Cuba’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, briefed delegates on the status of U.S. – Cuban relations, as well as opportunities for partnership and collaboration. Delegates also participated in briefings with senior officials from the Ministries of Agriculture, Foreign Trade and Investment, Public Health, and Transportation to learn about Cuba’s growing economy and industrial development.
Delegation participants included Senator Jimmy Higdon, former Kentucky Senate President Pro Tempore; Senator Ferrell Haile, Tennessee Speaker Pro Tempore; Representative Tommy Pope, South Carolina Speaker Pro Tempore; Senator Greg Treat, Oklahoma Senate President Pro Tempore and Senator Ryan McDougle of Virginia, chair of the Senate Majority Caucus.
October 29-30, 2018 | Jackson, Mississippi
In October, a delegation of legislators and legislative staff from Oklahoma traveled to Jackson, Mississippi, to learn about the state’s Joint Legislative Committee on Performance Evaluation and Expenditure Review (PEER), a standing committee of the Mississippi Legislature. Participants received briefings from PEER Committee staff and met with Speaker Pro Tempore Greg Snowden.
Created by statute in 1973, PEER assists the Legislature in performing its oversight function by providing data and investigation of state government operations. The PEER Committee analyzes state agency programs and operations for the Legislature to use to improve government effectiveness, efficiency and accountability. Work products created by PEER include performance evaluations, investigations and expenditure reviews. The PEER Committee comprises seven members from each chamber and employs 23 staff members.
Briefing topics included the creation and history of the PEER Committee, Performance Budget and Strategic Planning Act of 1994, PEER’s partnership with the Pew-MacArthur Results First Initiative, “Measuring Mississippi” Data Analysis Tool and tips for creating a legislative oversight committee.
Presenters from PEER included James Barber, executive director; Ted Booth, general counsel; and Linda Triplett, director of the Performance Accountability Office.
October 25, 2018
The Southern Legislative Conference of The Council of State Governments recently convened the 12th annual Center for the Advancement of Leadership Skills (CALS), a leadership development program for new and mid-career state executive, legislative and judicial branch officials in Little Rock, Arkansas.
The 2018 CALS program included leaders from Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia. The training sessions focused on essential topics such as leadership development, social media practices, interpersonal exchanges, and communication skills.
Participants convened at the Capital Hotel for the closing dinner. Adam Schrager, journalist and author, delivered the keynote speech on the leadership of former Colorado Governor Ralph Carr, who served from 1939 to 1943.
October 3-5, 2018 | Querétaro, Mexico
Education Committee Delegation
A delegation of legislators from the Southern Legislative Conference (SLC) traveled to Querétaro, Mexico, to gain insight into the first residential, American-style campus in the country. Participants toured and received briefings at Arkansas State University Campus Querétaro (ASUCQ).
At ASUCQ, delegation members toured the campus – completed in August 2017 – and were briefed on the challenges in building and designing a campus from the ground up. Participants also heard from Arkansas State University System officials regarding its establishment, accreditation and goals. Members also were briefed on the vision for the campus and surrounding area, including an industrial park, family housing, K-12 school system and city center, with the campus functioning as the community anchor. The costs of the campus, buildings and infrastructure were underwritten by investors in Mexico, with no outlay from Arkansas or the University System.
Additionally, members had the opportunity to interact with students on the campus to learn about academic and residential life at ASUCQ, and how it compared to traditional higher education opportunities in Mexico. Faculty also shared their experiences regarding their work and teaching courses in a student’s second language, as all coursework is in English.
Corporate and community partners provided briefings on collaborations involving externships, training, laboratories, scholarships, donated equipment and guest lectures. Querétaro is home to over 1,300 multinational corporations and is considered the economic and industrial hub of central Mexico.
Delegation members included legislators from Arkansas, Georgia and Kentucky.
September 26-29, 2018 | Panama Canal, Panama
Economic Development, Transportation & Cultural Affairs Committee Technical Tour
A delegation of legislative officers from the Southern Legislative Conference traveled to Panama City, Panama, to gain insight into the political and commercial relationships between the United States and Panama. During the three-day policy study tour, participants received briefings from officials at the U.S. Embassy and American Chamber of Commerce & Industry and toured the newly expanded Panama Canal.
At the Panama Canal, participants met with Panamanian officials to learn about the canal’s historical significance to the U.S. economy and how the recent expansion, completed in 2016, has supported commerce across the Southern region. Delegation members were briefed on the types of cargo that typically pass through the canal, as well as the tonnage and most common routes of vessels. Among all global trading routes, the Panama Canal remains the most favored option for companies transporting goods from Asia to the U.S. market, with many eventually passing through Southern state ports. Participants also had an opportunity to visit the Miraflores and Cocoli locks to see, first hand, how the canal handles large vessels while they are in transit.
During briefings at the U.S. Embassy, delegation members spoke at length with government officials about the overall political, economic and security climate inside Panama. Details about the broader challenges and opportunities for U.S. officials driving government policy in the country, as well as the various initiatives being considered to maintain successful political, social and economic relations between the United States and Panama, were provided.
At the American Chamber of Commerce & Industry, participants heard from economic development experts regarding U.S.-Panama commercial ties, focusing on how officials from both nations can facilitate robust bilateral trading in the future. Delegation members shared their thoughts on the perception of Panama within the United States and how Panamanian corporate leaders can increase their exposure to U.S. officials at the state and local level.
Delegation members included legislators from Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi.