Recent SLC News and Updates
May 7-8, 2019 | Charleston, West Virginia
Legislative Staff Exchange
On May 7-8, 2019, the Southern Legislative Conference arranged for legislative staff from the Georgia House of Representatives and the Office of Legislative Counsel to travel to the West Virginia Capitol to learn more about West Virginia’s paperless committee system. The Georgia House of Representatives is in the process of creating their own paperless committee system. The clerks of the West Virginia House of Representatives and Senate, along with staff from the Legislative Services Division, Legislative Automated Services Division and other offices gave demonstrations and presentations on the history and operations of West Virginia’s paperless system. Specific issues discussed include: access to the paperless system; software and hardware used; and how the bill drafting system works.
April 11, 2019
In November 2018, Speaker Pro Tempore Victor Gaston was elected to his 10th term in the Alabama House of Representatives. He was unopposed in his re-election bid for House District 100, a seat he has held since 1982. With eight consecutive unopposed elections, Representative Gaston is believed to have the longest unopposed election streak of any state legislator in the South.
On December 8, 2010, Representative Gaston was elected to the speaker pro tempore position by his colleagues and currently serves as chair of the Mobile County Legislation Committee. Additionally, Speaker Gaston is a member of the following committees: Rules; Transportation, Utilities and Infrastructure; and Ways and Means General Fund.
In addition to his legislative service, Representative Gaston was an elected delegate to six consecutive Republican National Conventions. He served on the convention’s Rules Committee in 1988 and Credentials Committee in 2000. He also served two terms on the National Republican Legislators Board. He is a former member of the White House Commission on Presidential Scholars, appointed by Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush
Representative Gaston’s career includes working as a teacher and administrator for Mobile County schools, as a timber farmer and serving in the U.S. military. He received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Southern Mississippi, his master’s degree from the University of South Alabama and his doctorate in education from Auburn University.
Representative Gaston and his wife, Jean, are the parents of two sons, Hank and George. They have been blessed with six grandsons; Jason, James, Cameron, Matthew, Noah and Charlie. He is an active member at Spring Hill Baptist Church.
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.