Recent SLC News and Updates
September 12-13, 2019 | Augusta, Georgia
Fiscal Affairs & Government Operations Committee Delegation
A delegation of legislators from the Southern Legislative Conference (SLC) traveled to Augusta, Georgia, to visit the Georgia Cyber Center (GCC), the single largest investment to date in a cybersecurity facility by a state government. The GCC is a unique public-private partnership involving the state and federal government, military, academia, law enforcement and private sector. The Center is designed to meet the growing demand for trained cyber security professionals in Georgia, the Savannah River region and across the nation.
Participants received briefings from representatives of Augusta University and Augusta Technical College, both of which are located on the GCC’s campus and directly involved in providing cyber security education and training programs to students. Delegation members also received a briefing from the special agent in charge of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, who discussed the evolution of crime in cyberspace, and from the director of the Cyber Workforce Academy, which is tasked with developing a cyber security workforce at the GCC.
Participants also toured Fort Gordon in Augusta – home to the U.S. Army Cyber Command, National Security Agency Georgia and the Cyber School of Excellence – which played an integral role in the creation of the GCC and continues to be an important source of economic growth for the Augusta metropolitan area.
Delegation participants included Representative Manly Barton, Mississippi, chair of SLC’s Economic Development, Transportation and Cultural Affairs Committee; Representative Giovanni Capriglione, Texas; Representative Fredrick J. Love, Arkansas, vice chair of SLC’s Human Services and Public Safety Committee; Senator Kerry Roberts, Tennessee; Senator Wil Schroder, Kentucky; and Senator Ryan Weld, West Virginia.
September 9-10, 2019 | Richmond, Virginia
Legislative Staff Exchange
August 29, 2019
The Oklahoma Legislative Office of Fiscal Transparency (LOFT) Oversight Committee is seeking a highly motivated, talented and credible professional to fill the LOFT Director position. The Director will oversee state agency budget analysis and performance evaluations as necessary to assist the Legislature in its oversight of executive branch agencies.
LOFT is a new office created by Oklahoma State Senate Bill 1 in 2019 to ensure fiscal and program integrity. It will be similar to the Government Accountability Office and Congressional Budget Office at the federal level. For the full job description and application information, please click here.
August 14, 2019 | Atlanta, Georgia
The Carter/Hellard Legislative Staff Award is given annually to a staff member who has demonstrated excellence and dedication in service to state legislatures in the South. Betsy Howerton, deputy legislative counsel for the Georgia General Assembly, was selected by the members of the Legislative Service Agency (LSA) Directors Group as the winner of the 2019 Carter/Hellard award. Speaker David Ralston and Legislative Counsel Rick Ruskell nominated Howerton for the award.
Howerton joined the Office of Legislative Counsel in 2002, having previously worked for Georgia’s Department of Transportation and Department of Education. In addition to serving as deputy legislative counsel, Howerton is the staff attorney for the House Committees on Education, Health and Human Services and Code Revision.
In his nomination letter, Speaker Ralston described Howerton as someone “who is always a pleasure to work with and provides much needed expert advice on complex issues our state seeks to address and improve upon. She handles these arduous tasks without any indication that the pressure has been too much, because she handles it all with grace.”
Marcia Johnson, chair of the LSA Directors Group, presented the award to Howerton in a ceremony at the Georgia State Capitol on August 14. Among those present were Speaker Ralston, Legislative Counsel Rick Ruskell, Director of the House Budget and Research Office Martha Wigton, SLC Director Colleen Cousineau and Research and Publications Associate Nick Bowman.
July 25, 2019
The State Transformation in Action Recognition (STAR) Judges Panel – comprising state legislators, legislative staff and policy experts – reviewed application materials and presentations of the five finalists and voted online to select two winners of the 2019 STAR award: Kentucky’s MyPURPOSE and Tennessee Reconnect.
Kentucky Personnel Cabinet: MyPURPOSE
In 2017, the Kentucky Personnel Cabinet established a talent management strategy and vision to affect how the Commonwealth attracts, recruits, and retains talent. Launched in 2018, MyPURPOSE provides a visually engaging portal for external job applicants, the ability to quickly apply for jobs via mobile or desktop applications or through a LinkedIn profile, and a means for state agencies to customize job postings by including videos with job posts.
MyPURPOSE also created an internal portal for state employees, which provides access to promotional opportunities and professional development. State employees can take advantage of a catalog of more than 1,400 curated courses for personal and professional growth, at no cost. Since going live in July 2018, MyPURPOSE has seen:
Tennessee Higher Education Commission: Tennessee Reconnect
Tennessee Reconnect is an initiative to help more adults return to higher education by providing a last-dollar scholarship that pays any tuition and fees charged at community colleges that are not covered by other sources of grant aid. These scholarship awards, on average, are approximately $1,000 per student.
In fall 2013, former Governor Bill Haslam announced his “Drive to 55,” with the goal that 55 percent of Tennesseans would hold a postsecondary credential by the year 2025. At the time, 36 percent of Tennesseans met this benchmark. Following the success of programs serving younger age groups, updates and modifications were made to Tennessee’s free college framework to serve adults.
Tennessee Reconnect was developed in response to the needs of employers across the state. In focus groups, they stated that there were numerous job vacancies that could not be filled, as applicants for these jobs did not have the appropriate training or skills, particularly in technical fields. With this scholarship program, Tennesseans of all ages can earn the relevant, marketable credentials necessary to succeed in the labor market. Since implementation, state-wide postsecondary degree attainment has increased to 43 percent.
July 13-17, 2019 | New Orleans, Louisiana
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.