2014/06/07

 

Hello and good morning everyone. Please allow me take this opportunity to personally welcome each of you to the 2014 Annual Meeting of the Taiwan Local Councils Representatives Community Forum. I am very excited to be able to participate in the TCF's inaugural conference and look forward to learning from and meeting all of you during the meeting.

 

My name is Senator Bruce Starr and I am a state Senator from Oregon, a state in the Pacific Northwest region in the United States of America, where I represent Senate District 15 in the Oregon State Legislature. I have served in the State Legislature since 1999 as both a Representative and a Senator. I am also a member on a number of committees in the legislature, including serving as the Vice-Chair of the Senate Business and Transportation Committee and the Senate Rules Committee.

 

In addition to this role, I have spent this past year serving as the president of the National Conference of State Legislatures, better known as NCSL. I am extremely honored to have been invited to participate in this important conference. For this, I would like to sincerely give thanks to TCF President Lin Chin-chang, to his staff, and to all of you, my honorable colleagues, for giving me the opportunity to engage and exchange with you ideas and best practices about how we can all cooperate to help better the governance of each of our respective districts.

 

Today, I am here as a representative of NCSL and would like to describe to you in more depth my organization’s history, mission, and current efforts to support the work of sub-national legislatures in the United States and throughout the world.

 

In 1974, three organizations represented the interests of legislators and staff, but their influence was diluted. So seven inventive legislative leaders and two staffers came together and envisioned a single national organization to support, defend and strengthen state legislatures. After a survey of lawmakers and staff from around the country confirmed their idea was a good one, the three organizations dissolved, and on January 1, 1975, the National Conference of State Legislatures was born.

 

Ever since then, NCSL has worked in support of the belief that the legislative service is one of democracy's worthiest pursuits. Representing the citizens of a district and the people of a stateis the very essence of free government. The National Conference of State Legislatures is a bipartisan organization, with branches in both Denver, Colorado and Washington, D.C., that is fundamentally dedicated to serving the lawmakers and staff of the nation's 50 states, its commonwealths and territories.

 

NCSL is a source for research, publications, consulting services, meetings and seminars. It is the national conduit for lawmakers to communicate with one another and share ideas. NCSL prides itself on being an effective and respected voice for the states in the nation’s capital, representing their interests before Congress, the administration and federal agencies.

 

NCSL is committed to the success of all legislators and staff. Our mission is to:

•Improve the quality and effectiveness of state legislatures.

•Promote policy innovation and communication among state legislatures.

•Ensure state legislatures a strong, cohesive voice in the federal system.

 

The United States’more than 7,000 state legislators and 33,000 legislative staff form NCSL's constituency. As lawmakers, we play a vital role in developing the States’ Agenda and use this to shape NCSL's advocacy work on Capitol Hill. Our efforts are reinforced by our legislator and staff members’ participation in NCSL's Standing Committees and various Task Forces, that adopt policies to better protect and reinforce the rights of states to formulate laws and govern based on the needs of their constituents. These policies become the backbone of NCSL's efforts to fight unwarranted federal preemption of state laws, unfunded mandates and federallegislation that threatens state authority and autonomy. It's important work, and NCSL takes its cue from the states.

 

The legislators in the 50 states together represent over 300 million people of varying politics, diverse cultural backgrounds and different economic conditions. Fairly representing this diversity of constituents can be daunting. But NCSL offers a variety of services to help lawmakers tailor policies that will work for their states and their constituents. For each legislature, at least one NCSL staff person is assigned as a lead contact – or state assignment staff – to help make access to NCSL's services easy.

 

The strength of NCSL is our bipartisanship and commitment to serving both Republicans and Democrats. It is recognized in our comprehensive, unbiased research. NCSL has the most up-to-date information on a broad spectrum of critical state legislative issues, including health care,budgets, elections, ethics, energy, transportation, human services and education. NCSL's website is a wealth of 50-state research, news, reports and information on laws passed, legislation pending and policies tried.

 

Since NCSL does not advocate for any specific policy positions in the states, our resources and analyses are based on fact, not politics. Each year NCSL answers more than 16,000 questions from legislators and staff on issues from AIDS to taxation, pollution to childwelfare. Our researchers respond quickly, so that the lawmaker working on an amendment on the floor of the House during debate on a critical bill can depend on fast service from NCSL.


NCSL's award-winning State Legislatures magazine reports on legislative trends, policies with promise, cost saving solutions, and the people and processes of the legislative institution. The other multiple research reports and newsletters published regularly by NCSL help better inform legislators, staff and the public about actions and innovations in public policy before they reach the mainstream.

 

NCSL is the only legislative organization that advocates solely for states’ interests in Washington, D.C. with participation from lawmakers from both sides of the aisle. NCSL defends state legislatures from federal unfunded mandates and preemptions that limit the flexibility of states to innovate and be responsive to the
specific needs of their unique residents, and advocates maintaining state flexibility and authority.

 

At a time when the federal government increasingly attempts to shift costs to the states, it is more important than ever for state legislators to speak out against unfunded mandates proposed by the U.S. Congress and the administration.

 

NCSL takes maximum advantage of its principal assets in lobbying and helps to support the political link between state lawmakers and members of Congress and, in turn, tailors its efforts to the audience
as it helps federal bodies understand state approaches to issues. NCSL frequently arranges for state legislators to testify before Congress on a variety of issues, and schedules regular meetings with lawmakers and members of Congress and the administration to voice states' concerns about federal legislation and regulations.

 

NCSL's meetings, webinars and professional development seminars sharpen the skills of lawmakers and staff on subjects as varied as criminal sentencing, the drug problem, economic development, health care, energy, environment, education and tax policy. NCSL invites experts to present their perspectives on these and other issues. Each year NCSL conducts around 20 seminars and training programs that some 4,000 legislators and staff attend.


We hope you might consider attending our Legislative Summit in Minneapolis, Minnesota from August 18th to 22nd this year. The Summit general program takes place from August 19th to 22nd and there is additional programming for international delegates that begins on August 18th that is hosted by NCSL’s International
Programs Department. We encourage all international participants that are interested in getting involved with NCSL to attend both the international program and the general Summit, as there are many
topics addressed during both sets of sessions that are pertinent to the work of international legislators and staff. Most NCSL Legislative Summits have over 4,500 attendees each year, 200 to 250 of which are from international parliaments, assemblies, or organizations like ours whose aim is to support the strength and efficacy of thelegislative institution.


NCSL has many years of experience in providing technical assistance to state legislatures, parliaments and councils around the world in management, staffing, organization issues, as well as pressing policy issues. NCSL continues to provide services of value to leaders and rank-and-file members alike while offering the same totheir international colleagues and counterparts through the International Programs Department. The Department accomplishes this by utilizing NCSL’s years of legislative development experience in promoting representative democracy overseas.

 

In accordance with the overarching goals of NCSL, the International Programs Department aims to promote the power and the development of the legislative institution. It is able to do this by fostering closer relationships and institutional linkages between U.S. state legislators and staff and their counterparts around the world;
encouraging political pluralism; promoting good governance and ethical standards; and exchanging information on issues of federalism, public policy matters, and fiscal conditions.

One of the many strengths of NCSL's international work has been our ability to develop and maintain long-standing organizational partnerships with international parliamentarians and staff.

NCSL has conducted a number of exchanges around the globe and regularly see our counterparts at our annual Legislative Summit. In fact, at our last meeting in Atlanta, over 200 international
delegates who represented over 20 countries attended our conference.

 

Topics like transparency in government, accountability, ethics, and citizen involvement and engagement have become the cornerstones in efforts to fortify links between the government institutions and the electorate. We have also provided trainings and workshops for international legislators and staff on institutional topics,
such as legislative bill drafting, committee structure, and parliamentary procedure.

 

Our practical, adapted approach to legislative capacity building and institutional reinforcement has afforded us access to an extensive international network of parliaments and legislative bodies with goals similar to ours. Over the years, NCSL has been very fortunate to partner with such organizations as the Partnership of Parliaments in Germany, the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, and the Parliamentary Confederation of the Americas, among others. NCSL also is proud of its international affiliate members, the Scottish Parliament and the National Assembly of Quebec, and their continued dedication and support of the organization’s mission and goal of supporting federalism in government. We are always looking to expand our cooperation with
our counterparts worldwide and appreciate forums like these that give us the chance to do so.

 

In conclusion, I am personally honored to have the opportunity to learn from you and to exchange experiences that overcome national boundaries. Connecting with counterparts of distinct nations and backgrounds is exceedingly valuable to elected officials, staff, and legislatures globally. These connections provide
diverse perspectives and solutions to common issues. In this ever-changing environment and more globalized, connected world, these experiences are becoming increasingly valuable and it is very fortunate that NCSL has continued to be included in these important exchanges. Thank you again for your time and for this amazing
opportunity. I cannot wait to see what the rest of our time together brings.

 

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