Following Legislation Trends

State policymakers offer unique, viable solutions to common issues in 2023

By Lexington Souers

Legislatures in 2023 have introduced or pre-filed more than 97,000 bills, resolutions and memorials. Of those, at least 14,000 were enacted into law by June, ranging from workforce development to pass-through entity taxes. 

Once COVID-19’s societal impact subsided, states attempted to remedy workforce concerns by passing legislation on sector specific programs, regional development plans and interstate compacts. In 2023, more than 30 bills on interstate compacts have been enacted in more than 15 states. 

The Kansas Legislature enacted HB 2288, enabling mental health professionals to join the multistate Counseling Compact. Rep. Susan Ruiz, who helped pass the bill, said its success is a win-win for providers, patients and Kansans. Ruiz is the ranking member of the Health and Human Services Committee and a licensed clinical social worker.

“This is a very bipartisan effort to enhance our workforce,” Ruiz said. “We have put a lot of funding into enhancing our mental health services across the board, but we need the practitioners involved to bring all that to fruition. So, anything that we could do to enhance our workforce, we did it.”

Ruiz said HB 2288 allows practitioners licensed in another state to practice in states that are members of the compact. Practitioners must maintain their licensure, undergo a background check and complete other requirements. Due to these safety measures, patients can feel confident in a provider and protect their continuity of care, which Ruiz said could be “devastating” if interrupted. 

Almost every bill on workforce training was passed, leading 24 states to pass more than 85 bills. Minimum wage bills were enacted in five states and 15 unemployment bills passed in four separate states. 

By June, legislators filed more than 1,700 bills relating to elections. Of those, 119 were enacted across 28 states. While the focus of legislation varied, many bills enhanced protections for election officials. It’s those workers who help “operationalize democracy,” according to former election official Veronica Degraffenreid, senior manager of strategic partnerships, elections and government at the Brennan Center for Justice.

Degraffenreid said the Brennan Center completed three surveys, the most recent of which notes that one in three election officials have been abused, harassed or threatened, with three in four seeing an increase in threats.

“What I believe policymakers and lawmakers are doing is a pragmatic approach. They’re like ‘let’s do something and address it,’ but understand that along with the pragmatism is a passion that these are people in our communities. They are our friends. They are our neighbors. We go to school with them and to religious services with them or ballgames. It’s their job to carry out the work and carry out their responsibilities. It’s absolutely something that we need to do, but we should want to do it, and want to make sure that we protect the lives and the livelihood of these American citizens.” 

Veronica Degraffenreid, senior manager of strategic partnerships, elections and government at the Brennan Center for Justice.

Legislation protecting election officials generally follows three paths that potentially result in increased funding, mounting criminal penalties for perpetrators, and/or additional information protection. Funding adds to the physical safety of election offices and polling places. Legislation surrounding doxing prevention and implementing address protection programs allows for increased physical safety and prevents malicious action against an election administrator or poll worker. 

“If we want voters, however they participate, to have faith and confidence in the process and the people who are performing those duties, we want election administrators to be focused on conducting fair, accurate and safe elections; we want them to do their duty, their job that is dictated by federal and state law.” 

Originally designed to provide health care access to rural and underserved areas, telehealth is now in widespread use. However, the popularity of telehealth, especially following its use in 2020, highlighted a need for increased regulation. Legislation in 2023 expanded existing framework to allow out-of-state providers to work with a certain state’s patients, increases prescribing ability for certain drugs and payment parity for services. Multistate legislation could be helpful in allowing providers to uphold state specific licensure requirements, meaning patients have a wider range of care. 

Across 22 states, 44 telehealth bills were enacted this year entering June. These bills expanded funding and access to telehealth. Virginia SB 1418, which passed on March 21, permits telehealth entities with state licensed health care providers do not need to maintain an instate address to enroll as a vendor or provider group under Medicaid. The bill also allows health care providers to not maintain a physical presence in the Commonwealth to enroll as a Medicare provider. 

“This is a bill with a significant impact on access to quality health care for Virginians, especially those in rural areas like southwest Virginia, which I represent,” said Virginia Sen. Todd Pillion. “In short, it fixes a systemic problem in Medicaid enrollment for Virginia-licensed providers. Prior to this bill, a Virginia licensed provider or provider group must have a physical address in Virginia in order to enroll in the Medicaid program.”

This allows licensed providers who do not have a physical Virginia address to aid patients. At the same time, patients can know the care they are receiving meets state licensing standards and other Medicaid qualifications. Pillion said the legislation reduces regulatory burdens and allows Medicaid to “leverage telemedicine” to better serve both providers and patients. 

“The more we can do to reduce regulatory burdens and enhance quality of life, while increasing health care options, is a win for patients, providers and rural communities.”

Sen. Todd Pillion, Virginia

More than 29 bills filed in 23 states were aimed at capping the cost of insulin and other diabetes care-related supplies. Despite recent federal caps, many Americans with diabetes still face high annual insulin costs. In response, states and private companies are capping costs in specific circumstances.

Insulin is relatively easy to produce, given its chemical makeup, but patients are often paying at least four times the amount those in other countries do. Additionally, the cost of pumps and other supplies are often not covered under a cap.

In North Dakota, Sen. Tim Mathern introduced SB 2140 to cap monthly copays at $25 for insulin drugs and supplies for health insurance programs. Mathern said the bill went through several iterations in both house and senate committees.

“The challenge is never-ending — to create a world where each and every person has the right to affordable, accessible and quality health care,” Mathern said. “SB 2140 is one small step toward that goal which I have been working on in the senate since 1986.”

Mathern suggested connecting with families experiencing diabetes and federal advocates to explain the importance of capping insulin costs. As well, he suggested increased education on the issue, especially because of an existing federal cap. 

“A challenge in the drafting was identifying what specific items were to be covered by the $25 cap,” Mathern said. “I also found, as a democrat in a red state, it was a great boost to have republican cosponsors.”

Career and technical education, or CTE, is defined in the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act of 2018 as a series of courses that prepares students for futures in technical skills or industries, works to solve the skills gap. Studies show that involvement in CTE leads to higher wages, especially after the completion of advanced coursework. Spreading awareness of these programs and knowledge of the typical CTE student helps increase program success. In addition, integrating CTE courses into high school curriculum provides a benefit for students who may have chosen other classes to meet strict graduation requirements.

High school career and technical education courses prepare students for entry into the workforce by offering hard and soft skills specific to an industry. Students can use these skills immediately after graduation or in postsecondary training. States report that high school students taking at least two CTE courses have a 95% graduation rate. CTE programs provide skilled employees in professions facing labor shortages.

In 2023, 23 bills concerning career and technical education were enacted. At least eight states passed legislation allowing CTE courses to count as high school credit or meet a graduation requirement. Six states — Colorado, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Kansas and Washington — passed general legislation concerning career and technical education, including pilot programs for nurses and joint studies on high school program enrollment.

This year, seven states joined 28 others with pass-through entity taxes, according to the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. An additional two states have also proposed legislation. A partnership, such as an LLC, can elect to pay state and local taxes at the entity level, rather than having those costs “pass through” to the owners. This offers the owner a federal income tax credit to reduce their personal federal income tax. Due to disparities in state taxes, some state residents paid more than others in federal income taxes despite similar incomes. By passing legislation allowing pass through taxes, states can balance the cost of taxes on some citizens.

“We think this will help our West Virginia small businesses that are organized as pass-through entities decrease the amount that owners would have to pay in federal income tax,” said West Virginia Sen. Mike Oliverio, who sponsored SB 151. “In turn, we’re hopeful that will enable them to invest more money into their business, pay more money to their staff, or simply enjoy more the dollars that they’ve earned from their business.”

Oliverio said states have taken various approaches to legislating pass-through taxes, and given that the federal government was not preventing states from passing legislation, he and other West Virginia legislators wanted businesses to have the same benefits as other states. 

“At some point, there has to be a balancing of what each of you respectively pay to the federal government in taxes as well,” Oliverio said. “The citizen in West Virginia versus the citizen in [a high tax state] is enjoying the same benefits of the CDC, the United States Army, the Postal Service and all those federal agencies that they’re funding with their taxes.” 

Presiding Over Party Lines

Relationships, respect integral to Rep. Tilton as Alaska’s House speaker 

By Lexington Souers

Alaska Rep. Cathy Tilton served as House minority leader from 2021-22 before being elected as speaker of the House in 2023. As speaker, she directs the chamber’s legislative process, upholds bipartisanship and appoints committee membership. Tilton’s focus in that capacity is on building respect within the chamber and improving Alaska’s financial stability. 

Prior to joining the Alaska State Legislature, Tilton enjoyed a long history in public service. Her 33-year career features work with both the Legislature and mayor’s office in Wasilla, Alaska. First elected in 2014, Tilton chaired the House Community & Regional Affairs Committee as a freshman legislator. She has since served on the House Finance and Rules Committees, among others. 

What sets Alaska’s coalition apart from other state legislatures? 
Tilton: In the past several elections, this electorate has elected people into office where it’s been really divided — for the House, especially. It could be even on a 20/20 divide if you’re looking at partisan membership. That’s been a hard thing to overcome. One of the key things, I think, to keeping this chamber a working chamber is to show that respect for yourself while also having respect for others. I want to bring respect back to the institution overall. Alaskans want us to get our jobs done. We have this partisan divide that, over the years, has become wider and wider. I recognize that we really need to stay true to our beliefs, our morals, our values, our constituency, but we can do that in a respectful manner where we can agree to disagree. 

As speaker of the House, how do you approach bipartisan issues? 
Tilton: Way back when I was in my first session as a legislator, I chaired the House Community and Regional Affairs Committee, which is really about all of Alaska. Let’s face it, I was raised on the Railbelt, in south central Alaska. I hadn’t really traveled my own state very much. It was a really good experience for me to be on that committee to learn to balance the needs of my area with the needs of rural Alaska, and to take bills and bring those together in a collaboration so that that they were acceptable to both areas. That’s the way I’m approaching this as a speaker. We have to be conscientious of the needs of our entire caucus.

What unique challenges does Alaska face? 
Tilton: The big issues that we’re dealing with are the volatility of our income and revenues. We are an oil revenue state, and, of course, we all know what the volatility of oil. Then there’s the tension between the permanent fund dividend, which is different than a lot of states have. There’s a little bit of tension between the dividend going to the people and public and government services. Where does that all fit in in our budget? We have a lot of tension in our own caucus, in this entire building and for the entire Legislature. 

What experiences outside of the Legislature helped you become the leader that you are? 
Tilton: I started out working at a law firm as a legal secretary, which I think gave me a little bit of background in some law. Then, for 10 years, I worked in local government. I worked for five mayors of Wasilla. That’s a lot of different types of leadership that I adjusted to. Before I ran for office, I was running my own business and taking care of my family. When you’re paying your own payroll and taking care of others, it’s a different perspective. 

I stick to my values of who I am and what my constituency believes in. I’m from a really red part of Alaska. I’m very conservative. That being said, I do believe in fair treatment for everybody. I look at the fact that I am a leader of leaders. My role as the leader of leaders is to lift other leaders up and help them to become a leader. I won’t be here forever. I don’t expect to be. I feel like my role is to help them move into leadership spots. 

What do you see for the future of Alaska? 
Tilton: I would love to see us be able to come together on some sort of a fiscal plan. It’s going to be difficult. Obviously, the Legislature has been working on it for 20 years and haven’t gotten there yet. But I think that we’re at that point in Alaska where we don’t have a choice. We really have to do something here to stabilize Alaska. 

The second thing I think I would like to see really worked on is high crime issues. There are a series of crime bill dealing with fentanyl, sex trafficking and those kinds of things. I think it’s important to Alaskans that we do something about those things, and I’m hoping that we can all work together to get those over the line. 

Do you have any favorite memories from serving in the Alaska State Legislature? 
Tilton: I was a private business owner and stayed home with my kids before I went to work at the Legislature. I really didn’t plan to run for office. Some of my favorite memories are from some of the relationships that I have built here that are uncommon. I was a minority leader last session and the minority leader for the Senate was Sen. Tom Begich. I feel like he and I — although on total opposite sides of the aisle — built a relationship and were able to work together to meet the needs of the minorities. I think that’s one memory. I don’t know that if you were out in the real world that you would have that opportunity to build a relationship, and what I would call a true friendship, with somebody who was on the other side of the aisle from you. I think I look at that as being one of the accomplishments from being here that I hold very dear. Relationships are really important to me. 

Emerging State Responses to Homelessness

Increased funding, innovative strategies intend to offer resolve

By Cody Porter and Jennifer Horton

Homelessness in the United States trended upward ahead of the COVID-19 pandemic. An already dire situation neared critical levels as the economic downturn forced countless businesses to close and unemployment rates to surge.

The nationwide poverty rate in 2020 climbed by 3.3 million, increasing the total number of individuals living in poverty to 37.2 million people, or 11.4% of the population. With necessities like housing being less affordable due to soaring home prices, homeless numbers also grew.

As of January 2022, an estimated 582,462 individuals experienced homelessness in the U.S., according to the National Alliance to End Homelessness. Rates of homelessness vary widely across the states. Per capita, Washington, D.C., California, Vermont, Oregon and Hawaii have the highest rates of homelessness.

State legislators take a range of approaches to address the nuances linked to homelessness, including efforts focused around affordable housing, transitional housing, and programs like Housing First that reduce prerequisites involved in the buying or renting processes.

Wayne Niederhauser, Utah homeless coordinator

Utah Gov. Spencer Cox appointed former Senate President Wayne Niederhauser to the role of state homeless coordinator in April 2021. His appointment came on the heels of the Utah Legislature establishing the role in its pursuit of a strategic plan to reduce homelessness.

That strategic plan — the Statewide Collaboration for Change: Utah’s Plan to Address Homelessness — arrived in March, a year after the Utah Department of Workforce Services revealed a 14% increase in the number of Utahns experiencing first-time homelessness. Response efforts included within the plan include a five-goal strategy centered around increasing opportunities for accessible and affordable permanent housing, support services and case management, homeless prevention strategies, and housing resources and services for the unsheltered.

In September 2022, Salt Lake County, Utah, received $30.2 million from the state for new affordable housing. The funds were part of a broader $55 million statewide investment via American Rescue Plan Act funding for the construction of 1,078 affordable to deeply affordable housing units. Access to deeply affordable housing is for those who annually earn less than $25,000.

“We now have the opportunity to increase deeply affordable housing, which is the hardest housing to provide,” Niederhauser said. “That’s focused on homelessness and workers who really are [earning] $15-20 per hour and got to have deeply affordable housing.”

Salt Lake City’s 40-acre Other Side Village is among the first developments to come from the ARPA funding in 2022. Ground broke in March for the tiny home village, which is expected to house 60 individuals experiencing homelessness. The plan is to further develop the lot to offer sufficient housing for as many as 400 individuals.

“Deeply affordable housing requires additional help — [more than just] low-income housing tax credits,” Niederauer said. “The project needs to be sustainable and it’s not sustainable if it doesn’t have enough cash flow.”

In total, more than $200 million was appropriated by the Utah Legislature for affordable housing and homelessness initiatives prior to concluding the 2023 session. According to Niederhauser, legislative successes include $50 million in deeply affordable housing funding; a low-income housing tax credit worth nearly $60 million; housing stabilization grants, including project based rent support, accompanied by $5 million in funding; a statewide code blue system; a request for a response plan for larger counties; and $12 million for homeless services.

Between 2005-15, Utah was a prime example of how to curb homelessness through its use of the Housing First model. The state reported reducing its homeless population by 91% throughout the decade, although that number has decreased since 2015.

Housing First is an evidence-based approach to ending homelessness that provides people with immediate access to housing and support services without preconditions. Based on the belief that people need to have their basic needs met before addressing other issues like employment or substance abuse, the Housing First model emphasizes client self-determination within a trauma-informed, harm-reduction framework. The model has been successful when applied to a range of circumstances, including both families who became homeless due to a temporary crisis and chronically homeless individuals.

There are two common models that utilize the Housing First approach depending on a person’s needs and whether they need long or short-term assistance. The permanent supportive housing model provides long-term rental assistance and supportive services to individuals with chronic illnesses, disabilities, mental health issues or substance use disorder who have experienced long-term or repeated homelessness. A second model, known as rapid re-housing, provides short-term rental assistance and services to help people obtain housing quickly and increase self-sufficiency so they can remain housed.

The Maine Legislature’s Committee on Housing hosted Niederhauser in March to learn more about Utah’s successes and failures with the Housing First model.

“I testified in their committee because they wanted to know what happened in Utah. The fact is we didn’t keep up. That’s the bottom line,” Niederhauser said. “You need to provide housing, but you also need to provide more as your population grows … and you have got to have deeply affordable housing to address homelessness. You can’t be satisfied with what you’ve done in the past. It has to be an ongoing effort.”

Maine ranked eighth per capita for homelessness in 2022, according to data compiled by the National Alliance to End Homelessness. And from 2021-22, Maine’s homeless population increased by 113.8%, according to U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

“[Housing First] is an initiative that really is transformational,” said Ryan Fecteau, senior advisor of community development and strategic initiatives for the Maine Governor’s Office of Policy Innovation and the Future. “It’s probably the most transformational policy around homelessness in Maine history and will be a huge step forward in addressing that.”

Housing First was included in by the recently proposed budget of by Maine Gov. Janet Mills. If adopted, the program, contained in Speaker Talbot Ross’ proposed LD 2, would be established within the Maine Department of Health and Human Service.

An estimated 450 chronically homeless Mainers currently live throughout three Housing First model properties in Portland. Ninety efficiency apartments were constructed by nonprofits Avesta Housing and Preble Street in 2005, 2010 and 2017.

“Our service center communities, particularly Bangor and Portland — our two largest cities — are shouldering this challenge in a big way because a lot of people seek services in the city,” Fecteau said. “[While those seeking shelter] might not necessarily be from Portland or from Bangor, they end up there as a means of seeking services from the cities. Getting people stabilized affordable housing is a challenge across the spectrum. Whether it be folks who are experiencing homelessness or folks who are currently housed, they are having to pay way more than they should have to with their annual incomes.”

Fecteau added that Gov. Mills’ proposed budget also offers $12 million in one-time funds for the Emergency Housing Relief Fund. Those funds could continue supporting efforts to assist individuals and families experiencing homelessness. In addition, the Legislature included a $21 million emergency spending package in January supporting emergency housing and shelter.

Research indicates people assisted through the Housing First model access housing faster and are more likely to remain housed, with studies showing a one-year housing retention rate ranging from 75-98%. The approach tends to be cost-efficient, generating savings through reduced usage of emergency services, hospitals, jails and emergency shelters.

Shifting Skills: Labor Shortages Drive State Changes to Education, Employment Requirements 

By Grace Harrison

For government leaders at the state and national levels, some of the most important metrics of their success in office are economic conditions, such as unemployment levels or job growth. Market conditions and workforce characteristics are often determined by macro-level circumstances, though, and are beyond the control of a single U.S. representative or governor. Despite trends toward an increasingly educated workforce, states still face labor shortages. Governors in Alaska, Colorado, Maryland, New Jersey, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Utah are advocating for changes in education and skill requirements to bridge this gap.

Since the mid-20th century, the number of workers with a postsecondary degree has increased significantly. For workers aged 25 and older, the proportion of those with a higher education degree increased by around 30 percentage points from 1960 to 2021. As the education level of the U.S. population has increased, researchers have begun to question how educational attainment, income and unemployment are interrelated.

In 2014, Pew Research Center published a report detailing the “rising costs of not going to college” for millennials. Combining Pew and U.S. Census Bureau data, the report highlights three areas of disparity based on levels of educational attainment — annual earnings, unemployment rates and the share of individuals living in poverty. Though there have been differences in the earnings and general economic outcomes of college and high school graduates across generations, the annual income gap has increased from $7,449 in 1965 to $17,500 in 2013.

Underlying this trend is the general divergence of earnings, indicating rising median earnings of college graduates coupled with falling median earnings of high school graduates.

Despite fluctuations throughout COVID-19, the economy stabilized to a point where analysts can determine the current state of employment for various demographics. There was a 13.6% decrease in employment during the first month of the pandemic, which is the largest one-month decrease since 1939. Since then, employment fluctuated across sectors as overall economic growth remained volatile. Now, three years later, in the context of interest rate hikes and contractionary spending, the labor market faces the opposite problem: rapid growth in job postings, with not enough applicants to fill open roles.

In January 2023, employers created 517,000 jobs. Economists want to know why, despite low unemployment levels and the increasing population of highly educated workers, labor force participation is around one percentage point lower than pre-pandemic rates. A working paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research found this trend is due to “less hours worked” rather than “less workers.” Males aged 25-55 with bachelor’s degrees experienced the greatest decrease in work hours. Exactly why this voluntary decline in hours worked took place is undetermined, but authors suggest a desire to create a better work-life balance could explain this trend, which, if true, will have further implications for societal roles and future efforts to curb unemployment.

Similar research offers an alternative explanation as to why open roles continue to go unfilled. The relationship between higher education and higher wages is a primary factor, particularly in fields like retail and health care.

“As long as the benefits of obtaining a college degree exceed the cost for an increasing number of Americans, we should expect to see the number of Americans with a college degree continue to steadily climb."

Kory Kantenga, LinkedIn senior economist, to S&P Global

People who would traditionally fill low-wage positions are pursuing higher education and increased wages or otherwise seeking more competitive employment. This trend could shift if employers modify their hiring practices and requirements. For instance, skill-based assessments, rather than degree requirements, might slow the growth of individuals pursuing higher education. Governors across the U.S. supported replacing degree requirements with skills and experience assessments.

Public sector employment, responsible for government and public services such as education and transportation, faced some of the largest labor shortages in the last few years. Despite the increased demand for public services due to growth and infrastructure investment, state and local governments struggle to attract college graduates to fill these crucial positions. Competitive employment, as well as job and social mobility, are not typically characteristics of state and local government employment, despite the offerings of stable income and benefits.

The need to fill these public sector positions, combined with efforts of workforce development across states, has recently led governors to remove degree requirements — typically a bachelor’s degree — for government jobs.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan announced in March 2022 a “first in the nation” program to strengthen the state’s workforce. It was determined that more than half of the nearly 40,000 state jobs did not require four-year degrees, but rather relevant skills, work experience or community college education.

In April 2022, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis signed an executive order “directing state agencies to consider job applicants skills and experiences as substitutions for educational degrees.” On Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro’s first day in office, a similar executive order was passed.

Other governors implementing similar skills-based hiring practices within the past year include Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper and Utah Gov. Spencer Cox.

Implications of these Practices
This advancement in employment accessibility and development has now extended past executive actions. In the first few months of 2023, the Georgia Senate proposed and passed SB 3, the Reducing Barriers to State Employment Act of 2023. To date, eight states reduced the requirements of public sector employment, serving as examples for other states looking to do the same.

Because it is still early on in this transition, concrete impacts are yet to be determined. However, predictions for the future of educational attainment and state workforces are becoming clear. Employment expansion to skilled individuals without a degree provides economic stability and growth to not only the state and its constituents, but those individuals now receiving salaries and benefits that were previously unattainable.

Skills-based hiring practices and newly-created state programs also benefit individuals with disabilities, who often face higher barriers to education and employment. Though the steady increase in individuals obtaining postsecondary degrees likely will not disappear, state governments are making strides in promoting employment accessibility and combatting labor shortages.

Mental Health Among Top Policy Priorities for the States

By Jennifer Horton and Sean Slone

The Council of State Governments works to help state officials solve problems and share information with other policymakers across the U.S. As a nonpartisan association of all state officials, elected and appointed, the work of CSG is research informed in order to help states identify solutions that help their communities. We recognize that no single solution works for everyone, but we can learn from the successes — and failures — of other states. 

Through extensive survey work conducted by the CSG Center of Innovation research team, the CSG national office identified five top priority public policy issues that — in addition to work in other areas — CSG policy staff will expand on and provide resources for during 2023: 

  3. HOUSING. 

Each issue of CSG Capitol Ideas magazine in 2023 will focus on the work states are doing in each of these policy areas. This issue kicks off with a deeper dive into mental health and the different ways states are working to address this growing issue. 

Nine out of 10 adults in the U.S. believe the country is experiencing a mental health crisis. With that consideration, which resulted from a poll conducted by CNN and the Kaiser Family Foundation, and the topic of mental health gaining more attention in the conversations surrounding health care and wellness, many states are directing efforts at some of the most pressing concerns.

Recently, these have included suicide prevention (a leading cause of death in the U.S.), children’s mental health (1 in 6 children between the ages of 2 and 8 has a diagnosed mental, behavioral or developmental disorder), and expanding access to care. Mental Health America’s 2022 report provided a state-by-state look at access to mental health services, ranking states overall and in a number of categories including adult mental health, youth mental health, prevalence of mental illness and access to care.

In 2020, there were 45,979 deaths attributed to suicide, or one death every 11 minutes. Even more people thought about or attempted suicide with more than 16 million adults seriously thinking about, planning or attempting suicide.

Suicide is now ranked as the 12th leading cause of death in the U.S. overall and is the second leading cause of death for children between the ages of 15 and 19 years old. As cases of mental health conditions rise and the search for solutions continues, specialists around the nation are calling it a national mental health crisis.

A number of states passed legislation to fund and implement the new National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 988, in 2021. Experts hope that the inclusion of 988, dubbed by some as the mental health equivalent of 911, will successfully prevent more people from dying due to mental health concerns. Colorado (Senate Bill 21-154; 2021) and Washington (House Bill 1477; 2021) established telecommunications charges and appropriated funds to support the help line’s implementation and working groups to provide recommendations and/or oversee and administer the hotline. 

Individuals who identify as LGBTQ+ experience disproportionate levels of poor mental health and suicidality. According to a survey conducted in 2021 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention looking at high school students, 25% of lesbian, gay or bisexual students attempted suicide during the past year compared to 5% of heterosexual students. States have passed legislation to support this population, both by protecting them from practices that have been linked to substantial harm as well as by enacting bills that increase access to LGBTQ+ affirmative care.

In 2021, North Dakota enacted new ethics standards in alignment with the American Psychiatric Association’s Guidelines for Psychological Practice with Sexual Minority Persons and the APA’s Position Statement on Conversion Therapy and LGBTQ Patients that prohibit licensed social workers from subjecting LGBTQ+ youth to conversion therapy and require practitioners to use therapies that affirm individuals’ sexual orientations and gender identities. During the 2021 and 2022 legislative sessions, Illinois (SB 4028) and Vermont (HB 210) enacted bills creating task forces that will provide recommendations for increasing access to LGBTQ+ supportive care.

In recognition of the role of schools as a crucial access point to youth mental health care, states have enacted at least 100 laws since early 2020 aimed at supporting schools in the delivery of school-based mental health services. Some examples of this recent legislation include:

  • Connecticut: HB 6621 (Public Act No. 21-95, enacted June 2021) established requirements for the School Emotional Learning and School Climate Advisory Collaborative, which will develop a strategy to initiate collaborations with community-based mental health providers and support school staff in mental health and social-emotional learning. Connecticut SB 2 (Public Act No. 21-46, also enacted in June 2021) requires local boards of education to allow students to take up to four mental health days per school year.
  • Illinois: SB 818 (Public Act 102-0522, enacted August 2021) requires that health education courses for students include information on mental health.
  • Massachusetts: H 4002 (Chapter 24, enacted July 2021) appropriated funding for a pilot program for telebehavioral health services through schools.
  • North Carolina: SB 105 (SL 2021-180, enacted November 2021) allocated funding from the American Rescue Plan Act to establish a grant program for schools to hire psychologists in response to COVID-19.
  • Rhode Island: SB 31/HB 5353 (Chapter 131, enacted April 2021) requires that school staff and students receive education on suicide awareness and prevention.
  • Texas: SB 279 (enacted June 2021) requires schools to include crisis line contact information on all identification cards for students in grades six through twelve.
  • Virginia: SB 1288/HB 2299 (Chapter 452, enacted March 2021) requires that school counselors receive mental health training in order to obtain and renew their license.
  • Wisconsin: Assembly Bill 528 (enacted February 2020) established a competitive grant program to support peer-to-peer suicide prevention programs in high schools.

Mental Health Stigma and Employability

Attitudes and stigma around mental health were one of the topics addressed in a 2021 study on mental health at work published by the organization Mind Share Partners. According to the study, the country may be witnessing a subtle shift in those attitudes in the wake of the impacts of COVID-19. 

58% of respondents were willing to hire or work with someone with a mental health condition, up from 46% in 2019. 

55% of respondents believe that an employee with a mental health condition could be just as productive as one without, up from 52% in 2019. 

55% said they knew someone personally with a mental health condition, up from 50% in 2019. 

READ MORE about states addressing stigma and employability on the State Talk blog.

Many states have expanded behavioral health care in Medicaid to address mental health and substance use outcomes. Many of these initiatives extend beyond Medicaid enrollees and funding. Research indicates that Medicaid expansion, and the resulting increase in mental health coverage, is associated with a decrease in suicide mortality.

Montana’s Healing and Ending Addiction through Recovery and Treatment 1115 demonstration waiver expands access to treatment and recovery services, improves transitions of care across treatment levels, and seeks Medicaid coverage for evidence-based substance use disorder treatment models and pre-release care management for individuals involved in the justice system. In another state example, North Dakota’s Medicaid 1915(i) state plan amendment, authorized by SB 2012, allows North Dakota Medicaid to pay for 12 additional home and community based services to support individuals with behavioral health conditions. The program includes policies that address rural challenges.

Disparities in mental health coverage persist despite Congress passing the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act in 2008. The bill, requiring equitable coverage of mental health and substance use disorder treatment, was further bolstered by the 2010 Affordable Care Act’s requirement that most health plans cover mental health and substance use disorder care. Some forms of insurance, such as Medicare, the Veterans Administration and short-term limited duration health plans, are able to place limitations on mental health coverage and the laws don’t require parity in reimbursement rates, making it difficult or impossible to find in-network mental health care providers.

Although states must meet the minimum standards established by the MHPAEA, some have taken steps to make their laws more rigorous, to have a broader scope, or to oversee enforcement. During the 2021 and 2022 legislative sessions, at least 14 states passed parity laws: Maryland, Wyoming, Oklahoma, Montana, Oregon, Ohio, Kentucky, Missouri, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Nevada and Washington.

In 2021, both Ohio SB 284 and Missouri HB 604 enacted legislation requiring their state insurance directors to issue regulations and enforce the MHPAEA. And Illinois SB 0471 expanded and clarified requirements for insurers to provide timely access to treatment.

Some state’s bills expand telehealth options while others focus on oversight and reporting requirements. In Maryland, SB 3 amended the state’s telehealth law to promote coverage for mental health and substance use disorder services. Additionally, Nevada AB 181 requires providers and insurers to report suicide attempts to the chief medical officer for parity compliance.

50-State Medicaid Budget Survey for Fiscal Years 2021 and 2022, Kaiser Family Foundation (VIEW)

National Alliance on Mental Illness State Legislation Report: Trends in State Mental Health Policy (2019), National Alliance on Mental Illness (VIEW)

Mental Health America State Policy Recommendations: Youth Mental Health, Mental Health America (VIEW)

Welcome New Members

Learn how The Council of State Governments works for you

Welcome to The Council of State Governments and our very best wishes to you as you take on this important role in publics service. Here at CSG, we know the monumental tasks that you’ll face and how important the impact of your work will be. Don’t worry, we’re here to help. At CSG, we work for you; our priorities are determined by state officials, and we hope you come to think of CSG as part of your team.

CSG is America’s largest organization of state officials and the nation’s only nonpartisan, nonprofit organization serving all three branches of state government. Founded in 1933, CSG is a region-based forum that fosters the exchange of insights and ideas to help state officials shape public policy.


The CSG national office, located in Lexington, Kentucky, houses research, public policy, publications and special initiatives through partnerships with the federal government and other community and research organizations that foster collaboration and community between elected and appointed officials from across the country and the six U.S. territories. At the CSG national headquarters, staff work within the Center of Innovation, home to all public policy analysis, research and grant projects, and the National Center for Interstate Compacts as well as on national initiatives including CSG Capitol Ideas magazine, the CSG Henry Toll Fellowship and the CSG 20 Under 40 Leadership Award. Learn more at


CSG East | CSG Midwest | CSG South | CSG West
Regional by design, these offices across the U.S. allow state officials to connect on shared issues that are geographically based, including federal lands, water rights, agriculture, border relations and more. CSG regional offices also host conferences, in-state visits and leadership development programs that allow officials to network regionally. The regional offices incorporate the CSG Eastern Regional Conference, CSG Midwestern Legislative Conference, the CSG Southern Legislative Conference, and CSG West.


The CSG Justice Center brings together state and local officials along with subject matter experts to discuss challenges and best practices in policy areas directly related to issues of public safety and justice. Learn more at

Look Ahead to What CSG Has Planned for 2023!

Dec. 6-9 | Raleigh, North Carolina
Each year, CSG hosts its national conference to bring together hundreds of state leaders from across the U.S., the U.S. territories and Canada. The CSG National Conference spotlights national public policy priorities through interactive sessions designed to engage officials from all three branches of government.

Aug. 16-20 | Lexington, Kentucky
Named for CSG Founder Henry Wolcott Toll, this fellowship is the nation’s premier leadership development program for state government officials. The Toll Fellowship brings together 48 of the nation’s top state government officials from all three branches of government for an intensive week-long course. Application deadline is May 1. Apply or nominate here: CSGOVTS.INFO/TOLLS.

June 14-16 | Chicago
Recognizing its strength in establishing peer networks among leaders, CSG will provide a new professional and leadership development experience for legislative leaders. The New Legislative Leaders Academy educates participants on the legislative institution, separation of powers, ethics and civility.

Sept. 18-22 | Washington, D.C.
In 2023, the Medicaid Policy Academy will combine the Medicaid 101 Policy Academy and the Medicaid Leadership Academy into a two-part, five-day program to provide leadership development through policy analysis for state legislators. In two separate classes, this program will bring together 30 state administration and legislative officials who are engaged with health care policy for a dive into the policy and conversations surrounding governing Medicaid programs.

This annual honor recognizes the work of 20 up-and-coming elected and appointed officials from across the country who demonstrate the ability to work across the aisle in meaningful ways relevant to the CSG mission of helping states advance the common good. Apply or nominate a leader by Aug. 1 here: WEB.CSG.ORG/20-40.

The CSG regional annual meetings are signature events convened each summer by the CSG regional offices. Each event is unique to its region and brings together state policymakers of all levels and branches, from those just finishing their freshman sessions to Senate presidents and speakers of the House. Each meeting includes programming that features strong host state pride, enriching public policy discussions and leadership development trainings.

Aug. 20–23, Toronto, Ontario

July 9–12, Detroit

July 8–12, Charleston, SC

Aug. 1–4, Universal City, CA

Want to learn more about how CSG works for you and discover ways to get involved in this nonpartisan organization of state officials? Visit

The CSG National Headquarters office is located in Lexington, Kentucky. CSG has regional offices in New York City, Atlanta, Chicago and Sacramento, California. It also has an office in Washington, D.C., and the CSG Justice Center in New York City.

The Council of State Governments began in October 1933 when a small group of state legislators gathered in a room at the Penn Harris Hotel in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. CSG founder Colorado state Sen. Henry Toll was meeting with the Board of managers of the American Legislators Association, a group he founded in 1925. One of Toll’s first items of business was to compile a list of all 7,500 state legislators in the country, a roll that did not exist until he put one together.

Regional Leadership Programs

Aug. 18-22 | Madison, Wisconsin
BILLD is a five-day leadership training program designed for lawmakers of the Midwestern Legislative Conference’s 11 member states. The program offers newer legislators an opportunity to improve their leadership skills, explore ongoing issues, and connect with nationally renowned scholars, professional development experts, and legislative leaders and colleagues from across the region. CLICK TO LEARN MORE.

Aug. 27-31 | Philadelphia
Each year, 30 state and provincial officials from the 18 CSG Eastern Region member jurisdictions gather in Philadelphia for the Robert J. Thompson ELA. This select group of state officials from all three branches of government receives training to enhance their leadership and communication skills from a variety of experts in media, education and government. CLICK TO LEARN MORE.

Oct. 15-19 | Nashville, Tennessee
CALS is a five-day workshop bringing together 30 elected or appointed officials from Southern Legislative Conference member states in a strictly nonpartisan environment. Selected CALS scholars participate in activities and instruction focusing on the program’s four central components: communication, conflict resolution, consensus building and critical decision making. CLICK TO LEARN MORE.

Nov. 12-16 | Atlanta
SAGE is a professional leadership development program for Southern state legislative, judicial, executive and agency staff. In addition to developing their personal and professional leadership skills, participants can build a network of peers from across the Southern region.

Dec. 12-15 | Colorado Springs, Colorado
Western region state legislators are selected to participate in the multi-day WLA training experience focused on sharpening leadership skills needed to excel in a legislative environment. Faculty from academic, military and legislative backgrounds engage class members in interactive sessions designed to provide a learning experience that expands understanding and fosters relationships. CLICK TO LEARN MORE.

The Advent of AI

Advocates, skeptics of rapidly advancing technology eye regulations, revisions 

This image, “Renaissance Painting of Politics,” was created with the assistance of DALL-E

By Dr. Dakota Thomas and Caroline Wills 

Computing changed the world. Twenty years ago, many jobs did not require use of computers. Now, most require them for key functions — or to even exist. On its own, computing is changing rapidly. The advent of machine learning and artificial intelligence may change humanity’s relationship with technology forever, and is expected to have important consequences for the economy and society of the near future.

Until recently, computing relied on providing computers with instructions. In traditional programming, a human writes a program and the computer executes it exactly as instructed. A form of computer programming, machine learning is a specific approach to achieving AI. It moves beyond human direction; computers are now taught to create their own instructions using specific protocols. Currently, little government oversight exists for this emerging technology.

As part of machine learning, a computer learns what to do without explicit instruction from a human. Artificial intelligence, or AI, is the simulation of human intelligence in machines, teaching a computer to think, learn and perform tasks like a human. AI is the broader concept of teaching machines to perform tasks that would normally require human intelligence, while machine learning uses data and certain techniques to train computers to do such tasks. Using a learning algorithm, computers create a model from training data in order to make predictions or decisions that were not explicitly programmed. A learning algorithm can achieve more in less time compared to human programming alone through the automation of complex, time-consuming tasks.

An algorithm is a sequence of instructions or operations used to solve a problem or perform a calculation, while training data is any form of data that can be used to teach a learning algorithm what to do. 

As a result, machine learning drastically increases productivity and requires less human thought and labor. Consider, for example, spam filters for emails. Although a human programmer could feasibly update programming to block spam, spammers can quickly adapt and bypass filters. By contrast, a computer program is continually trained with data generated by users flagging spam messages and can easily create a comprehensive filter and automatically update its approach as threats become more complex.

Machine learning and AI are advancing so rapidly that language and art AI can mimic human conversation and human generated art. ChatGPT, a language model AI chatbot, was designed by OpenAI to perform writing tasks like a human would as well as to respond to questions and commands. When it debuted last year, people were spooked by how much it can do and how well it mimics human writing. In fact, the chatbot has passed graduate level writing exams in multiple fields including the U.S. medical licensing exam and several law classes.

Writing a program similar to the one allowing ChatGPT to respond is extremely complicated and time-intensive for a human programmer. But since ChatGPT has been taught how to respond to requests, it responded in seconds and can answer many other kinds of requests as well.

Q&A with ChatGPT

“Can you provide an example of AI for a website?”

ChatGPT’s Response:
There are many ways that artificial intelligence can be used on a website to improve the user experience and make it more interactive and engaging. Here are a few examples of how AI can be used on a website:

  • Chatbots – Chatbots are computer programs that use natural language processing to simulate a conversation with a human. They can be used on a website to provide customer support, answer frequently asked questions, or guide users through the purchasing process.
  • Personalization – AI can be used to personalize the content and recommendations shown to a user on a website based on their past interactions and behaviors. This can help to create a more personalized and relevant experience for the user.
  • Image Recognition – AI can be used to analyze and classify images on a website, for example to tag photos with relevant keywords or to provide alternative text for visually impaired users.

These are just a few examples of how AI can be used on a website. There are many other potential applications of AI in this context, and the use of AI in web development is an active area of research and development.

As with any new technology, the advancement of AI and machine learning tools has its shortcomings. Among them is AIgiarism, plagiarism enabled by AI programs, along with biased algorithms due to flawed training data, potential job displacement as result of automation, and cultural impacts on how creativity and art are viewed.

The concept of machine learning can be misleading. ChatGPT and other AI do not actually know anything in the ordinary sense of the word — yet. Instead, these tools have had a vast amount of information fed to it by humans. For ChatGPT, that data comes from online text that is repackaged and redistributed.

Since the authors of that online text probably did not agree to having their text used to train ChatGPT, and the chatbot does not cite its sources, it’s difficult to know how ChatGPT learns all the information it generates. It also leads to questions about the information’s accuracy and whether the chatbot is plagiarizing others. According to Slate, there are published examples of chatbots copying other journalists’ work for use in another publication’s article.

Setting aside the ethics of training data, AIgiarism has already created concerns in the educational system, where teachers and professors recognize that students can use AI, like ChatGPT, to do their homework. There is a plagiarism checker in development specifically designed to try to determine if ChatGPT wrote a paper rather than a student. Educational institutions nationwide are creating academic task forces and regulations to address the emerging issues of AIgiarism. To their credit, AI developers addressed the issue with a new tool.

Scott Aaronson, a researcher at OpenAI, revealed on his blog that his primary project had been “statistically watermarking the outputs of a text model like GPT,” making it harder for their ChatGPT algorithm to pass off information as if it came from a human.

“Whenever GPT generates some long text, we want there to be an otherwise unnoticeable secret signal in its choices of words, which you can use to prove later that, yes, this came from GPT,” Sorenson said. “This could be helpful for preventing academic plagiarism, obviously, but also, for example, mass generation of propaganda.”

The problem of plagiarism is not unique to language AI, as similar issues with AI generated art have also begun causing controversy. Last year, the winner of the Colorado State Fair’s annual art competition used AI to create their winning image, sparking a heated discussion on the impact of AI on human creativity, copyright and artistic expression. As with language AI, human generated art is used to train art AI, and typically the creators of that art are not asked permission or compensated for their work. Although AI is already drastically changing creative processes and artistic expression by convincingly mimicking human generated art, it may be difficult for AI to replace human imagination and innovation in the future. AI can effectively mimic human creativity and expression, but it is unclear if it can replace artists altogether.

Other professions may be even more vulnerable to displacement by AI automation. This could contribute to higher unemployment and other social and economic consequences. According to the 2020 World Economic Forum Future Jobs Report, AI could displace up to 85 million jobs globally — many of which are expected to be blue-collar positions. The report also revealed as many as 97 million jobs could be created; however, the jobs created will likely be white-collar roles such as programmers. By 2025, the report speculates that employers will equally divide work between human and machines; roles requiring human skills will rise in demand; information and data processing will be the primary task of machines; and administrative tasks and routine manual jobs will be the primary responsibilities of white- and blue-collar workers.

Since AI relies on human generated data, it can exhibit the same biases as humans. Commonly called algorithmic bias, it has been increasingly creeping into areas of human life. Beginning in 2014, Amazon tried utilizing AI to build a resume-screening tool to make hiring more efficient. The algorithm was trained using resumes collected by Amazon. Many of those resumes were from men, and due to the biased input, the system learned to discriminate against women applicants.

The field of AI is advancing so quickly that some researchers estimate an AI with superhuman intelligence will be created this century. Despite the rapid pace of technological advancement and innovation surrounding machine learning and AI, few policymakers are well versed on the subject. One notable exception is U.S. Rep. Don Beyer, who, at age 72, enrolled in an AI undergraduate program at George Mason University.

California Rep. Ted Lieu introduced a congressional resolution written by AI in January, directing the U.S. House of Representatives to delve into the challenges of artificial intelligence and the need for increased regulation. Consequently, Lieu is the first member of Congress to introduce AI authored material. In an op-ed published by The New York Times ahead of the release of his resolution, Lieu wrote: “We can harness and regulate A.I. to create a more utopian society or risk having an unchecked, unregulated A.I. push us toward a more dystopian future.”

At a state level, Massachusetts Sen. Barry Finegold used ChatGPT to draft data privacy legislation. Finegold and his office gave ChatGPT broad prompts, leading it to create a nearly complete document. Finegold filed the bill to show the benefits of AI, while also highlighting the need for guardrails to protect public safety.

While billions are spent every year advancing AI capability, only $50 million was spent in 2020 on reducing its potential risks. Added oversight and regulation could ensure that AI assists humans moving forward in creating a sustainable and inclusive future that avoids the potential risks of AI proliferation. By investing in applied AI research, promoting transparency and accountability in AI, developing comprehensive ethical guidelines, and proposing regulations and restrictions on AI, policymakers can work to smooth the transition to a world with more AI in it.

Machine Learning Techniques

Beyond the general styles of machine learning, there are also specific techniques used. These techniques include neural networks, decision trees and regression. 

Neural networks seek to replicate the human brains neural connections. Using models, artificial neurons are created that communicate with one another via a signal. Under certain conditions, signals become stronger or weaker, and the overall network learns to manage new information. For example, you can feed an artificial neural network images labeled “cat” and “not cat.” The network will try to learn how to classify images as cats. The network can then try to identify cats in new images it hasn’t seen before.

Decision trees are another technique for supervised learning. Using several input variables, a decision tree attempts to classify relevant features to predict an outcome. This approach is one of the simpler types of machine learning with decisions that are more easily understood.

A more recently identified form of supervised learning is regression, which is the use of statistical modelling to estimate relationships between one or more output variables and a set of input variables. Regression can be used to make predictions and forecasts, as well for inference of relationships between variables. For instance, if the economy improves by X%, inflation will likely change by Y%.

Genetic algorithms use a simulated evolutionary cycle to solve problems. It does this by first creating a population of potential solutions before checking to see how well each solution works and assigning a score. Solutions are then reproduced and combined and/or changed to create even better solutions. This process repeats a select number of times until a sufficiently good solution is reached. Genetic algorithms can be considered supervised or unsupervised learning, depending on the specific application.

Styles of Machine Learning

The field of machine learning is a new one, and scholars debate how best to think about it. Generally speaking, there are three styles of machine learning: supervised, unsupervised and reinforcement. 

During supervised learning, a computer is given example inputs and desired outputs. The computer’s goal is to learn rules that map specific inputs to specific outputs. For example, an individual might use a data set of labelled handwritten characters to train a computer how to read handwriting correctly.

Unsupervised learning occurs when no labels are given to the inputs, so the computer must find structure in the inputs on its own. This is sometimes referred to as data mining, which is looking for previously unknown patterns in data. An example of this may take place when an online retailer uses unsupervised learning to predict future purchases and make relevant recommendations based on a customer’s past behavior.

The third machine learning style, reinforcement learning, involves computer interaction with a dynamic environment while attempting to accomplish certain tasks. Throughout this process, the computer is given feedback as if it is reward. It then continues trying to maximize the reward it receives. This style takes place in self-driving cars programmed to avoid obstacles. The car is rewarded for successfully navigating without errors, thus improving its approach to navigation.

Set to Serve: 2023 CSG Leadership

The 2023 CSG National Officers pursue their passion for public service by leading The Council of State Governments 

By Cody Porter and Trey Delida

Gov. John Carney
Delaware | 2023 CSG National President

The Council of State Governments ushered in its 90th anniversary with the election of Delaware Gov. John Carney as 2023 CSG National President at its national conference in December. 

Carney, who succeeds Hawaii Gov. David Ige as national president, became Delaware’s 74th governor in January 2017 and began his second term in January 2021. From 2011 to 2017, Carney served as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives. His six years of service in the House followed two terms as Delaware lieutenant governor, taking place during Gov. Ruth Ann Minner’s administration, from 2001 to 2009. 

“I am honored to serve as the national president of The Council of State Governments in 2023,” Carney said. “I look forward to working with state leaders across the country to advance issues that are important to all of us — making sure we have safe communities, a strong and growing economy, and world-class public schools for all our children.” 

In becoming CSG National President, Carney joins his predecessors from The First State, Govs. Minner and Jack Markell, both of whom previously served in the role. Minner, the first female national president, served her one-year term in 2005. Markell, who succeeded Minner in 2009 as Delaware governor, was national president in 2016. 

Delaware Gov. John Carney joined students of Rehoboth Elementary School to plant trees in observance of National Arbor Day on May 6, 2022.

“Governors Minner and Markell had a way of giving everyone a seat at the table. We call it The Delaware Way,” Carney said. “It means that we work together, get to know our colleagues from both parties, and put partisan differences aside to get things done for our communities. That’s what Delawareans expect from us, and I believe that’s what makes us such effective leaders. That philosophy is exactly what CSG is all about.” 

Carney’s belief in practicing The Delaware Way has paid dividends for his state. He embarked on his first term as governor intent on developing a competitive economy, improving educational opportunities and implementing a sustainable financial plan. Even when tasked with navigating COVID-19, he managed to address the needs of the state with assistance from Delaware communities and the Legislature. 

As a Delaware congressman, Carney supported the return of American manufacturing jobs through the Make It In America agenda. He also promoted job growth for small- and medium-sized businesses as lead sponsor of the Jumpstart Our Business Startups, and again as lead sponsor on a bill assisting veterans in their transition to the job market. 

“During his tenure as a public servant at the local, state and federal level, Governor Carney has distinguished himself as a problem solver and an innovator,” said David Adkins, CSG executive director/CEO. “He has consistently demonstrated the ability to bring people together and, as a result, he has produced impressive results for the people he serves.” 

Although COVID-19 tested Carney and fellow state leaders, other more unique challenges await in the year ahead. Among them is an economic imbalance that consists of a large discrepancy between available jobs and the workforce. 

“Across the country, and certainly in Delaware, we now have more jobs available than people looking for work,” Carney said. “That’s something I’ve never seen before in my career in public service, and a big part of that challenge is the large number of vacancies within state government.” 

In its position as a nonpartisan representative of the states, Carney said the platform of CSG allows states to benefit from shared “best practices and lessons learned.” Such opportunity can produce “outside the box” thinking that states can adopt to combat economic struggles by generating jobs competitive with the private sector. 

“CSG is all about partnership and working together. State governments across the country are facing the same challenges, regardless of who is in the majority,” Carney said. “Throughout my term as national president, I will be committed to bringing members together to discuss these issues. I hope CSG will be a platform for all of us to find common ground and work together on real solutions that will benefit our communities.” 

Fast Facts

Years in Public Office: 22 
Positions: Lieutenant Governor (2001-09), State Representative (2011-17), Governor (2017-Present) 
Education: Dartmouth College (B.A., 1978), University of Delaware (M.P.A., 1987) 
Interesting Tidbit: The son of educators, Carney attended Dartmouth College to pursue his degree and further his football career. On the gridiron, he was named All-Ivy League and Most Valuable Player. Upon graduating from Dartmouth, Carney accepted a position to coach freshmen football at the University of Delaware where he also earned a master’s degree in public administration. 

Rep. Julia Howard
North Carolina | 2023 CSG National Chair

Rep. Julia Howard is one of the longest serving members of the North Carolina Legislature. First elected to the state’s District 79 in 1989, she represented her constituents there for more than 30 years. In 2019, Howard was elected to represent District 77, where she currently serves Rowan County, Yadkin County and her home, Davie County. 

Throughout Howard’s decades of service, she sat on and chaired several House committees, including banking, energy and public utilities, and finance. Passionate about policies that impact North Carolina families, she has dedicated her career to issues like welfare reform, aiding small businesses and child protection laws.

One of Howard’s most notorious feats comes from her leadership through the Great Recession of 2008. North Carolina had amassed a debt to the federal government totaling $2.7 billion on top of exhausting its unemployment trust fund. Howard’s legislation restructured the state’s unemployment system to avoid significant federal unemployment tax increases on small businesses.

An active member of CSG throughout her career, Howard was named national vice chair of the organization in 2020, a position she served in for two years before advancing to her role as chair-elect as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. A 2008 CSG Henry Toll Fellow, she also served as chair of the CSG Southern Legislative Conference in 2007-08.

During Howard’s steadfast leadership, CSG has grown as an organization, and she looks forward to working to connect state leaders to address today’s pressing policy issues.

Fast Facts

Years in Public Office: 34
Positions: State Representative (1989-Present)
Education: Salem College (B.A., 2003)
Interesting Tidbit: Outside of the Legislature, Howard is a licensed real estate broker and appraiser who owns and operates Howard Realty in Davie County. Howard enjoys gardening in her spare time. 

Rep. Kevin Ryan
Connecticut | 2023 CSG National Chair-Elect

Rep. Kevin Ryan, a deputy speaker and 15-term veteran of the Connecticut General Assembly, serves the towns of Bozrah, Montville and Norwich in the 139th House District. His career in public service spans 30 years, all of which has been as a member of the Public Health Committee and the Appropriations Committee. During eight of those years, Ryan was House chairman of the Labor and Public Employees Committee.

In 2023, Ryan embarked on a new role as CSG National Chair-Elect. Through this role with CSG, he served on the Strategic Planning Committee, learning the scope of services and opportunities offered by the organization. Ryan hopes to use his new CSG platform to foster continued growth of the organization and its members.

“I hope that CSG can continue to grow as a resource for legislators, legislative staff, and members and staff of the judicial and executive branches through webinars, regional and national conferences, and research on specific topics,” Ryan said.

Ryan attended the Robert J. Thompson Eastern Leadership Academy and is a CSG Henry Toll Fellow. He serves on the National Conference of State Legislatures Task Force on Agriculture and on the NCSL Executive Committee representing CSG East.

In addition to his career in public service, Ryan gives back to his community through his involvement with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southeastern Connecticut, where he serves as president. He previously worked as a clinician and optometrist, as well as vice president of Uncas Foods Inc., a family-owned business. 

Fast Facts

Years in Public Office: 31
Positions: State Representative (1993-Present) 
Education: Villanova University (B.A., 1974; B.S., 1976), Pennsylvania College of Optometry (O.D., 1978), University of New Haven (M.A., 1989)
Interesting Tidbit: A dedicated educator, Ryan served on the Montville Board of Education for seven years before his election to the Connecticut House of Representatives. He has been an adjunct physics professor at the University of New Haven since 1980.  

Sen. Elgie Sims
Illinois | 2023 CSG National Vice Chair

The legislative pathway of Sen. Elgie Sims was cemented just over a decade ago, built upon a foundation that is his devout devotion to Illinois communities. As senator for the 17th District, such support actively impacts Chicago’s south side, south suburbs, and Will and Kankakee counties. 

Sims’ increasing involvement as a legislator at the local and state levels has since grown to include the national landscape. The four-year member of the CSG Midwestern Legislative Conference was nominated by his MLC peers to join the CSG Executive Committee, resulting in his selection as 2023 CSG National Vice Chair. 

“I’m a former baseball player so I know the importance of a utility player,” Sims said. “My role and goal this year is to support the vision and leadership of CSG National Chair Julia Howard and CSG President John Carney. I want to make sure that I’m doing just that so that we can continue creating this forum for discussions of excellence in state government. It’s so important that we have that forum and the ability to forward policy at the state level.” 

Sims, who is chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, also served as MLC Chair in 2019. In 2014, he graduated from his first of two prominent leadership programs associated with CSG: The Bowhay Institute for Legislative Leadership Development of the MLC. Sims then graduated from the CSG Henry Toll Fellowship in 2015. 

“Through my leadership experiences, I’ve had the opportunity to develop more personal relationships,” Sims said. “There were people in my BILLD and Toll classes who I knew for years before either of us ever figured out the party affiliation of the other. I think that’s a testament to the relationships you establish, and that’s really the benefit of being involved with CSG. It’s a nonpartisan organization that focuses on excellence in state government.” 

Sims’ foray into public service began in 2012 upon getting elected to his first of nearly four terms representing the 34th Illinois House District. His contributions during that time have most notably reduced disparities in school funding, generated growth among small businesses, stimulated employment among the middle class and youth, and strengthened community and law enforcement relationships. 

Through his affiliation with CSG, Sims said he and his legislative counterparts benefit from the nonpartisan forum made available by the organization. It’s in such settings that conversation and thought sharing result in support and proactive response, like that of Sims’ economic work, leading to an improved quality of life for state residents. 

“There’s certain conversations that you cannot have on the Senate or House floors because they may become political and partisan,” Sims said. “If we are able to come together — not as Democrats or Republicans, or moderates or progressives — we have a forum to talk about the issues concerning our constituents. 

“I think CSG is uniquely positioned as a nonpartisan organization focused on excellence in state government to create opportunities for discussion that can occur in an authentic way to help forward policies that create pathways to understanding.” 

Fast Facts

Years in Public Office: 11
Positions: State Representative (2012-18), State Senator (2018-Present)  
Education: Illinois State University (B.A., 1993), University of Illinois (M.P.A., 1997), Loyola University Chicago School of Law (J.D., 2007) 
Interesting Tidbit: Sims maintains his involvement as a community leader and is a member of many civic organizations. As part of these endeavors, he provided books and scholarships to countless children in need. 

2023 CSG Regional Officers


Ted Arnott, Speaker of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario | Co-Chair
First elected to the Ontario Legislature in 1990 at age 27, Arnott’s service earned him re-election on seven occasions. He became the 42nd speaker of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario in July 2018 following his re-election. Once the youngest member of Provincial Parliament in the Ontario Progressive Conservative Caucus, Arnott is now the longest serving member of the Legislature. 

Jamie West, Member of Provincial Parliament of Ontario | Co-Chair
West’s legislative career launched in 2018 when he was elected to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. An advocate of the working class, he’s the official opposition critic for labor, training and skills development in the Legislative Assembly. In addition to West’s commitment to preserving human rights, his career includes work in mental health, construction, mining and workplace safety. 


Michigan Sen. Roger Victory | Chair
Victory served in the Michigan House for six years before he was first elected to the Michigan Senate in 2018. He is the Senate Republican Whip and previously served as the assistant majority whip for the 101st Michigan Legislature. In 2022, Victory served as majority vice-chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee and chair of the Senate Judiciary and Public Safety Committee. 


South Carolina Sen. Thomas Alexander | Chair
Alexander started his career in South Carolina Senate in 1994. In 2021, he was voted Senate president with bipartisan support. He currently serves on several committees within the Senate, including finance; labor, commerce and industry; public utility review; and medical affairs. He also serves as chairman of the Senate Interstate Cooperation Committee, Legislative Oversight Committee and Interstate Cooperation Committee.  


California Assemblymember Mike Gipson | Chair
Gipson has served in the California State Assembly since 2014 after getting elected by its 64th Assembly District. He has been reappointed Assembly Democratic Caucus Chair every year since 2016. In this role, Gipson leads the majority caucus’ legislative decision-making process, addresses statewide issues, and hosts weekly meetings concerning the caucus’ priorities. He previously served as a councilmember for the city of Carson. 

Final Facts


Among the bills lawmakers passed in 2022, some notable trends emerged across the states. According to FiscalNote, the biggest policy issues that state legislatures dealt with last year fall into the areas of health, labor and employment, and education. These broad trends in legislative focus coincide with a few policy choices made in several states. Looking at specific policies, The Council of State Government conducted a scan of state legislation that revealed multiple states enacted bills in 2022 on daylight savings policy, consumer privacy, reproductive health care, paid family leave and gender-affirming health care. This does not include all trends in state legislation but does highlight areas of common interest in multiple states. 

Please note: CSG is a nonpartisan organization and takes no position on state legislation or laws mentioned. CSG provides unbiased research that is based on evidence-informed and objective analysis. 

These graphics appeared in Capitol Ideas Magazine (2023, Issue 1). To view current and past issues, click here.

‘Grateful to All’

A message from Mike McCabe, CSG Midwest Director, 1985-2023

Dear Friends,

As a new biennium begins and with this year’s legislative sessions now well underway, 2023 also marks a time of transition and new beginnings, both for the Midwestern Legislative Conference and here in the CSG Midwest office. 

Led by Michigan Sen. Roger Victory, a new team of officers is guiding the work of the MLC, and soon, new executive committee members and leaders of the MLC policy committees will assume their duties. 

These transitions serve as an annual reminder to me of just how fortunate The Council of State Governments is to be led at both the regional and national levels by an ever-evolving cast of dedicated individuals — leaders who willingly devote countless hours of their time and energy to promoting excellence in state government. 

After almost 38 years at CSG, I continue to be inspired by the leaders and members whose shared commitments to public service and government excellence are the lifeblood of our organization. 

And, as I retire, I am so grateful for the privilege I have enjoyed to work closely with so many outstanding leaders and public servants during my tenure as director of CSG Midwest. To each of you, I extend my heartfelt thanks — for your leadership, your vision and your example, but also for your friendship, your support and your commitment to the mission of CSG. 

Finally, I want to acknowledge and thank the many CSG staff colleagues — both near and far, past and present — with whom I have been fortunate enough to work along the way. 

To David Adkins and the outstanding CSG national and regional staff teams across the country, as well as those who work within the CSG Justice Center and our affiliated organizations, it has been an honor and a privilege to call you colleagues while sharing with you the wonderful experience of working for CSG. I could not have found a better place to spend my career, and I am grateful to all. 

And to my closest fellow staffers here at CSG Midwest (both former and current), no words can adequately express what you have meant to me through the years. It has truly been a joy to work by your side, and I will always be grateful for your friendship. 

I know how lucky I am to have shared this journey with you. 

Special thanks to Dr. Carolyn Orr, the MLC’s longtime agriculture policy consultant, who always made us better and who also wrapped up her work for the MLC earlier this year. And best wishes to the new director of CSG Midwest, Laura Tomaka. I could not have asked for a better successor, and I’m thrilled to know that the Midwestern Office is in such capable hands. 

With Laura at the helm and an incredible team in place — Ilene, Laura K., Tim, Jon, Mitch, Derek, Jess, Jenny, Cathy and Christina — CSG Midwest remains committed to assisting leaders across the region in building a better future for our states and provinces.

— Mike McCabe