Veterans Treatment Court Discretionary Grant Program funding available to states

By Trey Delida

The Bureau of Justice Assistance announced recent funding opportunities for states regarding veterans’ treatment courts. Funding will be distributed through competitive grants from the Veterans Treatment Discretionary Grant Program, administered by the Department of Justice, which provides grants and technical assistance to implement or enhance programs for veterans in the criminal justice system. For the 2022 fiscal year, $29 million is available to eligible applicants across the nation.

Through this grant opportunity, states have the chance to create or improve upon already existing resources to support drug court programs and systems for eligible veterans in the criminal justice system. The Office of Justice Programs, a federal agency aimed at strengthening the criminal justice system, oversees the funding process for VTC programs. State leaders can direct residents to the OJP Grant Application Resource Guide to help them determine eligibility and navigate the application process. Applicants must register in and submit the SF-424 and the SF-LLL through and the full application including attachments using JustGrants.

Once an organization has determined if they are eligible for OJP funding, further assistance may be needed for the application process. There are several funding opportunities available through OJP and some contain program solicitations or modifications. The applicant resource hub provides an overview of resource guides, templates, checklists and a step-by-step introduction to the OJP grant process.

Veterans Treatment Courts are designed to address substance abuse cases and mental health disorders among our country’s military veteran communities. Many of these issues can be connected to the trauma of combat. The programs work similarly to drug courts, combining a treatment-focused approach with personal accountability to rehabilitate struggling individuals. Since 2008, several states have taken legislative action to establish VTC’s or similar legislation within their state court systems.

The application process is competitive and the period to apply expires on May 25.

Potential Impact for States: The Latest in Colliding Federal Initiatives

Two Biden administration initiatives related to the COVID-19 pandemic have collided in Congress.

Last week, the administration announced it would end enforcement of Title 42 (of the Public Health Services Law) by May 23. Implemented by the Trump Administration in the early months of the pandemic, Title 42 allows the federal government to suspend entry of individuals into the U.S. during a public health emergency. Among other things, Title 42 has allowed the federal government to return immigrants to their country of origin pending review of requests for asylum (in the absence of the emergency declaration, individuals seeking asylum can remain in the U.S. during review).

A bipartisan group of U.S. senators and representatives have urged the White House not to do so, fearing a dramatic increase in immigration, particularly on the southern border.

At the same time, the Biden administration has requested additional funds for COVID-19 relief and recovery. The original ask was for $22.5 billion, focused on vaccination and testing, as well as preparations for new variants. Senate negotiators reached a tentative agreement earlier this week on a $10 billion package. The hope was to bring the package quickly to the floor for passage prior to Congress’ recess that begins Friday.

Over the last 24 hours, however, members of the Senate have declared opposition to a vote on the COVID-19 package unless there also is a vote on an amendment that would keep Title 42 in place. As a result, no vote has been scheduled.

State Governments Can Help Residents Secure Tax Credits

By Dakota Thomas

State governments can play a critical role in helping their residents get the tax credits they are entitled to receive. Those credits can have a substantial impact in the lives of the individuals and families that need them.  Putting more money into the pockets of families also helps state and local economies by creating demand for goods and services.  The federal government is working with states to reach out to potentially eligible tax credit recipients, especially the child tax credit (CTC) and earned-income tax credit (EITC). 

In a webinar hosted by the White House, a panel of speakers representing various stakeholders emphasized the importance of both “first mile” assistance, meaning outreach and educational efforts, as well as follow up assistance once a person begins the process. The first mile generally involves outreach to make people aware of the potential tax credits and helping determine their eligibility.  Several states have experimented with text message campaigns using lists of possibly eligible residents who are using other programs (e.g. Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – SNAP) and there is preliminary evidence of success with that approach. 

State leaders can direct residents to to help them find out if they are eligible and how to apply. States can track whether residents are accessing this information portal by using their state’s unique URL based on their state postal abbreviation. For example, Georgia’s is and Washington’s is States also can partner with Code for America to get help conducting outreach:

Once an individual has learned about the tax credits and determined they are eligible, they may still need further assistance.  For example, many Americans do not actually need to file tax returns, but may still be eligible for tax credits.  For “non-filers,” accessing credits is more difficult as they do not interact with the tax system regularly. To help non-filers, the federal government has set up a non-filer portal: More information is available from the webinar:

How the Pandemic has Changed State and Local Government

Two years after the nation first declared a state of emergency resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, very few aspects of American — and global — life remain untouched by the health crisis and related fallout. State leaders are dealing with new and challenging issues. State budgets are experiencing influxes of federal dollars, and policymakers are left to navigate uncharted waters.

It’s a given that the pandemic has changed state and local government — but in what ways? The Council of State Governments Chief Advancement Officer Maggie Mick was invited to sit down with C-Suite Blueprint Radio to discuss her take on these changes.

To gain additional perspectives, Mick reached out to the recipients of the 2021 CSG 20 Under 40 Leadership Award — young leaders in state government who show a willingness to work across the aisle on influential state policy — to ask how they felt things had changed.

Listen to Maggie Mick’s take on how the pandemic has changed state and local government here.

Below, read our editorial roundtable with state leaders for their take on the topic:


Rep. Jeremy Gray, Alabama

Rep. Sonya Harper, Illinois

Sen. Megan Hunt, Nebraska

Rep. London Lamar, Tennessee

Sen. Cory McCray, Maryland

Sen. T’Wina Nobles, Washington

Sen. Joe Nguyen, Washington

Rep.Tram Nguyen, Massachusetts

Rep. Ajay Pittman, Oklahoma

Rep. Jena Powell, Ohio

Sen. Emily Randall, Washington


In a couple of sentences, how have you changed the way you communicate with constituents and other stakeholders since the start of the pandemic?

Gray: Since the start of the pandemic, technology has played a significant part in communication, whether it’s heavily relying on social media for panel discussions, interviews, engaging constituents, or using Zoom, Google, and Microsoft Teams to have meetings and conferences.

I recently purchased a database that allows me to send more professional newsletters to constituents to ensure a constant flow of information and to ensure they know all the ways they can always reach out to me.

Harper: Since the pandemic started it seems like I communicate even more with constituents by phone, email and virtual meeting platforms. Digital newsletters are packed with even more information that helps to improve residents’ quality of lives and leads them to emergency resources they may need during this time.

Hunt: Virtual meetings have become a staple in my work life. During the Legislative session, I am in our state’s capital more than I am at home in the district I represent. Virtual meetings have allowed me to meet more frequently with my constituents back home, as well as engage with stakeholders from across the state. Virtual town halls, e-newsletters, uploading legislative debate to my YouTube channel, and an increased social media presence have all aided my constituents in staying up to date with the Legislative process.

Lamar: This pandemic has taken so much from us. My district and constituents have felt the weight of those losses. Personally, I have as well. Through the pandemic, I have chosen to share those vulnerable moments with constituents; to show them that they are not alone in these moments of hardships. I utilize social media and digital communications to over-communicate when I can’t meet in person.

McCray: We have increased our communications with video platforms for constituent meetings, school visits, and speaking at conferences. We have also increased postal mail distributions to ensure that the people we were not able to talk to by door-knocking in neighborhoods still understand that we are working for them. In the future, we will examine other avenues of communicating.

Nobles: Due to being elected during a pandemic. I’ve only experienced being a senator under these unique, remote circumstances. My main form of communication has solely been through online platforms. Although online is very different from the in-person experience, I try my hardest to empathize with my constituents and stakeholders — especially given the difficult circumstances resulting from the pandemic. Communication has always been an important aspect to me, therefore, I’m always attentive to how my constituents are being impacted by the pandemic, and how I can help aid them in solving their issues. There are rare occasions where racial discourse presents difficulties in communication, so I create boundaries for myself in order to maximize quality assistance and care for myself and my team. Nevertheless, I approach communication with empathy and express love and kindness to my community. I strive to be a supportive and understanding leader because my constituents are a priority to me.

J. Nguyen (WA): Interestingly, we’ve increased the volume of engagement with our constituents. Since there is no expectation to meet in person and a collective comfort to move online, we’ve actually been able to engage more constituents during the pandemic. This also means that during session, constituents don’t have to take off time to visit in person just to speak to legislators. We’ve been able to communicate more accessibly with more of our community.

T. Nguyen (MA): Of course we have gone virtual since the start of the pandemic, and we have communicated more than ever with constituents. We started sending a weekly e-newsletter to our constituents, full of information about resources available to them to help get through COVID. We have updated our website to include a page dedicated to resources and information on COVID. We’ve held virtual town halls and office hours to provide information and answer constituents’ questions.

Pittman: The pandemic of COVID-19 revealed several more pandemics within communities of color. Housing, unemployment, food insecurities, and one of the biggest things was the digital divide. I had to change the way I communicated due to the lack of access for residents in poverty and those who lost everything due to the pandemic. Therefore, I had to adapt to a new process of communicating with constituents such as robo-calls, texting campaigns and email blast, in order to promote the CDC recommendations for safety precautions, still give them legislative updates, and encourage them to vote during the 2020 election cycle.

Powell: At the beginning of COVID-19, we began doing what I called “Community Conversations” — online video town halls where people could listen in to me and guest experts discuss a variety of subjects.  These also enabled a larger platform for me to hear from my constituents and receive valuable feedback which I then take back with me to the Statehouse to speak for my district.

Randall: Our team’s commitment to accessibility and transparency hasn’t changed. From day one of my time in office, we’ve stayed in touch with our community members through email, snail mail, phone, and Facebook, and as soon as the senate greenlighted the use of Instagram and Twitter, we launched those too. The pandemic only compelled us to get more creative with live-streaming platforms like Facebook Live, Zoom Webinars, and StreamYard, and ensure that — whether our neighbors are tuning in from a landline on the rural Key Peninsula, streaming to their smartphone while they catch the ferry from Southworth, or are tuning in on their computer from their living room in Bremerton — our community members have the tools they need to stay in touch.

How do you use platforms like Zoom and Microsoft Teams in your role as a state official? Do you hold Town Halls, policy discussions or meetings on the platforms? Did you utilize these technologies prior to the pandemic?

Gray: I use zoom and Microsoft Teams for caucus meetings, town halls, conferences, and even opportunities to join panels across the state and within my district. Before the pandemic, I relied heavily on meeting with folks in person; however, to do my part in slowing the spread of COVID-19, I ensure there is always an option to meet virtually.

Harper: I consistently use platforms like Zoom and Microsoft Teams to hold meetings, town halls and all types of events. Whether I am meeting with a constituent, chairing a committee or even voting in session, I’ve had to use these platforms in order to continue my legislative and district work.

Hunt: I hold virtual town hall meetings via Zoom, in addition to using the platform for meetings, panel discussions, interviews, and hosting or attending a variety of virtual webinars and events. These platforms are new to me, having never utilized them prior to the pandemic, but now it is hard to imagine working and engaging with constituents without them.

Lamar: The global shift to Zoom and Microsoft Teams has exponentially expanded the possibilities for collaboration and engagement in policy and politics. Whether that be a young person stumbling onto a Zoom call about economic development in their community or existing organizations merging together to form a new coalition, the ease of virtual meetings have moved us to the next level in our political engagement. I did use virtual meetings to host town halls, meetings with state departments, community coalitions, and my Black History Month series!

McCray: No, I was not familiar with these platforms prior to the pandemic, but I have become very versed in using them. Electronic mediums have now become the default of reaching wider audiences because they provide quicker and greater access.

Nobles: As a state official, I use the various platforms to invite more of my constituents to participate in the legislative process. Staying connected with community allows me to adequately serve my constituents and ensure that their voices, concerns, and ideas are better represented at the legislature. I believe that the expanded use of technology has increased the access to legislators, therefore, I utilize it for virtual discussions with my colleagues and community stakeholder groups. Furthermore, I use it to educate my community members and to also connect with my team, in order to strategize plans for legislation. I think, most of all, it helps me as a newly elected senator, because I am able to gain visuals of people and build relationships because of the online platforms.

J. Nguyen (WA): We use a number of online platforms to host everything from constituent meetings, townhalls, policy discussion and just generally to communicate information out quickly. I used these tools prior to the pandemic and what was interesting was seeing the widespread adoption from colleagues who were hesitant about technology.  

T. Nguyen (MA): We are on Zoom and Teams constantly. My office has convened stakeholders via Zoom many times to get their input and feedback on bills. We use Teams and Zoom for committee hearings, caucus meetings, meetings with constituents, advocates and more. We also use them for briefings, town halls, office hours and more. These platforms do make it easier to attend more meetings every day without the time and cost of transportation, not to mention the concern about spreading the virus. We used Zoom occasionally before the pandemic for meetings with experts and advocates from out of state, but Teams is completely new to us.

Pittman: As a legislator, our state had access to communicate via electronic venues and platforms to share information internally and externally. Then we had to pivot to vote electronically for committee votes. We had to revamp and expand our capacity to communicate with constituents in various electronic platforms and social media. I hosted virtual workshops and updates called “Sunset Sundays” that took place on Sunday evenings about various topics hosted via Facebook live. We also would host evenings using StreamYard so we could pre-record information for our community and still add our personal branding information. G-Suite kept our team on track by giving us the ability to work on documents and spreadsheets in real time with each other. Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter were platforms that we utilized along with radio for a variety of constituents who lack technology resources. Yes, some of these technology platforms we used prior to the pandemic but we learned how to use so many more as the market became flooded with a lot of different virtual platforms.

Powell: We utilize as many forms of communication as possible because at the end of the day it is all about representing the people of my district and ensuring that they know I am being their voice in Columbus. I utilized conference lines for some meetings prior to COVID-19 and continue to do so now.

Randall: Even pre-pandemic, developing and implementing a robust remote public testimony option in the committee I chair – Higher Education & Workforce Development – was a commitment of mine. Our committee pioneered this option and helped provide the model for remote public testimony in every other committee when the pandemic demanded that. We use a combination of Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and livestreaming to Facebook and YouTube to make sure our legislative work is accessible and available to our neighbors.

Have you leaned on social media more or less to communicate with constituents during the pandemic?

Gray: I have always used social media as a platform to communicate with constituents, but these days I seem to be utilizing it more often than not. For me, it’s easier to respond via social media than by email. I’ve also started to give a legislative update on TikTok. My team and I are in the early stages of building my online presence on Tik Tok, but this platform is a great way to reach younger audiences.

Harper: I have definitely leaned on social media more to communicate with constituents.

Hunt: Social media has always been a primary way for me to connect with my constituents. I believe it is important to meet people where they are at and make accessing the legislature as easy as possible. Although my social media presence was strong before the pandemic, it has definitely increased in recent years.

Lamar: Coupling the pain from the pandemic with the heavy nature of politics, I find that folks are checking out. That is absolutely understandable and expected. To re-engage my constituents and all of my followers, I strive to center my communication around joy and action. Whether I’m using a viral Tik Tok sound like “Prepare to be sick of me!” or a Wix newsletter, my constituents receive action-oriented messages that spark joy! Plus, we spend so much time on social media, why not take advantage of that!

McCray: While I use social media to amplify conversations about subjects that I am working on and to educate my constituency, I still prefer not to communicate constituent issues through social media or digital messaging to ensure that my staff is looped in on conversations. My preferred method of communication for constituent issues continues to be email for confidentiality, record keeping, and streamlining coordination.

Nobles: Social media is an asset that I have always used, even prior to being elected as a senator. It is a sincere way for me to connect with my constituents, especially through polls, infographics, question/answer forms, videos and other creative arrangements.

J. Nguyen (WA): Much more, and for communicating updates and alerts beyond our activities in the office. There were some difficult moments where constituents needed information related to the pandemic and we found social media was helpful to disseminate public health information.

T. Nguyen (MA): Our social media was already active before the pandemic. We definitely use Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to share useful information with our constituents. But we find that our e-newsletter reaches a larger, more targeted audience.

Pittman: We were connected with social media prior to the pandemic of COVID-19, and the additional variants, but we had to post more, share more resources, give more frequent updates and tutorials. We also measured the effectiveness of when to post and share for the maximum responses. So we communicate more now on social media but to a more targeted audience.

Powell: The same.

Randall: Our social media platforms have continued to be useful tools throughout the pandemic, whether we’re streaming a town hall live to Facebook, providing real-time bill updates on Twitter or hopping on to Instagram to provide a post-committee recap on reels. Not only are social media platforms a great way to stay transparent and accountable to our community members – these platforms have been an important tool for sharing helpful community resources, like vaccine and testing drives, food bank details and housing vouchers.

What other avenues of communication have increased for your or your office during the pandemic? Example: E-newsletters, texting, polling.

Gray: Currently, I send out monthly e-newsletters to engage with my constituents on what I have been accomplishing or issues I have been advocating for during the legislative session. I use this newsletter to also connect my constituents or donors to my social media pages or news article I’m featured in. During the pandemic, I sent out text messages to see if I could assist the citizens of District 83 with anything from food to medical services.

Harper: E-newsletters have definitely increased as well as the use of apps.

Hunt: My social media presence has expanded throughout the pandemic as I now use YouTube to archive important legislative debates and public hearings. These recordings offer my constituency an alternative way to stay engaged with the legislature, but from the safety of their own homes. In addition to formal legislative communication channels, I directly respond to constituent concerns via direct messages on a variety of my social media platforms, making it easy for my constituents to communicate with me. During the height of the pandemic, my office would send numerous e-newsletters with accurate health information, community resources, and state aid available. These newsletters served as a lifeline for many Nebraskans who were severely impacted by the pandemic.

Lamar: As a young elected official, my office has always been committed to a diverse range of communication strategies. Not only do we use social media, but we also email our weekly e-newsletter, record weekly legislative wrap-up videos in our studio, op-eds in newspapers, and interviews on TV stations. Whether you have a limited amount of time, are a visual learner, or a reader, my office has a type of communication specifically for you!

McCray: We still continue to build our email list serve and it has grown significantly during the pandemic.

Nobles: Through my time of being elected, my office and I have increasingly utilized a few different avenues of communication including live streaming platforms and teleprompter apps. I also try to take advantage of arrangements that cater to audiences that need more assistance in communication, for example, I collaborate with organizations that use interpreters, closed captions, and sign language services for those who need it. Communication is a vital part of my job, therefore, I try to expand my horizons for the constituents who do not use the mainstream platforms.

J. Nguyen (WA): What’s interesting is that increasing communications could cause diminishing returns. So we didn’t do e-newsletters or texting, etc. In order to streamline, we would re-share helpful resources or information that many other offices and agencies were sending out. 

T. Nguyen (MA): Our e-newsletter has been a very effective tool. And Zoom has helped us hold meetings with constituents at their request, without waiting for official office hours. We’ve had hundreds of constituents reach out to us regarding unemployment claims, for example, which happens to be one of our areas of expertise; it’s important to help them as soon as possible. Whether they reach out by phone or by email, we always get back to them. Our goal is to be accessible to our constituents whenever they need us.

Pittman: Yes, my legislative office was impacted due to the fact that we had to limit in-person visits and constituent meetings. There was not a clear path to ensuring safety when residents who live close were vaccinated or chose to wear masks. We created a newsletter, but quickly discovered the barriers to access the information. The solution was to increase smaller bits of information on social media posts, radio updates, print news, and texting.

Powell: My use of telephone town halls increased as well as my use of Facebook Live. We continued with our usual avenues of communication to constituents via email newsletters, local papers, phone calls, town halls, letters, etc.

Randall: We increased our use of SurveyMonkey surveys to gather community input in an organized and accessible way, and we increased the number of livestreams — to Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter — we’d do per month.

Many state legislatures are meeting virtually as new variants lead to outbreaks or higher cases of infection. How has the increased use of technology impacted the legislative process? Do you think it has enhanced access to democracy or limited it?

Gray: In Alabama’s constitution, we must convene in person to take up the people’s business. Still, we have found other ways to keep citizens engaged due to the limitation on foot traffic at the Alabama Statehouse.

We now broadcast committee meetings and sessions for lobbyists and citizens. We also have an option of members voting from a Microsoft tablet if they want to be away from other members.

Lastly, all meetings about politics outside of voting on bills are conducted virtually if applicable. This reduces the travel component in many cases and creates a more efficient process.

Harper: Most of our legislative committees are still meeting virtually which helps us keeps things going while we can’t meet in person. The ability to meet virtually has drastically increased the amount of work we can get done at once with many members having to be in more than one committee at once depending on calendar and flow of a particular committee. At times I feel like a TV news producer again with several monitors in front me at once, all with different meetings going and of course my favorite spotlight to make sure I can be seen on camera. I think that virtual session and committees are good in helping us get the work done but there is a lot less contact with advocates and lobbyists and I do feel like we may be missing out on some voices at the table simply because they can’t get into a virtual room as easy as they can walk into a committee room.

Hunt: The Nebraska Legislature has been very resistant to upgrading its technology. During the height of the pandemic, no virtual accommodations were available to individuals testifying at our public hearings. Only this year has the Legislature adopted an online bill comment process. There has been a strong push from the public for our Legislature to expand its online access through virtual testimony options and by establishing a digital archive of legislative video coverage. In fact, a bill (LB 777) has been introduced this session to create a digital archive of legislative video coverage. Many of my colleagues have also called for the Legislature to adopt procedures to allow for a virtual convening of the Legislature in case of any outbreaks or emergencies, which has been met with silence.

Nebraska is home to our nation’s only Unicameral Legislature, where our second house is the citizens of Nebraska. During the height of the pandemic, and now, citizens’ access to our Legislature has been limited for those with health concerns as they are unable to testify in a safe manner with very limited precautions put in place by the Legislature. I have no doubt that, if the Legislature increased its use of virtual options, citizen participation would drastically increase. Living in a rural state, many Nebraskans have to drive for hours to reach the Capitol, with public hearings scheduled during the work day. Increasing our virtual presence will give greater access to working individuals, individuals with limited mobility and health concerns, parents, senior citizens, rural residents, and the youth of Nebraska.

Lamar: The Tennessee General Assembly has not been virtual. We have been working in person since March 2020. Fortunately, for our constituents, that means that our processes have stayed the same. I do think that the increased participation that we are seeing from constituents is correlated with the pandemic. Our constituents have had more time to explore the General Assembly’s systems and structure and understand how we operate so that they can get involved.

McCray: During the shutdown and after our society began to gradually reopen, members of the legislature were and still are relegated to holding virtual meetings. That took a bit of adjustment because there is shared synergy between people when they come together in the same room to brainstorm and problem-solve. Electronic communications puts distance between people. It changes the way people relate and some of the connection between people can get lost. However, I work with great people on my team and in the legislature, so we always cooperate and find ways to power through anything to accomplish our goals.

Overall, I think that meeting virtually has definitely enhanced our democracy, but I frequently think about how the pandemic exposed the inequities and disparities in many urban and rural jurisdictions regarding broadband access, access to devices, and internet connectivity. This is one example of a blaring social justice and equity issue in Maryland that has been present for decades but exacerbated during the pandemic.  There are services and opportunities that are simply not optional to a good quality of life that, for the investment of human lives, need to be available to everyone regardless of socioeconomic status or the jurisdiction in which you live. When vital services and opportunities shifted online such as education, telehealth, and telework to name a few, it is disappointing and greatly concerning when I think about the thousands of people who continue to be completely shut out. Thousands of constituents are incredibly inconvenienced because they either have to travel a distance for access to the internet and to use devices or they go without. The legislature and the Baltimore City Senate Delegation continues to work for the benefit of all our constituents. We will not stop to close gaps on disparities and inequities in Maryland.

Nobles: Being a new senator, many of the stakeholders and lobbyists have not been able to meet me in person, but there has been more access to the democratic process. We’re able to be more thoughtful about who has access to the legislature and the legislative process. Groups no longer need to take all day off work to come to Olympia and speak to their legislators. Advocates represent more of the people they are advocating for around the state. We’ve also had increased participation in testimony by expanding remote testimony options. As a state senator that has only experienced a remote legislative cycle, I am aware that of the benefits that technology has provided us in remaining and becoming better connected with our communities. Though I sincerely hope we recover from the pandemic, I hope we take some of these useful technological resources into future sessions and interactions.

J. Nguyen (WA): Remote session is much more accessible for the average constituent. In fact, we had record numbers of individuals who testified in committee. I think going forward we would need a hybrid model where legislators would still conduct business in person but also allow for remote engagement for those who can’t take the day to visit the capital.

T. Nguyen (MA): I think that virtual meetings have made the legislative process more accessible to a broader range of people. The Massachusetts Statehouse has made all of our hearings and formal sessions available online. The public can pre-register to testify at hearings and can tune in without driving through traffic and paying a fortune for parking. As a result, we’ve had a lot of public engagement in our committee hearings. We’ve had teenagers and people with disabilities easily logging on to give testimony. When more people participate, that’s good for democracy.

Pittman: In Oklahoma, the legislative process was slightly hindered during the first wave of the pandemic. We developed a virtual voting system for the remainder of legislative session in 2020. However, that option has not been continued throughout the rest of the pandemic, which I believe limited access and created barriers for members and staff, especially those who have preexisting conditions or lived with vulnerable populations. We have learned that we can accomplish more through the use of technology, due to that we see a spike in broadband legislation throughout the country for those who lack the resources. As our country adapts and evolves our legislative process must keep growing with the ever-changing climate to give opportunities for those who would like to serve.

Powell: Increased use of technology has enabled more people in our community to find out what is happening, to know how we vote and to have additional ways of communicating with us.

Randall: When we broadened our remote public testimony options in 2021, we found that participation in the public testimony process tripled over 2020. This year, we’re on track to beat our 2021 records, as more folks from every corner of our state have gotten even more comfortable with lending their voice to the legislative process from wherever they are — on a lunch break at work, riding in the car on their way to school, from the comfort of their home while they provide childcare. Though I look forward to opportunities to be with our neighbors and colleagues at the legislature in person again, I’m committed to keeping the tools that we’ve developed over the last two years for remote participation in the legislative process.

Norton Healthcare Partners with Goodwill for Historic $100M Investment in West Louisville

By Victor Montgomery

Norton Healthcare, a CSG Associate, announced a joint $100 million investment in combination with Goodwill Industries of Kentucky (Goodwill) and Governor Andy Beshear to transform programs and services in West Louisville.

One of Kentucky’s most underserved communities, West Louisville is home to 65,000 mostly African American families living on $21,000 or less per year. Prior to the announcement, the nine-neighborhood community endured years of poor investment, limited employment opportunities, and financial barriers to self-sufficiency. In response to these broad challenges, the investment will fund development of a 20-acre abandoned lot into an Opportunity Campus to house a new Norton Heathcare hospital, Goodwill’s headquarters operation, and a collection of local agencies providing career development and numerous other services.

“Norton Healthcare has been intentional about providing access to quality medical treatment by eliminating obstacles so all residents can live a healthy and prosperous life,” said Russell F. Cox, president and CEO, Norton Healthcare. “This state-of-the-art facility will help us continue to bring health equity to the forefront. A person’s ZIP code should never define their health status and their ability to receive care.”

Norton Healthcare is a not-for-profit hospital and health care system serving adult and pediatric patients from throughout Greater Louisville, Southern Indiana, the commonwealth of Kentucky and beyond. The hospital will be the first modern health care facility of its kind in West Louisville. Norton Healthcare will provide emergency room services, adult and pediatric primary care physician offices, and inpatient and outpatient services. X-rays and CT scans will also be available along with specialty services such as women’s health, cardiology, neurology, and endocrinology.

Norton Healthcare is Louisville’s third largest employer, with more than 18,000 employees, over 1,700 employed medical providers and approximately 2,000 total physicians on its medical staff. The new hospital is expected to create approximately 100 new jobs, roughly half of the 200 new jobs that the Opportunity Campus will bring to West Louisville, with an approximate average salary of $60,000. Altogether, career services provided by Goodwill and local agencies are expected to have an annual impact of $18.7 million by placing over 600 job seekers into full-time roles with businesses paying a minimum of $13 per hour.

“Access to quality health care, jobs and life-enhancing services is how we can better the lives of our people, break cycles of poverty and create a better future for every Kentuckian,” said Gov. Andy Beshear. “This investment by Goodwill Industries of Kentucky and Norton Healthcare will truly move West Louisville forward and create a lasting impact for this area and our people for generations to come. I am thankful for these two organizations and their commitment to investing in West Louisville and our people.”

The Opportunity Campus is slated to open its doors in the summer of 2023 when Goodwill Industries of Kentucky will celebrate its 100-year anniversary. Norton Healthcare’s hospital will take 18-24 months to complete. More details on the Opportunity Campus can be found at

Education Department Proposes Change for Title IX Interpretation

The U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights announced today (March 30) it will propose a regulation amending its interpretation of Title IX of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The new regulation would make discrimination against transgender students a violation of federal law. A key sentence of the proposed regulation:

“Discrimination on the basis of sex includes discrimination on the basis of sex stereotypes, sex-related characteristics (including intersex traits), pregnancy or related conditions, sexual orientation, and gender identity.”

This echoes a 2020 U.S. Supreme Court decision (6-3) that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act protects transgender individuals from discrimination in employment (Bostock v. Clayton County). According to the Court majority:

“An individual’s homosexuality or transgender status is not relevant to employment decisions. That’s because it is impossible to discriminate against a person for being homosexual or transgender without discriminating against that individual based on sex.”

Federal rules require that proposed regulations be published in the Federal Register, allowing the public the opportunity to review and provide comment before a new regulation is finalized for enforcement.

The Department of Education’s reconsideration comes as several states have enacted legislation that, among other things, directs that eligibility to participate in K-12 athletics be based on biological sex at birth.

Additional Resources:

The Hill

Washington Post

Women’s History Month Profile: Jade Gingerich

By: Jade Gingerich, Elise Gurney, and Dalton Goble

Changing Maryland for the better, especially for people with disabilities, is an ongoing commitment for Jade Gingerich. Jade is the Director of Employment Policy at the Maryland Department of Disabilities. She is also a member of the Center for Advancing Policy on Employment for Youth (CAPE-Youth) National Working Group on Youth Transition, where she engages with other policymakers to discuss and share best practices around supporting youth and young adults with disabilities (Y&YADs) in their transitions to the workforce. In honor of Women’s History Month, Jade sat down for an interview with CAPE-Youth to discuss her leadership in the field of disability employment policy.

Tell us about your career journey and what led you to become the Director of Employment Policy at the Maryland Department of Disabilities.

I met someone who was an actor and ended up volunteering at the Model Secondary School for the Deaf, voicing their musicals, and coordinating a social club for young adults with disabilities. [At the same time I was] working and pursuing my master’s degree in Special Education with a specialization in Transition Services.  I was working at the Clearinghouse on Postsecondary Education for Individuals with Disabilities when I saw an ad for Executive Director of the Maryland’s Governor’s Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities (GCEPD). GCEPD was part of the Governor’s Office for Individuals with Disabilities which was elevated and became the Maryland Department of Disabilities in 2004, and my position was transitioned into the Director of Employment Policy.

What is your favorite part about working in the disability employment policy field? 

[My favorite parts] are the sheer variety of the work and being able to support emerging leaders, particularly minorities with disabilities. The barriers that exist are many: transportation, education, housing, healthcare, employer engagement and more.  I love the opportunity to collaborate and work across partners for meaningful systems change for all individuals with disabilities. No two days are the same!

What are some of the biggest and most unique obstacles that women with disabilities face?

In addition to the inequalities they face as women in the workplace, women with disabilities have the added layer of misperceptions regarding the skills and abilities of people with disabilities. Moreover, expectations related to gender, such as those regarding childcare and occupational stereotypes, further impede access to education and careers, making women with disabilities more likely to be underemployed.

What has been your biggest career and/or personal achievement?

I am incredibly proud of the theatre company I created and ran for several years for individuals with and without disabilities, in particular the production of the musical “WORKING” by Studs Terkel. It really reflected my personal passion and professional values. In terms of my professional accomplishments, there are many, but of note are co-founding Maryland’s Youth Leadership Forum, co-chairing the workgroup to eliminate subminimum wage in Maryland, and serving as project director for Maryland’s Promoting the Readiness of Minors in Supplemental Security Income (PROMISE) grant, which was a large-scale research initiative to improve the education and employment outcomes of youth and their families that rely on Social Security Income (SSI).

What advice would you give young women about entering the workforce? What advice would you give to women who want to pursue your career? 

The only failed job is one from which nothing has been learned.  Get as much work experience as possible while in high school and college.  Internships are great ways to build your network and your resume. Also understand the difference between being an external advocate who has the freedom to make statements and take any position you want, versus working for the government, where you need to figure out how to make the case and bring well-researched and well-thought-out solutions that satisfy multiple key stakeholders and their limitations, whether by federal law, funding, or other parameters. Don’t expect change to happen fast and be prepared to have to try multiple times, in different ways, before finding the right combination.

What inspires you? 

I’m inspired by youth and their ability to embrace diversity of all kinds, particularly those self-advocates who are speaking up and out with pride, embracing and celebrating all facets of their being.

Jade’s push for progress demonstrates her commitment to honoring and embracing diversity, her collaborative leadership style, and her patience in pursuing complex and slow-moving systems change. Her approach serves as a model not just for women, but for all policymakers involved in disability policy. Much of Jade’s work concerns evidence-based practices to improve employment outcomes for people with disabilities across states. For example, Jade’s efforts to remove the various barriers to employment that people with disabilities face – including transportation, housing, and healthcare – align with the “Connecting Activities” component of CAPE-Youth’s evidence-based Guideposts for supporting Y&YADs in their transitions. In addition, her work to eliminate the subminimum wage in Maryland fits into a larger, nationwide movement to promote competitive integrated employment for people with disabilities.

Check here to learn more about the Maryland Department of Disabilities’ mission statement and various programs and services.

Next in Line: Kate Cruickshank’s Road to Leadership

By: Kate Cruickshank and Matthew George

Women’s History Month is a time to recognize women’s voices and highlight how their contributions changed communities and influenced their environments, culture and society. [i] Youth leadership has risen to the forefront as more women leaders enter the workforce. To honor Women’s History Month, the Center for Advancing Employment for Youth (CAPE-Youth) interviewed Kate Cruickshank, a third-year student at the University of Oklahoma majoring in Mathematics and Public Health and minoring in Medical Humanities. She also serves as a member of the Center for Advancing Policy on Employment for Youth (CAPE-Youth) working group, which was launched by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy.

  1. Tell us about your education and career goals.

“I am a junior at the University of Oklahoma (OU), studying Mathematics and Public Health with a minor in Medical Humanities. My research has included projects looking at students’ perceptions of disabled students and accommodations at the undergraduate level and the experience of disability in undergraduate mathematics education. My career goals are broad, but I am firm in the direction of my profession: disability advocacy. I have long been a staunch proponent of accessibility, but it wasn’t until I myself became disabled that my drive for advocacy was solidified. I intend to enter a dual Juris Doctorate/Masters of Social Work degree program, with the hopes of developing a better understanding of how political and social systems affect individuals. Eventually, I would like to work in public policy, but believe it necessary to first work directly with communities and individuals. Wherever I end up, the ultimate goal for my career is advocacy.”

2. What advice do you have for young women with disabilities as they enter the workforce or postsecondary education?

“Getting acclimated to your university’s culture can feel disorienting for a time, and navigating these new spaces traditionally built for able bodies and minds may add a layer of complexity to your experience. My first and foremost suggestions for young disabled women entering postsecondary education is to get in touch with your disability services office. If you are unable to officially register for disability accommodations due to a lack of documentation, still reach out and ask how they can support you; being denied accommodations because you are unable to receive medical documentation can feel daunting and invalidating, but quite a few professors will be willing to work with you on a case-to-case basis.

Even with official accommodations, you may run into instructors who are disinclined or unaware of how to provide them for you. It is essential that you know what you are legally entitled to under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and the protocols that your school has in place for students who run into discrimination such as this. Requesting accommodations, especially with invisible disabilities, can feel like a double-edged sword because of the commonly held stereotypes about disabled students. If I don’t request accommodations in an attempt to avoid these stereotypes, I may have to work harder than my non-disabled counterpart to keep up. On the other hand, when I do ask for accommodations, I feel myself working extra hard to prove that I am not the stereotype—which none of us are, because there is no such thing as ‘normal.’ All and all, you belong, and you deserve to take up space—whatever that space may look like.”

3. What are some of the biggest and most unique obstacles that women with disabilities face?

“Disabled women experience double discrimination. Women’s medical concerns are oftentimes dismissed as existing ‘in their heads,’ effectively disqualifying their own experiences. This, for me, has complicated my feelings around disclosing my disability status; I want to advocate for myself and my needs, but I also don’t want others to perceive me through the lens of my disability. Speaking for myself as a woman in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math), I oftentimes feel as if I have to prove that I belong in these majority able bodied male spaces.

Sometimes though, no matter how much effort I put in, my sense of belonging remains the same. Since realizing this, I have stopped exerting my energy trying to fit into these spaces and have instead just begun to show up as myself—easier said than done, I know. Find places where you feel as if you and your knowledge are valued, and until you find those places, unapologetically take up space.”

4. Tell us about an accomplishment you are proud of.

“I recently completed my honors thesis examining the experience of disability in undergraduate mathematics classes with the intent of better understanding how these students understand their disability identities. My study was exploratory in nature, and after analyzing interviews with five disabled students I was able to identify a few factors within the mathematics learning environment that contribute to their disablement.

I was honored to present a poster of my work at the most recent Research in Undergraduate Mathematics Education (RUME) Conference this past February. There is little research in undergraduate mathematics education that prioritizes the disabled student’s experience, so I am proud that I was able to contribute to the mathematics education community in this way.”

5. What does leadership mean to you?

“A good leader is many things. They are accessible to the ideas and suggestions of others; they are willing to hand over responsibility to others, to delegate and place confidence in their team; they recognize the strengths and weaknesses of others while helping them to grow by supporting them in their endeavors; they allow for mistakes, which fosters a sense of safety and opens space for creative thinking. Above all, leadership demands empathy, honesty, commitment, dependability, and a strong ethical code in order to cultivate a community of care.”

[i] Congress, T. L. of, Administration, N. A. and R., Humanities, N. E. for the Art, N. G. of, Service, N. P., Institution, U. S. S., & Museum, U. S. H. M. (n.d.). Women’s History Month. Retrieved February 23, 2022, from

From the CSG Regional Offices: Don’t miss great upcoming programming and convenings 



61st Eastern Regional Conference 

Aug. 14-17 | Manchester, New Hampshire 

Each year, CSG East convenes state officials for a three-day conference, the largest gathering of state officials in the East. All of CSG East’s policy committees meet to discuss critical issues affecting the region in the areas of agriculture and rural affairs, Canada-U.S. relations, education and workforce development, energy and environment, fiscal affairs, military and veterans’ affairs, territorial relations, and transportation. CSG East’s Council on Communities of Color and Eastern Trade Council also meet at this conference. Learn more at 


Eastern Leadership Academy (ELA) 

Aug. 21-25 | Philadelphia 

Application deadline: May 15 

Thirty state and provincial officials from the 19 CSG Eastern Region member jurisdictions gather in Philadelphia each year for the Robert J. Thompson Eastern Leadership Academy. 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. If you strive to be an effective leader, an informed decision-maker and an effective communicator, ELA is the program for you. 

Held in partnership with the Fels Institute of Government, ELA is a unique opportunity to learn with the best and brightest from across the region. Learn more at  



The EASTrain service — customized legislative development training delivered to your state capital — is one of the major benefits of membership in CSG East. Comprehensive, customizable leadership training sessions are offered to member states by legislative leadership request and delivered in the state capitol at little or no cost to the state legislature. CSG East provides trainers who can work directly with legislative leaders and staff to develop programs tailored to their needs. CSG East seeks to include the following elements in its EASTrain programs:  

  • Training is always available on a bipartisan basis.  
  • Flexibility in selecting dates and times to encourage maximum attendance.  
  • Support in the promotion of the training program.  





76th Midwestern Legislative Conference 

July 10-13 | Wichita, Kansas  

Each year, CSG Midwest convenes the largest gathering of Midwest state and provincial legislators. The event is designed by and for the region’s legislators and includes a mix of expert-and legislator-led policy sessions, insightful speakers and special events for attendees and their guests. Generations of legislators have taken part in the Midwestern Legislative Conference Annual Meeting where they are able to explore public policy and connect with fellow legislators in a nonpartisan, welcoming environment. Learn more at 


The Bowhay Institute for Legislative Leadership Development (BILLD) 

Aug. 27-31 | Madison, Wisconsin 

Application deadline: April 20 

CSG Midwest BILLD is the only leadership training program designed exclusively for Midwestern legislators. BILLD helps newer legislators develop the skills necessary to become effective leaders, informed decision-makers and astute policy analysts. The Bowhay Institute is designed for Midwestern legislators in their first four years of legislative service. Learn more at  


Under the Dome 

With help and guidance from legislative leadership in individual states, CSG Midwest Under the Dome delivers customized training to lawmakers inside their state capitols or virtually, including briefings covering important policy areas and workshops focused on professional development and consensus building. Learn more at  





76th Southern Legislative Conference 

July 9-13 | Oklahoma City 

Each year, CSG South convenes the largest gathering of Southern state and provincial legislators at the Southern Legislative Conference Annual Meeting. The event is designed by and for the region’s legislators and includes a mix of expert-and legislator-led policy sessions, insightful speakers and special events for attendees and their guests. Generations of legislators have taken part in this annual meeting where they are able to explore public policy and connect with fellow legislators in a nonpartisan, welcoming environment. Learn more at


Center for the Advancement of Leadership Skills (CALS) 

Oct. 15-19 | Little Rock, Arkansas 

Application deadline: July 30 

CALS embodies the CSG South mission of championing excellence in state government and providing nonpartisan forums for state officials who might rarely cross paths to share ideas. The program brings together Southern state officials from three branches of government in a strictly nonpartisan environment. The class size is capped at 25 maximum state officials — representing all three branches of government — to foster connections among classmates. Learn more at 


The Staff Academy for Governmental Excellence (SAGE) 

Nov. 13-16 | Atlanta 

Application opens: April 18 

CSG South 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 have the opportunity to build a network of their peers from across the Southern region. Learn more at 





75th CSG West Annual Meeting 

July 19-22 | Boise, Idaho 

The annual meeting of CSG West is the largest gathering of Western legislators, convening over 500 participants each year. The size and scope of this event creates an intimate and unique environment for attendees to:  

  • Engage and exchange ideas through policy committee discussions on issues such as workforce development, fiscal affairs and social justice.  
  • Learn from topic experts by participating in educational forums and leadership skills training opportunities.  
  • Connect and build lasting relationships with regional, national and international colleagues. 


Western Legislative Academy (WLA) 

Dec. 13-16 | Colorado Springs, Colorado 

Application deadline: April 28 

CSG West provides premier capacity building opportunities for Western legislators within their first four years of cumulative service through the Western Legislative Academy. The WLA is an intensive three-and-a-half-day professional development program designed to assist legislators in becoming more effective leaders and to strengthen legislative institutions. The WLA focuses on communications, time management, governing, ethics and consensus building. A highlight of the program is a half day spent at the U.S. Air Force Academy working on personnel assessments and team building. Learn more at  



The CSG West WESTrain program provides in-state training for state legislators and staff on a variety of professional development topics. Trainers are leaders in their respective areas of expertise offering non-partisan perspectives and hands-on instruction on a range of relevant topics including communication, time management, stress management, as well as negotiation, consensus-building and conflict resolution. Learn more at