Canada Day in California

Left to Right: California Assemblymember Ash Kalra, former U.S. Ambassador to Canada, Bruce Heyman, and Consul General Rana Sarkar.

CSG West staff attended activities during the annual Canada Day in California, which was celebrated April 17th in Sacramento. Every year the Consulate General of Canada in San Francisco, currently led by Consul General Rana Sarkar, descends on the capital city with a special guest to build alliances and remind officials of the importance of the Canada – U.S. relationship.

This year’s special guest was former U.S. Ambassador to Canada, Bruce Heyman, who served in that role from 2014 to 2017. He also served as partner and managing director of the Chicago office of Goldman Sachs and co-founded Uncharted LLC, an organization that convenes and connects diverse groups of Americans and Canadians.

The California Chamber of Commerce hosted a lunchtime fireside chat on the future of U.S.-Canada relations titled Partnering for Prosperity: Canada-U.S. Economic Security. President and CEO of CalChamber, Jennifer Barrera, welcomed state and local officials and guests interested in strengthening the relationship. California Natural Resources Agency Secretary, Wade Crowfoot, highlighted cooperation and partnership with Canada on various issues such as droughts, floods, and wildfires.

The Consulate General of Canada in San Francisco, along with Air Canada, hosted a Friends of Canada Reception that same evening at the California Museum to highlight the importance of binational interests and endeavors in a more relaxed environment. The reception allowed for valuable time to meet and reconnect with fellow advocates of the unique and longstanding relationship with our neighbor to the North. Assemblymember Ash Kalra, the only California legislator originally from Canada (born in Toronto before moving to San Jose with his family as a young child) was in attendance as were other dignitaries.

The relationship with Canada is important to CSG West. The Canada Relations Committee, which is part of CSG West’s policy work, convenes policymakers from across the western U.S. and the Canadian Provinces of Alberta and British Columbia to address issues of common interest. The committee will convene during the upcoming 77th CSG West Annual Meeting in Portland, Oregon.

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Remembering Former CSG West Director Kent Briggs

The CSG West family is mourning the loss of Kent Briggs, who served as the organization’s executive director from 1996 to 2011. He passed away on April 19 at the age of 82.

Kent was a larger-than-life figure who was fun, kindhearted, and had a gregarious personality. He had the ability to light up a room and enamor people with his smile, charismatic presence, and great stories, as he was a walking encyclopedia of Western politics, leaders, and issues.

Kent had a distinguished public service career, which was sparked by his keen interest and love of public policy. He worked for a U.S. senator in Idaho, two Utah governors, co-founded a public policy think tank focused on the West, and capped his career with CSG West.

While at the helm of CSG West, Kent stabilized and helped grow the organization’s budget, oversaw the establishment of the Western Legislative Academy, which is our premier training program for newer legislators to this day, and was instrumental in furthering a continental vision through engagement with policymakers from Canada and Mexico. One of his passions was advocating for the advancement of the Western region. To this end, he established meaningful and lasting relationships with public officials, staff, academics, and entities from across the region, including the Western Governors’ Association, of which he was very fond of.

Kent was a beloved friend, colleague, and mentor to staff and leaders alike. He left a lasting impression and legacy. Those of us that had the privilege of knowing him can still recall his witty anecdotes and one-liners that made us laugh and ponder, even to this day. Kent will be missed and the CSG family is grateful for his commitment, dedication, and his many contributions to advance the public good. To learn more about Kent’s contributions, please view his obituary HERE.

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The Value of Legislative Libraries

The New Mexico Legislative Council Service Research Library recently wrapped up its first National Library Week celebration with bookmarks and a trivia contest. National Library Week is a week-long celebration to promote awareness of all types of libraries, whether a public library in a school, city or county, or a private library in a law firm, museum, or corporation.

Did you know that over 30 states have a library in the state’s legislative branch? Legislative libraries are often located within a state’s capitol, but can also be located in state office space near a state’s capitol. Legislative libraries are open and staffed year-round to assist legislators, legislative staff and other state, county, and city agency locate information to help staff make policy decisions or learn more about the background of an issue.

Legislative libraries’ collections often include a mix of history books, legislative materials, state agency reports, and legal resources. Many legislative libraries, including New Mexico’s Legislative Research Library, are open to the general public–including attorneys, lobbyists, advocacy groups, and constituents. Some of the most popular questions our library receives are for biographical information about legislators past and present; what other states’ legislatures have introduced or passed recently on any topic; statistics on the number of bills passed or vetoed in a specific time range; and news articles surrounding a high profile event in state history.

The questions legislative libraries can help with are interesting and rewarding. For example, we hear often from descendants of legislators who are wondering when their grandparents or great-grandparents served, what bills they introduced, and if our collection includes photos while they were in office.

Legislative libraries also respond to questions from law, political science professors or graduate students throughout the country conducting research on the political or electoral process for their dissertations or research. Legislative libraries collaborate with each other across state lines to compile information or data about other state’s laws or statistics.

Your legislative library can also help locate and gather information from other libraries in your state. Many state libraries offer an interlibrary loan service-meaning that if a book or article isn’t owned by their library, they can ask the state library to locate it from another library and get it shipped. For instance, we can get articles for legislators and staff that are from academic journals not freely available online.

Many legislative libraries, like ours, also field questions by email and phone, so you don’t have to drive to the state capitol to get research assistance. More information about the New Mexico Legislative Council’s Research Library can be found at

Joanne Montague is a Senior Legislative Librarian with the New Mexico Legislative Council Service.

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The CSG West Nominating Committee is accepting applications from Western legislators interested in serving as officers of CSG West or CSG National. The positions will be open and the legislators elected by the Executive Committee will succeed to the positions of chair in 2027. 

Pursuant to our Rules, this year the Nominating Committee will be interviewing candidates for the CSG West Vice Chair.
The Nominating Committee will be considering:

  • Democratic applicants for the open 2024 CSG West vice chair position.

Applicants will be scheduled for an interview with the CSG West Nominating Committee during the 77th CSG West Annual Meeting in Portland, Oregon. The Nominating Committee, upon finalizing its process, will recommend a slate of 2025 CSG West officers to the CSG West Executive Committee.

The deadline for receiving applications from all interested and eligible legislators is Tuesday, June 25, 2024. If you have any questions about the process or require additional information, please contact Edgar Ruiz, CSG West Executive Director, at (916) 501-5070 or via email at [email protected]

Below, please find links to the application information, the CSG West Rules, and officer descriptions. Prospective applicants are encouraged to discuss officer roles and responsibilities with current CSG West officers.

CSG West 2025 Vice Chair Position:

CSG West 2025 Vice Chair Application

CSG West Rules

CSG West Officer Descriptions  

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Applications Now Open for the 2024 Western Legislative Academy

Each year, state legislators from the western region are selected to participate in the Western Legislative Academy (WLA), a multi-day training experience focused on sharpening leadership skills in communications, consensus building, focus management, ethics and more. Sessions are interactive and hosted by national leaders and academic authorities. Additionally, class members learn from each other and develop lasting relationships with legislative peers.

The application period is now open for the 2024 WLA, which will take place December 10-13 in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The deadline for completed applications is May 1st.

“This program was just the motivation and training I needed to up my game as a public servant for my communities – both my district and the Wyoming House of Representatives. I learned how to more effectively build relationships with my colleagues in Wyoming and across the West – a skill that will ensure that my district gets the most of my time as their Representative. The relationships I fostered at CSG have already made me a better Representative for the state of Wyoming and I look forward to building a brighter future for all of our constituents together.”

– Wyoming Representative Karlee Provenza, 2023 WLA Class President

Click below to view the 2024 Western Legislative Academy Brochure

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Housing Affordability & Homelessness in the Rapidly Growing West

Housing Committee Recap:

Shane Phillips, Housing Initiative Project Manager with the UCLA Lewis Center for Regional Policy Studies, focused on the intricate dynamics of housing policy, with an emphasis on navigating the trade-offs between different perspectives.

In Part 2 of this session, Tracee Henneke, Director of Relationships & Giving for Mobile Loaves and Fishes, provided a comprehensive view of Community First! Village – often referred to as “Austin’s most talked about neighborhood.”

Speaker Shane Phillips discusses coalition-building to address current housing affordability challenges.
Part 1: Housing Affordability

Approaches to housing policy are nuanced

Phillips contends that housing reform involves winners and losers but emphasizes the importance of a well-balanced approach to benefit the majority. Underscoring the political nature of housing reform, he asserts that finding the right mix is essential to ensure widespread benefit. Phillips argues that delay in addressing housing challenges leads to a lasting decrease in affordability.

Tension between housing as a source of wealth and affordability

The tension between housing as a source of wealth and its affordability is a central theme. Phillips challenges the notion that housing appreciation is universally positive, shedding light on its substantial drawbacks. He introduced the pro-housing versus pro-tenant perspectives, contending that pro-housing advocate typically focuses on who benefits from development, while the pro-tenant advocate questions who is harmed. Phillips suggests that a more comprehensive approach involves asking both questions to formulate better policies and build stronger coalitions.

Saying “yes” to housing supply, stability, and subsidy

The Three S’s—Supply, Stability, and Subsidy—were presented as interconnected elements. Phillips elaborated on the importance of a growing housing stock to address scarcity and economic constraints. Stability considerations focus on moral obligations towards renters, aiming to prevent their marginalization. Subsidy policies are discussed in terms of addressing gaps left by supply and stability measures, highlighting the need for efficient use of resources.

Pick two: appealing, unchanging, or affordable

Phillips contends that every city faces a choice between being appealing, unchanging, or affordable, but can only achieve two of these traits simultaneously. If a city is appealing and unchanging, he affirms that it will lack affordability – using San Francisco as an example. If it is unchanging and affordable, such as Detroit, he suggests it may lack appeal for attracting or maintaining residents. And if a city is both appealing and affordable, Phillips argues that it won’t stay that way without new housing supply and a plan for a future with more neighbors. He cautions against denying the future, presenting examples of cities that faced consequences for attempting such an approach.

“All of the above” approaches in action:

Phillips concluded by highlighting successful approaches, including Seattle’s Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda, legislative efforts in Oregon, and “The Montana Miracle.” In these examples, he illustrated the practical implementation of comprehensive approaches in diverse contexts.

Part 2: Community First! Village | A Different Approach to Homelessness

Community First! Village has garnered attention as a 51-acre master planned development in Austin, Texas, offering affordable, permanent housing and a supportive community for those exiting chronic homelessness. A project by Mobile Loaves & Fishes, it aims to address homelessness at its core by acknowledging that “housing will never solve homelessness, but community will.” Founder Alan Graham and his wife exemplify the commitment to this vision by choosing to reside among formerly homeless neighbors.

“The Single Greatest Cause of Homelessness is a Profound, Catastrophic Loss of Family.”

– Alan Graham, Founder and CEO of Community First! Village

Homelessness arises from intersecting broken systems and layers of trauma

The village’s philosophy asserts that homelessness arises from intersecting broken systems and layers of trauma, such as loss of family, foster care, and adverse childhood experiences, among others. Residents, with an average age of 57, have most commonly been homeless for over nine years. Sixty-five percent manage two or more chronic illnesses and their average age at death is 60.

“Housing will never solve homelessness, but community will.”

At Community First! Village, the intentional design of shared spaces, including front porches and communal areas, encourages interactions among neighbors, emphasizing the importance of community building. Additionally, 20% of residents are not homeless but choose to live in community with the formerly homeless. The “Community Works” initiative is integral, empowering residents to rediscover purpose and earn a dignified income through various opportunities, such as working at the community’s gardens, art house, cinema, and Community Inn. Its micro-enterprise program enables volunteers to serve alongside formerly homeless individuals, fostering skill development and enduring relationships.

Residents, with an average age of 57, have most commonly been homeless for over nine years. Sixty-five percent manage two or more chronic illnesses and their average age at death is 60.

Partners make a difference when thinking about community impact

The village’s impact extends beyond housing. Partners include 31,550 private donors, 21 construction partners, 45 custom home builders, 100+ faith communities, and 14,820 annual volunteers. Together, their efforts have contributed to an estimated annual savings of $85 million for the Austin community when Community First! Village is at full occupancy.

Partners include 31,550 private donors, 21 construction partners, 45 custom home builders, 100+ faith communities, and 14,820 annual volunteers.

Looking forward to expanding resources

Presently, 343 formerly homeless individuals reside at Community First! Village, with a 99% rate of rent collection, and an 83% rate of housing stability. The village initiated an expansion in 2023, incorporating two new properties and 127 additional acres for 1,400 more homes. Once fully developed, Community First! Village will have 1,900 homes and neighborhood support buildings spread across 178 acres.


Book: The Affordable City: Strategies for Putting Housing Within Reach (and Keeping it There) – By Shane Phillips

Podcast: UCLA Housing Voice Podcast | Hosted by Shane Phillips

Video: Finding Home: Community First! Village

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Sustainable Western Agriculture and Water 

Agriculture and Water Committee Recap:

The CSG West Energy & Environment Committee, chaired by Senator Wendy McKamey (MT) and Assemblymember Lori D. Wilson (CA), invited national and state experts Glenda Humiston, PhD., and Tony Willardson to discuss the sustainability of agriculture and water resources in the West with committee members.

Agriculture’s difficult landscape across the West

Decades of drought have brought dramatic changes to agriculture and water management in the West. Agriculture consolidation and foreign investment in agricultural assets and water rights further complicate an already challenging landscape for policymakers across the West. For example:

  • Limited data exists on water supplies and demands
  • Water rights can compete or be poorly defined
  • Infrastructure is aging or inadequate
  • Regulatory environments are ever-changing
  • Climate and extreme weather events are unpredictable climate

Troubling trends for our Western farmers

Despite ongoing innovation and adaption, some troubling trends have emerged, including 

  • Fallowing of agricultural land. 
  • Since 1981, the U.S. has lost 437,300 farms and 141.1 million acres of farm and ranch land. 
  • Small farms are disappearing, with farm income concentrated in larger farms. In 2019, only 50,000 farms reported revenue of over $500,000, which accounted for 89% of all farm income. Some two million farms shared the remaining 11%. Notably, 50% of farms didn’t make any money at all. 
  • For small farmers, 40% of their income came from off-farm sources. 
  • An inventory of biomass and biofuel in need of a market has accumulated.  
  • Invasive species and pests have increased in new habitats. 
  • Climate change has caused many species to relocate to new areas in search of temperatures and forage conditions conducive to their survival and reproduction. 

Challenges bring together new and more effective partnerships and resources

While a dryer, warmer climate out West with reduced snowpack and precipitation has brought challenges, they have also created partnerships and cooperation – among federal, state, and local governments across the scientific and technology sectors, the academic and applied research communities, producers, and industry.   

Water managers and users are engaged in conservation efforts, innovative water technology, and water transfers to meet the dynamic water needs out West.  

Western partnerships and initiatives include 

  • ARCHES, a hydrogen hub funded at $1.2 billion, may hold promise for biomass hydrogen fuel production 
  • USDA is diversifying small farm opportunities to include monetizing ecosystem services markets, including water and carbon sequestration, promoting regional and local food business centers, supporting localized processing plants, and using federal food buying programs. 

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Permitting Reform for Energy and Ecological Restoration Projects 

Energy & Environment Committee Recap:

The CSG West Energy & Environment Committee, chaired by Senator Eric Barlow (WY) and Representative Nicole Lowen (HI), discussed permitting processes and reform opportunities with committee members. and experts  Alex Hergott and Gokce Sencan.

Energy and ecological restoration projects face a lengthy permitting process 

Western states seek to adapt to changing climate conditions and expand energy resources while decreasing carbon emissions by:  

  • Repairing or replacing aging infrastructure  
  • Greenlighting new projects to expand energy transmission and grid loads  
  • Accelerating ecological restoration projects that conserve natural resources, sequester carbon, recharge groundwater, ensure healthy watersheds, and mitigate wildfires  

Decade-long waits and regulatory and workforce uncertainty require reform 

There is broad bipartisan agreement that the permitting process needs reform. However, substantive change needs implementation. Without it, the result is: 

  • Lengthy permitting–on average, 7 to 10 years  
  • Projects face a multijurisdictional maze of reviews and approvals/denials  
  • Regulatory uncertainty as administration turns over  
  • A lack of experienced permitting workforce at the federal, state, and county level  

 Federal funding is creating opportunities for change 

Funding has increased for projects across the energy, technology, and environmental sectors due to the passage of federal funding bills, including  

  • Energy Act of 2020  
  • Use the IT Act of 2020  
  • Inflation Reduction Act of 2021  
  • Bipartisan Infrastructure Law of 2022  
  • Semiconductor (CHIPS) Science Act of 2022  

This funding represents the most significant public investment in critical infrastructure – transportation, energy, and water – from the 21st century to the present. Despite funding availability, projects still need permitting delays, and the government alone cannot solve these delays.  

The path forward requires alignment and collaboration among agencies 

Beyond the permitting process, challenges will require planning, design, and permitting review. Supply chains to be aligned, and a collaborative, rather than adversarial, culture of permitting exists among the various agencies, including: 

  • Workforce and professional development – recruiting, training, and retaining expert personnel to staff up permitting agencies.  
  • Improve permitting interagency coordination. 
  • Implement strategies that align federal, state, tribal, and local permitting timetables and, where possible, reduce duplication. 
  • Implement transparency and accountability measures to include real-time information on projects in the permitting pipeline and a single state and local point of contact for permitting action. 

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The Nuts and Bolts of Legislative Oversight

Legislative Oversight Working Group Recap:

The CSG West Legislative Oversight Working Group, co-chaired by Senator Todd Weiler (UT) and Assemblymember David Alvarez (CA), gathers to exchange ideas on successes and improvements to enhance oversight practices in the members’ respective chambers. This effort aims to improve government accountability, transparency, and responsiveness.  

The COVID-19 pandemic spurred historic levels of federal fiscal relief to state and local governments. Oversight over how these funds are appropriated and managed is critical. This session addressed these emergent issues.   

The importance of legislative oversight 

Ben Eikey, Levin Center for Oversight and Democracy, and former Assemblymember Ken Cooley (CA) gave an introduction on the importance of legislative oversight and best practices. Primary avenues for state legislative oversight include: 

  • Analytic bureaucracies 
  • The appropriations process 
  • Administrative rule review 
  • Advice and consent 
  • Monitoring contracts.  

Notably, Cooley served as co-chair of this Working Group while serving in the Assembly and was the driving force behind the creation of the Western Legislative Oversight Handbook. This year, He was awarded the Bettye Fahrenkamp Award for Distinguished Legislative Leadership on Behalf of Western States. In addition to offering insight into the various avenues of oversight, he moderated a storytelling exercise for legislators. 

People’s House: Oversight Can be Bipartisan & Bicameral  

“When it comes to oversight functions—of either oversight committees, oversight subcommittees, or any other special task force; anything created to oversee the executive branch—take off your party hat. Put it in a drawer, and deal with this as somebody who has taken an oath of office—or works for somebody who has taken an oath of office—to carry out the mandates of the Constitution to function as the people’s voice.”       

The Honorable Mickey Edwards, former Member of Congress (R-OK)  

Using the legislative role to influence oversight changes 

Strategies for legislators include recognizing that you can request investigations and reports, that legislators can trigger research by asking questions that prompt reconsideration and modification, and that oversight can have as much or more impact as legislation.  

A move toward being more efficient and agile in state legislatures 

Cooley led a storytelling roundtable among legislators, encouraging them to share their successes and frustrations with the process. After reviewing the oversight basics, he invited attendees to share examples of oversight, hoping that their stories would spur creativity so when legislators head home, there is a resolve to prioritize oversight on the public’s behalf.  

Members expressed great interest in oversight practices as essential to enacting effective legislation. Many members shared stories of barriers and red tape, which have hampered efforts to be efficient and agile. Shared solutions and strategies include direct communication to address an issue in its infancy, being willing to communicate openly, and creating a culture where oversight is more proactive than reactive.   

Up next, the working group will be updating the Western Legislative Oversight Handbook 

The Working Group will meet virtually over the next several months to update the handbook and present a draft at CSG West’s 77th Annual Meeting on July 9-12, 2024, in Portland, Oregon. 

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U.S. Dam Regulation & Safety and Hydrogen’s Future in the U.S. and Canada

Canada Relations Committee Recap:

Co-Chairs, Washington Representative Debra Lekanoff and Alberta MLA Grant Hunter would like to recognize and thank the speakers below who brought their expertise to share and especially Alaska Representative Sara Hannan, one of the committee’s members, who kindly agreed to co-facilitate the session with MLA Hunter.  

CSG West Canada Relations Committee

65% of U.S. dams are privately owned

Association of Dam Safety Officials

More states are regulating dams, but maintenance is challenging

Representing the Association of State Dam Safety Officials (ASDSO), President Sharon Tapia, P.E., PMP and Division Manager of the Division of Safety of Dams for the California Department of Water Resources, provided historical context to this discussion by cycling through the evolution of dam safety in the United States from 1889 when the South Fork Dam failed in Pennsylvania.

Only 11 states regulated dams in 1940, increasing to 49 states in 2005. Possibly, the most surprising fact about dams is ownership–65% of U.S. dams are privately owned. Examples of that ownership include companies, individual citizens, associations such as HOAs and trusts. This makes maintenance quite challenging.   

Prior funding streams have run dry for “high-hazard potential” dams in 2023

Del Shannon provided a national snapshot of aging dams in the United States on behalf of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) Committee on America’s Infrastructure. As Chief Dam Engineer at Kiewit Engineering Group, he has led ASCE’s national dams report card chapter for the last few years. Every four years, ASCE issues grades akin to a school report card assigning letter grades based on the physical condition and needed investments for improvement for seventeen categories ranging from aviation to bridges and ports to roads.

Dams earned a “D” in 2021, the same grade it earned in 2017. That means, on average, U.S. dams are in poor condition and are at risk. While the Infrastructure Investment & Jobs Act (IIJA) provided $1.2 trillion investment in all 17 Report Card categories and addressed 43 Report Card recommendations, other streams of funding such as the National Dam Safety Program and the High Hazard Potential Dam Rehabilitation Program were either not reauthorized or did not receive annual appropriations in FY 2023.

2021 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure 

Alberta’s big hydrogen production and investments are spurring opportunity

The committee also got to hear from Charles Ward, Director of Natural Gas Strategy and Engagement for Alberta Energy on clean hydrogen. He addressed the various colors like green and blue often referred to when speaking about this fuel. He also highlighted the hydrogen economy and opportunities that exist as part of the global market.

Alberta is the largest hydrogen producer in Canada at 2.5 million tons per year, aided by their skilled labor force, low-cost natural gas, and experience with handling and processing hydrogen at scale, given their 50+ years of experience in production. Other reasons include incentives in place by the Province of Alberta, such as grants of 12% of eligible capital expenses and tradable carbon credits created from blue hydrogen/ammonia production. Their Hydrogen Centre of Excellence also cannot be ignored. It invests in made-in-Alberta hydrogen technologies to the tune of $50 million over four years.  

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