The Crippling Effects of the Dysfunction in D.C.
Arkansas Senate Minority Leader Keith Ingram
Arkansas Senate Minority Leader Keith Ingram is the 2013–14 chair of The Council of State Governments’ Southern Legislative Conference. He served in the Arkansas House of Representatives for two terms, having first been elected in 2009, before being elected to the Arkansas state Senate in 2013. The Senate minority leader holds the same seat his father and brother held. Ingram served as mayor of West Memphis, Ark., from 1987–95. He served as vice chair of the SLC last year.
Photo by Joseph Martin.
1 | What do you see as the most pressing issue facing the nation as a whole in 2014?
Busch: “I think, in general, people lack confidence in the federal government. I think the federal government has to show some form of ability to work together to establish long-term stability within the country. … If there’s no stability or certainty at the federal level, it makes state government much harder to operate.”
Miller: “The most pressing issue facing the nation is the strong divide between the two parties, the far left and the far right, and the absence of people in the middle. … The majority of people in the U.S. are in the middle and they want government to function.”
2 | What do you see as the most pressing issue facing states in the East in 2014?
Busch: “There’s a lot of similarities in energy as far as the Northeastern states are concerned. … And you have certainly much of the same challenges in health care. We’re always concerned with education and higher education.”
Miller: “Probably the most interesting issues deal with the environment. For example, this past year we’ve enacted wind power legislation in Maryland; obviously, on the East Coast, that’s very important. … The question is cost and how we can move forward efficiently and effectively.”
3 | What will state leaders need to do to address those issues in the most effective way?
Busch: “The Eastern Regional Conference, we’re very similar in our makeup of what we prioritize. That’s been a benefit. It gives a stable region even if the federal government might be somewhat inconsistent in that area.”
Miller: “You need to meet with all segments of your legislative population, not just the people in the front row, but also the people in the back row and the people in both parties. … It’s a matter of comity in terms of people getting along and, because of that, there’s an absence of acrimony in the state Senate.”
4 | How can CSG help with those efforts?
Busch: “When you can go to an area where you have like ideas and leaders that are trying to model best practices out of other states, it’s important to be able to interact with them. The sharing of information is key and in areas where you have like-minded legislators and governors, it makes it a lot easier to try to collaborate on issues that you think are important to your citizens.”
Miller: “CSG has provided us with tons of information with regard to each major issue that we’ve had to deal with over the years. We go to CSG to find out how other states have dealt with similar issues. We go to CSG to find out statistics on how states voted on a particular issue … and we also like to find out the trends in our nation in terms of what we can expect in future years and CSG has been very helpful in terms of providing us with resources.”
5 | How can state policymakers get involved with CSG and make the most of that involvement?
Busch: “I think, first of all, attending the meetings and the conferences and getting on the legislative committees to understand exactly what’s taking place. We’ve had numerous legislators involved with CSG … (learn about) what are practical changes that take place in other states throughout the country that we might bring back and try to initiate here in the state.”
Miller: “Attend the meetings. … You’ve got to be a willing participant and you’ve got to focus on an issue. ... You go to presiding officer and say, ‘This is my forte, this is what I’m all about and this is how I want to make change. I want to learn more about the policy in this area.’”