CSG is the Place to Be
CSG isn’t an Organization Separate from the States;
It is Where the States Come Together.
By Kansas Senate Majority Leader Jay Scott Emler, 2012 CSG National Chair
President Harry Truman once said, “If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog.” But for 80 years, leaders in state capitols have known if you want a friend, call on The Council of State Governments. For me, CSG is all about friendship. Through my involvement in both CSG’s Midwestern Legislative Conference and CSG’s national policy work, I have come to think of CSG as family.
As the 2012 national chair, my pride in the work of CSG and its members has only grown. Today, CSG is stronger than ever and I am convinced CSG remains one of the most cost-effective tools state leaders have to create meaningful change and lasting solutions.
Each state, commonwealth and territory supports CSG through the payment of state dues. The amount of these dues is established by a formula approved by the states. Since its founding, CSG has always been a community of the states. CSG isn’t an organization separate from the states; it is where the states come together.
CSG’s scope of activities and services is broad, but its mission is simple: To help today’s state leaders successfully navigate the future. We do that by creating forums where regional and national issues can be explored, by discovering and sharing proven solutions that work, by working across party and state lines and with all three branches of state government, by building leadership skills, and by engaging with international and private sector partners to expand our capacity to make a difference. We also advocate for the states in Washington, D.C.
CSG is built on the belief that when state leaders come together, good things happen. Whether it is creating interstate compacts, regional solutions or interstate cooperation, CSG is an active forum for states to address policy concerns that overlap state boundaries. States working together are often better able than the federal government to address a challenge. CSG is the only association that includes all three branches of state government. This unique structure allows CSG to convene the expertise of the executive, legislative and judicial branches to help states solve problems.
An enduring strength of CSG is its regional focus. The council maintains four regional offices. The Midwestern Legislative Conference office is located outside Chicago, the Eastern Regional Conference is in New York City, CSG West is in Sacramento and the Southern Legislative Conference is headquartered in Atlanta. Each region maintains its own staff and leadership structure to assure a member-driven agenda in each region. CSG is rightfully proud of its regional focus—and it puts its money where its mouth is because 60 cents of every dollar collected from states is sent to the regional organization to support programs and services for that region. By supporting four active regions, only CSG brings state leaders with similar priorities and challenges together.
Each CSG region also has the ability to adopt resolutions that express the position of that region. CSG does not have a “one size fits all” approach to addressing issues, but instead has the ability to advance unique regional interests.
In our highly polarized world, “facts” are often whatever someone says they are. While that may be convenient, it is a dangerous way to govern. CSG prides itself on providing solid, trusted research and information to state leaders. The Book of the States, the most comprehensive compendium of state information, is published annually by CSG. This year we have made previous editions of The Book of the States available online as part of CSG’s Knowledge Center, found at www.csg.org.
Members of CSG each year review new state legislation and produce a volume of CSG Suggested State Legislation. This resource provides legislators and staff with useful templates for drafting legislation. Because we are a nonpartisan organization, we don’t recommend model legislation or advocate for its passage. Instead, through Suggested State Legislation, we offer a library of statutory language reviewed by CSG members as a resource to the states.
CSG also functions as a technical assistance provider on topics as diverse as education policy, criminal justice and issues relevant to states that share a border with Mexico. These valuable programs, combined with CSG’s commitment to provide direct outreach to the states, enhance CSG’s impact.
Developing leadership skills of state leaders is also a hallmark of CSG. The prestigious CSG Henry Toll Fellowship and the regionally based leadership programs remain among CSG’s most popular offerings. I would encourage anyone looking to enhance their leadership ability to apply for these programs.
The role of the states in governing is embedded in the DNA of our nation. We do not have a national government; we have a federal government. CSG takes as one of its most important responsibilities the duty to defend and advance the interests of the states in Washington, D.C. The CSG office in Washington stands ready to assist state leaders in navigating the labyrinths of the federal government.
The Place to Be
During my tenure as CSG national chair, I have championed the meaningful work of a great organization. CSG, as America’s leading association of state leaders, is making a difference. I am proud of my participation in CSG; I know that because CSG exists, the states are able to accomplish more together than they would if each state acted on its own. CSG works.
As a legislative leader, a former judge and my state’s deputy director of homeland security, I know firsthand how the work of CSG, its regions and affiliated organizations is advancing the interests of the states. That fact was brought into sharp focus during super storm Sandy. State emergency management directors, trained and empowered, in part, through their work as members of the National Emergency Management Association, linked through an interstate compact, the Emergency Management Assistance Compact, and in many cases, overseeing programs accredited by the Emergency Management Accreditation Program, were prepared to respond. These organizations are all CSG affiliates and housed in CSG’s headquarters.
I am proud of all CSG does to fulfill its mission of empowering all of us to achieve excellence. In its 80-year history, CSG has never been stronger or more needed. That is a testament to the leadership of so many who see CSG as the place to be. I have appreciated being able to serve my state, my region, my country and even Canada as CSG’s national chair.
WREATH OF HONOR
Photos by 346Photography