by Karl Kurtz
The problem of replacing the experience and knowledge of retiring senior staff was the top challenge to the effectiveness of legislative staff that was reported in a national survey of all legislative staff. The survey results were released at NCSL's Legislative Summit last week. Here are the six challenges that scored highest (out of 12 multiple choices) on a scale of one (not at all likely) to 7 (very likely) in the responses received from 1,260 legislative staff from all 50 states.
The two other challenges that scored 5.0 or higher besides the problem of retiring senior staff were the potential of salary and benefit cuts for staff and an influx of new legislators who don't adequately understand or appreciate the role of staff.
Not surprisingly, the younger staff in the 20-35 age group were not nearly as concerned with these problems as the 50+ year olds. The younger generation appears to be more confident that they will manage just fine when the baby boomers retire from legislative service, and they weren't nearly as worried about the lack of appreciation or understanding of staff by new legislators.
Nonetheless, the survey revealed that legislative staff turnover is likely to be a significant issue in coming years. Nearly half of all respondents said that they plan to leave legislative service within five years and nearly three-quarters within 10 years.
Look for a more detailed report on this survey and the results of a workshop of staff that came up with ideas to address these challenges in a future issue of State Legislatures magazine. In the meantime, here is a summary of the survey responses.
For a different take on this subject, see "Tim Rice's Top 10 Challenges for Legislative Staff."