By Jane Andrade
Natalie O’Donnell Wood, of the NCSL Center for Ethics in Government, said states have passed a wide variety of laws that attempt to curb improper influence while balancing legislators’ rights and obligations to make decisions in the public interest. When one delegate wanted to understand the pitfalls of such a free society, NCSL Legislative Management Director Brian Weberg said, “There used to be a saying that information is a scarce resource. That is no longer true. Now, attention is a scarce resource.” He said American institutions like NCSL and state legislatures are challenged to communicate authentically and to make sure their voices are heard in an increasingly noisy culture. And in doing so, they must gain—and keep—trust in their interactions with constituents.
The international guests are participating in a whirlwind tour of America as part of the U.S. Department of State’s International Visitor Leadership program. The delegates—representing countries from Benin to Uganda—are studying ethics, transparency and accountability in government and business in seven U.S. cities in addition to Denver.
According to Karl Kurtz, director of NCSL's Trust for Representative Democracy, who arranged the visit, “Members of parliament from other countries find it useful to talk to NCSL about legislative process, procedure and policy for two reasons. One is that we have a 50-state comparative perspective on the many different ways that legislatures have of addressing similar issues and problems. Second is that our state legislatures, compared to Congress, operate on a scale that is much more similar to their own facilities, staffing and other resources. The size and scope of congressional operations are often daunting to elected officials from other countries.”