National Conference of State Legislatures

Alfred Katzenberger


[A report on the conference held in Nashvile, Tennessee, 2006.
Reprinted from GroundSwell, July-August 2006]


The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) held its annual conference in Nashville, Tennessee. The Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center is a huge complex of four adjoining hotels, each with a huge atrium. Under each atrium was a garden with a major water feature. The largest was called the Delta and it had a twenty passenger flatboat that took visitors on a river tour showing the botanical garden and full scale buildings featuring various styles of Southern architecture. The enclosed buildings held restaurants, bars and retail shops. The Gaylord Entertainment Center and Gaylord Opry Mills Mall were all connected by gardens and parking lots. We could not afford to stay at the Gaylord compound and were lucky to find the Airport Ramada Inn & Suites Opryland very suitable and affordable at a daily rate of $55.00. No one knew who Gaylord was.

Tennessee calls itself the Volunteer State. As usual, Public Revenue Education Council (PREC) depended on volunteers to help man the exhibit booth at the NCSL. David Giesen of San Francisco volunteered to help man the booth. A week before the start of the conference he called and informed PREC that he had secured a job teaching and could not come to Nashville. Lou Basso, a member of the Board of Directors of PREC, agreed to drive to Nashville and help man the booth.

Each convention center has its own way of doing things. At Gaylord exhibitors where directed to unload exhibit materials at Ryman dock "C." Dock C was for eighteen wheelers. Homeland Security rules demanded getting out of the area and reporting to another site where IDs, signatures and credentials were checked and parking instructions were given for unloading the materials. Not parking at the exact angle resulted in a quick warning. This was the first time Public Revenue Education Council (PREC) experienced the Homeland Security rules.

Lou was enthralled by the Exhibition Hall and all the exhibitors. He worked the crowd and was very good at holding people in conversation. At first, Lou was forgetting to give those who stopped at the booth the materials we had on display and available for the taking, but you must place the material in the visitors hands or they will walk off empty handed. After lunch Lou went to check out the other exhibitors and came back with two bags of free-bees for his grandchildren. Each year the host state gives everyone who has a floor pass to the exhibits a gift. This year each person received a Tennessee cowboy style straw hat. Lou made the mistake of not taking PREC materials with him when he visited the other booths and so did not have our material with him to hand out to them. He spoke of all the good experiences he had conversing with the other exhibitors but did not have any of our information with him to give them. The second day Lou worked the morning crowd. Later on he went to all the health / medical exhibitors and received a full physical and collected two more bags of free-bees for the grand kids.

This year we learned the NCSL has committee meetings and sessions. The words "professional workshop, legislative workshop, educational workshop" etc. are totally unacceptable. The NCSL has thirty-two E-mails for various topics and a directory of 166 issue specialists. NCSL bills itself as "the latest, most up-to-date information source on all policy topics. The issues are so fragmented that it is no wonder why these "specialists" do not see the connection between economic development and taxes. The specialists on poverty are also the specialists on same sex marriage, go figure. During the past ten years going to the NCSL we have learned the power of "governance" is in the hands of professionals like the NCSL who hold great sway over the legislators by supplying them with what NCSL believes is the "latest, most up-to-date information on all policy topics." NCSL provides information, "leading experts," guides lobbying efforts, does research, publishes books etc.

The NCSL trains legislators to "sharpen their legislative skills." This year Molly Ramsdell of the Budget and Revenue Committee stopped by the booth. Her office is in Washington, DC. She received all of our handouts and said she would be receptive to visitors to her office in Washington to learn more about collecting public revenue from economic rent. It is the intent of PREC to attend the NCSL so we can find leads for Georgist to pursue to advance Georgist goals.

June M. Detetering of DIVISION DE L ' ECONOMIE SERVICE D' INFORMATION ET DE RECHERCHE PARLEMENTAIRES returned to the booth this year and said no one from Canada ever contacts the committee that travels the country seeking input to improve Canadian finances. The committee contact is www.fina.gc.ca. I gave her another copy of "An Introduction to the Georgist Philosophy and Movement." Her Courriel is dewetj@parl.gc.ca.

State Senator Steven Rauschenberger of Illinois and President of NCSL stopped by the booth. When we told him East St. Louis was one of the "Land Rich" cities of America, he started listening to us. He said he was very interested in the idea and its potential use in East St. Louis. He is a hot lead and everyone in Illinois needs to contact him.

Bert May, the Legislative Liaison for Kentucky League of Cities took copies of all our materials. The contacts are www.klc.org and bmay@klc.org.

PREC moved up to number six-one on the pecking order for booth selection at the 2007 NCSL in Boston, Massachusetts on August 5 to 9, 2007. There were 281 exhibitors in Nashville. NCSL expects more in Boston. PREC will be needing volunteers to help man the booth in Boston. Please contact Al Katzenberger to let PREC know you will help in Boston. Please contact Al early so plans can be made and required exhibitor floor passes can be ordered. PREC runs a very low budget operation. This year we only had to pay for the booth space, and rent one table, one chair and required carpeting for the booth.

PREC is hoping the Henry George Foundation of America will bring its exhibitor equipment to the Boston 2007 NCSL. PREC is passing out materials from the Robert Schalkenbach Foundation, the Center for the Study of Economics, the Council of Georgist Organizations, Gib Halverson, Don Killoren and Common Ground-USA (see "Revenue Source..." brochure insert). PREC wants to thank all of you who are helping to keep our contacts with NCSL.

Lou Basso took a different route back to St. Louis. I drove to the Shiloh National Military Park. The Civil War battlefield is very well preserved. The orientation film at the Visitor Center needed to be improved. It looked like a military training film from World War II. Shiloh is worth a visit. The museum in Corinth, Mississippi was closed by the time I finish my tour of Shiloh so I headed back to St. Louis half satisfied with my side trips.



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