Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs
Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Health reform, green jobs and fiscal crisis highlight annual legislative leadership training session

Policy options on the costs of health care, the development of green jobs and solutions to states' fiscal crises were among the issues highlighted in the 15th annual Bowhay Institute of Legislative Leadership Development in July at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

Training keeps Iowa legislator busy

State Sen. Rich Olive D-Story City, went to "leadership boot camp" from July 10-14 in Madison, Wis. Read more in the Ames Tribune.

Each year, the institute, a joint offering by the La Follette School of Public Affairs and the Midwestern Legislative Conference of the Council of State Governments, offers an intensive leadership and professional development seminar for a select group of representatives.

Thirty-six legislators from 11 states and three Canadian provinces attended the five-day institute, the only leadership training program exclusively for Midwestern legislators. It helps newer legislators develop the skills to become effective leaders, informed decision-makers and astute policy analysts.

"After 15 years of doing this, we have learned how to help legislators focus on the tough, core problems of policy questions," says Dennis Dresang, who, although he is emeritus, remains the primary La Follette School faculty member involved in the institute. "Many of these legislators are from term-limited states and our job is to help them learn quickly about policy initiatives underway in other states and provinces."

Wisconsin lawmakers attending this year were Rep. Penny Bernard Schaber, Rep. Sandy Pasch and Rep. Kelda Helen Roys. They join more than 40 current and former Wisconsin legislators as BILLD alumni.  

Through the program, lawmakers explore issues with nationally renowned scholars, professional development experts, and legislative leaders and colleagues from across the region.

One policy module, "The Cost of Health Care: Debunking Myths and Facing Realities," included La Follette's Professor Barbara Wolfe and Professor Pamela Herd. Another, on green jobs, "Poised for Greatness? Developing a Midwestern Energy Economy," included Sarah White, a senior outreach specialist at the University of Wisconsin–Madison Center on Wisconsin Strategy. Fellows also heard from Professor Walter Dickey, the Evjue-Bascom Professor of Law, on ways to ease the corrections problems many states face. Other topics included fiscal policy, consensus building and court policy.

The political and cultural characteristics of the Midwest were the focus of a presentation by Dresang, who also discussed leadership types, legislative decision-making and legislators as change agents. Another session helps lawmakers understand the basics of ethics, work on practical applications in the legislative workplace, and recognize, navigate and resolve ethical dilemmas.

La Follette School director Carolyn Heinrich, outreach director Terry Shelton, outreach specialist Bridget Pirsch, and assistant to the director Mickie Waterman greeted the lawmakers at the opening reception at the governor's mansion.