Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs
Friday, August 26, 2016

La Follette hosts Midwestern lawmakers for 22nd leadership conference

La Follette hosts Midwestern lawmakers for 22nd leadership conference

The La Follette School of Public Affairs and the University of Wisconsin–Madison welcomed 37 legislators from 11 states and three Canadian provinces for the Bowhay Institute for Legislative Leadership Development (BILLD) in August. Designed for newer legislators, the five-day program included sessions on a wide variety of timely policy topics.

Launched in 1995, BILLD is a collaboration between the La Follette School and The Midwestern Leadership Conference of the Council of State Governments (CSG).

“As the charter sponsor and major academic partner of BILLD since its inception, the La Follette School proudly shares its expertise with this select group of lawmakers,” said La Follette School Director Susan Yackee, who greeted participants August 12 during an opening reception at the Wisconsin Executive Residence. “BILLD demonstrates our school’s long and rich history of working with local, state, and national lawmakers to improve governance and public policy.”

La Follette School Professor Emeritus Dennis Dresang served as lead faculty member again this year, as he has throughout BILLD’s 22-year history. Dresang, one of BILLD’s founders, taught policy workshops on Leadership Types and Legislative Decision-Making, and The North American Heartland.

Before the conference, BILLD participants completed a survey indicating the most pressing policy issues in their respective states and provinces. La Follette School Associate Director Hilary Shager (MPA ’05) facilitated a roundtable discussion of these and other issues that are heating up Midwestern legislatures and the policy strategies used to address them.

Shager began her session with this response from a Canadian BILLD participant’s survey, which effectively illustrated one of the primary goals of the institute: “... legislators like ourselves may do well to listen and talk to each other so that the hindsight of one can become the foresight of another.”

Under the leadership of Senior Outreach Specialist Bridget Pirsch, the La Follette School organizes panels on timely topics such as the challenges of leadership, leadership strategies, consensus-building, communications, civil discourse, creating win-win public policies, and time and priority management. Shager and Outreach Specialist Heidi Normandin assisted with implementation.

“In addition to BILLD being a tremendous learning opportunity, another important aspect is the incredible strength of the relationships built,” Pirsch said. “The hope is that these lawmakers will build a network that they can continue to call on in the future. There is time for participants to enjoy each other’s company and establish bonding relationships.”

The lawmakers learned about Evidence-Based Strategies for Addressing Mental and Behavioral Health Challenges in Corrections from Cecelia Klingele, an assistant professor at the UW Law School, and Steve Allen of the CSG’s Justice Center. Bradley Carl, associate director of the Value-Added Research Center at UW–Madison’s Wisconsin Center for Education Research, and Laura Pinsonneault of the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction shared their expertise on the complicated Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and the opportunities it presents to legislators.

James Robey of the Upjohn Institute for Employment Research highlighted regional economic trends, including implications for workforce needs, education, and training, while Ann Franz of Northeast Wisconsin Technical College shared information about the NEW Manufacturing Alliance, which connects people and careers through apprenticeship programs in Northeastern Wisconsin.

Other sessions and presenters included:
• Gary Moncrief, professor emeritus at Boise State University, led two courses – Legislatures under Stress: Promoting and Protecting the Institution, and Getting the Job Done: Process and Politics in the Midwestern Legislatures
• The Principled Politician: A Story of Courage, with Adam Schrager of WISC-TV, Madison
• Leadership: The Journey Inward by Richard Friend, an internationally known expert in organizational leadership
• Building Civil Discourse and Trust in the Legislative Area with Ted Celeste, director of Next Generation, a project of the National Institute for Civil Discourse, and J. Scott Raecker, director of The Robert D. and Billie Ray Center at Drake University
• What Legislators Need to Know about How Courts Interpret the Law with Ohio Rep. Robert Cupp, a former Ohio Supreme Court justice
• Tell Me More: What Every Legislator Needs to Know about Consensus by David Landis, JD, former Nebraska state senator
• The Focused Leader: When Managing a Great “To Do List” is no Longer Enough with Pam Vaccaro, chief executive officer of Designs on Time
• Communications for Lawmakers: Making the Complicated Simple and the Simple Powerful with Bill Graham of Graham Corporate Communications

Each of the 37 lawmakers earned a fellowship through a nonpartisan, competitive application process that is overseen by a steering committee of Midwestern legislators. Wisconsin State Reps. David Bowen of Milwaukee, Michael K. Rohrkaste of Neenah and Lisa B. Subeck of Madison participated. State Reps. Joan Ballweg (BILLD Class of 2007) and Robin Vos also participated.

To date, more than 765 legislators have participated in BILLD, including 62 from Wisconsin. Other lawmakers are from Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, Alberta, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan.