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Program Agenda

All substantive policy sessions, workshops and events will be held at the Benton Convention Center.

Attending substantive committee sessions may qualify for Continuing Legal Education (CLE) credits for state government officials in SLC member states. Substantive committee sessions are identified with a superscript CLE following the session title. Forms and further information will be available on-site at meeting registration.

Saturday, August 1

7:30 a.m. - 6:00 p.m.


Benton Convention Center

11:00 a.m. - 2:30 p.m.

Staff Workshop CLE

3:00 - 4:30 p.m.

Executive Committee Session

5:00 - 6:00 p.m.

Come participate in a unique opportunity to network with your staff colleagues across all branches of state government.

7:00 - 9:00 p.m.

Opening Reception at The Millennium Center

Sunday, August 2

7:30 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.


Benton Convention Center

8:00 - 9:30 a.m.

Committee Sessions CLE

Let’s Make a Deal: Implications of Recent Trade Agreements for the American Farm

Agricultural groups have heralded the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement and the Phase-One Agreement with China as unparalleled opportunities to provide their products to growing consumer bases and to promote free and fair trade. This session provides a briefing on these two important trade deals and explores how they may impact the U.S. agricultural sector.

Leveraging Opportunity Zones for Economic Development

The Federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 included new incentives for stimulating private investment, economic development and job creation in underserved communities, designated as Opportunities Zones. According to the IRS, there are more than 8,700 Qualified Opportunity Zones nationally, including more than 3,000 in the SLC region. Under the program, individuals or entities that invest in economically distressed areas qualify for capital gains tax breaks. This session outlines the benefits and concerns surrounding Opportunity Zones and explores what actions states and localities can take to ensure that tax-advantaged funding is delivering sustainable investment in underserved communities that truly need it.

Legislative Roundtable

The Legislative Roundtable highlights important economic development, transportation and cultural affairs issues taken up in SLC member states during recent legislative sessions. Members from each state brief the Committee on new measures undertaken in their respective states. This provides policymakers with the opportunity to share their experiences with others facing similar challenges and opportunities, exchange ideas, and serves as a foundation for substantive policy discussions.

An End to Dead Ends: The Benefits of Complementary Postsecondary Pathways

In the United States, traditional universities, community and technical colleges and vocational training frequently are viewed as competing interests. However, evolving postsecondary education models more often view them as complementary partners. Allowing students to pursue multiple educational and training pathways, without encountering dead ends, provides multiple opportunities for crossover. In this changing and competitive economy, opportunities for students to transition from vocational or technical training to applied or traditional degree programs – and vice versa – provide for the pursuit of multiple credentials. The blending of traditional and technical education also allows students the opportunity to “earn while they learn” and gain practical experience. This session examines how structuring complementary postsecondary systems can open multiple pathways for students, increasing the prospects for both academic and career success.

Legislative Roundtable

The Legislative Roundtable highlights important education issues taken up in SLC member states during recent legislative sessions. Members from each state brief the Committee on new measures undertaken in their respective states. This provides policymakers with the opportunity to share their experiences with others facing similar challenges and opportunities, exchange ideas, and serves as a foundation for substantive policy discussions.

10:00 - 11:30 a.m.

Salute to the Military

noon - 1:30 p.m.

Women in Leadership Forum

2:30 - 4:30 p.m.

Committee Sessions CLE

Stranded Investments in the Energy Sector

Stranded investments, sometimes called stranded costs or stranded assets, are the historic financial obligations incurred by utilities that, due to changes in market conditions, are rendered unrecoverable. As natural gas, renewable resources and battery storage increase their share of the energy generation market, a growing number of utilities are opting for the early retirement of existing coal-fired plants, resulting in millions of dollars in stranded investments.  This session focuses on the implications of stranded investments and explores possible policy solutions.

Life Cycle Economics of Renewable Energy

Calculating and comparing the costs of energy generation is no easy task.  Key considerations include the costs of capital, fuel, fixed and variable operations and maintenance, financing, rate of utilization, as well as available incentives. This session presents a framework for assessing the life cycle costs of renewable energy and examines how those costs compare to those of traditional generation sources.

New and Expanded Revenue Streams

As advances in technology both create new and reshape existing markets, states are looking to regulate and tax these emerging business models. These include digital streaming services, electronic goods, ridesharing services and short-term rentals, among others. With consumers shifting to embrace this new economy, and the market for digital goods and services growing exponentially, these emerging markets are replacing prior, and broadening existing, sources of state revenue. This session explores how states’ efforts to tax these new revenue sources and the economic impact these emerging markets could have on the Southern region.

The State of Innovation: Embracing Promising Technologies to Increase Governmental Efficiency

In recent legislative sessions, Southern lawmakers have explored emerging technology-related policy issues by studying the impacts of artificial intelligence on government efficiency and establishing regulations for the use of block chain technology. During the 2019 legislative session, seven SLC states passed legislation to create a commission or taskforce to study the public sector potential of these technologies. This session outlines how lawmakers can leverage these innovations to increase governmental efficiency and better use the valuable data they collect.

An Overview of the Family First Prevention Services Act

The Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA) was signed into law as part of the federal Bipartisan Budget Act in February 2018. The FFPSA reformed the federal child welfare financing streams, Title IV-E and Title IV-B of the Social Security Act, to provide support for families and children at risk of entering the child welfare system. The FFPSA aims to reduce the number of children entering foster care by allowing federal reimbursement for prevention services, including mental health and substance use treatment, as well as in-home parenting skills training. It also seeks to improve the well-being of children in the foster care system by incentivizing states to reduce the use of congregate care and focus on family foster homes. This session provides an overview of FFPSA and explains what actions Southern states should take to prepare for its implementation.

Improving Outcomes for Youth in the Juvenile Justice System

More than 30,000 youth are incarcerated in the United States each year, while another 350,000 are placed on probation. As youth in the juvenile justice system age, it is important for policymakers to ensure they have the skills and knowledge necessary for future success. Unfortunately, youth in the justice system are more likely to face an array of obstacles compared to their peers, including a lack of math and reading proficiency; more frequent suspensions and expulsions from school; special education needs; and fewer employability skills. This session provides an overview of the national landscape related to juvenile justice improvement during the last decade, focusing on the shift from incarceration to community-based supervision and services, and highlights effective measures that improve outcomes while balancing public safety.

5:00 - 6:00 p.m.

Center for the Advancement of Leadership Skills
October 3-7, 2020 | Little Rock, Arkansas

The Governmental Leadership Program of the Southern Office of The Council of State Governments

We invite CALS alumni to reconnect with classmates and those interested in the program to come by and learn more!

The Center for the Advancement of Leadership Skills (CALS) is an annual four-day program designed for new and mid-career Southern state officials from all branches to reinforce and refine their skills in communication, conflict resolution, consensus building and critical decision making. Full scholarships are provided to those selected, covering the cost of tuition, travel, lodging and meals.

Visit for more information and the online application.

6:30 – 9:30 p.m.

Family Night at Historic Bethabara Park

Monday, August 3

7:30 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.


Benton Convention Center

8:00 - 9:30 a.m.

Committee Sessions CLE

Flood Planning and Mitigation: Lessons from South Carolina and Texas

In recent years, Southern states have been inundated by major flood events. Taken together, the impacts of these events can create significant and long-term strain on states’ economies, both in terms of tangible losses and damages, as well as lost productivity. A recent study by the National Institute of Building Sciences found that every dollar spent on disaster mitigation saves $6 in future disaster costs. Southern states are beginning to take a more proactive approach to flood planning, pivoting from a recovery-oriented approach to one focused on resiliency and mitigation. This session highlights flood mitigation planning and policies undertaken in Texas and South Carolina.

Preparing Public Pensions for Fiscal Uncertainty: Solutions from the States

As economists forecast near-term economic uncertainty, and states prepare for a silver tsunami of increased public employee retirements, lawmakers must look to stabilize, protect and prepare their retirement systems for future volatility. By adopting mandated stress testing, lowering assumed rates of return, increasing funding and other efforts, states can ensure their retirement systems are well prepared for any coming disruptions. This session examines how states can craft more resilient pension systems and looks at recent pension reform efforts in the South.

Legislative Roundtable

The Legislative Roundtable highlights important fiscal and governance issues taken up in SLC member states during recent legislative sessions. Members from each state brief the committee on new measures undertaken in their respective states.

The Social and Economic Impact of Alzheimer’s and Related Dementias

The aging of America’s population poses significant financial and public health challenges for every state. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the number of people currently living with Alzheimer’s and related dementias. In 2019, the direct costs of caring for individuals with these diseases amounted to approximately $290 billion nationally – with Medicare and Medicaid covering a significant portion of the total – in addition to billions of dollars in economic value provided by unpaid caregivers. This session reviews actions taken by states to address the social and economic impact of Alzheimer’s and related dementias, including providing financial support for unpaid caregivers, building a dementia-trained healthcare workforce, and creating task forces to coordinate statewide efforts to address this critical public health issue.

Legislative Roundtable

The Legislative Roundtable highlights important human services and public safety issues taken up in SLC member states during recent legislative sessions. Members from each state brief the Committee on new measures undertaken in their respective states. This provides policymakers with the opportunity to share their experiences with others facing similar challenges and opportunities, exchange ideas, and serves as a foundation for substantive policy discussions.

10:00 - 11:30 a.m.

William Bennett
William Bennett

The Promise of America in Challenging Times

Economic, political and social headlines have undermined the foundations of America’s faith in its future. At the center of American life for the last four decades, first as a Cabinet official in the administrations of Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush and as one of the country’s most respected political analysts, Bill Bennett reminds us that we have triumphed through hardship before—and have become a stronger nation because of it. In this uplifting discussion that dispels the notion that America’s best days are behind us, the patriotic Bennett inspires citizens to get involved in the national discourse and boldly confront the complex issues that lie before us. Bennett shows, that even through the most trying of times, America remains the world’s last best hope whose achievements remain high and remarkable.

noon - 1:30 p.m.

Sponsored by the Fiscal Affairs & Government Operations Committee

Prepared annually by legislative staff in Kentucky, Louisiana and West Virginia, comparative data reports track a multitude of revenue sources, performance measures, program variances and appropriations levels in the SLC member states. They remain invaluable tools for both legislators and legislative staff in crafting effective legislation and implementing policy decisions.

2:30 - 4:30 p.m.

Committee Sessions CLE

Seeds of Despair: Addressing Mental Health in Rural Communities

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicides among farmers are 1.5 times higher than the national average. Experts warn that rising farm debt, limited access to mental health resources, harvests impacted by extreme weather, and the lingering impacts of a long-running trade war with China all are contributing to significant stress among farm and agricultural workers. This session examines initiatives aimed at increasing awareness of rural stress issues and warning signs; identifying ways to communicate and cope with stress; and accessing local resources and support systems.

Renewable Natural Gas

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, agriculture accounted for 9 percent of the nation’s total greenhouse gas emissions in 2017. As the nation works to reduce these emissions, the agriculture sector is facing increasing pressure to reform. By capturing biowaste from dairies, farms, landfills and wastewater treatment plants, which is converted into biogas and processed into biomethane, a “pipeline-ready” product, the agriculture sector may be leading the way. This session explores renewable natural gas production technologies and features a discussion on how hog farms in North Carolina are turning one of their largest cost drivers – manure management – into a revenue stream, while helping utilities meet the state’s renewable energy goals.

Modernizing Rural Transportation Networks

Rural transportation networks play a vital role in supporting the nation’s economy, moving people and goods to destinations in every region. While only 19 percent of Americans live in rural communities, approximately 68 percent of total lane-miles are located in rural areas. More than two-thirds of rail freight originates in rural areas, and almost half of the miles traveled by trucks are on rural roads and bridges. Unfortunately, many rural transportation networks are poorly maintained, posing significant commercial and public safety issues. In many areas, large commercial vehicles are forced to take detours to avoid aging, unsafe infrastructure. Meanwhile, the fatality rate on rural roads is twice as high as on urban roads. This session details the importance of rural transportation networks and explores which actions states can take to ensure that roads and bridges are safer and more reliable for drivers.

School-Based Health Centers: A Prescription for Improving Academic Success

As primary-care clinics based on elementary and secondary school campuses, school-based health centers (SBHCs) provide students with access to vital preventative and early interventional health resources. In addition to primary care, SBHCs can deliver a variety of services including dental care, behavioral and mental health counseling, and health and nutrition education. Typically underwritten via a combination of federal, state and local grants, Medicaid or private insurance reimbursement, and private funds, SBHCs serve as cost-effective resources for schools and communities. By allowing children in rural or low-income areas access to care, SBHCs can reduce school absences, boost academic success, diminish healthcare costs, and increase student physical and mental health. This session explores how SBHCs improve student outcomes and play an important role in both schools and communities.

Educators Wanted: Recruiting and Retaining Teachers in Areas of Need

Recognizing the need to address teacher recruitment and retention, a number of SLC member states prioritized raising teacher pay during the past two legislative sessions. Although teacher compensation has increased throughout most of the region, many states still are facing teacher shortages, especially in rural and low-income districts, as well as in certain subject areas. Lawmakers across the country have explored several solutions to address this area of growing concern and attract more qualified educators to the profession.  Some of these measures include loan forgiveness, stipends, mentorship programs and alternative credentialing. This session reviews recently enacted policies which may serve as ideal models in recruiting and retaining educators in high-need areas in SLC states.

6:00 - 9:00 p.m.

Program Interval

9:00 - 11:30 p.m.

Host State Reception: Tennessee and the 75th Anniversary Annual Meeting

Tuesday, August 4

7:30 - 10:00 a.m.


Benton Convention Center

8:00 - 9:30 a.m.

Closing Plenary & Business Breakfast Session

Executive Committee

Meets upon conclusion of the Closing Plenary

10:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m.

State Transformation in Action Recognition (STAR) Award Judges Panel

11:15 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.

Committee Site Visits

Agriculture & Rural Development

Economic Development, Transportation & Cultural Affairs

Energy & Environment

6:00 - 10:00 p.m.

Reception & State Dinner

Please note, this event is intended for guests age 18 and over.

Wednesday, August 5

6:00 a.m. - noon