Ted Simons: February is Black History Month and to coincide with that, a huge African-American legislative and leadership conference is being held at the state capitol today and tomorrow. 1,000 African-American leaders from around the state are expected. Here to talk about the conference is State Senator Leah Landrum-Taylor, the organizer of the event. Good to have you here.
Leah Landrum-Taylor: Glad to be here.
Ted Simons: The conference goals, what's going on here?
Leah Landrum-Taylor: Well, the main point of this conference and this is our ninth year of having the conference at the legislature, and we look at several pillars that we focus on. Education, health, justice, economic development, as well as youth. And the big portion is to make sure people understand, look, this is your capital, and if you want to make sure you have a place at the table, you need to come down here and you need to talk about things that are relevant to the community and then from that, we're able to come up with different policy changes if necessary, if it has to be legislative, or it can be things internal that we can work with. We've seen significant strides in the amount of legislation we've been able to get passed, has been incredible.
Ted Simons: When it comes to things like education and justice and environment and the economy and these sorts of things, what stands out, what are people talking about this go around?
Leah Landrum-Taylor : Right now, of course, the big topic is the budget: There are some certain concerns that have been voiced as of this morning with the opening ceremonies and particularly making sure that education is protected because we want to make sure we have a educated workforce even that’s out here that will help businesses and we owe that to our young people to be able to have a productive education system. Another big thing that has come up, are the whole -- the cuts as it relates to healthcare, and some of the things that are relevant to the African-American community. The full elimination of sickle cell anemia and programs for that. These are huge issues, diabetes. These are major concerns and another thing that came up was the whole dissolving of the juvenile corrections system.
Ted Simons: Interesting. The legislative workshops, what exactly happens at one of these things?
Leah Landrum-Taylor: It will take place on Friday, tomorrow. There will be people from around the state. Just about every county is represented this year. It's one of our largest attended. It's really great. But what happens when they walk up to that workshop, there are facilitators that are there in the various committees and from that it's handled just like a committee regularly at the capitol. People have an opportunity to present and the public has an opportunity to weigh in on the top subjects they're going to be going over. From that, these ideas are developed. And we have position papers we put together and take a look at what was relevant that came out of the particular workshops and what should be looked at in order to go forward.
Ted Simons: In the years past, has anything surprised you? Do you go in thinking this may be the focus and coming out, wow, I didn't expect that.
Leah Landrum-Taylor : Well, absolutely, because it's open to the public and a facilitator may have something planned and then all of a sudden, a big issue comes up someone is able to talk that and it may turn into something entirely different.
Ted Simons: I know looking at your agenda, there's a career fair for kids. Talk to us about that.
Leah Landrum-Taylor: This year, I must say, this is one of the largest attended youth participants that we have. And our goal and focus this year, the theme is passing the flame to the next generation. And so there was a huge focus to make sure the youth workshops were going to be incredible as it relates to economic development, what they can do in order to weigh in on issues important to them. Like education and other issues. And so we are going to be having a career fair right there at the capitol, so they can see what are some things and possibilities they can get into in the future and colleges will be out as well.
Ted Simons: Very good. Is it difficult considering all the stuff going on at the state capital right now, is it difficult to get folks interested or involved in the legislative process? Survey after survey shows most Americans are down on the legislative process, lawmakers in general. If you're a politician, I’m sorry, but if you’re a politician it sounds like people aren't happy with you. How are you getting people involved?
Leah Landrum-Taylor: One of the things I've noticed over the years of having this conference, is people are understanding, truly, the complexities of the whole governmental process and how difficult it is to have this idea that you're working on and to have that idea become a law. And how much work that actually takes, going through the committees and, you know, the whole body and then moving over to the other chamber and finally, if it survives, over to the governor for a signature or perhaps a veto. And I think what people are seeing, you know what? Without us voicing our opinions on these various pieces of legislation, the things we don't like, it may go on through because people may think it's ok and if we do support something, if we aren't coming out here and weighing in on that support, that might be difficult getting through. It's just one legislator trying to fight the battle.
Ted Simons: Yeah, it’s interesting the things going on at the capitol right now are there so divisive in many ways, it's like a civics education in and of itself and I’m sure that message is getting crossed in a variety of ways. Good luck with the conference. Thank you for joining us.
Leah Landrum-Taylor: You're welcome. Thank you.