Thom Little

Director of Curriculum Development and Research, State Legislative Leaders Foundation

by / March 23, 2016

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Thom Little is quick to acknowledge that any recognition going to him should be shared with the dedicated team at the State Legislative Leaders Foundation (SLLF) — he’s just the one putting together their programs.

Born out of the legislative reform movement of the 1970s, the SLLF was intended to boost the overall effectiveness of state lawmaking bodies. Today, the organization provides nonpartisan educational training to elected leaders in state legislatures with titles like speaker of the house, senate president, and minority and majority leader.

With SLLF since 1995, Little explained that technology is fundamentally changing the internal dynamics of legislatures. And not a lot of people are talking about it.

“Power is no longer associated with the ability to control information, because in the technology world that we live in, everybody has access to information,” he explained. So the question their programs seek to answer is, “How do you, in this new world of open access to information and the horizontal playing field, still lead your institution effectively and take advantage of the technology to improve the quality of policy and leadership?”

An example he cites is in Nevada. While the capital is in Carson City near Reno, 70 percent of the state’s population (and therefore legislators) is in Clark County, home to Las Vegas, near the state’s southernmost point. The SLLF encouraged virtual meetings as a cost-effective means of convening decision-makers more often than would otherwise be feasible.  

Little’s next big endeavor is focused on millennials. While they make up only 5 percent of legislatures today, they’re poised to take over within a decade.

“It is a generation raised with every piece of information they need literally in the palm of their hand. They want to be persuaded. They want data.” And Little and the SLLF are working to make sure their state’s legislative leadership is prepared to give it to them.

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Noelle Knell Editor

Government Technology editor Noelle Knell has more than 15 years of writing and editing experience, covering public projects, transportation, business and technology. A California native, she has worked in both state and local government, and is a graduate of the University of California, Davis, with majors in political science and American history. She can be reached via email and on Twitter.