Kenya Senate Staff Delegation: Visit to Congress, Maryland and Pennsylvania General Assemblies
Last October a delegation from the Senate and Joint Services of the Parliament of Kenya participated in a 10-day visit the United States in order to study how counterpart US institutions are organized to provide support services to elected representatives and enable them to more effectively execute their mandate. The delegation, led by Ms. Sarah Kioko, Director of Legislative and Procedural Services for the Senate of Kenya, was comprised of researchers, legal counsel staff, committee clerks, and Hansard editors. The group was exposed to various types of services and resources available in Congress and in State Legislatures in Maryland and Pennsylvania, including: research and budget analysis; transcription and publishing of the official records and proceedings of a legislature; archiving and print production; and offices of counsel and bill drafting.
In Washington, the delegation met with staff from the House and Senate, along with officials from the Congressional Budget Office, the Congressional Research Services, the Government Printing Office, and the Law Library of Congress. The common theme throughout the Washington program was that credible, non-partisan departments are essential resources for policy makers as they evaluate policy options and decisions.
In Maryland, a citizen legislature where members serve only 90 days a year and most are employed outside of their role as legislators, the delegation learned about the General Assembly’s commitment to transparency and information availability and how citizens and the legislature interact. During the legislative session, Monday nights are reserved as Public Nights where lawmakers have a chance to directly communicate with citizens to hear input regarding matters including draft bills and policy implementation.
Pennsylvania’s full-time legislature represented a model more familiar to the Kenyan delegation. The state’s joint services agencies were of particular interest to the delegation. The Local Government Commission, one of the oldest agencies of its kind in the US, provides resources to legislators on matters affecting local government as well as assistance with constituent enquiries; while the Joint State Government Commission provides intensive policy research and draft legislation to legislators through the use of experts, academics and other informed sources. The delegation was most impressed that the legislators have a direct vertical and horizontal linkage to the local governments in Pennsylvania.
Posted February 19, 2015