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Best of the West: Nevada Gov. Sandoval withdraws from Supreme Court consideration, Oregon standoff plea entered

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The Western Governors' Association keeps you updated on news of the West. Here are western stories for the week starting Feb. 22, 2016, that you don't want to miss:

Nevada Gov Brian SandovalNevada Gov. SandovalSCOTUS declined: Amid nomination rumors, Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval has announced he is bowing out of consideration for the open Supreme Court seat.

Oregon standoff saga continues: Ammon Bundy and other militant occupiers of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge have plead not guilty. Meanwhile, the FBI has completed processing crime scenes and returned control of the federal sanctuary to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. It is estimated that the 41-day occupation has cost taxpayers $3.3 million, a number expected to grow.

Fiery waterfall: Check out stunning images of Yosemite's rare "firefall," and learn the hurdles photographers have gone through to capture it.

Cosmic Crisp: Learn what's special about the new trademarked and focus group-tested apple that will be available for planting only to Washington farmers for at least a decade.

Water flows: California officials have boosted the amount of water they expect to deliver this year from the state's mountain-fed reservoirs to the highest allocation in three years.

See last week's news.

Get even more news about the West and its governors by following the Western Governors' Association on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

Oregon 'picture of economic health;' 6 western states named Innovation Champions

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bloombergOregon has been called "the picture of economic health" in an analysis of Bloomberg's Economic Evaluation of States report on the first three quarters of 2015. 

Oregon's economic health index rose the most in the nation; Washington, Utah and Colorado were also listed in the top 10 states with the most improved economic vitality.

Also in the report: California, Utah and Oregon showed the highest percent increase in personal income, while Colorado, Nevada and Oregon had the highest percent increase in home prices. Read more

States across the West are making economic progress on a variety of fronts. Here are some highlights: (More)

Governors Hickenlooper, Mead to host March 9-10 workshop in Denver of Species Conservation and ESA Initiative

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Colorado Gov John HickenlooperGov . HickenlooperColorado Gov. John Hickenlooper hosted and spoke at the third workshop of the Western Governors' Species Conservation and Endangered Species Act Initiative March 9-10 in Denver.

Gov. Hickenlooper was joined at the workshop by WGA Chairman and Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead, who also spoke as part of his Chairman's Initiative.

Topics discussed included state leadership in species conservation efforts; legal analysis of the Endangered Species Act, and species conservation funding. (Watch all the sessions)

Species Conservation & ESA Initiative Webinar: The Role of Conflict and Litigation in the ESA

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The Western Governors’ Association hosted a Feb. 25 webinar as part of its series for the Species Conservation and ESA Initiative.

The Role of Conflict and Litigation in the ESA examined how litigation shapes the implementation of the Endangered Species Act and affects species conservation efforts. Panelists representing a diverse range of interests will participate in a moderated discussion, as well as a question and answer session. Watch the webinar.

WEBINAR DETAILS (More)

Best of the West: Oregon occupier seeks billions in damages, Colorado rockslide

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The Western Governors' Association keeps you updated on news of the West. Here are western stories for the week starting Feb. 15, 2016, that you don't want to miss:

Oregon standoff saga continues: The militant occupation at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge is over, but the news doesn't. The Oregonian is keeping up with the latest from the ongoing drama, including: One occupier is seeking $666 billion in damages from "the works of the devil"; Cliven Bundy and four others face a federal charges in Nevada; firearms, explosives and feces are among the items left behind at the refuge.

rockslideColorado rockslide

Toxic blooms: New algae research could explain all those strange happenings in Alaska's waters.

Rocky road: A massive rockslide on a major Colorado highway left three vehicles severely damaged and part of the interstate closed for repair.

Legislature approved: A bill aimed at welcoming and regulating ride-sharing companies such as Uber and Lyft in New Mexico is headed to Gov. Susana Martinez's desk for consideration.

Potential skiing milestone: Utah ski resorts report that this year is on target to hit record skier numbers.

See last week's news.

Get even more news about the West and its governors by following the Western Governors' Association on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

Western Governors' News: Arizona regulation freeze, Colorado innovation challenge, Oregon's small business boost

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The Western Governors' Association offers a monthly roundup of news showcasing the work of Western Governors in economic development, natural resources, education, health and safety, and other areas. Here is what the Western Governors have been working on lately:

Alaska Gov Bill WalkerAK Gov. WalkerALASKA Gov. Bill Walker released a report on the economic impacts of the Alaska Marine Highway System that found the state-run ferry system doubles every dollar invested.

ARIZONA Gov. Doug Ducey renewed his moratorium on all new regulatory rulemaking by state agencies.

CALIFORNIA Gov. Jerry Brown proposed an initiative to reduce wasteful spending at state prisons and reduce prison population sizes.

COLORADO Gov. John Hickenlooper launched Imagine Colorado, the nation’s first-ever statewide open innovation challenge.

HAWAII Gov. David Ige signed an emergency proclamation to (More)

Western Governors urge EPA to recognize state authority on water quality issues

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EPA LogoWestern Governors have sent comments to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in response to its request for Information on Existing Programs That Protect Water Quality From Forest Road Discharges.

The outreach, sent on Feb. 12, 2016, highlighted states' federally-recognized authority to manage and allocate water within their boundaries. Submitted comments included: "The Clean Water Act (CWA) does not require EPA to regulate forest road stormwater discharge," and "EPA should leave the management of stormwater discharges from forest roads to the states, unless otherwise determined by a specific state."

Western Governors also cited (More)

Best of the West: Oregon standoff ends, Colorado's billion dollar marijuana sales

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The Western Governors' Association keeps you updated on news of the West and its governors. Here are western stories for the week starting Feb. 8, 2016, that you don't want to miss:

oregonoccoverSource: OregonianOregon Occupation Over: The 41-day standoff at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon ended today (Feb. 11) with the peaceful surrender of four holdouts after an hourlong negotiation with the last protester. Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy has also been arrested and will appear in federal court in Portland on charges from 2014. See the Oregonian's play-by-play account of the final day's developments and learn how you can help restore the Malheur refuge.

Pot Profits: Colorado marijuana sales reached nearly $1 billion in 2015, allowing the state to collect more than $135 million in related taxes and fees.

Housing Blueprints: Los Angeles has approved plans to fight homelessness with $1.85 billion over the next decade. Boise unveiled a "housing first" plan, modeled after a Salt Lake City program, aimed at permanently housing the city's homeless.

Ancient agriculture: The oldest ever footprints found in the Southwest, discovered in Arizona, provide new insights into how Native people practiced a complex system of irrigation agriculture 2,500 years ago. 

See last week's news.

Get even more news about the West and its governors by following the Western Governors' Association on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

Drought Update: California extends water conservation rules despite deep snowpack

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snowsurveyCA2California snow surveyRecent heavy rain and snowfall in California have some residents pushing back against the state's mandatory water conservation rules. State water officials, however, caution against an overly optimistic view of California's drought outlook and the State Water Resources Control Board recently voted to keep in place the conservation rules established last year.

"We are just at halftime in this rainy season," said Felicia Marcus, the State Water Resources Control Board chairwoman. "A lot could change."

Current benchmark reports concerning the California drought are encouraging. Statewide snowpack is the deepest it has been in five years, and the most recent monthly manual survey near Lake Tahoe measured the snowpack at 130% of normal. Conversely, new reports show that California's water conservation habits are starting to slip as heavy El Niño rains present a communications challenge in convincing residents to continue conserving. Learn more

The Western Governors' Drought Forum was the (More)

Gov. Ige to host Hawaii workshop of Species Conservation and ESA Initiative April 7-8

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Hawaii Gov David IgeGov. IgeHawaii Gov. David Ige hosted and spoke at the final workshop of the Western Governors' Species Conservation and Endangered Species Act Initiative on April 7-8 in Oahu, Hawaii.

Topics discussed at the workshop included: protecting marine areas; state and local consultation and coordination; climate change and the Endangered Species Act; invasive species impacts on species conservation efforts; and listing and delisting considerations. (Find videos of all sessions.)

The workshop, continued the regional conversation about the signature initiative of WGA Chairman and Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead.

The Chairman's Initiative of (More)

Species Spotlight: How collaborative conservation led to a 'Not Warranted' ESA determination for Arctic Grayling in Montana

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Arctic grayling populations, including in Montana’s Big Hole River, had been declining for decades when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) in 1992 first considered listing the freshwater fish under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

graylingThis installment of Species Spotlight takes a closer look at the collaborative conservation efforts since then by private landowners, conservation groups, state and federal entities. Ultimately, that work helped grow grayling populations and, in 2014, resulted in a USFWS determination that listing the species was not warranted.

Species Spotlight, a case study series examining the challenges and opportunities in species conservation, is part of the Western Governors' Species Conservation and Endangered Species Act Initiative, the Chairman's Initiative of Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead.

CONSERVATION ACTIONS (More)

Western Governors ask EPA to engage states as partners in Clean Air Act considerations

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EPA LogoWestern Governors have sent comments to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on its proposed rule, Treatment of Data Influenced by Exceptional Events (the Exceptional Events Proposal), under the Clean Air Act (CAA), and the related Draft Guidance on the Preparation of Exceptional Events Demonstrations for Wildfire Events that May Influence Ozone Concentrations (the Draft Guidance).

The outreach, sent on Feb. 3, 2016, expressed Western Governors' appreciation for state concerns addressed in the Exceptional Events Proposal and Draft Guidance. The comments also communicated continued concerns over the proposed rules' retention of ill-defined criterion, such as “not reasonably controllable or preventable."

The comments emphasized: (More)

Best of the West: Oregon militants face federal indictments; Google changes forecast for self-driving cars

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The Western Governors' Association keeps you updated on news of the West and its governors. Here are western stories for the week starting Feb. 1, 2016, that you don't want to miss:

indictmentsOregon indictments: A federal grand jury has indicted Ammon Bundy and 15 others in the armed takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, including four militants who remain at the site. See the newly unsealed documents here.

Autonomous car wet run: Following years of trials in California and Texas, Google will begin testing its self-driving cars in Washington state to see how the vehicles perform in rainy conditions.

Species sighting: Watch the rare video of the only known jaguar in the United States roaming Arizona's mountains.

Western wellness: Looking to improve your sense of well-being? Head West where you'll find the top six states in the 2015 Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index. See how your state ranked.

See last week's news.

Get even more news about the West and its governors by following the Western Governors' Association on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

When it comes to Super Bowl 50, WGA is partisan in its support for the Denver Broncos

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United in Orange broncosUPDATE: Congrats to the Denver Broncos for their 24-10 win over the Carolina Panthers. And we also loved the ads (see them all here).

Feb. 5, 2016: When it comes to policy work, the Western Governors' Association is nonpartisan. When it comes to Super Bowl 50, partisanship takes over.

After all, we're Western. And we're based in Denver. So you can guess our office is pretty excited about the Denver Broncos facing off with the Carolina Panthers on Sunday in a game that's being PLAYED out West in Santa Clara, Calif. (The very first Super Bowl was played in Los Angeles, by the way.)

Forget the oddsmakers, (More)

WGA supports shared renewable energy lease revenues

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senenThe Western Governors' Association has reiterated its longstanding support for the sharing of revenues derived from renewable energy leasing on federal lands with impacted states and counties to Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee leadership.

The letter to Senators Lisa Murkowski and Maria Cantwell, sent on Feb. 2, 2016, expressed the Western Governors' appreciation of the Committee’s consideration of the Public Land Renewable Energy Development Act of 2015 (S. 1407), which would enact such revenue sharing.

The letter highlighted, (More)

Western Governors applaud final rule for Stewardship End Result Contracting

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stewardshipWestern Governors have supported Stewardship End Result Contracting since it was introduced on a pilot basis in 1999 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Recently, USDA issued the Final Rule for Stewardship Contracting Projects on a permanent basis, as enacted in reauthorization of the 2014 Farm Bill.

Stewardship Contracting allows land managers to leverage public-private partnerships with flexible, cost-effective methods that promote forest health. Stewardship Contracting, for example, allows forest products to (More)

Best of the West: Oregon standoff's violent end; California snowpack milestone

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The Western Governors' Association keeps you updated on news of the West and its governors. Here are western stories for the week starting Jan. 25, 2016, that you don't want to miss:

oregonmilitantOregon Occupation: Ammon Bundy has told the remaining militants at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge to go home and "please stand down." Meanwhile:

Drought milestone: After recent storms, (More)

Western Governors request clarification on BLM's Wild Horse and Burro Program

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whbprogram. WidePar 000104 Image.WideParimage.2.2Western Governors have asked Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Director Neil Kornze to answer questions and provide additional information regarding BLM's administration of the National Wild Horse and Burro Program

The letter, sent on Jan. 27, 2016, shared the Western Governors' position that burgeoning wild horse and burro populations, paired with the inability of federal agencies to adequately manage these populations, presents an urgent concern for western rangelands and ecosystems.

The outreach included WGA Policy Resolution 2015-01, Wild Horse and Burro Management, which supports thoughtful, appropriate and science-based management decisions for wild horse and burro management. (More)

Species Conservation & ESA Initiative Webinar: Critical Habitat and Invasive Species

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The Western Governors’ Association hosted a Feb. 4 webinar as part of its series for the Species Conservation and ESA Initiative.

WATCH: Critical Habitat and Invasive Species

The webinar examined how critical habitat designations are influenced by invasive species. Panelists representing a diverse range of interests will participate in a moderated discussion, as well as a question and answer session. Register here.

WEBINAR DETAILS

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown calls Malheur occupation "intolerable," federal response too slow

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Oregon Gov Kate Brown Official Portrait MugGov. Kate BrownOregon Gov. Kate Brown called the ongoing occupation at the Malheur National Wildfire Refuge "absolutely intolerable" on Wednesday and requested that it be "resolved immediately" by the federal government.

The Oregonian story about Gov. Brown's remarks noted that security and other aspects of the standoff are costing the state about $100,000 weekly, for which she is seeking federal reimbursements. The cost goes well beyond dollars and cents for those living nearby, said Gov. Brown. "The very fabric of this community is being ripped apart."

Read the Oregonian story.

Get the latest news about the West and its governors by following the Western Governors' Association on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

Best of the West: California drought relief, Colorado's new First Lady, Washington marijuana delivery

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The Western Governors' Association keeps you updated on news of the West and its governors. Here are western stories for the week starting Jan. 18, 2016, that you don't want to miss:

hickpringleGov. Hickenlooper weddingEl Niño reprieve: Continued El Niño rains could be California's 'shot out of the drought.'

First Lady of Colorado: Gov. John Hickenlooper got married over the weekend. Learn more about his wife and their nuptials.

Montana mining: Gov. Steve Bullock challenged the moratorium on new coal leases on federal lands and demanded "a seat at the table" as the process moves forward.

Wolverine inventory: Four western states have teamed up on an unprecedented multistate wolverine study

Delivery next? Seattle city leaders are making moves to start the nation's first recreational marijuana delivery service in an effort to curb illegal delivery services.

See last week's news.

Get even more news about the West and its governors by following the Western Governors' Association on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

Gov. Otter urges engagement, innovation to improve species conservation, ESA at Idaho workshop

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Gov Otter Podium Boise Workshop for BlogGov. C.L. "Butch" OtterIdaho Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter welcomed participants to the Idaho workshop of the Western Governors' Species Conservation and Endangered Species Act Initiative on Jan. 19 and urged them to be "willing to engage, to listen to the other side's point of view."

"Being part of the process, being part of the solution, and being seriously considered with our ideas is what matters and will continue to matter," said Gov. Otter (Read the Associated Press Story). The governor spoke at the second regional workshop of the Chairman's Initiative of Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead for the Western Governors' Association at the Riverside Hotel in Boise, Idaho.

Gary Frazer, Assistant Director of Ecological Services for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, highlighted the importance of engagement as well. "We can never stop learning, and we know we don't have all the answers, so we look forward to working with the Western Governors' Association on improving how the Act works." (More)

Best of the West: California autonomous car roadblock, record-breaking blazes, hottest housing markets

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The Western Governors' Association keeps you updated on news of the West and its governors. Here are western stories for the week starting Jan. 11, 2016, that you don't want to miss:

carPumping the (autonomous) brakes: California is not quite ready to allow self-driving cars to hit the road after reports of wildly different levels of success in on-road testing.

Moving West: Zillow's Hottest Housing Markets for 2016 list is dominated by western metro areas, with Denver leading the pack. See all nine western cities in the top 10.

Washington tech: Uber's competitor in Asia has opened a development office in downtown Seattle, led by a former Microsoft engineer.

Occupation tactics: The occupation in Oregon is rounding up its second week. The Oregonian breaks down why the feds haven't yet made moves to oust the illegal occupants from the federal compound outside Burns.

Wildfire record: High Country News reports that 2015 wildfires blazed through previous records, burning an astonishing 10.1 million acres. See where the damage occurred.

See last week's news

Get even more news about the West and its governors by following the Western Governors' Association on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

Executive Director's Notebook: WGA's success means it's time to plan for more success

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“Success breeds complacency. Complacency breeds failure. Only the paranoid survive.” -- Andy Grove

By Jim Ogsbury

While I’m not exactly ready to confess to paranoia, I am acutely sensitive to the dangers of complacency.

Western Governors and WGA have registered extraordinary successes over the past few Only the Paranoid Surviveyears. The association has been re-engineered, reorganized and re-energized. The reinvented policy team has effectively advanced the Governors’ priorities and the new communications group has helped to elevate the profile of Western Governors in Washington, D.C. and across the country. A look at our Top Ten Policy Achievements for 2015 suggests the extent to which Western Governors are having a profound effect on national policy.

That’s all great, but to be satisfied with past accomplishments would be to trigger the decline of an association that is hitting its stride. Instead, we are committed to providing ever more value to Western Governors, creating new opportunities to promote their bipartisan priorities and enact their commonsense agenda. (More)

Western Governors deliver 2016 State of the State addresses

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Western Governors have delivered their 2016 State of the State addresses. We created a "word cloud" of the most common themes in the speeches, which you can see above. 

Alaska

Alaska Gov Bill WalkerBill Walker called for bold action during his State of the State address on Jan. 21, 2016. Nathaniel Herz of the Alaska Dispatch News reported that Gov. Walker urged lawmakers "to plug the hole in Alaska’s sinking financial ship by approving the three major pieces of his budget plan: budget cuts, new taxes, and spending some of the Permanent Fund’s earnings." (Story) The governor acknowledged that his drastic proposals may potentially come at a political cost to him. “I did not run for governor to keep the job,” he said. “I ran for governor to do the job.” Gov. Walker also, however, was optimistic about areas of potential growth, such as agriculture, resource development and tourism. Read the full speech

Arizona

Governor Doug DuceyDoug Ducey delivered his State of the State address on Jan. 11, 2016. Gov. Ducey focused on the positive impacts of his first year in office, touting the state as "on the rise." The Arizona Republic reports that the governor reiterated his campaign promises, "again promising tax cuts, education reform, looser regulations and an effort to reduce the number of people reliant on state government." (Story) His call for education funding reform was met with a standing ovation. He also expressed frustration that Arizona requires too many licenses for too many jobs, including talent agents, noting: "Let’s leave the job of finding new talent to Adam Levine and Gwen Stefani – not state government."  Read the full speech

California

California Gov Jerry BrownJerry Brown delivered his State of the State address on Jan. 21, 2016. In what Los Angeles Times reporter John Myers called "a short speech with a long view of California," Gov. Brown touched on themes that included the budget, income inequality, deteriorating infrastructure, drought and climate goals. (Story) The governor said Californians will need to "bite the bullet" on new taxes to fund long-term infrastructure maintenance costs. "Ideology and politics stand in the way, but one way or another the roads must be fixed," Gov. Brown said. Read the full speech

Colorado

Colorado Gov John HickenlooperJohn Hickenlooper delivered his State of the State address on Jan. 14, 2016. The governor set the stage for his speech with a pragmatic tone the Denver Post called, "classic Hickenlooper," and called for lawmakers to work together to solve budget and housing issues. (Story) Gov. Hickenlooper urged, "Let's strive, I mean really try, to be more bipartisan this session." He also emphasized that the state would need to continue adapting and innovating to keep its economy on top, joking, "We don’t need a Delorean time machine to know that change is coming." Read the full speech

Hawaii

Hawaii Gov David IgeDavid Ige delivered his State of the State address on Jan. 25, 2016. The Honolulu Civil Beat reports that "the governor identified issues that he said had been neglected but could wait no longer for action," including making classrooms cooler, revitalizing infrastructure, and creating a Hawaii Invasive Species Authority. (Story) Gov. Ige also made a big push for affordable housing projects to address increasing concerns about homelessness, emphasizing, "You cannot talk about homelessness without talking about the major reason why it has become so widespread.  And that is the lack of affordable housing." The governor also spoke to the importance of value-based actions for government and citizens, reminding, "When we demean others we betray ourselves." Read the full speech

Idaho

Idaho Gov Butch OtterGov. Butch Otter focused on school funding in his joint State of the State and Budget address on Jan. 11, 2016. Gov. Otter said: "We are entrusted with the singular constitutional responsibility of providing for a 'general, uniform and thorough system of public, free common schools throughout Idaho,'" before proposing significant increases in education spending. The Associated Press reported that the governor's speech  featured several new higher-education initiatives, including a college tuition freeze program to ensure that incoming freshman would pay the same rate for four academic years. (Story) Read the full speech

Kansas

Kansas Gov Sam BrownbackSam Brownback focused on high-profile state issues such as education spending in his State of the State speech on Jan. 12, 2016. Stephen Koranda of Kansas Public Radio reported that Gov. Brownback "laid the groundwork in his speech by referencing what he and lawmakers had done in Kansas in recent years. He touted tax policy, the unemployment rate and job growth." (Story) The governor also touched on the future of the state's water supply, calling the issue "one of the biggest challenges" Kansas faces. Read the full speech

Nebraska

Nebraska Gov Pete RickettsPete Ricketts established property tax relief as his top priority in his State of the State address on Jan. 14, 2016. His other policy focuses in the coming year include increased transportation infrastructure funding and additional prison reform. Don Walton of the Lincoln Journal Star reported that the governor proposed state budget adjustments that would fund these initiatives without taking any money from the state's "rainy day" cash reserve fund. (Story) Gov. Ricketts also promised that his administration is working to "ensure a new level of transparency and accountability for taxpayers." Read the full speech

New Mexico

New Mexico Gov Susana MartinezSusana Martinez set forth a sweeping agenda during her State of the State address on Jan. 19, 2016. Gov. Martinez called on lawmakers to get tougher on crime and to implement her education and economic development proposals. Dan Boyd of the Albuquerque Journal reported that the governor's speech "focused heavily on a recent spate of high-profile crimes" and urged stricter anti-DWI laws and expansion of the state’s 'three-strikes' law for repeat offenders. (Story) Her speech also implored lawmakers to "demand more than mediocrity in education." Read the full speech

Oklahoma

Oklahoma Gov Mary FallinMary Fallin delivered her State of the State address on Feb. 1, 2016. Curtis Killman of the Tulsa World reported that "there was no mistaking the theme" of Gov. Fallin's speech: the budget. (Story) The governor addressed the urgent need to improve the state’s budgeting process to ensure adequate funding for education, public safety, health and more. Gov. Fallin especially focused on education, calling for a pay raise for teachers and proclaiming, “Oklahoma’s future sits in the classrooms of today. The education of our students remains my biggest priority in my budget." Lowering mandatory drug possession sentences and creating a high consumption tax on cigarettes were also highlighted. Read the full speech

Oregon

Oregon Gov Kate Brown Official Portrait MugKate Brown delivered her State of the State address on April 8, 2016. She touted the state's economic progress, including the recently increased minimum wage, and urged lawmakers to pass her comprehensive transportation package. Gordon Friedman of the Statesman Journal reported that Gov. Brown announced Oregon has hit a record low unemployment rate, but "added that state government must continue to seek economic opportunities for Oregonians, especially those in rural counties." (Story) Gov. Brown proclaimed, "The sun has definitely come out from behind the clouds of a protracted economic downturn." Read the full speech

South Dakota

South Dakota Gov Dennis DaugaardDennis Daugaard delivered his State of the State address on Jan. 12, 2016. He asked lawmakers to approve a half-cent sales tax to help make teacher pay more competitive. Dana Ferguson of the Argus Leader reported that Gov. Daugaard also "spotlighted the state's successes — and the work yet to be done — on issues including criminal justice, workforce development and state parks." (Story) On workforce development, the governor said, "We all  understand that this is a marathon, not a sprint. It needs constant attention." Read the full speech

Utah

Utah Gov Gary HerbertGary Herbert delivered his State of the State address on Jan. 27, 2016. Gov. Herbert touted Utah's economy and encouraged even more progress. "The state of our state is strong," he said, "and I think most of us would say the state of our state is outstanding. That being said, I believe we can do even better." Robert Gehrke of the Salt Lake Tribune reported that the governor called on lawmakers "to do more to address health care for low-income residents, to improve air quality and to help provide opportunities in rural Utah." (Story) Gov. Herbert also focused on education, challenging school employees to work to raise the state's graduation rate to 90%. Read the full speech

Washington

Washington Gov Jay InsleeJay Inslee addressed a number of pressing issues in his State of the State address on Jan. 12, 2016, including education, mental health, wildfires and minimum wage. Gov. Inslee said that it’s “absolutely necessary” for lawmakers to develop a framework to pay for the state’s basic education system during the legislative session. On the necessity of recruiting and training more teachers, Gov. Inslee said, "If nobody is standing in front of the classroom, we have zip." Joseph O’Sullivan of the Seattle Times reported that the governor urged lawmakers returning for the legislative session to "approach the problems 'with recognition of the depths of our challenges, and with confidence that together we can solve them.'" (Story) Read the full speech

Wyoming

Wyoming Gov Matt MeadMatt Mead focused on the budget, Medicaid and infrastructure during his State of the State address on Feb. 8, 2016. Gov. Mead especially highlighted the need to accept federal funds to expand Medicaid, a move that would offer health insurance coverage to 20,000 low-income adults in the state. Laura Hancock of the Casper Star-Tribune reported these are "people who typically delay health care until it warrants a visit to the emergency room. That can result in higher costs for hospitals and worse outcomes for patients." (Story) The governor also spoke about the Western Governors' Species Conservation and Endangered Species Act Initiative, his Chairman's Initiative for WGA. Read the full speech

Get the latest news of the West and the Western Governors' Association by following the WGA on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

First Chairman's Initiative webinar to focus on Black-footed Ferret recovery

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ferretBlack-footed FerretThe Western Governors' Association will host the first in a series of webinars as part of its Species Conservation and Endangered Species Act Initiative on Jan. 14. 

Voluntary Species Conservation Incentives and Collaboration will highlight the recovery of Black-footed Ferret in Colorado and Wyoming. Panelists representing a diverse range of interest will participate in a moderated discussion, as well as a question and answer session. Register here

WEBINAR DETAILS (More)

Best of the West: Oregon standoff, deep snow in Sierras, Nevada's autonomous car push

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The Western Governors' Association keeps you updated on news of the West and its governors. Here are western stories for the week starting Jan. 4, 2016, that you don't want to miss:

Oregon occupation: See Gov. Kate Brown's statement telling the illegal occupiers to "decamp immediately." Read the Oregonian story on steps being taken to end militants’ occupation of the federal compound in Burns, Ore. The Washington Post reports media and gawkers may outnumber occupiers and this New York Times primer explains why the federal government owns so much western land.

govsandovalGov. Sandoval

El NiñoThe Los Angeles Times is providing live updates on the El Niño storms hammering the West Coast.

Hawaii smoking ban: The Aloha State rang in the new year with a new law that makes it the first state in the nation to raise the legal smoking age to 21.

Nevada investment: Gov. Brian Sandoval is dedicating state resources to the autonomous car industry in a bid to become the nation's leader in development of driverless vehicles.

California snowpack: State surveyors in California's Sierra Nevada report that water held in the snowpack amounted to about 136% of the historical average.

Get even more news about the West and its governors by following the Western Governors' Association on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.