Executive Director’s Notebook: Governors keep hectic, productive policy pace

By Jim Ogsbury

It has been awhile since I logged an entry in the Executive Director’s Notebook.  That’s not because there is little to report.  On the contrary, Western Governors have kept us so busy for the past several months that it’s difficult to find the time to memorialize their great work.  Consider the following:

Summer Meeting

The WGA Annual Meeting, hosted by Gov. Steve Bullock in Whitefish, Montana, was an unqualified success, attracting nearly 500 attendees and 10 Western Governors for three days of public discussions of significant western issues. The meeting included keynotes by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, renowned pollster Frank Luntz and Academy Award winner Jeff Bridges.

The Governors adopted five policy resolutions on issues such as species conservation and forest management. WGA also unveiled a new brand logo and a reimagined website.  At the meeting’s conclusion, Gov. Bullock passed the WGA Chairman’s gavel to South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard. The Governors elected Gov. David Ige of Hawaii to serve as Vice Chair.

Workforce Development

Gov. Daugaard has since launched the Western Governors Workforce Development Initiative. The first workshop of his central policy effort as Chair was held August 3-4 in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and featured a keynote address by Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta.  Upcoming workshops will be hosted by Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper in Denver (Sept. 18-19), Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin in Oklahoma City, and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee in Seattle (Nov. 1-2). 

Improving the State-Federal Relationship

The governors’ ongoing work to ensure a clear process for states to provide early and substantive input in development of federal regulatory policies took another step forward recently with WGA’s addition to the Advisory Council of the Speaker’s Task Force on Intergovernmental AffairsTask Force Chairman Rob Bishop of Utah, in connection with this appointment, stated: “The Western Governors’ Association has done more work examining the state-federal relationship than possibly any other organization in the country.  Their addition to the Advisory Council is a no-brainer, and the Task Force will lean heavily on their policy expertise and ideas moving forward.”

Additionally, WGA will host a summit on August 25 of Western and national policy organizations to further advance this effort.

Success Stories

Legislation under consideration by Congress accommodates several priorities of Western Governors, including:

  • The Public Lands Renewable Energy Development Act, endorsed by Western Governors, was favorably reported by the House Committee on Natural Resources in late July;
  • The House Committee on Appropriations, for the fifth year in a row, adopted language directing federal agencies to coordinate with states and to use state fish and wildlife data as primary sources in federal decision-making processes;
  • The Interior Appropriations Bill includes: full funding for the Payment-in-Lieu-of-Taxes program; fully funds firefighting efforts at the 10-year average level; acknowledges the recent efforts of Western Governors’ to coordinate with the Department of Interior to improve invasive species management; and supports “recent bipartisan, State-led efforts to improve implementation of the ESA.”

Ongoing Initiatives

The second year of work framed by the Western Governors’ Species Conservation and Endangered Species Act Initiative produced a suite of specific administrative and legislative recommendations, as did the first year of work on the Western Governors’ National Forest and Rangeland Management Initiative.

Winter Meeting

Planning is in full swing for our 2017 Winter Meeting, to be held December 1-2 at the historic Arizona Biltmore in Phoenix. Meeting registration will open soon, so save the date. I look forward to seeing you there.

Jim Ogsbury is the Executive Director of the Western Governors' Association. Contact him at 303-623-9378 or send an email. Get the latest news about the West and its governors by following the Western Governors' Association on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

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