WGA Winter Meeting Day 2: Autonomous vehicles, keynotes by Secretary Chao and NFL’s Bidwill, evolving state-federal relationship dominate

The final day of the 2017 Winter Meeting found the Western Governors exploring the future impact of autonomous vehicles on jobs and infrastructure, engaging in conversations with Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and NFL executive Michael Bidwill, exploring the historic evolution of the state-federal relationship and approving four policy resolutions.

WGA Chair and South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard hosted 11 Western Governors at the meeting in the Arizona Biltmore, including: WGA Vice Chair and Hawaii Gov. David Ige, Alaska Gov. Bill Walker, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, Idaho Gov. C.L. Butch Otter, Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert, Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead, Guam Gov. Eddie Calvo, and Northern Mariana Islands Gov. Ralph Torres

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Day Two Meeting highlights included:

Keynote: Michael Bidwill: The president of the Arizona Cardinals delivered remarks that traced the history of his NFL team -- which parallels the birth of the NFL itself. Bidwill also highlighted how he and other state leaders crafted a strategy to host major sporting events to benefit the state economy. “Our stadium opened 12 years ago and has turned into an enormous economic engine for Arizona," Bidwill said. "We’ve hosted Super Bowls, college football championships, and this year, our first NCAA Final Four." Bidwill also discussed the Cardinals' significant fan following in Europe, thanks to viewership of All or Nothing, an NFL Films production on the team's 2015 season.

Keynote IV & Conversation with U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao: Secretary Chao opened her remarks by noting the Department of Transportation's priorities. "Safety will always be our number one priority and second is addressing infrastructure needs – repairing and rebuilding our infrastructure. And third, preparing for the future by encouraging innovation." The Secretary also said that although the agency already has released a regulatory framework (Vision for Safety 2.0), "technology is changing so rapidly that we are already working on Vision for Safety 3.0."

Roundtable III:  Driving toward Autonomous Vehicles: Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey moderated the discussion on advancements in autonomous vehicle technology, the rise of driverless cars and trucks and its impact on jobs and infrastructure. Panelists comments included:

Finch Fulton, U.S. Department of Transportation: "Some 37,416 people died on our roads this year, most due to human error. There are tremendous safety gains and increases in mobility with getting these vehicles on the roads and there are advantages to the United States being No. 1 on this technology."

Timothy Burr, Lyft Director of Public Policy: "We dedicate a tremendous amount of land in the United States to parking, we could pave the entire state of Connecticut ... The average family spends $9,000 a year on vehicles."

Lucie Zikova, Government Affairs lead for Uber's Advanced Technologies Group: "Why are we so focused on automation? Safety. Truck drivers are generally very safe and highly skilled, but they drive on the roads with other people; 87% of truck crashes can be traced back to human error."

Rutt Bridges, Understanding Disruption: "If we do not find a way to get people to share these vehicles, we are going to be in a lot of trouble -- 9 out of 10 people drive alone at commuting times."

Governors’ 2017 Policy Resolutions: Vice Chair Gov. David Ige announced the latest resolutions adopted by the Western Governors, including Wild Horse and Burro Management, Public Lands Grazing, Federal Disaster Recovery Assistance for Communities in the West, and Energy in the West.

Roundtable IV: The Long View of the State-Federal Relationship: The vast and indefinitely power of state government, as opposed to the federal government, was the focus of the federalism panel moderated by Utah Gov. Gary Herbert. Panelists:

Patty Limerick, Chair of the Board of the Center of the American West at the University of Colorado: “The Founders didn’t have the West in mind. New institutions came into play to deal with the vast, rugged, often arid landscapes of the West.”

Peter Onuf, Thomas Jefferson Foundation Professor of History, Emeritus, University of Virginia: "American history is the history of federalism ... We need to keep looking back to our country's founding because it helps us understand the larger arc and how we fit into it."

Leisl Carr Childers, Assistant Professor of History, University of Northern Iowa: “The story of public and federal lands was trial and error … Crafting the legal structure was necessary where realities of rugged and arid lands were being sparsely populated.  Federal government provided support to see that public lands could be used to still have economic value to the nation.”

Sarah S. Elkind, Professor of History, San Diego State University: "We want to look at the way federal policies still reflect the bottom-up process. In the Twentieth Century, lots of Americans went from seeing governments as protectors of liberty to the biggest threat.”

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