Governors Discuss Trans-Pacific Partnership, Opioid Abuse at NGA Summer Meeting

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert, center, speaks during a session at the National Governors Association meeting as Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, left, and Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, right, look on, Friday, July 15, 2016, in Des Moines, Iowa.

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert, center, speaks during a session at the National Governors Association meeting as Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, left, and Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, right, look on, Friday, July 15, 2016, in Des Moines, Iowa. Charlie Neibergall / AP Photo


Connecting state and local government leaders

As the incoming chair, Gov. Terry McAuliffe puts cybersecurity front and center on the National Governors Association’s 2016-17 agenda.

About half of the nation’s governors were in Des Moines, Iowa, this weekend for the National Governors Association annual summer meeting, discussing issues like the nation’s opioid abuse epidemic and economic development, in particular the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement, which is waiting for congressional ratification.

While the trade agreement has been a frequent target of criticism on the presidential campaign trail, the TPP has seen a lot of support from the nation’s governors, who view it as an important element for economic development in their states.

“From Donald Trump to Bernie Sanders to Hillary Clinton, they all have something to say about trade, but the governors are the best indicator,” Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, a Republican, said, according to

The Obama administration had negotiated the trade deal with 11 other nations. The TPP was signed in February and is waiting for a stamp of approval from Congress, which isn’t expected this year.

It’s a priority for many agricultural states like Iowa, and while the state’s Republican governor, Terry Branstad, said that while the deal is “not perfect,” it’s important to “continue to build on breaking down these barriers in opening up markets and if we do that, we benefit,” according to Radio Iowa. “We create jobs and we grow farm income.”

The nation’s ongoing opioid abuse crisis, a policy challenge for officials and agencies at the federal, state and local level, was an important topic of discussion for the governors, who recently signed a compact to combat to fight addiction in their states.

“Our states and our country are in the midst of a heroin and opioid crisis that is the most serious public health and safety issue of our time, and combating this crisis and saving lives requires all of us to work together every day,” said New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan, a Democrat, according to a statement. “As a group, we have worked together as Governors to support each other’s efforts in our individual states and to encourage additional federal action to support states, including much-needed emergency funding.”

During the gathering, the outgoing chair of the NGA’s executive committee, Utah Republican Gary Herbert, highlighted his efforts to promote state-driven innovation across a wide spectrum of policy areas and how states can better collaborate with partners on the federal level.

“States are the real policy innovators, the true ‘laboratories of democracy,’ ”  Herbert, a Republican, said in a statement. “The aim of my chair’s initiative was simple: to showcase where the real innovation in this country takes place—at the state level.”

The executive committee’s new chair, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, announced on Saturday that cybersecurity would be at the top of the NGA’s agenda for the upcoming year.

“Cyber crime is a growing threat to our states, territories and our nation,” McAuliffe, a Democrat, said in a statement. “As governors, we must be prepared to combat this threat in order to protect the welfare of our citizens.”

McAuliffe’s cybersecurity initiative is called Meet the Threat: States Confront the Cyber Challenge, and will involve a series of regional summits to bring together stakeholders from state government, plus partners in the private sector and federal government, to discuss ways to better protect state IT assets plus those in the health care, education, public safety, energy and transportation sectors.

This week, Route Fifty will feature a forthcoming interview with McAuliffe to discuss his priorities for his NGA chairmanship.

Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval, a Republican, is now the executive committee’s vice chair for the upcoming year.

Beyond McAuliffe and Sandoval, the other governors named to the NGA’s executive committee for 2016-17 were Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy, a Democrat; Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, a Republican; Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat; Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, a Democrat; North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory, a Republican; Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, a Republican; and Utah Gov. Gary Herbert, a Republican.

Michael Grass is Executive Editor of Government Executive’s Route Fifty and is based in Seattle.

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