Governors Lead the Charge on Opioid Abuse, Education Reform, Zika Response

WASHINGTON—At the 2016 National Governors Association (NGA) Winter Meeting, led by Chair Utah Gov. Gary Herbert and Vice Chair Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, more than 40 governors gathered to discuss critical issues of the moment, including:

  • The state of the economy and the possibility of an economic downturn in the near future. At the opening session on Saturday, governors heard from a panel of economists from Moody’s Analytics, Bank of America, Merrill Lynch, BP America and the GailFosler Group and moderated by The Economist’s Joseph Lake about whether the United States is headed into recession. Economist Gail Fosler articulated the overarching theme when she said, “I would put a 100 percent certainty on a recession by 2018.” She continued, “Governors should be planning for that not only for their fiscal plans, but for how they deliver greater security to their populations.”
  • Addressing the nation’s opioid crisis. At the Health and Human Services Committee session, NGA released a joint statement with the American Medical Association. It is a call to action for governors, physicians, state legislatures and the private sector to come together to solve the crisis. The statement was authored  by committee Chair Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, Vice Chair New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan and American Medical Association chair-elect Patrice Harris. At the session, governors adopted a resolution to develop opioid prescribing guidelines and other tools to stem overprescribing.
  • State implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). In December, Congress passed this landmark legislation, which repealed the No Child Left Behind Act and devolved federal control of legislation, returning power to the states. At the Education and Workforce Committee session, governors discussed how states can move forward with ESSA implementation. The conversation continued at a Senate hearing this morning, at which Gov. Herbert testified. “Governors view ESSA as an opportunity for states to set high—but realistic—expectations for schools while allowing them to determine how to meet those expectations,” he said.
  • Zika virus response. On Monday, NGA announced it was partnering with the White House to fight against the Zika virus. The goal of the partnership is to coordinate federal, state and local response and prevention efforts. States will designate a point of contact and convene at a summit with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. NGA also released an issue bulletin on the virus.

Governors closed the Winter Meeting with an advisory panel of former governors: Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA), Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Dirk Kempthorne, former governor of Idaho, Secretary of the Interior, and Senator.

Directly following a meeting with President Obama Monday, Gov. Herbert and Gov. McAuliffe joined White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest for a press briefing to discuss key takeaways.

“We’ve had an opportunity through the National Governors Association … to discuss significant issues: health care, homeland security, economic development, education, the federal-state partnership and relations that we hope to foster and improve,” Gov. Herbert said. “We believe as states that we really are the laboratories of democracy.”

“We just spoke the President of the United States about the issues that are important to the governors,” Gov. McAuliffe said. “We all come from different backgrounds, we come from different political parties, but what unites us is we talk to the President about our issues.”

For more news, photos and video from the 2016 NGA Winter Meeting, click here. The nation’s governors will meet again this summer in Des Moines, July 14-17, for the 2016 Summer Meeting.