Governors Set The Table For Washington Conference
By Joseph Giordono, Staff Writer
Education, children's health, welfare reform and public safety top the agenda at the annual winter meeting of the nation's governors, which will take place in Washington Feb. 20-23 in a climate of cooperation and bipartisanship. Mindful of the distrust surrounding politics in the nation's capital in the aftermath of President Clinton's impeachment trial, Republican and Democratic state chief executives have chosen "Progress Through Partnerships" as the theme of their four day meeting.
"We know that in order to continue this steady climb of progress depends in part on a solid federal-state partnership," National Governors' Association chairman Thomas Carper, Delaware's Democratic governor, and vice chairman Michael Leavitt, Utah's Republican governor, said in a joint statement.
"Returning incumbents and new governors alike recognize that sustaining this momentum requires significant effort at all levels of government. The start of a new Congress presents invaluable policy opportunities for our nation and the governors are poised to help lead the way," the statement said.
Helping to raise the conference's profile will be the attendance of some hot political properties, including Republican Gov. George Bush, widely projected as the Republican nominee in the 2000 presidential campaign should he decide to run.
Another big draw will be Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura, the ex-pro wrestler turned Reform Party stalwart who had other governors seeking his autograph at an orientation for new governors last fall.
Scheduled sessions include bipartisan panels on higher education and technology, a meeting with U.S. Energy Secretary Bill Richardson and Oklahoma Governor Frank Keating (R) to address the oil crisis, and a meeting with the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives' majority and minority leaders to discuss the current legislative session.
The highlight of the first working session of the conference on Monday will be a round-table meeting with Clinton at the White House. At that meeting, the governors are certain to reassert that the federal government has no claim to the $206 Billion tobacco settlement negotiated by 46 states late last year.
Also on Monday, Carper will unveil the chairman's initiative a prerogative of the leader of the NGA. His is a school improvement plan called "smartkids4ourfuture," which spells out how states can improve student performance by promoting accountability, harnessing technology, and expanding learning opportunities. The night before Clinton and the governors meet, they'll socialize with each other at a glittering White House dinner. It will be a reunion of sorts for some of the governors who served with Clinton when he was the chief executive in Arkansas.
Wyoming's Republican Gov. Jim Geringer said he will not boycott the dinner as he did last year, but he accepts the invitation reluctantly.
"It bothers me that I have to explain to people that as governor I will acknowledge the president, but as an individual it is very distasteful to have to face a person who admittedly has not conducted himself with the character that befits the office," Geringer said.