Commissioners Drew Campbell and Vance Stuehrenberg joined more than 1,600 county leaders in Washington, D.C. for the National Association of Counties (NACo) Legislative Conference Feb. 20 – 24. They met with members of both the Obama Administration and Congress on key issues like criminal justice mental health reform, aging issues, public lands and surface transportation.
“This is my seventh NACo Legislative Conference since being elected to serve Blue Earth County in 2009,” stated Commissioner Drew Campbell. “NACo provides relevant workshops, great speakers including personal dialog with our MN Congressional Leaders and keeps Blue Earth County connected to Washington while keeping Washington connected with Blue Earth County.”
“Counties and residents feel the effects of countless decisions made in Washington,” said NACo President Sallie Clark. “We are here to work with our federal partners because federal decisions profoundly impact Americans on the ground where we live and work.”
County leaders emphasized to Congress and the White House that federal policies matter to county government and county government matters to America. In meetings with lawmakers and Administration officials, county leaders outlined several key federal policy priorities including:
• Protecting municipal bonds
• Supporting marketplace fairness
• Protecting Medicaid and Social Security Benefits
• Promoting county priorities in surface transportation implementation
• Supporting the Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) and Secure Rural Schools (SRS) programs
• Achieving mental health and criminal justice reform, and
• Preserving county interests in the “Waters of the U.S.” rule and other federal regulations that impact counties.
“Blue Earth County specifically discussed transportation and housing issues when meeting with Senator Klobuchar, Senator Franken’s staff and Congressman Walz,” commented Vance Stuehrenberg. “ We are fortunate to be able to advocate for the issues facing Blue Earth County directly with our Federal leaders.”
Conference attendees heard from U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, U.S. Senator John McCain, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx, Acting U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King, Jr., U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro, Director of the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs Jerry Abramson, Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy Michael Botticelli and Director of the National Science Foundation Dr. France Córdova.
Highlights from the conference include a Governors’ Roundtable to address how states and counties collaborate to tackle chronic rural poverty, featuring Govs. Bill Haslam (Tenn.), Gary R. Herbert (Utah), Terry McAuliffe (Va.) and Tom Wolf (Pa.), and a White House Rural Council Poverty Summit featuring speakers from the federal, state, academic and private sectors.
NACo hosted a congressional briefing on Capitol Hill with U.S. Senator Al Franken, which highlighted counties’ pivotal role in lowering incarceration rates and facilitating successful reentry. Additionally, the Association of Minnesota Counties (AMC) hosted a Congressional Breakfast at the Library of Congress with our MN Congressional Officials, where discussions about state and county concerns issues could be addressed.
Throughout the conference, there were more than two dozen educational workshops with focus on topics like workforce and economic development; transportation and infrastructure; public health and aging; mental health and jails; cybersecurity and technology.
In conjunction with the Legislative Conference, NACo launched its new “Counties Matter” campaign designed to communicate the essential role counties play in everyday life. From issues like transportation and infrastructure to county administration, from economic development to health and public safety, counties are on the front lines serving communities.