Tag Archives: governors

Politico reports Haslam a ‘consensus’ choice to become RGA chairman

Politico reports that Gov. Bill Haslam appears a consensus choice to become chairman of the Republican Governors Association in an article headlined ‘the anti-Christie’ that includes considerable kind commentary on the governor.

A genial technocrat who hails from one of Tennessee’s wealthiest families (his harder-charging, at times controversial brother, Jimmy, owns the Cleveland Browns), Republicans say Haslam is one of the workhorses of the gubernatorial community. He is among the first to call other governors to solicit their help or guidance on policy issues, an ambitious man whose self-effacing manner has probably cost him opportunities in national politics even as it has made him well liked among his colleagues – and enormously popular in Tennessee.

And with the RGA post – a job held in recent years by past and future presidential candidates including Christie, Bobby Jindal, Rick Perry and Mitt Romney – Haslam may finally get a larger platform for his distinctive brand of Republican politics.

Jindal, the sitting Louisiana governor and likely 2016 candidate, hailed Haslam at this week’s RGA retreat in Boca Raton, Fla., as a “policy-minded” and “serious” governor. With the caveat that he didn’t want to jump the gun on Thursday’s leadership election, Jindal strongly praised the Tennesseean.

“Bill would be a great leader,” Jindal said. “He’s a thoughtful policy guy and that’s good for the organization.”

Strategists who have advised Haslam’s campaigns describe him as a calming presence, authentically averse to confrontation and self-promotion – so much so that he resisted running negative ads against his opponents, or even saying “please vote for me” in his own campaign spots. Whit Ayres, the national GOP pollster who advises Haslam, said the governor would be an “inspired” choice for the RGA, allowing that he’d represent a significant stylistic shift from his more pugilistic predecessors.

“He is the most modest major political figure I’ve ever worked with in my life,” Ayres said. “You’d be hard-pressed to find a governor anywhere in the country who is more popular than Bill Haslam. I mean, who has job approval ratings in the 70s these days, in this cynical age?”

Haslam default choice for chairman of Republican Governors Association?

The Republican Governors Association is having some difficulty in selecting a new chairman to succeed New Jersey’s Chris Christie, according to Time, and that’s raised the possibility of Gov. Bill Haslam getting the position.

“No one wants it,” one Republican governor said, speaking on the condition of anonymity in order to discuss the sensitive subject.

“It’s a mystery. None of the big shots are aiming for it,” added one gubernatorial aide.

Members of the group’s executive committee, long a training ground for new leaders, have proven largely uninterested. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, the current chairman, is gearing up to announce a run for the White House, while the current vice chair and 2013 chair, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, is preparing to do the same. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, the 2013 vice chair, is contemplating a presidential bid, while Florida Gov. Rick Scott appears unlikely to seek the post, according to those familiar with his plans. Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, talked about as a possible 2016 contender, has ruled out taking the slot, as has South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who has been talked about as a potential Republican vice presidential selection. Texas Gov. Rick Perry is leaving office at the end of the year—and is looking at a White House run nonetheless—while Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett lost his reelection bid earlier this month. New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez, a rising party star who has said she doesn’t have interest in national politics, is seen as uninterested in the slot.

…According to multiple individuals familiar with the gubernatorial discussions, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, who was reelected this month, is the inside favorite for the post, though one governor described the situation as “very fluid” before governors meet to elect the new RGA leadership on Thursday afternoon.

New York Times on growing partisanship among governors

While the National Governors Association conference in Nashville was full of talk about bipartisanship, the New York Times says the same divisions that have stymied policy making in Congress are increasingly evident in the ranks of the governors.

The state leaders scorned Washington for inaction on immigration and transportation funding. But on those issues, and others like education, many of them are just as uneasy about taking potentially controversial stances or are simply as split as their federal counterparts.

“I still think the governors do have a pretty good ability to work together on tough issues, but obviously there is more division in the country today than there was then,” said Gov. Terry E. Branstad of Iowa, a Republican, referring to his first stint as governor in the 1980s.

The governors here expressed collective dismay that the federal trust fund that finances existing highway and infrastructure projects will start being cut next month without an infusion of new money, and used the numerous forums at the conference as well as conversations with reporters to nudge Congress toward long-term action on what was historically a bipartisan issue.

With many of them facing re-election this fall, though, the governors were just as reluctant to embrace an increase in the federal gas tax to replenish the trust fund as the congressmen and senators who fear taking on such a vote going into November.

“I think all the governors on both sides of the aisle feel like this is an impasse that needs to be resolved,” Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, a Republican eyeing a presidential bid, said about the transportation issue. But Mr. Christie’s plea was not accompanied by a solution. “Since I’m not in Congress or in the White House, I’m going to let them make those decisions,” he said when asked about raising the gas tax.

Gov. Bill Haslam of Tennessee, a Republican, was one of the few governors who seemed at least open to the prospect, but he also did not embrace it. Mr. Haslam did, however, note that since the 18.4 cent-per-gallon tax was last raised in 1993, the cost burden actually has been reduced on motorists because cars have become more fuel efficient.

“Everybody says, ‘I don’t want to raise taxes,’ but they also don’t want to see their bridges fall in,” he said of the political dilemma.

It was just as easy here to find governors criticizing Congress (mostly Democrats) and President Obama (Republicans) over immigration, and particularly the influx of Central American children coming over the border. But as with the highway trust fund, they were less forthcoming about how exactly to address the surge in youth migration.

….Perhaps no issue, though, better illustrates how much Washington-style polarization has seeped into statehouses as education — and specifically Common Core. The education standards were developed by the governors association itself five years ago as a state-based way to better prepare students and address rising international economic competition.

But faced with criticism from the left and right, some governors have begun backing away from Common Core this year, and a few states have even dropped the standards entirely.

“It’s unbelievably political,” lamented Gov. Jack Markell of Delaware, a Democrat, who along with a former Gov. Sonny Perdue of Georgia, a Republican, devised the standards.

So an issue that was held up only a short while ago as a shining example of the governors at their solutions-oriented best has become one more example of the country’s divided politics.

“Every governor will decide what the right thing is for his or her state,” Mr. Haslam, a Common Core supporter, said at the meeting’s opening news conference Friday, standing somewhat awkwardly beside Gov. Mary Fallin of Oklahoma, the association chairwoman, a Republican who just signed legislation last month moving her state away from the standards.

On NGA, Haslam, Alexander, Common Core and Internet sales taxing

The National Governors Association conference ended Sunday with a focus on collection of state taxes on Internet sales, a proposition favored by most governors nationwide, after avoiding official engagement in an area of past gubernatorial agreement that has disappeared, Common Core standards.

The two Tennesseans most prominent in the three-day NGA conference — host Gov. Bill Haslam and U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, a featured speaker this year who was NGA chairman 28 years ago – are both advocates of the “Marketplace Fairness Act,” pending legislation in Congress that would authorize states to collect sales tax on online sales.

“To me, it’s states’ rights,” said Alexander in his speech to the NGA. He voted for the bill, which has passed the U.S. Senate, but stalled in the U.S. House. Alexander said the issue may come before the House “in the next couple of weeks.”

Directing his comments to Republican governors in particular, Alexander said, “This is a good time to call your Republican congressmen and tell them, ‘Let us make our own decisions’.” As interpreted by the U.S. Supreme Court, current federal law forbids state sales tax collections on Internet sales unless the retailer making the sale has a “physical presence” in the state.

In the NGA meeting’s closing session Sunday, Hubert Joly, president and CEO of Best Buy Inc., told the governors that a Senate move is afoot to bypass the House’s refusal to act on the Marketplace Fairness Act by attaching it as an amendment to separate, House-passed legislation to renew a federal law that generally bans state Internet taxation.

Joly said the current federal law is unfair, effectively giving Internet retailers a price advantage – about 8 percent nationwide, on average, he said — over “brick and mortar” retailers who operate within states and collect sales taxes.

Citing Alexander’s comments, Joly declared, “I believe if we all work together, we can push this over the finish line.” He was applauded by the governors on hand, including Haslam.

Common Core standards were embraced by the NGA on a bipartisan basis in 2009, setting the stage for approval in 44 states and enactment of federal “Race to the Top” legislation backed by President Obama that provided federal incentive money for states – including about $500 million for Tennessee – that enacted state laws incorporating some of Common Core principles.

But Common Core, which sets standardized goals for student achievement, has since fallen into extreme disfavor among both conservative Republicans and some Democrats and efforts are underway to retract state approval. Tennessee’s Legislature earlier this year approved a bill that postpones testing tied to Common Core for a year – over the objections of Haslam, who has repeatedly and emphatically backed the standards that set uniform competence levels in math and language for students.

At the NGA conference, the topic was not officially on the agenda. Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad told the Associated Press that even the words “Common Core,” have “become, in a sense, radioactive.”

But it did come up, at least peripherally. Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin, this year’s chair of the NGA, has signed into law a bill repealing Common Core standards in her state and mentioned the idea of “repeal and replace” in one panel discussion. Haslam, who vigorously and successfully opposed outright repeal legislation in Tennessee, replied that the NGA’s past action merely provided guidelines.

“Every governor will decide what the right thing is for his or her state,” he said. “I would argue here that this is a case of NGA playing the right role.”

Alexander, in his speech and follow-up comments to governors posing questions afterwards, strived for a middle ground.

The senator, who has been faulted on his Common Core stance by Republican opponents in his ongoing campaign for a new term, criticized both Democratic President Obama and former Republican President George W. Bush for trying to impose federal control over education – Obama through “Race to the Top” and Bush for the federal “No Child Left Behind” law. In both cases, federal funding was tied to state compliance and thus has governors “over a barrel.”

Both federal laws were steps toward a “national school board” that would usurp state and local control over education, Alexander said. He said it would be better if the federal government simply provided money to states to use as they choose on educational endeavors.

The “big pushback” against Common Core is understandable, Alexander said, because of “the perception — which is a fact — that Washington is in effect requiring states to adopt certain standards, certain performance levels, certain teacher evaluation systems.”

On the other hand, Alexander declared his support for setting higher standards for student achievement, the stated goal of Common Core backers.

On another state-federal relations front, the governors generally voiced concern about Congress’ failure to reach an agreement on continued federal funding of highway construction and maintenance support to states.

In her closing remarks, Republican Fallin hailed the NGA for “the great work we can do together in a bipartisan way” and her successor as NGA chairman, Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper of Colorado promised more efforts “across the political spectrum” in the year ahead.

And they jointly hailed Haslam, Fallin praising the Tennessee governor for “a wonderful time” provided in out-of-session gubernatorial gatherings and Hickenlooper declaring him “an amazing host.”

Haslam and Alexander, both seeking reelection this year, praised one another in their public comments at the event.

Alexander said that, as a senator, he constantly has in mind, “how can I give Bill Haslam more tools to be a better governor.” Haslam declared that Alexander is more knowledgeable on education issues than most anyone in the nation.

“You all should be jealous of Tennessee for a lot of reasons. One of them is that we have a U.S. senator who used to be a governor,” Haslam told colleagues.

AP story on governors wrestling with Common Core (or not)

By Erik Schelzig and Steve Peoples, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Reviled by staunch conservatives, the common education standards designed to improve schools and student competitiveness are being modified by some Republican governors, who are pushing back against what they call the federal government’s intrusion into the classroom.

The Common Core standards were not on the formal agenda during a three-day meeting of the National Governors Association that ended Sunday, relegated to hallway discussions and closed-door meetings among governors and their staffs. The standards and even the words, “Common Core,” have “become, in a sense, radioactive,” said Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, a Republican whose state voluntarily adopted the standards in 2010.

“We want Iowa Common Core standards that meet the needs of our kids,” Branstad said, echoing an intensifying sentiment from tea party leaders who describe the education plan as an attempt by the federal government to take over local education.

There was little controversy when the bipartisan governors association in 2009 helped develop the common education standards aimed at improving schools and students’ competitiveness across the nation. The standards were quickly adopted by 44 states.
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AP story on GOP governors and gay marriage

By Steve Peoples and Erik Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Deep in the nation’s Bible Belt, new signs emerged this weekend of an evolution among Republican governors on gay marriage, an explosive social issue that has divided American families and politics for years.

While the Republican Party’s religious conservatives continue to fight against same-sex marriage, its governors appear to be backing off their opposition— in their rhetoric, at least. For some, the shift may be more a matter of tone than substance as the GOP tries to attract new voters ahead of the midterm elections. Nonetheless, it is dramatic turn for a party that has long been defined by social conservative values.

“I don’t think the Republican Party is fighting it,” Wisconsin’s Republican Gov. Scott Walker said of gay marriage. He spoke with The Associated Press during an interview this weekend at the National Governors Association in Nashville.

“I’m not saying it’s not important,” continued Walker, who is considering a 2016 presidential bid should he survive his re-election test this fall. “But Republicans haven’t been talking about this. We’ve been talking about economic and fiscal issues. It’s those on the left that are pushing it.”

Walker, like other ambitious Republican governors, is trying to strike a delicate balance.
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Protest of prison policies held outside NGA meeting

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Activists have staged a protest outside the Nashville hotel where the National Governors Association is meeting.

Members of a group called the Freedom Side Collective on Saturday waved signs, gave speeches on a bullhorn, and chanted and sang from a covered sidewalk outside the entrance of the Omni hotel.

They opposed private prisons and deportations of people in the country illegally. They also called for ending zero-tolerance policies in schools that can lead to incarceration of students.

A Tennessee Highway Patrol spokesman said five protesters were arrested for trespassing, but they were later released when a judicial commissioner declined to sign the warrant.

UPDATE, from The Tennessean:
The protesters were part of a group of a few dozen people who had marched from the Tennessee Capitol to the sidewalk outside the hotel, where governors have been meeting since Thursday. The group said it wanted to call attention to several issues, such as recently enacted voter identification laws, low wages, changes to public education, unfair sentencing laws and the decision of many states, including Tennessee, not to expand their Medicaid programs.

Sgt. Bill Miller, a spokesman for the Tennessee Highway Patrol, said state troopers told the protesters that they had to move to a designated protest zone and made the arrests only when a few tried to go inside, despite being told they would be trespassing.

The protest’s organizers said they “were attempting to meet with their elected representatives” but were not warned before the arrests.

The people arrested were identified as Aaron Edmond Hayes, 20, of Cleveland, Ohio; Marshawn McCarrel, 21, of Columbus, Ohio; James Edward Hayes, 24, of Columbus, Ohio; Malaya Nicole Davis, 23, of Cleveland, Ohio; and Michael Lemund Sampson, age unknown, of Jacksonville, Fla. The protest’s organizers said they were with the Ohio Student Alliance and the Florida chapter of Dream Defenders.

The heavy law enforcement presence surrounding the event kept the protesters out of the hotel, and there was no noticeable disruption of the governors meetings inside.

More than 50 activists traveled from states like Texas, Florida and Ohio to participate in the protest.

VP Joe Biden to governors: Lead us ‘out of this mess’

By Steve Peoples and Erik Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Vice President Joe Biden on Friday condemned the political gridlock crippling Washington, calling on Republican and Democratic governors alike to lead the nation “out of this mess” while insisting that Congress approve billions of dollars to repair the country’s aging infrastructure.

“The way things have gotten today, and I’m not singling out any party or any group of people — the politics, the culture in Washington, it’s become too personal, it’s too corrosive,” Biden said during a meeting of the National Governors Association. “I think you’ve got to lead us out of this mess we’re in.”

The vice president’s comments came during the first day of the governors’ three-day conference in Nashville, where state leaders from both parties gathered to collaborate despite intensifying partisan differences on immigration, health care and education.

Despite the bipartisan tone, the approaching midterm elections loomed over the gathering.
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Governors with partisan divisions, presidential ambitions gathered in Nashville

By Steve Peoples and Erik Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE — Partisan divisions over immigration, education and health care are intensifying as dozens of the nation’s governors meet just months before elections thick with presidential implications.

The three-day gathering of the National Governors Association represents the group’s final meeting before many state leaders face voters in an election season that will decide the balance of power in statehouses from Nevada to New Hampshire and could end some presidential campaigns before they begin.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, a first-term governor locked in a heated re-election battle, lead a group of ambitious Republicans set to appear at the downtown Nashville conference opening Friday. Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley is among the Democrats weighing a 2016 presidential run.

“You can be in a room where you have six, seven, eight people who are thinking they might run for president in two years, which makes for some interesting personal dynamics at times,” Tennessee’s Republican Gov. Bill Haslam said.
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Haslam’s RGA video: Being governor is like riding a bike

Here’s a video of Gov. Bill Haslam, produced by the Republican Governors Association. RGA spokesman Jon Thompson says it will be airing online only as part of a series on GOP governors.

“The ad will appear as paid advertisements on You Tube, Hulu, and some conservative and news websites across the country,” Thompson says in an email. The RGA news release is below.

News release from Republican Governors Association
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Republican Governors Association today launched the next video of the American Comeback project, a national advertising effort designed to tell the success stories and accomplishments of Republican governors.

This week, the American Comeback project features Tennessee’s Governor Bill Haslam. Governor Haslam is a committed reformer who has dedicated his time in the governor’s office to providing opportunity to each and every Tennessean by applying practical, results-oriented solutions to the state’s toughest problems.

…“For me, I love to ride bikes,” said Governor Haslam. “One of the things about riding bikes, particularly if you’re in Tennessee, is you have downhill periods and you have uphill periods. The downhills are wonderful, but the reality is you know they’re not going to last. As a governor, uphills are a lot harder because of some of the restrictions and the burdens put on us from Washington.”

“We’ve made the hard choices around education in Tennessee: reforming how tenure works, changing the evaluation process, incentivizing teachers who provide great outcomes for students,” continued Governor Haslam. “We’re doing those things and we’re seeing real results.”

“In Washington, it’s hard to think of a problem that’s actually gotten solved recently. In the states, particularly the states led by Republican governors, I can tell you scores of serious issues that have been addressed and a solution is underway,” said Governor Haslam. “The answers aren’t coming from Washington. Republican governors are driving America’s comeback.”

The American Comeback project will grow to include more videos focused on individual Republican governors, their personal journeys and the progress they’ve made toward bringing prosperity to their states.