Tuesday, July 24, 2012

(Some) Governors Come to Virginia

Many of the nation's governors visited historic Williamsburg, Virginia for the annual summer meeting of the National Governors Association (NGA).  Maybe I am biased because it is my adopted home state, but the July NGA 2012 meeting was one of the best I have attended.  

Some of the highlights...

The top highlight had to be learning about the importance of drinking beer out of a glass from Governor Hickenlooper (D-CO).  Governor, if there is someone I am going to take advice from on beer drinking etiquette, it is you.  I will no longer make the mistake of drinking out of a bottle again.  To quote the governor, "It is just barbaric."

The keynote discussions focused on leadership and entrepreneurship.  Jim Collins (of Good to Great and Great by Choice fame) and Steve Blank (author of Start-Up Owners Manual) gave some great advice to the governors.  The best idea was from Professor Blank in the closing session, telling governors to make sure they had a StartUp America chapter in their state.  StartUp America is providing training and support for start-ups and entrepreneurs, and helping states and localities ensure that they provide the best legislative and regulatory environments for new businesses to grow and succeed.  As a StartUp America member, I look forward to working with StartUp Virginia and StartUp DC on some local initiatives. 

I really enjoyed the education debate from the current and former Secretaries of Education, Arne Duncan and Margaret Spellings.  These two are obviously passionate about education.  There was great discussion about the U.S. education system at all levels.  In general, the governors agreed with the high standards set by the administration, but asked for more flexibility for waivers to allow them to actually achieve those goals.  Secretary Duncan had one of the best quotes when discussing the importance of not only rewarding great teachers, but challenging them as well.  He said, "It's got to be a badge of honor, pinnacle of your career to work in communities that need the most help."

Last but not least was the panel on innovations in Medicaid.  And it could not have been more timely.  Medicaid is, or will soon be, the single largest expenditure for many states, yet few states are achieving the outcomes that suggest they are providing quality healthcare through the program.  There were some great examples of how different types of managed care models are saving money and providing better health outcomes.  In what must have been music to every Republican (and even every Democratic) governor's ears, all three panelists - Jeffrey Brenner, MD (Camden Coalition of Healthcare Providers), Jennifer DeCubellis (Hennepin County Health) and David H. Vellinga (Mercy Medical Center) - agreed, there is enough money in the system to treat everyone if federal and state governments start spending more wisely and focusing on quality of care rather than quantity of care. 

And some lowlights...

I can only think of one.  While this year was one of the best NGA meetings in terms of content, it was one of the worst in terms of attendance.  Too many governors skipped the summer meeting, and I believe they are doing a disservice to their state and the people that elected them.  NGA meetings are great forums for sharing ideas and best practices and they are famous for having long, closed-door policy debates that help shape our national policy.  My advice to governors - Attend both NGA meetings each year.  I know it is an election year for many of the you, but it is important that you and your staff participate; share your state's unique stories; and bring at least one good idea from some other state back home to try.  I think it will lead to better politics and better policy.

And other notes of interest ...

Throughout the meeting, NGA announced a few new initiatives.  The Healthcare division of the NGA's Center for Best Practices recently began working with states on a prescription drug abuse prevention project and helping states introduce community care teams as part to create cost savings in their state's Medicaid programs.  In addition, the new Chair of the NGA, Governor Jack Merkell (D-DE) unveiled his initiative - A Better Bottom Line, Employing People With Disabilities, which will focus on education, training and employment opportunities for people with disabilities, including our returning wounded warriors.

I am already looking forward to next year's summer meeting in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Welcome to mob advocacy's new blog

Welcome to The State of the States - the new mob advocacy blog.  In this blog, we will share our thoughts on state and local government and political news, interesting or trending legislation and thoughts on life in a small (but growing) start-up firm.

We at mob advocacy are very excited this week.  In addition to launching this blog and preparing for our website to go live, we signed a new client - Student Veterans Advocacy Group (SVAG)!  mob advocacy will manage SVAG's national state legislative campaign aimed at increasing educational opportunities for veterans and their families.  You may not know this, but due to a change in the 2011 GI Bill, veterans can only get reimbursed for the cost of in-state tuition at public colleges and universities.  Since active duty military rarely meet state resident criteria, they are forced to make up the difference between in-state and out-of-state tuition.  That cost usually makes it too expensive to attend.  We say, Vets have sacrificed... Vets have earned it... so, Let Vets Go!  (if you see #LetVetsGo on twitter, please retweet, especially to your governor and state legislators) 

At the end of the week, mob advocacy will be attending the summer meeting of the National Governors Association (NGA) in Williamsburg, Virginia.  The NGA meetings are a great opportunity to build relationships with governors and their key staff members, discuss issues our clients are currently having or expect to have in the next legislative session, and learn about the important issues facing our state governments (and sometimes even sharing ideas for solving them).  mob advocacy will represent our clients at the meeting.  Should you be one of them?  If you have legislative or regulatory issues in your state (or several states), we should talk.

Healthcare is always a big discussion at NGA meetings. With the recent U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) decision upholding most of the Affordable Care Act this meeting will be no different.  Many governors and state legislatures will spend the next twelve months deciding if and how to implement some, all or none of the law.  Health exchanges and the optional Medicaid expansion will certainly be hot topics.  Almost no one thought SCOTUS would decide to make Medicaid expansion optional, not even the National Association of State Medicaid Directors [read a great article here].  Now several governors, like Governor Rick Perry (R-TX) [article] , have announced they are not expanding their Medicaid programs and others, such as Governor Jan Brewer (R-AZ) [article], are weighing the options.

Thanks for reading.  Feel free to comment, suggest a topic, ask a question.  Follow my twitter feed (@mob_advocacy) throughout the NGA meeting (#NGA2012) , and look for our post-NGA wrap up next week.