Behind the Scenes: Major Changes Underway at NGA

By Mark D. Anderson, Esq., Senior Vice President

With the hiring of a new Executive Director, along with many new Governors in office, we can expect to see some potentially significant changes to “business-as-usual” at the National Governors Association (NGA). Following the November elections during which Republicans took the majority of governorships, Dan Crippen, a former Congressional Budget Office Director, was named the Executive Director of NGA during the Winter Meeting in February.

This new in leadership is already yielding what might be a dramatic change in the way NGA makes policy, even though the NGA Annual Meeting is still two months away. Sources familiar with the NGA policy process have indicated that Republicans are planning to up-end and streamline an otherwise combative and cumbersome policymaking process.

The current policy process typically takes about eight weeks during the spring months and involves hashing out language behind closed doors in order to yield consensus-based documents that the Governors will agree on during the NGA Annual Meeting. These policies are intended to guide NGA’s lobbying efforts. But as a consensus-based organization – and absent a states’ rights or unfunded mandate issue – the policies frequently fail to take a strong enough stance for NGA to develop a clear lobbying strategy.

Instead of long protracted fights over details of individual policies, the Republicans are attempting to streamline all policies, giving up the notion that NGA could lobby on the details of most federal legislation. There are even rumors that the ultimate goal is to eliminate the policy process at NGA altogether, unless the policy deals with a states’ rights or unfunded mandate issue.

If your organization cares about NGA’s federal policy positions, the next few months will be interesting and should be monitored closely. While the efforts to change the policy process may be successful, the question is whether the Republicans – in their zeal to protect their own states’ interests – will be disciplined enough to work within their own process.

NGA will hold its Annual Meeting July 15-17 in Salt Lake City, Utah.

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