Stateline Story

NGA 2005: Governors Brave Snow, Target Teens

  • March 02, 2005
  • By Kathleen Hunter

Although the "storm of the season" predicted for Washington, D.C., Monday turned out to be more hot air than cold air, the snowflakes that fell began just as reporters gathered on the White House driveway to hear governors react to their meeting with President Bush.

Virginia Gov. Mark Warner (D) and Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R), chair and vice-chair of the National Governors Association, voiced optimism that governors could work with the Bush administration in solving problems in the Medicaid program.

The only time either mentioned the weather was when Huckabee incorporated it into his remarks. "This isn't just a typical Washington snow job," he told reporters, looking up at the sky. "I really do believe we can find common ground when it comes to working on Medicaid reform."

Bipartisan marathon

Huckabee spent much of this week's meeting running from room to room at the J.W. Marriott Hotel in downtown Washington.

Huckabee, who recently began embracing a healthier lifestyle and dropped nearly 100 pounds, will get more exercise this weekend when he competes in the Little Rock Marathon.

Iowa Gov. Thomas Vilsack (D) will travel to Arkansas to run the race with Huckabee, who has been training for seven months.

While this is Huckabee's first 26-mile race, Vilsack last year successfully completed the Des Moines marathon, giving the Democrats a slight edge.

Teenagers beware

Teenagers were put on notice that governors want to make their high school experience a whole lot more rigorous.

During a session on reforming America's high schools, governors pledged to stamp out "senioritis" - the trend of slacking off during the senior year of high school.

Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm (D) called the last year of high school "state-subsidized dating." California State University Chancellor Charles Reed said, "The 12th grade in American high schools is the single biggest waste land there is."

And teenagers should beware of losing driving privileges. A popular incentive discussed by governors to keep kids in high school was to take away their driver's licenses if they drop out before graduating. That's been the policy for more than a decade in West Virginia, which enjoys one of the highest graduation rates in the nation, said Gene Bottoms, vice president of the Southern Regional Education Board. Teen dropouts in North Carolina can also lose their licenses, and Oklahoma requires passing an 8th-grade literacy test to drive.

Canine security

Newly elected Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer, who delivered the Democratic response to President Bush's weekly radio address on Saturday (Feb. 26), regretted leaving his border collie, Jag, in Montana, and plans to bring it to the next NGA meeting. Schweitzer, a rancher known for his folksy humor and sharp barbs, said Jag is his constant companion at the state Capitol and is cheaper than hiring body guards.

Schweitzer's border collie wouldn't have been the only canine at the NGA meeting. Noticeable among security measures taken to protect the governors were several bomb-sniffing German shepherds. Noticeably missing, however, were the metal detectors, crowds of protesters and barricaded streets that had blocked entrance to the NGA's summer meeting at the Westin Hotel in Seattle last July.

GOP Govs turn the tables on media hounds

When reporters showed up for a "media availability" with Republican governors Saturday, they found themselves standing in the front of the room asking questions of seated governors. Reporters squirmed, feeling as though they were lined up for a firing squad. "This really is a turnaround to what we have done in the past, and we appreciate the fact your willingness to do that," Nevada Gov. Kenny C. Guinn (R) said.

Staff writers Kavan Peterson and Pamela Prah compiled this report.