States must act to help the elderly enjoy their golden years with dignity and good health care, U.S. governors agreed Sunday.
At the National Governors Association annual meeting, Idaho Gov. Dirk Kempthorne (R) listed 20 ways governors can improve lives of the aging and disabled. Outside the tightly guarded meeting open to the press, governors' staff and corporate sponsors, protesters in wheelchairs blocked local traffic and called for Medicaid to cover home-based long-term care.
Kempthorne urged 30 governors attending the three-day meeting to start a national movement by touting long-term care solutions in their State of the State speeches in January. His action list included:
"We need to take the list back to our states and see what we're doing in each of the suggested areas," Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco (D) said in an interview.
Other than talking about long-term care, governors announced few initiatives. Washington Gov. Gary Locke was to launch a multi-state AMBER alert Web portal system on Monday. The technology issues alerts within five minutes in cases of abducted children. Great Lakes governors were to announce agreements Monday promoting conservation of the lakes and new standards requiring improvement of the largest fresh surface water system on earth.
Governors were scheduled to hear from Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge Monday and participate in an exercise about emergency preparedness in a governors-only lunch meeting.
At another session, governors and 200 Seattle seniors and caregivers were to participate in a televised town-hall meeting Monday, the first of its kind at an NGA meeting. The session is part of a Seattle public television series about caregiving called, "And Thou Shalt Honor."
At the conclusion of the NGA meeting, Kempthorne is scheduled to turn over NGA leadership to incoming Chairman Virginia Gov. Mark Warner (D) and Vice Chairman Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R).
Huckabee and Warner were among governors who agreed to catch fish thrown by Seattle's Pike Place fishmongers in a Sunday evening photo opportunity. Washington's Gov. Locke said the NGA meeting would bring $2.5 million to the local economy.
The meeting also filled state political coffers. Fund-raisers attended by Republican governors netted support for Washington gubernatorial candidate Dino Rossi. Democratic governors supported a fund-raiser to benefit King County Executive Ron Sims or Attorney General Christine Gregoire, whoever wins the Democratic Party's nomination for governor.
Corporations bankrolled the governors' meeting, with $2 million worth of sponsorships ranging from contributions of $2,000 to $150,000. Sponsors included Aventis, IBM Corp., Oracle Corp., Pfizer Inc., UnitedHealth Group and Wal-Mart Stores Inc.
Microsoft founder Bill Gates opened his home on Lake Washington to governors Saturday for a reception. Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle (D) and other governors said they were impressed by Gates' library collection of rare editions and artifacts including papers of Napoleon, Benjamin Franklin and George Washington.
Absent from the NGA meeting were high-profile Republican Govs. George Pataki of New York, Jeb Bush of Florida and Arnold Schwarzenegger of California.