County News

Conference hits high notes for attendees

NACo members watch opening proceedings at the conference's first general session. Photo by David Hathcox.

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#NACoLeg brought members to Washington, D.C. early on in a new administration and Congress 

With a new administration and Congress just months old, NACo’s 2017 Legislative Conference was the perfect place to be if you were in search of opportunities to leverage county influence on Capitol Hill and at the White House. 

Hundreds of NACo members met with their congressional delegations over the course of the five-day conference, which began Feb. 24, and conference committee meetings and workshops were buzzing with speculation about the new administration’s direction.

During their talks at the conference’s general sessions, Sens. Mark Warner (D-Va.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah) brought conference attendees up to speed on the views from Capitol Hill.

Warner told the Opening General Session that the current capitalist system in America wasn’t working for enough people.

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“At the macro level, I can give you numbers,” about a strong economy, he said. “All of those numbers, statistics and data points don’t mean squat if you lost a factory in town. We need a Capitalism 2.0.”

Bishop said the trend of regulatory authority returning to Congress in House Speaker Paul Ryan’s Better Way plan would ultimately mean more responsive federal policy making.

Meanwhile, Klobuchar, Hennepin County, Minn.’s former county attorney, warned county leaders to be very concerned about federal proposals that will inevitably, “land in the counties’ laps,” such as looming changes to the Affordable Care Act.

Political insider Jim VanderHei, co-founder of both Axios and Politico, spoke to NACo members about political changes brought by President Donald Trump and advised local governments what to expect from the White House over the next four years.

“Keep expecting volatility, then just be delighted when normal stuff happens,” VanderHei told the crowd during the NACo opening general session Feb 27.

Presidential historian and author Michael Beschloss spoke about the lessons he’s learned writing presidential histories. He noted that historically lawmakers were much more likely to make friendships across the political parties than they are today.

In addition to dozens of workshops, conference attendees also had their choice of several special sessions that focused on compelling issues for county governments.   The Town Hall on the Opioid Epidemic drew a standing-room-only crowd and personal testimony from attendees about how the epidemic has touched their communities and their lives.

NACo and its new technology arm, the Public Technology Institute, sponsored a symposium and a summit that explored the challenges and benefits of emerging innovative technologies.

Disaster resilience and homelessness also came in for special treatment at two luncheons with panel discussions devoted to those topics.

In conjunction with the conference, NACo hosted a congressional briefing, Feb. 28, on Capitol Hill targeting Medicaid and the role of counties in local health systems.

NACo’s Board of Directors adopted more than a dozen interim policy positions recommended by NACo’s steering committees. The Board also approved two new member benefits provided by IBITS, the nonprofit Institute for Building Technology and Safety:  web-based software to manage, automate and track community development processes and a pilot program exploring the use of   remote-sensing building inspections.

Charlie Ban, senior writer, also contributed to this report.

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About Bev Schlotterbeck (Full Bio)

Consulting Editor, County News

As executive editor, Bev manages and directs the editorial and production process for County News, NACo's official bi-weekly membership newspaper. She also oversees the County News website and emailed newsletter, CN Alerts. She has spent many years in the communications field, working as a reporter, editor and public relations director.