Ehemann participates in NACo’s Legislative Conference

Staff report

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Julie Ehemann joined more than 1,600 county leaders in Washington, D.C. for the National Association of Counties (NACo) Legislative Conference Feb. 20 – 24. Attendees met with members of the Obama Administration and Congress on key issues like criminal justice and mental health reform, public lands, surface transportation and opioid abuse. Ehemann stated, “It is very important that we stay informed and ensure our voice is heard in various matters affecting our work force, home owners, veterans and others.”

“Counties and residents feel the effects of countless decisions made in Washington,” said NACo President Sallie Clark. “We are here to work with our federal partners because federal decisions profoundly impact Americans on the ground, where we live and work.”

County leaders emphasized to Congress and the White House that federal policies matter to county government and county government matters to America. In meetings with lawmakers and Administration officials, county leaders outlined several key federal policy priorities including:

• Protecting municipal bonds

• Supporting marketplace fairness

• Protecting Medicaid

• Promoting county priorities in surface transportation implementation

• Supporting the Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) and Secure Rural Schools (SRS) programs

• Achieving mental health and criminal justice reform, and

• Preserving county interests in the “Waters of the U.S.” rule and other federal regulations that impact counties.

Conference attendees heard from congressional and Administration leaders including U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, U.S. Senator John McCain, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx, Acting U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King Jr., U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro, Director of the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs Jerry Abramson, Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy Michael Botticelli and Director of the National Science Foundation Dr. France Córdova.

Highlights from the conference include a Governors’ Roundtable to address how states and counties collaborate to tackle chronic rural poverty, featuring Govs. Bill Haslam (Tennessee), Gary R. Herbert (Utah), Terry McAuliffe (Virginia) and Tom Wolf (Pennsylvania), and a White House Rural Council Poverty Summit featuring speakers from the federal, state, academic and private sectors.

NACo hosted a congressional briefing on Capitol Hill with U.S. Senator Al Franken, which highlighted counties’ pivotal role in lowering incarceration rates and facilitating successful reentry.

Visiting Capitol Hill allowed Ehemann the opportunity to meet with Sen. Rob Portman’s office to discuss issues of local concern.

There were more than two dozen educational workshops featuring county officials and other leaders in the public, private and nonprofit sectors. They focused on topics like workforce and economic development; transportation and infrastructure; public health and safety; mental health and jails; and cybersecurity and technology.

In conjunction with the Legislative Conference, NACo launched its new “Counties Matter” campaign designed to communicate the essential role counties play in everyday life. From issues like transportation and infrastructure to county administration, from economic development to health and public safety, counties are on the front lines serving communities.

“While we work locally to address the issue of heroin and opiate addictions, it is important to know we are not alone. Forums such as the NACo conference provide for educational opportunities and sharing of ideas so we can work more efficiently to combat this problem and others,” Ehemann said.

Staff report