GOSHEN COUNTY – The area was well represented at a White House Conference recently. District 5 Rep. and District 3 Senate candidate Cheri Steinmetz, District 2 Rep. Hans Hunt, gubernatorial candidate and Fort Laramie native Harriet Hageman, as well as District 30 Rep. Mark Jennings (and wife, Dana), District 5 Senate Candidate Lynn Hutchings, and District 9 Rep. Landon Brown attended the North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming summit in Washington, D.C. on Thursday, Aug. 30.
“We received an email about three weeks ago or so with an invitation,” Steinmetz said. “The (Wyoming Legislative) Management Council approved for us to go – we get two out-of-state travel days a year, usually to spend on conferences.
“This is the first-ever-of-its-kind meeting, as far as this year, it’s a new concept of the Trump administration to reach out to state and local leaders and work with them to develop relationships,” she explained. “The first thing they led off with is that the Trump administration recognizes states are sovereign in their powers, and they want to work with us as fellow sovereigns instead of subordinates.
“I was thankful to get to go, it’s not every day you’re invited to the White House,” she added.
The Wyoming group participated in a self-guided tour of the White House’s East Wing Thursday, followed by the conference from 1 to 4 p.m. in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building.
Speakers included Douglas Hoelscher, Deputy Assistant to the President and Director of Intergovernmental Affairs; Andrea Travnicek, Acting Assistant Secretary for Fish, Wildlife and Parks, U.S. Department of Interior; U.S. Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta; Under Secretary of Energy Mark Menezes; Margaret Weichert, Deputy Director for Management, Office of Management & Budget; Bill Wehrum, Assistant Administrator, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; Chris French, Associate Deputy Chief, U.S. Forest Service; Anthony Bedell, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Intergovernmental Affairs, U.S. Department of Transportation; William Crozer, Special Assistant to the President and Deputy Director of Intergovernmental Affairs; and Kellyanne Conway, Counselor to the President.
“Workforce development emphasized vocational and career training, rather than just college education,” Steinmetz said. “They are working on energy dominance; conservation and access to public lands and recreation … managing forest lands – they realize that affects our water supply, and they’re committed to getting a better timber strategy in place.
“Secretary Acosta said the economy is roaring, and GDP (gross domestic product) is up 4.2 percent. They’re projecting 4.5-percent growth for this next year. The labor force is up, and the jobless rate is at 3.9 percent, which is a very low number, so the things they are doing to get people back to work are working.
“(The administration is) working on licensing costs between states – they said we need to work on that as states – when people move from one state to another, a lot of times their licensing won’t transfer. They’ve also been working on deregulation and estimate they’ve reduced $430 million in regulatory burden per year. They’re working on better delivery of services to the American public and more transparency.”
Conway’s turn at the microphone predominately included discussion about the nation’s opioid crisis, dubbed “The Crisis Next Door”.
“There are three areas of concern: prevention and education, treatment and recovery, and law enforcement,” Steinmetz said. “There has been a 22-percent increase in overdoses since 2015 because of legally-prescribed drugs. It’s one of the things the First Lady has really taken on.”
A National Prescription Drug Take-Back Program has netted approximately 1.85 million pounds of pills – the equivalent to six Boeing 747 planes full of opioids, Steinmetz said.
In addition, the group heard information about the Back the Blue Foundation, which provides support to the nation’s law enforcement personnel, as well as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s plans to change their model “so they have more of a shared stewardship, working closely with state governments, and work on customer service … they are trying to figure out how they can (accommodate) the public,” according to Steinmetz.
The quick trip – state representatives flew in on Aug. 29 and arrived home Aug. 31 – was well worth the travel time, she said.
“It was really neat to be there where all that history has been made,” Steinmetz said. “I was honored and humbled to represent the State of Wyoming at this conference. The (Trump administration) is committed to working with state and local leaders, and gave us a lot of important information and contact information to facilitate that relationship.”