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Thought Leadership Thursday

Eight Things You May Have Missed at the Legislative Conference

Brian Egan

Thought Leadership Thursday Article

Eight Things You May Have Missed at the Legislative Conference
February 25, 2021
Brian Egan
Policy Director
NAST

Dear NAST Members and Supporters:

It's been a jam-packed week and we still have a full day of programming ahead of us! We wanted to recap some of the key takeaways from this week’s sessions so far. For those of you who joined us, we say thank you. With more than 400 attendees throughout the week, we shattered last year’s record attendance. For those of you who could not attend, here’s a recap of what you may have missed:

We took a moment to recognize that last year was tough.
Our President, Treasurer Kelly Mitchell, opened up her address with a moment of silence to acknowledge the 500,000 lives lost to the COVID-19 pandemic. Our Monday keynote, General John Allen from the Brookings Institution, said that “the realities of 2020 and now 2021 still take their toll each and every day.” But, we remarked at how Treasurers came together last year to weather the storm together to get the job done. And, in our moment of reflection, we looked forward with what General Allen described as “cautious optimism.”

We agreed that bringing an end to COVID-19 is everyone’s top priority.
It’s simple, yet, immensely complicated. Everyone agrees, however, that there is no economic recovery or forward movement until public enemy number one, COVID-19, is brought under control. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Neil Bradley stated that turbo charging our vaccine distribution and reaching herd immunity remain areas of universal agreement even in times of historic partisanship. Nearly all of our guests shared their hope that the light at the end of this pandemic tunnel is within sight, even if it’s still slightly beyond reach.

We learned that a return to “normal” has a lot of different meanings.
Speakers discussed the future of work (which may actually be more virtual work), childcare, education, equity and consumer spending post-COVID. Many of our guests acknowledged that there’s just a lot we don’t know about how tomorrow’s “normal” will look. As Heather Boushey, member of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, framed it, “how much does this year change our behavior” is still an unanswered question for economists. But, she followed, “state and local policymakers should be thinking about those [types of] questions now.”

We identified the threat of hyper-partisanship and incivility.
General Allen put it bluntly, “there’s no hope for the American experiment, there’s no achieving the American dream, if we cannot identify ways to speak to one another as fellow citizens.” From incivility in discourse and the events of January 6, to failures to bridge divides and reach across the aisle. Several speakers reiterated that sustainable governance without national healing and a return to nonpartisan civil discourse will be a challenge.
            
We cheered states as being a part of the solution to our national challenges.
Members of Congress from both sides of the aisle took the time to acknowledge the need to address the economic challenges facing state governments. On Monday afternoon, Senator Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) reiterated his commitment to including state and local aid in a forthcoming COVID-19 response bill. And on Tuesday, Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS) shared his intention to reintroduce and champion bills to bring back tax-exempt advance refunding bonds and direct subsidy bonds known as American Infrastructure Bonds (AIBs).

We joked about Infrastructure Week but got serious about infrastructure policy.
On Monday, Neil Bradley teed up the conversation by stating that COVID-19 only underscored that the cost of inaction on infrastructure is “unacceptable.” Treasurer Conine joined the Chamber and AFL-CIO on Tuesday to discuss the prospects of Congress finally tackling infrastructure in 2021. While optimism was tempered, both Ed Mortimer and Greg Regan agreed this may actually be the year. Ed went on to say “states need to be prepared with a list of projects that need to get done,” and added that we need “shovel-worthy, instead of just shovel-ready, projects.”

We built support for policies that help Americans save.
Beyond the urgency of the COVID-19 response, NAST also heard from members of Congress on a number of other priority issues for State Treasurers. On Wednesday, Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-VA-7) talked about ways we can better align education opportunities with workforce development needs through 529 plans and expanded apprenticeship and certificate programs. Later that afternoon, Treasurers and ABLE Administrators heard from Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA), Rep. Tony Cardenas (D-CA-29), Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA-5) and Senate staffers on the growing support behind efforts to raise the age of eligibility for ABLE accounts. The ABLE Age Adjustment Act was reintroduced earlier in the week in both the Senate and the House of Representatives.

We celebrated the NAST family.
While we couldn’t meet together face-to-face, we still took time to network and celebrate the spirit of State Treasurers coming together. We welcomed our new Treasurers and honored Chief of Staff to the State Treasurer of Iowa, Karen Austin, with the Chris Allen Memorial Award for Outstanding Advocacy in Public Finance. We even got some time to see some old friends and make new friends during virtual networking events.

And while we’ve heard and said a lot about NAST priorities this week, we now take them to the Hill. Throughout the month of March, we encourage all NAST and Network members to meet with your key and new members of Congress. We’ve updated our advocacy primers for the 117th Congress, including one dedicated to NAST’s core priorities and another relating to support for COVID-19 stimulus. Be sure to make your virtual appointments with your congressional delegation to discuss your state and national issues!

Sincerely,

Brian Egan
NAST Policy Director

 

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