White House Conference Update for Idaho Legislators

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Idaho State Legislture

White House Office of  Intergovermental Affairs Conference for Idaho Legislators

and County Commisioners June 22, 2018 

Representative Heather Scott - District 1

On June 22, 2018, all Idaho and Utah state legislators and county commissioners were invited to the White House for a conference by the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs. Their hope was to forge stronger relationships with state and local leaders and build partnerships in decision making.   By the end of 2018, the White House will have invited every county commissioner in the country and many of the state legislators to the same event.  I was able attend this event and provide a summary below.


The overarching theme of the conference was establishing partnerships, relationship building with state and county officials, and opening up more direct communications for sharing concerns and providing input on federal policy decisions.  Those attending were reassured that the new administration wants to work more closely with the states.  We were reminded repeatedly that the federal government is there to serve us. 


The speakers included a mix of federal agency chiefs of staff, deputy directors and congressmen from Utah.  Vice president Mike Pence joined the group for a short talk and a photo opportunity.  Overall it was a great experience and unique opportunity to connect with others who feel the weight of an overreaching federal government.  It gave me hope that this administration is moving in a different direction than previous ones. 


A few of the speaker highlights included Secretary Rick Perry (US Dept. of Energy) who spoke on energy dominance as a country. He shared that the USA is the most prolific oil and gas producing country in the world and that we are 12 to 18 months away for being a net energy exporter.  He expressed his shared concerns with those of President Trump’s that innovators are being strangled by overregulation, over taxation and litigation, which limits their opportunity to create.  The administration is ready to let entrepreneurs flourish, and let the states compete against each other to create wealth. Secretary Perry stated this President looks at government’s role differently than many other presidents before him. 

As for infrastructure, Secretary Perry shared that federal leaders have not been honest with the American people for too long and discussed his desire to partner with state, local and the private sectors for leadership in addressing the infrastructure challenges.  He stated that “Government can be a real partner” and while he believes in the 10th amendment, reminded us that the federal government has a role, and shouldn’t be at logger heads with the states, but be partners in making America great again. 

Orin Hatch, Senator for Utah, shared how he relies on state legislators, county commissioners and local mayors to let him know which federal policies work or which don’t and to help develop federal policies that work on the local level.  He mentioned his concerns on the opiate epidemic, teen suicide, strengthening infrastructure and developing a workforce.  He also discussed the issues of medical marijuana and opiate alternatives.

Senator Mike Lee of Utah talked about frustrations in getting good policies and bills passed through the Senate that would reduce the size of government.    He brought up concerns on the Waters of the US (WOTUS) policy and the federal government’s acquisition of more land.  He shared his recent efforts in educating other congressmen on the struggles of western states and their inability to use our lands.  Some of the major efforts he is pursuing include the need to stop acquiring federal land, restricting the use of the antiquities act by requiring legislative approval, and increasing the amount of money set aside for PILT payments.  He also hopes to develop creative ways to return federal land back to the state control.

He left us with these inspiring words,” we can do this because we are Americans, its who we are.  Freedom is in our blood.  It’s time to no longer simply accept things as they are, it’s time for us to expect more, and I invite you to join me in that.”


 Other speakers included Congressman Rob Bishop of Utah, who is working on transferring power back to the states and local governments to incentivize energy production, the water bill, farm bill, NDAA, legislation to give citizens standing in court, and defining what consultation with the federal government actually means. 

A few of the Agency Speakers included:

Ryan Thomas, Chief of Staff for Natural Resources, Dept of Agriculture who discussed NEPA Reform, range issues, minerals and mining and timber issues.

Amy Swonger, Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy Director of Legislative Affairs for the Senate who discussed efforts to avoid a large omnibus bill, workforce development, and an executive order to make it easier for small businesses to ban together to buy healthcare.  She also touched on the challenges of getting the President’s nominees appointed and border security.

Tim Williams, Deputy Director of External Affairs, US Department of Interior who discussed the federal government restoring trust and being a good neighbor.  He stated that the federal agency has a duty to collaborate and make sure any Washington DC decision works with our local areas. He discussed the changes in NEPA which would reduce times for 10 -12 years for approval to 1 year and 100 pages or less.  He also discussed the BLM and accountability issues.  He reminded us that the Federal government derives their power from states, and states need to have a say in their destiny.  There was a short discussion on the BLM signing MOA’s with local sheriffs who are trained and know their local jurisdiction. 

Jim Carroll, Deputy Director and Acting Director of National Drug Control Policy who stated that their goal was to serve you and get funds to your communities and discussed state grants for drug control.

The Director of External Affairs, Federal Emergency Management Agency is developing a culture of induvial preparedness and FEMA integration teams for disasters.  They mentioned their desire to have states to the lead in disaster management and that local governments need to execute and take ownership.

Deputy Secretary Patrick Pizzela, US Department of Labor, who spoke of reorganizing, reshaping and reforming the agency and on educational programs to equip the workforce and empower industry and stakeholders.  He discussed the recent executive action to expand apprenticeships and the eagerness to hear from states and local governments with their input on what that might look like. 


Vice President Mike Pence let Idaho and Utah attendees know that the President’s plan was a lot like our state’s plan of fiscal responsibility, pro-growth policy, investment in infrastructure and education.  He shared our president’s belief in the 10th amendment, the American dream and American experiment as defined in the Constitution, and a belief in men and women of integrity who are serving the country.  He let us know that the President has boundless confidence in the capacity of the American people!

He thanked us for all for what we do every day and encouraged us on a personal level, to “bow the head and bend the knee, and pray for America”!

It was truly an honor to hear this man’s speech and shake his hand.  And, I had the opportunity to give him a Drain the Swamp Idaho hat!




Overall, I am cautiously optimistic with this new administration’s approach and plan to provide input and feedback from state and local leaders and Idaho citizens. 


On a personal note, this was my first visit to Washington DC.  The city was busy, the people were friendly, the metro was convenient, the history was humbling.  In my limited time there, I only had a chance to visit a few historic sites, tour the capitol, attend a congressional hearing, and taste a little of the diverse cuisine.  Above are a few photos from my trip.