Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Strong political divisions overshadow meeting of US governors.

PORTLAND, Maine ( Associated Press) — Strong political divisions among states on abortiongun rights and other issues are overshadowing a meeting this week of the nation’s governors, who are still hoping to find common ground in a polarized climate.

The National Governors Association kicks off its summer meeting Thursday, the first time the group has met in person since 2019, the year before the COVID-19 pandemic began. The session in Maine follows recent US Supreme Court rulings that have deepened the divide between red and blue states, overturning Roe v. Wade. and breaking down gun restrictions In New York.

Association leaders say there is still room for bipartisanship, at least on other issues.

“The National Governors Association is the last truly bipartisan group standing that gets things done,” Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson said.a Republican who is finishing his one-year term as president of the association, said in an interview.

Hutchinson will hand over the reins of the group to Democratic Governor Phil Murphy of New Jersey, who will be its next chairman. The two governors announced last month that the association was forming a bipartisan task force to make recommendations on preventing mass shootings, after the massacre at a Texas elementary school that killed 19 children and two teachers.

The task force was announced before Congress passed and President Joe Biden signed a sweeping, bipartisan gun violence bill. that includes billions in new funding for mental health and school safety. The task force is made up of eight governors, equally divided between Republicans and Democrats.

Hutchinson said he sees the group helping to guide implementation of that law at the state level.

“What I see this task force doing is being able to help shape the rules of grant programs for states to ensure that we have the flexibility, that mental health and other resources have the fewest strings attached,” said.

He said he also sees the group providing information on best practices for school safety and red flag laws. that some states have enacted that make it easier for authorities to seize weapons from people determined to be dangerous.

Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan, who is part of the task force, said that while she is grateful for Washington’s action, she believes more can be done in the states on a bipartisan basis.

“This is not about protecting one political ideology or another,” Whitmer said. “This is about making our communities safer, making our cities safer, making our classrooms safer.”

Another member of the task force, Republican Governor Spencer Cox of Utah, also sought common ground in the gun control debate. He acknowledged that any change in gun policy would spark controversy in his state, but he encourages politicians to listen to proposals from across the political spectrum, including funding for school safety, counselors, gun buybacks and red flag laws. .

“I’ve asked everyone to be open to every conversation,” Cox, the association’s incoming vice president, said at a news conference last month.

Hutchinson said he doesn’t see the governors’ association addressing abortion after Roe’s reversal. That bug has pit states against each other, with “trigger” bans taking effect almost immediately in several states after the ruling.

Republicans in some states are looking for ways to prevent women from leaving the state for an abortion, steps that could include going after abortion providers. In response, some Democratic governors have signed measures that prohibit their state’s law enforcement agencies from enforcing other states’ abortion bans. That includes Democratic Governor Janet Mills.whose state is hosting the meeting.

When he signed an executive order last week, Mills said he “will stand in the way of any effort to undermine, roll back or completely eliminate the right to safe and legal abortion in Maine.”

Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom of California even posted a campaign ad in Florida criticizing the Republican leaders of that state.

The partisanship was highlighted on the eve of the meeting when New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu campaigned alongside fellow Republican Paul LePage, a former Maine governor who hopes to unseat Mills.

Still, Hutchinson said the group has been able to work together on other issues, being a voice for states during the COVID-19 pandemic. and during negotiations on the bipartisan infrastructure package. This week’s group meeting will include discussions on economic recovery and youth mental health. It will also highlight computer science education in schools, which has been a priority for Hutchinson.

“We have to find solutions. We have no other choice. We have to lead,” Hutchinson said.

Hutchinson’s presidency of the group has raised his national profile as he considers running for president. in 2024. The two-term governor, who leaves office in January, has criticized former President Donald Trump and urged fellow Republicans to move on. of the 2020 elections.

Murphy will run for president after narrowly winning re-election as governor last year. An unapologetic progressive, he recently signed a law enshrining the right to abortion. into law and a new package of gun control bills.

Murphy, who will also become president of the Democratic Governors Association next year, has warned his party to learn a lesson from his narrow re-election victory last year, an off-year election cycle in which Democrats lost. Virginia’s gubernatorial race.

“I think we have to talk about affordability, opportunity, that the American dream is still alive and well,” Murphy said after signing his state’s record $50.6 billion budget. last month.

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DeMillo reported from Little Rock, Arkansas. Associated Press writers Joey Cappelletti in Lansing, Michigan; Mike Catalini in Trenton, New Jersey; Sam Metz in Salt Lake City; and Patrick Whittle in Portland, Maine, contributed to this report.

Nation World News Desk
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