Growing, Strengthening the Economy
By Ohio Rep. Armond Budish, 2012 CSG Midwest Chair
Again this year, the Midwestern Legislative Conference, MLC, focused its attention on efforts to grow and strengthen the regional economy. The MLC’s Economic Development Committee, co-chaired by South Dakota Sen. Mike Vehle and Ohio Rep. Ted Celeste, established a subcommittee on Growth through Regional Collaboration charged with exploring alternative models for the potential development of a collaborative policy network that would foster regional economic development in the Midwest.
The subcommittee, which is chaired by Nebraska Sen. Heath Mello, is developing a set of recommendations to help shape the MLC’s efforts to promote regional economic growth. Subcommittee members have enlisted the help of outside experts and key stakeholders from around the region and have examined various approaches.
Consistent with these efforts, I designated “Economic Reinvention” as the theme for the MLC’s 67th Annual Meeting, which was held July 15–18 in Cleveland. Our keynote speaker, author and economist Charles Wheelan, reminded us that the Midwest already enjoys numerous competitive advantages—clean air, fertile land, a world-class educational system—and he challenged MLC attendees to focus on addressing the skills gaps in our workforce instead of worrying only about job losses.
It was a theme that he and others sounded throughout the conference and that the MLC has highlighted during my tenure as chair. By focusing on our people, and by continuing to work together as states and provinces, we can reinvent our regional economy and build a brighter future for all Midwesterners.
The Midwestern Legislative Conference held its 67th Annual Meeting July 15–18 in Cleveland. The meeting included sessions on economic reinvention, higher education reform, health care, infrastructure, the fiscal state of the states and a lively preview of the 2012 elections. Hosted and led by Ohio Rep. Armond Budish, MLC chair, the conference also featured policy roundtable discussions on such topics as the creation of rural wealth, the prevention of prescription drug abuse, teacher evaluation and mental health in prisons.
Attendees at the Midwest Interstate Passenger Rail Commission annual meeting had an opportunity to ride on the first 110 mph route outside the northwest corridor. The train ride was from Chicago to Kalamazoo, Mich., and back. Established pursuant to a regional interstate compact developed by CSG Midwest, the commission is working to improve passenger rail service in the Midwest.
The Midwestern Radioactive Materials Transportation Committee met in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Energy's National Transportation Stakeholders Forum last spring in Knoxville, Tenn. The committee, which facilitates the regional exchange of information and ideas related to the storage and transportation of radioactive materials through Midwestern states, also was scheduled to meet in Omaha in November.
The Great Lakes Legislative Caucus, a network of state and provincial legislators representing the eight states and two provinces in the Great Lakes region, held its 2012 annual meeting July 13–14 in Cleveland. Chaired by Minnesota Sen. Ann Rest, the caucus is working to strengthen the role of legislators in the Great Lakes-related policymaking process while promoting the protection and restoration of the lakes. The agenda included topics such as invasive species, the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and green infrastructure.
In August, 37 lawmakers representing 11 Midwestern states and four Canadian provinces gathered in Madison, Wis., for the 18th annual Bowhay Institute for Legislative Leadership Development. The BILLD program, produced by the Midwestern Legislative Conference in partnership with the Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs at the University of Wisconsin, provides professional development and leadership training for legislators in their first four years of service.