Learn About the National Governors’ Association

The National Governor’s Association (NGA) is a bipartisan organization founded in 1908. The NGA’s principle goal is to identify pressing issues of federal policy and how it affects state governance. Through committees comprised of current governors it advocates state’s positions to federal policy issues, ranging from environmental law, education, labor and homeland security. It continues to serve as the collective voice of the United States’ governors and is a leading public policy institution in Washington DC.

History

In 1908, at the urging of president Theodore Roosevelt, the first conference of governors met to discuss land conservation. They discussed the states’ views of federal natural resource usage and management. After the first conference, the governor’s requested that they meet every year to continue dialogue on pressing issues of state and national importance.

Over the years the NGA has proposed a number of important ideas and initiatives relating to state issues, governor’s powers and the relationship between them and the Federal government. Often the NGA has had an important role in shaping national issues of the day, such as the federal response to lynching, labor disputes and matters of state and national security.

Structure

The NGA is comprised of governors from all fifty states as well as the territories of American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico and the U.S Virgin Islands. It is governed through a nine member executive committee with a rotating chair and vice chair. This committee determines the association’s priorities and activities. It also has primary control over any policy concerning homeland security, federalism, budget and tax returns.

There are several other committees in the NGA, concerned with state-federal relations and a number of critical policy initiatives:

  • Economic Development & Commerce: oversees NGA policy concerning infrastructure, international trade promotion, telecommunication, financial services, science and technology and affordable housing.
  • Education & Workforce: develops policy regarding education from early childhood all the way to higher ed. It also advocates policy on workforce and labor development.
  • Health & Homeland Security: oversees decisions regarding health care with an emphasis on issues pertaining to medicare, medicaid and other federal programs. Its other function is to develop policy on homeland security, the national guard and crime.
  • Natural Resources: since its foundation the NGA has been focused on issues of conservation, energy and the use of natural resources.

The NGA meets twice a year. The annual meeting rotates its location, but the winter meeting is always held in Washington DC where the governors are able to meet with the president. There they can discuss or raise concerns about how federal policy is affecting state power.

Positions and committee issues

Each of the committees develops official NGA positions on a variety of specific issues. Every year it responds to the wide range of decisions made by the Federal government and seeks to promote the interests of the governors and the states as they relate to federally mandated projects and policy.

Current policy positions include supporting the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), high school reform, ensuring states protect the environment and maintaining state competitiveness in the changing global job market.

There are also a fixed set of permanent policy positions that the NGA continues to support. It obligates the organization to maintain as its primary mission to provide the constitutional principle of checking the Federal government from overstepping its legal powers.

Further resources