2017 National Issues Forum: States United
State Legislators Unite for Bold Action on Climate and the Environment
In August 2017, 128 state legislators from 36 states convened at the 2017 National Issues Forum organized by the National Caucus of Environmental Legislators. The event offered opportunities for attendees to collaborate on policy solutions to combat climate change, remove toxins from drinking water and consumer products, and conserve water, public lands, and endangered species.
The forum agenda featured a keynote address from former EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, who spoke about the ability of states to innovate and create environmental models for the federal government to adopt. Former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger also keynoted the event. He highlighted the fact that states had already been passing legislation that proves it is possible to simultaneously protect the environment and support economic growth, and noted that such efforts are now more important than ever.
Schwarzenegger underscored the need for bipartisanship cooperation and state and local action on climate and the environment. “I don’t see the environment as a political issue. There is no Republican air or Democratic air, we all breathe the same air. There is no Republican water or Democratic water, we all drink the same water, so let’s work together on this,” he said. “States, provinces, cities, and neighborhoods have tremendous power, and we should wield that power… This is why it’s so important that we fill the vacuum – where the federal government has fallen short, we are going to step in and we are going to do the work.”
Schwarzenegger also introduced the Digital Environmental Legislative Handbook (envirolaws.org), a joint project between NCEL and the Schwarzenegger Institute for State and Global Policy at the University of Southern California. The online resource is a searchable database of impactful environmental legislation to support legislators on issues including climate change, air quality, human health, energy efficiency and renewable energy. The handbook is in its first phase, and is designed to grow as legislators submit their suggestions and more issue topics are added. Some of the most impactful policies featured in the handbook had been authored by former California State Senator Fran Pavley, who helped introduce the handbook at the forum and was recognized by Schwarzenegger and the NCEL Board of Directors for a far-reaching array of environmental policies that had been replicated in other states.
NCEL Executive Director Jeff Mauk believes that there is an appetite for state action on environmental issues unlike anything he has seen before, especially in the wake of the President’s withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement.
“Regardless of what’s happening in Washington, America will continue its leadership on combatting climate change because of the great work of states and cities,” said Mauk. “State legislators from both parties know that reducing carbon pollution and eliminating toxins are good for the economy and for the health of their constituents. We are excited to partner with the Schwarzenegger Institute to provide more tools for state legislators working on environmental policies in their states.”
The National Caucus of Environmental Legislators is a nationwide network of more than 1,100 state legislators from both parties and all 50 states. The organization serves as a resource on environmental issues by empowering state legislators committed to environmental issues and connecting them across state and party lines. Legislators interested in joining NCEL can find more information here.