Salem, OR—This week, I'm in Washington, DC with a group of Lt. Governors and Secretaries of State from across the country. We are a mix of Democrats and Republicans with a common goal—determining how best to promote the interests of our states with the Trump Administration.
Although many Oregonians wish otherwise, Donald Trump is the President. It is in Oregon's best interest to develop good relationships with his Cabinet. I want to better understand how Oregon will engage with the Trump Administration, particularly as it relates to protecting and preserving programs that help Oregon families, many of which rely on Oregon's ability to bring our federal tax dollars back home.
Since I'm not a policy maker, I will merely report on the meetings I attended with key members of the new Trump Administration.
Betsy DeVos is the new administration's Secretary of Education. As an activist for parental choice in education for three decades, she told us that she trusts students, parents, and teachers to come together and customize learning for children. It is the Administration's position that each state should decide what is best for its own students. She said that she and the President support the “Every Student Succeeds Act”
(ESSA), which replaced “No Child Left Behind,” and that it will be up to each state to submit its own ESSA plan. Oregon intends to submit its plan next month. DeVos made it clear that President Trump's education policies will transfer greater power to individual states to define how best to ensure every student gets a quality education.
Rick Perry is the new administration's Secretary of Energy. The former Governor of Texas reviewed the accomplishments of his tenure as Governor, which enabled Texas to lead the nation in economic growth, attract millions of Americans to move to Texas, and lower its carbon emissions by 19% in the process. Perry said President Trump challenged him to do for the country what he did for the State of Texas. Perry said it was his job to enforce the law, not make it up through agency regulations. He promised to let Congress make the laws and said that if energy projects legally qualified for a permit, then a permit would be granted. He also recommended that states should come to him if they are having difficulty with energy projects due to federal bureaucracy. His focus will be to assist the states in accomplishing their own energy goals. Perry also praised President Trump for including two other former governors in his cabinet—Sunny Purdue and Nikki Haley. He said the experience gained by running a state will enable these former governors to help the President understand the consequences of certain decisions before they are made.
We also heard from Doug Hoelscher, the new Assistant Director of Intergovernmental Affairs for the White House. He said President Trump has made it clear that his administration would be empowering the states, especially in the areas of infrastructure projects and health care. Hoelscher invited the states to communicate with his office on what's important to the states and said his job was to facilitate conversations between state leaders and counter-parts in the Administration. To initiate such conversations, I went to the White House last month and met personally with the Intergovernmental Affairs staff, and I will meet with them again on Friday. I believe building good relationships with the Trump Administration now will benefit Oregon in the future.
In conclusion, I'm here in Washington, DC to meet and understand the new leaders of the federal government in an effort to promote Oregon's interests by building relationships with those who hold the keys of power in the White House. In doing so, I'm hoping to serve you better as Oregon's Secretary of State.