The nation's governors have gathered in Nashville to discuss education and job creation this weekend — but they are unlikely to make bold statements on some of the most pressing debates in their states and Washington, such as immigration, Common Core education standards or highway funding.
Leaders of the National Governors Association said they plan to share best practices and work toward common agreement on a number of issues as they meet today, tomorrow and Sunday at the Omni Hotel. They were perhaps most unified in calling on Congress to shore up federal transportation spending, framing it as both a way to create jobs and ensure the safety of all Americans.
But standing on the stage of the Ryman Auditorium, leaders from both parties told reporters they do not expect to come up with new policy statements on issues such as the influx of unaccompanied children entering the country without documentation, efforts to roll back new education standards or the upcoming deadline for Congress to reauthorize federal money to build roads and bridges.
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam, the conference's host, acknowledged the urgency of the highway funding issue, however.
"Nobody really thinks about roads and bridges, and their condition, until they fall behind," he said. "There are few things you can see the peril around as quickly as a bridge that hasn't been restructured on a timely basis."
The NGA's summer meeting kicked off in Nashville Friday at a time when many governors are dealing with the same deep partisanship that has gridlocked Washington.
Past NGA conferences have served as opportunities for governors to unite on some issues and put out strong statements that have steered leaders in the nation's capital. But governors this year appear unlikely to agree on many substantive positions during their three days in Tennessee — even on an issue like Common Core, an initiative that the NGA helped get off the ground just five years ago.
Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin, the NGA's chair, said she hopes governors will be able to come up with a set of "best practices" in education that will make workers more appealing to employers. But those practices are unlikely to include additional support for Common Core, which Fallin agreed to repeal in her state earlier this year.
"I think all the governors are listening to their voters and constituents back home that are concerned about the federal overreach into our states," she said. "And so each governor will do what's in the best interest of their states."
Fallin, host Haslam and Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, the NGA's vice chair, also said they do not foresee a breakthrough on immigration beyond urging Washington to fix the crisis.
"I think what you will hear from every governor here is, this is a federal issue," said Haslam.
Even on a shared concern, the loss of money for road projects unless more is put into the federal Highway Trust Fund by Sept. 30, NGA leaders do not anticipate new action. Fallin said the organization had made its position clear earlier this week, when she, Hickenlooper and two other governors urged leaders in Congress to resolve the situation.
Unless Congress acts before its August recess, the Highway Trust Fund that pays for road projects all over the country will expire.
Reach Chas Sisk at 615-259-8283 and on Twitter @chassisk