McDowell praises NSCL’s stance on health care, energy, trade policy Ends term as head of group’s energy committee


PHILADELPHIA – Lawmakers from around the country have come up with sound recommendations strong state-federal partnerships in a number of policy areas, says one of the Delaware lawmakers who helped shape the National Conference of State Legislature’s positions for the coming year.

“I think we’ve come up with some very sound policies in a number of areas,” said Sen. Harris B. McDowell III, D-Wilmington North, who’s ending his term as head of the group’s energy policy panel. “We’ve done some very good work, not only in energy policy, but in health care, trade and climate change as well as other issues”

The NSCL is a non-partisan group that shares policy ideas among lawmakers across the country and also lobbies for states in Washington. The group wrapped up its annual policy summit here Friday with presentations by Wall Street Journal columnist and author Peggy Noonan and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, former legislator and Kansas.

Thursday the group met to approve its policy positions hammered out in committee meetings earlier this week or in an earlier spring meeting.

On the energy front, the group’s calling on the Obama administration and Congress to develop a comprehensive national energy policy promoting conservation and development of alternative, renewable energy sources, including wind, solar and geothermal power while continuing efforts to develop traditional energy sources in an environmentally responsible manner. The group also called on the federal government to follow the lead of states, including Delaware, in developing policies setting targets for the percentage of the nation’s energy than must come from renewable sources.

“It’s a good policy,” said McDowell, the author of Delaware’s renewable energy portfolio standard. “We worked hard to strike a balance that gives the government flexibility and encourages the continued support of the kinds of entrepreneurial efforts that help the development of new technologies. I am particularly pleased that the NCSL policy adopted my language to allow the IRS code to recognize funding for sustainable energy as a private activity serving a public purpose.”

The group called on the president and Congress to do more to include states in the conversation as they develop the nation’s trade policy to avoid the federal government short circuiting state control over areas, including health and safety regulation and government purchasing, by passing trade deals where that lead to federal restrictions on state governments aimed at dodging international lawsuits for unfair trade practices. Those suits can result in increased tariffs on U.S.-made goods and fines against the federal government if the U.S. loses a challenge.

And on the heels of President Obama’s press conference on health care, the group called on the administration and Congress to pay for proposals that would expand the number of people enrolled in the federal-state Medicaid health insurance program and to ensure that people will still be able to maintain their current health insurance protections as a national health insurance program works its way through Capitol Hill.

But the group supports a federal initiative for comprehensive healthcare reform and endorsed Obama’s call for a public insurance option for people who can’t obtain private health insurance but recognizes the right of those who already have insurance to continue under the same policy and the right to keep their current health care professionals

“Making sure people can get health insurance coverage and good health care are vital national priorities,” McDowell said. “It’s good to see a serious effort under way to address them. We just want to make sure the president and Congress doesn’t dump the financial responsibility for providing those services on states, especially at a time when state governments are having a hard time meeting their current obligations.”