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Public Papers - 1990 - February

Remarks to Members of the National Conference of State Legislatures

1990-02-09

Thank you very much. Welcome to what is known as the White House complex. Don't ask me why. And I'm sorry about the delays that I understood some of you had getting in here. You do not have to show a picture I.D. to get out of here, I guarantee you. But I'm very pleased you all are here.

Delighted, of course, that Nick Brady left the national security meeting over there to come here. It, I hope, demonstrates our sense of priority and feeling that it is important that you're here. I salute my Secretary of Education who's with us here, Larry Cavazos, and I'll say a little bit about his line of work in a minute. And, of course, Bill Reilly, who's doing such an outstanding job at EPA and will, indeed, be the first Cabinet Secretary for EPA when we get that change taken care of. Clayton Yeutter was to be here. Deb, is he coming? And I guess he'll be on over. Many of you -- I see some Midwesterners here -- know him very well. And again, as we go to redo the farm bill, I feel very comforted having a person who really understands agriculture as well as he does.

And, of course, I'm delighted to welcome all of you. I'm told it's almost 50 States represented here. Lee Daniels, of course, your president; your former president, Sammy Nunez; and then also, one of your own up here whom I see almost every day, it seems like -- Deb Anderson, the former speaker from the South Dakota House. And proof if there ever was one of Finley Peter Dunne's rule: Every now and then an innocent person gets sent to their legislature. And there she is right there. [Laughter] But I am glad to have this chance to drop in.

State legislatures are America's most practical and resourceful leaders, close to the grassroots, close to the people, close to America's concerns. And each of you has earned a special position of leadership and trust, and not by mastering the tricks of the trade but by mastering the trade itself. And many of you have been leaders in one of the most important and effective revolutions of the past 10 years: the return of the American political power to the States. That's where it began; that's where it belongs. I'm not saying it's done yet, but I want to reassure you we are concerned about further implementation of this broad, philosophical commitment to federalism.

I want to take this opportunity to renew that commitment and to the rights of the States, but also to States as laboratories, forging ahead at the cutting edge of the world's greatest experiment in freedom and security. It's, of course, a continuing experiment. From criminal justice to education, from child care to the environment, State and local governments are looking for new approaches to solving old problems -- and looking not just at our problems but also at the possibilities. And in many cases, my budget will support new demonstration projects, both fostering and financing experimentation in the States. In other cases, my administration is granting waivers from Federal redtape to encourage new experimentation. But at the bottom line, my formula for federalism comes down to four words: ``more flexibility'' and ``fewer mandates.''

Last week, I submitted my first complete budget as President and gave the first report on the state of the Union. And we do face some big problems, and we've responded with big increases. Record funding for education -- it's up overall, but I'm talking about the discretionary funds up significantly. Drug enforcement, the environment -- other top priorities. We don't need a quick fix, but we do need quick action. More Federal money should not, in my view, automatically mean more Federal management.

In education, the solution to the problem is not reinforcing the Federal bureaucracy but reinforcing the American tradition of State and local education. Because real improvement in the schools is not simply a question of spending more -- and Larry, I believe, is going to talk about that in a bit, and some of you were there when I spoke at your Indianapolis meeting almost 3 years ago -- where we need to provide more, but we also need to demand more, expect more of our schools, our teachers, our kids, and ourselves. Last week, I announced the education goals that was developed in very close consultation with the Nation's Governors. I'll tell you, it was a wonderful team effort, if you will. Not three R's, but six R's -- six goals for the year 2000.

Readiness in America where every child starts school ready to learn, and of course, much more emphasis in spending for Head Start in that regard. Rescuing those most at risk by raising our high school graduation rate to at least 90 percent. Reestablishing excellence. A new renaissance in science and math -- and that's critical if our country is going to be competitive. I don't know, Nick, whether you got into that in your remarks at all, but this whole concept of competitiveness ties in to education, particularly in science, in math -- first in the world by the year 2000. Reading, literacy for every American -- and here we addressed ourselves to the question not just to the kids in school being sure they could read but to adult literacy as well. And then respect -- schools that are disciplined, schools that in that context are totally drug-free.

A drug-free America, a safe America is, of course, one of our top concerns. And we get it from you all. We get it from those that are elected at the local levels, and we get it from the police chiefs, and we get it from the mayors. And it is priority. And there is an increasing and important Federal role in the fighting of crime. I recognize that, and I think our budget gives realization to that. But it is -- with educating our kids -- protecting our streets is one of those fundamental rights, duties that the Founding Fathers reserved for the States you represent.

Last May, I asked Congress to join me in launching a new partnership with America's cities and States, a partnership to ensure that those who scorn justice are brought to justice. A partnership -- we call it ``Take Back the Streets.'' And I'm here today to ask your help, take a leading role in the States in helping put away the violent, repeat, and fugitive offenders who plague American streets. Your role is essential. State and local cops back home need the same tools that we've proposed or ordered for the Feds. And I, again, go into this -- mandatory time for firearms offenses, no deals on gun charges. We can't plea-bargain away the lives of the cops and the kids. And those who commit the ultimate crime -- and a strongly held view of mine -- must expect to pay the ultimate price.

At the Federal level, I've asked Congress for more than billion for Phase II of our drug strategy, a strategy worked out by Bill Bennett, working with our top Cabinet officials. A 70-percent increase this is, since I became President -- 70-percent increase. It includes an unprecedented 0 million request for assistance to State and local law enforcement. And I am counting on you to match us with the same kind of hard-hitting resources -- police, prosecutors, and prisons -- to ensure that on this crime side, these violent thugs will be put away for good. We've got other parts of this drug strategy, as I'm sure you know: rehab and obviously a major interdiction effort, but which is involving certain military assets. But it's got to be across the board.

In these new partnerships, education and law enforcement, and in all your efforts, you really do -- I get back to where I started -- have my respect and gratitude and support. You have a special sense of belonging and place and sense of duty, or you wouldn't be doing this, you wouldn't be serving in these legislatures. And as public servants, you, too, have learned the simple truth: What we do for ourselves dies with us; what we do for others remains. And so, we're in a very interesting period where a lot of our major problems in this country, domestic problems, can best be solved with a major input from those of you in this room. And, again, education, crime, drug fight, whatever it is -- I'm grateful to you.

I'm delighted you came by. And thank you very much for your support. And God bless you all. Thank you very much.

Note: The President spoke at 11:13 a.m. in Room 450 at the Old Executive Office Building. In his remarks, he referred to Debra Anderson, Deputy Assistant to the President and Director of the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs, and William J. Bennett, Director of National Drug Control Policy.

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