February 23rd, 2014

Four governors talk social issues on CNN’s State of the Union

Today on CNN’s State of the Union with Candy Crowley, Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX), Gov. Mike Pence (R-IN), Gov. Dan Malloy (D-CT), and Gov. Jay Nixon (D-MO) debated the legalization of marijuana, gun control policies, the death penalty, same-sex marriage, minimum wage, and Obamacare.

For the latest updates and information, check out the following blog post:

The CNN Political Ticker

Four governors on the politics of pot

A transcript and videos from the debate are available after the jump.


Getting to know Dan Malloy

Are more states ready to legalize pot?

Governors sound off on guns

From governor to president in 2016?

Fading support for the death penalty?



CROWLEY:  The nation’s governors are here in Washington for their winter conference. They are dining at the White House tonight, meeting with the president tomorrow. We thought it was a perfect opportunity to talk with four of them about how they could get things done when Washington can’t seem to.

Joining us is Connecticut Democrat, Dan Malloy, Missouri Democrat, Jay Nixon, Texas Republican, Rick Perry, and Indiana Republican, Mike Pence. It is good to have all of you here. Used to be when the NGA met you all cross-pollinated and got great ideas about what was working and it might be a little more partisan, at this point, I think, as Washington certainly is. But I wanted to see if you picked up anything sort of watching other states.

One of the big stories this year, of course, has been Colorado legalizing recreational use of small amounts of marijuana, as well as Washington State. When you look at it, big pot of money there with taxes, states can always use a little more money, have any of you looked at it and thought, you know what, this is something I’d consider?



CROWLEY: Two nos? Why not?

PENCE: Well, I don’t support legalization of marijuana and that’s been my position for a long time and will continue to be. But I’ll tell you, there is some common ground that you see at the National Governors Association and it’s the focus that Mary Fallon and others and we here in Indiana — placed on workforce development. We’ve initiated in the Hoosier State an effort to make career and vocational education a priority in every high school in the state of Indiana.

And at the National Governors Association, it seems to be a recurring theme that making sure that we have not only the best educated, but the best skilled workforce is a pathway toward higher wages. It’s a pathway toward a growing economy and in the Midwest it’s a pathway toward a real renewal of the industrial Midwest.

CROWLEY: Right. So, I get that you all would be definitely be cross-pollinating on what’s working and I do actually want to get you on the economy, but first, let me get you all to chime in. We got two nos here. On recreational use of marijuana, I know recently medicinal use —

MALLOY: We decriminalized small amounts, but we didn’t legalize. And we do — we have moved forward with medical marijuana and I think that’s about as far as we go. I want to be very direct about how you ask the question. I don’t think tax revenue should have anything to do with the discussion about whether you legalize marijuana, quite frankly. They are two distinct issues.

CROWLEY: I just thought it might make it enticing.

MALLOY: Yes. But let’s not be enticed down that road because of money. It just doesn’t make sense.

CROWLEY: Can’t imagine that marijuana use recreationally sells as legalizing in Missouri.

NIXON: Not so much. (LAUGHTER)

NIXON: But medicinally, I think folks are beginning to see if there are things which the medical community can help on and has specific ways — and I think our legislature and our people might consider that, but I think to move beyond that at this point is I would say a bridge too far but that bridge has not yet been built.

CROWLEY: And Governor Perry, if I understand you correctly, you would consider the medical use of marijuana —

PERRY: Actually, what we’ve done in the state of Texas is about a decade ago, we started looking at adjusting the penalties for criminal use of marijuana. What we’ve seen is our prison populations have gone down. As a matter of fact, even President Obama and Eric Holder looked at Texas and said, you know, what they are doing there with their drug courts, and it’s something that, you know, I think other states are looking at.

But we have about 96 percent population in our prisons now. California, I think, is over 160 percent population of their prison. So, they got a real overcrowding problem. I think part of it goes back to not making thoughtful decisions about who you’re sending to prison and what for. The idea that a kid has one marijuana cigarette and you send had him to prison where they can learn to really be a hardened criminal is not thoughtful public policy.

Use these drug courts, put intervention programs into place, shock probation, and keep those young people on a track to be productive citizens rather than ending up in our prisons.

CROWLEY: I think you all may end up being a big advertisement for state’s rights and state decisions. And, one of the things I wanted to sort of short (ph) out with you, Governor Malloy, is post- Newtown. Connecticut enacted even stricter gun regulations at the state, and they were already pretty strict. So, you’re up there in terms of how your gun laws are seen as some of the strictest in the nation.

These three gentlemen, Democrat, two Republicans, have states that really have a gun culture in what’s seen as a positive way in how it’s handed down from generation to generation, hunting, skeet shooting, that kind of thing. Does anything or any of the looser laws on guns in these states hurt Connecticut?

MALLOY: I think we have a federal problem in the sense that we are rejecting the idea that we should have tighter controls on who has a gun. Universal background checks would make everyone safer in their states and in mine. It is a starting point. We should not be assigning or allowing folks who have mental health challenges currently to acquire guns.

We should not have a system that allows people who have extensive criminal records to get around —

CROWLEY: But I don’t think any of you all would disagree with that. Would you agree that there need to be more federal regulations?

MALLOY: Well, background checks is what we need.

PERRY: Certainly not — the Second Amendment pretty much is a good amendment. And we support it in the state of Texas. The restrictions that you’ve seen states like Connecticut — when you think about the northeast, that was the Silicon Valley, if you will, of gun manufacturing. And you’re seeing those manufacturers leaving the northeast because of the taxation, the regulations, and just the attitude towards manufacturers of weapons.

PERRY: As a matter of fact, Governor Bentley, was announced on Monday, Remington is moving 2,000 jobs being created there in Huntsville. Governor Haslam in Tennessee welcomed Beretta into his state. We invited Magpool into Texas. So, you’re seeing a shift of these manufacturers out of states that don’t want them there. And I think that is an appropriate move and an appropriate conversation for us to have.

And you’re absolutely right about the Tenth Amendment in the states. I know these governors will make decisions that are best for their citizens. Now, we compete against each other and that’s good.

CROWLEY: Let me — I’ve got to wrap this section up, but we’ll come back to it, because I know (INAUDIBLE) but I got to ask you a quick wrap-up question, and it just really takes a yes or a no. I’m not even going to ask you to raise your hands. Would any of you here today like to rule out running for president in 2016? Governor Pence? Would you rule it out?

PENCE: I haven’t spent one second thinking about any job other than the one —


CROWLEY: — so much quicker than that, yes or no.


CROWLEY: You’re the self-described dark horse. Do you disagree with that?

PENCE: I’m focused on Indiana, Candy.



CROWLEY: No, you won’t rule yourself out?

NIXON: I’m focused on Missouri.


NIXON: And plus, Secretary Clinton, you know, we’re hopeful that she gets in. And if so, we’ll look forward to working with her, but we really do have a lot to get done in the next three years in the show-me state.

CROWLEY: OK. You have a lot to get done in Connecticut, I know, but yes or no.

MALLOY: I am not going to be a candidate for president.

CROWLEY: You see? How hard was that?


CROWLEY: We’ll be right back. And when we return, the president makes his case for upping employees’ pay.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Right now, there’s a bill before Congress that would boost America’s minimum wage to $10.10 an hour. It’s easy to remember, $10.10. That bill would lift wages for more than 16 million Americans without requiring a single dollar in new taxes or spending.


CROWLEY: The governors give us their bottom line on the minimum wage, next.


CROWLEY: Back with our governors, Dan Malloy of Connecticut, Missouri’s Jay Nixon, Rick Perry of Texas, and Indiana’s Mike Pence. Governor Nixon, I wanted to give you a quick thing because you wanted to say something in particular —

NIXON: I’m (INAUDIBLE) Missouri’s Second Amendment, but the bottom line is after Newtown and the other disasters, we’ve moved forward in mental health area. Second most folks train in mental health first aid, 29 mental health liaisons out there, pilot projects to make sure that folks that show up in emergency rooms don’t just end up in jails, back and forth. I think a lot of states are doing that exact thing.

While Washington talks about kind of what size of gun or what type of gun, it does absolutely nothing. We’re actually on the ground out there trying to interact with young folks who have mental health problems much earlier and empower people to help them.

CROWLEY: I want to move you to the death penalty issue. I am interested in it because I keep reading things — actually, we have three states where the death penalty is still legal in Connecticut now. I know you don’t have the death penalty. But I’ve been reading more and more articles that say the death penalty is beginning to fade. It will eventually sort of adrift (ph) out by attrition, you know, because of the problems with the drugs now, because Europe won’t sell them.

We’ve had some executions that did not go well and that people are beginning — the numbers are changing. I know you have an execution set for next week. Drugs have been an issue with this particular education — with this particular education execution. A, is that execution going to go as planned as far as you know? And, B, do any of you agree that the death penalty is on the way in?

NIXON: We’re moving forward that execution and we’ll continue to enforce the ultimate penalty. It’s a serious business. We treat it very seriously. Both in my time as attorney general as well as now as governor I’ve been involved in those. I think it’s really important. Two things. Number one, each of these cases are individual. I mean, the death penalty is not a broad issue.

And that’s why you have juries involved and courts involved in individual decision. And second thing I ask everybody in the media is to remember the victims as these things move forward. I mean, I think there’s just so much attention on both the process as well as the offender as you get near the end and they try to make them stars.

There are families out there that have to suffer sometimes 10 or 15 years before that ultimate punishment is meted out. And I would just ask everybody to continue —

CROWLEY: Like this murder took place 25 years ago, the one that’s the scheduled execution, because I know you take an opposing view here.

MALLOY: Well, listen, you know, Connecticut decided that we didn’t want to have a death penalty any longer, to go to your point. There are a number of states that have taken that step over the last few years. And so, we’re quickly approaching majority of the United States citizens that live in states that don’t have the death penalty.

It is a state’s decision and they get to make that decision. I can tell you that we have our lowest homicide rate in — we have our lowest crime rate in 46 years. We have substantially lowered homicides over the last few years as well. We’re very proud of that fact. In fact, I think we have a lower homicide rate than everybody at the table.
Having said that, it is a state’s decision. We made a decision. Our legislature decided and I think most citizens of Connecticut are happy to move forward.

CROWLEY: Do you see down the line in either Indiana or Texas any chance that the death penalty would be removed from law in those states?

PENCE: I don’t see that prospect in the state of Indiana. I support the death penalty. I believe justice demands it in our most heinous cases.

But I think what you see in high relief here is a part of the American experiment that explains a lot of the prosperity and success our nation has had for more than two centuries and that is to allow states to have the freedom and flexibility to craft policies, whether it be in the area of criminal justice or whether be in the area of economic policy, in the area of education, in the area of health care, I would argue that will allow the states to be those laboratories of innovation and to reflect the values and the ideals —


CROWLEY: Same for Texas, I would assume.

PERRY: Absolutely. Let me to say, I think Jay articulated the death penalty position as well as anyone that I’ve heard in a while. The fact is — and I think Governor Malloy agrees with this strongly, as I know Mike does. When it gets back to — I trust Jay Nixon. I trust Governor Malloy. I trust Mike Pence. To make decisions in their states, along with their legislature and their people, substantially more than Washington, D.C. When it comes to health care, when it comes to education, when it comes to transportation policy, these four governors sitting at this table substantially know how to deliver services better, more efficiently and to keep their citizens happier.

CROWLEY: Which brings me to the minimum wage, which I wanted to ask you about again. I think we have two yes, let’s raise the minimum wage, and two not, but I’ll let you all speak for yourself. The president wants to raise the federal minimum wage. It’s an election year. That’s always a good election issue for Democrats.

In the end, the CBO sort of came out with this kind of mixed report saying, well, it would cost about half a million jobs by 2016. On the other hand, it would raise about a million people out of poverty.

MALLOY: Well, you know, the CBO has also said that Obamacare will save $1.5 trillion over the near term in health care costs. I actually think they’re right about that. They actually have said that all that we’ve done to bolster the economy is created over five million jobs or supported five million jobs. I happen to agree with that. My hunch is that some of my Republican colleagues won’t agree with those CBO reports.

So, I think there’s room for debate about this. Let me say this, Connecticut has raised minimum wage by 45 cents. We did it on January 1st. We’re going to do it again next January 1st. We’re going to eventually get to $10.10 by January 1st of 2017. We know that in our state, almost 60 percent of people earning a minimum wage are women. Nationally, only 12 percent of people earning minimum wage are teenagers.

We know that the vast majority of people earning the minimum wage are, in fact, trying to raise a family and we believe that we should have a minimum wage that’s at least as high as it was in 1968, adjusted for inflation.

CROWLEY: You don’t necessarily need the feds to do it because you’re doing it in your state.

MALLOY: We are going to do it in our state.

CROWLEY: I’m sorry because I got to move you on, but I wanted to ask you, because you’re going to get a chance to talk to the president tomorrow. And so, I want to know if you have something — there’s some Q&A, anything in particular that you all want to bring up to him?

PENCE: Well, I think the basic message is more freedom and more flexibility, Mr. President, whether it’d be in the area of health care, whether it’d be in transportation or in education. I truly believe that the cure for what ails this country will come more from our nation’s state capitals than it ever will from our nation’s capital. You know, I served out here for a dozen years.

I understand Washington and I see the gridlock and we’ve seen it before. But in the little more than 12 months, I’ve served as a governor. I’m absolutely convinced that empowering our states to innovate and reform — Indiana’s economy is on the move right now. 42,000 new private sector jobs in the last year. We’re now the lowest unemployment rate in the Midwest. It’s because in Indiana, we’ve been advancing balanced budgets, right to work, we’ve been cutting taxes, we’ve been promoting education reform. Let’s let our states innovate and this economy will come roaring back.

CROWLEY: Any arguments that you all would like as much flexibility as you can get. You guys got maybe 15 seconds.

MALLOY: Well, you know, there is this other issue out there, and that is that in the downsize in the military, we want to make sure that reserve and National Guard is protected in our country. I’m going to have that discussion with the president tomorrow. We cannot shrink that force the way that it is being proposed out of the defense department.

CROWLEY: As always, not enough time. Governor Malloy, Governor Nixon, Governor Perry, Governor Pence, thank you all. Have a good rest of the week. White House dinner –

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