Gov. Pete Ricketts' State of the State address in January focused on business, economic development, growing and marketing Nebraska, regulatory reform and cutting taxes, strong themes of his administration.
Governors in surrounding states — all are Republicans except one — also talked to their legislatures about building businesses and cutting regulations and taxes, but many of them held up the importance of education, the beauty of their states, health care and the needs of their rural communities.
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, 58, the area's only female governor and Iowa's first, talked about tax reform, repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act, correcting errors in how managed care was done in Iowa, making education a priority, and providing compassionate mental health care.
But she paused early in her speech to talk about “something that has captured the attention of the entire nation.” Sexual harassment.
She commended the women who have had the courage to speak out.
"Throughout history, sexual harassment has been a stain on our culture, a destructive force — in politics, media and entertainment, in workplaces large and small — in all facets of life. And it must stop."
She acknowledged kindness, respect and morality cannot be legislated. They must be taught.
"All of us in public office must ensure not only a safe workplace but serve as a model for the public and private sector," she said.
Her spokeswoman, Brenna Smith, said Reynolds understands the country is at an important moment in history, and leaders are often required to talk about things outside their comfort zone. Her remarks were well-received and generated "a great deal" of interest among the public, on social media and in news stories.
"As a working mother, Gov. Reynolds will always be an advocate for women and their advancement, whether they work inside or outside the home. Every Iowan deserves a safe and respectful workplace free from harassment," Smith said.
Reynolds has been in office about eight months, the former lieutenant governor taking over last May, after Gov. Terry Branstad was confirmed as U.S. ambassador to China. She faces election this year.
It was Reynolds' first Condition of the State address, but it was the last for Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, 61. He resigned effective Jan. 31 to become U.S. Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom.
In his address, Brownback focused on education, and his “dreams for the state.”
Among those dreams were to make Kansas the "Air Capital of the World," by increasing defense and commercial aircraft manufacturing and drone technology, building air frames, engines and doing extensive maintenance work.
"They will say, 'If it flies, it must be from Wichita,'" he said.
Those dreams also included schools that will be "character-forming places that back up the family and produce a stronger person. Where patriotism flourishes, civic duty is instilled and all students achieve."
He wanted to invest $600 million in school funding over five years, he said, with five objectives for K-12 education: Higher average teacher pay than surrounding states; more school counselors and psychologists; 50 schools participating in a redesign project; every high school offering 15 dual-credit coursework hours with higher education at no extra cost to parents; and ACT college entrance or career skills assessment at no cost to families.
The word topophilia showed up in the final State of the State address by Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, 66, the lone Democrat. Topophilia means love of place, he explained.
"If you've seen a sunrise over the plains ... drank a cold beer after a day of hunting, or consider Rocktober a real month, you've experienced it," he said.
Hickenlooper acknowledged, as some other governors did, that while some areas of the state were thriving, rural areas were not.
"We need more good jobs in rural Colorado," he said. "We need to make it easier for anyone to love any part of Colorado and start a business here."
He talked about the Affordable Care Act, pumping millions of dollars into education, more job training, clean air, improved infrastructure.
"We need our friends in Washington to finally move past the tired fight over the Affordable Care Act," he said. "It's not perfect, and we need to strengthen it in lots of ways — but it has helped reduce our uninsured rate by half."
He said the work on higher education will continue. During the past seven years, he said, the state put more than $250 million into support of higher education, and needs to do more.
"They are engines of our economy," Hickenlooper said.
South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard, 64, also gave his final State of the State, focusing on education, workforce development and regulatory reform.
While regulations play an important role in protecting the public, he said, the state must ensure it isn't used to keep qualified workers out of the market.
"From the perspective of businesses and employers, our state does not have enough workers in many skilled fields, and this is a barrier to economic growth," he said.
Part of the answer, he said, is education — making sure South Dakota kids graduate from high school, then pursue some post-secondary education. To that end, the state started "Career Launch," to encourage more high schools to expand work-based education experiences, and increasing dual-credit opportunities.
In his second State of the State speech, Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens, 43, talked about helping foster kids, rolling back regulations on businesses, jobs, cutting taxes, and banning gifts from lobbyists to state employees in the administrative branch.
He said his team was working on 20 legislative initiatives to help children in need.
“Tonight, I want to ask the members of this body to do something straightforward: Put politics on hold. Set any differences you may have with one another, or with me, to the side. These are children. These are kids,” Greitens said.
Things have not gone well for Greitens since shortly after that speech.
All the attention has shifted to an accusation that Greitens had an extramarital affair, which he acknowledged, and that he took a nude photograph of the woman without her consent to keep her from speaking about their affair. That part he denied.
Some lawmakers have called for his resignation, and a criminal investigation has been launched.
Wyoming Gov. Matthew Mead, 55, was the last in the area to give his State of the State address, on Feb. 12.
He celebrated the delisting of grizzly bears and wolves as endangered species and the fact that sage grouse were prevented from being listed.
He highlighted suicide prevention and said the state must stay on top of reducing opioid addiction and deaths.
In Wyoming, prescription painkillers are a leading form of drug abuse for 12- to 25-year-olds, Mead said.
Mead told lawmakers that reductions were made to four of the last eight Wyoming state budgets, but the Department of Health, the Department of Family Services, state Corrections and the State Fair were cut too much. A reduction last session effectively eliminated the Wyoming State Fair, he said.
And while his administration and the Legislature look to find savings, they should do nothing that lessens Wyoming's long-held view on the value of a great education. And they should not shy from looking at reasonable reductions or additional revenue and broadening the tax base, looking at lodging tax and tobacco tax.
Mead thanked teachers and quoted Wyoming Territorial Gov. John Wesley Hoyt: "Without the intelligence of its people no community may hope to maintain a free government. It augurs well for the future of the commonwealth that at the very beginning broad foundations were laid in the interest of education."