Connecting state and local government leaders

Impacts of ‘Teacher Free Agency’ in Wisconsin’s Schools; Oklahoma Quake Causes Minor Damage

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker Shutterstock


Connecting state and local government leaders

Also in our Weekend State and Local News Digest: Voting Rights Act ruling reverberates in southern states; big spending on Calif. prescription drug initiative; and Sacramento’s really bright lights.

Here are some state and local government news stories that caught our eye this weekend ...

PUBLIC EDUCATION | Among the impacts that Wisconsin’s Act 10, the contentious measure pushed by Gov. Scott Walker and Republicans in 2011 that weakened public sector unions in the state, has been “teacher free agency” in public schools. Retaining teacher talent has been difficult because of Act 10's revolving-door effect in many school districts. Better-resourced school districts are able to attract better teachers by offering higher paychecks or signing bonuses. In the case of Dodgeville, one-fourth of the teaching staff left this summer left for better paying jobs in other districts. [Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel]

EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT | A magnitude 5.0 earthquake that hit Oklahoma on Sunday night and was felt in neighboring states reportedly caused some minor damage in and around the city of Cushing, including some gas leaks. Public schools in the impacted area will be closed Monday so damage assessments can be carried out. The quake was Oklahoma’s fifth-largest in recorded history. [The Tulsa World]

VOTER SUPPRESSION | Since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down part of the Voting Rights Act in 2013, 381 southern counties once monitored under the law have shut down at least 868 polling places—suppressing minority votes in the process, according to a new Leadership Conference Education Fund report. [Vox]

SPORTS ARENAS | The bright lights on the roof of the Golden 1 Center, the new sports arena where the Sacramento Kings play, have not been welcomed by residents in nearby mid-rise buildings, who have complained to the city about the glare. California’s state transportation agency has also fielded complaints from drivers on Interstate 5 who say the arena’s lighting is hazardous for drivers. [The Sacramento Bee]

LAND MANAGEMENT | In Utah, the School and Institutional Trust Administration has been selling off state trust parcels and half of the land auctioned off since 2014 has gone to the same buyer. The property acquisition has drawn the “curtain back on a quiet buying spree” by Joe Hunt, the chief executive of a controversial medical transportation company. [The Salt Lake Tribune]

MUNICIPAL PERMITTING | In Charleston, South Carolina, the municipal government has been working on ways to speed up the time agencies need to review permits for planning and construction. The number of applications has at an all-time high. "We have a lot going on. It's a good thing to be a growing city. It just requires strong management,” according to Charleston’s planning director. [The Post and Courier]

PRESCRIPTION DRUGS | More than $125 million has been spent on lobbying around California’s Proposition 61, which would cap the prices of prescription drugs at the rate the Department of Veterans Affairs pays for them, mostly by drug companies in opposition. [Business Insider]

CYBERSECURITY | North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple created a task force to analyze the potential impact of cyber threats on state government and will soon receive its final report recommending proactive monitoring of its network and increased scans. [Aberdeen News]

PUBLIC WORKS | A new, $65 million wastewater treatment plant in Billings, Montana represents the largest public works upgrade in state history and will ensure better odor control, as well as keep the city compliant when it comes to what’s being discharged into the Yellowstone River. [Billings Gazette]