Connecting state and local government leaders

Isolated Rural Communities Brace for Trump’s Essential Air Service Cuts

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Connecting state and local government leaders

Also in our State and Local Weekend Digest: A massive fire in Raleigh raises big safety questions; New Mexico legislature adjourns without a balanced budget; and New Hampshire looks to millennial gamblers to raise revenue.

TRANSPORTATION | Small regional airports that serve predominately rural communities are preparing for potential cuts in service now that the federal Essential Air Service program has been put on the chopping block in President Trump’s recently released budget proposal. The EAS program was created after the airline industry was deregulated in 1978 to ensure that smaller rural communities didn’t lose air service. In Minnesota, that includes airports in Hibbing and International Falls. “If you want folks to live on the [Iron] Range and mine the ore and harvest the timber and make paper for the folks in Washington, D.C. to be able to print, some of us need to live out here," said Bob Anderson, the mayor of International Falls who is also the chairman of the International Falls-Koochiching County Airport Commission. [Duluth News Tribune]

STATE LEGISLATURES | State lawmakers in New Mexico, who wrapped up a 60-day legislative session on Saturday, are likely to be called back to Santa Fe by Gov. Susana Martinez, who accused them of failing to pass a balanced budget. “They actually squandered 60 days and cowed to special interest groups. It was reckless and it was irresponsible, and now we are staring down the path of a government shutdown,” said the Republican governor, who has vowed to block any tax increases and during the session. The Senate majority leader, Democrat Peter Wirth, said: “We passed a budget, a revenue bill and tax [overhaul] package—all three with overwhelming bipartisan support.” Beyond conflicts with Democrats, Martinez clashed with members of her own party. [Santa Fe New Mexican; Albuquerque Journal]

West Virginia state senators voted to eliminate a tax cut for wind turbines, passing legislation that would eliminate turbines being considered pollution-control facilities. Sen. Randy Smith, a Republican, who works at Metiki Coal, said that other industries don’t receive such a generous tax break. A Democratic legislator, Minority Whip Corey Palumbo, criticized the measure: “Why we’re singling one to pull the rug out from under them, but continue to provide it for all other types of industries is beyond my comprehension.” [Charleston Gazette Mail]

New Hampshire state lawmakers are considering raising new revenue by expanding gambling, including allowing online scratch tickets to attract millennial gamblers who aren’t as likely to buy the traditional scratch-off tickets like older generations. Convenience store owners are displeased with the proposal for online scratch tickets, fearing a loss in business. [The Concord Monitor]

On Friday in Topeka, members of the Kansas House approved legislation that would permit the appointment of a Cabinet-level cybersecurity czar and creates a way for the executive branch to address IT vulnerabilities discovered in confidential audits. [Topeka Capital Journal]

FIREFIGHTING | A giant fire that consumed an apartment building under construction near downtown Raleigh, North Carolina, on Thursday evening is raising questions about the safety of wood-frame construction for large multi-unit buildings. “There is a trend around the country to build these types of buildings all over the place,” said Barry Gupton, secretary to the N.C. Building Code Council. “They’re all over Raleigh, Charlotte, Greensboro, and other parts of the country too.” As Thursday’s fire demonstrated, wood-frame buildings are particularly vulnerable while they’re under construction, but once sprinklers and fire-resistant materials are installed, are considered safe. But some firefighters feel that under the right set of conditions, they’re still vulnerable. [@NewRaleighThe News & Observer]

A wildfire just west of Boulder, Colorado, forced the evacuation of around 1,000 residents early on Sunday, as firefighters battled the advancing blaze under difficult conditions. A section of Boulder within the city limits, including part of the downtown area, was placed under a pre-evacuation order. [Daily Camera]

LOCAL GOVERNMENT | The village of Oxford, Michigan, its village manager, board president, acting police chief and attorney are all the subject of a federal lawsuit filed by three volunteer police reservists who accuse the village leaders of violating due process of their constitutional rights. The three say they were publically embarrassed at a village meeting when they were wrongly accused of impersonating police officers. [The Detroit News]

Should the mayor of Wallingford, Connecticut, have closed Town Hall during last week’s Nor’easter storm? That’s the topic of discussion in the town near New Haven where Mayor William Dickinson Jr.’s decision to keep Town Hall open when Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy had issued a travel ban on state roads. The president of a union representing municipal employees says that Dickinson didn’t want to pay employees if they weren’t actually working. “It almost seems like the mayor puts his popularity with voters over the safety of employees,” said Chuck Ballard, president of AFSCME Co. 4 Local 1183. [Record-Journal]