Connecting state and local government leaders

West Virginia’s Counties Sound Alarm as State Budget Impasse Looms

The West Virginia State Capitol in Charleston.

The West Virginia State Capitol in Charleston. Shutterstock

 

Connecting state and local government leaders

Also in our State and Local Daily Digest: Wisconsin may eliminate state treasurer; N.J. mayor facing corruption charges; and increasing penalties for killing a police dog.

STATE LEGISLATURES | West Virginia county leaders fear a state budget impasse could devastate their jurisdictions, especially those in the state Public Employees Insurance Agency. “We have counties that have been relatively healthy over the years, such as the southern coalfields, who are now struggling,” said Patti Hamilton with the West Virginia Association of Counties. “While we have empathy for the state, we do not have the luxury of raising a tax because the Legislature would have to give us the authority to do that.” [MetroNews]

Florida’s legislative leaders returned to Tallahassee on Tuesday for their new session and heard Gov. Rick Scott deliver his annual State of the State address, where he defended funding for state economic development and tourism promotion. According to Scott’s prepared remarks: “Enterprise Florida has been responsible for over 900 projects since I have been Governor, including helping businesses like Northrup Grumman, Lockheed Martin and Hertz add thousands of high wage jobs in Florida. And, we can easily show a great return on the investment of families' tax dollars because jobs are being created by more companies moving to our state.” [The News Service of Florida]

On Tuesday, Wisconsin state senators voted on a measure that would eliminate the position of state treasurer, an office that “no longer serves a purpose," according to a sponsor of the treasurer-axing legislation. If state Assembly members follow the Senate’s lead, Wisconsin voters would consider the measure in an April 2018 referendum. [Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel]

The Alabama House committee investigating impeachment charges for Gov. Robert Bentley met for the first time on Tuesday since the investigation process was suspended in November by then-Attorney General Luther Strange. During Tuesday’s meeting, members of the House Judiciary Committee debated concerns about potential double jeopardy with both a legislative and attorney general investigation going on simultaneously. Alabama hasn’t pursued an impeachment since 1915 and there’s little legal precedent to guide proceedings. The probe is in response to allegations from the former head of the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency who said that the governor had been having an affair with a top aide, Rebekah Mason, and had interfered with an investigation. When asked about the committee’s plans to renew its investigations, the governor said, "We'll see how things turn out. I think they're going to be fine. I'm an eternal optimist.”  [Montgomery Advertiser; AL.com]

CITY HALLS | Providence, Rhode Island, Mayor Jorge Elorza is seeking ways to raise more revenue for the cash-strapped city through more red-light cameras violations, higher taxes on hotel stays and some property owned by non-profit hospitals and universities. Elorza is asking state lawmakers to pass various pieces of legislation that would permit the city to raise additional revenue. [WPRI-TV]

Paterson, New Jersey, Mayor Joey Torres and three public works employees were expected to face corruption-related charges as soon as Tuesday. The mayor has faced recent scrutiny over allegations that he had municipal employees work on personal and family properties while on the clock for the city. [WNBC-TV; NJ.com]

Raleigh, North Carolina, Councilman David Cox isn’t happy with a new code of conduct, of which he was the sole opponent, that discourages City Council members from attending meetings with city staff and boards unless invited or revealing opinions on votes prior to hearings. Cox argues it’s a violation of the First Amendment right to free speech, but City Attorney Tom McCormick called the code “an aspirational document.” “It does not prohibit anyone going to meetings or speaking,” McCormick said. “It does attempt to point out some of the potentially deleterious effects some of those actions might have.” [The News & Observer]

RESILIENCY | Four Lexington County, South Carolina, neighborhoods have been granted permission by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to sell their flood-damaged homes to the government. About 120 buyout applications are expected with $10 million allotted for that purpose, $2 million for rehabs and $2.5 million for infrastructure. [WLTX19]

LAW ENFORCEMENT | In Kentucky, you can shoot a police dog and only face a felony if the animal dies. But state senators in the Bluegrass State are expected to approve legislation that would make shooting a police dog a felony regardless if the canine dies. Twelve states have such laws on the books while in 23 states, penalties depend on the severity of the dog’s injuries. [KCCI-TV]