Connecting state and local government leaders
STATE AND LOCAL NEWS ROUNDUP | Iowa’s incentives to lure an Apple data center; good news for a Kansas town lacking a hospital; and an Indiana sheriff “couldn't explain away images of his grabbing and pocketing large wads of cash” during his trial.
Our daily roundup of U.S. state and local government news is compiled by Route Fifty’s staff and edited by Michael Grass. Help us crowdsource link gathering: Flag state and local government news using the Twitter hashtags #localgovwire and #stategovwire.
With Hurricane Harvey bound for Texas, the disaster preparations underway are leading headlines, but here’s some state and local government news that might be overshadowed by the storm.
ENVIRONMENT | Nine states in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative plan to aggressively reduce power plant emissions over the next decade, announcing one of the largest pushes to combat climate change since President Trump moved to pull the U.S. from the Paris Agreement. All states agreed to curb emissions another 30 percent between 2020 and 2030, which would lower them more than 65 percent since 2009 using a market-based cap-and-trade approach. Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont are on board. “Market-based programs provide the most efficient, competitive, and lowest-risk way to meet state mandates to address climate change,” said Dan Dolan, New England Power Generators Association president. [The Boston Globe; E&E News via Scientific American]
Environmental regulators in Montana last week released proposed guidelines for radioactive oilfield waste dumps. Naturally occurring radiation is captured in “filter socks” as part of the hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, process. Drillers in North Dakota, where there was a fracking boom in recent years, found a haven for discarding radioactive drilling waste in Montana, a state with no administrative rules for the material. Officials in the Treasure State say the situation surrounding the disposal of the waste was not out of control. But advocates for protecting the environment are supportive of the new rules. [Billings Gazette]
LAW ENFORCEMENT | A federal jury handed down guilty verdicts in the case of the sheriff of Lake County, Indiana who was charged on six counts of wire fraud, honest services wire fraud and bribery. Sheriff John Buncich, now removed from office, “couldn't explain away images of his grabbing and pocketing large wads of cash taken surreptitiously by the FBI and their undercover agent” during the trial. [Times of Northwest Indiana / NWITimes.com]
Phoenix Police Chief Jeri Williams said that her officers acted properly during the protests outside President Trump’s recent campaign rally at the Phoenix Convention Center, where law enforcement used pepper spray and gas. The question is whether officers gave enough warning to the demonstrators to disperse before using them on the crowd. Williams said that officers gave warnings but that not everyone in the crowd may have heard them. [The Arizona Republic / AZCentral.com]
Springfield, Illinois: There’s been another big shakeup in the communications operations for Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner following a statement sent out on Tuesday citing the governor’s position as a “white male.” In a statement released Thursday, the Republican governor confirmed that four members of his communications staff submitted their resignations and have left his administration. [Chicago Sun-Times]
Corpus Christi, Texas: A federal judge found the state’s strict 2011 voter identification law continued to intentionally discriminate against minorities. The U.S. Justice Department under President Trump vacated the Obama administration’s position the law was intended to disenfranchise Democratic-leaning minorities, after a revamp earlier this year. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton vowed to appeal the ruling, which has now been found discriminatory in court five times. "Today's ruling is outrageous,” Paxton said. “Senate Bill 5 was passed by the people's representatives and includes all the changes to the Texas voter ID law requested by the 5th Circuit." [The Dallas Morning News]
Denver, Colorado: Commas, typos and omissions can have big unintended consequences in government. Just look at the Regional Transit District in the Denver area, which is losing around $500,000 per month due to the accidental elimination of special district funding by the state legislature. “It’s a good lesson to the legislators that words matter,” said Nate Curry, a RTD spokesman. “Even just a couple words in a bill can have a big impact.” [NextCity, h/t @MartinLindLA]
Sacramento, California: With recreational marijuana sales set to start in January across the Golden State, the state government is ramping up hiring for the revamped Bureau of Cannabis Control and other agencies that will have a hand in regulating the industry, including CalCannabis Cultivation Licensing and the Department of Public Health, which will test cannabis crops. [Fresno Bee]
Waukee, Iowa: State and local officials have decided to award Apple Inc. about $213 million in incentives in the coming years to support a proposed data center project in Waukee, a suburb of Des Moines. The company has plans to spend $1.3 billion to build two data centers, which would be powered with renewable energy, according to state documents. The data centers would create about 50 jobs. The Iowa Economic Development Authority chose to extend the company $19.65 million in tax incentives for the project. There is also a local match. The Waukee City Council approved a 71 percent property tax abatement over 20 years, worth $188,239,943 state records show. [The Des Moines Register]
Camden, New Jersey: “We're in a watershed moment in American policing," according to Camden County Police Chief J. Scott Thomson, who leads a department that is teaching its officers de-escalation tactics to avoid a fatal encounter. "There's an opportunity for much better results other than deadly force." Since Camden County took over responsibility for policing in the city of Camden in May 2013, police have killed two people who fired first and one person who pointed a replica gun, according to the department, whose numbers show that cops in Camden are “overwhelmingly holding their fire when faced with people who have weapons other than guns.” [NJ.com via @MayorsInnovation]
Independence, Kansas: Rural health care can be a major challenge in many places across the nation, but especially in this community in southeastern Kansas. Ever since Mercy Hospital closed two years ago, Independence hasn’t had a local hospital. But there’s a bit of good news. A regional hospital in Parsons, 30 miles away, opened a “state-of-the-art clinic” with an emergency room and small cancer treatment facility in Independence. “It’s as good as we can do at this point,” said a local business leader who helped lead an effort to raise $1.6 million for the facility. [KCUR via @KansasCounties]
Flint, Michigan: A judge wants to hear testimony from a handwriting expert before ruling on whether a recall election to remove Mayor Karen Weaver can be held in November. Weaver’s attorney points to numerous forgeries on petitions that were certified by the county clerk. [Michigan Radio]
Kansas City, Missouri: The Kansas City Public Library has raised its minimum wage to $10 per hour for many of its part-time workers, a move that comes during a point of ongoing tensions between the city and GOP-controlled state government. There is now a state law in place barring local governments from raising the minimum wage above the state’s $7.70 base hourly wage. But City Council members passed a resolution last week that encourages local employers to raise the minimum wage on their own. [KCTV]
Palm Beach, Florida: The president of the local Chamber of Commerce, Carrie Bradburn, apologized to Mar-a-Lago’s executive director, Laurel Baker, for urging charities to “have a conscience” about booking the venue, owned by President Trump. Baker received mostly positive feedback for her comments, which saw more than a dozen charities pull events from the club, but behind closed doors board members are displeased. Dale Hedrick of Hedrick Brothers Construction wanted a retraction or Baker fired for criticizing Trump’s refusal to unequivocally condemn white supremacist violence in Charlottesville, Virginia. [Palm Beach Daily News]