Connecting state and local government leaders
STATE & LOCAL ROUNDUP: Louisiana governor’s “ugly” budget; explore Florida's unsolved homicide cases; and why Lincoln, Nebraska will see big benefits from New York's future subway cars.
Here’s a roundup of recent state and local government stories that caught Route FIfty’s eye ...
NET NEUTRALITY | Montana Gov. Steve Bullock signed an executive order on Monday to protect net neutrality in his state, requiring that “successful recipients of state contracts adhere to internet neutrality principles,” according to an announcement from the governor’s office. Bullock, a Democrat, said during an event with computer science students at the high school in Helena where he graduated from:
“For as long as you, or I, or anyone in this room has used the internet, we’ve had certain expectations about how things work. We’ve had access to a free and open internet. But a free and open internet is no longer guaranteed. The loss of internet neutrality principles threatens the future of the students standing in this very room.”
Enforcing the executive order could be challenged in court, but the governor’s action appears to try to sidestep Federal Communication Commission prememption by tying net neutrality to state contracts. [Montana Gov. Steve Bullock; Ars Technica]
STATE BUDGETS | "It's honest. It's ugly," Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said of his budget proposal, which includes nearly $994 million in state budget cuts and would “eliminate mental health services, reduce support for people with disabilities and likely close hospitals.” Edwards, a Democrat, said that the proposal is not one that he wants to see, but something that would be difficult to avoid without Republicans in the legislature coming to a compromise on renewing and raising taxes. [The Times-Picayune / NOLA.com]
As mid-year state budget cuts loom big over the Iowa state legislature, Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds is looking for $20 million in cuts. State prisons would see $3.4 million worth of budget cuts while Iowa’s three state universities would see $5.1 million in cuts. [Radio Iowa]
PUBLIC HEALTH | People impacted by the drinking water crisis in Flint, Michigan between April 2014 and October 2015 are being encouraged to pre-enroll in a new federally funded registry designed “to connect them to programs and other resources that serve to minimize the effects of lead on their health while promoting wellness and recovery.” The Flint Registry, which is voluntary will be fully operational in September. The challenge for public health officials: Regaining trust. “It’s going to take a long time to rebuild that trust and I understand where people are coming from and they have every reason to be angry and not trust what anyone is doing because the city of Flint and its residents were betrayed,” Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha of Michigan State University’s College of Human Medicine told reporters during a news conference on Monday. [Route Fifty; The Flint Registry; MLive via YouTube]
LAW ENFORCEMENT | The Florida Department of Law Enforcement has launched a new website to feature some of the state’s unsolved homicides. There are currently 400 cases on the site, submitted by local law enforcement agencies. In Orlando, there are more than 100 cold cases dating back to the 1960s. The Orange County Sheriff’s Office has 248 cold cases since 1937. [FDLE; Orlando Sentinel]
CORRUPTION TRIAL | Opening arguments started in the public corruption trial of Ed Pawlowski, the long-time Democratic mayor of Allentown, Pennsylvania. “This is a case about bribery, about fraud and about lies,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Anthony Wzorek said on Monday in federal court. The mayor’s attorney says that although Pawlowski does not need to testify, he will do so and “bare his soul.” [The Morning Call]
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT | While New York City straphangers should be pleased to hear of a new $3.4 billion contract awarded to Kawasaki to build and deliver as many 1,612 new subway cars, economic development boosters in and around Lincoln, Nebraska should be even more pleased. Kawasaki’s Lincoln plant play a leading role in building the new rail cars, which is the largest such contract it has from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the New York state agency that operates the nation's busiest subway system. The economic impact in Lincoln "could be felt for years to come." [Omaha World-Herald; Lincoln Journal Star]
PENSIONS | The unfunded pension liabilities for plans covering current and former city and county employees in San Diego are still short by a combined $6.25 billion despite strong investment earnings in 2017. [Voice of San Diego]
PUBLIC WORKS | First comes the “bomb cyclone,” then comes the potholes. A warm-up following the recent wicked Nor’easter in New England has meant that pothole season has arrived a bit earlier than some had expected.. "That change in temperature is always going to bring out the worst on potholes and the degradation of or failure of patches," according to Brian Gilbert, the superintendent of public works in Tewksbury, Massachusetts, about 30 miles northwest of Boston. Nearby in Lowell, the public works department is filling about 40 potholes per day. [Lowell Sun]
TRANSPORTATION | While a new commuter rail service connecting New Haven and Hartford in Connecticut with Springfield, Massachusetts is supposed to start service in May, there’s a long list of questions about unfinished track upgrades and long-term questions about sustainability of funding sources amid ongoing federal uncertainty and the Nutmeg State’s current transportation crisis. [Hartford Courant]
Wise words from transit planning and policy consultant Jarrett Walker on fears of tech-driven disruption of agencies: “Technology is a tool, not a goal. The job of local government—including transit agencies—is to serve the goals and aspirations of citizens. That, not fear of technological change, should be the foundation of their decisions.” [CityLab]
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy signed an executive order calling for an audit of the finances, personnel practices and customer service operations of New Jersey Transit, the state’s beleaguered commuter rail agency, saying that with the the audit, the agency will be "boiled down to its essentials and put back together." [The Record / NorthJersey.com]
Michael Grass is Executive Editor of Government Executive's Route Fifty and is based in Seattle.
NEXT STORY Oakland’s Website Overhaul Is Underway