Connecting state and local government leaders

West Virginia Prepares for Massive Higher Ed Cuts; Amtrak Crash Kills 2 in Pennsylvania

West Virginia University's campus

West Virginia University's campus


Connecting state and local government leaders

Also in our State and Local Daily Digest: Lead-poisoning concerns in New Jersey schools; Mississippi mayor’s sexting controversy; and world’s longest floating bridge opens in Seattle.

HIGHER EDUCATION | With a June 30 state budget deadline looming and a nearly $240 million funding shortfall, higher education officials in West Virginia are preparing for massive cuts. “The numbers are the numbers, and cuts will be made—probably on the back of our universities,” West Virginia Higher Education Commission Kathy Eddy said on Friday, who went on to say that “[m]any of our institutions are on edge” and are “incredibly close to going out of business.” [Charleston Gazette-Mail]

TRANSPORTATION | Two Amtrak personnel were killed on Sunday morning when a Savannah, Georgia-bound train crashed into a backhoe along the busy Northeast Corridor near this city near the Pennsylvania-Delaware border. The train was carrying 341 passengers and seven crew members. Thirty-five people were injured in the collision. Limited rail service was restored along the Northeast Corridor between Philadelphia and Wilmington, Delaware by mid afternoon. Federal investigators have started an inquiry into what caused the collision. []  

COMMISSIONS | The Fresno-Clovis Metropolitan Solid Waste Commission recently met after not having a meeting in 22 years, though there’s no evidence that the commission actually met on June 8, 1994, the last scheduled gathering of the body. The commission was created by California state legislators in 1977 to help local communities secure landfill space. “This was a commission that time and bureaucrats forgot,” Fresno County Supervisor Andreas Borgeas said. The commission recently met to disband. [Fresno Bee]

CORRUPTION | The federal judge sentencing former New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver—convicted of accepting as much as $4 million in bribes—wants information on all other politicians’ prison sentences in the last five years for reference. Silver faces 130 years maximum but is expected to get off easier because he’s 72. Since 2010, Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara’s office has secured corruption convictions against more than 20 politicians, including the 10-year sentence of former City Councilman Daniel Halloran and seven-year sentence of former state Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith. That’s quite the list. [New York Daily News]

CRIME | Miami-Dade police arrested 20 people suspected of purloining more than $1.5 million in plastic crates for carrying milk and bread at retail stores across the U.S. The crime racket grinded up thousands of crates for recycling daily in return for cash. A private investigator uncovered the operation and alerted Miami-Dade’s Economics Bureau and State Attorney’s Office. [Miami Herald]

CORRECTIONS | Missouri’s Department of Corrections eased its record-keeping policies following a critical state audit of its executioner payroll. Cash payments in the hundreds of thousands of dollars were made to reduce the paper trail and mask the identities of the executioners. When called out for not relying on witnesses to sign off on payments, the agency simply did away with them. [BuzzFeed News]

WATER | Almost a quarter of water samples from Newark schools were found to have lead concentrations above the Environmental Protection Agency’s action threshold, though only 5 percent came from drinking water. Concentrations were 10 times the federal threshold in some cases, and fountain and kitchen faucets have since been shut down in 30 schools pending results of lead poisoning tests. “I don’t think there’s any question but that legislative leaders—state and federal—need to treat this as a wake-up call,” said school district Superintendent Christopher Cerf. [The New York Times]

SEXTING | A nude photo of Hernando, Mississippi’s Mayor Chip Johnson has been making its rounds on social media. The mayor, who’s in the midst of a divorce, said it was a privately messaged picture to a consenting woman, who decided to send it to at least a few of the city’s aldermen. He’s consulting his attorney about recourse. "I hope it doesn't reflect on the city,” Johnson said. [The Commercial Appeal]

INFRASTRUCTURE | The Washington State Department of Transportation opened the world’s longest floating bridge on Saturday, a span that carries State Route 520 across Lake Washington between Seattle and Medina. The new 1.5 mile-long structure replaces a floating bridge originally that built in the early 1960s and was vulnerable to potential failure in a large earthquake. [Washington State Department of Transportation]

WASTE MANAGEMENT | The latest city looking at municipal composting services to reduce landfill space and curb methane emissions? Boise. But there’s no firm proposal yet on how to move forward. A 2014 study showed that organic waste accounted for approximately 46 percent of waste generated by Boise residents. [Idaho Statesman]

Michael Grass is Executive Editor and Dave Nyczepir a News Editor at Government Executive’s Route Fifty.

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