Connecting state and local government leaders

Alabama’s New Food Stamp Work Rules; Multiple Agencies Blamed for Fatal D.C. Metrorail Smoke Incident


Connecting state and local government leaders

Also in our State and Local Daily Digest: North Dakota budget to undergo historic budget downsizing; Tennessee concealed carry on public colleges; and Los Angeles eyes key river real estate.

SOCIAL SERVICES | The state of Alabama dropped 35,000 residents from its food stamp rolls due to new federal requirements that able-bodied adults work or lose their benefits. The change saved the state $6 million a month, after a federal waiver allowing 22 states to grant recession-related exemptions to Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program recipients ages 18-49 without at least part-time jobs expired. Unemployed SNAP recipients are now only entitled to three months of benefits within three years—losing about $150 to $170 each month without food stamps. Nationally, about 500,000 people were bumped from the rolls. []

TRANSIT SAFETY | The National Transportation Safety Board on Tuesday disclosed the probable cause of the January 2015 D.C. Metrorail tunnel smoke incident that was blamed in the death of one passenger. The federal safety board did not mince words regarding the safety record of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, saying that Metro has “ineffective inspection and maintenance practices.” The NTSB also was critical of the Federal Transit Administration and the District of Columbia’s 9-1-1 call center for delays in dispatching first responders. The NTSB also called Metro’s three-jurisdiction governance structure “uniquely dysfunctional.” [The Washington Post]

STATE BUDGETING | With North Dakota’s oil and farm sectors struggling, outgoing Gov. Jack Dalrymple plans to ask 58 state agencies for downsized two-year budgets for the first time since 2002. A $1.07 billion tax revenue shortfall means Dalrymple is expected to request budgets at 95 or even 90 percent of their base funding level. “There’s been enough growth in recent years that I think there’s enough room to deal with that without a whole lot of pain,” said state House Majority Leader Al Carlson, a Republican. [Forum News Service]

WATER CRISIS | President Barack Obama will visit Flint on Wednesday, as residents continue to stockpile bottled water from the 959,000 cases distributed so far and find alternate places to  shower in nearby towns. Some locals expect the the lead poisoning in the drinking water supply to last years, despite ongoing filter distribution and pipe replacement. An increasing number of citizens report rashes from bathing in the water, despite state health officials saying it’s safe to do so. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is investigating the uptick. [The Detroit News]

GUNS ON CAMPUS | Gov. Bill Haslam let a bill—allowing Tennessee’s public college employees to conceal but carry guns on campus—become law without his signature. “I have long stated a preference for systems and institutions to be able to make their own decisions regarding security issues on campus, and I again expressed this concern throughout the legislative process this year,” he said in a statement. “Although SB 2376 does not go as far as I would like in retaining campus control, the final version of the bill included input from higher education and was shaped to accommodate some of their concerns.” Employees who opt to carry firearms must notify law enforcement overseeing campus security and can’t bring guns to school-sponsored events or meetings. [The Commercial Appeal]

CORRECTIONS | The Hawaii Department of Public Safety will continue contracting with a for-profit prison on the U.S. mainland to house about 1,400 prisoners for up to five more years. A lone bidder, Corrections Corporation of America, is expected to be awarded the contract despite its Eloy, Arizona-based Saguaro Correctional Center’s troubled past. “This gets to the heart of one of the problems you have in Hawaii: They have nowhere else to go,” said one inmate activist. “If you want to incarcerate people at the same rate that you have been, you’re stuck. So you get in this very dependent relationship with these corporations. That’s a very dangerous place to be.” [Honolulu Civil Beat]

INFRASTRUCTURE | Salt Lake City International Airport will get a $740 million additional terminal, on top of one being replaced as part of a now $2.6 billion reconstruction effort. Work should be finished by 2020. "This addition is essential in building a state-of-the-art facility to help attract more business and tourism dollars, and completely in line with my plan for robust economic development," said Mayor Jackie Biskupski. [The Salt Lake Tribune]

ENVIRONMENT | A $600,000 initiative to build a reef from oyster shells collected from restaurants to restore the Lynnhaven River’s oyster population hasn’t gotten off the ground. The problem is Virginia Beach never signed an official agreement with Lynnhaven River NOW, the nonprofit that received most of the money from the Oyster Heritage Plan. An audit will determine if the funds were at least spent on oyster habitats. [The Virginian-Pilot]

URBAN PLANNING | Los Angeles may spend $60 million to purchase an old, 40-acre Union Pacific Railroad yard near the Los Angeles River. The location is key to the river’s revitalization plan because it connects Rio de Los Angeles State Park and Cypress Park to a vegetation-rich segment of the waterway. Sale negotiations are ongoing, however. [Los Angeles Daily News]

LGBT RIGHTS | U.S. Department of Education Secretary John B. King Jr. called for the repeal of laws discriminating against transgender people in North Carolina and Mississippi while speaking at the Education Writers Association’s national conference. He argued the legislation sends the wrong message to students. "My hope is legislators will realize they've made a terrible mistake," King Jr. said. [The Associated Press via U.S. News & World Report]

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

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