Connecting state and local government leaders

Alaska Gets Federal Grant for Untested Rape Kits; Fiscal Emergency Declared in Ohio City

A pair of panties from a sexual assault evidence kit are measured before testing for semen.

A pair of panties from a sexual assault evidence kit are measured before testing for semen. Pat Sullivan / AP Photo


Connecting state and local government leaders

Also in our State and Local Daily Digest: Neb. mayor in big legal fight with council over budget; W.Va.’s fireworks tax payouts to firefighters; and Cuomo signs law for burying pets in N.Y. state cemeteries.

RAPE KITS | Alaska has received a $1.1 million federal grant to process 1,000 of the state’s sexual assault evidence kits that have never been tested. "These kits represent real people who are the victims of horrific crimes. We owe it to them, and all Alaskans, to end this pattern and ensure sexual assault kits are processed in a timely manner,” said Gov. Bill Walker in a statement. Alaska’s backlog on this type of evidence includes more than 3,600 never-submitted kits. Testing for this type of evidence is costly—$1,000 to $1,500 per kit on average. Amanda Price, the Gov. Walker’s senior adviser for crime policy and prevention believes that up to 40 percent of the kits tested as a result of the $1,090,450 grant will lead to some kind of investigation. [Alaska Dispatch News]

FISCAL EMERGENCY | State Auditor Dave Yost declared a financial emergency in Norwood, after 12 years of the city being on fiscal watch. The upgrade came as a result of a deficit fund balance totalling $306,111 as of June 30. “The City of Norwood’s fiscal health has continued to decline with each passing year,” Yost said. “As always, my office is available to assist the city in finding a remedy to its situation.” That assistance will come in the form of a financial planning and supervision commission tasked with developing a plan, within 120 days of first meeting, to end the emergency conditions. [WLWT 5]

BUDGETING | Mayor Chris Beutler has prevailed in a legal battle with the City Council over Lincoln’s city budget. A county judge ruled Wednesday that the mayor’s proposed budget is the city’s legal budget and the City Council has a duty to approve a property tax hike that would balance the spending plan. The Republican Council majority had argued that the budget it approved should be Lincoln’s legal budget and that Beutler could not veto it. The council members also took the position that they had discretion over setting the property tax rate. “Despite the disagreement, we should remember that the council and I agree on most budget matters,” Beutler said in a statement. [Lincoln Journal Star]

OIL TRAINS | The planning commission here voted 3-2 Wednesday to reject a controversial oil-by-rail plan Phillips 66 Co. had proposed. The company was seeking approval for a 1.3-mile rail spur between its Nipomo Mesa refinery and a main rail line so it could accept crude oil deliveries from trains. The refinery currently receives crude via pipeline. A Phillips 66 representative said the company would weigh the possibility of an appeal. [The Tribune]

TAXES | West Virginia’s 428 volunteer fire departments will be getting checks for $428 for the first quarter of payments from the state’s new 12 percent tax on consumer fireworks. The amount of that payment for the fire departments is just a coincidence. From the first two months of legal sales of higher-powered fireworks in West Virginia, $740,000 of tax revenue was generated. A state law that established the fireworks safety tax guarantees 75 percent of the revenue be used to build nursing homes for veterans and the other 25 percent divided among the state’s volunteer fire department. [Charleston Gazette-Mail]

PETS | Thanks to a new state law, New Yorkers will have the option to be buried along side their four-legged furry family members. Pets that are cremated will now be allowed to join their owners in the state’s cemeteries. Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who signed the bill into law acknowledged that animals are already seen as “family for many New Yorkers.” In a statement, Gov. Cuomo asked, “Who are we to stand in the way if someone’s final wish includes spending eternity with them?” [The New York Times]