Connecting state and local government leaders

Cuomo Blocks N.Y.C.’s 5-Cent Plastic Bag Fee; Outdoor Retailers Put Utah on Notice

 (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

(AP Photo/Elaine Thompson) Elaine Thompson / AP Photo


Connecting state and local government leaders

Also in our State and Local Daily Digest: Pension refinancing in West Virginia; Denver’s homicides hit 10-year high; and a simple idea to reduce absenteeism in Philadelphia.

LOCAL CONTROL | New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a bill on Tuesday killing a New York City law that would have added a 5-cent fee to the use of plastic shopping bags. Cuomo’s action came just one day before the fee was scheduled to take effect. The governor took issue with the fact that the structure of the law would have allowed store owners to keep the money from the fee as profit—which he claimed would have amounted to about $100 million per year. [The New York Times]

PUBLIC LANDS | Outdoor retailers are continuing to pressure the state of Utah over public lands issues. About 30 executives from the industry, including the CEO of REI and a vice president at The North Face, sent a letter to Gov. Gary Herbert this week threatening to push for a twice-a-year trade show in Salt Lake City to be moved elsewhere. Utah's political leaders, the letter said, have spent “years championing a set of policies that we interpret to be a state and national attack on the sanctity of public lands, public access and ownership of them, and how our nation manages and protects them.” [The Salt Lake Tribune]

BUDGET | West Virginia House Finance Chairman Eric Nelson is looking to refinance the state’s pension debt to balance the state’s half-billion dollar budget gap. Under Nelson’s plan, the state pension debt, currently scheduled to be paid off in 2034, would be extended “a dozen years” under the plan. Nelson’s proposal is in contrast to Gov. Jim Justice’s budget proposal, which relies on additional taxes to deal with the budget gap. [WVMetroNews]

CORRECTIONS | Omaha, Nebraska’s City Council unanimously approved Dismas Charities Inc.’s plan to open a residential re-entry center for federal prisoners in an industrial park, after the nonprofit agreed to make a phone line available for neighborhood complaints. The center will house 95 people and prepare them for life outside of prison. [Omaha World-Herald]

Meanwhile, Warren County, Ohio, was hit with a lawsuit this week claiming the Warren County Jail was responsible for the death of an individual in their custody by repeatedly failing to provide appropriate mental health treatment during his four month incarceration. In addition to the county, the suit names the Warren County Commissioners, Correctional Healthcare Companies Inc., Warren County Sheriff Larry Sims, Warren County Jail physician Mohammed Baig and other jail staff as being responsible for the wrongful death. []

PAY GAP | Iowa state government workers received an average wage 149.76 percent higher than what private-sector workers were paid in 2015, the largest pay gap of any U.S. state, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data. One reason for the large discrepancy: taxpayers aren’t privy to state government worker union contract negotiations, per collective-bargaining laws allowing arbitrators to settle disputes with government. [The Toledo Chronicle]

RELIGION | Seattle Mayor Ed Murray announced that he will deliver his State of the City speech next week from a mosque instead of the Seattle city council chambers. "Both the city and Idris Mosque are committed to the American ideal of separation of church and state," said a statement from the Mayor's office. "With this address, Mayor Murray and Council are standing with Seattle's Muslim community in their house of worship as we fight state sanctioned discrimination by the Trump administration." []

BEHAVIORAL SCIENCE | Research out of Philadelphia has found that a simple postcard sent home to families may help reduce school absenteeism. As part of his research, Todd Rogers, a public policy professor at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government—working alongside the Philadelphia’s school district—divided families in the study into four groups. One group got no cards, the second group got a card extolling the virtues of attendance, the third were sent a card showing the number of days their child had missed, and the fourth received cards comparing their child’s number of missed days to the average. Among the students in groups three and four, chronic absenteeism dropped by roughly 10 percent. [Newsworks]

HOUSING | Advocates for preventing homelessness, a social service agency and students at Montana State University have been collaborating on a plan for a village of tiny-homes that could help house people who are homeless in Bozeman, Montana. [Bozeman Daily Chronicle]

CRIME | The number of homicides in Denver last year hit a 10-year high, as domestic violence incidents went up. There were 56 homicides in the city—11 were attributed to domestic violence. “Unfortunately, we had a number of women die last year. I hope it doesn’t repeat. But domestic violence is always going to be there until we change our culture,” said Abby Eschler, director of counseling and advocacy services at SafeHouse Denver. [The Denver Post]