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3 Pueblos in New Mexico Ask Feds to Stop State’s ‘Illegal Tax’

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Connecting state and local government leaders

Also in our State and Local Daily Digest: Oklahoma’s mercury-in-fish lake list grows; Philly neighborhood sees increased flooding; and N.C. Republicans seek more revenge on Cooper.

GAMBLING | New Mexico’s budget crisis has left it pinching pennies, so state gambling regulators have set their sights on three pueblos they say owe $40 million per an old casino revenue-sharing agreement. A new arrangement was made with most tribal casinos in 2015 excluding free play credits, used to entice gamblers to slot machines, from shared revenue. But New Mexico holds the money was never paid to its near-empty general fund under the old agreement, prompting the governors of Tesuque Pueblo, Sandia Pueblo and Isleta Pueblo to attempt to block the “illegal tax” in court. [Santa Fe New Mexican]

PUBLIC HEALTH | In Oklahoma, the state’s Department of Environmental Quality has added 14 lakes to its list of bodies of water that have elevated levels of mercury in fish. There are now 54 lakes on the state’s list, but the agency doesn’t want the public to be alarmed. “This is certainly not to discourage people from eating fish, it’s just about making informed choices.” [Tulsa World]

RESILIENCY | Climate change isn’t a distant concern for residents of Eastwick, a neighborhood built over a marsh in southwest Philadelphia. The community has already experienced frequent and severe flooding—in which water runs down the area’s streets like a river—and scientists say the problem will only get more serious. “It comes so fast, you can’t even think,” said Eastwick resident Janis Pugh. “It’s like a wave, like an ocean. They bring in boats to take people out. And people… you lose your car, the water is over top of your car.” Sarah Wu from the city’s Office of Sustainability said Philadelphia is doubling down on climate change mitigation, but they don’t have extra funds for frontline places like Eastwick. Meanwhile, the neighborhood is in the planning process to determine the future of 189 acres of public land—the outcome of that decision could make the problem better, or worse. [StateImpact]

BUDGET | Republican legislators in North Carolina continue their attempts to undercut Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s powers with a budget that cuts $1 million to his office, transfers Industrial Commission oversight from him to GOP-led offices, and limits his ability to hire private attorneys to challenge their legislation. “I’m keeping my eye on the big picture,” Cooper said. “What I am worried about is the fact that this budget has provided tax giveaways for those who have, instead of investing in education. I’m sure that’s political spite or something.” [The News & Observer]

TRAFFIC | The Hawaii Department of Transportation is overseeing five projects worth $70 million intended to reduce Wailua/Kapaa Kuhio Corridor congestion on underfunded Kauai. Others think rail is the only solution. “How much more is it going to cost to buy easements for a land-based rail system?” asked one resident during a public meeting. “Roads will not take care of the visitors coming here, trains can be used to take care of them.” [The Garden Island]

ENERGY | California produces so much energy from solar power that sometimes it is forced to pay other states to take some of that electricity of its hands. For example, over the course of 14 days in the month of March, the Golden State paid Arizona to take on excess electricity that had been overloading its power lines—a pretty good deal for Arizona. Grid operators have declined to say how much money a transaction like that costs California. That glut occurs in part because of conflicting energy agendas in the state, and the fact that no single state entity is in charge of energy policy. [Los Angeles Times]