Connecting state and local government leaders

Pennsylvania’s ‘Johnstown Flood Tax’ May End Up Helping Johnstown Again

A dramatized depiction of the Johnstown Flood of 1889.

A dramatized depiction of the Johnstown Flood of 1889. Shutterstock


Connecting state and local government leaders

STATE AND LOCAL ROUNDUP | Judge orders LePage to act on Maine Medicaid expansion … no big shakeup expected under Missouri’s new governor … and Baltimore’s unofficial sewage overflow.

Here are state and local government news stories that caught Route Fifty’s attention.

  • Johnstown, Pennsylvania: Three years after Prohibition ended, Pennsylvania lawmakers passed the Johnstown Flood Tax on alcohol sales that was designed to help fund recovery efforts following the 1936 floods that hit Johnstown and other communities in western Pennsylvania. “They used Johnstown's notoriety to pass an emergency tax to fund the recovery efforts for the Western Pennsylvania areas that were affected by that flood,” said Richard Burkert, president and CEO of the Johnstown Area Heritage Association, referring to the Johnstown flood disaster of 1889, which killed 2,200 people. “It stayed on the books, and at some point it reverted to the General Fund.” Amid calls to repeal the Johnstown Flood Tax, there’s a legislative proposal to use its revenue to help fiscally distressed cities that are under Pennsylvania Act 47 state oversight, including Johnstown. [Pittsburgh Tribune-Review]
  • Jefferson City, Missouri: Eric Greitens, who resigned the governorship last week facing impeachment amid a multiple scandals, may have made his exit from the state capital, but key members of his administration will be staying. “Gov. Greitens brought together a good team to the state of Missouri. I don’t anticipate any changes in the Cabinet,” lieutenant governor-turned-Gov. Mike Parson said Monday, his “first full working day.” [St. Louis Post-Dispatch]
The Maine State Capitol in Augusta (Shutterstock)
  • Augusta, Maine: A state Superior Court judge ordered Maine Gov. Paul LePage to follow through on a voter-approved ballot initiative to expand Medicaid in the state, something that he has previously resisted. Advocates of such an expansion, bringing benefits to around 80,000 low-income adults, sued LePage’s administration when it missed an April deadline to file paperwork with the federal government that would make those benefits available on July 2. [Politico]
  • Willington, Connecticut: During a tour on Monday, U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson told local homeowners Maggie and Vincent Perracchio that the federal government would help them figure out a way to fix their failing foundation, something that isn’t covered under their homeowners insurance. Other Connecticut homeowners are facing similar troubles with the foundations. There’s “a mineral known as pyrrhotite—used in the concrete aggregate—is partly to blame” that has been “thought to be limited to Connecticut, but homes in Massachusetts have also started showing symptoms of foundation failure.” [Hartford Courant]
  • Tulsa, Oklahoma: With the Arkansas River running very low through the Tulsa area, thousands of “fish crowded into shallow pools below the dam in often futile efforts to survive” and ultimately died. For state officials, the fishkill “incident increases worry and may serve as an example of how complicated it may be in the future to manage water flows with more low-water dams planned for the river.” [The Tulsa World]
  • Baltimore, Maryland: When there’s a 10,000-gallon-or-higher sewage overflow into Jones Falls, which can happen during periods of heavy rainfall, Baltimore city officials are required to report that to the Maryland Department of the Environment. But the the city’s reporting only accounts for sewage coming from the official overflow pipe—known as SSO No. 67—and “does not include wastewater coming up from underground sewer lines through manhole covers.” [Baltimore Brew]
  • Seattle, Washington: As increasinging numbers of homeless people in the Pacific Northwest’s most-populous city sleep in RVs and vehicles compared to pitching tents and making other makeshift shelters, a new program the Mayor Jenny Durkan’s administration “quietly started in mid-May” seeks to clean-up clusters of vehicles that are posing risks public health with accumulated garbage and waste. Since May 11, the city has towed seven vehicles and 101 others left problem areas voluntarily. [The Seattle Times]
  • Fort Worth, Texas: It’s not necessary uncommon for cities to take design cues from their city seals and other recognizable community icons and incorporating them into public buildings and art installations. In Fort Worth, the “Molly” longhorn logo long associated with the city have inspired the design for new benches outside city hall that will double as vehicle barriers. [KXAS-TV /]

Michael Grass is Executive Editor of Government Executive’s Route Fifty and is based in Seattle.

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