Connecting state and local government leaders
STATE AND LOCAL ROUNDUP | Legislation to stop phone scams in Georgia … New York to establish first veterans cemetery … Socialist Seattle City Council member prevails despite Amazon opposition.
Last week, the Ohio Senate passed a bill that would require physicians to inform patients that an abortion can be reversed over the objections of doctors who say that abortion reversals are not scientifically proven and are likely ineffective. The process is only considered for medication abortions, which require patients to take two pills 72 hours apart. Under the bill, physicians would be required to tell patients that an abortion reversal is possible within the first 24 hours of the process if the patient takes a drug to counteract the first pill. Physicians who violate the provisions would be charged with a misdemeanor on the first offense and a felony on any subsequent offenses. The sponsor of the bill, state Sen. Peggy Lehner, a Republican who was once the president of Ohio Right to Life, said the bill is meant to provide women options. “It’s not at all difficult to imagine a woman in the middle of this process having second thoughts. This legislation simply gives women information on an alternative choice if they change their mind and want to continue their pregnancy," she said. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists warns that abortion reversals are experimental and unproven, and should not be recommended by doctors. In response to the reversal measure, two Democratic lawmakers, state Reps. Beth Liston and Allison Russo, who are both doctors, introduced legislation that would prevent the state from mandating physicians provide patients with information that is not evidence-based and supported by mainstream medical associations. “We are taking medical decision making out of the hands of the people who know it best. I don’t think the government should be practicing medicine. I think that we really want to protect people and make sure they are receiving care from the people who have the best training. In the case of some of these abortion bills, I feel like we shouldn’t be experimenting on pregnant women and in some cases, that’s what’s being proposed," Liston said. Eight states have passed abortion reversal laws, and judges have blocked two of them. [WOSU; Cincinnati.com; Cleveland.com]
PHONE SCAMS | A state legislator in Georgia has introduced a bill that would fine telemarketers or others who use fake or disguised phone numbers with the intent of defrauding or scamming residents of the state. The bill would create a $2,000 fine for the now commonplace practice of robocallers using fake phone numbers to trick people into believing the caller is local. State Rep. Rick Williams, a Republican, said that the legislation is intended to protect the information of state residents and to prevent misrepresentation. “Disguising caller identification does not only pose a risk to the recipients of these calls, but it hurts Georgia businesses whose name and phone numbers are being misappropriated,” said Williams. Tarun Wadhwa, founder of tech advisory firm Day One Insights, said technology has made phone scamming much easier. "It's going to be like Photoshop—something so easy, widespread, and well known that we stop tracking how it's being used against people personally and don't find it surprising. I can easily imagine situations in which these sorts of voice-mimicry technologies are used to sow confusion, extort people and make fraud and scams far more precise," he said. Similar legislation to the Georgia proposal has been introduced in several other states and is also being considered in Congress. [Atlanta Journal-Constitution; WJBF; CNN Business]
VETERANS CEMETERY | New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo plans to introduce legislation to create the state’s first cemetery for veterans. The legislation will include steps to apply for federal funding for the cemetery, and a plan for selecting the location. "By establishing the state's first veterans cemetery, we can provide a permanent monument to these heroes who've made our freedom possible and provide their family members—and people from across the state — a place to visit to honor their memories,” Cuomo said. New York is one of only a few states without a veterans cemetery. New York has stalled because the process of applying for federal funds or land requires states to set aside 15 years’ worth of care costs in advance. New York State Division of Veterans' Services Director Col. Jim McDonough said that the move is important to the 750,000 veterans living in the state. "The creation of New York's State Veterans Cemetery Program delivers on the Governor's commitment to care for those who have served. In death, as in life, they deserve nothing less than our highest esteem and our everlasting tributes,” he said. [WBFO; WKBW]
SOCIALIST CITY COUNCIL | Seattle’s lone socialist city councilmember, Kshama Sawant, emerged victorious over opponent Egan Orion last week, winning 51.7% of the vote despite trailing by eight percentage points during early ballot tallies. Sawant’s win is significant because she was the target of Amazon opposition after she introduced a “head tax” last year that would have taxed the company on a per-employee basis. Amazon spent $1.5 million on the city council races in Seattle this year, with almost $500,000 going to Orion. Sawant cheered the victory as a direct blow to Amazon. “Working people in our city have stood up and said, ‘Seattle is not for sale.’ It looks like our movement has won, and defended our socialist City Council seat for working people against the richest man in the world,” Sawant said, referencing Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. Justin Marlowe, a professor at the University of Washington, said that Amazon will have to reconsider their strategy in the wake of the city council elections. “Amazon will come to the table and be willing to work with the City Council in a way that they have not in the past,” he said. [Seattle Times; Washington Post]
NICOTINE AGE | A bill in Minnesota would raise the purchasing age for nicotine products from 18 to 21. Minneapolis has already changed the age to 21, but some lawmakers believe the age should be statewide after three Minnesotans died from vaping-related lung injuries this year. State Sen. Carla Nelson, a Republican, said that the state needs to act. “There's a point where you don't want a hodgepodge of different rules in different cities, or different areas or different towns,” she said. Wally Sakallah, a smoke shop owner in the state, said that the age increase wouldn’t stop underage smoking or vaping. “Put this money in school and education, tell people how to make the right decision. That’s where you start, that’s how you make people stop smoking,” he said. [Minnesota Daily]
Emma Coleman is the assistant editor for Route Fifty.