Connecting state and local government leaders
STATE AND LOCAL NEWS ROUNDUP | Sexual abuse survivors urge change to Utah's constitution ... Philadelphia city council members push for a stimulus package for Black neighborhoods ... Tennessee passes strict abortion law.
With the coronavirus continuing its expansion in Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott warned that the state could see new restrictions if it isn’t brought under control by people adopting voluntary measures like wearing masks. The number of people in hospitals has doubled in the state since late May, while over the weekend thousands more people tested positive for Covid-19, the respiratory illness caused by the coronavirus. "To state the obvious, COVID-19 is now spreading at an unacceptable rate in Texas and it must be corralled," Abbott said. Imposing new lockdown restrictions on Texans “will always be the last option,” he added. The governor urged people to wear masks in public, while acknowledging that for some people, they have become a political issue. "I know that some people feel that wearing a mask is inconvenient or is like an infringement of freedom, but I also know that wearing a mask will help us to keep Texas open," said Abbott, a Republican. Local government leaders have expressed frustration with Abbott in recent days, saying they wanted to impose their own mask mandates. Eventually, they did last week, requiring businesses to enforce mask requirements. Other Republican leaders joined the governor in urging people to wear masks. "It's time to mask up. It’s time to employ personal responsibility—a key tenet of ensuring liberty and freedom,” said House Speaker Dennis Bonnen. [Texas Tribune; Houston Chronicle; Dallas Morning News]
UTAH CONSTITUTION | Utah sex abuse survivors are urging legislators to change the state’s constitution so they can sue the men they accuse of abusing them. The state Supreme Court last week ruled that a state law passed in 2018 to allow civil lawsuits to move forward despite previous time limitations is in conflict with the constitution. [Salt Lake Tribune]
AFFIRMATIVE ACTION | The California State Assembly passed a constitutional amendment to repeal Proposition 209, a ballot measure from 1996 that banned the state from considering race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin in governmental hiring and contracting and public education. The measure still has to be passed by the state Senate before it would appear on the ballot for voters in November. Assemblymember Shirley Weber said that “the ongoing pandemic, as well as recent tragedies of police violence, is forcing Californians to acknowledge the deep-seated inequality and far-reaching institutional failures that show that your race and gender still matter.” [Center Square]
BLACK STIMULUS | Some members of the Philadelphia City Council are pushing for a “Black stimulus package” that would allocate hundreds of millions of dollars for programs and investments in Black neighborhoods. Councilmember Maria Quiñones Sánchez said that the city should have a “moral budget” that “provides real economic security for our neighbors.” [WHYY]
ABORTION | The Tennessee legislature passed a bill banning abortion after the sixth week of pregnancy, with no exceptions for rape or incest. The ACLU plans to sue over the measure, which was passed during a late-night, last-minute vote without any public viewing. [ABC News]
Laura Maggi is the managing editor of Route Fifty and Emma Coleman is the assistant editor.