Connecting state and local government leaders

Will Trump Help Houston Prepare for Hurricane Disaster?

A car swamped by flood water in Houston, Texas.

A car swamped by flood water in Houston, Texas.

 

Connecting state and local government leaders

Also in our State and Local Digest: Louisiana tax plan halted; class-action lawsuit over N.Y. subway accessibility; and dry conditions prompt venomous snake warning in Florida.

RESILIENCY | In Texas, officials across the political spectrum agree that Houston needs better protection from a major hurricane. The nation’s fourth-largest city, which is a major port and petrochemical hub, is extremely vulnerable to storm surge and has been lucky that a worst-case scenario hasn’t become reality yet. It’s just a matter of time, though. A group of Texas officials, including Land Commissioner George P. Bush, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, other Houston-area mayors and legislative members, have signed a letter that asks President Trump for $15 billion to construct a massive coastal barrier to protect the Houston area. [The Texas Tribune]

TRANSPORTATION | Cars without people in them could be moving through public streets in California before the end of the year. The state’s Department of Motor Vehicles plans to issue rules this year that will allow companies to test autonomous vehicles—without humans standing by behind the wheel—for the first time. [The Sacramento Bee]

A proposed transportation sales tax died in the Colorado Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday, meaning that any effort to put a measure in front of voters would have to be done outside the legislature through the citizen initiative process. [Denver Business Journal]

Two lawsuits filed Tuesday allege the Metropolitan Transportation Authority discriminates against people with disabilities, due to a lack of elevators and lifts in the New York City subway system. More than 75 percent of the city’s 472 subway stations don’t have elevators or other equipment to make them accessible for people in wheelchairs and others who are unable to go up and down stairs. The plaintiffs who filed the lawsuits include disability groups and disabled residents. [amNY; New York Post; The New York Times]

STATE LEGISLATURES | A tax reform package being pushed by Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards has hit a roadblock in the legislature. Edwards, a Democrat, had proposed the Corporate Activity Tax as major part of his fiscal package, but lawmakers, including some fellow Democrats, have cooled to the plan, which would raise taxes on corporations while reducing them for most state residents. The CAT proposal, like some of the governor’s previous fiscal proposals, has been opposed by anti-tax groups, including an entity affiliated with a conservative political action committee. [WAFB-TV; The Advocate]

Illinois’ Democratic-controlled House approved legislation that would see the state cover abortions for state employees and Medicaid recipients. Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner has gone on record saying he opposes publicly funded abortions, despite advocating for expanded access to abortion services on the campaign trail. [Pantagraph]

North Carolina’s legislature is once again pushing to have local government notices and legal items posted on websites instead of in newspapers, a bill passing the state Senate. Zoning proposals, contract bids and foreclosures are all covered, and counties could charge for them to be viewed to fund local teacher pay. The difference seems to be between saving taxpayers money or hurting local newspapers while making info less accessible. [The Associated Press via Winston-Salem Journal]

WILDLIFE | In central Florida, an ongoing drought that has caused low water levels in lakes and swamps could lead to more venomous snake sightings in neighborhoods. Herpetologist Bob Cross said the dry weather is forcing snakes like cottonmouths to relocate as they search for water and that they’re “going to be traveling like the gators.” [WFTV-9]

A stretch of the New Jersey Meadowlands that was once a garbage wasteland has been transformed into a treasure of the natural world—the area attracts bird enthusiasts with its variety of species. But within that haven danger lurks. Kingsland Landfill, as the aree was once known, has been closed for thirty years, but one vestige of the dump remains: a flare created to deal with methane created by decomposing trash that burns continuously, reaching heights of 20 feet and temperatures of nearly 1,000 degrees. That flame—which is invisible—can prove fatal to birds. Large birds have been found in the area with singed wings, and some bird-watchers believe smaller species are simply incinerated. [The New York Times]