Connecting state and local government leaders
STATE AND LOCAL ROUNDUP | Missouri judge rules in favor of Planned Parenthood … Report on missing and murdered indigenous women in Washington … New York City Council considers a ban on foie gras.
Google announced a $1 billion investment into housing in the San Francisco Bay Area, which is struggling with extremely high housing prices. The company’s plan is three-pronged: rezoning $750 million of Google’s land in Silicon Valley into residential housing to support the development of 15,000 new homes, establishing a $250 million investment fund to provide incentives to developers building affordable housing, and $50 million in grants to nonprofits focused on homelessness and displacement. In the company press release, Google noted that it is one of the region’s largest employers, and therefore sees the impact of the housing shortage every day. “The lack of new [housing] supply, combined with the rising cost of living, has resulted in a severe shortage of affordable housing options for long-time middle and low income residents,” the release reads. San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo released a statement praising the investment. “For several months, we have encouraged Google to make a bold commitment to address our region’s affordable housing challenge. We look forward to working with Google to ensure today’s announcement manifests into housing that will benefit thousands of San José residents struggling under the burden of high rents,” he said. The investment represents the largest one to date made by a tech company into housing. “This is a really big day. It signals that there’s a new day where private companies are stepping up and recognizing that they’re part of the fabric of our communities and they need to be part of the solution to the region’s most pressing problem: housing affordability,” said Jim Wunderman, president of the Bay Area Council. [Google; San Jose Spotlight; San Francisco Chronicle]
MISSOURI JUDGE | A state court judge in Missouri sided with Planned Parenthood in a case that questioned whether the state legislature had the authority to end Medicaid reimbursements to the organization. In his decision, Judge David Dowd wrote that “eligible individuals are allowed to choose the provider they wish to see and the state is required to pay for those services on behalf of the eligible individual.” The judge ruled that the legislature’s use of the fiscal 2019 appropriations bill to stop payments violated the state constitution. “For decades, Missouri has reimbursed Planned Parenthood [for women seeking] birth control, an IUD, just a normal pelvic exam,” said Charles Hatfield, Planned Parenthood’s attorney. The state has never reimbursed for abortions, though. “This isn’t really an abortion issue. This is a how-is-the-legislature-supposed-to-do-business issue,” said Hatfield. About 7,000 Medicaid users rely on Planned Parenthood’s clinics for healthcare, including cancer and STD screenings, but the ruling likely won’t restore their reimbursements, as the state plans to appeal. Republican Gov. Mike Parson released a statement confirming the state’s position. “Our office is still reviewing the court’s decision, however, we will always defend our position that no state taxpayer dollars should be used to fund abortion,” he said. [St. Louis Public Radio; KHQA; St. Louis Post-Dispatch; Jefferson City News Tribune]
MISSING AND MURDERED | A report commissioned by the Washington legislature on the state of investigations into missing and murdered indigenous women has been delivered. Washington State Patrol Captain Monica Alexander held ten meetings with indigenous leaders in the state to discuss the 56 missing women. “I go home with such a heavy heart after these meetings because I think about if my sister was missing and no one ever found her, no one ever knew what happened to her and no one seemed to care. That’s a horrible feeling,” she said. The report found that in order to solve these cases, the state needs “greater coordination and collaboration between tribal, state, local, and federal law enforcement agencies.” Gina Mosbrucker, the Republican representative who sponsored the legislation that created the report, said that trust between tribes and the government needs to be repaired in order for that to happen. “We’re asking [tribal members] to give the government...that they don’t trust because of intergenerational trauma...we’re asking them to share information, data, which is their family members and their daughters and sisters,” she said. [K5 News; Pacific Northwest Inlander; The Guardian]
FOIE GRAS | In New York City, there’s a fight over whether foie gras, a delicacy of fattened goose and duck liver, should be legal. A bill before city council would bar restaurants from serving the dish because of the method of force feeding used to fatten up the animals’ livers. “Force-feeding a duck for the sole purpose of … enlarging his liver to 10 times its normal size to create some bizarre delicacy is barbaric and disgusting,” said Allie Feldman Taylor, president of Voters for Animal Rights. But Andy Wetheim, the president of a D’Artagnan, a national distributor of foie gras, said that the impact of such legislation would hurt those who raise the animals. “[It would] drastically harm the business of small farmers in upstate New York, creating an industry domino effect with repercussions to the suppliers and companies,” he said. Councilwoman Carlina Rivera, who introduced the bill, said that about 1% of restaurants in New York serve the delicacy, meaning it wouldn’t have a drastic effect. Mayor Bill de Blasio’s spokesperson, Marcy Miranda, said the mayor has not yet decided whether to support the bill. “The safety and well-being of animals is important to this administration, but so are the jobs and livelihoods of New Yorkers whose paychecks depend on this industry,” she said. In January, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected a challenge to California’s ban on foie gras. [New York Post; Gothamist]
FLOODED FISHERIES | Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards has asked for a federal disaster declaration and investment to help save the state’s flooded fisheries, which have been decimated by high levels of freshwater from the Mississippi River. Freshwater has been inundating normally brackish environments because of the repeated opening this year of the Bonnet Carre Spillway—used when the river is too high north of New Orleans—which diverts water into Lake Pontchartrain. “Such a declaration of a federal disaster for Louisiana may help in obtaining federal financial assistance for our fishers, processors, docks, and for the state to help rehabilitate the important fishery species upon which our seafood industry relies,” Edwards said. Many species have been affected by coastal water’s decreased salinity, which in certain parts of St. Bernard Parish has caused a mortality rate of up to 100% amongst oysters, a 61% decrease in shrimp, a 42% decrease in blue crab, and a 40% decrease in speckled trout. [KSLA; Houma Today]
Emma Coleman is the assistant editor for Route Fifty.