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State and Local Daily Digest: Did Ore. Occupiers Disturb Tribal Relics Digging Latrine?; N.C. Lawmakers Target LGBT Ordinance

Sean Anderson, a supporter of the group that occupied the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, looks through binoculars at the front gate on Jan. 6 near Burns, Ore.

Sean Anderson, a supporter of the group that occupied the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, looks through binoculars at the front gate on Jan. 6 near Burns, Ore. Rick Bowmer / AP Photo

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Connecting state and local government leaders

Also in our news roundup: Atlantic City’s mayor warns of government shutdown; Austin’s trees worth $16 billion; and Colorado hunters pretty in pink.

TRIBAL RELATIONS | A Montana man disturbed an archaeological site belonging to the Burns Paiute tribe while using heavy machinery to dig a latrine for fellow occupiers of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, according to a federal indictment. Tribal leaders asked authorities during the occupation to prosecute anyone who damaged sacred petroglyphs, and the indictment charges 25-year-old Jake Ryan with doing more than $1,000 in damage to federal property, conspiring to prevent federal employees from using the refuge between Jan. 2 and Feb. 12 and possessing dangerous weapons on the grounds. Agents said they found “significant amounts” of human feces in at least one of two large trenches the occupiers dug. [The Oregonian]

LGBT RIGHTS | Republican state lawmakers used an obscure constitutional provision to call a special session aimed at blocking Charlotte’s new LGBT nondiscrimination ordinance. Additional city protections for the LGBT community are slated to take effect April 1, including one allowing transgender people to enter whatever restroom they identify with. The session will cost North Carolina taxpayers an estimated $42,000 a day. “We aim to repeal this ordinance before it goes into effect to provide for the privacy and protection of the women and children of our state,” said Lt. Gov. Dan Forest and House Speaker Tim Moore in a joint statement.” [The News & Observer]

GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN | Mayor Donald Guardian plans a government shutdown of nonessential services in his resort city from April 8 to May 2, when quarterly tax revenue arrives, unless New Jersey provides aid. Public safety and sanitation personnel would continue working without pay until the government could cover their salaries, and the situation could regularly repeat itself until the state steps in. Atlantic City has struggled fiscally since four of its 12 casinos closed, damaging its tax base, and may be in line for a state financial takeover. [The Associated Press via The New York Times]

NATURAL RESOURCES | Turns out you can put a price on trees, and Austin’s are worth about $16 billion. U.S. and Texas A&M forest service researchers came to that “compensatory value” for the 33.8 million trees in the urban forest after examining trunk size, species, condition and location among 200 randomly selected plots. The report is the first in a series looking at urban forests nationwide to assist lawmakers like Austin’s, whose protective tree ordinance has come under fire from Gov. Greg Abbott. [Austin American-Statesman]

HUNTING | Following in Wisconsin’s footsteps, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper is expected to sign a bill allowing hunters to wear hot pink as a safety precaution from other hunters. Intended to encourage female hunters, the color—just like traditional blaze orange—is undetectable to animals like elk, deer, pronghorn, moose, and black bears. [The AP via The Denver Post]

PUERTO RICO | The U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments in Puerto Rico’s case to restructure its public utilities debt. Justice Samuel Alito recused himself, while a replacement for Justice Antonin Scalia’s empty seat has yet to be confirmed. Lower court rulings backed municipal bondholders—many on the mainland—who the commonwealth owes billions of dollars and who claimed the restructuring was illegal under federal bankruptcy law. Congress could still pass a law superseding SCOTUS. [The Bond Buyer]

HIGHER EDUCATION | U.S. university endowments have taken a hit this fiscal year, and the University of Louisville’s is no exception. The $646 million endowment contracted 17 percent, leading to the firing of poorly performing managers, shifting of assets into private equity and pulling of money from hedge funds to cover operating budget contributions. A portfolio weighted toward natural resources and energy, particularly around the Houston area, is to blame, though the endowment is standing by its investment in emerging markets. [Bloomberg Business]

PARKING | City Council will be briefed Tuesday on a plan to pay for its portion of the Sacramento Kings’ new arena by extending downtown parking meter hours from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. and hours for a portion of midtown meters to 8 p.m. A system called SpotZone will also be launched on all recently installed smart meters allowing drivers to add time for a premium price. The changes would target fans attending nighttime events at Golden 1 Center, opening in October, and are projected to generate $5.3 million in new parking revenue. [The Sacramento Bee]

WATER | Flint, Michigan’s water crisis concerns have reached Philadelphia, where the joint committee on Children and Youth & Public Health and Human Services addressed Monday the possibility of lead contamination in homes and schools. Water Commissioner Debra McCarty asserted, “Philadelphia’s water is lead free,” citing a customer sampling program since 1992, but 2014 city tests found contamination in one home more than eight times the Environmental Protection Agency’s limit—not enough to violate federal law, however. McCarty clarified lead pipes were to blame, and Water Department officials proposed zero-interest loans for homeowners looking to replace them, as well as education initiatives. But no timetable was given. [The Guardian]

WILDLIFE | County researchers tracking where invasive Burmese pythons live bagged more than 2,000 pounds of the snakes in three months, including one 16-foot-long male weighing 140 pounds—a state record. Pythons are now one of South Florida’s top predators, and researchers are outfitting male “snitch snakes” with radio trackers and following them to their “mating balls” full of other pythons. The snakes have nearly wiped out the Everglades’ population of marsh rabbits and could be responsible for a decrease in deer. [Miami Herald]

Dave Nyczepir is a News Editor at Government Executive’s Route Fifty.

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