Connecting state and local government leaders

Where Did Federal Funds for Cover Oregon Go?; N.C. May End Border Dispute With S.C.

Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber

Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber Don Ryan / AP Photo

 

Connecting state and local government leaders

Also in our State and Local Daily Digest: Federal prosecutors seek death penalty in Charleston; San Francisco remains a ‘sanctuary city'; and Boston’s sick of sick time.

SALEM, OREGON
INVESTIGATIONS | The Republican-controlled U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform wants the Justice Department and state attorney general to investigate Cover Oregon—which has been described as having arguably the worst rollout of an Affordable Care Act state exchange. Gov. John Kitzhaber’s administration is accused by the committee of both misusing federal funds for the creation of the state’s health insurance enrollment website and commingling them with political resources to benefit his reelection campaign. "More than $305 million in federal taxpayer dollars were sent to Oregon state for purposes of implementing a state exchange to benefit the people," reads a committee letter to the U.S. attorney general. "The state exchange never came to fruition, and the money is gone." Panel Democrats blamed Oracle Corporation for bungling the project in a separate report. [The Associated Press]

RALEIGH, NORTH CAROLINA
BORDER DISPUTE | Wrangling over state borders between North and South Carolina, that has played out for about two decades, may be moving nearer to a conclusion. North Carolina’s state Senate is scheduled to vote Wednesday on a plan to tweak the border in places near Charlotte. If passed by the state Senate, the changes would then need to win approval from the House, South Carolina legislators and governors in both states. But, if they do get finalized, 16 South Carolina homeowners would end up in North Carolina on Jan. 1, and three homes now in North Carolina would fall within South Carolina. There are provisions in the legislation designed to help people with the transition from one state to another; children could keep attending the same public schools, and properties could maintain existing utility services. One difficult aspect of the border proposal involves the Lake Wylie Mini Mart in Clover, South Carolina. Currently North Carolinians frequent the mart, drawn there by South Carolina’s lower gas taxes and laxer fireworks laws. Under the proposed changes to the state border, the storeowners who sell beer would also find themselves operating in a dry county. [The News & Observer]

CHARLESTON, SOUTH CAROLINA
DEATH PENALTY | U.S. federal prosecutors will seek the death penalty for Dylann Roof for the murder of nine churchgoers in Charleston, South Carolina. Only three federal prisoners have been executed in the last half century; the last execution carried out by the U.S. government was in 2003. However, even if Roof were given the death sentence, he can’t actually be executed. Since 2010, there has been a moratorium on federal executions related to an internal review of execution methods, specifically on lethal injection, due, in part, to a nationwide shortage of the drugs used in the process. [Vice News]

SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA
IMMIGRATION | City lawmakers voted unanimously Tuesday to keep in place “sanctuary city” protections, which limit when local law enforcement must notify federal immigration authorities about people who are in the country illegally. Under the measure the Board of Supervisors backed, protections would not cover certain individuals, such as those convicted of a violent crime in the past seven years. [San Francisco Examiner]

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS
SICK TIME | Gov. Charlie Baker wants to cap executive branch workers’ sick time accrual at 1,000 hours, or six months of work—“exorbitant” retirement payouts costing the state $3.5 million the past three years. Baker argues the bill he just filed will bring Massachusetts’ sick time policy in line with other states’ and the private sector’s. About 5,800 workers who’ve already exceeded 1,000 hours would be grandfathered in. “Sick leave is a benefit designed to offer employees a way to deal with health and family issues, not a retirement bonus,” Baker said. [WBUR-FM]

FLINT, MICHIGAN
WATER CRISIS | Taxpayers are footing a hefty bill for Gov. Rick Snyder’s legal troubles related to the Flint drinking water crisis. Records show that Snyder’s defense team costs the state almost $6,500 per day, and he spent nearly the entire $400,000 allocated for the legal contract with an outside firm in February and March alone. Critics of the fees believe that Snyder should be seeing state attorneys from the Attorney General’s Office or pay private firms using campaign funds, rather than using taxpayer dollars. Snyder argues that his need for a legal team is directly related to his actions as governor, and therefore it is appropriate for him to charge his fees to the state. If Snyder’s legal spending follows the precedent set so far this year, the outside legal fees charged to the state will likely exceed the $1.2 million figure given in March. [Detroit Free Press]

AUSTIN, TEXAS
BATHROOMS | Gov. Greg Abbott announced in a tweet that the Lone Star State will be suing the federal government over President Obama’s directive, instructing school districts to allow transgender students to use the bathroom that corresponds with their gender identity. Schools that disregard the president’s guidelines may risk losing federal funding. When asked about the cost of suing the government over this issue, Abbott said: “There is no price that can be put on a president violating the Constitution.” [The Texas Tribune]

CINCINNATI, OHIO
STREETCAR | A streetcar line is on track to begin carrying passengers Sept. 9, said a manager of rail services for the city’s METRO transit system on Tuesday. In order for the streetcar to become fully operational, each of its five cars will need to complete 100 laps around the 3.6-mile loop of track that runs through the city’s downtown. The line is expected to cost taxpayers about $148 million. [Cincinnati Enquirer]

TRENTON, NEW JERSEY
MARIJUANA | The Garden State stands to make at least $300 million a year in tax revenue, if it were to legalize the sale of marijuana for recreational use. This projection—which was released in a report by New Jersey Policy Perspective and New Jersey United for Marijuana Reform—is based on imposing a 25 percent sales tax on consumers. "The lessons from around the country are loud and clear: Marijuana legalization makes fiscal sense and it makes practical sense," said Policy Perspective analyst Brandon McKoy, who coauthored the report. At least one New Jersey lawmaker agrees. State Sen. Nicholas Scutari introduced the state’s first bill to legalize marijuana two years ago and plans to introduce a new bill this summer. "We would like to be the first on the East Coast,” he said. “That's why we would like to get out in front of it ... We need the money.” [Philly.com]

BATON ROUGE, LOUISIANA
ANTI-DISCRIMINATION | According to Attorney General Jeff Landry, Gov. John Bel Edwards’ executive order protecting people from discrimination in state government based on sexual orientation or gender identity is “merely aspirational and without any binding legal effect.” The problem, Landry says, is that the term “gender identity” is not one that has been defined in Louisiana state law. State Rep. Mike Johnson agreed with Landry saying that introducing new concepts into state law “opens up a Pandora’s box of problems.” [The Advocate]