‘Montanans Have Lost Decades of Public Information’; New Year Brings Higher Minimum Wage

The Montana State Capitol in Helena

The Montana State Capitol in Helena Shutterstock


Connecting state and local government leaders

Also in our State and Local Daily Digest: Some drought relief in California; Harrisburg’s ex-mayor wants his curios and collectibles back; and Toledo vs. suburbs water struggle.

OPEN GOVERNMENT | “Montanans have lost decades of public information.” In fact, no state government emails are currently in the state archive, which is supposed to be the repository for important state records, including emails. “State law is being violated,” according to Montana’s Senate majority leader. [Missoulian]

MINIMUM WAGE | The new year will bring higher wages in 19 states. Those earning minimum wage (and the businesses paying them) in Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, South Dakota, Vermont, and Washington will all be impacted. In addition to those 19, Oregon, Washington, D.C., and Maryland will all increase their minimum wage later this year.  [ABCNews]

Meanwhile, the Iowa Legislature will debate whether to preempt local jurisdictions that have set higher minimum wages when they convene later this month. [The Gazette]

DROUGHT | California is getting some relief from relentlessly dry weather conditions that have left the state parched in recent years. “This is what we’re supposed to be getting,” said Johnnie Powell, a weather forecaster with the National Weather Service. “After six years of a drought, I love saying that. This is normal rain and snow that we’re supposed to be getting in December and January.”  [Los Angeles Times]

That doesn’t mean that California’s ongoing water woes are over. A new conservation plan expected to be released by the state this month is designed to make nimble use of water “a way of life.” [The Washington Post]

In other California water-related news... tension is building over a proposed desalination plant in Los Angeles County. [Los Angeles Times]

And drought concerns aren’t just limited to California. Water districts in parched areas of Tennessee are re-evaluating their conservation plans. [The Tennessean]

2018 ELECTIONS | The 2018 race to replace Colorado’s Democratic governor, John Hickenlooper, is beginning to take shape. Hickenlooper will be term-limited out of office after two four-years terms. A few of the prospective candidates include: former U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar and current U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter on the Democratic side and State Treasurer Walker Stapleton and District Attorney George Brauchler on the Republican side. Only two Republicans have won the governor’s office in Colorado during the past 60 years. [The Denver Post]

MUNICIPAL CORRUPTION | The former mayor of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, Stephen R. Reed, wants his curios and collectibles back. In 2015, state investigators seized 1,791 items from Reed’s home and other places. He was charged with hundreds of counts of theft, bribery and fraud, some involving allegations he used public money to pay for illegitimate expenses, including collectibles and artifacts. The charges have since been amended to 112 counts. In a 10-page motion filed last Friday, Reed’s lawyers argue the state Attorney General’s Office did not have cause to seize all of the items they took, which included “World War II paraphernalia, Egyptian themed items, political memorabilia, and even a Denver Broncos canvas bag.” [PennLive.com]

INTERGOVERNMENTAL RELATIONS | Some suburban jurisdictions that buy water from Toledo, Ohio, have been rethinking their current arrangement with Ohio’s fourth-largest city following the August 2014 toxic algae crisis. While no formal proposals have been submitted, there’s been discussion about whether to create a regional water authority or severing ties with the municipal water authority to create a suburban water system. Going it alone would lead to higher rates for Toledo residents. [The Blade]