Connecting state and local government leaders

Texas Governor Slashes State Air Quality Funding

El Paso, Texas.

El Paso, Texas.

 

Connecting state and local government leaders

Also in our State and Local Daily Digest: Beach town’s “bare-chestedness” dispute; Pa. automatic license-plate readers; and South Carolina’s new “front porch.”

AIR QUALITY | Texas Gov. Greg Abbott followed up the Trump administration’s plan to roll back air quality regulations nationally by cutting $6 billion to the state clean air program with a line-item veto. In April, the Republican-controlled legislature siphoned $20 million from the program to put toward “Alternatives to Abortion” centers, which often masquerade as real medical clinics near those that provide actual prenatal health care and abortions. The conservative governor said clean air programs can be funded locally, as the money currently doesn’t go to the worst-polluted areas. That doesn’t help San Antonio, which set goals to improve its poor air quality and remains on track to hit the Obama administration’s benchmarks. Dallas, Fort Worth and Houston have been slow to improve air quality and require state funding to start in earnest. [San Antonio Current]

Eric Garcetti and Robert Garcia, the Democratic mayors of Los Angeles and Long Beach, respectively, signed an agreement on Monday to move towards the adoption of zero-emissions trucks and other equipment at their cities’ respective port complexes—which see more container trip traffic than any other port in the nation. These city-owned ports remain the largest single source of smog-forming pollution in all of Southern California, despite strides to reduce emissions. [Los Angeles Times]

RESORT TOWN POLITICS | Local leaders in Ocean City, Maryland, on Saturday preemptively banned women from going topless on its beaches with an “emergency” ordinance, in response to Chelsea Covington, an advocate of  “normalizing female bare-chestedness,” seeking a legal opinion from the state attorney general on the matter last year, which is still unresolved. Ocean City’s ordinance states “[t]here is no constitutional right” to public nudity and that the equal protection clause doesn’t ask “government pretend there are no physiological differences between men and women.” In reality, the male and female breast are identical save for the lobules that allow women to produce milk. Mayor Rick Meehan said the city was a “family resort,” and their rights were being protected. Generally, women who go topless are foreign visitors who happily comply when informed of beach rules. [The Baltimore Sun]

PUBLIC SPACES | Columbia, South Carolina has won $195,000 prize from The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation to turn the grounds of its Statehouse into a temporary park called “The State’s Front Porch.” The site would include cafes, hammocks, beach chairs, ping pong tables and putting greens. But, some state officials aren’t so sure that’s a good idea. The South Carolina Department of Administration, the office tasked with maintaining the Statehouse grounds, worries that the project clashes with their mandate of “maintaining the appropriate decorum, aesthetic or level of dignity required for the grounds,” agency director Marcia Adams wrote to Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin last month. [The Post and Courier]

PUBLIC HEALTH | Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards has signed three bills into law intended to address the state’s opioid epidemic. House Bill 192 implements a seven-day limit on first-time opioid painkiller prescriptions—with exceptions made for cancer patients, hospice patients and other extenuating circumstances. Senate Bill 55 will require prescribers to check the state’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Program before writing an order for an opioid, and to check the database every 90 days to prevent doctor shopping by patients. And, House Bill 490 creates a 13-member advisory council to develop policy recommendations to combat the crisis. [The Advocate]

LAW ENFORCEMENT | Pennsylvania police agencies’ use of automatic license plate readers is being questioned, with American Civil Liberties Union attorney Nathan Wessler warning aggregation of information into databases monitoring non-criminal vehicle movements over extended periods of time raises privacy concerns. Wessler advised the state legislature and city councils to “adopt strict limits” on data retention. The Pennsylvania State Police, Pittsburgh Parking Authority and Port Authority of Allegheny County all use ALPRs with limited oversight save for the parking agency, which limits retention to 30 days. [WESA-FM]