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STATE AND LOCAL ROUNDUP | Georgia Republicans pass state elections overhaul… Investigation finds Orange County homeless shelters riddled with problems… A Florida town’s two arrested mayors.
Greetings. Route Fifty’s state-and-local government news roundup leads with news from Virginia, where governor Northam is wielding his veto pen … Also news from Georgia, California, Colorado, Florida and Washington.
CAP AND TRADE | Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam vetoed legislation on Thursday that aimed to limit his authority to enter the state into a regional carbon cap-and-trade pact that is designed to battle climate change by pushing power companies to limit emissions. Northam, a Democrat, made joining the northeastern and mid-Atlantic state Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative a priority for his administration. The Republican-supported House Bill 2269, would have required the governor to win approval of the Republican-controlled legislature before the state could join the Initiative. “America’s leaders have taken several bipartisan actions to protect human health from air pollution, as they did with the Clean Air Act of 1970 and the amendments to it in 1977 and 1990,” Northam wrote in a statement announcing the veto. “Slowing climate change and reducing its potentially devastating impacts should be no different, especially in a Commonwealth that faces some of the worst climate-related challenges of any state.” Lawmakers and industry representatives who oppose the regional cap-and-trade initiative say it places a costly burden on the energy sector and that it gives too much policy authority to unelected regulators. Northam on Thursday also vetoed a bill that would weaken his power to limit carbon emissions from cars. Northam has survived a stormy few weeks, holding onto his seat in the face of widespread calls for him to resign after a racist photo surfaced last month from his medical school yearbook and he admitted to wearing blackface in the 1980s [WBOC, Daily Press, NPR]
ELECTION ADMINISTRATION | In a party-line vote, Republicans in the Georgia Senate greenlighted a new statewide system that includes touch screens and paper ballots that Democrats and election integrity groups have criticized for years as just as insecure and unverifiable as the state’s current electronic voting machines. The state’s House is expected to quickly sign off on the version of the bill passed by the Senate. The overhaul will cost the state $150 million. “This is a secure system,” one Republican senator said during debate. But Democrats called for a return to paper ballots that include bubbles marked by voters in pen, which they say is less susceptible to meddling. Georgia—like Delaware, Louisiana and South Carolina—currently relies entirely on electronic voting machines that leave no verifiable paper trail, and so render recounts impossible. Georgia elections administration has drawn lawsuits and made national headlines for years. Last fall then-Secretary of State Brian Kemp defeated former Democratic state Rep. Stacey Abrams in a tight race that featured what Democrats viewed as suspect voter-roll purges and shuttered polling places. [Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Politico]
HOMELESSNESS | An investigation launched by the ACLU found three of Orange County’s emergency homeless shelters riddled with problems, including reports of physical and sexual abuse, neglect of residents with disabilities and mental illnesses, and filthy bug-ridden conditions. The iconic, wealthy Southern California county has struggled to manage a homeless population that low-estimates place around 5,000 people. A spokesperson said the county is taking time to fully review the report and respond. [Los Angeles Times]
HOSPITAL BILL TRANSPARENCY | The Colorado legislature is on course to pass legislation aimed at lowering health care costs by requiring hospitals to report to the state many of their expenditures. The state House last month approved its version of the bill. [Denver Post]
JAILED MAYORS | Terrence Rowe, the acting mayor of Port Richey, Florida was arrested Wednesday and faces obstruction of justice and conspiracy charges. On Thursday, state agents said in a police report that Rowe conspired with the man he replaced, former Mayor Dale Massad, to intimidate a police officer, according to the Tampa Bay Times. Massad was already facing criminal charges for allegedly shooting at SWAT team members who had come to arrest him on a charge of practicing medicine without a license. In a court hearing, defense attorneys for Massad told a judge that the two mayors weren’t conspiring, while also saying their client didn’t shoot at officers but fired a gun because he believed they were not real police trying to break into his house. The paper wasn’t able to reach Rowe for comment. [Tampa Bay Times]
HEADLESS GOAT | Police Chief Dominic Rizzi of Wapato, Washington says a decapitated goat carcass was likely left intentionally outside the home of Mayor Dora Alvarez-Roa as a form of intimidation. The town of 5,000 residents located about 150 miles southeast of Seattle has been the site of fractious politics in recent months. Rizzi said he’s still investigating the goat incident and on Wednesday plead with residents to be civil to one another. “Let’s stop this now, before it gets out of hand,” he said. [Komo News]
John Tomasic is a journalist who lives in Seattle.