Connecting state and local government leaders
STATE AND LOCAL ROUNDUP | Mayors testify before Congress about climate change … Alaska legislators sue the governor over education funding … Jury finds former governor of Iowa discriminated against gay state official.
The chairman of the Oregon Republican Party filed paperwork to launch a recall of Democratic Gov. Kate Brown, citing disagreements with some of the laws passed during the 2019 legislative session and Brown’s announcement that she would use executive powers to pass climate change legislation after Republicans walked out of the state Senate. “(Brown) has threatened to usurp legislative power with executive orders to implement her failed legislation, deciding single-handedly what is best for Oregon. This is not the Oregon way,” said chairman Bill Currier. Some Democrats have called the move hypocritical, and countered that the Republican senators who walked out of the legislature should be recalled instead. "First, Republicans held the legislative process hostage, now they want to undo the entire election. They claim it's about education funding and addressing climate change. But this is really about Trump's politics descending on Oregon. It has no place here and should go back to the morally corrupt place it came from,” said Thomas Wheatley a political advisor to the governor. Petitions to recall public officials can only be filed after those officials have served six months in office, a benchmark that Brown reached on Monday. Recalls are very difficult to pull off. In Oregon, the organizers would have to collect 280,050 in the next three months. If they achieve that, Brown would have five days to either resign or remain in office and provide an explanation for her decision to stay; that explanation would then be included on the ballot of a November special election. Currier acknowledged that accomplishing the task is “a tall order in a short amount of time.” All previous attempts to recall an Oregon governor have failed because recallers have never been able to collect the requisite number of signatures. [KATU; Herald and News; CNN]
MAYORS TESTIFYING | Five mayors testified before the Senate Special Committee on the Climate Crisis on Wednesday, explaining the impact of climate change on their cities. The mayors came from Honolulu, St. Paul, Pittsburgh, Portland, and Atlanta. “This hearing is about what cities across the country are doing to fight climate change,” said Brian Schatz, chair of the committee. “We want to broaden the basis of people who care about climate change because it’s no longer an abstract question for a lot of people. By bringing together our country’s mayors, we can understand how our cities are taking action against climate change and how the federal government can help.” Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms discussed the city’s plan to transition municipal operations to 100% clean energy usage by 2035 and efforts to similarly help residents transition to clean energy use. “We feel that this ambitious goal is critical to help reduce the worst impacts of climate change. We are taking concrete steps as part of this plan to ensure that every Atlantan, no matter their zip code, is protected from the adverse effects of climate change,” Bottoms said. Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler testified as to how the city has reduced carbon emissions even as the city’s population has grown. “The investments that have helped reduce carbon emissions are also what make people want to live, work and play in Portland. These investments include creating walkable neighborhoods with shopping, restaurants and parks; investing in transit, sidewalks and bikeways; protecting and restoring natural areas; and making our homes and buildings cheaper to operate and more comfortable,” Wheeler said. [Atlanta Journal Constitution; Honolulu Star-Advertiser; KGW8]
ALASKA EDUCATION FUNDING | The Alaska legislature filed a lawsuit against Republican Gov. Michael Dunleavy, citing the administration’s failure to disburse funds to K-12 public schools, which legislators said violated a mandate in the state constitution that schools to be “adequately funded.” State Rep. Louise Stutes, a Republican who serves as the vice chair of the Legislative Council, said that the move to sue was unanimous. “It’s the right thing to do,” Stutes said. “This money is owed to those schools. They created budgets based on this. And to withhold it...I have a hard time understanding it.” A few hours after the lawsuit was filed, the legislative and executive branches reached an agreement that the governor’s office will disburse funding to schools on a monthly basis throughout the course of the lawsuit. State Attorney General Kevin Clarkson said the agreement will ensure schools get funding in a timely manner. "We have a clear constitutional disagreement between the executive and legislative branches. But that should not impact our schools,” he said. The lawsuit is the latest source of tension between lawmakers and the governor, as last week, the two could not agree on where to hold a special legislative session, resulting in most of the legislature meeting in Juneau, while some lawmakers went to Wasila. [KTTU; Alaska Public Radio]
IOWA GOVERNOR | A jury awarded a gay former state employee $1.5 million in damages after finding that former Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad discriminated against him. Chris Godfrey, a Democrat, filed the lawsuit in 2012 against Branstad, a Republican, alleging that he had pressured him to resign over his sexual orientation and then cut his pay when he refused. Godfrey had been the state’s Workers’ Compensation Commissioner. Branstad testified during the trial that he has “always treated everyone, gay or straight, with respect and dignity,” and had asked every department head, including Godfrey, to resign so that he could install his own team. Godfrey was one of three department heads to refuse. The state of Iowa will be responsible for the $1.5 million owed to Godfrey, along with additional costs associated with his attorney’s fees; taxpayers there have already spent $1 million on private attorneys who defended the state. "We are disappointed in the verdict and are consulting with our attorneys," said Pat Garrett, a spokesman for current Gov. Kim Reynolds. Godfrey said that he hopes to receive an apology now. "I don’t know if that will be forthcoming or not. But I had a jury of fellow Iowans sit and listen to the evidence, and they made the determination that they discriminated and retaliated against me and violated my constitutional rights,” he said. [Des Moines Register; WHO-TV; WQAD]
DATA BREACH AMENDMENT | Illinois passed amendments to the state’s data breach notification law that will require companies to notify the attorney general in the event of certain data breaches. Any data breach affecting more than 500 state residents will need to be reported, along with the nature of the breach, the number of affected people, and the steps that must be taken to fix the issue. That report needs to be provided “in the most expedient time possible and without unreasonable delay but in no event later than when the data collector provides notice to consumers.” The new legislation also allows the attorney general to publish the name of the company that suffered the breach, the type of personal information that was stolen, and the date range of the breach. [Lexology; National Law Review]
Emma Coleman is the assistant editor for Route Fifty.