Connecting state and local government leaders
STATE AND LOCAL ROUNDUP | Oregon governor supports tax returns release bill … Lawsuit over 911 operations in Cincinnati … Nebraska trains addiction specialists.
New Hampshire’s Republican Gov. Chris Sununu vetoed a bipartisan bill that would have created an independent redistricting commission in the state. The commission would have redrawn the state’s legislative and congressional district maps. Sununu said he decided to veto the bill because it would create a committee that was “unelected and unaccountable to the voters” since it excluded elected officials and recent lobbyists. “Legislators should not abrogate their responsibility to the voters and delegate authority to an unelected and unaccountable commission selected by political party bosses,” Sununu said. The secretary of state would have selected members for the 15-member commission from a list of applicants, and state lawmakers would still have ultimate authority to approve the maps. Some supporters of the bill said that the veto could actually hurt Sununu’s party, which is in the minority at the state legislature. “The commission would be charged with drawing congressional and state maps under a process split equally among Democrats, Republicans, and unaffiliated voters, with the legislature giving final approval. And this new process would allow voters to participate and monitor map drawing. With his veto, the governor is throwing out a plan that would ensure Republicans are treated fairly in the next round of redistricting even if Democrats do well in next year’s elections,” said Yurij Rudensky, counsel for the Brennan Center for Justice’s democracy program, an organization which helped write the bill to create the commission. A growing number of states have started the process for creating independent commissions and New Hampshire would have been the ninth state to name one. The tactic could gain even more traction after the Supreme Court’s recent decision to forbid federal courts from deciding partisan gerrymandering cases. The current New Hampshire maps have been shown to give a disproportionate number of seats in the state legislature to Republicans. "In the 11 state elections since 1994, Republicans have often come out with 10 to 15 percent more seats in the Senate than a neutral map would have yielded. The imbalance has been particularly stark over the past three elections," wrote New Hampshire Public Radio in an analysis of state election results. State Rep. Marjorie Smith, a Democrat who wrote the bill, said she was disappointed in Sununu’s choice to override bipartisan support of the bill. “Today the governor chose to ignore the bipartisan action of the Legislature and deny voters the right to choose whom they would like to vote for, and he should be ashamed of himself for doing so,” Smith said. [NBC News; Think Progress; The Hill; Union Leader]
TAX RETURNS | Oregon Gov. Kate Brown said this week that she would sign a law a bill requiring presidential candidates to release their tax returns in order to appear on the state’s primary ballot. “We have to hold our elected officials accountable. I think this is just one way of doing it,” said Brown, a Democrat. Bills like these are seen as direct challenges to Donald Trump’s presidential reelection campaign. California was the first state to adopt this law. “These are extraordinary times and states have a legal and moral duty to do everything in their power to ensure leaders seeking the highest offices meet minimal standards, and to restore public confidence. The disclosure required by this bill will shed light on conflicts of interest, self-dealing, or influence from domestic and foreign business interest,” said California Gov. Gavin Newsom, also a Democrat. Trump and the Republican party have sued California over the law, calling it a “naked political attack.” But Brown said that she “suspect[s] you’ll see other legislation like this in the future” and noted that the Democratically-controlled legislature in Oregon still has time to consider such a move before their state’s primary. [Oregonian; HuffPost]
911 PROBLEMS | A lawsuit has been filed against the city of Cincinnati by the parents of a teen who died in 2018 after 911 operators failed to dispatch the fire department or paramedics to the Honda van where he was pinned under a seat. He used Siri on his phone to make two calls before becoming unresponsive. The family of Kyle Plush sued for compensation and for the 911 system to be reformed under court supervision. City officials said Kyle’s death has already prompted some changes, including key officials resigning, moving supervision of the 911 system to the city manager’s office, and new training for operators. “As a result, the Emergency Communications Center exceeds state and national standards for 9-1-1 call answering. We have developed and implemented these changes in a transparent and collaborative manner,” said City Manager Patrick Duhaney. The lawsuit, along with two reports commissioned by the family, criticizes the response of both 911 call takers and police officers who went to the scene but didn’t find Kyle in the Honda Odyssey where he died. The family believes the city has still not done enough to examine what happened. "What our objective was, is to make sure this does not happen to another family," said Ron Plush, the 16-year-old’s father. [Cincinnati Enquirer; WLWT]
ADDICTION TRAINING | The state of Nebraska will be the first to use federal money designated to combat the opioid epidemic for the purpose of training addiction counselors and specialists. Through a new partnership with the University of Nebraska, physicians will now be eligible to learn about the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of opioid addiction, so that they can deploy that knowledge in their communities. Gov. Pete Ricketts said the effort is intended to lower the number of deaths caused by overdoses and addiction, which currently make up about one-quarter of all deaths in Nebraska per year. “Addressing substance abuse and addiction is a key part of how we continue to address health issues here in our country. It’s important that we have a team effort here in Nebraska to do that. We know that we have a critical shortage of these addiction treatment experts across our state. This is a huge step in the right direction to provide access to care (for) patients and families,” he said. Nebraska has dedicated $600,000 of the $2 million it received from the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to the program. [Omaha World-Herald; KMTV]
SEPARATED CHILDREN | The governor of Pennsylvania wrote to Immigration and Customs Enforcement on Monday, demanding the agency halt the practice of separating children from their parents after at least four children from his state were taken from their parents and held separately. Gov. Tom Wolf wrote that the “[ICE] failed to ensure the children in these families had adequate temporary guardianship despite their parents being detained...they cannot be expected to fend for themselves while your department prioritizes overly aggressive enforcement over their health and safety.” The four children are U.S. citizens, according to Wolf’s letter. [WGME]
Managing Editor Laura Maggi contributed to this report.
Emma Coleman is the assistant editor for Route Fifty.