Connecting state and local government leaders
STATE AND LOCAL ROUNDUP | Texas governor forms domestic terrorism task force … Nevada creates Patient Protection Commission … Los Angeles city employees exposed to “trash and bodily fluids.”
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds blocked the state’s attorney general, Tom Miller, from joining 21 other state attorneys general in their suit against President Trump’s rollback of regulations on coal-burning plants. Miller, a Democrat who supports clean energy policies to reduce greenhouse gases, reached an agreement with Reynolds in May that required him to receive gubernatorial consent before bringing the state into such lawsuits. As part of the agreement, Reynolds, a Republican, vetoed a bill passed by the state legislature that would have weakened the attorney general’s authority to file out-of-state lawsuits. If it had been signed into law, Iowa would have become the only state to place these kind of restrictions on their attorney general. A spokesperson for Reynolds, Pat Garrett, said that the governor supports the Trump administration's coal policy. "She does not believe it's in the best interest of Iowans for the state to join in this lawsuit," Garrett said. The changes are being made to the Clean Power Plan, which was instituted by the EPA during the Obama administration; in June, the EPA replaced that with Trump’s Affordable Clean Energy rule, which is much more lenient on the coal industry. Miller's spokesperson, Lynn Hicks, said that Trump's plan is a step backward. "The rule fails to promote clean energy, but instead incentivizes the use of coal-fired power generation," Hicks said. Coal has been on the decline in Iowa in the past decade, from 76% of the state’s net electricity generation in 2008, to 45% in 2017. The states that did join the lawsuit have seen similar declines and argue Trump’s plan violates the decades-old Clean Air Act because it does not compensate for power plants’ greenhouse gas emissions with investments in clean energy. Letitia James, the New York attorney general who is leading the lawsuit, called Trump’s change a “do-nothing” rule. “The science is indisputable. Our climate is changing. Ice caps are melting. Without significant course correction, we are careening towards a climate disaster,” James said. [Associated Press; Des Moines Register; New York Times]
DOMESTIC TERRORISM | Following a shooting in El Paso that left 22 people dead, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott created a domestic terrorism task force to evaluate how law enforcement can take steps to mitigate “mass casualty threats.” Abbott said that the state has already begun to “dismantle racism” but did not provide specific initiatives he might be referring to. The accused shooter in El Paso is believed to have posted a racist, anti-immigrant manifesto shortly before the attack. “Today, I invoke my authority as Governor to form a domestic violence terrorism task force to combat hate filled extremism and violence in the state of Texas,” he said. The San Antonio City Council, however, did not see the task force as a sufficient measure to reduce gun violence, and instead passed a motion calling for the governor to bring a special session of the legislature to take up gun control proposals. Mayor Ron Nirenberg mentioned the 2017 shooting that left 26 people dead at a church about 30 miles east of San Antonio as a reason for bringing the resolution to the council. "This is personal. We must refuse to sit idly by while communities are shattered. We must refuse the path most-traveled. We must refuse to accept bloodshed as an inevitability. We must make a commitment here and now to do better,” he said. The council is now part of a coalition including 15 state lawmakers who have all asked for a special session. [CBS 7; Texas Tribune]
PATIENT PROTECTION | Lawmakers in Nevada approved $300,000 in funding for a new Patient Protection Commission, an advisory healthcare panel that will submit three draft bills to the legislature each year regarding patient care. The panel will conduct a full review of issues in the state healthcare system, specifically reviewing and exposing healthcare disparities between communities and areas in the state. It will be composed of 11 patient advocates and industry representatives appointed by Gov. Steve Sisolak, who made the creation of the commission a priority. “As I often say, health care is only accessible if it’s affordable. The Patient Protection Commission will take a comprehensive look at the state of health care in Nevada and identify areas we need to improve, things we’re doing well, and more ways we can ensure that access to health care is available to all Nevadans, no matter their ZIP code,” said Sisolak at the signing of the bill. “And as we know, the policies coming out of Washington can have dramatic effects on our state’s health care system, so the PPC will monitor changes at the federal level and find ways to keep health care accessible and affordable...regardless of the instability in Washington,” Sisolak said. [Nevada Independent]
TRASH AND BODILY FLUIDS | A recent inspection of the Los Angeles City Hall by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration found that workers were exposed to “trash and bodily fluids” on the sidewalks surrounding city hall. The administration issued two citations, one to the office of City Attorney Mike Feuer, and one to the city’s General Services Department, which oversees the management of city property. Rob Wilcox, a spokesperson for Feuer, said the city would appeal. “The tentative OSHA citation addresses conditions on the exterior grounds...Our office clearly has no role in maintaining the building’s exterior grounds,” he said. L.A.’s City Hall has struggled with sanitary conditions in recent months, as it was found to have a rat infestation and at least one employee was diagnosed with typhus. That typhus case has prompted a proposal to remove all carpet from the building. City Council President Herb Wesson has asked the city to investigate the “scope of vermin and pest control issues” at City Hall and adjoining city buildings. “Employees shouldn’t have to come to work worried about rodents. I intend to do whatever it is we need [to solve the problem],” he said. In May, inspectors also found a rodent infestation at the Los Angeles Police Department’s Central Division station. OSHA said that the city does not have an effective program to eliminate rats, cockroaches, fleas, and other pests that carry diseases, and has not trained employees about how to combat the spread of typhus. [Los Angeles Times; KTLA]
HURRICANE BARRY | Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards sent a letter to President Trump requesting that he declare Hurricane Barry a major disaster, opening the possibility for more federal funding. The storm made landfall in July, and caused heavy downpours, flash flooding, and tornadoes; the state had already been struggling with elevated river levels before the hurricane arrived. Bel Edwards said that the state and local governments have been overwhelmed by the $17 million needed to recover from the storm. “I have determined that this incident is of such severity and magnitude that effective response is beyond the capabilities of the state and local governments, and that...supplementary federal assistance is necessary to supplement the efforts and available resources of the state and local governments, disaster relief organizations, and compensation by insurance for disaster related losses,” he wrote. If Trump agrees to Bel Edwards’ request, FEMA would reimburse the state for almost 75% of what they have spent on recovery efforts so far. [WWLTV; KALB]
Emma Coleman is the assistant editor for Route Fifty.