Connecting state and local government leaders
STATE AND LOCAL ROUNDUP | Seattle takes up crisis of missing and murdered indigenous women … North Dakota abortion language law blocked by judge … Missouri deep in red on jail payments to counties.
The National Rifle Association filed a federal lawsuit this week targeting a resolution passed last week by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors that labeled the gun-rights group a “domestic terrorist organization.” The lawsuit argues that the city’s supervisors are attempting to illegally suppress the NRA’s free speech by, in part, attempting to hobble its fundraising. “While it might be an acceptable exercise of the government’s power to condemn the NRA… the government cannot apply its powers in a targeted, adverse manner against those with whom it disagrees — and the government certainly cannot do so in order to stifle or punish disfavored speech,” attorney William Noall said. Supervisor Catherine Stefani, who introduced the measure this summer after a shooting in Gilroy about 80 miles south of the city left three dead and more than a dozen injured, dismissed the lawsuit as another regrettable decision made by the NRA’s current leaders. “It’s a resolution; it’s not an ordinance; it’s nonbinding,” she said, before riffing on a series of recent revelations that have rocked the organization. “The [NRA’s leaders] misspend their members’ dues for their personal gain; they have many pending investigations against them; and they continue to perpetuate a culture of sick and pervasive gun violence in this country,” she said. “Their time is up.” Spending by top NRA figures has come under intense scrutiny in recent months, including luxury purchases made by longtime CEO Wayne LaPierre and payments and contracts worth millions doled out to ceremonial office holders such as former president Oliver North and rock musician and NRA board member Ted Nugent. Meantime, New York Attorney General Letitia James has launched an investigation into how the tax-exempt group has handled its cash, and Democratic presidential candidates have joined activists in railing against what they see as the still-powerful group’s determination to stymie popular policy proposals aimed at combating gun violence. The San Francisco resolution, which passed unanimously and has yet to be signed by Mayor London Breed, calls on city and county officials to “take every reasonable step” to discourage organizations that do business with San Francisco from also working with the NRA. It also calls on San Francisco officials to encourage other cities and states to pass similar resolutions. [New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Sacramento Bee, KTVU]
INDIGENOUS WOMEN | In an emotional Seattle city council meeting Monday, members passed a resolution vowing to begin addressing the crisis of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls. The resolution sets out a plan to hire a special liaison, invest in services for victims and the community, consult with tribal governments, improve data collection and train police. “We will be invisible no more,” said Councilmember Debora Juarez, who grew up on the Puyallup Reservation in Tacoma and is an enrolled member of the Blackfeet Nation. “This is just the beginning and our very first step in making sure that when we lose our women and children, somebody will be there to go look for them.” The Seattle Times this year is publishing a series about the crisis called "Not Invisible.” [Seattle Times]
STOP AND FRISK | Prodded by a judge, DC’s Metropolitan Police Department, after years of delay, released data on the citizen stops being conducted by its officers. Police reform advocates say that portions of the data, which was collected between July 22 and August 18, support suspicions that police stops disproportionately impact black residents of the city. The data showed that 70 percent of residents stopped in the city were African Americans, even though they make up just under half of the city’s population. “This report is a snapshot of what our stops look like for a four-week period, but we don’t know what they should look like,” Police Chief Peter Newsham said. The authors of the report that presented the data made the same point. “There are many reasons why a simple comparison of demographics between those who live in D.C. and those who are stopped in D.C. cannot accurately answer the question of bias,” the authors wrote. “Fundamentally, bias needs to be measured in comparison to the rate of behavior that should lead to a police stop. An appropriate measure has thus far eluded researchers.” Similar efforts have been waged with varying degrees of success to collect and publish data on police stops—or “stop and frisk” policies—in cities that include New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Philadelphia. [DCist]
‘ABORTION REVERSAL’ LANGUAGE | A federal judge blocked North Dakota from enforcing a law passed this year requiring doctors to tell patients that it may be possible to reverse a drug-induced abortion. U.S. District Judge Daniel Hovland, who was nominated for the bench by President George W. Bush, agreed with arguments made in a lawsuit by the American Medical Association and the state's sole abortion clinic—the Red River Women’s Clinic in Fargo—that the law would force doctors to lie to patients. Supporters of House Bill 1336 said women needed a wider range of information when making the decision to end a pregnancy, but opponents say the language in the bill meant for doctors to repeat to patients is unsupported by science. The court case over the law continues. Seven other states have passed similar laws, according to the Center for Reproductive Rights: Arkansas, Idaho, Kentucky, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Utah. Five of those laws were passed this year. [Grand Forks Herald, AP]
JAIL DEBTS | Missouri is way behind in paying its counties to house state prisoners, and now the counties want to be made whole. KY3 television reports that the state owes more than $30 million in reimbursements to counties for housing inmates charged with committing state crimes. Counties charge the state $22 a day per prisoner. "This could end up costing the local citizens," said Camden County Sheriff Tony Helms, who says the state owes his county $315,000. This year, Missouri budgeted nearly $1.7 million to pay out county jail reimbursements. Helms is unimpressed. "If they're $34 million in arrears and they allocated $1.7 million, well, that doesn't touch it," he said. "That's not a drop in the bucket." [KY3]
John Tomasic is a journalist who lives in Seattle.