Connecting state and local government leaders
STATE AND LOCAL ROUNDUP | Michigan considers new rules for counselors … California governor said PG&E should pay for power shutoffs … Rhode Island to take over Providence school system.
An effort to recall Oregon Gov. Kate Brown fell short this week, officially ending the campaign run by Oregon Republican Party chair Bill Currier. Another competing recall campaign also failed, as neither was able to collect the 280,050 valid signatures that would automatically trigger a recall election. “We did come up short. Not by a lot, but we did come up short. There were enough signatures collected … [the two campaigns] just cannot be combined. This fight is definitely not over,” said Currier. Republicans in the state have been angered by efforts led by Brown, a Democrat in her second term, to provide driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants and institute a cap-and-trade emissions policy in the state. The governor has mostly ignored the recall campaigns. But a campaign spokesperson for Brown, Thomas Wheatley, said this week that the recall efforts were an abuse of the political system. “Recalls should be used only when an elected official has committed a crime, not when someone disagrees with the policies of the governor or another elected official. The extremists pushing reckless recalls want to overturn the will of the voters who elected Democrats by wide margins,” he said. Brown has been in tense political standoffs with Republicans this year. Earlier in the year, Republicans walked out of the capital and scattered throughout neighboring states in an effort to prevent a vote from happening on the cap-and-trade bill. Brown threatened to use her executive privileges to create a cap-and-trade system, but she has not yet done so. Activists are now attempting to put the issue on the ballot in 2020 as a voter initiative. “The playing field needs to change; the circumstances need to be different. These ballot measures are an insurance policy that no matter what happens in the 2020 legislative session, Oregonians can take action on climate change,” said Brad Reed, a spokesperson for Renew Oregon. Currier has said that cap-and-trade is an “overreach” of the state’s authority. Republicans, including Currier, have vowed to try again on a recall effort in a few months. No petition to recall an Oregon governor has ever made it onto the ballot. [Oregon Public Broadcasting; The Oregonian; The Hill]
COUNSELORS | The Michigan House unanimously passed a bill that would maintain current standards for licensed professional counselors, a type of therapist, after thousands of them mobilized against rule changes to the profession proposed by the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs. LARA was attempting to update the rules, which counselors said would end up preventing them from diagnosing and treating clients in a clinical setting. An agency spokesman said they were a necessary update to “outdated” standards. “Counselors will still be able to practice their profession under the new rules. The current and new rules do not allow licensees to diagnose and use psychotherapy techniques because the statute does not allow this practice under the profession's scope,” said Jason Moon, spokesman for LARA. But LPCs said that roughly 10,000 counselors serve 150,000 clients in the state, and the rule change could jeopardize the mental health of many. The sponsor of the bill that would prevent the rule change, Republican state Rep. Aaron Miller, said the bill is a simple solution. "Currently, we have a situation where one of our state departments is pressing forward with rules to go against the last 31 years of precedent and say that this collective body, this group of mental health counselors, no longer have the ability to do what they’ve been doing for clients for 31 years," he said. The bill now heads to the state Senate for consideration. [Michigan Live; Detroit Free Press]
POWER SHUTOFFS | Fearing wildfires caused by high winds, electric company PG&E preemptively shut off power to 730,000 California homes and workplaces last week. Now, Gov. Gavin Newsom is saying that that the company should be held accountable for the shutdowns, which have been criticized for not being announced far enough in advance and being more widespread than PG&E had originally indicated. PG&E’s chief executive, Bill Johnson, acknowledged that the company had not prepared enough for the shutdowns, but said they were still the right decision. "While we recognize this was a hardship for millions of people throughout northern and central California, we made that decision to keep customers and communities safe," Johnson said. The shutdown has been particularly hard on some cities, such as San Jose, which estimated that the loss of power cost the city over $500,000. Residents and businesses also complained, leading Newsom to suggest that PG&E provide credits of $100 to each residential customer and $250 to small businesses that were impacted as a form of compensation. "Californians should not pay the price for decades of PG&E's greed and neglect. PG&E's mismanagement of the power shutoffs experienced last week was unacceptable,” he said. [CNN; San Jose Mercury News]
SCHOOL TAKEOVER | The state government in Rhode Island will takeover the Providence school system for five years starting in November, a move that comes after a report conducted by Johns Hopkins University found that city schools were failing by many common standards. The report found crumbling physical infrastructure, chronic absenteeism of students and staff, low teacher morale, and a confusing bureaucratic structure that prevented changes. Gov. Gina Raimondo said that many schools may have to merge because the buildings are simply too old. "The scariest thing to me is how much worse the schools have become in the past five or six years. So they're not only bad, but they're bad and getting worse," Raimondo said. The announcement of school closures and mergers has alarmed some teachers, though. "I want to know how and where. Is there a plan? Or is this just another idea to be thrown out to the wind to see what sticks?” said Maribeth Calabro, president of the Providence Teachers Union. Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza said that the city can use the help of the state to encourage greater participation and input from families. “As we begin the transformational changes needed in our schools, I remain committed to engaging our families and centering their voices to ensure long-lasting change. We have always known that providing our students the 21st century education they deserve cannot be done alone,” he said. [Providence Journal; NBC 10]
NEW NEWSPAPER | Two former city council candidates in Denver are launching a new newspaper together after losing in their council races last year. Sabrina D’Agosta and David Sabados said they were inspired to create the Denver North Star by the lack of information they saw in their community during the election. “It was hard for voters to differentiate between the candidates so we saw an opportunity to come back and tell people what was going on in the community and give them more in-depth news in the neighborhoods,” D’Agosta said. Sabados said that the closing of the North Denver Tribune, a neighborhood-focused newspaper, two years ago left an informational gap that they hope to close by focusing on hyper-local coverage. “Who starts a newspaper in this day in age? But the more we started talking about, the more it actually seemed like it made a lot of sense. We have the most comprehensive coverage of the school board elections going on that anyone has covered with full interviews of every candidate,” he said. [CBS Denver]
Emma Coleman is the assistant editor for Route Fifty.