Connecting state and local government leaders
STATE AND LOCAL ROUNDUP | Los Angeles city council president proposes public bank … New Jersey testing lead levels in school water fountains … Trump fights with Minneapolis mayor over rally.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis this week proposed raising the minimum starting salary for teachers from $37,636 to $47,5000. DeSantis, a Republican, is asking the state legislature to approve $600 million for the pay increases, which his office estimated would affect more than 101,000 teachers across the state. DeSantis in a statement said that a teacher shortage in the state is in part because of the profession’s low pay. "With a strong economy and plenty of jobs available in other fields, unfortunately too many college graduates are unwilling to enter the teaching profession. My proposal...will help alleviate this shortage and elevate the teaching profession to the level of appreciation it deserves. This is long overdue, and I look forward to working with the legislature to make this a reality,” he said. Some teachers, including Angela Dolci, said that the raise would be appreciated, but that teachers are not in it for the money. "To live down here on your own it is nearly impossible. Teachers are not here for the money. If we were here for the money, we would not be in Florida,” she said. If Florida increases its minimum salary to $47,500, it would surpass some of the states in which teachers’ starting salaries are the highest, including California, Alaska, and Hawaii, and would trail only the District of Columbia, which sets its starting salary around $55,000. The change in Florida would mean the most in counties like Broward and Palm Beach, which start their teachers around $41,000, but would be less dramatic in Miami, which used money from a voter referendum last year to raise their teachers’ starting salaries to $46,125. House Speaker Jose Oliva, however, said that $600 million may be too much for the legislature to approve. “My initial thought is one of gratitude for those who came before us and saw it fit to bind us and all future legislatures to a balanced budget,” Oliva said. But Susan Onori, the principal at Imagine Chancellor Charter School in Boynton Beach said that the money could make a big difference in recruiting. "It opens up a huge pool of applicants from all over the country. When you are interviewing someone and not to start out and say, well you know, and making excuses,” she said. [South Florida Sun Sentinel; ABC Action New]
PUBLIC BANK | Soon after California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law a measure that will allow cities and counties to form and own public banks, the city council president of Los Angeles says he will introduce a bill to create such a bank in his city. President Herb Wesson said that the city will seek the help of a banking expert who can help with regulations and set up. “I do believe that this is the way that government is supposed to work, where we partner with the people … together trying to affect change,” Wesson said. Trinity Tran of Public Bank LA said that public banks could keep money in local communities, focusing investment on projects the city needs, like public housing. “Our cities in California, cities across the nation, spend billions in debt services to borrow money from Wall Street banks that leverage our public funds to finance these destructive, harmful industries that our communities actively fight against,” Tran said. The California Bankers Association said that public banks could jeopardize the financing of future municipal projects. “Despite the rhetoric from public bank advocates, Californians are not clamoring for a public bank option,” the group said in a statement. [Los Angeles Daily News]
LEAD TESTING | New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy announced a plan to use $100 million in bond funding to establish a more frequent lead testing schedule of drinking water in schools. Murphy, a Democrat, said that the effort has taken a long time to organize, despite a 2017 study that showed higher than acceptable levels of lead in several schools’ water supplies. "Are folks frustrated it's taken this long? Count me on that list...districts that have a lead exceedance in their measurements will be eligible to be first in the queue for the money. Access to clean drinking water for every child in the state is a right not a privilege," he said. Under new regulations, schools will be required to test for lead every three years, instead of every six years, and will have to post the results to their district website and to the state Department of Education’s website. Senate President Stephen Sweeney, a Democrat, said that the state is stepping up its responsibility to parents and students. “The testing requirement for all school districts will now be enforced, state funding to cover their costs will be provided and the results will be accessible to the public. These are good steps, but more needs to be done,” he said. [Newsweek; Insider NJ]
TRUMP RALLY | The Trump campaign is accusing the mayor of Minneapolis of “abuse of power,” following the receipt of a bill for security at an upcoming campaign rally. Mayor Jacob Frey told people running the Target Center, where the event is to be held, that they were responsible for over $500,000 in security costs, which the center then attempted to charge the campaign. "This is an outrageous abuse of power by a liberal mayor trying to deny the rights of his own city's residents just because he hates the president," said Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale. Frey responded on Twitter. “Welcome to Minneapolis where we pay our bills, we govern with integrity, and we love all of our neighbors,” he said. A recent investigation by the Center for Public Integrity found that the Trump campaign has not reimbursed several local governments for the costs associated with his rallies, usually involving pay to local law enforcement providing security. At least nine cities have unpaid invoices totaling more than $840,000. The largest invoice is from El Paso, Texas, where Trump campaigned in February; the president’s campaign owes the city around $470,000. [Minneapolis Star Tribune; Newsweek; Center for Public Integrity]
CARBON EMISSIONS | Boston Mayor Marty Walsh released a new plan to reduce carbon emissions, with a specific focus on buildings, which emit the largest percentage of carbon in the city. The initiative has several parts, including energy-saving upgrades to city-owned buildings, new low-emission vehicles for the city’s fleet, and a waste reduction campaign. Walsh, a Democrat, said he hopes the plan will make the city carbon neutral by 2050. “Implementing this plan is a major undertaking, and it’s one of the most important challenges we’ll face as a city...We must make our buildings and our transportation systems much more energy efficient. We must invest in clean energy and job training. We must rise to the occasion, because our city’s future depends on it,” he said. [WBUR]
Emma Coleman is the assistant editor for Route Fifty.