Connecting state and local government leaders
STATE AND LOCAL ROUNDUP | Virginia legislature abolishes Confederate holiday … New York state senators call for increased funding to municipalities … Denver repeals ban on pit bulls.
A group of 20 state attorneys general, all Democrats, are urging Congress to take the necessary steps to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment. The ERA guarantees protection against discrimination on the basis of sex. Virginia recently became the 38th and final state needed to ratify the amendment. An opinion from the U.S. Department of Justice, however, said that the deadline for passing the ERA expired decades ago. The coalition of attorney generals asked Congress to remove the ratification deadline, which they did once in the past. The attorney generals are led by New York AG Letitia James. “It is unconscionable that more than a century after the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment gave women the constitutional right to vote, we are still waiting for that same constitution to reflect the equality of women under the law. Establishing that there is no deadline that applies to the ERA’s ratification is a critical step in officially making the equal treatment of women the law of the land,” James said. The Republican attorneys general of Alabama, South Dakota, and Louisiana sued in December to prevent the ratification of the ERA. “If this constitutional bait-and-switch is successful, there will be dire consequences for the rule of law. The people had seven years to consider the ERA, and they rejected it," Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall said. In a separate lawsuit, the attorneys general of Nevada, Illinois, and Virginia have sued the national archivist, the official in charge of adding amendments to the Constitution, to compel them to add the ERA. "After generations of effort, the women of this country are entitled to their rightful place in the Constitution. This Court should compel the Archivist to carry out his statutory duty of recognizing the complete and final adoption of the Equal Rights Amendment," the lawsuit reads. [WRGB]
CONFEDERATE HOLIDAYS | The Virginia House passed a bill to eliminate Lee-Jackson Day, a holiday celebrating two Confederate generals, in favor of making Election Day a holiday instead. The same legislation was proposed last year, but failed in the Republican-led legislature, with some members defending the day as a celebration of history. Democrats took control of both the House and Senate this year, and similar legislation has already passed the Senate. Gov. Ralph Northam, a Democrat, supports the legislation. “I don’t think there’s any secret that it’s in honor of two individuals who fought to prolong slavery which is not a proud aspect of Virginia’s history,” he said. More than a dozen Southern states still have Lee-Jackson day. Election Day is a holiday in several states, including Hawaii, New York, Delaware, and Kentucky. [WAMU; Slate]
FUNDING | The New York Senate is proposing a boost in funding to municipalities, despite urging from Gov. Andrew Cuomo to keep local government aid at the current level. Local government officials say an increase is necessary if they want to avoid tax increases or service cuts. The Aid and Incentives for Municipalities funding (AIM) is sponsored by Sen. Jim Gaughran, a Democrat who said his experience as a county legislator and town councilman helps him understand the struggle of local government officials. "For many local governments, AIM funding is the only funding they receive from Albany … [which] funds critical programs and services including senior services, public safety services, mental health initiatives, youth programs, public infrastructure, and more," Gaughran said. [NY State of Politics
PIT BULLS | The Denver City Council voted this week to repeal the city’s 30-year-old ban on pit bulls. The repeal had the support of animal advocates. “Breed bans de-emphasize the importance of responsible pet ownership in preventing dog bite injuries, diverting attention and resources away from effective measures such as socialization and training, neutering of male dogs, and licensing and leash laws,” said Dr. Kendall Houlihan, assistant director of the American Veterinary Medical Association’s Animal Welfare Division. [The Denver Post]
GAS STATIONS | A bill proposed in Illinois would make the state the third in the country to mandate station attendants for pumping gas. Representative Camille Lilly, a Democrat, said that the requirement would make pumping gas safer. “It’s a shell bill with a concept to address safety at the pump while creating convenience for the citizens here in Illinois,” Lilly said. Republican State Representative Charlie Meier said his constituents have expressed opposition. “I have hundreds of emails most of them start with the word ridiculous and it’s the best way to sum this up,” Meier said. [FOX 2]
Emma Coleman is the assistant editor for Route Fifty.