Connecting state and local government leaders
STATE AND LOCAL ROUNDUP | Alabama medical marijuana bill advances … Texas planning to close two state prisons New Mexico creates education trust fund.
Members of a movement in 18 conservative Oregon counties are beginning to gather signatures on a petition seeking to annex themselves into Idaho and form a new state called Greater Idaho. Some residents in the rural counties say that Democratic control of Oregon has made life more difficult for them. Mike McCarter, a leader of the secession effort, said that the movement is a last resort. “Rural counties have become increasingly outraged by laws coming out of the Oregon Legislature that threaten our livelihoods, our industries, our wallet, our gun rights, and our values,” he said. The process of secession and annexation would require passing a ballot initiative, gaining approval from the Oregon state legislature, and then getting approval from the Idaho legislature, which is currently controlled by Republicans. Congress would also have to approve any reshaping of existing states. The Oregon Senate Minority Leader, Herman Baertschiger, said he would vote for the plan if it came to the legislature. “Democrats should be paying attention to how unhappy these Oregonians are with the current regime to seek secession from Oregon. I would welcome the idea to serve on the Greater Idaho legislature!” he said. Idaho Gov. Brad Little, a Republican, said he wasn’t surprised that conservative counties in Oregon want to join his state. “They’re looking at Idaho fondly because of our regulatory atmosphere, our values … I understand the frustration of some of my Oregon friends, about the rules, the laws, the regulations that are coming out of Oregon, but that’s really a decision that’s got to be made there,” Little said. The governor did say, however, that he would not support a name change to ‘Greater Idaho,’ preferring to remain simply ‘Idaho.’ The proposal to form Greater Idaho isn’t the only secession idea circulating around Oregon. For years, several groups have supported a new conservative “state of Jefferson,” which would be composed of parts of northern California and southern Oregon. [CBS; Idaho Statesman; Washington Post]
MEDICAL MARIJUANA | A bill to allow medical marijuana in Alabama advanced out of a state Senate committee. The bill is sponsored by Republican state Sen. Tim Melson, who said he recognized hesitations that people in the state have raised about marijuana. "I know some people are worried [this will] send a bad signal to the children. I think it sends a better signal that we're willing to treat a condition where nothing else has worked,” he said. Under the bill, medical cannabis would be allowed for those over 19 years old with a prescription and a qualifying medical condition like anxiety, epilepsy, PTSD, or chronic pain. The bill would not allow marijuana to be sold for smoking or vaping. Patients would have to consume the drug as a tablet, in oil, through an inhaler, or in glycerin. Some Republicans who voted for the bill in committee, including state Sen. Will Barfoot, said they weren’t sure they would vote for it in the full Senate because the number of approved conditions might be expanded. "That is issue number one, a fine balance between those people who can really use it 100 percent and the prospects of it being a free-for-all, Wild Wild West," he said. A similar bill that Melson introduced last year passed in the Senate but died in the state House. [Montgomery Advertiser; The Motley Fool]
TEXAS PRISONS CLOSING | Facing a severe shortage of prison employees and declining inmate populations, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice is closing two state lockups. Workers of the facilities that will close will be offered jobs elsewhere in the system, a state lawmaker said. The closures will save $20 million, which state officials said can be used to pay overtime. Over the past decade, as the state has focused on reducing its incarcerated population, Texas has closed eight other prisons. [Texas Tribune]
TRUST FUND | New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed legislation to create a trust fund that will help pay for early childhood education efforts. The fund will have $320 million in its first year and will then be sustained by oil and gas revenues. The money will support the expansion of programs like home visits for new parents, day care, and prekindergarten. [Santa Fe New Mexican; Albuquerque Journal]
PIGEONS IN HATS | In Las Vegas, an anonymous group has released a flock of pigeons wearing ‘Make America Great Again’ hats. The group, called Pigeons United to Interfere Now, or PUTIN, released a statement saying the project came after months of “exhaustive research, logistical hurdles and pigeon care taking.” The city has previously dealt with anonymous people gluing tiny cowboy hats to pigeons. [NBC Las Vegas]
Emma Coleman is the assistant editor for Route Fifty.