Connecting state and local government leaders
STATE AND LOCAL ROUNDUP | Texas AG slams city coronavirus restrictions as going too far … South Carolina to delay budget debate … State attorneys general demand safety information from Amazon.
The country’s largest public college system announced this week it will cancel almost all in-person classes this fall, shifting to online learning. Chancellor Timothy White of California State University said the system simply lacks the resources to test all 500,000 students for the coronavirus and trace the footprint of outbreaks. The announcement on Tuesday came the same day Dr. Anthony Fauci, one of the federal government’s leading advisers on the Covid-19 outbreak, told a Senate panel they needed to temper their expectations about school reopenings in the fall. "The idea of having treatments available, or a vaccination, to facilitate the reentry of students into the fall term would be something that would be a bit of a bridge too far," Fauci said. Local school officials have begun talking about what K-12 school could look like in the fall, but largely haven’t made announcements with definite plans. In Maryland, the state superintendent this week released a plan that outlines a variety of scenarios for local leaders to consider, such as having students go back to school some days of the week, but learn online for the rest. Another option is to only send back elementary school students, while keeping older ones at home to learn remotely. "Remote learning cannot replace students' experiences with their teachers, administrators, and support staff. We must all unite in our efforts to maintain equitable learning opportunities and safely return students to their schools,” said State Schools Superintendent Karen Salmon. Meanwhile, a state senator is suggesting Maryland consider switching to a year-round school year to help make up for lost time in the classroom. [Los Angeles Times; US News; WUSA; Associated Press]
TEXAS RESTRICTION FIGHT | Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton told the mayors of Austin, Dallas and San Antonio that their local restrictions, such as those requiring masks in public, are unlawfully stricter than the state’s order. “We trust you will act quickly to correct these mistakes to avoid further confusion and litigation challenging these unconstitutional and unlawful restrictions,” a letter from the AG’s office stated. But city leaders rejected that their limitations are out of step with Gov. Greg Abbott’s order. The AG’s letter "undermines the language of the Governor’s order that allows local officials to facilitate implementation and enforcement,” responded San Antonio City Attorney Andy Segovia. [Texas Tribune]
LIMITING A GOVERNOR’S POWER | A Republican U.S. Representative from Michigan, Paul Mitchell III, launched a ballot initiative campaign this week to limit the powers of the state’s governor. Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has drawn the ire of conservatives of her state over her decision to issue an emergency declaration and subsequent stay at home order. The petition will need signatures from 8% of the electorate who voted in the 2018 gubernatorial election, or about 344,000 people, to appear on the ballot. [MLive]
DELAYED BUDGET | South Carolina lawmakers plan to delay their budget approval process, passing a resolution to keep spending after the fiscal year ends at the end of June. House Speaker Jay Lucas, a Republican, said the state legislature would likely return in mid-September to review and pass a new budget. “We're going to need maximum flexibility to come back and do the business of South Carolina,” said Lucas. [Associated Press]
AMAZON SAFETY | A group of 13 state attorneys general sent a letter to Amazon on Tuesday, asking the company to provide data on confirmed coronavirus cases and deaths among its employees. The AGs asked for a state-by-state breakdown and for employees of Whole Foods, which was purchased by Amazon in 2017, to be included in the count. They also asked for Amazon to provide evidence that they were complying with paid sick leave laws. The effort was led by Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey. [Reuters]
Laura Maggi is the managing editor at Route Fifty. Emma Coleman is the assistant editor at Route Fifty.