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STATE AND LOCAL ROUNDUP | Conn. toll scofflaws owe big bucks to Mass. … pricey port upgrades in Anchorage … and challenges with Oakland’s vacant property tax.
Good morning, it’s Monday, Jan. 28, 2019. Leading our state and local government news roundup is public safety but scroll down for more stories from places like Baltimore, Maryland; Champaign, Illinois; and San Diego, California. ... ALSO ON ROUTE FIFTY … States See a Slip in Tax Collections That's Not Totally Unexpected … Getting Tough on Hate Crimes … President Trump Signs Extension of Federal Welfare Program
Let’s get to it …
PUBLIC SAFETY | Bitterly cold temperatures and snow, brought about by an Arctic air mass diving down from Canada into the Upper Midwest and Great Lakes states, will keep many governments, courts and schools closed on Monday due to the dangerous winter conditions. But the weather will keep transportation crews and first responders busy in states like Minnesota. In the city of Wyoming, Minnesota, the local police department found a light-hearted way via Twitter (as shown above) to highlight the dangers officers face while responding to calls in subzero temperatures. In Milwaukee, city and county government agencies will be closed Monday, along with public schools. Schools and city offices will be closed in Baraboo, Wisconsin due to the Arctic blast. With no homeless shelters in Baraboo or the surrounding county, “area officials and residents scrambled over the weekend to arrange a temporary shelter to offer reprieve” from the dangerous conditions. Tuesday’s low temperature is forecasted to be minus-25 degrees. Deirdre Waterman, the mayor of Pontiac, Michigan covered the costs of hotel rooms for residents of an apartment complex without heat. [WCCO; @wyomingpd; Milwaukee Journal Sentinel; Baraboo News Republic; WXYZ]
STATE LEGISLATURES | There are a handful of bills in the Minnesota House and Senate that would amend the state’s constitution, several with language “enshrining gender equality in the state’s legal framework.” [Pioneer Press / TwinCities.com] … Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson reached a settlement in a gerrymandering lawsuit that calls for 11 state House districts to be redrawn, an agreement Republican leaders are grumbling about and likely to challenge in court. [Michigan Advance] … An attempt to revive legislation to repeal gun-free zones in Wyoming failed on Friday in the State Senate. [Gillette News-Record] … Despite a 2012 Iowa state audit and subsequent reports into pesticide-use violations, the “Iowa Legislature has not changed state law on some fees the state Department of Agriculture Land Stewardship Pesticide Bureau charges licensed pesticide distributors and applicators.” [Iowa Watch]
INFRASTRUCTURE | Planned improvements to the Port of Anchorage in Alaska are projected to be “twice as expensive as originally forecasted,” leaving municipal officials figuring out how they’ll cover $2 billion in costs. [Alaska Public Media] … Out-of-state drivers owe the Massachusetts Department of Transportation about $26.8 million in unpaid tolls. The majority of the scofflaws are from Connecticut, which lacks a reciprocity agreement with the Bay State for unpaid toll collection. [Boston Herald] … New tolled express ramps connecting Interstate 35W to downtown Fort Worth, Texas opened on Friday. [Star Telegram] … About 200 water customers in northeast Baltimore were left without service on Sunday after a six-inch water main ruptured and buckled a road. [WJZ] …
FIREFIGHTERS | Firefighters often have to respond to incidents that aren’t fires. That includes wrangling “livestock from semi wrecks on interstates” or leading animals from burning barns. This weekend, the Illinois Fire Service Institute in Champaign offered its “first-ever hands-on training in large-animal rescue for 17 firefighters from around the state.” [The News-Gazette]
TAXES | As the San Francisco Board of Supervisors considers putting a vacant property tax on the November ballot, they can look across the bay to Oakland to see some of the challenges of implementing its voter-approved measure, now in effect. Oakland now applies a tax to any property that is “not ‘in use’ for more than 50 days in a calendar year.” [San Francisco Chronicle]
PUBLIC HEALTH | The California Air Resources Board had identified 10 disadvantaged communities across the state to include in new efforts to expand air quality monitoring and cleanup work, including Richmond in the Bay Area, East Los Angeles and San Diego neighborhoods adjacent to port facilities, like Barrio Logan, where asthma rates are “more than twice the national average, and the risk of cancer is in the 80th to 90th percentile.” [The San Diego Union Tribune via Los Angeles Times] … Maine Gov. Janet Mills, sworn into office earlier this month, has said that addressing the opioid abuse crisis in her state will be one of her top priorities and “although she hasn’t laid out specific policy proposals, they are certain to differ greatly from those of her predecessor, Republican Paul LePage.” [Portland Press Herald]
Michael Grass is Executive Editor of Route Fifty and is based in Seattle.
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