Connecting state and local government leaders
STATE AND LOCAL ROUNDUP | Developments in local and federal investigations into officials across the country … A bill banning sanctuary cities passes the Florida House … Federal judge says it is legal to sell fireworks on tribal land.
After gathering misconduct reports from hundreds of police departments, newsrooms in the USA TODAY network determined that many officers with histories of alleged misconduct were often hired by new police departments after being fired. The investigation highlighted departmental hiring and firing practices across the U.S. and found vast variability in reporting standards. Georgia and Florida, for example, decertified law enforcement officers for hundreds of different reasons, while other states banned very few people from continuing in law enforcement. The most common reasons for firings include drug and alcohol use, assaults or other violence, dishonesty, theft, and misconduct with prisoners. USA TODAY has released a nationwide database of 30,000 law enforcement officers who have been banned from the profession to the public, and plans to share new datasets soon. [AZ Central; USA TODAY]
ACTIVE INVESTIGATIONS | The FBI, working with the IRS, raided the homes and office of Baltimore’s mayor, along with City Hall, apparently gathering evidence about Mayor Catherine Pugh’s business dealings with her self-published book series. The federal investigation is happening concurrently with the state case, led by the prosecutor’s office, the Baltimore Inspector General, and the ethics board at City Hall. Meanwhile in Orange County, California, new District Attorney Todd Spitzer has launched an investigation into corruption among the prosecutors and sheriffs of the county, the OC Register reports. In New Jersey, an aide to former Gov. Chris Christie, Bridget Anne Kelly, was sentenced to 13 months in prison for her participation in a scheme known as “Bridgegate,” meant to close lanes on the George Washington Bridge. Illinois Gov. Jay Pritzker is also under federal investigation for suspicious property tax appeals, an issue that came up during his campaign, WBEZ reports. Pritzker said that he is confident that “any review of this matter will show that all the rules were followed.” [Baltimore Sun; OC Register; New York Times; WBEZ; Chicago Tribune]
SANCTUARY CITIES | The Florida House passed a bill to ban sanctuary cities in the state. Though the state currently does not have any sanctuary cities, the bill would prevent local municipalities from establishing them. It would also force local officials to cooperate with federal immigration investigations, and impose penalties on local elected leaders for refusing to do so. [Politico; Ocala Star Banner]
FIREWORKS | A federal judge in Washington ruled that state regulations on fireworks sales do not apply on tribal lands. The Yakima Nation was at odds with a local sheriff who ordered them to stop selling before the Fourth of July in 2018, but the judge found that since fireworks regulations are civil matters, and not criminal, they could not be enforced in Indian Territory. The prosecutor in the case was particularly concerned with fireworks causing fires, as they did with the Eagle Creek Fire in 2017. That blaze lasted over two months, burned 50,000 acres, cost $30 million, and led to Yakima County’s status as number six in the nation for air pollution spikes. [Oregonian; Yakima Herald]
DISTRACTED DRIVERS | As part of distracted driver awareness month in April, police officers in Minnesota are trying unique methods to catch drivers who are using phones to text, send pictures, and check emails. Law enforcement officials in Eagan, Minnesota, disguised themselves as panhandlers and construction crews and hid in school buses in an effort to issue more tickets and educate the public about the dangers of distracted driving. Legislatures in Florida, Arizona, and California are all considering bills to increase penalties for texting while driving. [Minneapolis Star Tribune; Tampa Bay Times; Arizona Capitol Times; NBC 29]
Emma Coleman is the assistant editor at Route Fifty.