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STATE AND LOCAL ROUNDUP | San Antonio regulates scooters … Analysis looks at what bills pass in states with mixed-party control … Alabama legislature passes seatbelt bill.
New Hampshire became the twenty-first state to abolish the death penalty when the legislature overruled the veto by Republican Gov. Chris Sununu. The governor said he was “incredibly disappointed” that his veto was overruled, and stated that he has "consistently stood with law enforcement, families of crime victims, and advocates for justice in opposing a repeal of the death penalty because it is the right thing to do." The override received bipartisan support in the legislature, including from Republican Sen. Harold French. "As I get older, I realized for a fact we're actually all on death row and it's just a matter of time before our names get called," said French. In deciding on whether or not to abolish the death penalty, New Hampshire senators heard testimony from victims of crime, which Democratic Sen. Marth Hennessey said made a powerful impact. "I am grateful to the many survivors of murder victims who bravely shared their stories with the Legislature this session, many of whom told us that the death penalty only prolongs the pain and trauma of their loss,” said Hennessey. Republican Sen. Bob Giuda, who described himself as pro-life, said the legislature had to override the governor on moral grounds. “I think we’re better than that. I think our state moving forward needs to transcend that issue,” he said. The debate was largely symbolic, as New Hampshire has not executed anyone since 1939, and has only one death row inmate, a man convicted of killing a Manchester police officer. This law would not apply to him, as it is not retroactive. [New Hampshire Public Radio; NPR; Washington Post]
SCOOTERS | San Antonio’s city council voted to increase regulations on electronic scooters within its borders. Under the new rules, riders will not be allowed to use scooters on the sidewalks, but bigger changes are coming for vendors. San Antonio currently has seven vendors operating more than 15,000 scooters, but the city is now planning a bidding process to whittle the number down to three vendors each with an individual cap of 5,000 scooters. “We are a city that is looking towards innovative ideas and we will work with the companies to help shape those measures...scooters will be a part of a multi-modal city that San Antonio is becoming,” said Councilman Roberto Treviño. The city is also requiring scooter companies to enforce parking in designated scooter zones, instead of the traditional dockless model in which riders leave them on curbs. That new measure is exciting for some residents, including Christian Reed-Ogba. “[Scooters] do get in the way for our handicapped citizens…[the change] is fantastic,” he said. [News 4 San Antonio; Texas Public Radio]
BILLS IN PURPLE STATES | A new report from the political data analysis site FiveThirtyEight examined which bills are most likely to pass states where Republicans and Democrats have split power amongst the House, Senate, and governor’s office. The 22 fully red states have focused on banning sanctuary cities, limiting abortion access, and easing gun restrictions this legislative session, while the 14 fully blue states have increased the minimum wage, reduced penalties on marijuana possession, and created affordable college initiatives. The 14 states in which the two parties share power have taken on a mixture of traditionally Republican and Democratic ideas. States with Democrat-controlled legislatures but Republican governors, including Maryland, Massachusetts, and Vermont, have stuck to Democratic policy ideas, taking on bans on gay conversion therapy, marijuana decriminalization, and minimum wage increases. Author of the report, Perry Bacon Jr., said that this “suggests that [Republican governors’] high approval ratings in blue states probably [doesn’t] say that much about their ability to sell a Republican vision to Democratic voters.” States with Republican legislatures but Democratic governors, including Kansas, Michigan, and Wisconsin, took on traditionally Republican policies, including anti-boycott bills, Medicaid work requirements, and dismantling mandatory union dues. [FiveThirtyEight]
SEATBELTS | The Alabama legislature passed a bill that would require all passengers in a car to wear a seatbelt. Current law requires only passengers in the front seat to wear a belt. State Rep. Kirk Hatcher said that the change was necessary to prevent tragedies like the car accident that killed the person for whom the bill is named, Montgomery high school student Roderic Deshaun Scott. “I can feel the weight of what these parents go through. I am told that there is no pain like a parent losing a child. Prior to today, we were one of 20 states that do not have back-seat belt laws,” said Hatcher. The bill only allows enforcement through secondary violations, meaning that cars have to be pulled over for another reason before they can be cited for failure to wear seatbelts in the back. The bill now heads to Gov. Kay Ivey, who is expected to sign it into law. [Alabama Political Reporter; WHNT]
BANNED BOOKS | Several states have changed the list of banned books in their prisons, prompting public outcry. The Arizona Department of Corrections recently banned a book called Chokehold: Policing Black Men, which discusses the abolishment of prisons. Though the author of the book, Paul Butler, said that his book “wants to transform society in the same non-violent way that people like Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King have created change,” Arizona officials said that the book would be "detrimental to the safe, secure and orderly operation" of prisons in the state. New Hampshire similarly banned several books that are critical of the prison system last week, and Illinois removed a list of 200 books from its prison libraries, most of which are about race. In Kentucky, a growing list of 7,000 banned books includes Game of Thrones, an instruction manual for Microsoft Excel 2007, and Fifty Shades of Grey. Howard Lovy, a book editor, said that “prison wardens arbitrarily and nonsensically banning books is not really about the books, themselves." [NPR; BookRiot; Northern Public Radio; Newsweek]
Emma Coleman is the assistant editor for Route Fifty.