Connecting state and local government leaders
STATE AND LOCAL ROUNDUP | Republican walkout in the Oregon legislature … Illinois law enforcement concerned about marijuana DUIs… Austin appropriates for new homeless shelter.
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy signed legislation last week to require rideshare companies like Uber and Lyft to make their cars more identifiable to riders. Called “Sami’s Law” after Samantha Josephson, who was murdered after she got into a car that was impersonating an Uber, the law will require drivers to have two identifying markers in their front and rear windows, a barcode that passengers can scan before getting into the vehicle, and two credential placards with the driver’s name, photo, and license plate number in their side windows. Samantha’s father, Seymour Josephson, has been lobbying for the law, and said that rideshare companies have pushed back against some of the provisions, including the barcode scanner, over fears they would not be accessed by blind people. “New Jersey is the leader, but we want this to be federal—and to have Uber, Lyft or any rideshare company push back, it infuriates me…we don’t want this to ever happen again, of somebody being murdered. Samantha had no chance, there was no signage, there was nothing. She got into a vehicle that was impersonating an Uber,” said Josephson. Campbell Matthews, a spokesperson for Lyft, said that the company shares that commitment to safety, and approves of the flexible options for ensuring a correct driver-rider match in the New Jersey bill. "Safety is fundamental to Lyft, and we never stop working to design policies and features that protect riders and drivers. However, the most efficient and effective way to confirm your ride is to match the license plate number shown in the app with the license plate of the arriving vehicle," said Matthews. The law will take effect in nine months. U.S. Rep. Chris Smith, a Republican from New Jersey, has also introduced Sami’s Law in Congress. [New Jersey 101.5; Associated Press]
OREGON LEGISLATURE | Last week, eleven Republican state senators in Oregon left the state capitol and scattered throughout the state—and out of state—in order to avoid voting on a climate bill. Democratic Gov. Kate Brown ordered state police to locate the missing senators and bring them back to the capitol. "It is absolutely unacceptable that the Senate Republicans would turn their backs on their constituents who they are honor-bound to represent here in this building. They need to return and do the jobs they were elected to do,” Brown said. State Sen. Brian Boquist issued a statement telling police to “send bachelors and come heavily armed” as he was not going to be “a political prisoner in the state of Oregon.” The police responded by saying that while they “obviously have many tools at our disposal, patience and communication is and always will be our first, and preferred, option.” The senators were protesting a cap-and-trade regulation designed to limit the amount of greenhouse gas emissions, a measure that 11 other states have already adopted. The Republican senators argued that the measure should be decided by a ballot initiative rather than a state legislature vote. The bill has already passed the Oregon House, and while Democrats hold a supermajority in both chambers, they need Republicans to reach the minimum number of present Senators that is required to hold a vote. On Saturday, the Oregonian reported that the walkout could endanger hundreds more bills that need to be passed by June 30, when the session ends. These include a family leave measure with bipartisan support and upzoning legislation. [The Oregonian; CNN; The Oregonian]
ROAD TEST | With the passage of recreational marijuana in the state, police in Illinois are now expressing dismay that they have no viable way to do a roadside test on drivers to see if the drug has impaired them. The Illinois Sheriff’s Association was opposed to the bill, and said that the only option available to them now are blood tests, which cannot be done roadside. “Driving under the influence of cannabis without these tests is a significant problem today and we are concerned that with adult use approval, this issue will only get worse. The Illinois Sheriffs’ Association believes recreational cannabis is a mistake, but we will continue to participate and share recommendations that will make Illinois’ roads and neighborhoods safer,” the group said in a statement. In Michigan, a pilot was run on testing saliva, but could detect THC only at high levels. Police officials in Illinois said that a saliva test that could accurately detect impairment, not just the presence of marijuana, could still be years away. The legalization law in the state also mandated the creation of a marijuana DUI task force that will search for potential testing options. Some advocates have argued that focusing on THC levels doesn’t make sense with trying to determine impaired driving related to marijuana use. [State Journal-Register; CBS Chicago; Route Fifty]
NEW HOMELESS SHELTER | The Austin City Council approved $8.6 million for the purchase of a building that will become a new, 100-bed homeless shelter. The vote came amid an outcry from the residents who live near the chosen site, who testified at the meeting that the shelter would encourage the further growth of homeless camps in the area. Emily Steinbauer, who lives near the site, said that violence in her neighborhood is of great concern. "I keep asking myself, 'When's the city going to step in and do something about this?'– help me to feel safe in my own home and my own neighborhood – and I think this is going to do the exact opposite," she said. But Mayor Steve Adler said that this motion proves the city is doing something about homelessness. "I cannot participate any longer in not acting. I cannot participate any longer in not setting up the structure and the system to fundamentally do something to change the status quo in this city, because the status quo is killing us,” he said. [Austin Statesman; KUT]
PROTECTIVE ORDER DENIED | A judge in Florida has denied a woman’s request for a protective order against the mayor of her town after the two were involved in a heated argument in which the mayor threatened to kill her husband. County Judge Jerri Collins said that Oviedo Mayor Dominic Persampiere’s words were “just threats” and did not merit an injunction. “You two need to stay away and stay out of each other’s business,” Collins said. Jennifer Bains said that she is disappointed with the decision. “It is kind of scary because you wonder: Is he going to go home and get his gun and shoot us? I wanted to prove to people that bullying is not acceptable these days, and he is a bully,” she said. The mayor insisted that this was a one-time occurrence. “I also want to wish the Bains the very best. I chose bad words, but now it’s time to move on,” Persampiere said. [Orlando Sentinel; WKMG]
Emma Coleman is the assistant editor for Route Fifty.
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