Connecting state and local government leaders
STATE AND LOCAL ROUNDUP | Vetoes of anti-abortion legislation … Rhode Island senate votes to ban ‘ghost guns’ … New Jersey regulators reject pipeline application.
Connecticut will become the first state to mandate the collection of prosecutorial data, with the hope that doing so will reduce incarceration and the disproportionate number of minorities who are convicted and sentenced in the state. State Sen. Gary Winfield, a Democrat who co-chairs the judiciary committee, said this is part of an effort to understand what disparities exist in the state’s prison system. "If we're going to take away people's liberty, we have to make sure there's nothing untoward in what we're doing,” he said. The measure passed with a rare unanimous vote in both the state House and Senate, and Gov. Ned Lamont voiced his support for the bill. It requires prosecutors to record how many defendants received prison time, plea bargains, or diversionary programs, with the data broken down by race, ethnicity, sex, and age. “These new requirements will be an important step toward increasing the confidence that communities have in the criminal justice system by helping to ensure that justice is attained in the fairest ways possible," Lamont wrote in a statement. The ACLU led the lobbying effort for the legislation. "Prosecutors hold people's lives and fates in their hands, yet Connecticut residents have very little information about prosecutors' decisions. This bill's passage is a step forward for transparency about prosecutors' actions, and the information it will unveil is vital for ending inequities and injustices in Connecticut's justice system,” said Gus Marks-Hamilton, a Connecticut field organizer for the ACLU. [Associated Press; CT Mirror; Hartford Courant]
VETOES | While anti-abortion legislation passed with ease in many states, the process has proved to be much harder in two of states with Democratic governors, North Carolina and Wisconsin. There, Republican-controlled legislatures have passed numerous abortion restrictions, including shorter time periods in which the procedure is legal and measures that would mandate care for fetuses that survive abortions. North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper said he rejected the born-alive care bill in his state because it represented an “unnecessary interference between doctors and their patients” that would criminalize a “practice that simply does not exist.” Cooper continued to say, “it’s important to protect the lives of all children, and laws already exist to protect newborn babies. Instead of passing unnecessary legislation for political purposes, we need to move on from divisive social issues and focus on the needs of North Carolina families: education, health care and good-paying jobs.” The legislature was not able to override his veto. In Wisconsin, the legislature has sent several anti-abortion measures to Gov. Tony Evers, who has vowed to veto them all. They were not passed with enough votes to override. [New York Times; News & Observer; Associated Press; Milwaukee Journal Sentinel]
GHOST GUNS | Rhode Island senators have passed a bill to ban “ghost guns,” defined as any firearm that would not be flagged by a typical x-ray or metal detector. The measure, which now heads to the House, is meant to target 3D printed guns, which are often made of plastic, and therefore easier to carry undetected. Under the measure, violators could face 10 years in prison, which state Sen. Cynthia Coyne, the Democratic sponsor of the bill, said is necessary punishment, as she fears that anyone with internet access and a 3D printer might soon be able to produce untraceable guns. “As we struggle to fight the gun epidemic in this country and try to improve our efforts to prevent children, criminals and the mentally ill from possessing firearms, we must not tolerate attempts to subvert our laws by making guns untraceable or undetectable. Serial numbers, background checks and metal detectors help prevent tragedies, and our laws should be clear that no one should be trying to get around them to engage in criminal activity,” said Coyne. Earlier in their legislative sessions, legislators in New York and Washington banned 3D printed guns and ghost guns. [Associated Press; NBC 10; CBS New York]
PIPELINE | Regulators in New Jersey denied permits to a company from Oklahoma that wants to build a natural gas pipeline stretching from Pennsylvania to New York. In their rejection, however, the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) said that they would accept a re-application, which the company intends to submit. "The proposed dredging could adversely impact surface water quality within New Jersey waters of the Raritan Bay, the DEP said in a statement, before adding that “alternatives that further avoid or minimize impacts to freshwater wetlands and riparian areas may be available and require further analysis.” Last month, the same thing happened in New York, when regulators rejected the pipeline but allowed the company to reapply. Regulators in both states said the proposed plans did not meet environmental and water quality standards. [Newsday; Associated Press]
PRIDE FLAG | The city council of Dublin, California reversed a decision it made last month and decided to fly the LGBTQ Pride flag over city hall. Originally, the council had sided with members of the public who said flying the rainbow Pride flag would create a slippery slope to flying other flags. But following public outcry, the flag was raised under the Dublin city flag and will remain there for the entirety of June, which is LGBTQ pride month. “No LGBTQ rights would not have been won if not for the changed hearts and minds of our allies. I’m glad they were able to move forward and we got it right,” said Councilmember Shawn Kumagai, who is the city’s first openly-gay councilmember. During the debate over whether to fly the flag, opponents in the community said that the flag was promoting a specific political agenda. But Mayor David Haubert said that the flag is meant to be about inclusion, not politics. “There was never a question of whether we support the LGBTQ community, and the proclamation which we unanimously passed shows that,” he said. [East Bay Times; San Francisco Chronicle]
Emma Coleman is the assistant editor for Route Fifty.