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STATE AND LOCAL ROUNDUP | Okla. first to pursue nitrogen hypoxia executions; sunken island property dispute in N.C.; 2 police sketches, same fake cop?; a push for even stronger quake codes in Calif.
Here are state and local government news stories that caught Route Fifty’s attention ...
INFRASTRUCTURE | Moody’s Investor Services delivered some unwelcome news regarding the fiscal stability of New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the state agency that operates the New York City Subway and the Long Island and Metro-North commuter railroads: A recession would leave the agency “particularly vulnerable,” Moody’s said on Wednesday. According to Baye Larsen, Moody's vice president and senior analyst: “If steep fare increases and service cuts proved politically unpalatable, a recession scenario budget gap would require external support from MTA's parent government, the state, and key partners, the city and federal government.” S&P Global Ratings downgraded the MTA’s bond rating from A+ to AA- on Monday. [New York Daily News; amNY]
In more bad news for the nation’s most-populous city and metropolitan area, the Gateway Program—the package of rail tunnel, bridge and track improvements in New York City and New Jersey considered by many to be the nation’s most pressing infrastructure need—continues to face opposition from President Trump. According to U.S. Rep. Peter King, Speaker Paul Ryan “described Trump as totally opposed to helping fund the $30 billion infrastructure project.” The speaker doesn’t want Gateway to cause Trump to veto an omnibus spending bill. [Politico]
California State Assemblyman Adrin Nazarian has introduced legislation to improve seismic building codes in the state so new buildings that are built in a way they’re habitable and functional following a major earthquake. Current seismic codes in California are designed to prevent buildings from suffering catastrophic collapses during a major quake. But that doesn’t mean that those structures won’t sustain heavy damage. Nazarian’s legislation is designed with long-term post-quake resiliency in mind. "If new buildings need to be demolished and rebuilt, you can imagine that, in a place like downtown L.A., what a standstill the economy will come to, and how many years it will take to rebuild and how daunting and taxing it will be," the Los Angeles Democrat said. [Los Angeles Times]
STATE LEGISLATURES | Facing an April 2 strike deadline from teachers, Oklahoma senators on Wednesday night came close to securing a 12.7 percent pay increase for educators but failed to pass a tax package to pay for it. The Oklahoma Education Association argued that 12.7 percent proposal wasn’t enough of an increase and the revenue plan that was floated “simply wasn't good enough.” [Tulsa World; Oklahoma Education Association / Facebook]
California state lawmakers will be considering net neutrality legislation that would be, “the first state-level bill that would comprehensively secure all of the net neutrality protections that Americans currently enjoy,” according to Stanford University law professor Barbara van Schewick. [Ars Technica]
Delaware House lawmakers voted on Wednesday to move new gun-control bills from a committee to the full chamber for consideration. [Delaware State News]
State lawmakers in Rhode Island are looking to take some of the sting out of local school-zone speed cameras. In a bill, first-time offenders would get a warning instead of a citation and camera warning signs would need flashing lights. [Providence Journal]
IT MANAGEMENT | State agencies in Oregon have been experiencing major problems with a phone system and state procurement officials have expressed their displeasure with IBM, the contractor that built and installed the system, called Project MUSIC. [Willamette Week]
LAW ENFORCEMENT | Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter and Corrections Director Joe Allbaugh announced Wednesday that the Sooner State would turn to nitrogen hypoxia for executions in the death penalty chamber. If the method withstands legal challenges, Oklahoma would be the first state to use inert gas inhalation in executions. [Oklahoma Watch; The Oklahoman]
Two police agencies in the Atlanta area have released separate sketches of a man accused of impersonating a police officer and sexually assaulting drivers during traffic stops. Because there are two sketches, one released by the Atlanta Police Department and another from the Cobb County Police Department, there may be two different men involved in the crimes. But it may be just one person, too. “We tend to notice different things when it comes to facial recognition of people,” said Cobb County Police Sgt. Wayne Delk. [Atlanta Journal-Constitution]
LAND DISPUTE | A Virginia man is undeterred in his claim that he owns an island that sank below the waters off North Carolina’s Outer Banks. Ken Barlow says that part of what was Shelly Island has now merged with Cape Point. “I will NEVER relinquish what I own to the National Park Service. I will defend that property with the necessary force to repel invaders, such as the NPS.... Dare County Records of Deeds says I own this property. End of story,” Barlow said in a email to The Charlotte Observer. The National Park Service never conceded that Barlow owned the 27-acre island before it vanished. [The Charlotte Observer]
PUBLIC WORKS | After a series of big Nor’easter storms brought major snowfall and coastal flooding in recent weeks to parts of the mid-Atlantic and New England, public works agencies are preparing for what could be another big late-season storm next week. “Keep in mind this threat is 6 days out and is far from a certainty along with potential precipitation types,” according to the National Weather Service in Boston, where snow-removal operations continue.
Michael Grass is Executive Editor of Government Executive's Route Fifty and is based in Seattle.