Connecting state and local government leaders
STATE AND LOCAL ROUNDUP | Montana preps for another difficult wildfire season … Charlotte’s uncharted scooter territory … and N.J. governor makes first legalized sports bet.
Here are state and local government news stories that caught Route Fifty’s attention …
- Boone County, Kentucky: A new lawsuit filed by Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear accuses the Walgreens pharmacy chain of exacerbating the opioid abuse epidemic in the state for fulfilling orders “for such large quantities of prescription narcotic pain medication that there could be no associated legitimate medical purpose for their use.” The state’s legal action seeks a halt in over prescribing pain medication and financial damages. [National Public Radio]
- Helena, Montana: After enduring an especially challenging wildfire season in 2017, Montana officials are awaiting a difficult 2018 fire season. Gov. Steve Bullock received a wildfire briefing on Thursday, the state’s preparations and what’s in store for the months ahead, including an above average fire season and weather patterns that will bring a warm, dry summer. “I certainly hope we don’t have a fire season like we did last year but if we do, we will rise to the challenge and we will figure it out,” the governor said. [KTVH]
- Chicago, Illinois: Mayor Rahm Emanuel is negotiating with Elon Musk's Boring Co. to build tunnels for high-speed transit between the Loop and O'Hare International Airport. The idea is that 16-passenger autonomous vehicles traveling more than 100 mph would ferry passengers to the airport in about 12 minutes. But much is still unknown, including whether Boring can succeed in its plan to dig tunnels more quickly than other companies have in the past. Emanuel's administration picked the Boring proposal over four competing bids. Officials told the Chicago Tribune that Musk's company would put up money to build the $1 billion project. Emanuel said Musk's track record at electric car manufacturer Tesla and aerospace company SpaceX helped seal the deal. “Given his track record, we are taking his reputation and saying, ‘This is a guy in two other transportation modes who has not failed.’ That’s what we’re doing," the mayor said. A high-speed connection between downtown Chicago and the airport has long been a dream of city leadership, but an earlier effort under then-Mayor Richard Daley faltered. [Chicago Tribune; The Verge]
- Washington, D.C.: The U.S. Supreme Court struck down Minnesota's law prohibiting voters from wearing clothing with political statements on it to polling places, saying it was simply too broad. While some other states have these kind of restrictions, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in his 7-2 opinion that Minnesota's was among the broadest on the books. For example, he noted California's law prohibited voters from wearing clothes supporting a particular candidate. While Minnesota's law, too, banned support of a candidate, it also prohibited people from wearing a "political badge, political button, or other political insignia" at a polling place. The definition of "political" proved hard to regulate, Roberts said. "If a State wishes to set its polling places apart as areas free of partisan discord, it must employ a more discernible approach than the one Minnesota has offered here," he wrote. [AP via Star Tribune]
- Monmouth Park, New Jersey: Gov. Phil Murphy ushered in a new era of gambling in the Garden State on Thursday by placing New Jersey’s first legal sports bet—a $20 wager on Germany in the World Cup and a second $20 bet on the New Jersey Devils. The move comes within weeks of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on sports betting. Murphy, however, noted that the expansion of gambling won’t be a cash cow in terms of revenue. “It’s meaningful in the sense it’s positive, but it’s not a huge game changer,” the governor told Bloomberg Radio. [Bleacher Report; Bloomberg News]
- Milpitas, California: The mayor of this Bay Area city says that a city council letter that accuses him of inappropriate behavior was timed to hurt his re-election changes. “The rebuke by the City Council is a deceiving document,” Mayor Rich Tran said. “Nowhere in the statement shows factual information on actual wrongdoing.” The letter says the council is prepared to take action if the cited behavior doesn’t stop. That includes an official censure, limiting the mayor’s use of City Hall or formally call for his resignation. “To be clear, this behavior is not acceptable to the Council,” according to the council’s letter regarding Tran’s alleged comments regarding age and gender. “It is mandatory that you conduct yourself professionally and with an eye toward appropriate interpersonal boundaries and decorum in all such circumstances.” [The Mercury News]
- Charlotte, North Carolina: The introduction of electric scooters in Charlotte has local officials and users scooting into uncharted regulatory territory. While the program has rules for where to park the scooters, “the city has no enforceable rules on how and where they're ridden.” Furthermore: “It's illegal to ride bicycles on crowded center-city sidewalks, for example, but Charlotte has no such ordinance on electric scooters.” [The Charlotte Observer]
Michael Grass is Executive Editor of Government Executive's Route Fifty and is based in Seattle. Managing Editor Laura Maggi contributed to this report.
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