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STATE AND LOCAL ROUNDUP | Miami’s strong-mayor vote ... N.C.’s Florence road damage estimate … Texas special education funding … and Calif. DMV warns of new scam.
Good morning, it’s Thursday, Oct. 4, 2018. Underground needle exchanges lead Route Fifty’s state and local government news roundup, but scroll down for more news from places like St. Ignace, Michigan; Cumberland County, Maine; and Houston, Texas ...
STATE GOVERNMENT | Although needle exchanges are illegal under Iowa state law, underground operations where drug users can access clean syringes are still having a public health impact. New research from the Iowa Department of Public Health shows that underground needle exchanges have helped reduce the transmission of hepatitis C. The state has seen a 26 percent drop in confirmed hepatitis C since 2016, data that initially caused the state to take a closer look. "The only thing we know that's different is underground needle exchange is going on in the state," IDPH Data Program Manager Nicole Kolm Valdivia told Iowa Public Radio. "That's the only variable that we can find after analyzing the data over and over and over that seems to be affecting this rate." The volunteer-run Iowa Harm Reduction Coalition operates a network of needle exchanges in the state and public health advocates have pressed the state legislature to legalize the exchanges. [Iowa Public Radio; Iowa Harm Reduction Coalition]
- Raleigh, North Carolina: The North Carolina Department of Transportation estimates that Hurricane Florence and its subsequent flooding has created upwards of $250 million in damage to roads across the state, which saw an estimated 8 trillion gallons of water fall. [@NCCapitol / WRAL]
- San José, California: If the California Department of Motor Vehicles didn’t have enough to deal with already, there are now “unscrupulous online operators have set up websites that charge customers bogus fees to complete the electronic driver license and ID card application.” [The Mercury News]
- St. Ignace, Michigan: Gov. Rick Snyder has come to an agreement with the Canadian owners of the aging twin oil-and-gas pipelines that sit on the floor of the Straits of Mackinac to replace the pipelines with a new tunneled crossing under the waterway, which connects Lake Huron with Lake Michigan. [Michigan Radio; Detroit Free Press]
- New Orleans, Louisiana: Attorneys representing the state of Texas faced off with those from the U.S. Department of Education at the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday in a case that will determine whether the state’s “decision to spend $33.3 million less on students with disabilities in 2012 will cost it millions in future federal funding.” [Texas Tribune]
LOCAL GOVERNMENT | In South Florida, voters in the city of Miami—not to be confused with Miami-Dade County—will consider a general election proposal to shift the municipal structure to a strong-mayor form of government, which would expand the executive powers of Miami Mayor Frances Suarez. Among those supporting the strong-mayor plan is former Miami-Dade County Mayor Alex Penelas; Merrett Stierheim, the former city manager of Miami and Miami-Dade County, is against the proposal. [WJCT]
- Houston, Texas: Mayor Sylvester Turner will debate the head of the firefighter’s union on Saturday over a ballot measure that would raise firefighter pay. [Houston Public Media]
- Spokane, Washington: The Spokane Police Department estimates that Vice President Pence’s recent visit to the city for a campaign rally with U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers will end up costing the city between $20,000 and $25,000. [Spokesman Review]
- Cumberland County, Maine: Using a $25,000 federal Community Development Block Grant, county leaders are seeking proposals to develop a roadmap to guide municipalities interested in developing their own local broadband networks. [Portland Press-Herald]
- Wichita, Kansas: What’s going on in the Sedgwick County government? “Following a closed-door session and cryptic pronouncements from the bench,” county commissioners on Wednesday voted to hire an outside investigator to look into unspecified personnel matters. [Wichita Eagle / Kansas.com]
- Portsmouth, Virginia: A judge has OK’d paperwork that certifies a felony conviction for Portsmouth City Council member Mark Whitaker, who was found guilty by a jury on three charges of forgery, which means he “can't keep serving on City Council or seek reelection in a race that will be decided in less than six weeks.” [The Virginian-Pilot]
- St. Petersburg, Florida: Mayor Rick Kriseman is keeping a close eye on how voters in Hillsborough County, on the other side of Tampa Bay, vote in November on a 1-cent sales tax increase to fund a variety of transportation projects. "If it passes there, I think it helps us talk about it here again," Kriseman said of a future transportation funding measure in Pinellas County. "The more we have these little victories here and there and show there are ways of using transit other than your car, the easier it is to take that next step." [Tampa Bay Times]
Michael Grass is Executive Editor of Government Executive’s Route Fifty and is based in Seattle.