Connecting state and local government leaders
STATE AND LOCAL ROUNDUP | Ohio legislators want to curtail eminent domain claims … Massachusetts commits to net-zero emissions by 2050 … Michigan will allow the sale of Teslas in the state.
A new bill introduced in Ohio would prevent telehealth providers from prescribing abortion-inducing drugs through online or phone consultations. Republican state Sen. Stephen A. Huffman brought the bill to the state legislature and modeled much of the legislation’s text after a similar bill introduced in Pennsylvania. “This legislation is vital for patient safety … It is a doctor’s duty to ensure that patients are not exposed to greater risk by recklessly dispensing drugs,” Huffman said. The legislation cites the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Risk Evaluations and Mitigation Strategies, which says that drugs like Mifepristone or Mifeprex, the two prescriptions needed for a medical abortion, should be dispensed in a health care setting. Medical abortions have become increasingly more common in recent years, although in Ohio in 2018, only 30% of all abortions tracked by the state Department of Health were medication induced. Stephanie Ranade Krider, of Ohio Right to Life, which is lobbying for the bill, said that it would prevent doctors from doing something that they likely aren’t doing anyway. "To my knowledge, there aren't [any cases of this]. There are already some pretty significant restrictions on how or when the abortion pill can be used,” she said. Opponents of the bill say that restricting a process that might only be used sparingly for those in remote areas is nonsensical. “As access to abortion shrinks across the country, telemedicine is one strategy for expanding patients’ access to safe, legal abortion, including for those living in remote or rural areas … Telemedicine can improve health equity by ensuring that more people have access to the care they need—including abortion—in a timely manner by reducing the barriers that make it harder for people to get care, including securing transportation, childcare and time off work,” said Dr. Julia Kohn, the national director of research for Planned Parenthood. If the bill passes, Ohio would become the nineteenth state to ban telehealth medical abortions. [WKSU; mHealth Intelligence]
EMINENT DOMAIN | Two state representatives in Ohio introduced a bill that would curtail the use of eminent domain by unelected government entities like park districts. The legislation is targeting the forced purchase of land for the creation of recreational paths like bike trails. State Reps. Don Manning and Steve Hambley said that their constituents brought the problem to them. “Across the state, we are seeing our constituents caught in lengthy and expensive legal battles to protect their property from government overreach for the purpose of building recreational trails,” said Manning. “Our legislation will give our constituents an option outside of the court system. This bill will allow individuals facing eminent domain by an unelected government entity to ask their local legislative authority to veto the use of eminent domain,” said Hambley. Manning also introduced the bill last session, and it faced opposition from park officials. Bob Fonte, executive director for the nonprofit Stark Parks, said that trails are often opposed at first, but community members eventually come around. “It’s an economic development tool to have these types of community resources. Very few people after the trail is open continue to complain,” he said. [WFMJ; Farm and Dairy]
EMISSIONS | Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker and state legislative leaders have reached an agreement to introduce a comprehensive climate change bill that will include the goal of net-zero emissions by 2050. The Republican governor said that climate change will be a cornerstone of the state’s legislative agenda this year, with a focus on emissions from cars and trucks. “Greenhouse gas emissions from transportation have been on the rise for decades and now represent 40% of this state’s total emissions. Unless we take on transportation, we won’t meet our objectives,” Baker said. Baker also said he hopes to create the Transportation and Climate Initiative, a multistate cap-and-trade program that would reinvest revenue in transportation initiatives that reduce carbon emissions. Democratic Senate President Karen Spilka said that she hopes states will join the compact. “The more states that do, the more benefits we will have with greenhouse gas emissions reduction, but even if a few, particularly the smaller states, don’t join in, I think they will end up regretting it,” Spilka said. The compact has faced some resistance for the anticipated rise in gas prices it would cause. [MassLive; Associated Press]
TESLA SALES | Tesla and Michigan this week settled a 2016 lawsuit that the company brought challenging the state’s prohibition on direct-to-consumer Tesla sales. The agreement now allows Michigan residents to buy Tesla cars and have them serviced in the state, but prohibits Tesla from opening dealerships in the state. Tesla founder Elon Musk tweeted “Yay!” in response to the announcement. According to the settlement, Tesla will drop its suit and Michigan officials agreed to “take no enforcement action against Tesla or any Tesla subsidiary.” Dan Crane, a law professor at the University of Michigan, said that Michigan’s decision will open up the possibility for other automakers to sell direct-to-consumer. “Consumers are used to e-commerce and direct-to-consumer sales these days, and are starting to expect to be able to buy cars this way. It’s going to be hard to hold back the floodgates,” Crane said. [The Center Square; The Verge]
INVOKING LUCIFER | The city council of Scottsdale, Arizona recently welcomed a humanist to provide the opening invocation for a meeting. Luke Douglas of the Humanist Society of Greater Phoenix quoted Lucifer, the devil, in his invocation as a symbol of questioning conventional wisdom. “This character, to some the personification of evil, and to others a poignant metaphor for free thought and the importance of challenging traditional authority, may divide people of different faiths, but no matter our creed, may a fair and religiously neutral government and equal protection under the Constitution unite us all,” Douglas said. Douglas’ actions seemed to be related to an ongoing legal battle the city of Scottsdale is currently embroiled in with a local chapter of the Satanic Temple. That group has challenged the city council about its decision in 2016 to deny them the chance to read an invocation before meetings. [Friendly Atheist; Arizona Republic]
Emma Coleman is the assistant editor for Route Fifty.