Connecting state and local government leaders
STATE AND LOCAL ROUNDUP | Baltimore mayor resigns … New election machines in North Dakota … Marijuana lounges become legal in Las Vegas.
The Florida legislature has passed a bill that would allow teachers to be armed on school campuses. The bill now heads to Gov. Ron DeSantis, who has publicly supported the measure and is expected to sign it. Teachers would have to complete at least 144 hours of gun and safety training, pass a psychological evaluation, and be approved by their local school board in order to be eligible for the concealed carry permit. The bill was introduced in response to last year’s shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, which left 17 people dead, but school boards and the teachers union oppose the measure. Broward County, which oversees the schools in Parkland, released a statement saying that the “Broward County School Board voted on a resolution against arming teachers in March 2018. We do not believe arming teachers is the best way to make our schools safe.” Superintendent Robert Runcie said. Republican Rep. Jennider Sullivan, who sponsored the bill, noted that the choice is up to teachers. "If a teacher does not want to be a guardian, we don't require them to," said Sullivan, who is the chair of the House Education Committee. Five Republicans joined Democrats in voting against the bill, including Broward County’s Republican representative, Chip LaMarca. Democratic Rep. Mike Gottlieb spoke against the bill on the floor, saying “we need to create a more nurturing, loving environment in a school so people don’t grow up to become monsters. We are creating a police state. It is wrong.” [Florida Sun Sentinel; ABC News; KTLA]
BALTIMORE MAYOR | Mayor Catherine Pugh resigned on Thursday, following a political scandal involving the sale of her self-published children’s books to a hospital system, from which she received hundreds of thousands of dollars. Healthcare company Kaiser Permanente also purchased 20,000 copies of the books in the midst of their negotiation to provide coverage to city employees, a process in which Pugh did not recuse herself. Last week, FBI and IRS agents raided the mayor’s home and office. Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan called on Pugh to resign, as did many members of the city council, including Democratic City Councilman Zeke Cohen, who said “it puts all of us under a tremendous strain, and again it is not fair either to the people that live here, or the people that work here.” The position will be taken over by acting mayor Jack Young, who already has been doing those duties for the past month when Pugh took a leave of absence she said was due to an illness. Pugh is the second Baltimore mayor in a decade to quit because of a criminal investigation. [Baltimore Sun; Washington Post]
ELECTIONS | North Dakota is getting new electronic election equipment, thanks to $12 million in funding approved by the state legislature. The money will be used to purchase new ballot scanners, which need to be replaced after more than two dozen of the machines failed during the 2018 elections, according to a survey done by the North Dakota Association of Counties. In other election news, North Dakota’s system has also undergone scrutiny lately for its voter ID law, which Native American tribes in the state argue is discriminatory against their communities. [The Bismarck Tribune; PBS]
MARIJUANA | Las Vegas is poised to open its first “marijuana lounge” by the end of the year, thanks to a measure passed by the city council. Marijuana is already legal in the state, which has dispensaries where people can purchase the drug, but not consume it. Casino executives spoke out against the measure at the city council meeting, noting that allowing easier access to marijuana will make it harder for casinos and other tourist locations to manage publicly intoxicated people. But city council member Cedric Crear argued that Las Vegas needs these types of venues for tourists, saying “[They] allow people that are coming into town a place to go smoke legally.” Several other states and localities are considering marijuana legislation this week, including Washington, D.C., where the mayor is proposing legalizing and regulating recreational dispensaries, Texas, where some lawmakers are pushing decriminalization of possession of small amounts of the drug, and Wisconsin, where new Gov. Tony Evers proposes eliminating even civil citation penalties for possession. [KVVU; Las Vegas Sun]
VEHICLE REGISTRATION | Minnesota could do away with the state’s in-house vehicle registration system that launched in September 2017, despite sinking $100 million into development fixes so far. Gov. Tim Walz supports scrapping the system in favor of a private, off-the-shelf option that is expected to cost the state an additional $73 million. The system has been a frequent source of complaints from motorists due to its long delay times for small tasks. Rick King, who chaired the panel of state IT experts tasked with determining next steps for the system, said "the path moving forward for an internal build of the remaining software is risky. We believe it will be much less risky to select a packaged software solution, particularly one that is currently in use in 12 other states." [Minneapolis St. Paul Business Journal; Minnesota Public Radio]
RURAL HOUSING | More than a dozen rural counties in Colorado are struggling with rising housing costs. In San Miguel county, almost 25% of residents are severely cost-burdened by housing, meaning they spend more than half their income on rent or mortgage payments. About one quarter of all rural counties in the U.S. have seen increases in housing costs in recent years, according to Stateline research. Steve Cordova, the executive director of the Tri-County Housing and Community Development Corp in Colorado, noted that in 2017, the three counties in his region issued just four building permits each. “So you have lack of supply and incomes are low,” he said. “That will contribute to the fact that people spend a large portion of income on housing.” Earlier this week, a bill that would have allowed local governments to impose rent control failed to pass the state legislature. [The Colorado Sun; Stateline; The Complete Colorado]
Emma Coleman is the assistant editor for Route Fifty.