Connecting state and local government leaders
STATE AND LOCAL ROUNDUP | Asian carp threaten Indiana … Oregon governor threatens executive order for climate change measure … Montana breaks ground on veteran’s home.
For the fifth time in five years, a proposal in California that would require a health warning label on sugary drinks like soda has failed in committee. State Sen. Bill Monning, a Democrat, said that he regretted falling short of the votes necessary to advance a bill supported by public health advocates. “Unfortunately, the power of this industry is influencing a health committee in the state Legislature, a health committee that should be here to protect the health of the people you represent,” Monning said. The bill, which would have required labels on drinks that contain 75 ounces or more of added sugar per 12 fluid ounces, was staunchly opposed by the beverage industry. The label would have warned of the effects of excessive sugar consumption on obesity, diabetes, and tooth decay. Other bills that would have taxed sugary drinks and banned large soda containers also failed. Many credited the work of beverage industry lobbyists for the shelving of five sugar-related bills. “We will continue to work with the legislature and the administration on effective ways to address their budgetary and public health concerns, while ensuring that food and beverages remain affordable and accessible for all Californians,” said Steve Maviglio, a political consultant and spokesman for the American Beverage Association, which spent $914,000 on lobbying in the past year. Some localities in California, however, have established their own local soda taxes, and health groups are expected to propose a two-cent-per-ounce tax on sugary drinks as a ballot initiative for November 2020, a move supported by the California Dental Association. “That’s the level of tax where there is a measurable decrease in consumption but it also can raise a substantive amount of money to fund the kinds of public health programs needed to combat obesity, diabetes, tooth decay and other impacts of sugary beverage consumption,” said Richard Stapler, the dental association spokesman. [Associated Press; Los Angeles Times]
CENSUS TURMOIL | The day after administration officials said the Census would move forward without a citizenship question, President Trump on Wednesday said he's not actually done with the matter. In a tweet on Wednesday morning, the president said they would still try to include the question, which state and local officials fear will suppress the count in immigrant communities. Later in the day, lawyers told a federal judge that the Justice Department is exploring how it may be included after a Supreme Court decision last week that will make that path more difficult. But the Census questionnaire is currently being printed without it, an attorney told the judge. Census officials have said that the deadline for printing was this week. One idea considered by the administration on Thursday was having the president issue an executive order on the issue, according to the Washington Post. Advocates who have fought the inclusion of the question blasted the reversal. Dale Ho, director of the ACLU’s Voting Rights Project, called the continued pursuit of the question an attempted "end run" around the Supreme Court, pledging it "will be met swiftly in court." [Washington Post; New York Times]
ASIAN CARP | An invasive species of fish, black Asian carp, were found in the Ohio River near the Indiana state line, prompting a panic amongst environmental activists who fear the arrival of the fish will “devastate” natural wildlife in Indiana waterways. The fish particularly threaten mussels, as they can eat three to four pounds of mussels per day; some of the native species of mussels in Indiana are already endangered. “That’s what has us concerned about black carp being introduced into our waters," said Dan Carnahan, of the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, referencing the nine endangered mussel species in the state. The fact that female fish can produce up to 1.18 million eggs per year is also a cause for concern. "We’ve learned...that we’re a lot better off trying to keep the fish out than trying to manage them once they’re here. If an established population would be found in the wild it would be almost impossible to eradicate," said the DNR. The department is now asking fishermen to keep carp that they catch and report them to the state, and those who turn fish in can receive monetary rewards from the state of Illinois, where the fish originated. [WBOI; Indiana Star]
OREGON EXECUTIVE ORDER | After Republican senators fled the state to prevent a vote on a cap-and-trade carbon emissions bill, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown is threatening to pass the measure by executive order unless legislators return for a special session. "Let me be very, very clear: I am not backing down. Working on legislation is my preferred approach; collaborating across the aisle and around the state. However, given the uncertainty that now permeates Oregon's political system, I am also directing my staff and agencies to explore alternative paths...this includes the use of my executive powers and direction of state agencies,” Brown said. Republicans returned to the state following their nine-day walkout when it was revealed that even with a quorum in the Senate, Democrats did not have enough votes to pass the measure, despite their majority. Brown has now asked legislators to go back to their districts, listen to residents, and attempt to find a compromise. But she said that she will not accept “inaction.” Environmental groups like Renew Oregon, however, are encouraging the governor to pursue executive action anyway. "Our elected officials rose to face many of Oregon's challenges, but not all of them, and perhaps the one with the largest and longest term impact is climate change. This is a priority,” said Tera Hurst, the organization’s director. [The Hill; Willamette Week]
VETERAN’S HOME | Montana has broken ground on a new home for veterans, first proposed 26 years ago. The state allocated $20 million for a complex with five cottages and a community center that will have room for 60 veterans. Former Montana legislator Bob Pavlovich first proposed the idea in 1993, and released a statement tanking “all past and present legislators who worked so hard for this project over the past many years. This took a lot of effort from legislators from both sides of the aisle, and I’m just so thankful it’s happening now, and I couldn’t be happier.” The new site will include activities, spiritual resources, peer support groups, social services, and physical rehabilitation. The Department of Public Health and Human Services is now accepting applications for admission. Gov. Steve Bullock attended the groundbreaking and celebrated that the event happened during the week of the Fourth of July. “Today...is about so much more than breaking ground, it’s about recognizing all of the hard work veterans and Montanans put in to provide a welcoming home,” he said. [NBC Montana; Great Falls Tribune; Montana Standard]
HE DOESN’T COUNT? | Nevada troopers this week pulled over a mortuary driver who appeared to be riding alone in a Las Vegas carpool lane. When stopped, the driver asked “he doesn’t count?” referring to whether the corpse in the back of the hearse made him eligible to carpool. “Yes, it’s a person, but they’re not in a seat and they’re not living and breathing,” Trooper Travis Smaka replied. “It just threw me off. That was more of the more interesting responses I’ve gotten,” he said. The man was let off with a warning, but the situation prompted the Nevada Highway Patrol to issue a warning that passengers must be living and breathing in order to qualify as occupants for cars using the HOV lane. [FOX News; WREG]
Managing Editor Laura Maggi contributed to this report.
Emma Coleman is the assistant editor for Route Fifty.