Connecting state and local government leaders
STATE AND LOCAL ROUNDUP | Debate over LGBTQ earmarks in Chicago … A universal basic income pilot proposed in Washington … Texas receives federal funding for women’s health.
The Seattle National Archives, a federal facility that holds millions of documents, photos, and maps from Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Alaska, may soon close. But the move is facing pushback from local elected officials and community advocates who say that the public research room is used by historians, students, and Native American tribes that need access to historical records. Kamaria Hightower, a spokesperson for Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan, said that the closure came as a surprise. “Unfortunately, this move by the Office of Management and Budget has had limited input from our community, stakeholders, and the tribes, and comes as a surprise to leaders not only in our state but [also] Alaska, Idaho, and Oregon,” Hightower said. The Public Builds Reform Board, a federal agency, submitted the proposal to OMB to sell the facility and its 10-acre plot in Seattle and move the records to Missouri and California. “Relocating [the records] will make 10‐acres of highly valuable land available, likely for residential housing,” reads the report from the PBRB. U.S. Rep. Pramila Jayapal, whose district includes the building, said the process should be put on halt until there is time for more public input. “I urge OMB to withhold approval on the PBRB’s recommendations until it consults with state and local officials and engages the public,” Japapal said. Activists from Alaska are particularly disappointed with the announcement as the Anchorage branch of the National Archives was closed in 2014, and the contents of that facility shipped to Seattle. Washington state Sen. Maria Cantwell said the materials shouldn’t be moved anymore. “Trying to move these articles from the region with their historic content just shows an absolute disregard for the importance of them and their significance to our region,” she said. [KIRO; Seattle Times]
LGBTQ EARMARKS | In a debate over whether the city should create contract set asides for businesses owned by LGBTQ people, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot scolded some city council members for making comments she called homophobic. Some aldermen responded to the plan brought by Chicago’s first openly-gay mayor to study the possibility of reserving some contracts for LGBTQ business owners by expressing their fears that kind of system could be easily exploited. Alderman Walter Burnett made a reference to a 2007 film in which Adam Sandler and Kevin James played firefighters who pretended to be gay in order to get health benefits for one of their children. “I think about that movie about the two firemen where they were faking like they were gay …to get benefits. That’s a concern of mine. How do you distinguish that?” Burnett said. Lightfoot admonished the city council for comments that she said “demonized” LGBTQ people. “As a leader, as a black gay woman proud on all fronts, I have to say I’m disturbed by the nature of the committee discussion and the nature of the discussion here today…. Of course, ask questions, that’s what a deliberative body does, but do it in a way that doesn’t demonize or victimize anyone else,” Lightfoot said. Jonathan D. Lovitz, senior vice-president of the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce, said that fraud concerns are overblown. “In 20 years of certifying with every major Fortune 500 company that you can think of, we’ve yet to come across a situation where there was fraud of any kind, misrepresentation of any kind, because the certification process is so thorough,” Lovitz said. [LGBTQ Nation; Chicago Sun-Times]
UNIVERSAL BASIC INCOME | A state lawmaker in Washington wants to create a two-year universal basic income pilot that would give 500 adults in the state $500 each month. The benefits would be available to people who are already eligible for public assistance. State Sen. Joe Nguyen, a Democrat, said that the decline of retail jobs and the rise of the gig economy makes such programs necessary. “The economy has changed, technology has changed, and the future has changed. We do need to have some sort of basic income to take care of folks on the margins,” Nguyen said. State Senate Minority Leader Mark Schoesler, a Republican, said that the program wouldn’t be pragmatic and could serve as “a gateway drug to socialism” for the state. “When does it ever stop?” he said. Nguyen is proposing funding the pilot program and its potential expansion with a new tax on companies that pay executives salaries of over $1 million per year. [Crosscut]
WOMEN’S HEALTH | The federal government is restoring funding to Texas women’s health programs, a reversal of an Obama-era decision to stop funding state women’s health programs if a state excludes Planned Parenthood from the list of approved providers. Texas is the first state to have the funding restored under Trump, although Tennessee and South Carolina have made similar requests. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott celebrated the decision. "The Lone Star State is once again in partnership with the federal government to provide meaningful family planning and health services while fostering a culture of life," he said. Women’s health advocates said that the state’s collaboration with the Trump administration was another attempt to defund Planned Parenthood. Usha Ranji, associate director for women’s health policy at the Kaiser Family Foundation, said that the move could have ripple effects. “This is certainly a change. Once one has been approved, it could pave the way for other states,” Ranji said. [Associated Press; Texas Tribune]
MENTAL HEALTH | Vermont Gov. Phil Scott proposed creating a mobile response unit to help young people experiencing mental health emergencies. The program would begin with a $600,000 pilot in the city of Rutland aimed at providing de-escalation services for children and families. “In other states, this model has reduced emergency room visits and hospital admissions, saved many hours of law enforcement time and helped foster kids find stability. I propose to begin this initiative in Rutland and if it’s successful, with your support we can work to expand it statewide,” Scott said in an address to the state legislature. Department of Mental Health Commissioner Sarah Squirrell said that the program would expand the ability of emergency services to respond to tough situations. “Essentially, it’s designed to support children, youth and families in distress with a face-to-face response to provide for an intervention, before emotional and behavioral difficulties escalate,” she said. [Rutland Herald]
Emma Coleman is the assistant editor for Route Fifty.
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