Connecting state and local government leaders
STATE AND LOCAL ROUNDUP | Two deaths at Mardi Gras parades in New Orleans … Arizona governor drops immigration proposal … New Jersey governor announced he will have surgery for a kidney tumor.
Alabama officials over the weekend raised alarms about a federal plan to house cruise ship passengers infected with coronavirus at a FEMA facility in the state. By Sunday, state officials said they heard from President Trump that the decision to house American passengers from the Diamond Princess at the federal facility in the state had been reversed. Across the country, the city of Costa Mesa in California went to federal court on Friday to fight a decision to possibly house quarantined patients at a state mental health facility that is expected to be closed soon. On Monday, a federal judge extended for a week an emergency restraining order blocking patients from being relocated there. In that case, state and federal officials have defended the potential choice of the facility to house people currently quarantined at Travis Air Force Base in northern California. They said any patients would be transported in a secure manner, so there would be no risk to the local community. Federal attorneys said officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had inspected Fairview Developmental Center and determined it could work. Military bases in Texas, Colorado and California have been housing quarantined people who were exposed to the virus, including American passengers from the Diamond Princess cruise ship. (The virus tore through the cruise ship, infecting more than 600 people. Two people died.) In Anniston, Alabama, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services had planned to move patients with minor symptoms or no symptoms at all to the Center for Domestic Preparedness. The plan immediately sparked backlash from officials in Alabama, including Gov. Kay Ivey, who spoke with Trump about the plan. "I made it abundantly clear that while the State of Alabama wants to work closely with the Trump administration to assist fellow Americans who may have tested positive for the coronavirus, there were some grave concerns about why the site in Anniston was chosen and how, logistically, this would play out in the event this back-up site were to be eventually activated. First and foremost, my priority is to protect the people of Alabama,” Ivey said. After several state officials spoke with President Trump, HHS confirmed that the plan to move patients to Alabama was a back-up, and that they are identifying alternative sites. There are now 79,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus worldwide. The U.S. has 35 confirmed cases. [AL.com; USA TODAY; ABC 3340; Los Angeles Times]
MARDI GRAS | Two people were run over by Mardi Gras parade floats in New Orleans in the past week, prompting city officials to decree new rules for parade organizers. Both victims were hit by “tandem floats,” which are large floats made up of several sections that are pulled by a single tractor. Mayor LaToya Cantrell and Police Superintendent Shaun Ferguson announced Saturday that tandem floats would be banned for the rest of the 2020 parade season. “While we must wait for the results of the investigation, we both mourn the loss of life during what is supposed to be our time to celebrate our life and culture here, and continue to be mindful of all safety practices during the Carnival season. Please exercise caution during parades and elsewhere on the streets,” Cantrell said. The four remaining parades with tandem floats—three of which rolled Sunday and Monday—all agreed to comply with the new rule. The leadership of Endymion, the parade organizers whose tandem floats were involved in a death on Saturday, expressed support for the new rule but said a permanent ban might not be the best long term solution. “Endymion is not the only parade that has tandem floats, or triple floats … And (banning them) would have a tremendous effect, in my opinion, on the conduct of the parades,” said Endymion's vice president, Emile “Peppi” Bruneau. Cantrell and other city leaders plan to form an advisory committee about Carnival safety. [NOLA.com; Washington Post]
IMMIGRATION | Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey abandoned his push to add an amendment to the state constitution banning sanctuary cities after he faced pushback from businesses and immigrant rights groups. Since he took office in 2015, Ducey has tried to undo the financial damage caused to the state by SB 1070, a measure put in place by the previous governor that banned sanctuary cities and allowed police to ask people they suspected of being in the country without documentation for their paperwork. The measure was condemned by immigrant rights groups and business boycotts lost the state over $100 million in revenue. Before dropping his proposal to solidify the ban on sanctuary cities, Ducey denied that it would have led to similar boycotts like SB 1070. “The state is booming. I think what would hurt the state’s reputation is sanctuary cities, which people have tried to put on the ballot. The state’s reputation is just fine—we’ve got people moving here every day,” he said. Later that day, his chief of staff, Daniel Scarpinato, said that opposition from the business community would make an amendment hard to pass. “Anytime you’re pushing a policy, the stars need to align for it to happen and get across the finish line. On this one, we just came to the conclusion that the stars weren’t aligning,” Scarpinato said. [Associated Press]
GOVERNOR SURGERY | New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy announced that he has a kidney tumor and will undergo surgery next month to remove it. “The prognosis is very good and I’m profoundly grateful to my doctors for detecting the tumor early,” Murphy wrote on Twitter. A spokesperson for Murphy said that it was impossible to determine if the tumor is cancerous until it is removed, but that in similar cases, 90% of tumors have been cancerous. [New York Times]
VALENTINE’S CONDOMS | Planned Parenthood sent Valentine’s Day themed condoms to California state lawmakers, some of whom took offense to the message on them that read: “Don’t F*ck With Us, Don’t F*ck Without Us.” Republican state Sen. Mike Morrell called the message “a veiled threat.” Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins, a Democrat, said that “while the phrasing on the wrapper is a bit cheeky for a professional workplace, I also can appreciate the boldness of Planned Parenthood’s messaging and the opportunity to promote safe sex practices.” [Los Angeles Times]
Emma Coleman is the assistant editor for Route Fifty.