Connecting state and local government leaders
STATE AND LOCAL ROUNDUP | Audit finds that California lottery owes schools $36 million … Connecticut lawmaker calls vaccines “witches brew” … D.C. sent out voter registration cards with wrong primary dates.
A plan from the Maine Department of Public Safety would create a new division of the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency devoted to crimes associated with marijuana. The proposal is facing pushback from some who say the move is an effort to re-criminalize pot three years after the state legalized the drug recreationally. Michael Sauschuck, commissioner of the Maine Department of Public Safety, said that the team would focus on criminal activities that compete against state-licensed marijuana growers, processors, and retailers, like black market sales of marijuana to people who are underage. The unit would also have a civil compliance mandate to monitor licensed marijuana growers and sellers. It would be funded by $649,000 in marijuana tax and licensing revenue. “The black market doesn’t just go away overnight … We legalized a whole bracket of drugs and the vast majority of people are going to absolutely comply with that, but there will be those that push that limit. As other states have seen, there is absolutely a time and place for enforcement,” Sauschuck said. State Rep. Kent Ackley, an independent, said he sees a need for the plan. “My hope would be that we don’t have to send people to jail to convince the gray market to participate in the regulated marketplace. Nonetheless, the threat of doing that is an important piece of what we’re trying to accomplish,” he said. But some marijuana advocates are skeptical. Mark Barnett, a medical marijuana caregiver, said that Maine should treat the marijuana marketplace like any other legal industry. “We do not want to see one additional person incarcerated for marijuana. It’s a move in the wrong direction and counter to the very idea of legalization,” he said. State Rep. Charlotte Warren, a Democrat, was confused by the plan. “I thought we legalized cannabis … why are we adding more agents for something that we actually legalized?” she said. [Portland Press Herald]
LOTTERY | The California State Lottery has not paid enough money towards education, a recent audit revealed. The lottery is supposed to direct 34% of its sales revenue to schools, but the audit shows the lottery shortchanged schools by $36 million last year. State Sen. Ling Ling Chang requested the audit when she tried to find funding for computer science programs and noticed the lottery’s school funding numbers were lower than they should have been. “The findings … demonstrate what we suspected all along. That the California lottery has a culture of profits first and schools last. They owe our schools millions of dollars,” Chang said. Chang has since introduced a bill that would mandate a yearly audit of the lottery. [Sacramento Bee]
‘WITCHES BREW’ | In Connecticut, the debate over a bill that would eliminate religious exemptions to vaccine mandates has gotten heated. State Rep. Jack Hennessy, a Democrat, called vaccines “a witches brew of chemicals” and said they are “not a one-size fits all thing.” State Health Commissioner Renee Coleman-Mitchell came to testify in support of the bill. “After looking at the trends, I believe we can no longer afford to put our children at risk of infectious diseases by allowing non-medical exemptions. We should not wait until our vaccination rates decline any further, or wait for the next measles outbreak, to take action,” she said. Data gathered by the health department found that kindergarten classes at 134 schools in the state did not reach the 95% measles vaccination threshold needed to maintain herd immunity in 2019. Religious exemptions have reached an all-time high since the state began tracking the information a decade ago. [CT Mirror; ArsTechnica]
PRIMARY DATE | The D.C. Board of Elections sent 25,000 voter registration cards out that had the wrong primary election date on them. Officials are now sending out new cards with the correct information, but some advocates are pushing them to do more. Myrna Perez of the Brennan Center for Justice, the organization which first raised the issue of the incorrect date, said that “the best way to counter incorrect information is to widely publicize correct information.” [Washington Post]
GENDER NEUTRAL TOYS | A proposal in California would make it illegal for stores with at least 500 employees to separate toys and childcare products by gender. The bill would mandate that stores eliminate boys and girls exclusive aisles, instead having a gender neutral section for children’s products. [KFBK]
Emma Coleman is the assistant editor for Route Fifty.