Connecting state and local government leaders
STATE AND LOCAL ROUNDUP | Medical debt bill passes in Idaho … Measure would lift a ban on yoga in Alabama … Florida may invest in recount technology.
Officials in San Jose and San Francisco have proposed moratoriums on evictions that are related to the coronavirus. San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo said that he was concerned about low-income workers who may lose wages if they have to stay home from work. He’s proposed legislation that would create a 30-day moratorium on evictions if residents can prove they can’t pay rent due to issues associated with the respiratory. “Anyone who has lost income and is no longer able to pay rent, we want to do everything we can to keep them housed. We know it’s a public health and public safety issue if thousands of residents are being pushed out onto the street,” Liccardo said. If the measure is approved, the city would reevaluate each month to see if the eviction ban needs to be extended. The California Apartment Association said it would support the measure and remind landlords to be sympathetic to tenant’s financial woes. “This is a difficult period and everyone has a responsibility to do their part as we work towards halting the spread of the virus. We call upon our financial institutions, utilities and other organizations to take similar efforts to ease the economic impact that this virus has caused,” said Anil Babbar, vice president of public affairs for the Association. Further north, San Francisco Supervisor Dean Preston introduced legislation to protect “tenants who cannot pay rent if they lose income as a result of their compliance with recommendations of the Department of Public Health.” San Francisco has eight confirmed cases of the virus, and Santa Clara County has over three dozen. A cruise ship carrying over 20 people who have symptoms of Covid-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, just docked in Oakland on Monday. [Mercury News; Curbed SF]
PATIENT PROTECTION | The Idaho state legislature passed a measure known as the Idaho Patient Act, which would prevent medical debt collectors from aggressively pursuing patients over unpaid bills. Under the bill, after a medical procedure patients must receive a list of everyone who will bill them and providers must submit bills within 45 days of a procedure. Medical providers won’t be able to sue a patient or give the bill to a debt collector until 90 days after the patient receives a final statement. Frank VanderSloot, the CEO of an Idaho-based wellness company, worked with lawmakers to draft the legislation. He recently created a $1 million defense fund for patients fighting medical debt collectors. “Make no mistake, the public is who got this passed. People spoke out against these egregious practices and they wrote their senators and their state representatives. Tens of thousands of letters were received by senators and representatives about this legislation. This was a bill for the people,” VanderSloot said. The bill now heads to Gov. Brad Little. [East Idaho News]
PUBLIC SCHOOL YOGA | A bill in Alabama would lift a ban on yoga in public schools, though the poses would have to be taught only in English and teachers could not use the greeting “namaste.” In 1993, the state prohibited yoga, hypnosis, and meditation from being taught in public schools, an initiative pushed by conservative groups. State Rep. Jeremy Gray, the Democrat who authored the bill, said that times have changed. “I think a lot of minds have shifted. [Lawmakers] didn’t really understand it, and now they understand it more. Their mothers do it. Their wives do it,” he said. Some yoga practitioners, including Rev. Clete Hux, the director of the Apologetics Resource Center in Birmingham, said they don’t approve of the removal of Sanskrit words and yoga’s spiritual aspects. “We think we can take anything and remake it to fit our lifestyle. They’re trying to separate yoga from Hinduism, or separate it from its religious roots. But according to Hinduism, you can’t do that. Basically, there is no Hinduism without yoga and no yoga without Hinduism,” Hux said. [Associated Press; New York Times]
RECOUNTS | The Florida state House passed legislation to allow county election supervisors to purchase technology that can more quickly run election recounts. The state is known for its small margins between candidates and frequently has to run recounts, so supporters say the measure is necessary. But others, including Patricia Brigham, president of the League of Women Voters of Florida, have pointed out that there is only one approved vendor providing the technology. “We have huge elections security issues in our country and our state, and when you have only one machine authorized to do these automatic audits, you open yourselves up for problems,” she said. [Miami Herald]
ANIMAL GAS CHAMBERS | A state lawmaker in Ohio has introduced a bill that would prohibit animal shelters from using gas chambers as a method of euthanasia. Ohio is one of four states where gas chambers for animal euthanasia are legal. [WOSU]
Emma Coleman is the assistant editor for Route Fifty.