Connecting state and local government leaders
STATE AND LOCAL NEWS ROUNDUP | Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt becomes first governor to test positive … People pack into Utah meeting to complain about school mask requirements … Supreme Court will allow Florida to bar ex-felons from voting if fines remain unpaid.
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp and the state filed a lawsuit Thursday against Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and the city council, trying to block the city’s mask mandate and other coronavirus restrictions. On Wednesday, the governor issued an executive order banning local governments from issuing mask mandates aimed at limiting the spread of the coronavirus. Mayors then reacted with a mixture of frustration and defiance, with Bottoms saying she would continue to require masks in city-owned buildings like the airport. Georgia, the first state to reopen after initiating restrictions on businesses this spring, has seen climbing case counts. On July 10, Bottoms issued an order pushing Atlanta back to “Phase One,” which encouraged people to remain at home and closed restaurants to in-person service. Kemp said his lawsuit is “on behalf of the Atlanta business owners and their hardworking employees who are struggling to survive during these difficult times. These men and women are doing their very best to put food on the table for their families while local elected officials shutter businesses and undermine economic growth.” Bottoms responded in a tweet, noting that she and her family have tested positive for Covid-19 and 3,104 people in the state have died. “A better use of taxpayer money would be to expand testing and contact tracing,” she said. Bottoms isn’t the only local leader at odds with a governor. For example, in Texas, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo has said she wants to issue a stay-at-home order for the Houston area, but Gov. Greg Abbott hasn’t given her the authority to do so. A White House document obtained by the Center for Public Integrity shows Georgia, Florida, Texas and 13 other states in the coronavirus “red zone” for new cases, a category the report says should result in policies like indoor mask requirements and closure of bars and gyms. [WSB-TV; Atlanta Journal Constitution; Associated Press; Savannah Morning News; Houston Chronicle]
GOVERNOR WITH CORONAVIRUS | Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt became the first governor to test positive for the coronavirus on Wednesday. Stitt said he did not know how he became infected and feels fine. On Wednesday, the state reported 1,075 new coronavirus cases, its highest number for a single day since the start of the pandemic. [New York Times]
PROVO SCHOOLS | Residents of Provo, Utah packed into a county hearing on Wednesday to complain about a mandate from Gov. Gary Herbert requiring students at public schools this fall to wear masks. Commissioner Tanner Ainge left the meeting early after observing that it did not comply with social distancing guidelines. Members of the public complained that masks cut off oxygen and stated that Covid-19 is just like the flu. “Covid is a hoax. It’s a lie. It’s a political stunt,” said one woman. [Salt Lake Tribune]
FLORIDA VOTING | The Supreme Court will allow Florida to prohibit people with felony convictions who haven’t paid the fines and fees they owe from voting in the November election. The decision was made in an unsigned order on Thursday and did not include any reasoning. Three justices signed onto a dissent by Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who wrote, it “prevents thousands of otherwise eligible voters from participating in Florida's primary election simply because they are poor.” [CNN; Washington Post]
POLICE ACCOUNTABILITY | New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio signed into law the “NYPD Accountability Package,” a series of policy changes that, among other things, bans the use of chokeholds, protects citizens’ rights to record police, and requires on-duty officers to have their shield number and rank designations visible at all times. "I'm confident we can make these reforms work and continue strengthening the bond between police officers and our communities,” he said. [ABC 7]
Laura Maggi is the managing editor at Route Fifty and Emma Coleman is the assistant editor.