Connecting state and local government leaders
STATE AND LOCAL NEWS ROUNDUP | West Virginia selected for $500 million hyperloop site … Vermont moves ahead with retail marijuana … Library worker allegedly stole $1.3 million in printer toner ... Tofurky sues over Louisiana “burger” labeling law.
Members of a militia group were plotting to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer as part of now-foiled plans to take violent action against the government, according to newly unsealed court documents. Federal authorities charged six people accused of taking part in the conspiracy and seven others are facing state charges. Allegations in a sworn affidavit say that members of the group talked about "murdering ... tyrants" and discussed plans to “storm” the state’s capitol building with 200 men. They planned to take hostages, including Whitmer, and then wanted to try the governor for treason. Those accused of taking part in the plot also allegedly bought weapons and carried out surveillance activities, including at the governor’s vacation home. "Snatch and grab, man. Grab the f----n governor. Just grab the b----. Because at that point, we do that dude, it's over,” one of the accused men, Adam Fox, said, according to the affidavit. "The allegations in this complaint are deeply disturbing,” said U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider in the Eastern District of Michigan. Whitmer blamed President Trump’s rhetoric for helping to fuel activity among fringe groups. "Hate groups heard the president’s words not as a rebuke, but as a rallying cry, a call to action," the Democratic governor said, referencing recent remarks by the president. The revelation of the kidnapping plot comes in the wake of protests and tensions over emergency orders that Whitmer, like other governors, issued as part of efforts to curb the spread of the coronavirus. Demonstrators opposed to the measures have appeared at the state capitol, some armed with long guns. “The lockdown has been a lightning rod for anti-government extremists in this country, and Gov. Whitmer has been on the forefront of their targeting,” said Seamus Hughes, deputy director of George Washington University’s Program on Extremism. [Detroit Free Press, The Detroit News]
HYPERLOOP DREAMS | Virgin Hyperloop has selected West Virginia as the location for a planned $500 million testing and development facility for the ultra-fast transportation technology. The hyperloop system as envisioned involves pods, suspended in the air using magnetic levitation, that zoom through vacuum tubes at speeds of 600 mph, or faster. The idea is that the technology could provide a new way of moving people and goods. Construction of the West Virginia project is set to begin in 2022 at a former coal mine site in the northern part of the state. [Reuters, Charleston Gazette-Mail]
GREEN MOUNTAIN STATE | Vermont will move ahead with state-regulated recreational marijuana sales and production under a bill that Gov. Phil Scott allowed to go into effect without his signature. Possession of up to an ounce of pot has been legal for adults in the state since 2018. Retail stores are unlikely to open before 2022 as the state sets up the bureaucracy to oversee the industry. The Vermont law earmarks nearly one-third of state tax revenues from retail marijuana sales for after-school learning programs. [Burlington Free Press]
TONER CAPER | A former public library employee in Austin, Texas stole at least $1.3 million of printer toner and sold it online, according to city auditors. A report says the worker, accounting associate Randall Whited, fraudulently purchased $1.5 million of toner between 2007 and last year. He’s also accused of using library credit cards to charge $18,000 or more for items that looked to be for personal use, like video games and robotic vacuum cleaners. [CNN]
TOURISM SLUMP | Arizona’s Office of Tourism is reporting a nearly $1 billion drop in travel spending in August, compared to the same month last year, and says about 113,000 tourism jobs have been eroded in the state. The travel and tourism sector has been hard-hit by the nation’s Covid-19 outbreak. “This data paints a bleak, but accurate picture of the importance of tourism to our economy and the steep challenges our industry faces in working toward recovery,” said the office’s director, Debbie Johnson. Johnson said the state is focusing on “growing consumer confidence” and promoting Arizona road trips and staycations. [The Arizona Republic]
‘DANGEROUS’ VIRUS GUIDELINES? | Public health experts are criticizing North Dakota’s new quarantine guidelines. The guidelines say people who came in contact with someone infected with Covid-19 will not have to self-quarantine if both people were correctly wearing masks. "This is the worst case of pseudoscience I've ever seen," said Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota. "This is highly dangerous to public health, especially in North Dakota." North Dakota this week continued to have one of the highest per capita rates of Covid-19 cases among states, according to data compiled by The New York Times. [INFORUM]
FOOD LABELING | Tofurky, a company that makes vegetarian sausages, burgers and other plant-based deli goods is suing over a Louisiana law that bans grocers from calling meatless products “burgers,” “bacon” and the like. Tofurky has so far had success pushing back against similar laws in Arkansas and Mississippi. [Vox]
Bill Lucia is a senior reporter for Route Fifty and is based in Olympia, Washington.