Connecting state and local government leaders
STATE AND LOCAL ROUNDUP | Thousands of kids in Miami-Dade return to classrooms … Maine’s marijuana industry expected to get off to a sputtering start … de Blasio, Cuomo at odds over shutdown orders in some New York City neighborhoods.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said Monday he would not resign from his post after seven of his top aides said they are seeking a federal law enforcement investigation into allegations of criminal misconduct against him, including abuse of office and bribery. “Despite the effort by rogue employees and their false allegations I will continue to seek justice in Texas and will not be resigning,” Paxton said in a statement. The accusations involve Paxton’s relationship with Nate Paul, a wealthy Austin real estate investor and a campaign donor to the attorney general. In the past year, at least 18 of Paul’s companies have declared bankruptcy and in 2019 his offices were the targets of FBI raids, according to news reports. The mutiny against Paxton by his staff materialized after a special prosecutor the attorney general appointed issued grand jury subpoenas for Paul’s “adversaries,” an official in the AG’s office told Hearst Newspapers. Gov. Greg Abbott said the allegations raise “serious concerns,” but said he wouldn’t comment on the situation further until an investigation is completed. [Austin American-Statesman, Houston Chronicle, The Texas Tribune]
BACK TO SCHOOL | Thousands of pre-k, kindergarten and first grade students, along with some students who have disabilities, returned to Miami-Dade Public Schools classrooms for the first time since the coronavirus outbreak struck the U.S. earlier this year. The school district is the fourth-largest in the nation. All told, over 22,000 kids headed to school facilities and another 40,000 are expected to return Wednesday under a gradual reopening plan. “The truth is, I am 77, and it is dangerous if he gets sick,” said Yvonne Brooker, who walked her grandson to his first day of kindergarten. “But, he has to be with other children.” [Miami Herald]
REOPENING REVERSAL | Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday declined to grant approval for a plan New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio put forward on Sunday to tighten restrictions on coronavirus outbreak hotspots in Brooklyn and Queens. The stricter measures de Blasio proposed would close down all public and private schools in nine city ZIP codes, as well as certain “nonessential” businesses and indoor and outdoor restaurant dining. The change would mark a reversal of prior steps the city has taken to reopen. But Cuomo rebuffed the mayor’s call to shutter nonessential businesses, raising concerns that the boundaries used to target the closures weren’t precise enough. The governor also moved to speed up the school closures. Cuomo and de Blasio, both Democrats, have a long history of quarreling. [The New York Times, Politico]
MARIJUANA | Maine’s state-regulated recreational marijuana industry is set to open up on Friday. But for consumers, it could be somewhat of a disappointment. Some retailers say they expect to be short on marijuana and other cannabis products. “We can’t stock the shelves,” said David Page, an owner of Coastal Cannabis Co. “As much as we want to do opening day, and we really, really do, we’re thinking we might sit this out, and maybe give the supply chain a chance to get going.” Licensing delays and the coronavirus pandemic have created obstacles for the industry, those involved in it say. “We understand it’s not going to be the big celebratory day I am sure industry and consumers were hoping for,” said Erik Gundersen, director of the Maine Office of Marijuana Policy. “It will be a slower start, yes, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing considering our priority when we launch is to do it as safely as possible … and of course, we fully expect the industry to grow.” [Portland Press Herald]
UNPAID FINES | Maryland and Virginia drivers over the past four years have amassed over $373 million in unpaid parking and traffic fines in Washington, D.C., raising concerns among local officials in the District. “We have a big problem,” said D.C. Council member Charles Allen. “Virginia and Maryland drivers rack up hundreds, if not thousands and thousands of dollars of automated traffic enforcement [fines,] but we have no way to actually ever enforce it.” [The Washington Post]
CITY BUDGETS | Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot will postpone her 2021 budget address until Oct. 21, providing more time for Congress to possibly agree on another aid package that could funnel more money to cities. An infusion of federal aid might help to alleviate some of Chicago’s financial woes. City officials anticipate a shortfall of about $1.2 billion in the next budget cycle and blame the pandemic for eroding hundreds of millions of dollars in expected revenue. The mayor was scheduled to deliver the address Oct. 14. [Chicago Sun-Times]
Bill Lucia is a senior reporter for Route Fifty and is based in Olympia, Washington.