Connecting state and local government leaders
STATE AND LOCAL NEWS ROUNDUP | Colorado seeks federal compliance with standardized testing; community policing push in Oakland, Calif.; and the last two Obamacare insurers in Utah seek exclusions.
Due to ongoing flood disaster in Texas, we’re offering an abbreviated state and local government news roundup.
LAW ENFORCEMENT | The interim police chief in Colbert, Oklahoma will resign after being linked to two neo-Nazi websites. Bart Alsbrook said the allegations made by KXII News 12 threatened his family and livelihood and blamed Dallas neo-Nazis engaged in a smear campaign since the mid-90s. Alsbrook was listed as owning ISD Records and NS88 Videos, two companies selling Confederate flags, Nazi patches and other white supremacist memorabilia that both went offline after he was questioned. The police chief’s name was also used in a 2005 attempt to trademark “Blood Honour,” the name of a clandestine coalition of particularly violent skinhead gangs. “It’s not me, rather someone who has hijacked my name due to my combativeness and rejection to white power skinheads who were always coming to the heavy metal shows, starting fights and messing up our scene.” [Tulsa World]
Oakland, California’s new civilian-led Police Commission aims to make major changes like implementing community policing, increasing training, overhauling recruitment and combating racial profiling in its first year. Mental illness among the local homeless population will likely be addressed at some point, as will police use of force. Commissioners will have the power to remove the city’s police chief within limits and expressed interest in building trust between police and minority neighborhoods. “The commission has the power to become the bridge for a stronger, more reflective, more problem-solving, de-escalating, culturally sensitive Police Department,” said commissioner Regina Jackson, president of the East Oakland Youth Development Center. “I believe it’ll take a total disruption of police culture as it exists now.” [San Francisco Chronicle]
VOTER REGISTRATION | In Illinois, Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner signed a bill implementing automatic voter registration a year after killing similar legislation citing voter fraud. The “Land of Lincoln” joins a half dozen other states trying to increase citizen participation in elections, automatically registering those eligible to vote unless they opt out when applying for government services like drivers’ licenses. "This is good bipartisan legislation and it addresses the fundamental fact that the right to vote is foundational for the rights of Americans in our Democracy," Rauner said. "We as a people need to do everything we can to knock down barriers, remove hurdles for all those who are eligible to vote, to be able to vote." [Chicago Tribune; AP via The Pantagraph]
CORRECTIONS | Montana is preparing to expand a prison program that focuses on helping incarcerated women who have suffered trauma, such as abuse. Riverside Recovery and Reentry Program is operated by the state Department of Corrections and private contractors. “It’s healing the mind, body and soul,” said Darcy Hill, after completing about a week of the program. “I’ve never been to a facility where that’s the focus. It’s always finding something wrong with you, but now I’ve got a brand-new start.” [Billings Gazette]
EDUCATION | Officials in Colorado are seeking more time to determine how the state can comply with federal requirements for standardized test-taking in schools, while also respecting the rights of parents who don’t want their children to take the tests. The U.S. Department of Education told Colorado officials earlier this month that by not penalizing schools that don’t meet a 95 percent participation threshold for standardized tests the state is failing to meet the terms of the federal Every Student Succeeds Act. [Chalkbeat Colorado]
HEALTH CARE | The last two insurers participating in the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, health insurance marketplace in Utah want state lawmakers to exclude patients with the highest medical costs from the system. SelectHealth and University of Utah Health Plans are pushing for the state to reopen a high-risk insurance pool, an option frowned upon by some Utahns with pre-existing conditions. [The Salt Lake Tribune]