Connecting state and local government leaders
STATE AND LOCAL ROUNDUP | Illinois House speaker’s power slipping amid federal probe … Milwaukee health workers face death threats … Florida sheriff’s office keeping list of kids seen at risk of “life of crime” … state-local spat over charity venison.
Efforts by President Trump and his campaign to enlist the help of state and local Republican officials in the president's bid to overturn the voting results in this month's election are so far failing to gain significant traction. Trump and his surrogates continue to claim that voter fraud and irregularities swung the election for President-elect Joe Biden, but have failed to present evidence to make their case. After meeting with the president at the White House, top Michigan lawmakers indicated that they would allow the usual election certification process to unfold in their state without intervening. In Maricopa County, Arizona, the Board of Supervisors, with a Republican majority, voted unanimously to certify the local election results, and the board's chairman emphasized that there was no evidence of election fraud or misconduct in the county. Leading GOP lawmakers in Pennsylvania have said they have no part to play in the process of awarding electoral college votes in the state, where unofficial results show Biden defeating Trump by upwards of 80,000 votes. In Georgia, Republican governor, Brian Kemp, moved ahead with certifying his state's election results, confirming Biden's win there. Trump's campaign has requested a recount in the state, which would follow a full recount that Georgia has already conducted.
There are still questions about how smoothly the vote certification process will play out in the coming days and weeks. For example, a state board in Michigan is set to vote on certifying the results there. But at least one GOP member of that board, Norman Shinkle, voiced uncertainty about which way he would vote and said hundreds of people have contacted him urging him to vote one way or the other. “You can’t make up your mind before you get all the facts,” Shinkle said. All 83 counties in the state have submitted certified voting results, showing Biden ahead by about 154,000 votes. “What Trump is doing is creating a road map to destabilization and chaos in future years,” Trevor Potter, a Republican who served as chairman of the Federal Election Commission during the 1990s, told The New York Times. “What he’s saying, explicitly, is if a party doesn’t like the election result they have the right to change it by gaming the system.” [The Washington Post, The New York Times]
INVESTIGATIONS | The powerful speaker of the Illinois House continued to deny wrongdoing as four members of his inner circle were indicted last week on federal bribery charges. Speaker Michael Madigan, a Democrat, hasn’t been charged with any crimes. But there are simmering questions about whether federal authorities could go after him at some point as part of a corruption probe. Madigan now appears to be in jeopardy of losing his speakership—a job he has held almost continuously since 1983—as support for him erodes among his fellow Democrats. He’s now at least five votes short of the 60 he would need to claim the post again in January. “This reflects a big change in what people in Illinois are expecting out of government," said Cook County Assessor Fritz Kaegi. "Basically, we have one of the last old-school political machines in the country. Madigan’s a lineal descendant of that tradition and people don’t think it works. It has caused tremendous fiscal problems in the state.” U.S. Attorney John Lausch’s office has been tightlipped about where things will head from here with an investigation, but says it “remains ongoing.” [Chicago Sun-Times, Chicago Tribune, POLITICO]
THREATS | Health department workers in Milwaukee are facing death threats and having their personal information revealed online as they try to enforce city public health requirements meant to help control the spread of the coronavirus. At least two people have shown up at a health department site looking for staff, the department said. The situation became heightened when health inspectors tried to enforce a city health order at a rally held by supporters of President Trump. "You (expletives) showed up and Trumps rally in Milwaukee(serbhall) and shut it down. I dare you to try it at the nex (sic)," an online message directed at the health department read. "Me and a \'few\' of my friends will be at the rest of the rallies and if you health chumps show up you'll be leaving (in) body bags." [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel]
POLICING | A sheriff’s office near Tampa, Florida is under scrutiny for keeping a secret list of over 400 middle school and high school kids that the agency sees as having the potential to “fall into a life of crime” based on factors like whether they’ve been abused, or if they’re performing poorly in school. “Can you imagine having your kid in that county and they might be on a list that says they may become a criminal?” said Linnette Attai, a consultant who helps companies and schools comply with student privacy laws. [Tampa Bay Times]
VENISON FIGHT | A Maryland county program that pays hunters $50 for each deer they deliver to a local food bank has come under fire from state regulators. The Anne Arundel County Food Bank allows hunters to give deer to participating butchers, who then pass venison along to the food bank. The state Department of Natural Resources says the program is on shaky legal ground because the payments are considered an "exchange" for game mammals, a prohibited act under state law. “While we believe the County had good intentions, it is disappointing that the Department was not asked to consult or provide feedback on the Venison Food Relief Act prior to its public commencement,” Natural Resources Secretary Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio wrote in a letter to the county. “It is also unfortunate that your Venison Food Relief Program now puts both Maryland hunters and deer processors in a precarious legal position if they participate in the county program.” County Executive Steuart Pittman, who funded the program with $128,000 in CARES Act dollars, said he does not believe they are violating any laws and will continue the program. [Capital Gazette]
ENVIRONMENTAL SETTLEMENT | Illinois last week announced a settlement with a development company that demolished an old coal plant without first taking the proper safety precautions to contain dust from the implosion. The Little Village neighborhood in Chicago was covered in dust following the demolition organized by Hilco Redevelopment Partners. Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul said that Hilco will be required to pay $370,000 into a fund to support the community’s “long term health and wellness.” A local nonprofit will work to distribute the money to programs that address asthma, diabetes and hypertension. Raoul said the settlement holds Hilco “accountable for their failure to adequately protect residents from air pollution during demolition at the site" and that it also "represents a step toward environmental justice for residents of the Little Village community." [Block Club Chicago]
Bill Lucia is a senior reporter for Route Fifty and is based in Olympia, Washington.