U.S. Circuit Court’s Big Ruling in Smart Meter 'Warrantless Search' Case

Naperville, Illinois

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Connecting state and local government leaders

STATE AND LOCAL ROUNDUP | $200 million in seized personal property in Arizona … Pittsburgh’s steepest street declaration … and explore Charlotte’s expanded airport concourse.

Good morning, it’s Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2018. There’s certainly been a cascade of major national news in the past 24 hours related to President Trump, his former lawyer and former campaign chairman, right? But there’s also been quite a bit going on that impacts state and local governments around the nation. Energy news leads today’s roundup, but scroll down for more from places like Dover, Delaware; Kimballton, Iowa; and Honolulu, Hawaii.

ENERGY | A three-judge panel from the Chicago-based 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last week that readings taken from smart meters owned by the city of Naperville, Illinois constitute a “warrantless search” but a “reasonable search.” The Electronic Frontier Foundation described the ruling in  Naperville Smart Meter Awareness v. City of Naperville as a “landmark opinion,” saying that the court “recognized that data from these devices reveals intimate details about what’s going on inside the home that would otherwise be unavailable to the government without a physical search. The court held that residents have a reasonable expectation of privacy in this data and that the government’s access of it constitutes a ‘search.’” [UtilityDive; Electronic Frontier Foundation]

  • Washington, D.C.: Columbia, South Carolina Mayor Steve Benjamin, who is the current president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, said in a statement released Tuesday that the organization’s leaders “are extremely disappointed that the Environmental Protection Agency, through their proposed Affordable Clean Energy Rule, has chosen to dramatically weaken our nation’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.” Benjamin was reacting to the Trump administration’s announcement to replace rules for coal-fired power plants from the Obama administration. [U.S. Conference of Mayors]
  • New Milford, Connecticut: Mayor Peter Bass is planning to not grant a tax abatement to a developer of a proposed solar-power plant because the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection hasn’t approved the project.  [Republican-American]

INFRASTRUCTURE | Charlotte Douglas International Airport recently opened a 229,807-square foot expansion of Concourse A, bringing North Carolina’s largest city an upgraded transportation facility with nine new gates, wider walkways to handle larger crowds and some pretty cool digital art installations to brighten the mood for delayed passengers. While there are plenty of the airport’s famous rocking chairs, all gate seating areas come equipped with charging ports for electronic devices. That expanses of windows in the expanded concourse feature glass that automatically tints in sunnier conditions. [CLT Airport / YouTube]

  • Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: New signs will be going up at Canton Avenue that will declare it to be the steepest street in the continental U.S. The relatively short street in Pittsburgh’s Beechview neighborhood has a 37 percent grade. [The Incline]
  • Danbury, Connecticut: Members of the Danbury City Council on Monday “begrudgingly” advanced a plan for $102 million in mandated improvements to an aging water treatment plant. [NewsTimes]  

STATE GOVERNMENT | A three-judge panel of Superior Court judges gave North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper a victory—albeit a temporary one—on Tuesday ruling that “[t]wo of the six constitutional amendments that were supposed to be before North Carolina voters this November must come off the ballot.” In a 2-1 ruling, judges cited language that “misleads and does not sufficiently inform the voters.” Amendments pursued by legislators in the Republican-controlled General Assembly would change the way appointments are made to some state boards and commissions and how judges are selected to fill vacancies. The ruling is expected to be appealed. [@NCCapitol / WRAL; The News & Observer]

  • Phoenix, Arizona: “State laws allowed Arizona law enforcement agencies to seize nearly $200 million in personal property during the past five years—almost all of it cash—from people who may never be charged or convicted of a crime, but systemic gaps in oversight make it difficult to see how they spent much of that money.” [Arizona Center for Investigative Reporting / AZCentral]
  • Jackson, Mississippi: Gov. Phil Bryant has called special legislative session to start Thursday with two agenda items: infrastructure funding and jumpstarting a state lottery. [WLBT]
  • Honolulu, Hawaii: Emergency managers in Hawaii are preparing their communities for possible impacts from Hurricane Lane, a powerful storm with winds nearing 150 mph, but there’s still uncertainty with the forecast track. “Now is the time to get ready,” said Maui Mayor Alan Arakawa. [Hawaii News Now; The Washington Post]
  • Kimballton, Iowa: The Iowa State Auditor’s office is preparing to conclude an investigation into this southwest Iowa city’s finances, an inquiry that “could include criminal charges.” [Atlantic News Telegraph / SWIowaNewsSource]  

LOCAL GOVERNMENT | The Phoenix City Council appointed council staffer Felicita Mendoza to fill the vacancy of Kate Gallego, who is running for mayor. Tuesday’s vote “caps off a tumultuous summer of shakeups that began when former mayor Greg Stanton resigned to run for Congress.” [Phoenix New Times]

  • St. Paul, Minnesota: It’s hard to tell if Minnesota’s county governments are effectively using money the state legislature gave them to fight aquatic invasive species because “reporting is slim and invasives are tough to track.” [Minnesota Public Radio]
  • Dover, Delaware: The Public Works Department in Delaware’s capital city is offering free water testing for anyone who lives in a house built after 1982 if it has copper pipes as part of an effort to expand sampling in the city to ensure it’s compliant with federal regulations for lead and copper concentration. [WMDT]
  • Salt Lake City, Utah: Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski announced two new initiatives to boost the construction of affordable housing, including the expansion of fee waivers for developers building mixed-income residential projects. [Salt Lake Tribune]

Michael Grass is Executive Editor of Government Executive's Route Fifty and is based in Seattle. 

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