Connecting state and local government leaders
STATE AND LOCAL ROUNDUP | Police in Colorado take off-road vehicles to homeless encampment to provide vaccines and Covid tests … Can city recoup cancelled RNC costs? … Colleges require flu shots.
Eleven states on Tuesday joined the U.S. Department of Justice in filing an antitrust lawsuit against Google that accuses the company of using exclusive business contracts to stymie competitors and maintain an illegal monopoly over “search and search advertising.”
“For many years, Google has used anticompetitive tactics to maintain and extend its monopolies in the markets for general search services, search advertising, and general search text advertising—the cornerstones of its empire,” says the legal complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C.
Those tactics include “exclusionary agreements” with smartphone manufacturers (including Apple and Samsung) and wireless carriers (AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon) that make Google the default search engine and “in many cases...specifically prohibit Google’s counterparties from dealing with Google’s competitors,” according to the lawsuit. Left unchecked, the complaint says, those actions will continue “crippling the competitive process, reducing consumer choice, and stifling innovation.”
In a statement, Google called the lawsuit “deeply flawed,” saying the company hasn’t violated federal antitrust laws.
“People use Google because they choose to, not because they’re forced to, or because they can’t find alternatives,” the company said on its website. “This lawsuit would do nothing to help consumers. To the contrary, it would artificially prop up lower-quality search alternatives, raise phone prices, and make it harder for people to get the search services they want to use.”
All 11 state attorneys general who signed onto the complaint are Republican. But a bipartisan group of nearly every other state attorney general is conducting a separate investigation into Google, including seven who released a joint statement Tuesday saying they would “file a motion to consolidate our case with the DOJ’s” should the results of their probe warrant a lawsuit. Democratic lawmakers in Congress have also accused Google of controlling an illegal monopoly over online search and advertising. [The New York Times; Washington Post; The Verge]
OFF-ROAD COVID TESTING | Police in Pueblo, Colorado are driving utility task vehicles to visit homeless people living on the rocky and hard-to-reach banks of a local creek. The Pueblo Police Department used two new UTVs, purchased for $36,000, to provide Covid-19 tests and hepatitis A vaccinations to the homeless population near Fountain Creek. The vehicles, outfitted with police lights, sirens and a trailer, were purchased with a combination of grant funding from the Colorado Housing and Finance Authority and donations from Volunteers Assisting Pueblo Police, which raised money through a golf tournament. In addition to homeless outreach, the vehicles will be used for street events, community outreach and safety patrols along river and wilderness trails. [The Coloradoan]
CANCELED CONVENTION COSTS | Officials in Jacksonville, Florida are seeking reimbursement for more than $150,000 in law enforcement expenses, consulting fees and other costs associated with preparing the city to host the National Republican Convention. The convention was originally scheduled to take place in Charlotte but was moved to Jacksonville after party officials objected to social distancing guidelines put in place by North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper. But the in-person event in Jacksonville was later canceled due to concerns over the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. City officials said the host committee assured them the costs would be repaid in a timely manner. [Florida Times-Union]
COVID-19 COLLABORATIVE | A medical research center in Maine is the latest institute to join a nationwide initiative to create a centralized data hub for scientists to study—and identify potential treatments for—Covid-19. The Maine Medical Center Research Institute, located in Portland, received a $203,000 grant from West Virginia University to join the collective, known as the National Covid Cohort Collaborative. The partnership includes more than 35 institutions and aims to use clinical data on Covid-19 to address the pandemic. Participating organizations “send in de-identified clinical, laboratory and diagnostic data from patients tested for Covid-19,” which is then made available to scientists and researchers who are working to improve care and treatments for the virus. The Maine Medical Center Research Institute will contribute a data warehouse of medical records from patients, starting at the beginning of 2020. The project complies with medical confidentiality laws, officials said. [Associated Press]
COLLEGE FLU SHOTS | A growing number of colleges and universities are requiring students and staff members to get vaccinated for the flu as schools try to mitigate the risk of an influenza outbreak alongside the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. About 14% of colleges and universities in a sample of 86 schools are requiring the flu shot, according to preliminary data from the American College Health Association, and 67% of schools that aren’t requiring the vaccination are increasing efforts to encourage participation. Some schools, including Wayne State University in Detroit, are providing religious, moral, ethical and medical exemptions for staff and students. Others, like the University of California system, are facing lawsuits that the requirement is unconstitutional. The flu vaccine reduces the risk of illness from the flu by between 40% and 60%, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. [Wall Street Journal]
Kate Elizabeth Queram is a staff correspondent for Route Fifty and is based in Washington, D.C.