Connecting state and local government leaders
As governments continue to struggle to fill public sector jobs, states are getting creative—from the first-ever public service law to allowing DACA recipients to become police officers. Plus, more news to use from around the country in this week's State and Local Roundup.
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It’s Friday, April 28, and we’d like to welcome you to the weekly State and Local Roundup. There’s plenty to keep tabs on, with the Alaska Supreme Court ruling partisan gerrymandering unconstitutional, San Francisco repealing its travel ban to anti-LGBTQ states and Georgia hiring hackers to break into its benefits system. But first we’ll start with efforts this week to bolster public service.
It’s no secret that states, cities and counties are struggling to find workers, and it is a challenge that has spurred a lot of creativity.
The Colorado Legislature, for instance, advanced a bill yesterday that would allow the children of immigrants to carry firearms in order to work in law enforcement. The law currently prohibits Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients from being part of law enforcement and carrying guns. But the Colorado measure would change that.
“We've heard time and time again that police departments and local law enforcement agencies are hurting for staffing,” state Sen. Julie Gonzales, the bill’s co-sponsor, told Colorado Public Radio in February. “And so, this to me seems like an opportunity for immigrants, DACA recipients, who want to step up and serve in order to be able to do so.”
Colorado isn’t the first state to consider allowing people without permanent legal status to become police officers. California passed a law last year that allows anyone authorized to work legally in the state to go into law enforcement, and Wisconsin considered a similar bill but ultimately voted it down.
In January, Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro, who is marking his first 100 days in office this week, signed an executive order that opened up thousands of state jobs to non-college graduates for the first time. The executive order eliminated four-year college degree requirements for roughly 65,000 positions, accounting for 92% of all state positions. Boulder County, Colorado, was one of the first to remove degree requirements in 2019 to attract workers.
But arguably one of the most notable actions this week was by another governor marking his first 100 days in office. Maryland Gov. Wes Moore signed into law a first-in-the-nation bill creating a statewide paid service-year option for Maryland high school graduates that he hopes will become a national model. It is a personal bill for Moore, who has said he wants to be known as the “service governor.”
The program, as envisioned by Moore, would grow from 200 participants in its first year to up to 2,000 high school graduates by 2027.
“By calling on Marylanders to serve and serve together we will bridge the gap between ambition and employment by ensuring that we develop the skills that our society needs,” said Moore at the bill’s signing. “By calling Marylanders to serve together, we will address the challenges in our communities and address them collectively, head on. And by calling Marylanders to serve, we will strengthen civic bonds, restore a spirit of community and call on our fellow citizens to get to know each other, create new friendships and new partnerships and not simply retreating to our corners of political ideology or partisan talking points.”
To bolster the public service measure, Moore also signed several other bills. One will create the Department of Service and Civic Innovation, which will oversee the public service program. The other establishes incentives to attract new employees to certain state government agencies.
Specifically, the bill creates a pilot program between the Department of Human Services and eligible school systems to direct students into careers within the agency. Students will be paid a stipend of $500 to fill human services positions in three jurisdictions. The bill also establishes a scholarship program to help students interested in human services obtain necessary degrees or certifications.
Similarly, AmeriCorps, the federal agency for national service and volunteerism, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced this week $90 million in more than 100 grant awards to state and local organizations for Public Health AmeriCorps, a partnership to support the recruitment, training and development of a new generation of public health leaders.
Public Health AmeriCorps, which is supported by a five-year, $400 million investment from the American Rescue Plan Act, is helping, among other goals, to create pathways to public health-related careers. The new jobs, in all 50 states, do not require a college degree. Workers must be at least 17 years old, and the jobs qualify for the AmeriCorps college tuition assistance program.
There’s no question that there is a significant trend in directing high school students into careers in the public sector. Columnists and senior advisers to Route Fifty, Katherine Barrett and Richard Greene, recently wrote about growing efforts to find public sector workers in high schools.
“The idea of providing work-based learning experiences in high school is not new,” they wrote, “but interest from the public and private sectors has expanded in recent years as both have been grappling with intense workforce shortages. Opportunities in different parts of the country depend on state funding, foundation support, school district receptivity and the push of individual leaders to create programs that work.”
Keep reading as there’s more news to use below, and make sure to come back here every Friday for the week’s highlights. If you don’t already and would prefer to get it in your inbox, you can subscribe to this newsletter here. Have a great weekend.
News to Use
Trends, Common Challenges, Cool Ideas, FYIs, and Notable Events
- Partisan gerrymandering is unconstitutional…at least in Alaska. In a landmark decision, the Alaska Supreme Court ruled last week that partisan gerrymandering is unconstitutional under the Alaska Constitution’s equal protection doctrine. The decision follows a contentious recent reapportionment cycle where the Alaska Redistricting Board was twice found by the state’s highest court of having unconstitutionally gerrymandered the state’s political maps by attempting to give solidly Republican Eagle River more political representation with two Senate seats. Following a court order, the board approved an interim map last year for November’s general election that kept Eagle River intact in one Senate district.
- San Francisco repeals travel ban on anti-LGBTQ states. The San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to end a boycott of 30 states that passed conservative laws after the 2016 rule proved costly and ineffective. The board of supervisors first enacted the law in an effort to punish states that had passed what it viewed as restrictions on LGBTQ rights after the Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges legalized same-sex marriage nationwide. Since 2015, the board had amended the law to include states that, in its view, had limited voting rights and abortion access.
- Georgia hires hackers. The state is paying hackers thousands of dollars to break into a system that millions use to access assistance programs like food stamps and Medicaid, and they’ve already uncovered dozens of gaps, according to the Department of Human Services. The initiative comes after some Georgia citizens receiving benefits reported that their accounts had been hacked and their money stolen after rolling out the state’s $350 cash assistance payments last fall. The problems hackers are finding with the system may exist in other states as well. Financial provider Deloitte, which developed the Gateway system, has provided similar systems to other states.
- Mickey Mouse vs. the governor. Disney sued Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in federal court Wednesday, bringing the governor’s head-scratching battle with one of the state’s largest employers into the courtroom. In the complaint, Disney alleges that it has been the subject of “a targeted campaign of government retaliation—orchestrated at every step by Gov. DeSantis as punishment for Disney’s protected speech,” which the company said “now threatens Disney’s business operations, jeopardizes its economic future in the region, and violates its constitutional rights.” DeSantis has been tangling with the company, including by trying to strip it of some of its expansive self-governing powers, since Disney spoke out in opposition to the Parental Rights in Education law, also called Don’t Say Gay, last year.
- Colorado NIMBYs oppose governor's land-use reforms. Gov. Jared Polis’ major land-use bill tackling the state’s affordable housing crisis was gutted Wednesday to remove any upzoning requirements on municipalities. Municipal leaders have been furious about the prospect of having their hands forced to allow duplexes, triples and fourplexes on at least 30% of their land currently zoned for single-family housing. A 39-page amendment to the measure would form a state board tasked with helping communities assess affordable housing needs and develop long-term plans. Those plans would be focused on preventing displacement and improving transit access and use, while taking into consideration water scarcity.
- GOP affront on ESG continues. Indiana House Republicans voted 66-29 for final passage of a bill Monday that aims to prevent leaders of the state’s pension funds for teachers and other government workers from investing any of their some $45 billion with firms that consider environmental, social and governance (ESG) principles in their investment decisions. The bill now goes to Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb for his signature. Kansas Republicans approved an anti-ESG law this month, while at least seven other states, including Oklahoma, Texas and West Virginia, have enacted similar laws in the past two years.
Picture of the Week
Though they initially tried to have me removed from the public seating area, I am here working on behalf of my constituents as best I can given the undemocratic circumstances.— Rep. Zooey Zephyr (@ZoAndBehold) April 27, 2023
I'm talking to legislators, listening to debate, voting on bills, and fighting for democracy. pic.twitter.com/Ea8y7a48LC
Republicans in Montana’s House of Representatives banned a Democratic transgender lawmaker from the chamber, following her support for protesters who shut down the body's proceedings earlier in the week. Rep. Zooey Zephyr will still be allowed to vote remotely (or from the hallway of the Capitol building), but will not be allowed to access the House chamber, anteroom or gallery under the party-line 68-32 vote taken by the House. Wednesday's vote appears to be without precedent in the Montana Legislature's modern era.
What They’re Saying
“Make no mistake, social media is the wild, wild West. It wasn’t contemplated by the Founding Fathers. If someone comes into the [House] gallery and yells obscenities, we can ask them to leave. If they come to our town halls, we can do the same. So social media—we have to figure out how to manage that.”
Denver Democratic Rep. Leslie Herod on a bill she has co-sponsored with Republican Rep. Matt Soper in the Colorado Legislature that would allow elected officials to block people and delete their comments on officials’ personal social media accounts for bullying, harassment, intimidation or “any reason.” The bill cleared its first legislature hurdle Thursday and now goes before the full House. Catherine Ordoñez, policy counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado, noted that other U.S. circuit courts of appeal have held that “whether a public official blocking an individual on social media counts as state action turns not on whether the state pays for the Twitter account but on whether the social media account is used as a tool for governance.”
Republicans’ Debt Ceiling Bill Clears the House
The GOP proposal would claw back trillions from state and local governments in climate and transportation funding, including money to reconnect disadvantaged communities split apart by highways.
BY KERY MURAKAMI
Drivers More Distracted Now Than Before the Pandemic, Study Shows
Data shows that laws to prevent distracted driving have a near-immediate impact, but that the effect wears off quickly.
BY DANIEL C. VOCK
City’s ‘Displacement Prevention Navigators’ Aim to Help Neighbors Remain in Homes
Austin, Texas, will train city residents to help people find the resources they need to stay in their homes when rents and property taxes rise.
BY MOLLY BOLAN
States Vote to End Subminimum Wage
Advocates for people with disabilities see progress in leveling pay and ending work segregation.
BY RACHEL GOTTLIEB
NYC Experiments with 'Microhubs' to Ease Street Congestion
Delivery centers will take some trucks off the streets to reduce double and illegal parking that snarls traffic.
BY DANIEL C. VOCK
Cities Look to Solve the Construction Labor Shortage
Under a new program with the Labor Department, a dozen cities will work with federal experts to come up with plans to find much-needed infrastructure workers.
BY KERY MURAKAMI
Three Ways States Can Strengthen Home Visiting
COMMENTARY | The approach can address the developmental effects of the pandemic on toddlers.
BY MERVETT HEFYAN AND MEGHAN MCCORMICK