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Local Policy Digest

By Matt Crawley and John Lunde | March 30, 2018
Topics: Local

MultiState's Local Policy Digest explores the top legislative developments from municipalities across the U.S.

Amid criticism from the federal government, California localities begin to opt out of sanctuary city laws. Earlier this month, the Los Alamitos City Council voted to become the first locality in Orange County to exempt itself from California’s sanctuary law, also known as the California Values Act, which has sparked intense debate between the federal government and city officials. Specifically, the state law “prohibits state and local law enforcement agencies...from using money or personnel to investigate, interrogate, detain, detect, or arrest persons for immigration enforcement purposes.”

Critics of the legislation have called it both unconstitutional and dangerous. The Trump administration went so far as to sign an executive order withholding funds from states and cities that refused to cooperate with immigration officials. While the order was later blocked by a federal judge, the U.S. Department of Justice recently filed a lawsuit over three state laws passed last year.

The Los Alamitos ordinance (pg.171), which was approved in a 4-1 vote, exempts the city from complying with the California Values Act. Although the ordinance passed its first reading, it must be voted on a second time before it can be enacted. That second vote is scheduled for April 16, where it is likely to pass and be sent to the mayor's office to be enacted.

While California Governor Jerry Brown (D) and Attorney General Xavier Becerra (D) have signaled their opposition to the Trump Administration’s policies through a series of counter lawsuits and outspoken criticism, there is growing dissent among local California officials, such in the conservative-leaning Orange County. In addition to Los Alamitos' ordinance, local officials from the Orange County cities of Costa Mesa, Fountain Valley, Huntington Beach, and Newport Beach have expressed their opposition to the California state law.

This past Tuesday, the Orange County Board of Supervisors voted (Agenda Item #S14A) to join the federal government in its lawsuit against the state of California over its sanctuary laws. Specifically, the lawsuit concerns three specific statutes (CA AB 450, SB 54, and AB 103). While not every city opposed to the sanctuary law has filed suit, some have submitted amicus briefs in support of the lawsuit.


Plattsburgh, New York, passes the nation's first Bitcoin mining ban. Last week, the Plattsburgh Common Council passed an ordinance imposing an 18-month moratorium on the granting of permits for commercial cryptocurrency mining businesses within the city. Plattsburgh Mayor Colin Read introduced the ordinance earlier this month, arguing that the town deserved an opportunity to rework its regulatory structure after mining businesses were found to have significantly driven up the cost of residential electric bills.

The ordinance prohibits the approval of any new or pending mining business applications, but it will not apply to mining operations that the city has already permitted. In the meantime, the city plans to work with residents and mining business owners to draft amendments to the city's zoning and municipal lighting regulations that would protect against future cost spikes caused by mining.

Plattsburgh has long enjoyed access to cheap electricity rates. Unlike other cities, Plattsburgh obtains most of its power via a state-run system, which generates hydro-power at the Niagara Power Plant. As per a decades-old agreement, Plattsburgh residents typically pay 4.4 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh), which is roughly one-third the rate paid by other New York residents. The rate for industrial power usage is similarly low. Businesses pay only 2.61 cents per kWh, a rate that's more than 60 percent less than the national average, which has made Plattsburgh an ideal location for Bitcoin miners.

However, the state allocates only 104 megawatts (mw) each month to the city. In December and January, the city's two Bitcoin mining operations sucked up around 10 percent (roughly 11.2 mw) of the available power, forcing the city to purchase more at rates of up to 100 times the usual price. These additional purchases subsequently increased the monthly costs to residents as much as $300 per household. Bitcoin mining is an intensive process that requires a large amount of power. Currently, the amount of power needed to generate a single Bitcoin transaction could power roughly 30 homes for a whole day.

Despite the city's action, local miners believe a solution will not be too hard to develop. Tom Pillsworth, a Plattsburgh resident and miner, said that when it comes to making up the difference in power costs, “the miners are more than willing to pay.”

Similarly, some on the council don't believe the full 18 months will be needed to make the necessary changes. Councilor Patrick McFarlin contends that while the city's action was needed in order to "stop the bleeding,” the time needed to make adequate changes “won't last anywhere near 18 months."


San Francisco has become the largest U.S. city to ban fur sales. Last Tuesday, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors unanimously passed an ordinance banning the sale and manufacture of all fur products by local merchants. The action is being hailed as a victory for local animal rights activists, while local retailers who sell furs expect their businesses to take a big hit.

The ordinance defines “fur” as “any animal skin or part thereof with hair, fleece or fur fibers attached thereto,” and would prohibit the sale and manufacture of any fur product “either in its raw or processed state.” The ordinance would exclude “used fur products,” such as those sold at pawn shops, as well as products derived from “furbearing mammals and nongame mammals lawfully taken under the authority of a trapping license.”

Although San Francisco is only the third California city to ban fur sales (preceded by West Hollywood and Berkeley), it is the largest, which has left animal rights activists optimistic in its wake. However, the ordinance is set to affect close to 50 retail businesses across the city, who make up a local industry worth roughly $40 million.

The ban will take effect on January 1, 2019, and retailers will have until January 1, 2020 to sell their remaining fur inventory.


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