2024 Legislative Session Dates
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MultiState's Local Policy Digest explores the top legislative developments from municipalities across the U.S.

Oakland, California, has adopted an ordinance that would bar border wall contractors from public projects.

During a special meeting earlier this week, the Oakland City Council adopted an ordinance that would prohibit the city from contracting with companies bidding on President Donald Trump's proposed wall along the U.S. southern border.

The ordinance (16-1293) specifically directs the city administrator to implement policies that would prevent Oakland “from entering into . . . all new or amended contracts to purchase all goods/commodities and services . . . from businesses that enter into contracts to provide such services, goods, materials or supplies to build the U.S.-Mexico border wall.” This prohibition would apply to “all industries and all businesses seeking to do business with the city,” but would only be enacted “in instances where there is no significant additional cost.”

Lawmakers say the ordinance is intended to curb wasteful spending and act as a check against the federal government's new immigration policies. “We’re putting our dollars where our values are,” said Councilman Abel Guillen. “We don’t think a wasteful wall that’s going to cost billions of dollars is a good idea; we feel those dollars could be better used at home on our streets, roads, infrastructure, and much more.”

As part of the new law, companies wishing to do business with the city must pledge not to participate in building the wall and will be asked to reiterate their compliance in writing on each invoice presented to the city. The city will issue a "Border Wall Compliance Certificate" to companies that it deems compliant, distinguishing them from other companies that are found to be working on or supportive of the border wall project. The non-compliant companies will be registered on a list that the city will publish for reference purposes.

In May, MultiState highlighted similar efforts geared at blacklisting border wall contractors in California cities like San Francisco (#170295), Berkeley (67,865–N.S.), Santa Cruz (2017-06), and Los Angeles (17-0538). These measures could prove costly or ultimately be found unconstitutional.

Spokane, Washington, passes “ban the box” legislation, preventing employers from asking job applicants about previous criminal history.

This week, the Spokane City Council passed an ordinance that prohibits private employers within city limits from inquiring about an applicant’s arrest record or criminal history until after an in-person interview. The ordinance (No. C35564) says that easing this employment barrier for people with criminal backgrounds will reduce the likelihood of a person reoffending and help cut spending on welfare and other public assistance programs. Additionally, the ordinance aims to assist the city in “creating a compassionate community so that all people can feel safe, empowered, and welcome.”

City Councilman Breean Beggs believes the new law will set an example that other cities can follow. “We’re going to put a stake in the ground for community reconciliation, in our city, and across the state, and across the nation,” Beggs said.

Opponents of the measure argued that the ordinance would regulate how private employers could conduct interviews. “What may have seemed to be a simple change to an employment application at the onset of this discussion to ‘ban the box’ will actually require a significant shift on the part of the business, in their hiring practices and procedures,” Councilman Mike Fagan said.

The law passed in a 5-2 vote on Monday evening, but will not go into effect until 2019. Once fully implemented, employers who violate the new ordinance will be subjected to a $261 fine for each instance of offense.

Minot, North Dakota, is considering revisions to its banned pets ordinance.

This week in Minot, North Dakota, the Animal Ordinance Committee recommended the city council revise its prohibition on certain types of banned pets, specifically the bans on pit bulls, snakes, and chickens.

The committee has recommended replacing the city’s “breed-specific legislation” on pit bulls with language similar to the “potentially dangerous dog” ordinance used by its neighbor, Fargo. The Fargo ordinance requires that certain dogs be designated as dangerous if they bite or otherwise injure another animal or human unprovoked.

Additionally, the committee recommends the city council follow Fargo’s lead with regard to chickens and snakes. The chicken ordinance would permit up to four hens and no roosters, as well as stipulations for coops. Revisions made to the snake ordinance would permit all snakes except those that the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service has deemed poisonous.

Minot residents have reported mixed feelings about the proposed changes, primarily over the changes regarding pit bulls. Those who oppose pit bull ownership have cited statistics suggesting that pit bulls account for the highest rates of fatalities and injuries of all dog breeds. “These ordinances are there for a reason,” said Minot resident Thad Tarasen. Some residents, however, believe that the focus should not be on the breed of dog, but the type of dog owner. “We need to promote responsible ownership. You need to hold every dog owner accountable,” said local dog trainer Ashley Pelton.

Although the committee has made its suggested revisions, the city council has yet to make a decision on the changes. Shannon Straight, an Animal Ordinance Committee member, believes the council will meet sometime in December to discuss the changes.

The International Code Council (ICC) has published the 2018 editions of its model building codes for local adoption.

Every three years, the ICC publishes a set of “comprehensive, coordinated building safety and fire prevention codes” intended for adoption at the state and local levels. Currently, all 50 states and the District of Columbia have implemented the codes via either legislatures or municipal governments.

The “I-Codes,” as they are called, are a collection of 15 sets of guidelines that include the International Building, Fuel Gas, Plumbing, and Energy Conservation Codes. These codes dictate the ways in which certain industries, including oil, gas, manufactured housing, and construction, can plan and execute projects. Oftentimes, they are adopted along with local amendments, many of which focus on particular issues that can affect a specific jurisdiction. This year's changes were sent to cities in mid-September and are expected to be approved in 2018.

MultiState can report that several of the 2018 codes have already been adopted in Odessa, Texas.

MultiState currently tracks more than 3,700 cities, towns, and counties. Additional information about our Local Tracking Service is available here.