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

Nearly 60 U.S. mayors voice support for net neutrality.

A week before the FCC voted to repeal net neutrality regulations, close to 60 U.S. mayors signed an open letter to the commission stating their opposition to the “Restoring Internet Freedom Draft Order.” They argued that the proposal will hurt small businesses and low-income residents who are already vulnerable to limited internet access.

“Despite the commission’s stated support for the principles of net neutrality, the commission’s proposal: proposals enables abusive gatekeeper behavior by dominant broadband providers; allowing broadband providers to engage in paid prioritization schemes which rob value from local communities and stifle innovation, and threatens businesses and consumers by permitting blocking, throttling, and other interference with access to the Internet.”
The order, which passed yesterday, will preempt state and local governments from enacting their own net neutrality laws. According to the draft, the order will “clarify the effects of the return to an information service classification on other regulatory frameworks, including the need for a uniform federal regulatory approach to apply to interstate information services like broadband Internet access service.”

Following the vote, some of the mayors took to social media to criticize the move.

Mayor Bill Peduto retweeted:

Christmas in Philadelphia might be a little less green as residents come to terms with little-known tree restrictions.

Philadelphia residents should stop and think before bringing home their six-foot Douglas fir, as doing so might be illegal. In the interest of fire prevention, there is a little-known provision in the Philadelphia Code that bans all “natural-cut trees” from use as decorations in homes and apartment buildings housing more than two units.

Similar provisions are on the books in other major cities like New York. However, Karen Guss, a spokesperson for the Department of Licenses and Inspections, admitted that Philidelphia's law goes beyond the actions that most large cities generally apply. “Philadelphia’s law is a little stricter than even the international code at this point,” said Guss. However, residents have been told not expect their houses to be raided by city officials a la the Grinch. “The point isn’t that any sort of city official is going to rush your apartment and drag out your beautifully decorated Christmas tree,” she said.

If anyone happens to be found in violation of the ordinance, they can expect to be fined up to $300.

City of Fresno proposes new marijuana ordinance.

This week, the Fresno City Council unanimously passed a new ordinance that would allow marijuana dispensaries and other cannabis-related businesses to receive business permits from the California Bureau of Cannabis Control. The ordinance (downloads a PDF) will specifically authorize the “cultivation, manufacture, extraction, testing, distribution, delivery, and/or medical dispensaries . . . within the city.” The ordinance will also grant temporary business permits to companies as the city council amends the city zoning ordinance with regard to cannabis-related businesses.

Previously, the Fresno City Council had voted to ban all recreational marijuana sales, but those in favor of the new ordinance hope that the city council will be more supportive of the industry’s potential to help medical patients. George Boyadijan, President of 420 College, an organization that assists marijuana entrepreneurs, emphasized its potential benefit for the community. “I’ll tell you this, medical, there’s a need for it. . . . Those are the patients who are always forgotten. Those people who are actually in need,said Boyadijan.

Some also see the ordinance as the first step in reversing the city’s ban on recreational marijuana. City Councilmember Clint Oliver said that a legal marijuana industry would serve many purposes. “We would undercut that black market, we could keep taxes on it low, foster a new industry,” said Oliver.

Beginning in January 2018, California’s Proposition 64 will take effect, legalizing the use of recreational marijuana for those aged 21 and over. However, municipal governments will retain authority to regulate cannabis at the local level.

MultiState currently tracks more than 4,000 cities, towns, and counties. Additional information about our Local Tracking Service is available here.