MultiState's Local Policy Digest explores the top legislative developments from municipalities across the U.S.
Following the Vermont legislature's landmark marijuana legalization, Barre City's mayor aims to regulate local growers.
At Tuesday's Barre City Council meeting, Mayor Thom Lauzon proposed an ordinance and application process that would establish a registry and inspection protocols for local pot growers. As part of the application process, residents would be required to pay an initial fee of $250 and submit growing plans for the city's examination. Additionally, those residents planning to use grow lights would need to have their apparatuses approved by an electrician. Residents whose plans are approved would have to pay an additional $100 yearly renewal fee to keep their license valid.
The mayor's proposal follows last month's passage of VT HB 511, which “eliminated all penalties for possession of one ounce or less of marijuana and two mature and four immature marijuana plants for a person who is 21 years of age or older.” The bill's success made Vermont the first state to legalize recreational use of marijuana through a state legislature.
With the new law set to take effect on July 1, Lauzon has framed his ordinance as a way for the city to be “proactive and not reactive” in dealing with the inevitable challenges resulting from legalization.
"All of the monitoring, all of the compliance is gonna fall in the laps of municipalities, and quite frankly, most municipalities in Vermont are not prepared to deal with it," said Lauzon. "We're a small city, most homes are very closely clustered. I am concerned and our fire department is concerned...about people just setting up a grow facility in their basement that's going to be unsafe."
Despite the mayor's concerns over public safety, whether the city actually has the authority to impose such a measure is up for debate. Lia Ernst, an ACLU attorney, said that the new state law doesn't give local governments the right to enact such measures.
The ordinance is currently in draft form and has been sent to the city's ordinance committee for review, after which it will be sent back to the council for further discussion.
San Jose, California, votes to remove Christopher Columbus statue from city hall lobby.
Earlier this week, the San Jose City Council voted to remove a statue of Christopher Columbus from the city hall lobby. The statue’s presence had become increasingly controversial in recent months, especially following the nationwide debate about removing Confederate monuments.
At its regular Tuesday meeting, the city council faced emotional testimonies from community members both in favor of the statue’s removal and its preservation.
San Jose is not the first city in California to challenge the pro-Columbus narrative. Last week, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day. Since the council’s meeting this past Tuesday, the local Italian-American community will have six weeks to relocate the statue or it will be placed in storage.
Morgantown, West Virginia, is considering a huge tax credit for local business development.
At a Committee of the Whole meeting earlier this week, the Morgantown City Council discussed an ordinance that would establish a huge tax credit for local businesses. The ordinance (p. 11) would offer an 80-percent tax credit for any renovations or construction undertaken by new or expanding businesses. Additionally, the ordinance would provide a four-year service tax credit, which would start at an 80-percent coverage rate in the first year, gradually falling to 20 percent in the fourth year.
To be eligible for the credit, the new or improved development must be located within the city's downtown business district and the finished structure must be valued at least $5 million. Under the new law, the maximum credit would be set at $300,000.
The ordinance received positive feedback from those in attendance, including Deputy Mayor Mark Brazaitis, who expressed his public support. “We’re very eager to draw businesses in our community, especially our downtown area,” said Brazaitis. “It’d be wonderful to see some great development in, say, lower High Street, and just our downtown and wharf in general.”
Despite its initial support, the ordinance has also drawn criticism. Some voiced concern that the ordinance would leave the city open to abuse by of out-of-state developers, who could steamroll over existing local businesses in the interest of making a quick buck. Others were troubled over possible issues with local unions and potential infringement into the city's protected green spaces.
The ordinance is currently in draft form and is expected to be discussed by the city council at a future meeting. If passed, the credit would expire on June 30, 2019, unless the council extended it.
Indiana lawmaker introduces bill aimed at restricting local governments’ ability to regulate carbon monoxide detectors.
Earlier this month, Indiana Rep. Jeff Ellington (R) introduced legislation that would consolidate the power to regulate carbon monoxide at the state level. The legislation (IN HB 1139) “[p]rohibits a city, town, or county from adopting an ordinance that includes more stringent or detailed requirements that conflict with the fire prevention and building safety commission's rules.”
Critics of the proposed bill claim it undermines municipalities' ability to impose the local rules best suited for their jurisdiction. Dot Kesling, founder of an Indiana foundation that advocates for carbon monoxide poisoning awareness, argued that the state is levying its wishes over towns’. “It’s about the freedom and democracy of every community,” said Kesling.
The bill now awaits referral to a committee. If it passes a committee vote, the Indiana House of Representatives will take up the legislation for a full vote, where it will be sent to the Senate for further deliberation.
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