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

Struggling with poor internet connectivity, Santa Fe is preparing to enhance its wireless network with “small cell” tech.

Next month in New Mexico, the Santa Fe City Council will vote on five proposed franchise agreements that would, in part, grant rights to the public right of way for internet and telephone service providers. The ordinances (Agenda Items #10-g-1 - 10-g-5) would authorize agreements allowing permit telecommunication companies to install satellites and antennas on city-owned telephone poles in order to deliver faster internet speed and more reliable cellular service within the city.

Proponents of the plan have lauded the agreements as a breakthrough for the city’s economic development and potential to bring fast, reliable connectivity to local residents. Still, some believe the installation of additional satellites and antennas around the city could have unintended consequences. Arthur Firstenberg, a local resident advocate against electromagnetic radiation, said the agreements would harm residents and the environment.

Despite the opposition, the agreements are expected to pass unanimously when they appear before the council for a public hearing and full vote on May 9. If passed, Santa Fe would follow in the footsteps of the New Mexico Legislature, which passed a pro-small cell legislation earlier this year, and numerous jurisdictions around the country that have enacted similar legislation. Since the beginning of 2018, MultiState has identified over 70 ordinances concerning small cell technology in states across the U.S.

New Jersey localities rush to ban marijuana ahead of proposed state-level legalization.

Since becoming governor of New Jersey, Phil Murphy has been working to fulfill his campaign promise of legalizing marijuana. But despite the support of a majority of state residents, the governor's plan for recreational pot has foundered in the legislature. Additionally, a number of localities have taken preemptive steps toward banning the future marijuana businesses that would arise from legalization.

As of last month, 13 local governments had either already passed or taken up legislation aimed at banning or opposing commercial pot operations, including large jurisdictions such as Old Bridge and Monmouth County. In April, that list was extended to include additional actions in towns like Fair Haven.

Many local officials have cited safety concerns as the main reason for their opposition. Old Bridge cited a Denver Post analysis that found that the number of fatal crashes involving high drivers has doubled since 2013. However, the market for legal weed could still find a home in either Asbury Park or Jersey City, the latter of which is currently wrestling with the best way to regulate the industry ahead of state legalization.

Duluth wrestles with paid sick leave ordinance.

Last week in Minnesota, the Duluth City Council heavily amended its paid sick leave proposal, effectively returning it to first reading status. The original ordinance was introduced in mid-March and has since been repeatedly amended as local lawmakers struggle to perfect its language.

The original ordinance required employers to offer a minimum of one hour of earned sick time per every 30 hours worked for public and private employees working in Duluth. The amendments passed last week would alter the previously set rate at which employees accrue earned time off to one hour per every 40 hours worked. They would also allow employees to take time off for close non-family member emergencies and mandate that the city council perform an annual review of the ordinance’s effectiveness.

The community has been divided over the issue, with many members of the local business community speaking out against it. Local business owner, Brian Daugherty, claimed the ordinance would have unintended consequences. “The employee will be hurt first,” said Daugherty. However, other business owners, like Adeline Wright, defended the ordinance. Wright, a local hair salon owner, believes the ordinance is essential. “I feel it’s a moral obligation,” said Wright.  The ordinance is expected to go before the full council for a full vote on May 14.

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