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

Jackson, Wyoming, passes a non-discrimination ordinance.

On Monday, the Jackson Town Council passed an ordinance prohibiting discrimination based on a person's sexual orientation or gender identity. Specifically, the ordinance makes it illegal to “discriminate against any person because of sexual orientation or gender identity or expression in places of housing, public accommodation, and employment.” The ordinance also outlaws any retaliation toward an individual who makes a complaint. Violators will face a $750 fine per day per violation.

The ordinance's passage represents a victory of LGBTQ residents and advocates who felt that existing laws were not effective enough to protect them against discrimination at the local level. However, five of the 25 people who spoke to the council on the matter said the ordinance would violate their First Amendment rights and create an unequal class of citizenship.

Most in attendance at the final meeting rejoiced at the vote. This included Jackson Mayor Pete Muldoon, who expressed joy and pride in his city for enacting the policy. “I’m looking forward to the day . . . when this ordinance is completely useless,” Muldoon said. “But we need it today, and I’m happy to support it today.” The ordinance took effect immediately.

Port Huron, Michigan, considers water shutoff penalties for rental violations.

At its regular meeting on July 9, the Port Huron City Council heard an ordinance (#18-013) that would expand the city’s penalty options for rental violations. In Port Huron, rental units designated “occupancy prohibited” are marked with red tags on their entrance. However, there are still landlords who remove the tags and rent out their property despite the designation. The ordinance would seek to combat that behavior, adding a provision to the rental certification section of Port Huron’s Code of Ordinances that “water may be shutoff for rental units for failing to have a current rental certification or failure to correct identified inspection violations.” Per the ordinance, water may only be shutoff in vacant units.

The measure's supporters argue that it would be a crucial, if sparingly used, tool to enforce rental laws. Planning Director David Haynes told the Port Huron Times Herald, “Without (the ordinance change), it’s very difficult to control access to those units. The red tag, if we have serious violations, we have to be able to limit who’s inside, and right now, we can’t.” Supporters also noted that relatively few properties are red-tagged annually and the ordinance would only impact a fraction of those.

However, councilmembers and interest groups alike still had reservations. Councilman Ken Harris voted against the ordinance, saying its premise “scares [him] a little bit.” Community members voiced concerns that the ordinance represented both unnecessary regulation and a “circumvention of due process.”

The ordinance will be read again at the council’s August 13 meeting prior to final approval.

Anchorage, Alaska, considers a plastic bag ban.

This week, local lawmakers in Anchorage began discussing a possible plastic bag ban within the municipality. Proponents of the ban cited the need to protect the environment and local wildlife. One of the bill’s sponsors, Assemblymember Dick Traini, stressed the legislation’s effectiveness to curb harmful environmental effects. “What we want to do is get rid of all the plastic that are in our oceans and in our streams,” said Traini.

Anchorage would not be the first city in Alaska to pass a ban on plastic bags. Earlier this year, Wasilla, Alaska, adopted an ordinance outlawing the use of plastic bags within the city. Some community members were less excited for the potential ban. Fred Meyer, a local community grocery store, expressed its tepid support.

In an email, Fred Meyer's expense, sanitation and sustainability manager, Paul Petillo, argued that there are more environmentally friendly solutions to recycle plastic. “While plastic is a threat (ocean pollution is most often cited) due to past practices, there are more sustainable aftermarket practices now for plastic and great strides are being made for those past sins,” said Petillo.

The ordinance was introduced this past Tuesday before a full assembly meeting. No future date has been scheduled for when the ordinance will be discussed again. If adopted, the ordinance would go into effect immediately.


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