State, local governments in conflict over police budgets

Welcome to the Friday, June 25, Brew. Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. State, local governments in conflict over police budget reduction preemption laws
  2. Redistricting update: Colorado commission releases draft congressional district maps
  3. Arizona Secretary of State rejects recall petitions against state House speaker

Here’s an important update on California’s gubernatorial recall: Secretary of State Shirley Weber (D) announced on June 23 that 1,719,900 valid signatures remained on petitions to recall Gov. Gavin Newsom (D), more than the 1,495,970 needed to trigger a recall election. Weber directed the state Department of Finance to perform a cost analysis for such an election before she certifies the recall petitions and an election is scheduled. Although the recall is now official, a date for the election has not yet been set.

State, local governments in conflict over police budget reduction preemption laws

Various state and local governments have recently come into conflict over laws preempting municipalities from reducing their police department budgets. Preemption occurs when a law at a higher level of government is used to overrule authority at a lower level. In this case, several states have implemented legislation either prohibiting local governments from reducing their police budgets or imposing penalties on local governments that do so.

This issue emerged in 2020, as some municipalities considered reducing their police department budgets, often as part of a policy response to the May 2020 killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer. 

Here are three examples of how this conflict is playing out:

  • Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) signed a police department budget reduction preemption law in April 2021. Under the law, a citizen or government official can challenge a police department budget reduction with the state Administration Commission, which consists of the governor and other state cabinet officials. The Administration Commission would then hold a hearing on the proposed budget change and has the power to approve the budget or amend it, which would be final.
  • Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) signed legislation in May prohibiting municipalities from reducing police department budgets more than 5% in a year, or cumulatively over five years, with an exception for budget reductions due to financial hardship. Police department budget reductions had been proposed in Atlanta and Athens-Clarke County in 2020, but neither municipality reduced their policing budgets.
  • Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) signed a police department budget reduction preemption bill into law on June 1. The legislation imposes penalties on populous municipalities that reduce police department budgets. The city of Austin, Texas, approved a budget in 2020 that planned to reallocate around $150 million from the police department. The money will be used to hire other public safety responders, establish new public safety programs, and reorganize certain departments currently under police department authority. Officials have not yet determined whether Austin’s budget reallocations fall under the provisions of the new state law. 

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Redistricting update: Colorado commission releases draft congressional district maps

The Colorado Independent Congressional Redistricting Commission released preliminary congressional district maps on June 23, making Colorado the first state in the current redistricting cycle to release a draft congressional plan. The commission will now conduct at least three public hearings on the proposed maps in each of the state’s congressional districts for a total of at least 21 public hearings. All hearings must be broadcast online.

After the hearings conclude, the commission can vote on the preliminary map or ask commission staff to make revisions. Eight of the commission’s 12 members (including at least two unaffiliated members) must approve new maps. The Colorado Supreme Court must also approve the maps. Click here for an interactive version of the proposed congressional districts map.

In other redistricting news, the Michigan Supreme Court heard oral arguments June 21 on the Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission’s request to extend the state’s constitutional deadline for adopting new district maps. Under the Michigan Constitution, the commission must publish plans for public comment by Sept. 17 and adopt new redistricting plans by Nov. 1. The commission said it wouldn’t be able to meet that timeline due to delays in receiving census data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

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Arizona Secretary of State rejects recall petitions against state House speaker 

The Arizona secretary of state’s office rejected a recall filing targeting state House speaker Russell “Rusty” Bowers (R) because the signatures could not be counted under state law. 

The Patriot Party of Arizona submitted an estimated 24,500 signatures by the June 17 deadline, but none of the 2,040 signature sheets had a recall application attached. Arizona law requires that a date-stamped recall application be attached to each signature sheet when it is submitted. 

Supporters started the recall effort on Feb. 17 and needed to submit at least 22,331 signatures to trigger a recall election. The recall petition said that Bowers “failed to convene a Special Session to allow the representatives of the people a voice in the governing of the state of Arizona, throughout the State of Emergency. He again ignored the will of the citizens of the state of Arizona, by his failure to act to ensure the integrity of the 2020 election.”

Bowers said he was surprised the recall effort failed. He told the Arizona Republic, “I was gearing up to go through a recall.”

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