Friday Roundup: Driverless vans, Vermont subsidizes remote workers, optimistic small businesses, preemption

There are always a few items we’ve read during the week that deserve more attention but don’t make it into our regular posts. So we bundle them for the Friday roundup.

Here’s this week’s bundle:

Seattle Times: Bellevue envisions a fleet of driverless vans to help commuters skirt congestion

Autonomous shuttle pilot projects are sprouting in myriad locations across the country, gauging people’s reactions and trying to increase their comfort with driverless transit.

Bellevue wants in, too.

The city has hired a manager of transportation technology partnerships who’s working on the early stages of what officials hope will eventually be a vanpool service of autonomous vehicles, scheduled and summoned by smartphone app.

The goal is to coordinate with the region’s big employers to offer a transit option that can serve suburban areas better than full-size buses or trains.

New Geography: Vermont subsidizes remote workers to move to state

Vermont, like many states, is suffering from demographic challenges. It has the fourth slowest population growth of any state since 2000…The state has been making a big push lately to market itself for residents. One of its initiatives is a program that will pay $10,000 to remote workers who move there.

…While at some level it’s understandable, this is also something of a sign of desperation.

Having said that, the idea of attracting remote workers who can choose to live anywhere is a good one for Vermont. This allows people who might like the Vermont lifestyle but aren’t necessarily a good fit for the Vermont employment market to still move there, if they have a location-independent position.

NFIB: Small business optimism index soars, continuing historic run, hitting several records in May 

The Small Business Optimism Index increased in May to the second highest level in the NFIB survey’s 45-year history. The index rose to 107.8, a three-point gain, with small businesses reporting high numbers in several key areas including compensation, profits, and sales trends.

“Main Street optimism is on a stratospheric trajectory thanks to recent tax cuts and regulatory changes. For years, owners have continuously signaled that when taxes and regulations ease, earnings and employee compensation increase,” said NFIB President and CEO Juanita Duggan.

Los Angeles Times: Radical plan to split California into three states earns spot on ballot

California’s 168-year run as a single entity, hugging the continent’s edge for hundreds of miles and sprawling east across mountains and desert, could come to an end next year — as a controversial plan to split the Golden State into three new jurisdictions qualified Tuesday for the Nov. 6 ballot.

If a majority of voters who cast ballots agree, a long and contentious process would begin for three separate states to take the place of California, with one primarily centered around Los Angeles and the other two divvying up the counties to the north and south. Completion of the radical plan — far from certain, given its many hurdles at judicial, state and federal levels — would make history.

Route Fifty: How Cities Can Respond When the State Legislature Says “No”

Preemption has a long legal history. In 1868, federal Judge John Dillon issued two court decisions comprising “Dillon’s rule,” later upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court, which holds “cities are creatures of the state.”

…And then there’s the recent trend of superpremption, where states not only take away local authority but penalize cities that attempt to defy the law. Preemption aficionado Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed legislation threatening to remove from office, fine and jail public officials that defied the state’s sanctuary cities ban.

The Daily News (Takko op-ed): At ecology, politics triumphs over science, permits – and jobs

For months, I’ve watched with growing concern as the state agency has stepped in and allowed politics to dictate the outcome of decisions that have solid scientific footing. The latest decision involves area oyster growers. Earlier this spring, the agency denied oyster growers at Willapa Bay and Grays Harbor the ability to spray a pesticide to kill burrowing shrimp. The shrimp have been linked to ruining oyster beds and suffocating the oysters.

Interestingly, the agency, using science, approved this same solution just three years ago. In 2015 the agency OK’d the use of the pesticide, calling it ecologically sound. But when it caught the attention of activists, who denounced use of the spray, the agency quickly reversed its course.