Thursday, March 22, 2018

Spring, Sprang, Sprung edition

Happy spring!
… she said as she made a small snowman somewhere in the middle of the Eastern Seaboard.
Well, whether it seems like it or not, it’s definitely technically spring. Which is, like, a time for renewal or whatever.
But statehouse action is seasonless. Winter, spring, summer, or fall, all you have to do is call…
… out Republicans for doing Very Bad Things. Like a judge just did in Wisconsin.
Spring BREAKING: A Wisconsin circuit court judge has ordered Gov. Scott Walker to call special elections to fill two vacant state legislative seats.
  • The seats became vacant in December 2017, when Walker appointed two Republican lawmakers to his administration.
  • Walker wanted to delay filling the seats until “special” elections could be held concurrent with general elections this November.
    • This plan would have left voters in these state Assembly and state Senate seats unrepresented for more than a year.
Fun fact! The judge who ordered Walker to hold special elections to fill the seats before November was appointed to the bench by Walker himself in 2014.
  • Walker’s refusal to hold these special elections predates an epic special election upset in Wisconsin’s SD-10 in January, but Democrats had already flipped 34 state legislative seats from red to blue at that point in the cycle—a stark fact someone as politically adept as Walker was certainly aware of.
And if you’re worried about losing special elections, what better way to prevent that than not having them at all?
Okay, so we’re going to have special elections. Can Democrats flip these seats? 
  • Both seats (SD-01 and AD-42) voted for Trump, 56-39 and 55-40, respectively.
  • But in 2012, Romney won SD-01 only 52-47, and Obama actually won AD-42 by a 51-48 margin.
    • For frame of reference, that SD-10 seat Democrats flipped in November? Trump won 55-38 there.
So yeah, no wonder Walker wasn’t eager to fill these seats in special elections.
But Wisconsin isn’t the only GOP-led state that’s balking at special elections these days.
  • Florida Gov. Rick Scott is also refusing to fill two vacant legislative seats: state House District 33 and Senate District 16.
    • The open Senate seat alone leaves more than half a million Floridianswithout representation for almost a year.
    • And if you’re wondering why Scott might be afraid to hold those specials ... well, Trump won SD-16 by a 56-42 spread—in other words, the kind of turf that's been in reach for Democrats this year. (Trump carried HD-33 by a much more comfortable 69-29 margin, but Scott can’t possibly justify holding a special for one seat and not the other.)
  • While we’re talking about Republicans refusing to hold special elections for fear of losing them, let’s revisit Alabama, where Republicans are upping the anti-democracy ante by basically trying to do away with ALL THE SPECIAL ELECTIONS.
    • First, Republicans pushed a measure that would eliminate special elections for U.S. Senate seats; a gubernatorial appointee would instead occupy the seat until the next general election.
    • Republicans also want to eliminate most special elections to fill vacant state legislative seats.
      • If a vacancy occurs after the first two years of a lawmaker’s term, a special election would not be called to fill the seat. (Fun fact: state representatives and senators all serve four-year terms in Alabama.)
      • Instead, the governor would appoint someone to the post until the next general election.
      • This measure has passed both chambers of the legislature, but it still must be approved by a majority of the state’s voters in November as an amendment to the state Constitution.
  • GOP lawmakers claim that both proposals are aimed at saving money.
Funny how Alabama Republicans didn’t care about election costs until they got their butts handed to them in one of those special elections they suddenly want to do away with.
ImPeachy Keen: A month and a half or so ago, a Republican lawmaker had a totally reasonable response to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling the GOP’s severely gerrymandered congressional maps unconstitutional: IMPEACH!
  • But this wasn’t just some crazy backbencher screaming into the void; Rep. Cris Dush received tacit approval from GOP legislative leadership, and a GOP members of the U.S. House and Senate voiced their support.
  • And now that a new, fairer map is definitively in place for Pennsylvania’s congressional elections this fall, Republicans are moving to make good on this impeachment threat.
  • On Thursday, the chief justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court—notably, one of the members not targeted for impeachment, and a Republican, to boot—took the unusual step of issuing a statement denouncing the GOP’s move to impeach his fellow justices.
    • Chief Justice Thomas Saylor rightly called out the threats as retaliation for the justices’ “decision in a particular case” and as “an attack upon an independent judiciary.”
Of course, we know that “attacking an independent judiciary” is something Republicans are super hot for.
Read the rest of this week's edition here.
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Thursday, March 1, 2018

Red Carpet Blues edition

On Sunday, actors and celebrities and luminaries of all stripes will don their finest duds and traipse along a long scarlet rug before settling in to their seats at the Oscars. All that finery will then spend several hours scrunched up in theater seats as small golden statues are doled out to various “bests”—picture, actor, director, etc.
But with 40 legislatures in session this week, there’s plenty to recognize state lawmakers for in the meantime. Behold—the Staties!
Best Special: This category had three contenders this week, with special elections to replace Republicans in a deep-red KentuckyHouse seat, a Connecticut House seat that had been held by the GOP for 44 years, and a New Hampshire House seat.
  • Democrats won two of these races, making them the 38th and 39th red-to-blue flips of the cycle.
    • The Connecticut House win was impressive in that it ended decades of Republican control of House District 120, but the New Hampshire victory in House District Belknap-3 is definitely the winner in this category.
    • Democrat Phil Spagnuolo won this race 54-46 percent—a 19-point swing from Trump’s performance in this district in 2016.
    • Also, this was Democrats’ fifth pickup in the New Hampshire House this cycle.
Best Swan Song: Speaking of special elections, the member of the Wisconsin Assembly who lost the Senate District 10 special election to Democrat Patty Schachtner in January (in Democrats’ 34th red-to-blue flip of the cycle) has decided not to run for reelection to the seat he currently holds.
Politicians, like diapers, should be changed often, and for the same reason.
Best Picture: Okay, it’s the worst picture, actually, since Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens took it without the consent of his mistress and threatened to make the nude photo public if she failed to keep mum about their affair.
… But it might qualify as Most Powerful Picture, in that this little photo has resulted in Greitens’ indictment on a felony charge and arrest.
  • Now members of his own party have launched an investigation that could lead to the Republican’s impeachment and removal from office.
  • On Monday, the GOP House speaker created a seven-member committee (five Republicans, two Democrats) to investigate the charges against Greitens.
Best Timing: But Missouri Republicans can walk and chew gum at the same time, in that they can investigate their governor AND work to screw working families at the simultaneously.
  • The state’s new so-called “right to work” law is set to appear on the ballot this November, when voters will have the chance to repeal it.
  • But now GOP lawmakers want the “right to work” repeal measure to appear on the ballot for the August primary instead—an election that is sure to bring fewer voters to the polls than the general election.
  • The GOP sponsor of the bill to move the RTW repeal from November to August claims that she just wants to give voters a chance to weigh in as soon as possible.
  • What Republicans really want to do is shrink the size of the electorate voting on this measure—a move that tends to reduce Democratic turnout and will likely result in fewer progressive voters showing up to cast ballots against this union-busting law.

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Thursday, February 15, 2018

I Vote The Line edition

February’s just over halfway done, but it already feels longer than a Folsom Prisonsentence.
Partly because so much hurt keeps happening.
But also because 44 state legislatures are actively meeting this week.
Nevada, Montana, North Dakota, Minnesota, Texas, and Louisiana are so so chill right now
Cry, Cry, Cry: After every gun violence tragedy, conversation quickly and rightly turns to Congress’ shameful inaction on the issue.
  • But states have broad leeway to regulate (or not) firearms themselves, so it’s worth taking a peek at what’s been happening in legislatures since the mass shooting in Las Vegas last October and the 2016 shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando and … well.
    • The Democratic majorities in the Massachusetts House and Senate became the first legislature to pass a ban on bump stocks, the device that made the Las Vegas horror so deadly.
    • (California and New York already ban bump stocks.)
      • Meanwhile, in Nevada itself, it’s against state law to ban bump stocks because of a measure that passed the legislature in 2015, back when Republicans controlled both chambers. (Though of course a future Democratic legislature could repeal this ban-ban.)
      • Republicans in other states expanded access to firearms and rolled back gun restrictions over the course of the past year.
        • After the GOP took control of both chambers of the Iowa legislature in 2016, that state passed its own version of Florida’s infamous “stand your ground” law.
        • New Hampshire and North Dakota eliminated the requirement that gun owners obtain a permit to carry a concealed firearm.
        • Ohio loosened restrictions to allow concealed weapons in day care centers and some parts of airports.
        • Wyoming legalized carrying firearms in K-12 schools.
        • Georgia and Arkansas legalized it on college campuses.
        • Texas legislators legalized gun silencers.
      The Voter Comes Around: So, not everything is terrible. I promise. 
      • This week saw a veritable special election bonanza, by which I mean that state legislative specials were held on Monday (two in Minnesota) and Tuesday (one each in Florida, Georgia, and Oklahoma). Four of these five elections were to fill vacant Republican seats.
        • On Monday, Democrats held on to state Senate district 23B in Minnesota, despite the fact that Trump won the district (by a 46-45 margin) in 2016.
        • Republicans held on to their House seat (Trump won House District 23B 59-33).
          • Both specials were to replace lawmakers forced to resign over sexual misconduct allegations, and a Democratic woman will be replacing the Senate harasser in Senate District 54.
      Wouldn’t be mad if this happened every time #MeToo forces a man from office tbh
      • On Tuesday, Democrats flipped a vacant Republican seat in Florida when Margaret Good defeated Republican and congressional scion James Buchanan 52-45 percent in a district Trump carried in 2016 (by a 51-46 margin).
        • The pickup was Democrats’ 36th red-to-blue state legislative flip of the cycle—and the 23rd by a woman!—and it’s one that should absolutely spook the pants off of Republicans.
          • House District 72 not only went for Trump, but it’s also historically Republican down-ballot and has a GOP voter registration advantage of around 13,000. 
          • Buchanan benefitted from his the name recognition of his congressman father, Rep. Vern Buchanan.
          • National Republicans took interest in the race, investing in it and even sending a key Trump campaign operative—none other than Corey Lewandowski—to help get out the vote.
        • Rep.-elect Good, meanwhile, had Joe Biden in her corner; he endorsed herand recorded a robocall for her about a week before the election.
      • Republicans held on to the seats in Oklahoma and Georgia on Tuesday (although the Democrat improved on 2016 presidential performance in the Oklahoma seat by 37 points; comparable figures aren’t available for the Georgia seat because it was a four-way race).
      Can’t get enough special elections? Good! Because they can’t get enough of you, either, probably.
      Coming up:
      • Saturday, February 17:
      • Tuesday, February 20:
        • Kentucky House District 49, which became vacant when the incumbent Republican, a local minister of a controversial church, killed himself after being accused of sexually abusing a teenage member of his congregation. His widow is running for the seat, as is former Democratic state Rep. Linda Belcher.
        • Mississippi House District 60, which became vacant when Republican incumbent John Moore resigned in the face of multiple sexual harassment complaints. State legislative special elections in Mississippi are technically nonpartisan; four men are running to replace Moore.
Read the rest here.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

I Want To Know What Law Is edition

Roses are red
Violets are blue
Valentine’s Day is next week
So here’s an appropriately themed statehouse update for you
… sorry.
Love is in the air in state legislatures across the country, and by “love” I mean that 41 statehouses are currently in session, and they’re all just awash in sexy things like holding public hearings on bills and passing resolutions honoring local sports teams and voting on legislation.
Shhhhhhhhhh don’t judge my perception of sexy. Everyone’s got their own thing.
But everyone thinks winning is hot. And Democrats are positively on fire.
Burning Love: This past Tuesday, Democrats flipped yet another state legislative seat from red to blue. (It’s Democrats 35th state legislative pickup of the cycle.)

Want to feel the heat of more special elections? Next week features five contests on back-to-back days—two seats in Minnesota on Monday, Feb. 12, and seats in Florida, Oklahoma, and Georgia on Tuesday, Feb. 13.
Draw Me Two Times: PennsylvaniaRepublicans did not take late January’s state Supreme Court ruling against their gerrymandered congressional maps well.
If you’re just now tuning in, yeah, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court found that the state’s outrageous Republican gerrymander violated the state constitution’s guarantee of “free and equal” elections. It was rad.
Histrionics? Sounds like it. But threats are only idle until they’re not, and Pennsylvania’s Republican lawmakers have both the means and the motivation to make impeachment happen.
Here’s how they could do it:
Here’s why they could do it:
  • Democrats have a 5-2 majority on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, and Republicans have almost zero chance of flipping the court back to a GOP majority before 2021.
  • In 2021, a commission of two Republicans, two Democrats, and a fifth member agreed upon by the other four create new state House and Senate maps.
  • If (when, let’s be real) the two Republicans and two Democrats fail to agree upon that fifth tie-breaking member, the state Supreme Court steps in to select the member. A Democratic-majority Supreme Court is likely to select a tiebreaker who will reject any map that unfairly benefits Republicans.
  • Additionally, legal challenges to the state House and Senate maps are normally handled by the state Supreme Court, placing another anti-GOP gerrymander trump card in Democrats’ hands.
The Democratic majority on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court thusly constitutes an existential threat to Republicans’ lopsided majorities in the the state legislature.
Stay tuned!
...can’t give his vote to no one else
He’d trade the GOP
For the good thing he’s found

Monday, February 5, 2018

Where No One Has Voted Before (Or Since) edition

[[Ed. note: Yes I've been terrible about cross-posting and keeping this space even remotely up to date so here's a Star Trek-themed one you're welcome]]

Democracy … The final frontier.
These are the voyages of the U.S.S. Republican Governor.
Its nine-month mission: To explore strange new bills.
To seek out new lows in democratic civilizations.
To boldly go where no governor has gone before!
… Okay, you’re a good sport to get through that. Ahead, warp factor seven.

he Un-Democratized Country: I’ve been making some hay in this space of all the state legislative elections Republicans keep losing. Because they’re losing a lot of them, and a lot of supposedly safely red seats have flipped from red to blue over the past year.
So, if you’re a Republican governor, what do you do when you can’t seem to win special elections?
You stop having them, of course!
  • A Wisconsin state Assembly seat and a state Senate seat have been open since December (when the Republican incumbents bailed to take spots in Walker's administration), but Walker doesn’t want to call special elections to fill them any time soon.
    • Rather, he wants the hold the specials concurrent with the general elections in November, when he seems to think Republicans have a better chance of holding on. (The state Senate is currently 18 Republicans to 14 Democrats, with one vacancy).
  • That means the Wisconsinites living in those districts could remain unrepresented in those chambers for the better part of a year—if not longer.Also, Walker’s probably violating the state constitution by refusing to call specials to fill vacant seats in a timely manner, but whatevs.
    New Frontiers of Unconstitutionality: Republicans in Mississippi are trying to chart new star systems when it comes to infringing on women’s healthcare and right to obtain an abortion.
    Old and busted: 20-week abortion bans(Mississippi passed one in 2017.)
    New hotness: 15-week abortion bans. 
    • One of these bans just passed out of a House committee in the Magnolia State, but definitely keep an eye out for these garbage restrictions as they pop up in other red states. 
You can read the rest here
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Thursday, September 14, 2017

It Takes A District edition

What happened?
Sure, we all know that's the title of Hillary Clinton’s new book about the election. But it’s also what Republicans are saying this week after Democrats flipped two more solidly red seats on Tuesday night.
Those two wins bring the seat flip score this cycle to Democrats 6, Republicans 0.
Wins feel good, and pickups feel better, but Democratic success since Trump’s election actually cuts a quite a bit deeper.
Analysis of these special elections reveals that Democrats are consistently outperforming the presidential elections results from both 2016 and 2012.
  • Democrats have beaten Hillary Clinton’s numbers in 28 of the 35 contested special elections this cycle, and
  • Democrats improved on Obama’s 2012 numbers in 25 of them.
Compared to Clinton’s numbers, Democrats are performing an average of 13 percent better, and they’re even performing 9 percent better than Obama. 
Don’t call it a comeback… okay maybe call it a comeback.
Living History: Lots of hand-wringing and column space has been invested in analyzing the regions of the country where the Democratic margin fell sharply from 2012 to 2016. Was this a one time thing? Is this a permanent partisan realignment? Will Democrats be able to recover? Did I leave the oven on?
  • Ten of the special elections held so far this cycle have been in districts where the presidential margin shifted 10 or more points toward the Republican presidential candidate from 2012 to 2016.
    • Briefly, they are Connecticut HD-115, Iowa SD-45, Iowa HD-89, Iowa HD-82, New Hampshire HD Grafton-9, New Hampshire HD Belknap-9,Minnesota HD-32B, New York AD-09, Oklahoma HD-28, and Missouri SD-28.
  • In all 10 of these districts, the margin has shifted back towards Democrats in the special.
  • But in eight of them, the margin has shifted past the 2012 presidential margin.
Does this mean we can expect Democrats to win everything everywhere this cycle? Nah, that’s silly. But it does mean that Democrats not only aren’t stuck at 2016 performance levels, but they’re also often improving on Democratic presidential performance in 2012.
Too many words? Check out a neat visualization of this whole section here.

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Thursday, September 7, 2017

Budget Riders on the Storm edition

The weather sucks and everything is terrible.
If it’s not a record-shattering hurricane, it’s raging wildfires or a swarm of earthquakesright on top of our continent’s very own supervolcano.
Who’ll Stop The Rain? Republican majorities in the Wisconsin legislature are truly desperate to woo a massive new Foxconn plant to the state.
  • How desperate are they? Glad you asked! Not only are Republicans pushing a $3 billion incentive package to attract the Foxconn LCD screen plant, but they’re also waiving state environmental regulations and protections to speed the plant’s construction.
Oh, and they’re also changing the state’s legal system to accommodate the corporation. NBD!
  • Under the incentive package that’s likely to be approved by the legislature later this month, any lawsuit involving Foxconn will skip the state appeals court and go directly to the conservative-controlled Wisconsin Supreme Court.
Fun fact! No other Wisconsin business is or has ever been granted this expedited (and unquestionably pro-corporate) process.
Rock You Like A Hurricane: Last week, the GOP-controlled North Carolina legislature approved some truly awful new state legislative maps to comply with a court order striking down the previous, illegally racially gerrymandered ones. (The new maps are extreme partisan gerrymanders, arguably creating just 15 competitive districts out of 170 total House and Senate seats in the state.) They convened a special session to do so, and when they adjourned, they plotted to return in October. 
  • In North Carolina, special sessions must be called for a specific purpose. Often the purpose is set forth in the adjournment resolution of the current session.
In the most recent adjournment resolution, North Carolina Republicans basically allowed themselves to consider any issue they dang well please. But some of the more interesting items on their October agenda include:
  • Redrawing (read: gerrymandering) the state’s judicial districts, something Republicans first floated to understandable outrage last June. A gerrymandered judicial district map would effectively allow the legislature to stack the state’s court system with Republican judges.
  • Impeachment proceedings. Back in June, a GOP lawmaker launched impeachment proceedings against Democratic Secretary of State Elaine Marhsall, who, by the way, has done nothing wrong.
    • Republican Rep. Chris Millis began laying the groundwork for impeachment charges back in February when he requested information on whether Marshall was illegally allowing non-citizens to become notaries public. (She wasn’t.) In March, Millis demanded that Marshall resign. (She didn’t.)
    • Then, despite the fact than none of his inquiries or investigations turned up evidence that Marshall did anything improper or illegal, Millis pushed his GOP toward impeachment proceedings anyway.
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