Wednesday, August 24, 2016

I Know What You Did Last Session edition

The heat's broken, and while it'll be back in two shakes of a lamb's tail, let's enjoy some refreshing statehouse action on the patio while we can.

Wipe Out: Two Republican-appointed federal judges in Ohio have re-eradicated the state's "Golden Week," the period during which voters can register and vote early at the same time. 
  • Some history:
    • Ohio lawmakers expanded the state's early voting period, including the week-long overlap of registering and casting ballots, in 2005 as a means of avoiding the epic lines, complications, and logistical issues Ohio voters notoriously endured in the 2004 election. 
    • The GOP-controlled legislature eliminated Golden Week in 2014, shortening the state's early voting period from 35 days to 29.
  • Fast forward to May, when a U.S. District Court judge found the GOP-controlled legislature's law eliminating the Golden Week to be unconstitutional and in violation of the Voting Rights Act. 
    • Minority voters were especially likely to register and vote during this overlap period, and while Ohio's early voting period remained among the most extensive in the country, the District Court judge ruled that the reduction disproportionately affected African Americans.
Fun fact! African American voters took advantage of "golden week" 3½ times as often as white voters in 2008, and more than 5 times as often in 2012.
  • But two white judges declared in their majority ruling on Tuesday that the 29-day early in-person voting period was "really quite generous," so maybe minority voters in Ohio are supposed to be grateful for only having their voting rights partially eroded, or something...? 


Primary season is finally gasping its last in key states across the country. Voters in Michigan, New Hampshire, Maine, and beyond have waited in sweaty lines in recent weeks to cast their ballots. 

Summer Nights Lake(Michigan)side: After Michigan's August 2 primary, Democrats' chances of picking up the nine House seats needed to break the GOP's stranglehold on state government went from optimistic long shot to… well, just optimistic. Here's why:
  • Because of term limits, Republicans have more open House seats than Democrats -- 25 to 13, respectively. 
  • Democrats' recruiting efforts this year were highly successful, and a quality crop of candidates emerged in many of those open seats.
  • Some of the tea party Republicans who won their primaries in more moderate districts created opportunities for Democrats to pick up seats that might not otherwise have been in play. 
Additionally, polling is revealing serious trouble in terms of top-of-ticket drag for down-ballot Michigan Republicans.
    • Republican Gov. Rick Snyder's approval rating is at an all-time low (39.7 percent, specifically). 
      • Even among base Republicans, 25 percent disapprove of his performance. 
      • Only 38 percent of Michigan voters say the state is on the "right track."
    • Hillary Clinton has a narrow lead in the traditional Republican strongholds of west and southwest Michigan, which could put even "safe" GOP House seats in those areas in play.
    • If a recent court decision overturning the GOP-supported ban on straight-ticket voting in the state survives a last-ditch attempt at an emergency appeal, Trump's unpopularity spells even bigger problems for down-ballot Republicans. 

Summer schooled: To get even nerdier about the situation in Michigan (I know, I know, you're shocked), based on an April interview, House GOPers could be screwed despite their best efforts to gerrymander themselves into a decade-long majority. The whole bit is worth a listen, and it doesn't take into account current polls and primary results, but the salient part of the conversation goes thusly:
  • Former Michigan GOP House staffer Brian Began, the main architect of the current state House district maps, claims Republicans’ best case scenario is to only lose one seat this fall, but they'll "probably" lose "five to six at least." 
  • According to his his consulting firm colleague Adrian Hemond, the maps were designed to sustain a Republican House majority through three presidential cycles -- but this was reliant on the top of the ticket garnering at least 47% of the vote statewide
  • Especially in light of Trump's poor performance among minorities and women in many competitive districts, Hemond thinks Trump won't come close to hitting 47%, putting several otherwise “safe” state legislative districts in play.
And while we're talking about Michigan, here's some good news, everyone!
  • Muslims in Michigan -- and beyond -- who are troubled by Donald Trump's hateful rhetoric are taking some comfort in the sweeping primary victory of Abdullah Hammoud, an Muslim Democrat running for the state House.
    • He'll face WWE wrestler Rhino, aka Terrance Guido Gerin, in November. 
Fun fact! Democrat George Darany won his last election in this seat (HD15) with 67.5% of the vote (he's term-limited out this year), so Hammoud's election prospects are pretty rosy.

Granite State grooveNew Hampshire won't hold its primary elections until September 13, but Democrats are already "outhustling" their GOP counterparts. 
  • Democrats are fielding candidates in 361 of the state's 400 House districts. Republican have at least one candidate in just 335. 
  • Republicans were already struggling with the retirement of more than 60 incumbents. 
  • Additionally, both the Democratic state House and Senate campaign committees are reporting strong fundraising numbers this summer and entered August with record-breaking cash on hand amounts

Summertime Blue(berrie)sMaine's primary elections are a couple of months behind us now, so campaigns are in full swing -- and state Democrats are steamrolling their opponents in fundraising. 
Watch for Maine Democrats to win a majority in the state Senate and expand their caucus in the House this fall.

Cruel Summer ...for GOP state legislators, anyway. Republican lawmakers continue to freak out about the impact of Trump's candidacy on state legislative races. Some greatest hits:
  • The prospect of a Trump presidency "scares the bejeebies" out of Georgia Republican state Rep. Alan Peake. He worries that Trump-ian policies will lead his party towards "extinction." 
    • ...but he's still going to support Trump in November, so talk is awfully cheap. 
Welp, that's enough good news for one week. 

Also, here. You're welcome. 

The following 2 state legislatures are meeting actively this week: ALABAMA and CALIFORNIA.



The State Legislative Leaders Foundation will hold its National Speakers Conference August 24-27 in Burlington, Vermont. 

The National Association of Insurance Commissioners will hold its Summer Meeting August 26-29 in San Diego, California. 


The Science, Technology and Telecommunications Committee will met August 22-23 to discuss and receive presentations regarding electric cooperative broadband development, projects within the Department of Information Technology, public-private partnerships for infrastructure development, policy issues for remote piloted aircraft, Education Networks of America and the state’s business climate for technology enterprise. 

The Legislative Health and Human Services Committee met August 23 to receive an analysis of the proposal to increase the liquor excise tax.


A primary runoff election was held August 23 for House and Senate seats where no candidate received more than 50% of votes cast in the primary election. (Check out results here.)


The Agency of Natural Resources held public hearings August 22 and 24 regarding proposed amendments to state water quality standards. 


The Department of Natural Resources will hold a public hearing August 25 regarding proposed amendments to air pollution control rules.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Don't call it a Statehouse Action comeback, but I guess you could, if you want, it's fine

Ugh so tired of Trump. Except that he’s going to help a lot of Democratic candidates win state legislative elections. I’m not the least bit tired of that.

Ready for a little statehouse action?

  • Colorado Senate (17 D/18 R): The state’s iteration of Politifact slapped a “Pants On Fire” on an ongoing smear campaign against Democratic candidate Rachel Zenzinger, a former Senator who will win the race for this key district in the fall, helping Democrats pick up a majority in the chamber.

o   Republican Laura Woods bested Zenzinger in 2014 by a mere 663 votes SD-19, and the false claim again being peddled by “Colorado Citizens for Accountable Government,” a conservative 527 group, may have contributed to the outcome.
§  Direct mail dropped against Zenzinger last month touts the outright lie that “Rachel Zenzinger voted to use taxpayer money on a trip to China” (and goes on to make a terrible “Zen” pun). Politifact deemed the attack “a gross distortion of the facts.” (No verdict was rendered on the pun.)
o   GOP state Sen. Laura Woods has already gained notoriety during her brief tenure as a legislator with her extreme anti-choice positions – including sponsorship of a so-called “personhood” bill that would have effectively banned all abortion in Colorado.
§  Fun fact! Sen. Laura Woods used to be known as Laura Waters, back when she helped organize 2013’s anti-gun safety recall attempt of SD-19’s former Democratic Senator, Evie Hudak.
§  Another Colorado fun fact! Republicans’ voter registration edge is waaaaaaay down in the state – well below what it was in 2012, when Democrats won majorities in both legislative chambers.

I’ve got to give love to my favorite article from last week, an Ari Berman joint on the GOP war on voting and how it’s specifically impacted voters in Wisconsin and Minnesota. It’s really a lovely contrast, what with both states being so historically, geographically, and demographically similar. The big difference between the two is that Minnesota Democrats have held between one and all three parts of the state government “trifecta” – governor, House, Senate – since 2010. In Wisconsin, it’s basically been the GOP’s show the whole time (Democrats had a majority in the state Senate for a few months in 2012, but the legislature was already out of session for the year).

  • tl;dr – Republicans in Wisconsin have
o   Shortened the early-voting window from 30 days to 12,
o   Eliminated night voting, weekend voting, and straight-ticket voting,
o   Made registering to vote and casting an absentee ballot more difficult, and
o   Tightened residency requirements.
  • And they’ve been caught admitting that these measures are specifically intended to impact groups that tend to vote for Democrats.

Fun fact! The Wisconsin GOP also got rid of the nonpartisan agency responsible for overseeing elections and educating the public about the new laws.

  • Meanwhile, next door in Minnesota, restrictive voter ID measures died at the ballot box in 2012, and Democratic majorities in the legislature made voting a whole lot easier in 2013 when they established “no excuse” absentee voting. Democrats in the legislature are considering further reforms, including restoring voting rights to people on probation or parole.

Seriously though it’s so great: The GOP’s War on Voting Is Working

Other goings-on in hot states:
  • DOJ asked a federal judge to block implementation of North Carolina’s heinous HB2. Republicans in the legislature have approved one change to the law: restoring North Carolinians’ right to sue for discrimination in state courts. While this move is significant, it in no way makes this measure less bigoted and onerous for the LGBT community, who remain utterly unprotected by the state’s nondiscrimination laws.
  • A federal judge has blocked Michigan’s “paycheck deception” law from taking effect, temporarily halting GOP lawmakers’ scheme to weaken unions and undermine their financial support by prohibiting voluntary automatic paycheck deductions.

For the Week of July 7, 2016

The following 2 state legislatures are meeting actively this week: MASSACHUSETTS and PENNSYLVANIA.



The Southern States Energy Board will hold its 2016 Briefing to Southern Legislators July 9 in Lexington, Kentucky.

The Republican Attorneys General Association will hold its Summer National Meeting July 9-12 in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

The Council of State Governments Southern Legislative Conference will hold its 70th Annual Meeting July 9-13 in Lexington, Kentucky. 


The signature submission deadline for proposed ballot measures to qualify for the general election ballot is July 7. 


The signature submission deadline for proposed ballot measures to qualify for the general election ballot is July 8. 


The Agency of Agriculture will accept comments until July 7 regarding proposed rules establishing required agricultural practices for agricultural nonpoint source pollution control. 


The Department of Ecology will hold a webinar July 7 regarding proposed rules governing greenhouse gas emissions. 

The signature submission deadline for proposed ballot measures to qualify for the general election ballot is July 8.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Game of Porcelain Thrones edition

On this Tax Day Monday, behold the statehouse action!

Remember when making people pay to vote was frowned upon? A Republican lawmaker in Ohio wants voters who petition the courts to extend voting hours (because of long lines or whatever else) to pony up the cash -- which could easily amount to thousands of dollars -- to cover the additional expenses on the spot.
  • Sen. Bill Seitz's bill would require a voter to pay a cash bond to cover costs before a judge could order the polls to remain open past their normal closing time. 

Tar Heels: Although it's far from the only state in which local autonomy is being trampled and LGBT residents are being oppressed, North Carolina continues to receive the most attention.
And, frankly, it's super deserving of the high level of scorn and blowback it continues to draw. 

  • Last week, Gov. Pat McCrory issued an executive order that... well, I guess it was an attempt to placate the myriad companies and musicians and adult entertainment websites refusing to do business in the state because of the anti-LGBT provisions of HB2. 
    • ...But that's pure speculation, because Gov. McCrory's pronouncement changed only one small aspect about LGBT life in the state (while completely ignoring the legal and local government implications, since businesses don't seem to care so much about that). 
  • Because of Executive Order 93, LGBT North Carolinians who work for the state are now protected by North Carolina's non-discrimination policies. Hooray, right?
    • ... except that doesn't matter because HB2 eliminated the right to sue over a violation of state non-discrimination policies. This EO is pure lip service.
    • That loss of the ability to sue the state for discrimination is the part of the new law that's receiving the least attention, and it's just as terrible as the other, better-known aspects of HB2 (i.e., the bits forcing folks to use certain bathrooms, preventing local governments from raising local wages or establishing paid leave, and enshrining general LGBT discrimination in state law). 
      • First, barring workplace discrimination claims nullifies 30 years of common-law precedent and forces folks who've been unfairly fired to seek relief in federal courts instead.
      • The federal court system is more difficult and (typically) more expensive to navigate. 
      • Before even filing a federal suit, plaintiffs have to go through the months-long process of getting permission from the EEOC
      • After all that, plaintiffs have only 90 to file a complaint (the state court statute of limitations on such claims is three years). 
      • Just filing the complaint costs twice as much in federal court, and damages are capped at $300,000 (as opposed to no cap at the state level).
  • Gov. McCory says he's going to ask real nice for Republican lawmakers to repeal this aspect of HB2, but the state's GOP majorities have given no indication that they regret that -- or any other -- aspect of the new law. 
North Carolina's legislative session convenes on May 11. 

So many potties, so little time: GOP lawmakers are spending an awful lot of time this year legislating their way into bathrooms and taking away LGBT civil rights. 
  • An anti-transgender "bathroom bill" was making its way through the Tennessee legislature, but it seems to have stalled out in the face of pressure from businesses and entertainers operating in the state. 
      • Gov. Haslam, who's had a  front-row seat to the backlash in neighboring North Carolina, has already expressed his reticence to sign such a bill.
    • Gov. Haslam has not indicated whether he intends to veto another hateful piece of legislation sitting on his desk that would make Tennessee the only state in the nation in which therapists could refuse to treat LGBT patientsSometimes a bigoted cigar is just a bigoted cigar?
    • Speaking of Tennessee...  Late last week, Gov. Haslam vetoed a bill that would have made the Bible the official state book. 
      • This is good news, except that it might be followed soon by lousy news. 
      • You see, Tennessee lawmakers can override a governor's veto with a simple majority vote. So basically all the legislature has to do is re-pass the bill they just passed -- not exactly a heavy lift. It's less of a veto and more of a "please don't."
  • Mississippi, that chronically last-place state (in things like median household income, visits to the dentist, education, best places to live), just became ranked first in something! Too bad it's nothing to be proud of. 
    • Last week, Gov. Phil Bryant signed into law the most comprehensive anti-LGBT measure in the country. 
    • The new law explicitly protects those who discriminate against LGBT people and allows Mississippians to deny all kinds of services based on "sincerely held" religious beliefs -- from goods and services to medical treatment and employment.
I mean, this is bad. Really, really bad. 

  • A Republican in Michigan is super eager to jump on the forcing-transgender-folks-to-use-the-bathroom-of-their-birth-sex bandwagon. 
    • Sen. Tom Casperson referred to "mixing these kids together" as "not normal" and "not right." 

The Missouri Senate has misplaced its gavel. The large wooden gavel was last seen resting on the Senate dais on March 18. Until its return, Senators are making do with a "smaller, backup gavel." I bet that poor, maligned backup gavel is doing just a bang-up job. 

Sometimes their judgment is even worse than their legislatingGeorgia Republican state Rep. Tom Taylor was recently arrested for DUI. He had been pulled over for going 72 in a 45. He blew .225 on the breathalyzer. He had a gun strapped to his hip. He had four kids in the car.

File under: Stuff to keep an eye on if you're bored or into this kind of thing or whatever
A redistricting lawsuit in North Carolina went to trial last week. The plaintiffs assert that Republicans drew the state House and Senate maps to unconstitutionally dilute the influence of black voters in certain districts
No word yet on when the trio of federal judges plans to issue a ruling. 

LOL Jim Gilmore's campaign somehow racked up $291,000+ in debt. Maybe it was for badass chains.



The National Association of County and City Health Officials will hold its 2016 Public Health Preparedness Summit April 18-22 in Dallas, Texas. 

The National Association of Attorneys General will hold its Southern Regional Meeting April 18-19 in Atlanta, Georgia. 


The Legislature will adjourn sine die no later than April 23


The House Labor and Employment Committee will hold a public hearing April 20 regarding A.B. 2405, which requires employers with 25 or more employees to provide annually employees with at least 24 hours of paid time off for the ability to participate in school activities or address emergency situations at school for a child in a licensed child day care facility or in grades K-12. 

The Assembly Committee on Health will hold a public hearing April 20 regarding S.B. 1252, which requires general acute care hospitals, surgical clinics and attending physicians, as applicable, to notify patients in writing of the net costs to the patient for a medical procedure when it is scheduled to be performed. 


The deadline for each chamber to pass bills originating in its chamber is April 22


The Legislature will adjourn sine die April 19


The Legislature will adjourn sine die April 24


The Legislature will adjourn sine die April 20


A special election will be held April 19 to fill vacant seats in Assembly Districts 59, 62 and 65 and Senate District 9. 


The deadline for each chamber to pass bills originating in the opposite chamber is April 21.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Ban Everything edition

So much to talk about, so little time. To me, my Statehouse Action!

One Shining Moment... is about how long last night's pro-labor ruling in Wisconsin will stand, unfortunately. A circuit court judge ruled the state's new "right to work" law violates the Wisconsin constitution. This ruling is a big win for workers and for unions, but it's destined to be overturned by the state's solidly-Republican Supreme Court (which became a little more solidly Republican this past Tuesday, incidentally). 

Speaking of Wisconsin...

LOL the VoteWisconsin is one of the most effectively-gerrymandered states in the nation (e.g. in 2012, Democrats running for state Assembly won more votes than their GOP counterparts statewide [52%!], but they only won 39 of 99 seats). 
  • Also, some Republicans admitted publicly that Wisconsin's voter ID law was passed by GOP lawmakers in 2011 with the actual, literal intent to suppress minority and college student turnout and help Republicans get elected. But we knew that, yes?

If you can't beat them, kick them the hell out: In the continuation of a troubling trend I noted early this year, yet another GOP-controlled legislative chamber is booting reporters.
  • On Thursday, the Arizona state House banned reporters from the chamber floor -- access the media has enjoyed for at least 34 years (probably longer). 
    • To return to the House floor, reporters will have to submit to extensive background checks, which will include not just reporters' criminal and civil histories, but also their prior addresses and driving records. (Seriously, driving records??)
  • Arizona House Republicans' sudden crackdown on media access is anything but random. In fact, this new restriction appears to be targeting one reporter in particular -- a reporter who's written multiple stories critical of the GOP Speaker. 
    • In fact, earlier this year, he wrote about the Speaker's extensive travel on the state's dime for purposes apparently unrelated to his duties as an elected official (the Speaker later reimbursed the state more than $12,000). 
    • That reporter, Hank Stephenson, happens to have a conviction of second degree trespass lurking in his history (from a "bar fight").
  • Along with the invasive background check requirement, GOP House leadership also unveiled a list of specific prior offenses which would disqualify a reporter from House floor privileges. The list includes any felony within the past ten years or any misdemeanor within the past five. 
  • This list includes some exceptions, but trespass is not one of them.  
    • House Republicans claim this new ban is a result of security concerns, rather than petty retribution. Okay!
  • You'll be shocked, SHOCKED to know that those other GOP media bans smacked of petty retribution, too.
    • In Missouri, the Republican-controlled Senate voted in early January to banish reporters from their table near the front of the chamber. (A section of the upper gallery is being renovated to accommodate the media, so nice!
      • After initially trying to claim the change was needed to accommodate more staffers, the GOP Senate President Pro Tem admitted that he's still sore about reporters tweeting about conversations between lawmakers on the chamber floor last year.
    • Just a couple of weeks later, reporters in Virginia attempted to take their customary place at tables near the Senate dais as session kicked off, only to be shunted to the Senate gallery at the behest of GOP Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment. But why?
    • After weeks of negotiating, Virginia Senate reporters were again granted access to the floor, but in diminished fashion
      • Instead of two tables that seated eight reporters total, the press returned to the Senate floor with six little leaf desks (like the ones you used to have to put up with in school) that no longer have access to electrical outlets for laptops and such. 

It's time for Chaps-free bathrooms: No, I'm not talking about the leg protectors. 
  • My favorite GOP-lawmaker-by-day-internet-televangelist-by-night enjoyed a little attention from the Daily Show on Wednesday. Hooray!
    • Colorado state Rep. Gordon Klingenschmitt is a recurring figure in my column (seriously, I don't even have to check the spelling of his last name any more), earning ire and derision on topics ranging from abortion to Islam
      • On TDS, Rep. Klingenschmitt, who (un)enlightens the masses via his "Pray in Jesus Name" YouTube channel on weekends, slipped into his Dr. Chaps persona on camera to discuss his deeply bigoted transphobia. The segment is worth a watch if you haven't seen it. 
  • Also, KlingenChaps believes transgender people are possessed by demons. Seems legit.

Okay, so NOW you're mad? The hubbub in North Carolina over the GOP-controlled legislature's bathroom freakout has garnered quite a bit of attention, as has the backlash from businesses objecting to HB2, the state's newly-passed law that permits anti-LGBT discrimination and guts local government control. 
  • Over 120 companies have publicly expressed opposition to the new law, and a slew of corporate executives signed onto a letter calling on Gov. McCrory and the legislature to repeal the measure during the upcoming session. 
    • Fun fact! At least 36 of those companies have given money to groups that helped elect the GOP lawmakers responsible for HB2. The RSLC and the RGA have raked in $10.8 million from these businesses in recent election cycles. Reportedly,
Companies that have criticized HB2 have donated over $4.3 million to the RSLC since the 2010 election cycle. They include Citigroup (nearly $893,000), Pfizer (over $654,000), Google (nearly $312,000), Bank of America (over $239,000), Dow Chemical (nearly $221,000), Facebook (nearly $165,000), and SAS Institute (nearly $152,000). PayPal, which contributed $399 to the RSLC in that period, has announced that it is canceling plans to open a global operations center in Charlotte in protest of the law.
  • A sizable chunk of RSLC money flowing into the state's elections was shunted through Real Jobs N.C., a North Carolina-based super PAC. 
In the 2012 cycle, RSLC contributed $300,000 to Real Jobs...Real Jobs helped 11 Republicans win open seats, retain seats, or take out a Democratic incumbent. All remain in the General Assembly, and nine voted for HB2.

For example, Real Jobs spent over $17,000 in 2012 to help elect Bob Steinburg, a Republican representing Eastern North Carolina's House District 1 and a primary sponsor of HB2. The super PAC also spent over $49,000 benefiting Republican Rep. Michael Speciale of New Bern and more than $16,000 helping Republican Rep. Michele Presnell of Burnsville, both of whom co-sponsored HB2.
While scaling back its election spending in 2014, Real Jobs still spent close to $35,000 helping re-elect GOP Sen. Chad Barefoot of Wake County, who voted for HB2. The RSLC contributed $25,000 to Real Jobs that year.

Maybe let's just ban bathrooms: A Michigan Republican wants in on this hot potty action. 
  • When the legislature reconvenes in April, GOP Sen. Tom Casperson plans to introduce a bill requiring students to "only use bathrooms and locker rooms matching their birth" sex.
    • The bill is intended as a preemptive strike against the state Department of Education, which is drafting totally optional suggestions for supporting LGBT youth in schools. 

Ban racially-charged language! ....hey, wait, that's a good thing. 
  • The Democratic-majority Colorado House of Representatives has passed a bill that would strike the term "illegal alien" in state laws and replace it with with "undocumented worker" or "foreign national."
    • Will the bill make it through the GOP-controlled state Senate? We'll see...

BTW, #PeriodsforPence is one of the best things happening on the internet right now. (It's a creative backlash to the heinous anti-choice law signed by Indiana Gov. Pence last month, which, among other things, requires miscarried or aborted fetuses be cremated or interred.)

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Watch The Committee Chair edition

Forty legislatures are in session this week, and lawmakers are going H.A.M. with all sorts of antics. Here's the hits collection.

The situation is so egregious that People magazine did a story on it. I mean, seriously.
    • Detroit's teachers have resorted to staging sick-outs to draw attention to and protest the conditions. 
    • Republican lawmakers, however, would rather exploit the situation to attack teachers and teachers unions than actually address the problems facing the schools. (Fun fact: The teachers unions had nothing to do with organizing the sick-out protests.) 
      • Republicans have proposed legislation that would fine teachers and union leaders for each day of a sick-out or strike, mandate a two-year suspension of teaching certificates of those found to have participated, and decertify local teachers unions. 
Your Michigan GOP: We'd rather punish teachers than get the rats and black mold out of your school.

  • Gotta Have It: Last summer, Arizona Republicans failed -- yet again -- to to usurp the nonpartisan redistricting process established by the state's voters in 2000. Since the U.S. Supreme Court shut down the GOP's efforts to return redistricting to the hands of the GOP-controlled legislature, lawmakers have concocted yet another scheme designed to eliminate the Independent Redistricting Commission (IRC).
    • The measure that's just passed the House Elections Committee seeks to amend the state constitution to replace the IRC with a commission whose members would run for the office, just like any other politician.
    • Whatever your feelings are about partisan elections for the sole purpose of drawing new state and congressional district lines, the most troubling part of this proposal is that it would permit elected officials, candidates, and even lobbyists to serve on this new redistricting commission. 
      • Currently, Republican and Democratic party leaders each choose two members of the commission; those four commissioners must agree on a fifth, independent commissioner to head the group. None of the members can be elected officials, candidates for office, or registered lobbyists. 
      • Republicans are also still wrangling their lawsuit claiming that the IRC illegally drew district lines favoring Democrats. It will be heard by SCOTUS this year; a three-judge federal panel has already rejected the claim. 
So weird how lines that allegedly favor Democrats still resulted in GOP majorities in the legislature and congressional delegation.

If you've identified members of a terrorist organization in your state, is the issue really whether or not they're getting food stamps? Just asking...
    • The bill itself is weird and paranoid, but what really takes the hate cake is Rep. Weyler's submitted testimony supporting the the legislation.
    • According to Weyler, 
      • "Giving public benefits to any person or family that practices Islam is aiding and abetting the enemy. That is treason."
      • "[Islam] is an ideology posing as a religion."
      • "Islam is intolerant and deceitful, and its adherents are ordered to overthrow our way of life and replace it with 'sharia' law."
These are seriously direct quotes from Weyler's testimony. Check it out in full if you don't mind your brain trying to escape through your ears a little.
    • Weyler sort of had something kind of nice to say about some Muslims, except...not.
      • "We have Muslims in our community who are working hard to be economically successful. I do not believe that they represent a threat, but if one does not have to be responsible for what all the rest of us do to support ourselves, then 'The Devil has work for idle hands.'
        • So who's going to be "responsible" for what this Weyler chap does to "support" himself (which is use his position as an elected official to air paranoid bigoted theories about Muslims, apparently)? 
Maybe his hands could stand to spend a little more time idling instead of writing nonsense like this.

  • Who You Wit: On Wednesday, all the Republicans on a Florida House subcommittee approved the "Prevention of Acts of War" bill, which prohibits government employees (and anyone receiving state assistance, like Medicare) from helping resettle immigrants or refugees from countries where "invaders" live or train. 
    • If you're an immigrant who's not from a country on the "invaders" list but you've been near such a country, sorry, you're still a "restricted person," and the governor would be authorized to use military force to stop you from, um, invading Florida in your nefarious quest for refuge. 
    • But wait! Were you born in the Western Hemisphere? You're in luck! The bill makes an exception for you!

  • Guess Who's Back: Remember when the "menacing short guy" who runs the Virginia state Senate evicted the press from the Senate floor last month? Well, after weeks of public shaming in the media and by members of both parties, GOP Majority Leader Tommy Norment relented... more or less. 
      • Instead of two tables that seated eight reporters total, the press returns to the Senate floor with six little leaf desks (like the ones you used to have to put up with in school) that no longer have access to electrical outlets for laptops and such.
    • But Sen. Norment wasted little time in embarrassing himself again. He tried to sneak a $700,000 taxpayer-funded increase in his office allowance and staff (and a tiny pay raise for his Senate colleagues) into five little-noticed amendments in the commonwealth's $109 billion budget proposal.
    • Reporters are smarter than Sen. Norment seems to give them credit for, though, and three of them tried to ask Norment about the proposals this week. The Republican Senate leader simply walked away.

  • Girls, Girls, Girls: Last Friday marked the seventh anniversary of President Obama signing the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act into law. To mark the occasion, an effort coordinated by SiX saw the introduction of bills aimed at remedying gender pay inequality in 24 states. 
    • The push for pay equity is a key fight for progressives, and these measures are moving forward in states like Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Maryland, Vermont and Hawaii -- all of which have Democratic majorities in their state legislatures. 
      • But states like Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Missouri, Kansas, Iowa, Virginia, and Colorado? GOP majorities in one or both chambers of these statehouses are almost certain to kill these excellent bills. 
    • It's worth pointing out that, while having a Democratic governor certainly helps good progressive measures like these, equal pay has to survive two legislative chambers before any state's governor even gets a good look at the bill (with the exception of Nebraska, of course).
The path to gender pay equity? More Democratic majorities in state legislatures. Period.




The Conference of Western Attorneys General will hold its Digital Currency Symposium February 4-5 in Park City, Utah. 


The Legislature convened for the 2016 legislative session February 2

Governor Robert Bentley (R) delivered the State of the State address February 2


The deadline to introduce bills in the House was February 1. 


The State Water Resources Board held a board meeting February 2 to consider the extension of the emergency Water Conservation Regulation.


The Joint Budget Committee meets February 1-5 to discuss Governor John Hickenlooper’s (D) FY 2016-2017 budget proposals.  

The House Committee on Health, Insurance and Environment met February 2 to discuss S.B. 2, which directs the Secretary of State to submit to voters, at the November 2016 statewide election, the question of whether the state health benefit exchange can impose a tax to support its ongoing operations. 

The deadline to introduce bills in the House was February 3


The Legislature convened for the 2016 legislative session February 3.

Governor Dan Malloy (D) delivered the State of the State address February 3.

The deadline to introduce bills in the House and Senate is February 5


The deadline for each chamber to pass bills originating in its chamber was February 3


The deadline to introduce bills in the Senate is February 5


The House Public Works and Highway Committee met February 2 to consider H.B. 1568, which requires each person registering a vehicle powered by alternate energy sources to prepay road toll fees at the time of registration of the vehicle. 

Governor Maggie Hassan (D) will deliver the State of the State address February 4


The deadline to introduce bills in the House and Senate was February 3


The Legislature convened for the 2016 legislative session February 1.

Governor Mary Fallin (R) delivered the State of the State address February 1.


The Legislature convened for the 2016 legislative session February 1. 


The deadline to introduce individual bills in the House and Senate is February 4

The deadline to introduce committee bills in the House and Senate is February 5


Governor Bill Haslam (R) delivered the State of the State address February 1.


The deadline to introduce bills in the House and Senate is February 4


The deadline to pass bills out of committee in the chamber of origin, excluding the House fiscal committees and the Senate Ways & Means and Transportation Committees, is February 5