'Twas the month before Session, and all through the land
Legislative agendas were yet being planned.
But some state legislators still toiled away
Though their bills may carry over past New Years Day...
Wait, sorry, wrong seasonal rhyme.
OK, totally got it this time.
On the twelfth day of Session, my legislator gave to me...
- 12 months since Newtown: According to the New York Times, in the year following the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, almost every state has passed gun-related legislation. Of the 109 bills that have become law, 39 tighten gun restrictions; 70 actually loosen them.
- 11 Nevada Senate seats: Nevada is one state in which Democrats will be playing defense next year as they look to protect their 11 members in the state Senate from growth of the GOP's 10-seat minority. Democratic Assemblywoman Marilyn Dondero Loop has just announced she'll be running for an open-R seat in2014 (the current GOP occupant will be term-limited out) in one of the state's most competitive districts.
- 10 Commandments at the statehouse: Lawmakers in Georgia and Florida have introduced bills calling for monuments of the 10 Commandments to be placed on their respective capitol grounds. The Oklahoma capitol already has such a monument, pursuant to a bill the GOP-controlled body passed in 2009. Now Hindus and Satanists are requesting equal space on capitol grounds for monuments of their own.
- 9 states with rape insurance: Reasonable-minded folks everywhere were shocked when the Michigan legislature bypassed the governor and the ballot box to enact a measure that outlaws abortion coverage except through a separately-purchased rider on a woman's health insurance policy. What said reasonable folks might find even more disturbing is that Michigan became the ninth state that restricts insurance plans from providing abortion coverage. The other eight are Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma and Utah.
- 8th in wine production: (OK, I'm doing some serious bootstrapping with this one, I admit.) This distinction goes to Pennsylvania, which, by the way, is also considering slimming its legislature down a bit. Bills to shrink the state House from 203 (2nd largest in the country) down to 153 and the state Senate from 50 to 38 have passed the House and await Senate action in the new year. This drastic change wouldn't take effect for quite a while, though; because this reduction requires a constitutional amendment, the bills must past both chambers of the legislature twice, then go before voters for ratification. If approved, the change would go into effect after the 2020 reapportionment.
- 7 state Supreme Court justices: In Florida, the members of the state's high court ruled last week that state lawmakers had to turn over emails and other docs related to whether they'd intentionally redistricted for partisan gain last year (in violation of new "fair districts" constitutional amendments). The GOP-controlled legislature's response? Oops. We totally deleted all those. Our bad. But it's actually the other guys' fault for not telling us they were suing us before they sued us.
- 6 Michigan state House seats: The 2014 election presents a tremendous pickup opportunity for Democrats in the Michigan House. Six seats separate Democrats from an outright majority in that chamber -- a majority they lost a few short years ago in the tea party wave of 2010. During their tenure, House Republicans have rammed through a so-called "right to work" law and gutted higher education funding (and did K-12 no favors, either). And just last week, they approved the rape insurance measure, doubled political contribution limits and protected the anonymity of "issue ad" backers. Stay tuned for lots of excitement next fall.
- Article V: That Article V Convention of States "planning session" back on December 7 was a big hit -- reportedly about 100 legislators from 32 states showed up to party. The Wisconsin GOP state representative who organized the Mt. Vernon meeting says that "we'll be releasing a resolution very soon," so it will be fun to note how many statehouses it pops up in (two-thirds of the nation's state legislatures would have to "call a convention for proposing amendments" to get the ball rolling). The next meeting -- for planning a "drafting conference" -- will be held in spring or early summer of 2014 in beautiful Indianapolis.
- Fun fact! Republicans have majorities in both chambers of only 26 legislatures -- a wee bit shy of the two-thirds "call a convention" requirement. Also, some conservatives are not big fans of the Convention of States idea.
- 4 term-limited lawmakers: In Colorado, four state senators will be term-limited out of office in 2014. Three of those four are Republicans, which increases Democrats' chances of retaining their Senate majority (currently just one seat after last summer's recall elections) and "trifecta" control of the state Senate, House, and Governor's mansion.
- 3 things Obamacare's worse than: According to one GOP state Senator in North Carolina, Obamacare "has done more damage to the USA than the swords of the Nazis, Soviets, and terrorists combined." (He later insisted that "the PEN is mightier"...)
- 2-party registration: Currently, 29 states (and DC) offer voters the option of declaring a party affiliation when they register to vote. Currently, Virginia is not one of those states. This could change if Republican Del. Lingamfelter gets his way. Party registration could spell the end of Virginia's open primary system and lead to more nominees selected by a few fierce partisans. More popcorn in odd years!
- ... and 1 super-important special election: Now that Mark Herring has won the Virginia attorney general race (again, finally), the political focus in the Commonwealth will turn to the 6th state Senate district, a competitive district left open by Ralph Northam's win in the lieutenant governor race. The special election in SD-06 has already been called for January 7, 2014 -- but Sen. Northam won't officially resign until the day he's sworn in as LG: January 11, and Sen. Herring is likely to follow suit (he hasn't submitted his formal letter of resignation to the Governor yet, so no special election has been called). The General Assembly will have been in session for three days before inauguration day, and both Democrats are needed to maintain the 20-20 partisan split in the Senate. Timing is key -- will Gov. McDonnell give the GOP a parting gift by setting the special election for Herring's seat for later in January, giving Senate Republicans an effective majority?
(Wait, you're still reading? You're a champ. This seems like a good time for a programming note: The only "statehouse action" I'll be dealing with next Wednesday is my dad talking about how all the bums should be thrown out, everywhere.)
As always, holler with any questions, concerns, complaints, comments, thoughts, hopes, dreams....
City Manager of the Island of Misfit Toys
For the Week of December 18, 2013
The following 4 state legislatures are actively meeting this week: MASSACHUSETTS, NEW JERSEY, PENNSYLVANIA, and WISCONSIN.
Also meeting: DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, PUERTO RICO.
The Commerce Commission met December 17 to review proposed amendments to rules concerning carbon dioxide pipeline operation in response to the Carbon Dioxide Transportation and Sequestration Act.
The Louisiana Design Build Task Force will meet December 19 to further study and make recommendations relative to the continued extension of design build contracting authority in the state.
The Joint Public Health Committee held a hearing December 17 to discuss S.B. 1010, relating to reporting requirements for medical malpractice payments made under a Disclosure, Apology and Offer program.
The Education and Local Government Interim Committee will meet December 18 to discuss H.J.R. 2, which addresses the complex issue of electronic records management.
The Executive Board will meet December 18 to discuss L.R. 241, which stipulates that the Health and Human Services Committee will study the financial impact of Medicaid expansion under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
The Office of Energy held a public workshop December 17 to discuss proposed rule amendments for the adoption of the 2012 International Energy Conservation Code.
A special election was held Tuesday, December 17 for House Stafford 6.
The Assembly Judiciary Committee met December 16 to consider S.B. 2427 and A.B. 3835, companion bills that would require a court to order convicted drunk drivers to install ignition interlock devices in their motor vehicle.
The Legislative Health and Human Services Committee will meet December 19 through December 20 to discuss mental health issues as well as the New Mexico Suicide Prevention program.
The Department of Environmental Quality met December 17 to discuss proposed rules to adopt federal air quality regulations for boilers and process heaters, stationary internal combustion engines and crude oil and natural gas production, transmission, and distribution.
The Medicaid Innovation and Reform Commission met December 17 to discuss revenue provisions of the Affordable Care Act, the impact on expanding health coverage to people with behavioral health issues and Medicaid fraud.
The Paid Family Leave Study Committee will meet December 19 in order to put together a draft proposal for the Legislature regarding paid leave laws in Vermont.
The Assembly Education Committee held a public hearing December 18 to consider A.B. 126, pertaining to contracts for additional charter school authorization.
The Senate Education Committee held an executive session December 18 to consider S.B. 76, pertaining to contracts for additional charter school authorization.
The Senate will meet in special session December 19 to discuss A.B. 1, a three month delay in moving 77,500 patients from the state's Medicaid program to the federal healthcare exchange.