Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Recountsgivingukkah edition


The Virginia AG race recount, that is. There are some election lawyers in the Commonwealth who won't see much of their families tomorrow, or for a while. But they don't do this for free, so the Christmas and/or belated Hanukkah gifts are going to be freaking sweet.

Daniel Strauss over at TPM has a nice rundown of the timeline, procedures, and other ins-and-outs of the Virginia recount process, if you're into that kind of thing. 

Fun fact! A legit rerun-and-recount-the-actual-ballots recount is really only possible because of legislation Senator and 2005 AG recount casualty Creigh Deeds introduced in 2008. When it came to new-fangled optical scan ballots, the law extant in 2005 had only provided that the printout of the results be reexamined, rather than the actual ballots themselves be re-run through the tabulator. Sen. Deeds' recount law means all the ballots will actually be recounted. Hooray democracy!

Meanwhile, elsewhere...
  • Department of loose threads: That petition drive in Michigan to get a law on the books that would require insurance companies to offer abortion coverage only through a separate rider on a customer's policy has taken another step forward. Next, the state Board of Canvassers will meet to certify the signatures on December 2, which advances the measure to the Michigan legislature. The GOP-controlled body then has 40 days to approve, reject, or not act on the measure, which prohibits purchase of the rider after becoming pregnant and has no exceptions for incest or rape. That 40-day period only runs when the legislature is in session, which means the action window will extend at least into late January 2014. If the legislature rejects or takes no action on the petitions, the measure will appear on the November 2014 statewide ballot.
In other news, 
  • A Democratic state Senator in Colorado has resigned in the face of another recall pushed by opponents of the state's new gun safety laws. Her sacrifice was calculated; If she were to lose that recall election, Senate Democrats would lose their majority. Now a Democratic replacement will be appointed and will serve through 2014. 
  • A Republican lawmaker in Oklahoma has bought into the right-wing media freakout over the alleged "knockout game" epidemic and plans to address the apparently non-existent problem in his state by forcing more youths to be tried as adults and establishing a 10-year minimum sentence for unprovoked battery. Justice!
  • In Kentucky, new state legislative district maps have resulted in a rush of Democrats filing as challengers in the new and altered districts -- a positive indicator as Democrats seek to retain their state House majority and erode the GOP's Senate majority in 2014. A popular Democrat running in the state's marquee race won't hurt, either.
  • A 21-year-old college student is about to become a state legislator in Mississippi. He insists that "GOD DONT [sic] LIKE UGLY!" and is apparently anti-"shiggidy." Your move, Netflix series writers. 
As always, holler with any questions, concerns, complaints, comments, thoughts, hopes, dreams.... And have an excellent holiday. I'm thankful you read down this far. 

For the Week of November 27, 2013

The following 3 state legislatures are actively meeting this week: MASSACHUSETTS, NEW JERSEY and OHIO.

Omnibus Election bill HB 3647 was substituted with HB 3772. This bill relates to early voting and online voter registration. 
A special run-off election was held November 26 for House Districts 5 and 110.*  *See above item on Mississippi's youngest lawmaker. 
The Legislature was scheduled to convene a special session November 25. 

Early Voting bill AB 4460 was introduced and referred to the Assembly Committee on State Government. This bill would allow voters to cast their votes at specially designated polling places, starting on the 15th day before the general election, and ending on the Sunday before Election Day.

Conduct of Elections bill AR 195 was introduced and referred to the Assembly Committee on State Government. This bill urges Congress to develop and enact new coverage formula to help identify and end discrimination in voting under the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965.


The House Finance and Appropriations Committee met November 26 to discuss H.B. 208 and S.B. 206, which create program oversight and reform systems for the Medicaid program. 

The Paid Family Leave Study Committee met November 25 to work on recommendations for a proposal to address paid family leave in the state.

h/t Stateside AssociatesProject Vote.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

The R is for Robert edition

... in R. Creigh Deeds, that is.

By now, the tragedy that befell Virginia state Sen. Creigh Deeds and his family is old news. And to many, especially outside the Commonwealth, Sen. Deeds is mostly just that-guy-in-Virginia-who-lost-so-badly-to-Bob-McDonnell-in-2009. 

But he's a lot more than that to many, many people, including little ol' me. He's actually a big part of the reason I send these emails. (Then-Delegate) Creigh Deeds' earnestness and graciousness helped a scrawny college kid understand how politics can -- and should -- be used as an instrument to improve people's lives. He's on an important list of folks -- one that includes C. Richard CranwellAlbert PollardAlan DiamonsteinLindsey Reynolds, Jeff Schapiro, Bob Lewis, to name a few -- who inspired me to do what I've been doing pretty much ever since that one crazy summer internship in Richmond.

OK, thanks for enduring my sentimentality. There's a world outside of Virginia, and big things are happening there, too.

Department of Loose ThreadsLast week, I told you about a scary 20-week abortion ban ballot measure in New Mexico and a hot state Senate election in Iowa
  • The Albuquerque abortion ban ballot measure was defeated in an election with higher turnout than October's mayoral race. The measure, which would have prohibited abortions after 20 weeks without exceptions for rape or incest, lost handily -- 55.26% of ABQ voters cast their ballots against it. Opponents of the ban invested in TV ads and early voting efforts and out-raised and out-spent anti-choice groups supporting the measure. 
  • The state Senate special election in Iowa, however, didn't swing progressives' way. Republican Julian Garrett defeated Democrat Mark Davitt with 59.8% of the vote.  This was a disappointing outcome in a special election that could have shored up Democrats' current one-seat majority in the Iowa Senate in advance of the 2014 elections, in which half of the chamber will be running in their redrawn districts for the first time, but the status quo of Democratic majority control of the chamber endures through the next legislative session, at least.
  • Speaking of the Ohio state Senate, the GOP-controlled chamber just voted to eliminate an entire week of early voting in the state. By wiping out the "golden week," voters will lose the window during which they could register and cast ballots at the same time.
  • In Missouri, Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon and some Republican legislators were totally going to have a meeting to discuss Medicaid expansion, except the lawmakers weren't fans of where the Governor planned to hold the meeting, so everyone just stayed home.
  • In Maine, Gov. LePage pretty much just won't let his executive staff go to legislative committee hearings any more, accusing legislative Democrats of making his people wait around too long and then asking them too many questions, or something.
  • In North Carolina, taxpayers are footing massive bills for the attorneys hired by GOP lawmakers to craft and defend the state's notorious new election law. By the by, a Democrat currently occupies the AG post in the state, and he's really not so fond of these repressive measures.
And to come full circle -- back to Virginia, and the state Senate specifically -- Democrats have selected Delegate Lynwood Lewis as their nominee in the special election to replace LG-elect Ralph Northam. Republicans will select their nominee in a firehouse primary tomorrow. Gov. McDonnell has not yet set a special election date (and he won't until after Sen. Northam officially resigns, which he likely won't do until after the State Board of Elections certifies the November 5 results next week). 

For the Week of November 20, 2013

The following 4 state legislatures are actively meeting this week:MASSACHUSETTS, NEW JERSEY, OHIO and PENNSYLVANIA



The Republican Governors Association will hold its Annual Conference November 20-22 in Scottsdale, Arizona. 

The National Lieutenant Governors Association will hold its Executive Committee and New Elect Meeting November 20-22 in Little Rock, Arkansas.  


The Joint Committee on Energy will meet November 20 to discuss the economic importance of the Fayetteville Shale. 


A special election was held November 19 for Assembly District 45. 


The last day of formal sessions for 2013 is November 20, though the General Court may continue to meet in informal session until the 2014 legislative session begins. 


The Assembly Higher Education Committee met November 18 to discuss A.B. 4444, which requires study of a Pay Forward, Pay Back pilot program in the state, which would allow students to pay back a percentage of their income after graduation to pay for student debt. 

The Assembly Labor Committee will meet November 21 to examine the implementation of the Wage Theft Prevention Act and review challenges faced by employees since it was enacted.

The Assembly Standing Committee on Consumer Affairs and Protection will hold a public hearing November 22 to review private company privacy policies and data collection efforts.


The House State and Local Government Committee met November 19 to discuss H.B. 321 and H.B. 323, bills which streamline public records publication through a new state government website.  


The Joint Legislative Air and Water Pollution Control and Conservation Committee hosted a forum November 18 to discuss mitigating the risks of water contamination by using aquatically non-toxic solvents for hydraulic fracturing.

The House Consumer Affairs Committee met November 19 to discuss H.B. 1608, which provides new regulations for broadband access across the state. 


A special election will be held November 21 for House District 91. 


The Board of Education will meet November 22 to review amendments to rules addressing degree requirements for teachers. 


The Health Care Task Force will meet November 21 to be briefed by a panel of participants about the operation of the federal Health Insurance Marketplace launched October and about the state's operation of Avenue H as an Affordable Care Act compliant Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP). 


The Joint Legislative Oversight Commission on State Water Resources held a hearing November 19 to discuss the handling and disposal of hydraulic fracturing fluids. 


Special elections were held November 19 for Assembly Districts 21 and 69.

The Assembly Select Committee on Common Core Standards met November 19 to review the implementation of the Common Core Standards.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Objects In State Are Larger Than They Appear edition

Did you realize it's almost Election Day? No, really, this isn't some copy-and-paste error. Two pretty big elections are being held on Tuesday, November 19, though they may seem small at first glance. 
  • New Mexico: Albuquerque voters will go to the polls next Tuesday to fill a vacancy on the city council and to decide on whether to ban abortions after 20 weeks. New Mexico Politics with Joe Manahan reported Friday that their exclusive poll shows that 56.3% of likely city voters oppose the proposed ban, 37.4% support it, with 6.4% undecided. Pro-choice groups have had ads up on TV since late October, and supporters of the 20-week ban just went up this week. A record number of early votes have already been cast.
  • Iowa: Voters in Senate District 13 will go to the polls on Tuesday to replace a Republican who resigned amid allegations of ethics rules violations. If former Rep. Mark Davitt wins, Democrats will have shored up their one-seat majority in the chamber just a bit in advance of the 2014 elections. If Republican state Rep. Julian Garrett wins, Senate Democrats will maintain their slight 26-24 edge.
Fun fact! The Iowa state Senate is arguably the biggest offensive opportunity for Republicans/biggest defensive priority for Democrats in 2014. Half of the chamber will be up for election, and these members will be running for the first time in their redrawn post-redistricting districts. If Republicans were to win a majority in the chamber, they would have a "trifecta" -- GOP control over the state House, Senate, and governor's mansion -- and a deluge of ultra-conservative legislation currently kept at bay by Sen. Mike Gronstal's Democratic majority would flood through.

Why electing Democrats to state legislatures is ridiculously important, part bajillion and three: Anti-choice activists in Michigan appear to have collected a sufficient number of signatures to get a law on the books that would require insurance companies to offer abortion coverage only through a separate rider to a customer’s policy. If at least 258,088 of the 315,477 submitted signatures are valid, the petitions move to the state Board of Canvassers and on to the legislature, which has 40 calendar days to approve or reject them. If the petitions are approved by the legislature, the measure automatically becomes law – Gov. Snyder will have no authority to review or veto it. If the legislature takes no action or rejects the petitions, the issue will go to the voters in November 2014. (The legislature is widely expected to approve the measure.)

Bottom line: Last year's holiday season legislative surprise in Michigan was a so-called "right to work" law. This year, it'll likely be a gender-discriminatory requirement for women to plan ahead and pay out-of-pocket for unforeseeable circumstances like, say, a pregnancy endangering a mother's life, or a rape resulting in pregnancy.

Fun fact, part 2! The Michigan House may be one of Democrats' best offensive opportunities on the state level in 2014. Democrats are six seats away from a majority in the 110-seat chamber. All 110 seats are up for election, and 12 Democrats and 16 Republicans are term-limited, so about a quarter of these elections will be for open seats. Oh, and there's a hot governor's race at the top of the ticket. Watch for lots of money to be spent in this fine state next year.

Also, do you like your turkey with a side of court filings? Look for the Virginia AG race recount to kick off on Nov. 26. Get excited!

For the Week of November 13, 2013

The following 7 state legislatures are actively meeting this week: MICHIGANNEW HAMPSHIRENEW JERSEYOHIOPENNSYLVANIAWASHINGTON and WISCONSIN.


Women in Government will hold their Annual Healthcare Summit November 13-16 in Washington, DC. 

The Republican Legislative Campaign Committee will hold a Policy Retreat November 14-15 in Washington, DC.

The National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators will hold its National Summit November 14-16 in Orlando, Florida.

The Republican Governors Association will host a DC Discussion Luncheon November 14 in Washington, D.C.


A special runoff primary election was held November 12 for a January 14, 2014, special election in Senate District 21. 


The Assembly Committee on Labor and Senate Committee on Labor and Industrial Relations held a joint hearing November 13 to discuss wage levels in the fast food industry, and the impact it has on workers and safety net programs.

Prefiling bills for the 2014 legislative session

Voter Registration bill HB 179 was referred to Ethics and Elections Subcommittee; Transportation and Economic Development Appropriations Subcommittee; and State Affairs Committee. This bill authorizes the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles to automatically register to vote or update voter registration records of eligible individuals. An applicant may revoke consent to automatically register to vote or update voter registration record. 


The Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies met November 13 to consider S.B. 168, which establishes a commission to investigate and study video games as a form of media and training tool. 


The Advisory Council for Virtual Learning will meet November 14 to discuss digital learning opportunities for students, and begin preparing a report for the General Assembly.


The House Oversight Committee met November 12 to discuss H.B. 4001, which lowers the required payments to government entities for access to public records. 

The Public Service Commission will meet November 14 to review an investigation into the electric and natural gas universal system benefits programs.


The Health Care Reform Review Committee met November 13 to discuss the immediate needs and challenges of the North Dakota health care delivery system, and the feasibility of developing a plan for a private health care model that will comply with the federal Affordable Care Act. 


The House Finance Committee held a hearing November 12 to discuss S.S.H.B. 1, which addresses the expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.


The Senate Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Committee met November 13 to discuss the heroin and prescription drug epidemic on Long Island, and its impact on Long Island's youth.


The Senate Finance Committee met November 12-13 to discuss amendments to S.B. 206, which creates program oversight for the Medicaid program. 

Absentee Voting bill SB 205 passed the Senate (22-11). This bill permits the secretary of state to mail unsolicited applications for absent voter's ballots only in even-numbered years and only if the General Assembly has made an appropriation for that purpose, among other provisions.


The House Education Committee will hold a hearing November 14 to discuss H.B. 1722, which bases teacher furloughs on teacher performance.

The House Labor and Industry Committee will hold a hearing November 14 to discuss H.B. 298, which extends family medical leave benefits to siblings, grandparents and grandchildren. 


The special session is scheduled to adjourn November 15.

Voter Registration bill HB 1267 was reintroduced and retained in present status. This bill would extend the deadline for online voter registration, ending eight days before an election instead of 11. A registered voter may update their registration 29 days before election day (currently, it is 28 days). 

Youth Voting bill HB 1279 was reintroduced and retained in present status. This bill establishes the Young Voter Registration Equality Act. The bill allows eligible citizens who are at least sixteen years of age to preregister to vote. Such individuals would be automatically registered to vote and eligible to cast a ballot upon turning 18 years of age.

Voter ID bill HB 1317 was reintroduced and retained in present status. This omnibus bill makes several changes to voting procedures at polling places, including voter ID. This bill would establish a photo voter ID requirement to vote in person or by mail. ID must be government-issued. Student ID and public assistance ID are accepted for voting purposes. First-time mail voters must provide identification at the time of registering to vote or provide ID to the county auditor at any time prior to the mailing of ballots, otherwise, the voter must vote in person. Voters with religious objections to being photographed may complete an affidavit in lieu of providing photo ID to vote. All other voters without required ID must vote a provisional ballot and present proper ID to an election official within five days of the election. 


Absentee Voting bill AB 54 was heard November 12 at 9:00 a.m. by the Assembly Committee on Campaigns and Elections. This bill would eliminate the opportunity to vote after 5 p.m. or on weekends during the early voting period. The offered substitute would allow voters to request weekend "appointments" to vote early.