Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Twelve Days of Session edition


'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 NewtownAccording 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 seatsNevada 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. 
  • 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.
  • 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 VThat 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.
  • things Obamacare's worse thanAccording 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.... 



Carolyn Fiddler
City Manager of the Island of Misfit Toys

For the Week of December 18, 2013

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


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. 

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Are You Ready For Some LEGISLATING? edition

Legislative session preseason action is just heating up in most states, but a few have hit the two-minute warning as the year draws to a close. 
  • No timeouts left: Earlier today, Michigan's GOP-led legislature approved that petition-driven measure that outlaws abortion coverage except through a separately purchased rider on a woman's health insurance policy. The rape insurance law will go into effect in March, and there will be no hail Marys -- the new law neither requires the governor's approval nor that of Michigan's voters. (Democracy!)
    • Those Michigan lawmakers were awfully busy today -- the House also passed a controversial new campaign finance bill. In its current form (it still has to re-pass the state Senate), the measure doubles contribution limits and shields the anonymity of donors behind those so-called "issue ads" that suggest a candidate drowns puppies for fun but don't specifically ask you to vote for/against him/her. (More democracy!)
  • PuntingOhio legislators are holding over a bill that eliminates the "Golden Week" -- the week during which Ohioans can both register to vote and cast their early in-person absentee ballots at the same time -- until next year. (So much democracy!)
  • Substitution entering the fieldColorado Democrats have selected Arvada City Councilwoman Rachel Zenzinger to replace Evie Hudak in the state Senate. Hudak resigned last week to preserve the Democrats' one-seat Senate majority in the face of an anti-gun safety group-sponsored recall like the ones that took out two of her colleagues earlier this year. Zenzinger will run to keep the seat in the November 2014 general election. (Close one!)
  • Checking the scoreboard: Speaking of gun safety laws, the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence just released its 2013 State Scorecard, which evaluates and ranks each state based on each's policies on regulating guns and ammo. (Guess who's winning.)
  • Mid-season draft: The two candidates to replace lieutenant governor-elect Ralph Northam in the Virginia state Senate are already up with TV and radio ads. The special election, which will determine effective majority control of the chamber, will be held on January 7, 2014. (Virginia: America's perpetual employment program for campaign staffers.)
  • Reviewing the play: Speaking of Virginia, the recount in the attorney general race slogs on. A three-judge panel has set the rules for next week's recount, which will begin on December 17 in most localities ("workload concerns" led the panel to permit Alexandria, Chesapeake, and Fairfax County to begin the process a day early). (Suspense! Drama! Possibly ignoring voters!)
  • Pregame: Pre-filing of legislation for next year's sessions has begun in some states, including Virginia, where GOP Del. Bob Marshall has already introduced a measure that would prohibit the Commonwealth's police or other "agents" from enforcing of any federal gun-related measures enacted after 12/1/13. Additionally, legislators have introduced bills to implement partisan voter registration, raise the minimum wage, and repeal the ban on same sex marriage. (Quick, guess the bill with a snowball's chance of passing and being signed into law!)
    • In Floridameasures have been introduced to establish term limits for state lawmakers and to place a "granite monument" of the Ten Commandments on Capitol grounds. (Art!)
  • Play of the week: Another measure we can expect to see kicked around in lots of GOP-controlled statehouses next year is one calling for an Article V Convention of States aimed at amending the Constitution to require a balanced federal budget, implement term limits for Supreme Court justices, do away with the direct election of U.S. Senators... or whatever; the sky's the limit! Dave Weigel and Emma Roller did a groovy piece on a little party supporters of the Article V effort had over the weekend. Did your invitation get lost in the mail? No worries; apparently the whole gang is getting together again in the spring.

For the Week of December 11, 2013

The following state legislatures are actively meeting this week: MASSACHUSETTS, MICHIGAN, MISSOURI, NEW JERSEY, OHIO, OREGONPENNSYLVANIA, and TENNESSEE.



The National Black Caucus of State Legislators will hold its 37th Annual Legislative Conference December 11-14 at the Peabody Memphis Hotel in Memphis, Tennessee. 
The Democratic Attorneys General Association will hold its Holiday Party December 11 in Washington, D.C. 
The Western Governors' Association will hold its Annual Winter Meeting December 11-12 in Las Vegas, Nevada
The National Association of Insurance Commissioners will hold its Fall National Meeting at the Washington Marriott Wardman Park December 15-18 in Washington, D.C. 


The Great Basin Unified Air Pollution Control District held a public meeting December 11 to discuss proposed amendments to the 2010 PM10 Maintenance Plan for the Coso Junction Planning Area. The updates will help ensure compliance with the National Ambient Air Quality Standard for particulate matter.

The Assembly Judiciary Committee, Business, Professions and Consumer Protection Committee, and Select Committee on Privacy will jointly hold an informational hearing December 12 to discuss the collection, sharing and tracking of personal data, privacy laws, and the opportunity for future legislation. 


The Joint Committee on Appropriations and the Joint Committee Public Health Committees will meet December 12 to hear and discuss a report regarding financial assistance for community health centers. 


special election was held December 10 for House District 7 and Senate District 13. 


The Joint Committee on Community Development and Small Business will hold a hearing December 12 on S.B. 74, filed by Senator Marc Pacheco (D). The bill allows for local zoning ordinances to control pollution. The hearing will be open to the public, and testimony will be accepted. 


In special session to discuss tax incentives to win the Boeing Production Plant bid. 

Voter ID bill HB 1073 was filed. This bill requires a person to submit a specified form of photo identification in order to vote in a public election with specified exemptions.

Voter ID bill SB 511 was filed. This bill establishes photo identification requirements for voting.

Voter ID bill SJR 31 was filed. Upon voter approval, this constitutional amendment provides that a voter seeking to vote in person may be required by general law to identify himself or herself as a United States citizen and a resident of the state by producing valid, government-issued photo identification.


The Power Review Board will meet December 13 to discuss the issue of plug-in electric vehicle charging stations. 


A special election will be held December 17 for House Stafford 6. 


Vote by Mail bill SB 1682 is scheduled to be heard December 12, 2013 at 1:00 p.m. by the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee Room. This bill permits registered voters to receive mail-in ballots automatically for all elections under certain conditions and limits the number of sample ballots transmitted to each residence. 


The Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Health and Human Services will meet December 13 to discuss the Medicaid budget and Medicaid reform. 


The House Health and Aging Committee met December 11 to discuss H.B. 314, which requires a prescriber to obtain written consent from a minor's parent or guardian before issuing a controlled substance prescription to the minor. 


The House Children and Youth Committee held a hearing December 10 to discuss and vote on S.B. 33, providing whistleblower protection for child abuse reporters. 


The Department of Health and Environmental Control will meet December 12 to discuss proposed amendments incorporating federal standards to the state implementation plan pursuant to the Clean Air Act.
The Health Care Task Force will meet December 12 to be briefed on recent Federal Affordable Care Act regulations and implementation guidance. Additionally, the Task Force will consider draft legislation related to health reform prepared for the 2014 general session of the Legislature.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Holiday Fun Time edition

Did you think the holiday season was going to be sleepy? HA!

Some legislatures are cramming in end-of-year action (remember Michigan's so-called "right to work" bill last year?). Others are gearing up for sessions that start in January.

So here's what's up.
  • Department of loose threads: The Michigan rape insurance measure continues to move forward. This petition-driven measure would outlaw abortion coverage except through a separate rider on a customer's health insurance policy and, if approved by the GOP-controlled legislature, would bypass a likely gubernatorial veto and automatically become law. The measure is now officially in the legislature's hands, and the clock started Monday on the 40-day period within which lawmakers must act on it. If the legislature doesn't approve the measure, voters will vote on it in November 2014. 
  • It's like a condom, but with money. Because misogynistic petitions can't fill a legislator's entire day, the GOP-controlled Michigan legislature is keeping itself busy by coming up with fun new ways to prevent electoral defeat (the other feared E.D.). Lawmakers are fast-tracking legislation that lifts a ban on caucus spending to protect incumbents in primaries and doubles campaign contribution limits. The incumbent protection bill also legalizes the anonymity of donors behind "issues ads" -- you know, the spots calling Rep. X a child molester but don't tell people whether to vote for him. Democracy!
  • Because a pro-child labor platform is a sure ticket to reelection. Maine Gov. Paul LePage will continue his child labor crusade in the upcoming legislative session. Oh, he's for it. And this isn't the first time he's tried to loosen the state's child labor laws. The Maine Republican's efforts to loosen labor standards in 2011 weren't well received and failed even with GOP majorities controlling the statehouse. I'm sure that things will go much more smoothly now that Democrats have legislative majorities in both chambers. 
  • And Gov. LePage isn't just working to rid Maine of the scourge of lazy children. He's moving the Department of Health and Human Services away from all those poors in downtown Portland -- a site near a career center and a soup kitchen -- to scenic South Portland. The new site is a 30-40 minute bus ride one-way from downtown, and a ticket costs $3. A taxi will make the trip faster, but then the cost of the trip jumps to over $30. The new site is, however, near a jetport, so that should make getting in and out super quick for all those folks in need of DHHS services.
  • Department of symbolic gestures: Democratic lawmakers in Wisconsin, who got rather boned by the most recent GOP-controlled redistricting, are trying to place an "advisory referendum" supporting the creation of a nonpartisan redistricting system on the November 2014 ballot. The results of the referendum are in no way binding on lawmakers.
  • #demsindisarray: The Virginia AG race recount process rolls on, but the parties are already getting their ducks in a row for the special election to replace Democrat Mark Herring in the state Senate. Republican Del. Joe May was totally going to run for the GOP nomination, but then he found out the local committee planned to scrap the traditional "firehouse primary" in favor of the more convention-like "mass meeting." Now he's invoking the late Sen. Harry Byrd Jr. in his declaration to run as an independent. Democrats have already selected Leesburg attorney Jennifer Wexler (in a firehouse primary) to run to replace Herring in the 33rd Senate District.

For the Week of December 4, 2013

The following 5 state legislatures are actively meeting this week: MICHIGANNEW JERSEYOHIOPENNSYLVANIA and WISCONSIN..



The Democratic Governors Association will hold its Winter Policy Conference December 3-4 in Hartford, Connecticut. 

The National Association of Attorneys General will hold its fall meeting December 3-5 in New Orleans, Louisiana. 
The Association of State and Territorial Health Officials will hold its Winter Member Meeting December 3-5 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. 

The National Conference of State Legislatures will hold its Fall Forum December 4-6 in Washington, D.C. 

The American Legislative Exchange Council will hold a States and National Policy Summit December 4-6 in Washington, D.C.

The National Association of Counties will hold a Board of Directors Meeting and Resiliency Forum December 5-6 in Linn County, Iowa. 

The State Legislative Leaders Foundation will hold a Board Meeting and Leadership Roundtable December 6-8 in Orlando, Florida. 

The Council of State Governments Eastern Regional Conference will hold its Annual Meeting December 6-9 in Fajardo, Puerto Rico. 


A special primary runoff election was held December 3 for House District 104. 

A special primary election was held December 3 for House Districts 53 and 31. 


The House Health and Social Services Finance Subcommittee met December 2-3 to discuss health care recommendations for 2014 and Medicaid expansion. 


The Senate and House Committees on Education will hold a joint public hearing December 6, which will feature a presentation entitled "Common Core Implementation and What It Means for Higher Education."  


A special primary election was held December 3 for Assembly Districts 54. 


The Council on Environmental Quality will host a public hearing December 5 to hear recommendations for legislation for the 2014 Legislative Session. 


A special election run-off was held December 3 for House Districts 104 and 127, and Senate District 14. 


The legislature began a special session December 2 to discuss pension reform. 


Early Voting/Voter Registration bill HB 3772 passed to be engrossed. This bill relates to early voting and online voter registration. This bill requires the secretary of state to maintain an online portal to register to vote and update voter registration information. The bill provides early voting on the eleventh business day before the primary of election until the second business day before Election Day. 


Vote by Mail bill SB 1682 is scheduled to be heard by the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee on December 5 at 1:00 p.m. This bill permits registered voters to receive mail-in ballots automatically for all elections under certain conditions.

The House Finance and Appropriations Committee met December 3 to discuss and hold a possible vote on S.B. 206 and H.B. 208, which create reforms and oversight of the Medicaid program. 


The House Education Committee met December 3 to discuss H.B. 1722, which clarifies when it is appropriate for school districts to furlough teachers. 


The Commission on Environmental Quality will meet December 5 to discuss proposed amendments to air quality rules concerning greenhouse gas emissions, reporting and fee requirements. 


The Assembly will meet in special session December 4 to discuss a three month delay in moving 77,500 patients from the state's Medicaid program to the federal healthcare exchange.