March also means candidate filing season is well under way. In 11 states -- Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Mississippi, Nebraska, Ohio, Texas and West Virginia -- the candidate filing deadlines have come and gone. By the end of the month, 17 more states -- California, Colorado, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah and Virginia -- will have their primary or general election slates set, and state election season begins in earnest. Not such a lamb-ish way to go out.
So, what beastly events are transpiring in statehouses this week?
- Taking the state House (razor)back? Since the candidate filing deadline in Arkansas was just a couple of days ago, political prognosticators in the Natural State are taking a look at the down-ballot landscape. Michael Cook thinks majority control of the state House (48 D/51 R/1 G) is a tossup in 2014.
- At the very least, popular Democrats at the top of the ballot all but ensure that 2014 will be a tougher year for GOPers than 2012 (Obama received less than 40% of the vote here).
- Oh, and the state House finally followed the Senate's (13 D/22 R) lead and voted to not deprive nearly 94,000 Arkansans of healthcare. So good on them.
- Abuzz about getting buzzed: Current Utah law requires that restaurants shield diners' sensitive eyes from the sinful practice of mixing drinks by ducking out of sight behind "Zion curtains" to concoct cocktails. A bill to do away with that practice has eked its way out of a House committee and will be voted on by the full House soon.
- Just ask the Allosaurus how that worked out: Rep. Jerry Anderson, the Utah lawmaker who "said he taught science for five decades" and thinks the planet needs carbon dioxide levels closer to those during the time of the dinosaurs, was disappointed to see his bill declassifying carbon dioxide as a pollutant get shelved on Tuesday.
- Anderson tried to save his legislation by arguing that even if carbon dioxide levels increase and the climate warms enough to melt the ice caps, it's totally not a thing, since everyone knows that the ice caps are like giant ice cubes in a glass, and when your ice cubes melt, your glass overfloweth not.
- Fun fact! Much of the ice cap covers Antarctica, which is, like, land. According to actual scientists, melting the ice caps could raise the oceans by over 200 feet.
- Online voter registration not such a loony idea, after all: Even though state law didn't expressly permit it, Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie began accepting online voter registrations back in September. Now a measure to codify the practice is sailing through the state legislature.
- A similar bill was just approved by a 48-0 vote in the Iowa Senate (26 D/24 R).
- A whale of a raise: Hawaii's House and Senate are at that magical time of session known as crossover; accordingly, each chamber's respective bill raising the minimum wage is heading to the other for approval. The Senate wants to raise the hourly minimum wage to $10, while the House wants to boost it to $10.10.
- Anti-choice snakes in the grass: Lest last week's veto of SB 1062 lull you into thinking Arizona isn't some wacky hotbed of bills aimed at curtailing certain folks' rights, GOP lawmakers are working hard to set you straight. On Tuesday, the state House voted on party lines to approve surprise inspections of abortion clinics, a practice that places women's privacy rights at risk. If passed and signed into law, the measure will certainly cost the state immense amounts of money to defend in court.
For the Week of March 5, 2014
The following 43 state legislatures are meeting actively this week: ALABAMA, ALASKA, ARKANSAS, ARIZONA, CALIFORNIA, CONNECTICUT, COLORADO, DELAWARE, FLORIDA, GEORGIA, HAWAII, IDAHO, ILLINOIS, INDIANA, IOWA, KANSAS, KENTUCKY, MAINE, MARYLAND, MASSACHUSETTS, MICHIGAN, MINNESOTA, MISSISSIPPI, MISSOURI, NEBRASKA, NEW HAMPSHIRE, NEW JERSEY, NEW YORK, OHIO, OKLAHOMA, OREGON, PENNSYLVANIA, RHODE ISLAND, SOUTH CAROLINA, SOUTH DAKOTA, TENNESSEE, UTAH, VERMONT, VIRGINIA, WASHINGTON, WEST VIRGINIA, WISCONSIN and WYOMING.
Also meeting: DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, PUERTO RICO.
The National League of Cities will hold its Annual Congressional City Conference March 8-12 at The Marriott Wardman Park, in Washington, DC.
The Association of Clean Water Administrators will hold its Annual Mid-Year Meeting March 9-11 at The Washington Marriott, in Washington, DC.
The National Emergency Management Association will hold its Annual Mid-Year Policy & Leadership Forum March 9-14, in Alexandria, Virginia.
Same Day Registration bill SB 347 is scheduled to be heard by the Senate Constitution, Campaign Finance, Ethics, and Elections Committee on March 5, 2014 at 11:00 a.m. This bill would allow a person to register to vote on any day a board of registrars maintains office hours including the day of any election.
The Joint Committee on Children will meet March 6 to discuss H.B. 5305, H.B. 5035, H.B. 5036 and H.B. 5354, which relate to various chemicals of concern in children's products.
The Legislature convened the 2014 Legislative Session March 4.
Governor Rick Scott (R) delivered his State of the State address on March 4.
Conduct of Elections bill HB 1079 was filed and SB 1246 was referred to the Senate Ethics and Elections Committee. These bills would enact the Florida Voting Rights Act. Among other things, the bill would declare that the policy of the state is to protect electors against discrimination based on gender, race, age, income level, sexual orientation, language, religion, or disability; would also create a private right of action; and would require the Florida Attorney General or attorney of a political subdivision to petition the state Supreme Court for review of any change in voting qualifications, prerequisites, standards, practices, or procedures.
Conduct of Elections bill SB 1132 was referred to Ethics and Elections; Judiciary; Appropriations Subcommittee on Criminal and Civil Justice; Appropriations. The bill would establish an explicit, fundamental right to vote in state statute. The bill requires that the right to vote may not be denied or abridged by the state or its political subdivisions or by any private or public entity or person. Any restriction on voting rights, or any change in voting practices or procedures which would diminish access to the ballot must be narrowly tailored to serve a compelling state interest. It requires that Florida residents who are U.S. citizens at least 18 years old shall have equal protection of their right to vote, and provides for a private right of action.
Voter Registration bill SB 1356 was filed. This bill extends the close of voter registration from 10 days to 17 days.
Early Voting bill SB 1566 was filed. The bill would delete the enumerated list of locations allowed to be designated as early voting sites and would allow the Supervisor of Elections to designate any location as an early voting site.
Felon Voting Rights bill SJR 1612 was filed. The bill would amend the Florida constitution to restore eligibility to vote and to run for office to persons convicted of most felonies upon completion of sentence. Individuals convicted of a felony involving homicide or of a felony of a sexual nature would still require the restoration of civil rights. The bill would also restore rights to those adjudicated mentally incompetent upon removal of disability.
The Joint Committee on Energy, Utilities and Technology will hold a hearing March 5 to discuss L.D. 1791, which encourages the development of wind energy projects.
The House Judiciary Committee will meet March 5 to discuss H.B. 996, which makes records and writings of health care providers, including ambulatory surgical facilities, admissible in health care malpractice trials.
The House Ways and Means Committee will meet March 6 to discuss whether the State should submit a waiver to the U.S. Department of Education in an effort to discontinue the implementation of the Common Core State Standard or consider another mechanism to slow the standards implementation and assessment throughout the state.
The House Economic Matters Committee will meet March 7 to discuss H.B. 1255, which will require a food service facility to charge an additional fee for soda and other non-alcoholic beverages when the beverage is included with children's meals. The bill does allow water and low-fat milk to be exempt from the additional fee.
The Joint Committee on Transportation will hold a public hearing March 5 to discuss S.B. 1685, which relates to propane-powered vehicles.
Voter ID bill HB 1073 was first read in the Senate. This bill would require all voters to show government-issued photo ID to vote. It would become effective upon voter approval of a constitutional amendment that authorizes the General Assembly to enact photo voter ID requirements.
Voter ID bill HJR 47 was first read in the Senate. This bill submits to the qualified voters of Missouri an amendment to article VIII of the Constitution of Missouri to require photo ID to vote.
The House Education Committee met March 4 for an executive session to discuss H.B. 1239, which requires the State Board of Education to report on the fiscal impact of implementing the college and career readiness standards, also known as the Common Core Standards, before implementation.
The Legislature is scheduled to adjourn sine die March 9.
Voter ID bill HB 7767 was introduced and referred to the House Judiciary Committee. This act would repeal the voter identification law.
The Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee will meet March 5 to discuss H.B. 3592, which will implement green building standards for state facilities.
The House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee held a public hearing March 4 to discuss H.B. 1952, which prohibits the use of a drone with the intent to conduct video surveillance of private citizens who are lawfully hunting or fishing.
The primary election for all statewide elected offices, 150 House seats and 15 Senate seats occurred March 4.
The Assembly Committee on State Affairs and Government Operations held a hearing March 4 to discuss A.B. 752, which exempts electronic smoking devices from state laws prohibiting smoking in indoor locations.
The Senate Education Committee will meet March 6 to discuss S.B. 619, which creates the Model Academic Standards Board within the Department of Public Instruction for the purpose of developing model academic standards in the following subject areas: (1) English, reading and language arts; (2) mathematics; (3) science; and (4) social studies.