Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Spring Break Mixtape edition

Congress isn't the only deliberative body in recess; a bunch of state legislatures are taking a little spring break right now, too. And who knows? Maybe some lawmakers are rocking out to some groovy tunes as they head back to their home districts.
  • Double Vision: In Kentucky, the measure that would have let Sen. Rand Paul run for reelection and for president (or VP) simultaneously in 2016 languished in a House (54 D/46 R) committee as the legislative session ended this week. Current law will force Paul to choose between them; perhaps, as the House Speaker opined, "a man who can't decide which office he wants to run for ain't fit to hold either office." Sick burn, bro.
  • Bad Medicine: In Tennessee, obstetricians and medical groups are joining the call for Gov. Bill Haslam to veto a measure that would make criminals out of women who use narcotics while pregnant. The bill is obviously a whole bucketful of wrong, including (but in no way limited to) that it utterly fails to accommodate the realities of addiction, would discourage pregnant women from seeking prenatal care, and could even encourage abortions as a way to avoid criminal charges. 
  • Gov. Haslam has until April 26 to veto the bill. If he signs it or takes no action, it becomes law. If he vetoes it, a simple majority can override him.
  • Baby, What a Big Surprise: Earlier this week, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer signed a bill into law that allows "state health authorities" to spring surprise inspections on unsuspecting and un-probable cause-ing abortion clinics. Because warrants and privacy are for suckers, amirite? 
    • I'm sure a bill permitting surprise inspections for urology and erectile dysfunction clinics is sitting on Brewer's desk right now.
  • It Ain't Over 'til It's Over: In Missouri last week, a proposal to put a so-called "right to work" measure on the August primary ballot stalled out in the state House (52 D/108 R). But the fight isn't actually over yet. If GOP leaders pressure just four Republican "no" votes to flip, they'll conduct the vote again, and the proposal will move to the state Senate (9 D/24 R/1 vacancy).
    • Technically, the House has until mid-May to revisit the vote, but if we're being really, really real, the measure needs to move forward in the next couple of weeks (to give Senate Republicans enough time to wrangle votes -- RTW isn't the monolithically GOP-backed stance here that it is in a lot of other states). 
  • People Are Strange: So Republicans in the Missouri House just endorsed measures that could allow early voting for nine days -- just not during the week before the election, and definitely not on Sunday (which just happens to be a super popular day for early voting in states that allow it, especially among African Americans). 
    • You might be shocked to learn that this GOP move is actually a ploy to prevent early voting. 
    • The scheme, in three movements.
    1. The proposed amendment would, if passed, pretty much permanently enshrine these stringent limits on early voting in the state's Constitution, rendering any future efforts to expand early voting legislatively or via subsequent ballot measure moot (unless voters were to repeal the amendment someday).
    2. The measure has been amended to clarify a super-handy loophole for any GOP legislators who may not feel like allowing early voting in a given year. The permitted early voting can only take place if the legislature deigns to provide funding for it. 
    3. A state advocacy group is already gathering signatures in an attempt to place a six-week early voting period -- without excepting Sundays and the week prior to the election -- on the November ballot. 
  • It's TrickyMinimum wage ballot measures have been fairly widely covered as possible Democratic turnout motivators in November, and they're sound policy, to boot. Voters tend to be big fans of such measures at the ballot box; since 1996, voters approved 13 of 15 ballot measures raising the wage in 11 states. 
    • But in Alaska, statehouse Republicans are pulling some wicked crafty shenanigans. A statewide ballot initiative to raise the minimum wage is already headed to the August primary ballot, and yet on Sunday night, the GOP-controlled House passed a bill to, well, raise the minimum wage. 
      • This may seem like a kumbaya moment, but Dems smell a rat. You see, laws passed by ballot measure have an automatic two-year waiting period for repeal, while laws passed by the legislature can be repealed at will -- which is exactly what Democrats think the Republicans plan to do. 
  • Got Your MoneyMinnesota House (73 D/61 R) Democrats are stomping their GOP counterparts in fundraising this cycle. The House DFL has outraised the Republican caucus almost three-to-one so far this year, and the Dems are sitting on more than $1 million in the bank. Republicans likely see the state House as an easier chamber to flip than the Senate (39 D/28 R), but things just don't look awesome for them right now.
  • God Only Knows: Mark your calendars: On April 21Louisiana House (44 D/59 R/2 I) members will debate (and probably pass) a bill designating the Holy Bible as the official state book. 
    • It's unofficially known as the Jews and Muslims and Everyone Else Can Go Suck An Egg bill. (No, it's not.)
  • Celebrity Skin: The Illinois legislature is considering banning products containing "microbeads." Similar proposals have surfaced in Ohio, New York, and Minnesota. Turns out these nifty little particles are super bad for fish and wildlife, but our cleansers may never be the same.
  • Hit Me With Your Best Shot: Hoping to address the epic scourge of loose-fisted youths marauding unchecked through our communities, the Connecticut legislature is moving a bill forward that would stiffen penalties for 16- and 17-year-olds who sucker-punch unsuspecting bystanders -- a phenomenon known as "The Knockout Game." Except this "Knockout Game" is basically an urban myth. Perhaps later this session state lawmakers will consider bills addressing kidney theft and prohibiting the consumption of soda and Pop Rocks simultaneously.

For the Week of April 16, 2014 




The State Water Resources Control Board will hold a public workshop April 17 to discuss the groundwater work plan and sustainable groundwater management.

The Health, Insurance and Environment Committee met April 15 to discuss H.B. 1359, which requires health insurance carriers that provide prescription drug coverage to offer medication synchronization services. 
The General Assembly recessed April 14.


The Senate Ways and Means Subcommittee met April 15 to discuss S.S.B. 3217, which increases the sales and use tax in the state. 


The State Legislature reconvened April 14-15 to consider gubernatorial vetoes. 

The State Legislature adjourned sine die April 15.
The State Legislature is scheduled to adjourn April 16. 

The House Natural Resources Committee will meet April 17 to discuss H.B. 5400, H.B. 5401 and H.B. 5402, which address low-hazard industrial waste, the beneficial by-products which may be created from the waste and environmental protection.


The House Health Insurance Committee held a hearing April 15 to discuss H.B. 2243, which prohibits hospitals, health facilities and health professionals from owning, operating or having a financial interest in health insurance entities. 

The Division of Fire Safety, Elevator Safety Unit will meet April 16 to discuss possible rule amendments to the state's elevator code.


The State Legislature is scheduled to adjourn sine die April 17.


The House Judiciary Committee will meet April 16 to discuss S.B. 303, which prohibits bad faith assertions of patent infringement.

The Austin City Council will meet April 17 to consider a resolution establishing the City's goal to provide an 11 dollar per hour minimum wage for all city employees. 

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