Wednesday, May 14, 2014

School's Out! edition

If April is the cruellest month, May definitely tries super hard to compensate. 

Aside from the flowers and the warm(er) weather and the last day of school and such, statehouse action really kicks into high gear this month, what with sessions ending and beginning and primaries coming and going.

(This will not be on the exam.
  • Political Theory 101So two thousand late: Blaming political polarization on gerrymanderingSo hot right now: Blaming political polarization on primary electionsJungle primaries for all!
  • Math problems: The progressive push for a ballot measure to raise Michigan's hourly minimum wage to $10.10 has run into a snag. Pop quiz! What's the hangup? 
    • If you guessed folks were having trouble collecting the 258,000 signatures required, you flunk, no scholarship for you. Supporters already have all those signatures and are collecting more until the deadline just for padding. 
    • If you guessed other proposed minimum wage increases, congratulations, you pass, you have a bright future. A couple of Republican lawmakers have introduced bills that would undermine the ballot measure by preemptively raising the wage, but just a little -- to $8.15, give or take
      • Extra credit: Bonus points if you explained why Republicans are trying to raise the wage. This GOP push doesn't really have much to do with folks getting paid more. Republicans are actually afraid that the increased voter turnout that typically accompanies such ballot measures will benefit Democrats on Election Day. That increased turnout could help Democrats 
        • keep the state's open U.S. Senate seat up this year,
        • oust GOP Gov. Rick Snyder,
        • and flip the five seats needed to give Democrats a majority in the state House (50 D/59 R/1 I).
  • Anatomy of a ballot measure scam: As the Missouri legislative session rockets towards its end this week, state Republicans are forging ahead with their scheme to cheat citizens out of early voting via constitutional amendment. 
    • It's clever, really.
    1. Several months ago, an advocacy group began the process to place a constitutional amendment on the November ballot allowing six weeks of early voting.
    2. On April Fool's Day (seriously), a Republican lawmaker introduced a competing constitutional amendment. Not only would the GOP-supported measure limit early voting to six days and specifically exclude weekends, but it would also enshrine this limit in the state Constitution and prevent lawmakers from ever expanding the early voting period via legislation. 
    3. But the whole six-weeks-versus-six-days thing isn't even the most devious part. The real kicker is that the GOP-sponsored amendment not only limits early voting to six days forevermore, but also allows lawmakers to nix early voting entirely in any given year simply by deciding to not fund it. Easy peasy.
      • Show Me backroom dealmaking: Speaking of Missouri's last days of session, Senate Republicans quietly struck a deal with Democrats this week to pass the 72-hour abortion "waiting period" and that six-day early voting nonsense in exchange for dropping two proposed constitutional amendments requiring voter ID and banning paycheck deductions of union dues. Ugh.
  • Pass/Fail: The North Carolina General Assembly has just convened for the year, and things are already off to a super-promising start. As a member of the Education Committee, state Sen. David Curtis regularly passes legislation impacting teachers, yet he utterly fails to understand the nature of their jobs or compensation, or even whether they're represented by unions in his state. Fun fact! They're not
    • When a science teacher wrote an email to all 170 members of the General Assembly expressing her frustration with the GOP-controlled body's failure to support public school teachers, Sen. Curtis hit 'reply all' and told her that if she couldn't be satisfied with her lousy pay, she should go do something else. 
    • Sen. Curtis also scolded this teacher for failing to appreciate the eight weeks of paid vacation he thinks teachers get each year, for some reason. Fun fact! They don't.
  • Guns + alcohol = ... Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal has pledged to sign a bill allowing folks to bring loaded guns into booze-serving establishments. What could go wrong?
  • Mascot update: Finally, I have big news on Louisiana's ongoing truck stop tiger debate. After failing last month in the state Senate, the bill that should allow Tony the Truck Stop Tiger to remain at the Tiger Truck Stop was reconsidered and passed yesterday. Senate Bill 250 now awaits a committee hearing in the House. 
    • And since the truck stop's owner assures us that the public is "more likely to be attacked by a vending machine or a shopping cart" than by a "wild animal," no one has anything to worry about. At all. From a tiger. Behind a chain-link fence.
Also... Disappointing headline of the week: "State lawmakers will return to correct their mistakes." If only.

For the Week of May 14, 2014 




Women in Government will hold its Western Regional Conference May 14-17 in San Diego, California. 

The Republican Legislative Campaign Committee will holdits 2014 Summer Regional Event May 21-22 in Sea Island, Georgia.

The Democratic Governors Association will hold its Northeastern Policy Conference May 28-29 in Greenwich, Connecticut.


The Senate Appropriations Committee will hold a hearing May 12 to discuss S.B. 1381, which requires the words "Genetically Engineered" to be conspicuously labeled on any raw agricultural commodity packaged for retail sale. 


The Common Core Task Force, established by Governor Dan Malloy (D), will meet May 14 to develop recommendations on how best to implement the Common Core education standards. 


The House Natural Resources and Environmental Control Committee will meet May 14 to discuss S.B. 199, which relates to extremely hazardous substances risk management.


Deceptive Practices bill HB 452 was transmitted to Governor. This bill "deems any person who provides false information regarding the details of voting guilty of an election fraud."

Same Day Registration bill HB 2590 was transmitted to Governor. This bill allows voter registration at absentee polling places beginning in 2016 and late voter registration, including on election day, beginning in 2018.


The House Judiciary Committee will meet May 14 to discuss S.B. 2928, which creates a local prescription drug disposal pilot program to collect, dispose of and transport pharmaceuticals. 

Youth Voting bill HB 501 was enrolled and signed by the Speaker of the House. This bill allows citizens who are 16 and 17 years of age to preregister to vote. They may not cast ballots until they reach voting age. Driver's license applications made by 16-year-olds would also serve as a voter registration application, unless the applicant declines.
The House Regulatory Reform Committee will hold a hearing May 14 to discuss S.B. 477, which repeals registration, application and examination fees for auctioneers. 
The General Assembly is scheduled to recess May 16. 
Vote by Mail bill A 683 was reported out of Assembly with amendments. This bill, as amended, requires mail-in ballot applications be available at polling places on Election Day for voting in future elections. The bill also requires the development and maintenance of Internet webpages to provide instructions for completing and mailing mail-in ballot applications.
The Senate Energy and Telecommunication Committee will meet May 15 to discuss S.B. 7006, which allows receipts from the retail sale of electricity from solar electric generating equipment qualified to net meter to be exempt from tax. 
The General Assembly will convene its 2014 regular session May 14. 
The House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee met May 13 to hear testimony about H.B. 515, which addresses timber harvesting requirements. 
The House Public Utilities Committee met May 13 to hear testimony about S.B. 310, which addresses renewable energy mandates. 
The Committee on Commerce, Labor and Technology will meet May 14 to discuss H.B. 502, which raises the minimum wage to $10.10 beginning January 1, 2015. 
The House Conference Committee on General Government met May 12 to discuss amendments to H.B. 2620, which relates to property rights and fees.

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