Friday, September 26, 2014

Must-See TV edition

Fall is here, which means summer reruns are finally behind us and New TV Goodness has arrived!
But the election season rolls on, straddling the summer and fall a little like The Strain. But unlike The Strain, it's no horror show (but ask me November 5 how I feel about comparing the election to a vampire apocalypse. I could always change my mind).

  • So You Think You Can Vote: The North Carolina chapter of Americans for Prosperity sent voter registration misinformation to hundreds of state residents (and one cat). Discrepancies on the forms include when the forms are due (25 or 30 days before the election?) and where they should be sent (Board of Elections or Secretary of State?), among others.
      • A spokesman for the Koch-backed AFP wouldn't say how the group obtained the voter lists, how many people received the forms, or how they managed to fail so hard.
    • In other voting news, A push to allow Sunday voting in Macon (Bibb County), Georgiadied last night
      • A Republican member of the board let slip the real reason the GOP doesn't want to expand early voting opportunities: "This would be a way to wring out every last vote." More people voting?? Heaven forbid! 
      • Meanwhile, a Sunday early vote day in Savannah was just approved by the Chatham County Board of Registrars. Hooray!

  • Madam Secretary: Hillary Clinton will attend a fundraiser for New Hampshire state Senator Lou D'Allessandro in D.C. next Tuesday. 
    • Why you should give a hoot: Democrats need to pick up two seats to win a majority in the state Senate (11 D/13 R). More money is helpful for that kind of thing. Also, 2016, I guess.

  • Agents of G.R.O.V.E.R. Grover Norquist thinks that "strong" (losing?) Republican Senate candidates can help the GOP win majorities in statehouse chambers this fall. Here's your tl;dr breakdown.
    • Specifically, Norquist thinks Scott Brown will help flip the New Hampshire House (at 400 teeny tiny districts, it's tough to anticipate which party climb to the top of the pile in any given year), although Republicans' true concern is keeping their teeny majority in the state Senate (which, currently at 11 D/13 R, I rate a Tilt D). 
      • Also, Norquist seems to have forgotten about popular Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan's presence on top of the ticket, where she's running 9 to 12 points ahead of her GOP opponent in recent polls.
    • Norquist also opines that a high-quality Senate candidate like Corey Gardner can help Republicans pick up the one seat they need to win a majority in the Colorado state Senate (18 D/17 R). 
    • And then Norquist throws in Oregon, for some reason, even though Republican Senate candidate Monica Wehby isn't pulling the kind of poll numbers (she's down 8 to 13 points in September polls) that are going to help any of her down-ballot brethren (House 34 D/24 R, Senate 16 D/14 R).

  • And now for these commercial messages: The battle for the Nevada state Senate (11 D/10 R) is SO hot right now. Experts consider three seats legitimately in play (SDs 8, 9, 20), and two of those are held by Republicans. Democratic Sen. Justin Jones is under attack on TV by the GOP-aligned Nevada Jobs Coalition, which dropped a nasty spot last Friday. Jones responded this week with a positive spot of his own, but even though the buys are reportedly comparable, the Jones ad is only airing on cable.

  • The Big Bang Theory: On Tuesday, the Pennsylvania state House voted to give the NRA ("membership organizations") legal standing to sue cities and other municipalities that enact their own gun laws. The bill adds a fun little deterrent to those local governments seeking to protect their citizens from gun violence: the NRA can "bankrupt them if they try;" the bill requires a losing municipality to pay legal fees if the NRA wins such a challenge. 
    • Fun fact! Currently, about 30 municipalities have enacted laws that differ from those of the state at large, such as mandatory reporting of lost or stolen guns and mandatory sharing of mental health records between state and federal databases.

  • Chamber ManagementLast week, I bored you to death by describing how tough it would be for Democrats to even arrive at a tie -- much less win a majority -- in the Pennsylvania state Senate (lean R). Today I'll look at the odds of Democrats picking up up the four seats needed to strip Republicans of majority control of the Iowa state House (47 D/53 R). Get excited!
    • Iowa's redistricting process is about as nonpartisan as they come, and the result is a decent number of legitimate swing districts in both legislative chambers. All 100 House seats are up this fall. 
      • Excellent Des Moines Register reporter Jason Noble has identified five House districts he considers key to majority control of the chamber. He's pretty much nailed it with HDs-15, 30, 55, 91, and 97. 
        • Districts 15, 91, and 97 are basically must-wins for Dems, and
        • Districts 30 and 55 are highly competitive.
      • However, I would add a couple of other pickup opportunities for Democrats. 
Next time you find yourself in Iowa, you may want consider giving these folks a jingle. With Democrats' majority in the state Senate hanging by a single-seat thread, control of the House is an imperative for both parties as the plan to support or stymie a Republican governor for the next couple of years.
      • But there are some missed opportunities for Democrats this year, too. Other districts in which Democrats could have been competitive, were their candidates stronger and/or more adept at fundraising, include HD-16 and HD-73.
We'll just call those "potential 2016 targets."
    • Fun fact! Early voting in Iowa has begun! Click here (and bookmark!) for a daily update of absentee ballot requests by party and congressional district.

  • The Leftovers... are the bills still pending in Michigan's statehouse this fall. A couple of gems include legislation that would rectify an unforeseen consequence of a measure the GOP-controlled legislature approved last year that banned abortion coverage in standard insurance plans. 
    • The measure required women who wanted insurance coverage for abortions to purchase separate health insurance riders. 
      • Thing is, only seven of the state's 42 insurers offer those riders, and none of those insurers offer riders to women buying individual insurance plans.
    • So Democrats are pushing a bill that would require all insurers to make those riders available to Michigan women. 
      • Fun fact! This measure will pretty much go nowhere; a spokesman for the Republican House Speaker all but promised the bill would be gutted or killed in committee.
  • Another measure Michigan Democrats are pushing this fall would amend state law to protect gay residents from discrimination. Polls indicate that 74% of likely voters in the state support a ban on anti-gay awfulness. 
      • With numbers like that, how can Republicans stand against such a measure?
        • With a clever nullification maneuver, of course!
    • House Republicans want to pair this new civil rights legislation with a separate measure to "affirm religious freedom" -- the freedom of business owners to exercise their "sincerely held religious beliefs" to discriminate against LGBT residents, that is. Fair and balanced!
  • The Blacklist... is what South Carolina Republican state Senator Tom Davis might end up on with some in his own party. 
    • In responding to Monday's court ruling overturning Louisiana's ban on same-sex marriage, the GOP lawmaker revealed that he's totally okay with same-sex marriage and thinks the government should just butt out of the marriage business altogether, man, 'cause it totally harshes his libertarian groove.

  • Masters of Sex (toys): By now, pretty much everybody knows that the Minority Leader of the Kansas Senate tattled on Gov. Sam Brownback for selling porn to balance the state budget. 
    • But that's not exactly what's going on. The state is, in fact, forcing the auction of an array of sex toys, lingerie, and related things that might flag this missive as spam, were I to list them, to discharge a tax delinquent's debt. 
      • Considering the dearth of Democrats in the state Senate -- 8 D/32 R -- it's hard to begrudge Leader Hensley a bit of colorful hyperbole.
    • If you happen to be in the Kansas City area on Monday, you can inspect the auction items -- all in original packaging, thank heavens -- at a warehouse in .... West Bottoms. Sorry, I'm 12.

For the Week of September 26, 2014 

The following 5 state legislature are meeting actively this week: MASSACHUSETTS, MICHIGAN, NEW JERSEY, OHIO and PENNSYLVANIA 


Women in Government will hold its Eastern Regional Conference and Southern Regional Conference September 24-27 in New Orleans, Louisiana. 
The Council of State Governments will hold its CSG Policy Academy: Natural Gas September 26-28 in Denver, Colorado. 
The United States Conference of Mayors will hold its Fall Membership Meeting September 27-29 in Sacramento, California. 
The National Conference of State Legislatures will hold its Executive Committee and Legislative Staff Coordinating Committee (LSCC) meeting September 27-29 in Reno, Nevada. 
The National Association of State Chief Information Officers will hold its Annual Conference September 28 - October 1 in Nashville, Tennessee. 
The Republican State Leadership Committee will hold its Annual Retreat September 28-29 in Amelia Island, Florida. 


The State and Public School Life and Health Insurance Program Legislative Task Force met September 23 to discuss long term options for ensuring the stability of the state and health insurance plans for public school employees. 

The Joint Committee on Energy met September 25 to discuss energy grid security and hear testimony from state energy companies.


The Assembly Committee on Health received an update September 23 about the Affordable Care Act and its impact to Medi-Cal. 


The Legislative Health Benefit Exchange Implementation Review Committee met September 23 to discuss Connect for Health Colorado, the state's health insurance exchange. 


The House Study Committee on the Role of the Federal Government in Education met September 24 to discuss Common Core state standards. 


The Department of Lands held a public hearing September 23 to discuss amendments to rules addressing crude oil and natural gas. 


The Interim Study Committee on Public Health, Behavioral Health and Human Services met September 25 to discuss prescription drug monitoring and adding a statewide telemedicine program for addiction and mental health treatment. 


The Alcoholic Beverages Review Committee met September 22 to review draft legislation dealing with additional license privileges, liquor control boards and beer and light wine licenses.  


The Assembly Environment and Solid Waste Committee met September 22 to discuss A.B. 2687, which requires schools to replace incandescent light bulbs with compact florescent light bulbs over the next three years. 


The Tobacco Settlement Revenue Oversight Committee met September 22 to discuss the science and health of e-cigarettes and hear the presentation, "E-Cigarettes: Survey of Policy and Legislative Action in Other States." 

The Legislative Education Study Committee met September 22-24 to discuss the New Mexico Mathematics, Engineering, Science and Achievement Artesia Project and Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) assessments. 


The House Rules and Reference Committee met September 24 to consider H.B. 597, which relates to the Common Core and its replacement options. 


The Interim Judiciary and Public Safety Committees met September 24 to hear a presentation about child trafficking and the impact of methamphetamine to the state, local governments and individuals. 


The Public Utility Commission met September 22 to discuss a proposed voluntary emission reduction program. 

The Global Warming Commission met September 25 to discuss the Public Health Division's Climate and Public Health Report, a carbon tax and the recent United States Climate Assessment Report. 


The Senate Energy, Environment and Telecommunications Committee met September 25 for an informational hearing about hydrogen fuel cells, a report about the Governor's Carbon Emissions Reduction Taskforce and a report from Energy Northwest's Demand Response Pilot Program. 


The Joint Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivisions Interim Committee held a public hearing September 24-25 to receive an update from the Task Force on Digital Information Privacy, the Cosmetology Board and Barber's Board Task Force and the Telecommunications Act Task Force. 

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Even Better Than The Real Thing edition

Happy September! Sorry about the hiatus, but I was waiting for the House to leave. Having them around makes me uncomfortable. (Someone told them I don't think their elections are as important as state legislative elections this year, and now they look at me all weird.) 
So Scotland might be moving out of the UK's house, unless it doesn't, but I've got Ireland on the brain. U2 suddenly released new, free album... in September of an election year. Coincidence? (Of course it is.) It's clearly an illuminati plot to... do something, maybe. (Sell iWatches.) The REAL story is that it's just another thing to distract from the fact that elections in key legislatures around the country are right around the corner.

  • Sometimes you can't make it on your own: The Scottish independence election reminds us that not only has a certain part of our own nation tried out the, ah, conscious uncoupling thing already, but also that some folks are still interested in taking a break from that whole "United States" thing. 
    • The League of the South (a group that wants the former states of the Confederacy to secede again) had themselves a Scottish vote watch party at its convention center on Thursday. The group, whose leader said he considers Alabama an "occupied territory," hopes Scotland's awesome secession experience inspires his southern brethren to follow suit (not bloody likely, according to polls).
      • While five Colorado counties took a slightly less antebellum stance last year by voting merely to secede from the state, voters in nearby Arizona have the opportunity this fall to vote to tell the federal government to go suck an egg while politely remaining part of the Union. 
        • The ballot measure, Proposition 122, would amend the state constitution to prohibit the use of state personnel or money to cooperate with or enforce any federal laws the state happens to find "not consistent with the Constitution of the United States."
          • Fun fact! Since 2008, more than three-quarters of the states have seen nullification bills pop up in their legislatures. The Arizona ballot measure may, however, be the first proposed nullification amendment.

  • Hold me. thrill me, kiss me, kill me: Lawmakers in Oklahoma are willing to try just about anything to keep killing folks in the name of the law. After a shortage of traditional lethal injection drugs led to the botched execution of Clayton Lockett in April, state lawmakers are looking for other options
    • A couple of state Reps have decided that flooding a chamber with nitrogen gas would be a swell way to go, and now some professors at East Central University are going to check that out for them. Go Tigers! Hey, wait... maybe they should consider tigers as an alternative execution method, too.

  • When I look at the world... Tennessee state Sen. Rusty Crowe doesn't see Islam as an important part of its history, apparently. Sen. Crowe has taken a firm stand against middle school students learning about that Muslim stuff. Never mind that the founding and expansion of this major world religion falls completely within the time frame and context these kids are learning about in their Social Studies class.
    • Instead of being concerned about the fact that one particular school can't even afford enough textbooks to allow each student to remove them from the classroom, Sen. Crowe thinks the state school board is "out of control." Crowe also thinks teaching 7th graders about Islam historically is "a little much... it just doesn't feel right." No word on whether he thinks kids should be sheltered from learning about historic Christianity and Judaism, too.

  • Kite:... would be a swell thing to have as your official state toy, but one Pennsylvania man wants to give that honor to the Slinky
    • This is not, however, one of the measures being addressed as lawmakers convened this week for the last 10/11 (Senate/House) days of session remaining before the election. Bills addressing medical marijuana, privatizing liquor sales, overhauling the state's pension system, and even downsizing the legislature are all up for consideration. If they don't pass the GOP-dominated chambers by the end of the year, legislators have to start from scratch in the next session.
      • But will that GOP dominance continue next session? In the House (92 D/111 R), yes, but with only three seats separating Democrats from a majority in the state Senate (23 D/27 R), flipping the state Senate looks totally doable, especially with Democrat at the top of the ticket trouncing his opponent by double digits. 
    • But it's going to be harder than it looks.
      • Of the 25 Senate seats up this cycle, three Democrats and eight Republicans face challengers, and six seats are open. Democrats have to defend two seats that Romney won in 2012, while Republicans have to defend four seats won by Obama that year. 
    • Sounds promising for Democrats, yes? Not so fast. 
      • Two Democratic challengers in these seats reportedly suffer from lackluster fundraising and face well-established incumbents. The open SD-26 is being heavily targeted by both parties, although Obama won with 54.6% here in 2012
        • And on top of everything, one Democratic Senator of the current 23 is already effectively gone -- retiring after getting drawn into a Republican's district. So Democrats are effectively starting at 22, requiring them to pick up four seats for a majority. 
        • If Democrats flip three seats to tie the chamber, they'll win partial majority control with a newly-minted, Democratic lieutenant governor presiding. But with zero room for error in defense and offense, it's a tall order. 
          • Bottom line: Democrats will do well to break even this year and plan ahead to pick up seats in the arguably more favorable turnout climate of 2016.

  • Trying to throw your arms around the world: The Republican Legislative Campaign Committee is rather optimistic/bullish/delusional about the GOP's fate in certain northeastern states this fall. 
    • In a memo RLCC released at its Northeastern Regional Meeting, the group claims it will regain "solid control" of the legislature in Maine (delusional), cites "increasing momentum for the Republican ticket" in Pennsylvania (delusional), seems certain Republicans will win control of the House and keep control of the Senate in New Hampshire (bullish -- the House is nuts and the Senate is legitimately up for grabs). 
    • In Delaware, the RLCC points out that Republicans need only a three-seat gain to win a majority in the state Senate. Unfortunately for them, only 10 seats are up this cycle, two Democrats are running unopposed, there are zero open seats, and the only remotely competitive seat occupied by an incumbent is currently held by a first-term Republican (delusional). 
Also, guys, it's Dannel Malloy. I don't know who this "Daniel" chap you're referring to is, but he's not the governor of Connecticut
  • Where the streets have no name: It may sound like this candidate for New Hampshire House has no name, but he does; it just starts with a lower-case letter and is a single word. 
    • David Montenegro legally changed his name to "human" in 2012. Last Tuesday, human lost his primary to incumbent Democratic state Rep. Rose Marie Rogers. He got 30 votes, though. 30!! Name Free or Die!!

For the Week of September 18, 2014 

The following 7 state legislatures are meeting actively this week: MASSACHUSETTS, MICHIGAN, NEW HAMPSHIRE, NEW JERSEY, OHIO, PENNSYLVANIA and VIRGINIA.

Also meeting: PUERTO RICO

The Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies will hold its Annual Meeting September 21-25 in St. Louis, Missouri. 
The Democratic Attorneys General Association will hold its Roundtable Day September 21 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.


The House Energy, Environment and Natural Resources Committee met September 17 to discuss EPA proposed rule 111(d), which requires states to develop plans to fix existing sources of non-criteria pollutants. 


The Legislative Task Force on Autism will meet September 19 to discuss Associates Degrees in occupational life skills. 


The San Bernardino City Council met September 15 to discuss the City's pending case in U.S. Bankruptcy Court. 

The Air Resources Board will hold a public hearing September 18 to discuss proposed rule amendments to the Mandatory Greenhouse Gas Reporting Regulation.


The Family and Medical Leave Insurance Task Force will meet September 18 to discuss establishing an insurance program to provide short-term benefits for workers who are unable to work due to an injury or pregnancy to the worker or a family member.


The Washington D.C. Committee on Government Operations will meet September 18 to discuss the Clean Hands Elections Reform Amendment Act. 


The Senate Medicaid Care Management Organizations Credentialing Study Committee met September 15 to hear testimony from providers about the credentialing process, as well as responses to provider testimony from the Department of Community Health and Care Management Organizations. 


The Joint Oversight Committee on the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange met September 16 to receive updates about the Maryland Exchange, the transition to the Connecticut IT platform and an update about approved rates in the individual health insurance market.


The Domestic Violence Task Force will meet September 19 to discuss funding for ending domestic violence abuse. 


The Legislative Energy Commission met September 16 to discuss the future of biogas in the state. 


The New Hampshire General Court convened September 15-17 to act upon measures vetoed by Governor Maggie Hassan (D). 

The Board of Mental Health Practice will meet September 19 to review rule text amendments to rules impacting mental health professionals. 


The Senate Select Committee on Science, Technology, Incubation and Entrepreneurship met September 16 to discuss the future of computer and video games development in the state. 

The New York City Committee on Economic Development met September 17 to discuss the economic impact of failing transportation infrastructure. 


The Energy Development and Transmission Committee met September 17 to discuss bill drafts related to plugging abandoned oil and gas wells, oil and gas tax being used to fund highway construction, the creation of oil and gas strategic planning authority and a bill relating to oil and natural gas exploration landfills. 


The Board of Education met September 15 to discuss proposed amendments to educator preparation programs, which requires programs to include evidence-based instructional strategies in its coursework. 

The Joint Medicaid Oversight Committee will meet September 18 to hear a Medicaid budget update.


The House Judiciary Committee met September 16 to review death penalty procedures and execution alternatives. 


The House Interim Committee on Health Care met September 15 to receive an update from Cover Oregon and the Oregon Health Authority. 


The Health Reform Task Force will meet September 18 to receive updates about the negotiations between Governor Gary R. Herbert (R) and the United States Department of Health and Human Services regarding the Healthy Utah Plan. 


The Public Records Legislative Study Committee met September 15 to discuss public records exemptions created or repealed during the 2014 session. 

The Vermont Health Care Oversight Committee will meet September 18 to discuss a status update about the health benefit exchange, access to health care and medical malpractice. 


The Joint Select Health Care Oversight Committee will meet September 18 to receive updates about the Health Benefit Exchange from the Office of the Insurance Commissioner and the Washington Health Care Authority. 


The Task Force on Digital Information and Privacy will meet September 18-19 to discuss bill drafts related to internet privacy.