First of all, let me get a bit of news out of the way, just in case you haven't heard: I'm back at the DLCC, so state politics is no longer just my hobby/obsession -- it's my actual job again (but still also my hobby/obsession). So henceforth, these missives will be coming on a more regular basis, and (probably) at hours that are less odd. Hooray!
Lately, redistricting has totally been my ring of fire, because
A. It's a BFD and
B. It's in the hands of legislators in most states, and
- Oh, and there were last week's oral arguments on the Arizona redistricting case. Have you heard of it? It's the one where GOP lawmakers sued because they were angry about the not-completely-gerrymandered-
in-their-favor-but-still- Republican-friendly maps, which had been drawn by the voter-created Independent Redistricting Commission. Since the Republicans couldn't bully their way to maps they liked, they decided that the IRC shouldn't exist at all. After all, what good is independent redistricting if it produces competitive districts?
- Anyway, the lawsuit to thwart the will of Arizona voters is the culmination of a saga that began in 2011, when then-Gov. Janet Brewer tried to stop the passage of these not-totally-unfair maps by firing the head of the IRC. The state Supreme Court reinstated her, the maps passed, and the sore losers decided to get litigious.
- And let's not forget the action in the Sunshine State. On Wednesday, March 4, the Florida Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the appeal of the (barely) revised congressional districts GOP lawmakers drew after a redistricting lawsuit threw out the original maps last summer.
- Will the Court require a fresh set of congressional maps before 2016? Or are proponents of fair redistricting stuck with their hollow victory? Stay tuned!
- One piece at a time: Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker signed a so-called "right to work" bill into law on Monday, but this may not be the end of the state GOP's stomp-all-over-working families agenda.
- Two Republicans are trying to roll back the law that requires employers to give workers at least one day of rest per week.
- Being able to work seven days a week will be super helpful, I guess, when Wisconsinites need to compensate for the lower wages that will result from diminished collective bargaining rights.
- Of course, these latest anti-worker developments are just the latest attacks on middle-class families by Wisconsin Republicans.
- Back in 2011, there was the infamous Act 10, which was like a "right to work" trial balloon, in that it only busted public employee unions.
- Then in 2012, Republican state lawmakers repealed the Equal Pay Enforcement Act, because who needs to enforce their right to equal pay in court? Not ladies, because they should totally be satisfied with the 75 cents they earn to a man's dollar in the Badger State, I guess.
- The wind changes: But there's good news for working families in New Mexico today. On Tuesday night, Democrats in a Senate committee tabled two "right to work" bills that had already passed the GOP-majority House, effectively killing the legislation this year (session ends on March 21).
- Senate Democrats also blocked two anti-choice bills that had passed the House: parental notification and a late-term abortion ban.
- Any old wind that blows: Despite the fact that Obama won 54% of the vote in Michigan in 2012 (not to mention that Democrats have won the state in every presidential election since 1992), Republicans hold a majority of seats in the congressional delegation, the state House, and the state Senate, because Republicans are really good at gerrymandering.
- Fun fact! In both 2012 and 2014, Democrats in state House races actually won more total votes statewide than Republican House candidates... and yet, Democrats remain in the minority. Thanks, gerrymandering!
- Some Michigan Republicans want to share the gift of gerrymandering with the Electoral College. Last week, four House Republicans introduced a bill that would allocate one electoral vote to the winner in each of the state's congressional districts, and the two remaining votes would be awarded to the statewide vote winner. This system would have given Romney nine of Michigan's 16 electoral votes in 2012, despite the fact that he won only 45% of the vote statewide.
- The bill, HB4310, is currently awaiting a hearing in the House Elections Committee. Similar bills have languished in years past, but as Dave Weigel points out in this piece that you should totally read, maybe the second-term Republican governors in these safely gerrymandered states don't have anything left to fear.
- Guess things happen that way: This is a busy season for state lawmakers. It's kind of like the holiday rush at the mall, but instead of sweaters and gift cards, we get
- New ways to die (sometime's it's the state that cuts you down): The GOP-controlled legislature in Utah has just sent the governor a bill resurrecting (sorry) the firing squad as a method of execution. A similar bill in Wyoming is dead (sorrier), but another bill to allow lead-based executions is still kicking (sorriest) in Arkansas.
- Also, the Oklahoma state House has advanced legislation to allow execution by nitrogen hypoxia, an allegedly painless form of asphyxiation that has never been tested as a method of execution for humans. What could go wrong?
- Oh, and Alabama is trying to bring back the electric chair, because there's nothing cruel or unusual about zapping a human being with 500 to 2000 (or more) volts for 20 or 30 seconds a few times until they're pretty sure s/he's dead, right?
- Political hypocrisy (what is truth, anyway?): Wisconsin Republicans didn't seem to have a problem with the state's "John Doe law," a unique statute under which political corruption investigations tend to occur, when it was being used to investigate and indict five state lawmakers in the early 2000s. But now that it's being used to investigate possible illegal coordination between Gov. Scott Walker's gubernatorial campaign and conservative groups, statehouse Republicans are trying to gut it.
- Terrible people who run preschools and make laws: Arkansas state Representative Justin Harris seems to have no business doing either of those things, or maybe anything else that involves contact with other human beings. This guy reportedly
- Abused his power as a committee chair to push through adoptions of three girls,
- Believed those girls were possessed by demons
- "Rehomed" two of the girls with a guy who worked at Rep. Harris' state-funded preschool
- ...a guy who is now in prison for raping one of those girls.
Yeah, there's nothing funny about this.
...but this story did help me realize that I went to college with the current Arkansas House Minority Leader, so that's kind of neat.
And finally, here's some news from the Pine Tree State, because lobster, blueberries, and moose are great things.
- Democrat Pinny Beebe-Center won a special election for a House seat in Maine! Hooray!
- Maine Republican state Senator Michael Willette recently suggested that President Obama's family consisted of ISIS members, and state Democrats are calling for his resignation. He actually has a long history of being terrible, especially when it comes to linking the Obamas to terrorists.
The following 46 state legislatures are meeting actively this week: ALABAMA, ALASKA, ARIZONA, ARKANSAS, CALIFORNIA, COLORADO, CONNECTICUT, FLORIDA, GEORGIA, HAWAII, IDAHO, ILLINOIS, INDIANA, IOWA, KANSAS, KENTUCKY, MAINE, MARYLAND, MASSACHUSETTS, MICHIGAN, MINNESOTA, MISSISSIPPI, MISSOURI, MONTANA, NEBRASKA, NEVADA, NEW HAMPSHIRE, NEW JERSEY, NEW MEXICO, NEW YORK, NORTH CAROLINA, NORTH DAKOTA, OHIO, OKLAHOMA, OREGON, PENNSYLVANIA, RHODE ISLAND, SOUTH CAROLINA, SOUTH DAKOTA, TENNESSEE, TEXAS, UTAH, VERMONT, WASHINGTON, WEST VIRGINIA and WISCONSIN.
Also meeting: DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, GUAM, PUERTO RICO and UNITED STATES VIRGIN ISLANDS.
The National Association of Attorneys General will hold its Southern Region Meeting March 12-13 at the Marriott Grand Hotel in Point Clear, Alabama.
The Democratic Governors Association will hold its Spring Policy Conference March 13-14 in Fajardo, Puerto Rico.
The House Resources Committee met March 9 to discuss H.B. 92, which requires the labeling of food containing genetically modified organisms.
The Assembly Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee met March 10 to discuss A.B. 96, which prohibits the sale of old ivory.
The Senate Community Affairs Committee met March 10 to discuss S.B. 766, which prohibits the capturing of images by unmanned aerial vehicles without consent.
The Committee on Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development met March 9 to discuss placing requirements on employers to compensate an employee for accrued sick leave if terminated while out on compensated sick leave.
The House Ways and Means Committee met March 10 to discuss H.B. 753, which extends the Film Production Activity Tax Credit until 2019.
The Senate Commerce Committee met March 9 to discuss S.B. 2098, which allows the direct sale of zero emission vehicles by manufacturers to consumers.
The House Civil Justice Committee met March 10 to hear testimony for H.B. 153, which relates to the use of unmanned aerial aircraft to capture images of landowners.
The Department of Ecology will hold a hearing March 12 regarding draft water quality standards rules.
The Department of Natural Resources held a public hearing March 11 on proposed amendments to air pollution control rules.