'Tis the season for brackets and basketball, but don't for a second think that March action is confined to the hardwood.
- Drive me crazy: Democratic majorities in the Oregon legislature scored a huge victory for voting rights this week as Gov. Kate Brown signed House Bill 2177 into law. Now all Oregonians will be automatically registered to vote when they get or renew their drivers licenses. Easy peasy lemon squeezy.
Fun fact! Democrats in Minnesota passed a similar automatic voter registration bill in 2009, only to have it vetoed by then-Gov. Tim Pawlenty.
- Meanwhile, Republicans in other states continue working to make voting harder.
- In New Mexico, the GOP-controlled House passed a voter ID bill this week.
- ...but with session ending on Saturday, it's unlikely to make its way to a floor vote in the Senate before adjournment.
- Republicans in the Nevada Assembly achieved some notoriety this week as a committee debated two voter ID bills.
- Las Vegas Assemblywoman Michele Fiore declared racism over because "we have a black president." It's unclear whether she made this statement before or after referring to one of her colleagues as a "colored man."
- The ACORN card was played, too, and former Assemblywoman and failed U.S. Senate candidate Sharron Angle showed up throw around some made-up numbers about supposed voter fraud. Good times all around.
- Granite state of mind: GOP lawmakers in New Hampshire managed to murder both a bill and a bunch of fourth graders' civic enthusiasm almost simultaneously, so at least they're making government more efficient, I guess.
- As Mr. Cutting's fourth grade class sat in the House gallery to witness the passage their bill establishing the red-tailed hawk as the official state raptor, one state lawmaker decried how the bird "grasps its prey with its talons, then uses its razor-sharp beak to tear it apart" before declaring it a fitting mascot for Planned Parenthood.
- Another Republican legislator said he believed it was a bill they "shouldn't have in front of [them]" and bemoaned a slippery slope leading to the establishment of "a state hot dog."
- The bill failed, 133 to 160.
Fun fact! Louisiana has an official state meat pie (Natchitoches meat pie).
- Baby crazy: Never mind that children need qualified parents and safe, loving homes. Michigan House Republicans think they should be stuck in foster or group homes rather than face adoption by teh gays.
- The chamber has passed a bill that would allow faith-based adoption agencies -- that receive state money -- to turn away LGBT couples. The measure is likely to pass the GOP-controlled state Senate, too.
- Gov. Rick Snyder has expressed reservations about the measure, but talk is cheap. He wasn't a fan of so-called "right to work" legislation, either -- right up until he signed it into law.
- Reefer Madness: A GOP lawmaker in Texas wants to legalize pot -- not because he endorses using it, but because God created it, and God's creations shouldn't be banned.
- State Rep. David Simpson helpfully compared legalizing pot to rattlesnakes.
"There’s a lot of things that God made that are dangerous, but they’re good. He made rattlesnakes and we haven’t criminalized them yet. I don’t advocate playing with them.” Okay!
- The Gods Must Be Crazy: Three GOP state lawmakers in Idaho walked out of the state Senate's opening prayer earlier this month because it was delivered by a Hindu cleric (in both English AND Sanskrit!), who was serving as a guest chaplain.
- One of the Republican state senators explained their rudeness by citing worries about "government endorsement" of Hindu. Another declared that "Hindu is a faith with false gods," and she was totally not sorry when an Episcopal bishop, a Catholic official, a UCC pastor, a Buddhist leader, and a rabbi called on her to apologize.
I bet the best joke ever starts when all those folks walk into a bar.
- Perfectly sane: A Democratic member of the Virginia House of Delegates is retiring to focus on his Alexandria doughnut business. Doughnuts > politics is a matter of opinion, but if you haven't checked out Sugar Shack, you're missing out on some serious holey goodness. Del. Rob Krupicka's NoVA-based seat will remain safely in Democratic hands.
- Crazy cat ladies (and men): Both Republicans and Democrats in North Carolina are finding common ground over a proposal to make the bobcat the official state cat. If the measure passes, the bobcat will join the ranks of the Venus flytrap (state carnivorous plant), opossum (state marsupial), and sweet potato (state vegetable) as official symbols of the Tar Heel State.
No one's proposed a state hot dog yet, but it's just a matter of time.
Also also, you really need to check out this Daily Kos Elections piece explaining how well the GOP gerrymandered the U.S. House, state Houses, and state Senates across the country in 2011. It's data-licious and map-tastic. Also a little depressing.
The following 45 state legislatures are meeting actively this week: ALABAMA, ALASKA, ARIZONA, ARKANSAS, CALIFORNIA, COLORADO, CONNECTICUT, DELAWARE, 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, RHODE ISLAND, SOUTH CAROLINA, SOUTH DAKOTA, TENNESSEE, TEXAS, VERMONT, WASHINGTON, WEST VIRGINIA and WISCONSIN.
Also meeting: DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, GUAM, PUERTO RICO and UNITED STATES VIRGIN ISLANDS.
The National Emergency Management Association will hold its Policy and Leadership Forum March 14-18 in Alexandria, Virginia.
The Environmental Council of the States will hold its Spring Meeting March 16-18 in Washington, D.C.
The Republican Lieutenant Governors Association will hold its Leadership Dinner March 17 in Washington, D.C.
The National Lieutenant Governors Association will hold its Federal-State Relations Meeting March 18-20 at the Hamilton Crowne Plaza in Washington, D.C.
The State Legislative Leaders Foundation will hold its Leadership Summit March 19-21 in Simi Valley, California.
The Senate Special Committee on Energy met March 17 to discuss S.B. 57, which addresses the development of state emission standards in accordance with the federal Clean Air Act. The Senate Resources Committee will also discuss this measure March 18.
ARIZONAThe Phoenix Human Relations Committee held a public meeting March 16 to discuss possible action regarding so-called Ban the Box.
The Senate Finance Committee will meet March 18 to discuss H.B. 2069, which allows the state to reduce the personal income tax if the United States Congress adopts the Marketplace Fairness Act.
MAINEThe Joint Standing Committee on Veterans and Legal Affairs will meet March 18 to discuss a number of measures designed to reform the method by which residents vote, including requirements that a voter must provide proof of identity before casting a vote.
The Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee will met March 17 to hear public testimony on S.B. 718, which establishes the Statewide Information Technology Master Plan.
The Legislature will have its first committee deadline March 20.
The House Appropriations Committee met March 16 to discuss H.B. 14, which establishes the Broadband Development Fund to stimulate economic development through improved broadband infrastructure.
NEW MEXICOThe Legislature is expected to adjourn March 21.
NEW YORKThe Albany Common Council convened March 16 and consider an ordinance amending the living wage section of the City Code.
The House Transportation Committee met March 17 to discuss H.B. 616, which allows the use of autonomous vehicles that comply with motor vehicle safety requirements.The Senate Health and Welfare Committee will meet March 18 to discuss S.B. 811, which allows terminally ill patients to try investigational drugs, biological products or devices.
VIRGINIAThe Spotsylvania County Planning Commission will meet March 18 to consider removing hours of operation restrictions for drive-through eating and fast food establishments.
The General Assembly adjourned its regular session March 14 and are meeting to discuss the budget.