Friday, August 21, 2015

Legislators With Attitude edition

While many folks are taking advantage of the final weeks of August to escape, vacation, and relax, lawmakers in places like VirginiaFlorida, Missouri, and Wisconsin are doing nothing of the sort. Some legislators may even have an appetite for destruction these days. Or maybe they're just trying to express themselves

  • It was a good day*On Monday, Virginia lawmakers convened for a special legislative session to redraw the state's congressional maps as ordered by a federal court. The session only ended up lasting one day, but the drama began weeks before and seems likely to continue for many weeks more. For those who've been off the grid, a timeline:
    • June 5: U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia reaffirms its decision from the previous year finding U.S. Rep. Bobby Scott's 3rd Congressional District lumps minority populations together in an unconstitutional manner. The judges give the General Assembly a September 1 deadline to draw new maps. 
    • July 14: Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe calls for a special redistricting session to convene on August 17 to meet the court's September 1 deadline. Republican legislators want a deadline extension to November 16 and stomp around a lot, claiming that the session is too soon to accommodate "necessary deliberation," and oh yeah, maybe our appeal will be heard and we'll pull this thing out after all!
    • July 28: Gov. McAuliffe reaches out to Republican leadership in the House and Senate to meet and discuss a path forward on redistricting. Sen. Tommy Norment and Speaker Bill Howell immediately shut him down.  
    • August 3: In a last-ditch gamble (and general jerkface move) to get Gov. McAuliffe to call off the special session, the Republican leadership in the General Assembly declare that they will ignore 100 years of decorum and precedent and oust the governor's totally legit, done-a-bajillion-times-before-without-drama, out-of-session appointment to fill a vacancy on the state Supreme Court. 
      • The special session gives the legislature the opportunity to confirm (or, here, reject) the governor's appointment, and it starts a clock on the length of the governor's interim appointment (30 days). If the governor had cancelled the special session, the General Assembly wouldn't have been able to reject the appointment. 
    • August 5: The General Assembly Republicans' jerk trick turns out to be for naught, as their appeal is rejected two days later. 
    • August 17: Special redistricting session convenes in Mr. Jefferson's Capitol. 
      • Republican lawmakers refuse to even interview Gov. McAuliffe's Supreme Court appointee as they prepare to replace her. 
      • While a House committee meets to discuss redistricting, across the building, retiring Republican state Sen. John Watkins expresses his disgust with his party's treatment of the judicial selection process and votes with Senate Democrats to kill the nomination of the GOP's preferred candidate. 
      • Sen. Watkins then proceeds to vote with the Senate Democrats to adjourn the session Sine Die
      • General Assembly Republicans were caught completely off guard. They rail that the Senate's adjournment without the permission of the House violates the state Constitution. 
    • Their point is arguable at best, and in a practical sense it's just them yelling at clouds, because they can't force the Senate to return, and without the Senate, further action on either redistricting or the Supreme Court vacancy is impossible.
    • Now the court will almost certainly take the burden of redrawing Virginia's congressional map upon itself. The process will most certainly be less dramatic. 

    • Today was the last day of the special session called to comply with the state Supreme Court's order to redraw congressional district lines in a way that complies with the state Constitution's Fair Districts Amendments.
    • The Republican leadership in the state Senate began the day by rejecting the House's congressional map and insisting that they accept the Senate's map instead. 
    • GOP envoys from each chamber convened to hammer things out, but that meeting quickly turned acrimonious. 
    • Realizing that nothing would be accomplished without a formal conference committee, the Senate voted to extend the special session through August 25 -- the court-imposed deadline for the new map -- to accommodate negotiations. 
    • The House, however, had other plans. 
      • Instead of choosing one of the options before it -- extending the session or adopting the Senate map -- the state House went with option C: not extending the session and sending its own congressional map back to the Senate. 
      • Then the Senate voted again to extend session but sent a new map back to the House. 
      • The House rejected both proposals again, and a noon deadline ended the session. 
        • This isn't the first time Florida House Republicans have bailed on session before finishing their work. In April, the state House adjourned early to avoid voting on a Senate proposal to expand Medicaid -- leaving the state without a budget, too.
    • The Florida Supreme Court now is likely to draw new congressional maps itself, rather then send them back to the kiddie table to be scribbled on in crayon, effectively.
  • Straight outta Jefferson City: People who make laws would like harlot interns to stop making themselves so harassable, please. In recent months, Missouri legislators on both sides of the aisle have been involved in one or more in a series of sexual harassment scandals involving interns in the state Capitol. (The House Speaker himself was forced to resign over one such scandal in May.)
    • Consequently, a Republican state representative launched an effort to "improve the Missouri House intern policy" and recently solicited input from his colleagues.
    • GOP state Reps. Bill Kidd and Nick King quickly responded with their own suggestion: A "modest, conservative dress code" for interns. Because everyone knows those slutty interns were asking to be harassed. How could these legislators be expected to restrain themselves?
      • As Rep. King put it, "Removing one more distraction will help everyone keep their focus on legislative matters." HOW DARE THOSE YOUNG INTERN LADIES DISTRACT MEN FOLK FROM MAKING LAWS?!!1! 
    • Intern harassment may be a problem for irresponsible elected officials of both parties, but this victim-blaming "solution" is distinctly Republican.

  • Straight outta Madison: Spurred by the fraudulent anti-Planned Parenthood videos being manufactured and circulated by anti-choice groups, GOP lawmakers in Wisconsin recently held a hearing on a bill that would make using fetal tissue in research a felony -- research like the kind the University of Wisconsin does to produce life-saving medical treatments
    • After stalling for a week, Republican leadership has finally scheduled a vote for the measure on September 9Mark your calendars! 

*I know damn well It Was A Good Day is a solo Ice Cube joint, so step off and Check Yo Self

The following 9 state legislatures are meeting actively this week: CALIFORNIA, FLORIDA, MASSACHUSETTS, MICHIGAN, NEW JERSEY, NORTH CAROLINA, VERMONT, VIRGINIA and WISCONSIN.



Just go ahead and take your vacation, already.

The Legislature returned from its Summer Recess August 17. 
The Legislature is set to adjourn August 21.
The Pollution Control Board held a public hearing August 19 to discuss amendments to the fluoride water quality standards. 
The Lexington Urban County Council met August 20 to discuss minimum wage. 
The House Appropriations Committee met August 19 to discuss S.B. 358, which removes the cap on fees for the basic skills, elementary certification and subject area examinations for the Michigan Test for Teacher Certification. 
The Environmental Quality Board met August 19 to discuss the United States Environmental Protection Agency Clean Power Plan. 
The Economic and Rural Development Committee met August 19 to discuss worker's compensation and the Court of Appeals' decision regarding farm and ranch worker exclusion. 
The Board of Pharmacy held a public hearing August 20 to discuss proposed amendments to the controlled substances list and non-sterile compounding. 
The Transportation Committee met August 20 to discuss the Truck Size and Weight Harmonization Study. 
The Bureau of Workers' Compensation will hold a public hearing August 21 to discuss proposed amendments to the immediate allowance and payment of medical bills. 
The State Water Development Commission met August 18 to discuss the United States Environmental Protection Agency's Clean Water Act Rule. 

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