Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Nearer My Gavel To Thee edition

As we basked in the glow of the Pope's visit to the United States, lawmakers in Wisconsin shouted at each other about gonorrhea in front of fourth graders. Two Michigan legislators ousted over an affair they used taxpayer dollars to support and conceal decided to run in the special elections to replace themselves. And a state representative in Colorado called Allah a "false god." Heaven is a place on Earth, y'all!

  • Thank God I'm a country boy: GOP lawmakers in Wisconsin and Ohio are trying to eliminate Planned Parenthood's federal and state funding, so both country and city girls in those states might soon be losing access to healthcare. A defunding measure was debated on the Wisconsin Assembly floor last Thursday, and the Ohio Senate President has introduced a similar bill.   
    • The Wisconsin bill passed on a party-line vote and now moves to the state Senate, where it will likely also pass. 
      • Once-again-full-time Gov. Scott Walker has said he supports such legislation, so expect him to sign the measure into law when it hits his desk. 
        • The high point of the debate might have been when a group of fourth graders got to hear a speech "detailing the abundance of sexually transmitted diseases in the Milwaukee area"... 
        • ...but it was probably actually when GOP Rep. Janel Brandtjen argued that Planned Parenthood encourages "young women with promiscuous lifestyles" and "is nothing more than a maintenance garage that treats women like sex objects." Thanks, Janel! 
    • The Ohio bill is slated to move "quickly" by GOP leadership, which could give presidential candidate/Gov. John Kasich a chance to woo hard-line anti-choicers nationwide by signing it into law.
    • In related news, Republicans in the North Carolina legislature squeezed in a quick-and-dirty fetal tissue sale ban before its session ends this week. 
      • The bill is clearly just another attack on Planned Parenthood (it also prohibits state agencies from contracting for pregnancy prevention services with any organization that provides abortion procedures).

#protip: Look for similar backlash to those doctored PP videos coming soon in other GOP-dominated states with session left this year, like Pennsylvania and Michigan. And when most other states convene for legislative sessions next year -- an election year for most of them -- we'll see another round of these attempts. Get excited! 

  • Ego tripping at the gates of Hell: Perhaps you've been following the saga of two hard-line "family values" GOP lawmakers in Michigan, the discovery of their torrid affair, their use of taxpayer dollars to facilitate and conceal their relationship, and their resulting exits from the state House (Rep. Cindy Gamrat was expelled, and Rep. Todd Courser resigned before before the vote that would have surely expelled him, too). Buh-bye, the end, don't let the door hit you...
      • ...except that door might be of the revolving variety. 
    • Both Courser and Gamrat are running in the special elections to replace themselves. Their ignominious exits in no way impact their eligibility to run for election in those two now-open House seats. Both primaries are set for November 3 for these heavily GOP seats.
    • Seriously, though, these guys could win.
      • Seven other Republicans are running in Gamrat's former 82nd House District, and 10 others are running against Courser for his old 80th House District seat. (Gamrat's already won a straw poll in her own district.)
      • A possible result? The anti-Courser/Gamrat votes split to such a degree that these disgraced ex-lawmakers come away with the Republican nomination for these these two red districts.

  • All Hell breaks loose: But Courser and Gamrat may not be the only absurd things returning to the Michigan legislature.
    • In 2011, GOP lawmakers in Pennsylvania, Virginia, Wisconsin, and Michigan considered legislation that would allocate most of each state's electoral votes by congressional district -- a clever way to take advantage of the post-2010 gerrymanders to give some electoral votes to Republican presidential candidates in states that tend to favor Democrats every four years. 
      • These schemes to gerrymander the Electoral College were so blatantly partisan that each ultimately died at some point in the legislative process.
    • Reps. Courser and Gamrat introduced a bill last March (such a cute couple! They do everything together, not just cheat on their spouses!) that tweaked the formula but would have produced a similar result. 
      • Under the Courser/Gamrat system, Romney -- who lost Michigan in 2012 by nearly 450,000 of 4.7. million votes -- still would have snagged nine of the state's 16 electoral votes. 
    • A Senate bill reflecting the Courser/Gamrat approach has been languishing in committee since March, but Michigan Republicans could resuscitate it at any time. 
    • And while his colleagues were busy trying oust Courser and Gamrat, state Sen. Mike Green was trying again with the purist EV-by-congressional-district formula (which would have given Romney 11 of the state's 16 EVs in 2012).
Stay tuned!

  • Wear your love like Heaven: One last Michigan bit -- GOP Rep. Tom Hooker (...) would like for Planned Parenthood to get their dirty sex education out of classrooms and wants to stop this depraved practice of putting condoms "on a cucumber or something similar," because if you're not good at putting on a condom you obviously won't have sex, right? Right? 

  • Devil insideColorado state Rep. Gordon Klingenschmitt has this alter ego -- the evangelizing Dr. Chaps -- who just says the most awful things. The most recent example of said awful was when Rep. Klingenschmitt/Dr. Chaps called Allah a "false god" and Muhammad a "false prophet," and he compared Islam to satanism. 
Not only does this guy make laws, he's also running for higher office!

  • Highway to Hell: Okay, maybe the state's not that bad off, but Maine Gov. Paul LePage is clearly putting his ongoing conflict with the state legislature ahead of his state's welfare. Last week, LePage told the Maine Public Broadcasting Network that he's "halting gubernatorial appointments to fill vacancies for boards and commissions until at least January." He's refusing to do his job because he's still mad at the state legislature for his own failure to veto a bunch of bills before the constitutionally-mandated deadline, because that definitely couldn't have been his own fault. (Except it was.)
    • Just a few of the affected bodies:
      • Workers' Compensation Board
      • Community College System board of trustees
      • University of Maine System board of trustees
      • Indigent Legal Services Board
    • While the governor's "screw you guys, I'm going home" attitude towards appointments hasn't drastically affected the state's government yet, that could change by the time hundreds more of his appointments expire before the end of January (820, specifically; 114 of those require confirmation by the legislature). 

The following 8 state legislatures are meeting actively this week: ILLINOIS, MASSACHUSETTS, MICHIGAN, NEW JERSEY, NORTH CAROLINA, OHIO, PENNSYLVANIA and WISCONSIN.


The Southern States Energy Board will hold its 55th Annual Meeting September 27-29 in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia.

The Republican State Leadership Committee will hold its Annual Retreat September 27-29 in Sun Valley, Idaho.

The National Emergency Management Association will hold its Annual Policy and Leadership Forum September 28-October 1 in Miami, Florida.

The Association of State and Territorial Health Officials will hold its Annual Meeting and Policy Summit September 29-October 1 in Salt Lake City, Utah.

The Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee will hold its Annual Conference September 30-October 1 in Charleston, South Carolina.

The Community Leaders of America will hold its Mayors Caucus Fall National October 1-2 in Chicago, Illinois.


The Behavioral Health Treatment Access Legislative Task Force will meet September 30 to receive presentations on substance abuse and mental health treatment providers, behavioral health treatment coverage under the Medicaid Program, and behavioral health benchmarks for Private Option Coverage.


The House Study Committee on the Use of Drones will meet September 30 to discuss the current state of drones and drone technology within states.


The Senate Commerce Committee will meet for an executive session September 29 to discuss S.B. 128, which prohibits pharmacy benefit managers from imposing a higher copayment for a prescription drug than the copayment applicable to the type of drug purchased under the insurer’s health benefit plan.


The General Assembly is set to adjourn sine die September 29.


The Department of Environmental Protection will hold a listening session September 30 as part of a series of listening sessions on the United States Environmental Protection Agency's Clean Power Plan.


The Department of Vermont Health Access Advisory Board met September 28 to discuss State Plan Amendment updates.


The Select Federal Natural Resources Management Committee will meet September 29 to receive testimony on the United States Environmental Protection Agency's final Clean Power Plan, final rule defining "Waters of the United States" and proposed rule to reduce methane emissions.