Friday, October 16, 2015

Viva Las Vegas edition

While the Cirque du Debate was the main attraction this week, the never-ending variety show of statehouse politics went on in fabulous capitols across America.

  • Dirty, Dirty Feeling: Republicans in Wisconsin fast-tracking a proposal that would essentially deregulate the state's campaign finance oversight apparatus. 
    • The package of bills is intended to, ahem, "reform" the state's election system, which Pew recently ranked as the third best in the nation. The watchdog General Accountability Board, "a national model for ethics and elections," would be replaced by a partisan agency. 
    • The state's campaign finance system itself would be overhauled, too.
      • Limits on individual donations -- which are already above the national average, according to NCSL --  would be doubled (to $60,000 for gubernatorial candidates, $6,000 and $3,000 for Senate and Assembly candidates, respectively).
      • Donations from PACs to campaign would be unlimited.
      • Donors could give unlimited amounts of money to campaign committees, which can then pass it along to candidates, making those individual donation limits pretty pointless, anyway. 
      • Also, candidates would be allowed to coordinate with interest groups that don't disclose their donors. 
    • So, basically, Wisconsin is poised to become a national hub of dark money shenanigans. Thanks, Republicans!

  • Don't Be Cruel: Two GOP lawmakers in Wisconsin are desperately seeking cosigners for their unenlightened legislation that would ban transgender students from using school bathrooms for the gender with which they identify. 
    • This discriminatory bill opens schools up to lawsuits and undermines the 60 school districts across the state that have specifically adopted nondiscriminatory policies affecting LGBT students. Local control! 

      • A final note on Wisconsin: Bills aimed at defunding Planned Parenthood and banning donation or use of fetal tissue in medical research -- which sailed through the GOP-controlled state Assembly in recent weeks -- were approved this week by a GOP-controlled Senate committee. The measures are expected to pass the GOP-controlled upper chamber.  

  • It's Now or Never: We will have new Florida congressional maps soon, maybe, hopefully. On November 10, the state Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on the map recommended by a lower court judge. The map, which has U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson wicked mad, was drawn by voting rights groups (plaintiffs in the case) and was favored over plans submitted by the GOP-controlled state House and Senate.
    • Also coming soon to the Florida capitol: State Senate redistricting special session
      • When lawmakers convene on October 19 to redraw state Senate maps (which Republicans admitted they'd gerrymandered to favor incumbents and their own party), the GOP majorities will attempt to not repeat their epic congressional map fail
      • House and Senate leaders have already submitted six different staff-drawn maps to be considered as "starting points" for the three-week session. Five of the six favor Republicans -- the remaining map presents a 20-20 split, based on 2012 presidential results. 

  • Hands Off: Speaking of Florida, some GOP lawmakers there are responding to recent gun violence tragedies by filing a bunch of legislation for next year that will enable more folks to have more guns in more places, because nothing ever goes wrong in FloridaNothingEver
    • Proposed legislation in the nation's most infamous "Stand Your Ground" state includes:

  • Suspicious Minds: For once, Colorado state Rep. Gordon Klingenschmitt isn't making headlines because of his infamous alter ego. Dr. Chaps had nothing to do with Klingenschmitt's accusations against fellow GOP Rep. Larry Liston -- that we know of
    • Klingenschmitt filed a police report on Saturday accusing Liston of stealing a stack of political fliers from a Pikes Peak Firearms Coalition meeting. 
    • Liston said the fliers are "filled with half-truths, lies and innuendos," insisted he swiped only five fliers anyway, and called his colleague "paranoid and delusional." 
    • Klingenschmitt, in return, has branded Liston "a thief and a liar." 
      • Klingenschmitt is primarying GOP state Sen. (and Liston pal) Bob Gardner next year. So that should be fun.

  • The Impossible Dream: Five pastors and a deacon walk into a bar... wait, sorry, they walked into the Kentucky governor's office to ask him to pretty please call a special session to pass a bill exempting Kim Davis and her fellow anti-same-sex marriage county clerks from issuing marriage certificates to teh gays
Still funny, just pathetic-funny, not ha-ha funny.

  • A Little Less Conversation: In the most recent manifestation of state-level fallout from the manufactured anti-Planned Parenthood videos released over the summer, Republicans in the Missouri legislature held a "witch hunt" hearing on Wednesday to discuss measures aimed at curtailing Planned Parenthood's fetal tissue donation program. 
    • After Democrats had left the hearing, the remaining Republicans in the room began brainstorming neat ideas to push their radical agenda during the next legislative session. 
      • One especially inspired suggestion came from GOP Rep. Rick Brattin. He thinks it would be just super to force Planned Parenthood to pay for some sort of abortion memorial, "like a Vietnam Wall." Okay!

The following 6 state legislatures are meeting actively this week: ILLINOIS, MASSACHUSETTS, MICHIGAN, OHIO, PENNSYLVANIA and WISCONSIN.


The Southern Governors Association will hold its Annual Meeting October 15-16 in St. Louis, Missouri.

The National Association of State Treasurers will hold its Annual Conference October 18-21 in Nashville, Tennessee.

The last day for Governor Jerry Brown (D) to sign or veto bills passed by the Legislature was October 11. 

The Task Force Concerning the Treatment of Persons with Mental Illness in the Criminal and Juvenile Justice Systems met October 15 to discuss the Affordable Care Act and juvenile competency evaluations. 

The House Study Committee on the Use of Drones met October 14 to discuss other states’ uses of drones, drone technology and the role of the United States Federal Aviation Administration. 

The Health Care Task Force met October 13 to review options limiting enrollment in the Individual High-Risk Insurance Pool and the impact of the Affordable Care Act on the Idaho Insurance Market.

The Senate Committee on Appropriations and Financial Affairs met October 13 to discuss L.D. 212, which restores the previous cost-of-living adjustment cap of 4% for benefits received by a retired state employee, teacher, judge and legislator whose spouse received social security benefits and passed away. 

The Joint Committee on Children, Families and Persons with Disabilities met October 13 to discuss S.B. 100, which aims to reduce EBT fraud. 

The Senate Legislative Commission on Pensions and Retirement met October 13 to discuss the actuarial review of Minnesota’s retirement systems.

The Environmental Commission held a public hearing October 14 to discuss proposed regulation governing the emission reduction credit program.

The Environmental Improvement Board held a public hearing October 15 to discuss proposed amendments to air quality control regulations. 

The Assembly Standing Committee on Education held a public hearing October 14 to discuss Chronically Struggling Schools and School Receivership. 

The Senate Government Accountability and Oversight Committee met October 14 to discuss reducing the minimum number of election officials in a precinct. 

The Board of Building Codes will meet October 16 to discuss proposed amendments to ambulatory surgical center rules.

The Adult Behavioral Task Force will meet October 16 to discuss challenges concerning jails, persons with behavioral health disorders and regional variations in behavioral health outcome data. 

The Senate Committee on Transportation and Veterans Affairs held an executive session October 13 to discuss S.B. 158, which prohibits a person from driving a commercial motor vehicle while using a cellular telephone or other wireless telephone, except to report an emergency. 

The Senate Health and Human Services Committee met October 13 to discuss S.B. 272, which concerns the prescribing of pain medication by a physician or health care provider.

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