Forty legislatures are in session this week, and lawmakers are going H.A.M. with all sorts of antics. Here's the hits collection.
- Run This Town: Did you know that there's another terrible thing happening in Michigan that's not the Flint water crisis?
- This other horror with a disproportionate impact on children of color is the deplorable condition of Detroit's public schools -- schools that (until two days ago) were being "emergency managed" by none other than Darnell Earley, who you may remember from his last job, which involved switching the Flint water supply to lead-poisoned garbage as the city's appointed Emergency Manager.
- How bad are Detroit's public schools, you ask? Well, how do you feel about rodent and roach infestations, moldy walls, leaky ceilings, buckled flooring, broken windows, and exposed wires, just for starters?
- Detroit's school teachers have filed a lawsuit arguing that school conditions are so unsafe and unhealthy that students' rights to a "minimally adequate education" are being violated.
The situation is so egregious that People magazine did a story on it. I mean, seriously.
- Detroit's teachers have resorted to staging sick-outs to draw attention to and protest the conditions.
- Even Gov. Snyder is proposing a legit-sounding plan to rescue the school system, because maybe he figures he's ruined enough kids' lives already.
- Republican lawmakers, however, would rather exploit the situation to attack teachers and teachers unions than actually address the problems facing the schools. (Fun fact: The teachers unions had nothing to do with organizing the sick-out protests.)
- Republicans have proposed legislation that would fine teachers and union leaders for each day of a sick-out or strike, mandate a two-year suspension of teaching certificates of those found to have participated, and decertify local teachers unions.
Your Michigan GOP: We'd rather punish teachers than get the rats and black mold out of your school.
- Gotta Have It: Last summer, Arizona Republicans failed -- yet again -- to to usurp the nonpartisan redistricting process established by the state's voters in 2000. Since the U.S. Supreme Court shut down the GOP's efforts to return redistricting to the hands of the GOP-controlled legislature, lawmakers have concocted yet another scheme designed to eliminate the Independent Redistricting Commission (IRC).
- The measure that's just passed the House Elections Committee seeks to amend the state constitution to replace the IRC with a commission whose members would run for the office, just like any other politician.
- Whatever your feelings are about partisan elections for the sole purpose of drawing new state and congressional district lines, the most troubling part of this proposal is that it would permit elected officials, candidates, and even lobbyists to serve on this new redistricting commission.
- Currently, Republican and Democratic party leaders each choose two members of the commission; those four commissioners must agree on a fifth, independent commissioner to head the group. None of the members can be elected officials, candidates for office, or registered lobbyists.
- Republicans are also still wrangling their lawsuit claiming that the IRC illegally drew district lines favoring Democrats. It will be heard by SCOTUS this year; a three-judge federal panel has already rejected the claim.
So weird how lines that allegedly favor Democrats still resulted in GOP majorities in the legislature and congressional delegation.
- Get This Money: Crazy New Hampshire Republicans may be a dime a dozen, but that doesn't mean they shouldn't be called out when they do or say terrible, bigoted things.
- Rep. Ken Weyler is co-sponsoring a bill that would prohibit "any member of a foreign terrorist organization from receiving public assistance, medical assistance, or food stamps."
If you've identified members of a terrorist organization in your state, is the issue really whether or not they're getting food stamps? Just asking...
- The bill itself is weird and paranoid, but what really takes the hate cake is Rep. Weyler's submitted testimony supporting the the legislation.
- According to Weyler,
- "Giving public benefits to any person or family that practices Islam is aiding and abetting the enemy. That is treason."
- "[Islam] is an ideology posing as a religion."
- "Islam is intolerant and deceitful, and its adherents are ordered to overthrow our way of life and replace it with 'sharia' law."
These are seriously direct quotes from Weyler's testimony. Check it out in full if you don't mind your brain trying to escape through your ears a little.
- Weyler sort of had something kind of nice to say about some Muslims, except...not.
- "We have Muslims in our community who are working hard to be economically successful. I do not believe that they represent a threat, but if one does not have to be responsible for what all the rest of us do to support ourselves, then 'The Devil has work for idle hands.'
- So who's going to be "responsible" for what this Weyler chap does to "support" himself (which is use his position as an elected official to air paranoid bigoted theories about Muslims, apparently)?
Maybe his hands could stand to spend a little more time idling instead of writing nonsense like this.
- Who You Wit: On Wednesday, all the Republicans on a Florida House subcommittee approved the "Prevention of Acts of War" bill, which prohibits government employees (and anyone receiving state assistance, like Medicare) from helping resettle immigrants or refugees from countries where "invaders" live or train.
- If you're an immigrant who's not from a country on the "invaders" list but you've been near such a country, sorry, you're still a "restricted person," and the governor would be authorized to use military force to stop you from, um, invading Florida in your nefarious quest for refuge.
- But wait! Were you born in the Western Hemisphere? You're in luck! The bill makes an exception for you!
- Show Me What You Got: Republican lawmakers in Indiana really don't want you to see their emails.
- The House Republican Caucus and GOP Rep. Eric Koch (no relation... I think?) are battling the Energy and Policy Institute, Citizens Action Coalition, and Common Cause Indiana over whether or not official legislator emails (not campaign, not private) with industry lobbyists are subject to the Access to Public Records Act.
- A recent SCOTUS decision seems to indicate that they are.
- What's extra great about this is that taxpayer dollars are paying for outside counsel to represent the Indiana Republicans in their noble quest to conceal their communications with energy lobbyists pertaining to energy legislation.
- This attorney is racking up billable hours by arguing that the Indiana House of Representatives is not a "public agency."
- Run This Town: Republicans in the Mississippi legislature demonstrated their general contempt for democracy and government last month when they overturned a Democratic representative's victory in a state House race to seat a fellow GOPer -- just because they could.
- Now they seem to think less governance is better -- literally. As a cost-saving measure, the Mississippi legislature is cutting two weeks from its session (from four months to three and a half).
- But this could actually be a good thing! Now the GOP-controlled chamber has less time to waste on attacking public schools, undermining LGBT rights, and establishing firing squads as a method of execution. Maybe.
- Guess Who's Back: Remember when the "menacing short guy" who runs the Virginia state Senate evicted the press from the Senate floor last month? Well, after weeks of public shaming in the media and by members of both parties, GOP Majority Leader Tommy Norment relented... more or less.
- Instead of two tables that seated eight reporters total, the press returns to the Senate floor with six little leaf desks (like the ones you used to have to put up with in school) that no longer have access to electrical outlets for laptops and such.
- But Sen. Norment wasted little time in embarrassing himself again. He tried to sneak a $700,000 taxpayer-funded increase in his office allowance and staff (and a tiny pay raise for his Senate colleagues) into five little-noticed amendments in the commonwealth's $109 billion budget proposal.
- Reporters are smarter than Sen. Norment seems to give them credit for, though, and three of them tried to ask Norment about the proposals this week. The Republican Senate leader simply walked away.
- Girls, Girls, Girls: Last Friday marked the seventh anniversary of President Obama signing the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act into law. To mark the occasion, an effort coordinated by SiX saw the introduction of bills aimed at remedying gender pay inequality in 24 states.
- The push for pay equity is a key fight for progressives, and these measures are moving forward in states like Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Maryland, Vermont and Hawaii -- all of which have Democratic majorities in their state legislatures.
- But states like Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Missouri, Kansas, Iowa, Virginia, and Colorado? GOP majorities in one or both chambers of these statehouses are almost certain to kill these excellent bills.
- It's worth pointing out that, while having a Democratic governor certainly helps good progressive measures like these, equal pay has to survive two legislative chambers before any state's governor even gets a good look at the bill (with the exception of Nebraska, of course).
The path to gender pay equity? More Democratic majorities in state legislatures. Period.
The following 40 state legislatures are meeting actively this week: ALABAMA, ALASKA, ARIZONA, CALIFORNIA, COLORADO, CONNECTICUT, FLORIDA, GEORGIA, HAWAII, IDAHO, ILLINOIS, INDIANA, IOWA, KANSAS, KENTUCKY, MAINE, MARYLAND, MASSACHUSETTS, MICHIGAN, MISSISSIPPI, MISSOURI, NEBRASKA, NEW HAMPSHIRE, NEW JERSEY, NEW MEXICO, NEW YORK, OHIO, OKLAHOMA, OREGON, PENNSYLVANIA, RHODE ISLAND, SOUTH CAROLINA, SOUTH DAKOTA, TENNESSEE, UTAH, VERMONT, VIRGINIA, WASHINGTON, WEST VIRGINIA and WISCONSIN.
Also meeting: DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, GUAM, PUERTO RICO andUNITED STATES VIRGIN ISLANDS.
The Conference of Western Attorneys General will hold its Digital Currency Symposium February 4-5 in Park City, Utah.
The Legislature convened for the 2016 legislative session February 2.
Governor Robert Bentley (R) delivered the State of the State address February 2.
The deadline to introduce bills in the House was February 1.
The State Water Resources Board held a board meeting February 2 to consider the extension of the emergency Water Conservation Regulation.
The Joint Budget Committee meets February 1-5 to discuss Governor John Hickenlooper’s (D) FY 2016-2017 budget proposals.
The House Committee on Health, Insurance and Environment met February 2 to discuss S.B. 2, which directs the Secretary of State to submit to voters, at the November 2016 statewide election, the question of whether the state health benefit exchange can impose a tax to support its ongoing operations.
The deadline to introduce bills in the House was February 3.
The Legislature convened for the 2016 legislative session February 3.
Governor Dan Malloy (D) delivered the State of the State address February 3.
The deadline to introduce bills in the House and Senate is February 5.
The deadline for each chamber to pass bills originating in its chamber was February 3.
The deadline to introduce bills in the Senate is February 5.
The House Public Works and Highway Committee met February 2 to consider H.B. 1568, which requires each person registering a vehicle powered by alternate energy sources to prepay road toll fees at the time of registration of the vehicle.
Governor Maggie Hassan (D) will deliver the State of the State address February 4.
The deadline to introduce bills in the House and Senate was February 3.
The Legislature convened for the 2016 legislative session February 1.
Governor Mary Fallin (R) delivered the State of the State address February 1.
The Legislature convened for the 2016 legislative session February 1.
The deadline to introduce individual bills in the House and Senate is February 4.
The deadline to introduce committee bills in the House and Senate is February 5.
Governor Bill Haslam (R) delivered the State of the State address February 1.
The deadline to introduce bills in the House and Senate is February 4.
The deadline to pass bills out of committee in the chamber of origin, excluding the House fiscal committees and the Senate Ways & Means and Transportation Committees, is February 5.