Monday, April 18, 2016

Game of Porcelain Thrones edition

On this Tax Day Monday, behold the statehouse action!

Remember when making people pay to vote was frowned upon? A Republican lawmaker in Ohio wants voters who petition the courts to extend voting hours (because of long lines or whatever else) to pony up the cash -- which could easily amount to thousands of dollars -- to cover the additional expenses on the spot.
  • Sen. Bill Seitz's bill would require a voter to pay a cash bond to cover costs before a judge could order the polls to remain open past their normal closing time. 

Tar Heels: Although it's far from the only state in which local autonomy is being trampled and LGBT residents are being oppressed, North Carolina continues to receive the most attention.
And, frankly, it's super deserving of the high level of scorn and blowback it continues to draw. 

  • Last week, Gov. Pat McCrory issued an executive order that... well, I guess it was an attempt to placate the myriad companies and musicians and adult entertainment websites refusing to do business in the state because of the anti-LGBT provisions of HB2. 
    • ...But that's pure speculation, because Gov. McCrory's pronouncement changed only one small aspect about LGBT life in the state (while completely ignoring the legal and local government implications, since businesses don't seem to care so much about that). 
  • Because of Executive Order 93, LGBT North Carolinians who work for the state are now protected by North Carolina's non-discrimination policies. Hooray, right?
    • ... except that doesn't matter because HB2 eliminated the right to sue over a violation of state non-discrimination policies. This EO is pure lip service.
    • That loss of the ability to sue the state for discrimination is the part of the new law that's receiving the least attention, and it's just as terrible as the other, better-known aspects of HB2 (i.e., the bits forcing folks to use certain bathrooms, preventing local governments from raising local wages or establishing paid leave, and enshrining general LGBT discrimination in state law). 
      • First, barring workplace discrimination claims nullifies 30 years of common-law precedent and forces folks who've been unfairly fired to seek relief in federal courts instead.
      • The federal court system is more difficult and (typically) more expensive to navigate. 
      • Before even filing a federal suit, plaintiffs have to go through the months-long process of getting permission from the EEOC
      • After all that, plaintiffs have only 90 to file a complaint (the state court statute of limitations on such claims is three years). 
      • Just filing the complaint costs twice as much in federal court, and damages are capped at $300,000 (as opposed to no cap at the state level).
  • Gov. McCory says he's going to ask real nice for Republican lawmakers to repeal this aspect of HB2, but the state's GOP majorities have given no indication that they regret that -- or any other -- aspect of the new law. 
North Carolina's legislative session convenes on May 11. 

So many potties, so little time: GOP lawmakers are spending an awful lot of time this year legislating their way into bathrooms and taking away LGBT civil rights. 
  • An anti-transgender "bathroom bill" was making its way through the Tennessee legislature, but it seems to have stalled out in the face of pressure from businesses and entertainers operating in the state. 
      • Gov. Haslam, who's had a  front-row seat to the backlash in neighboring North Carolina, has already expressed his reticence to sign such a bill.
    • Gov. Haslam has not indicated whether he intends to veto another hateful piece of legislation sitting on his desk that would make Tennessee the only state in the nation in which therapists could refuse to treat LGBT patientsSometimes a bigoted cigar is just a bigoted cigar?
    • Speaking of Tennessee...  Late last week, Gov. Haslam vetoed a bill that would have made the Bible the official state book. 
      • This is good news, except that it might be followed soon by lousy news. 
      • You see, Tennessee lawmakers can override a governor's veto with a simple majority vote. So basically all the legislature has to do is re-pass the bill they just passed -- not exactly a heavy lift. It's less of a veto and more of a "please don't."
  • Mississippi, that chronically last-place state (in things like median household income, visits to the dentist, education, best places to live), just became ranked first in something! Too bad it's nothing to be proud of. 
    • Last week, Gov. Phil Bryant signed into law the most comprehensive anti-LGBT measure in the country. 
    • The new law explicitly protects those who discriminate against LGBT people and allows Mississippians to deny all kinds of services based on "sincerely held" religious beliefs -- from goods and services to medical treatment and employment.
I mean, this is bad. Really, really bad. 

  • A Republican in Michigan is super eager to jump on the forcing-transgender-folks-to-use-the-bathroom-of-their-birth-sex bandwagon. 
    • Sen. Tom Casperson referred to "mixing these kids together" as "not normal" and "not right." 

The Missouri Senate has misplaced its gavel. The large wooden gavel was last seen resting on the Senate dais on March 18. Until its return, Senators are making do with a "smaller, backup gavel." I bet that poor, maligned backup gavel is doing just a bang-up job. 

Sometimes their judgment is even worse than their legislatingGeorgia Republican state Rep. Tom Taylor was recently arrested for DUI. He had been pulled over for going 72 in a 45. He blew .225 on the breathalyzer. He had a gun strapped to his hip. He had four kids in the car.

File under: Stuff to keep an eye on if you're bored or into this kind of thing or whatever
A redistricting lawsuit in North Carolina went to trial last week. The plaintiffs assert that Republicans drew the state House and Senate maps to unconstitutionally dilute the influence of black voters in certain districts
No word yet on when the trio of federal judges plans to issue a ruling. 

LOL Jim Gilmore's campaign somehow racked up $291,000+ in debt. Maybe it was for badass chains.



The National Association of County and City Health Officials will hold its 2016 Public Health Preparedness Summit April 18-22 in Dallas, Texas. 

The National Association of Attorneys General will hold its Southern Regional Meeting April 18-19 in Atlanta, Georgia. 


The Legislature will adjourn sine die no later than April 23


The House Labor and Employment Committee will hold a public hearing April 20 regarding A.B. 2405, which requires employers with 25 or more employees to provide annually employees with at least 24 hours of paid time off for the ability to participate in school activities or address emergency situations at school for a child in a licensed child day care facility or in grades K-12. 

The Assembly Committee on Health will hold a public hearing April 20 regarding S.B. 1252, which requires general acute care hospitals, surgical clinics and attending physicians, as applicable, to notify patients in writing of the net costs to the patient for a medical procedure when it is scheduled to be performed. 


The deadline for each chamber to pass bills originating in its chamber is April 22


The Legislature will adjourn sine die April 19


The Legislature will adjourn sine die April 24


The Legislature will adjourn sine die April 20


A special election will be held April 19 to fill vacant seats in Assembly Districts 59, 62 and 65 and Senate District 9. 


The deadline for each chamber to pass bills originating in the opposite chamber is April 21.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Ban Everything edition

So much to talk about, so little time. To me, my Statehouse Action!

One Shining Moment... is about how long last night's pro-labor ruling in Wisconsin will stand, unfortunately. A circuit court judge ruled the state's new "right to work" law violates the Wisconsin constitution. This ruling is a big win for workers and for unions, but it's destined to be overturned by the state's solidly-Republican Supreme Court (which became a little more solidly Republican this past Tuesday, incidentally). 

Speaking of Wisconsin...

LOL the VoteWisconsin is one of the most effectively-gerrymandered states in the nation (e.g. in 2012, Democrats running for state Assembly won more votes than their GOP counterparts statewide [52%!], but they only won 39 of 99 seats). 
  • Also, some Republicans admitted publicly that Wisconsin's voter ID law was passed by GOP lawmakers in 2011 with the actual, literal intent to suppress minority and college student turnout and help Republicans get elected. But we knew that, yes?

If you can't beat them, kick them the hell out: In the continuation of a troubling trend I noted early this year, yet another GOP-controlled legislative chamber is booting reporters.
  • On Thursday, the Arizona state House banned reporters from the chamber floor -- access the media has enjoyed for at least 34 years (probably longer). 
    • To return to the House floor, reporters will have to submit to extensive background checks, which will include not just reporters' criminal and civil histories, but also their prior addresses and driving records. (Seriously, driving records??)
  • Arizona House Republicans' sudden crackdown on media access is anything but random. In fact, this new restriction appears to be targeting one reporter in particular -- a reporter who's written multiple stories critical of the GOP Speaker. 
    • In fact, earlier this year, he wrote about the Speaker's extensive travel on the state's dime for purposes apparently unrelated to his duties as an elected official (the Speaker later reimbursed the state more than $12,000). 
    • That reporter, Hank Stephenson, happens to have a conviction of second degree trespass lurking in his history (from a "bar fight").
  • Along with the invasive background check requirement, GOP House leadership also unveiled a list of specific prior offenses which would disqualify a reporter from House floor privileges. The list includes any felony within the past ten years or any misdemeanor within the past five. 
  • This list includes some exceptions, but trespass is not one of them.  
    • House Republicans claim this new ban is a result of security concerns, rather than petty retribution. Okay!
  • You'll be shocked, SHOCKED to know that those other GOP media bans smacked of petty retribution, too.
    • In Missouri, the Republican-controlled Senate voted in early January to banish reporters from their table near the front of the chamber. (A section of the upper gallery is being renovated to accommodate the media, so nice!
      • After initially trying to claim the change was needed to accommodate more staffers, the GOP Senate President Pro Tem admitted that he's still sore about reporters tweeting about conversations between lawmakers on the chamber floor last year.
    • Just a couple of weeks later, reporters in Virginia attempted to take their customary place at tables near the Senate dais as session kicked off, only to be shunted to the Senate gallery at the behest of GOP Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment. But why?
    • After weeks of negotiating, Virginia Senate reporters were again granted access to the floor, but in diminished fashion
      • Instead of two tables that seated eight reporters total, the press returned 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. 

It's time for Chaps-free bathrooms: No, I'm not talking about the leg protectors. 
  • My favorite GOP-lawmaker-by-day-internet-televangelist-by-night enjoyed a little attention from the Daily Show on Wednesday. Hooray!
    • Colorado state Rep. Gordon Klingenschmitt is a recurring figure in my column (seriously, I don't even have to check the spelling of his last name any more), earning ire and derision on topics ranging from abortion to Islam
      • On TDS, Rep. Klingenschmitt, who (un)enlightens the masses via his "Pray in Jesus Name" YouTube channel on weekends, slipped into his Dr. Chaps persona on camera to discuss his deeply bigoted transphobia. The segment is worth a watch if you haven't seen it. 
  • Also, KlingenChaps believes transgender people are possessed by demons. Seems legit.

Okay, so NOW you're mad? The hubbub in North Carolina over the GOP-controlled legislature's bathroom freakout has garnered quite a bit of attention, as has the backlash from businesses objecting to HB2, the state's newly-passed law that permits anti-LGBT discrimination and guts local government control. 
  • Over 120 companies have publicly expressed opposition to the new law, and a slew of corporate executives signed onto a letter calling on Gov. McCrory and the legislature to repeal the measure during the upcoming session. 
    • Fun fact! At least 36 of those companies have given money to groups that helped elect the GOP lawmakers responsible for HB2. The RSLC and the RGA have raked in $10.8 million from these businesses in recent election cycles. Reportedly,
Companies that have criticized HB2 have donated over $4.3 million to the RSLC since the 2010 election cycle. They include Citigroup (nearly $893,000), Pfizer (over $654,000), Google (nearly $312,000), Bank of America (over $239,000), Dow Chemical (nearly $221,000), Facebook (nearly $165,000), and SAS Institute (nearly $152,000). PayPal, which contributed $399 to the RSLC in that period, has announced that it is canceling plans to open a global operations center in Charlotte in protest of the law.
  • A sizable chunk of RSLC money flowing into the state's elections was shunted through Real Jobs N.C., a North Carolina-based super PAC. 
In the 2012 cycle, RSLC contributed $300,000 to Real Jobs...Real Jobs helped 11 Republicans win open seats, retain seats, or take out a Democratic incumbent. All remain in the General Assembly, and nine voted for HB2.

For example, Real Jobs spent over $17,000 in 2012 to help elect Bob Steinburg, a Republican representing Eastern North Carolina's House District 1 and a primary sponsor of HB2. The super PAC also spent over $49,000 benefiting Republican Rep. Michael Speciale of New Bern and more than $16,000 helping Republican Rep. Michele Presnell of Burnsville, both of whom co-sponsored HB2.
While scaling back its election spending in 2014, Real Jobs still spent close to $35,000 helping re-elect GOP Sen. Chad Barefoot of Wake County, who voted for HB2. The RSLC contributed $25,000 to Real Jobs that year.

Maybe let's just ban bathrooms: A Michigan Republican wants in on this hot potty action. 
  • When the legislature reconvenes in April, GOP Sen. Tom Casperson plans to introduce a bill requiring students to "only use bathrooms and locker rooms matching their birth" sex.
    • The bill is intended as a preemptive strike against the state Department of Education, which is drafting totally optional suggestions for supporting LGBT youth in schools. 

Ban racially-charged language! ....hey, wait, that's a good thing. 
  • The Democratic-majority Colorado House of Representatives has passed a bill that would strike the term "illegal alien" in state laws and replace it with with "undocumented worker" or "foreign national."
    • Will the bill make it through the GOP-controlled state Senate? We'll see...

BTW, #PeriodsforPence is one of the best things happening on the internet right now. (It's a creative backlash to the heinous anti-choice law signed by Indiana Gov. Pence last month, which, among other things, requires miscarried or aborted fetuses be cremated or interred.)