Monday, May 6, 2013

A Good Day to Sine Die edition

Nothing gold can stay, and so many state legislative sessions are drawing -- or have already drawn -- to a close. 
Alaska, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Mississippi, Montana, New Mexico, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, and Wyoming are all effectively done with their lawmaking for the year, and this week HawaiiNorth Dakota, and Florida will all be gavelled into memory. Iowa's session was supposed to end this week, too, but lawmakers will continue to work even after their paychecks stop coming this Friday to resolve the pressing policy issues that remain.

So what havoc has been wrought thus far this year? Some highlights:
  • Alaska: Republicans had "trifecta" control for the first time in years, and they used their new power to push through huge tax breaks for oil companies. But they failed to come to an agreement on a multiyear education funding package. 
  • Georgia: The successful big bills of the session included juvenile justice reform, ethic reform, and.... coin operated video game regulation. Big Buck Hunter needs oversight, or something.
  • Idaho: State lawmakers passed measures creating a health exchange under Obamacare, but they failed to expand Medicaid. They also legalized the sale of beer kegs smaller than five gallons, and they told Turkey to stop using the name of their fair state on Turkish products. Seriously, a Turkish company tried to trademark "Idaho." For some reason.
  • Indiana: Republican supermajorities succeeded in further expanding the state's voucher program to funnel more public dollars to private schools, and they passed a 5 percent income tax cut (Gov. Pence pushed hard for 10). They failed, however, to pass bills requiring welfare recipients to take drug tests and prohibiting animal rights activists from surreptitiously recording videos at farms (Undercover Hoss?).
  • Kentucky: The GOP-majority Senate and Democratic-majority House came together to pass items including a regulatory framework for hemp growing (should the federal ban be lifted) and reforms to liquor laws that, among other things, finally permit the sale of alcohol on Election Day. (Bourbon and voting, like peas and carrots.) Gov. Beshear likely will call the legislature back into special session later this year to revisit redistricting, which has remained an issue in the state since the Kentucky Supreme Court rejected the 2012 maps in a lawsuit brought by the House GOP and a lone Democratic Senator.
  • Maryland: Gov. O'Malley and the Democratic majorities in the legislature were busy this year. They passed gun control laws, a gas tax hike to find transportation, and repealed the death penalty. Maybe they're planning a moon mission next year.
  • Mississippi: GOP majorities in the state failed to fund Medicaid, passed a bill prohibiting localities from limiting sizes of soft drinks or requiring restaurants to post nutrition info (yes, it becomes law in the most obese state in the nation July 1), passed a likely-unconstitutional law aimed at permitting student-led prayer and other religious expressions at public school events (think football games and morning announcements), and enabled privatization of functions normally handled by the state Department of Human Services. 
  • Montana: The GOP-controlled legislature failed to expand Medicaid, but they expanded wolf hunting, and they reformed education funding, too. They bypassed Gov. Bullock's likely veto on measures to end Election Day voter registration by sending it to the 2014 ballot. Gov. Bullock says he signed a law requiring minors to get parental consent before obtaining an abortion so it can be challenged in court. Seems like undue hardship to me, but I'm just a lady and can't think on weekends and holidays (seeSouth Dakota, below), so what do I know?
  • New Mexico: The Democratic legislature passed and Republican Governor signed a law exemptingspacecraft parts suppliers from liability lawsuits. Some other stuff got passed, too. The Governor vetoed a bill that would have helped families of gay soldiers and signed an identical bill that applied to straight soldiers' spouses. 
  • South Dakota: The GOP governing trifecta made it legal to arm teachers in classrooms and told ladies that weekends and holidays don't count when they're waiting to obtain an abortion.
  • Tennessee: The legislature had their shortest session in about 20 years, but during that short time, theypassed bills that prohibit animal rights activists from surreptitiously recording videos at farms, arm teachers in schools, and allow college student groups to discriminate. But they did it efficiently.
  • Washington: Although lawmakers have to return soon for a special session to take care of little leftovers like the state budget, transportation issues, and education funding. But during their regular session they did manage to protect workers from being social media-stalked by their bosses. So that's good.
  • West Virginia: Lawmakers passed measures aimed at improving the state's public education system and to ease prison overcrowding. I feel like these issues could be connected somehow...
  • Wyoming: You can now totally speed while passing a vehicle on a two-lane highway, because I know you weren't before, and  you can shoot just two extra elk per season, but you'll get reimbursed when the state vet says you have to put down your cow. Moo-lah! (Sorry.)
In other news, 
  • A so-called "right to work" push was resurrected by Ohio House Republicans, but if you blinked, youmissed it. Senate Republicans drove a stake through its heart just a few hours later. 
  • Nebraska's governor just signed a bill reducing the number of early voting days.
  • GOP lawmakers in South Carolina are trying to reduce the number of days during which voters can cast ballots by eliminating their month-long in-person absentee voting window and replacing it with a nine day early voting period. Sneaky!
Bill of the Week: The honor goes a just-vetoed bill in Arizona that would have made gold and silver legal tender in the state, just in case our economy and entire civilization collapses, or something. I know these legal tender bills have been popping up all over the country for the past three years, but they crack me up every time.

Less sexy stuff below.

For the Week of May 2, 2013


The American Legislative Exchange Council will hold its Spring Task Force Summit May 2-3 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. 

The National Conference of State Legislatures will hold its Spring Forum May 2-4 in Denver, Colorado. 


List Maintenance bill HB 460 was engrossed. This bill would require a county board of registrars to notify all persons who are purged from the voter registration list at the time their name is removed from the list.


The Board of Marital and Family Therapy will hold a public board meeting May 3 to discuss possible rules amendments concerning the practice of cyber therapy.


Felon Voting Rights bill AB 149 was re-referred to the Committee on Appropriations. This bill requires each county jail and state prison to provide each inmate with a voter registration form and most recent version of the secretary of state's voting rights guide for incarcerated persons. 

Voter Registration bill AB 1170 was scheduled to be read a first time. This bill would require county elections officials to cancel the voter registrations of voters who fail to respond to an address verification mailing sent between the date of the mailing and the two federal elections after the date of the mailing. Address verification mailings are sent in response to change-of-address data received from the United States Postal Service or consumer credit reportage agency. 

Voter Registration bill SB 44 was read a second time. This bill requires all state Web sites to include a link to electronic voter registration. 


The House Judiciary Committee will meet April 30 to discuss S.B. 123, which provides that a pardon issued by Governor John Hickenlooper (D) waives all collateral consequences associated with each conviction for which the person received a pardon, unless that pardon limits the scope regarding collateral consequences.

Youth Voting bill HB 1135 was signed by the Speaker of the House. This bill would allow 17-year-old citizens who will be 18 by the next election to preregister to vote. 

Omnibus Election bill HB 1303 was referred to the to Legislative Council. This bill provides same day registration at a voting center. Additionally, this bill provides mail ballot elections; requires county clerks to establish a minimum number of voter service and polling centers; and reduces the residency requirement to register to vote from 30 days to 22 days. It repeals the category of voter inactivity that is triggered by a voter's failure to vote and makes all such voters active. This bill creates the Colorado voter access and modernized elections commission to evaluate and implement the bill and assess systems used in these state for voting and registration. 


Early Voting bill SB 4 was reported out of the Legislative Commissioners' Office. This bill would provide for early voting for regular state elections and ensure that no voter stands in line for longer than 15 minutes before being permitted to cast his or her ballot. 

Voter ID bill SB 777 was reported out of the Legislative Commissioners' Office. This bill would allow "poll workers to identify voters by using the bar code on the back of their state issued driver's license or identification card, provided, if a voter does not have a state issued identification or driver's license or for whatever reason the barcode cannot be read, the poll worker shall employ the manual method of looking up the voter on the voter rolls." 


The Legislature is scheduled to adjourn sine die May 2.  


The Senate Transportation Committee will meet April 30 to consider H.B. 1247, which outlines the communication devices allowed to be used by drivers while operating a motor vehicle.


Omnibus Election bill SB 518 was signed by the Speaker. Among many other changes, this bill makes changes concerning standards for the selection of polling places, and the procedures for providing proof of identification and the processing of absentee ballot applications. Absentee voting begins 28 days (rather than 29 days) before the election and a county resolution to establish satellite offices expires on the January 1 following its adoption. This bill establishes penalties for certain election law violations, and amends the definition of "electioneering" within the polling place and chute. 

Omnibus Election bill SB 519 was signed by the President Pro Tempore. Under this omnibus bill, establishes at 10-day turnaround period to submit completed applications. If a person receives a completed application that the person believes is fraudulent, he or she must submit it to the county election board within 10 days with a sworn statement. 


The Joint Committee on Public Health will meet April 30 to discuss H.B. 1948, which provides that the examination of birth records may not be permitted except upon request from specified individuals.

A special primary election will be held April 30 for Senate District 1.

The Joint Health Care Financing Committee will hold a hearing April 30 to discuss S.B. 519, which requires comparable access to behavioral health services in the MassHealth program.


The House Tax Policy Committee will meet May 1 to consider H.B. 4202, which subjects online retailers to the state sales tax.


Voter ID bill HB 589 passed the House and was first read in the Senate. This bill would require voters to provide photo identification before voting a regular ballot. Those without ID may vote a provisional ballot, but must later show ID to the county board before the convening of the election canvas. 

List Maintenance bill HB 734 is scheduled to be heard May 1 by the House Elections Committee at 1:00 p.m. This bill would require the state board of elections to enter into data sharing agreements with other states regarding information on voting records and voter registration. 


The Legislature is scheduled to adjourn sine die May 3.


Voter ID bill SB 125 was signed by the governor. This bill specifies voter ID requirements to allow for any government-issued photo ID to be used for voting purposes, particularly government employee cards. It removes the option of using a library card to vote. 


The Department of Ecology will hold a Puget Sound Stormwater Working Group stakeholder workshop May 1 to discuss work plan implementation and source identification.

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