Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Objects In State Are Larger Than They Appear edition

Did you realize it's almost Election Day? No, really, this isn't some copy-and-paste error. Two pretty big elections are being held on Tuesday, November 19, though they may seem small at first glance. 
  • New Mexico: Albuquerque voters will go to the polls next Tuesday to fill a vacancy on the city council and to decide on whether to ban abortions after 20 weeks. New Mexico Politics with Joe Manahan reported Friday that their exclusive poll shows that 56.3% of likely city voters oppose the proposed ban, 37.4% support it, with 6.4% undecided. Pro-choice groups have had ads up on TV since late October, and supporters of the 20-week ban just went up this week. A record number of early votes have already been cast.
  • Iowa: Voters in Senate District 13 will go to the polls on Tuesday to replace a Republican who resigned amid allegations of ethics rules violations. If former Rep. Mark Davitt wins, Democrats will have shored up their one-seat majority in the chamber just a bit in advance of the 2014 elections. If Republican state Rep. Julian Garrett wins, Senate Democrats will maintain their slight 26-24 edge.
Fun fact! The Iowa state Senate is arguably the biggest offensive opportunity for Republicans/biggest defensive priority for Democrats in 2014. Half of the chamber will be up for election, and these members will be running for the first time in their redrawn post-redistricting districts. If Republicans were to win a majority in the chamber, they would have a "trifecta" -- GOP control over the state House, Senate, and governor's mansion -- and a deluge of ultra-conservative legislation currently kept at bay by Sen. Mike Gronstal's Democratic majority would flood through.

Why electing Democrats to state legislatures is ridiculously important, part bajillion and three: Anti-choice activists in Michigan appear to have collected a sufficient number of signatures to get a law on the books that would require insurance companies to offer abortion coverage only through a separate rider to a customer’s policy. If at least 258,088 of the 315,477 submitted signatures are valid, the petitions move to the state Board of Canvassers and on to the legislature, which has 40 calendar days to approve or reject them. If the petitions are approved by the legislature, the measure automatically becomes law – Gov. Snyder will have no authority to review or veto it. If the legislature takes no action or rejects the petitions, the issue will go to the voters in November 2014. (The legislature is widely expected to approve the measure.)

Bottom line: Last year's holiday season legislative surprise in Michigan was a so-called "right to work" law. This year, it'll likely be a gender-discriminatory requirement for women to plan ahead and pay out-of-pocket for unforeseeable circumstances like, say, a pregnancy endangering a mother's life, or a rape resulting in pregnancy.

Fun fact, part 2! The Michigan House may be one of Democrats' best offensive opportunities on the state level in 2014. Democrats are six seats away from a majority in the 110-seat chamber. All 110 seats are up for election, and 12 Democrats and 16 Republicans are term-limited, so about a quarter of these elections will be for open seats. Oh, and there's a hot governor's race at the top of the ticket. Watch for lots of money to be spent in this fine state next year.

Also, do you like your turkey with a side of court filings? Look for the Virginia AG race recount to kick off on Nov. 26. Get excited!

For the Week of November 13, 2013

The following 7 state legislatures are actively meeting this week: MICHIGANNEW HAMPSHIRENEW JERSEYOHIOPENNSYLVANIAWASHINGTON and WISCONSIN.


Women in Government will hold their Annual Healthcare Summit November 13-16 in Washington, DC. 

The Republican Legislative Campaign Committee will hold a Policy Retreat November 14-15 in Washington, DC.

The National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators will hold its National Summit November 14-16 in Orlando, Florida.

The Republican Governors Association will host a DC Discussion Luncheon November 14 in Washington, D.C.


A special runoff primary election was held November 12 for a January 14, 2014, special election in Senate District 21. 


The Assembly Committee on Labor and Senate Committee on Labor and Industrial Relations held a joint hearing November 13 to discuss wage levels in the fast food industry, and the impact it has on workers and safety net programs.

Prefiling bills for the 2014 legislative session

Voter Registration bill HB 179 was referred to Ethics and Elections Subcommittee; Transportation and Economic Development Appropriations Subcommittee; and State Affairs Committee. This bill authorizes the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles to automatically register to vote or update voter registration records of eligible individuals. An applicant may revoke consent to automatically register to vote or update voter registration record. 


The Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies met November 13 to consider S.B. 168, which establishes a commission to investigate and study video games as a form of media and training tool. 


The Advisory Council for Virtual Learning will meet November 14 to discuss digital learning opportunities for students, and begin preparing a report for the General Assembly.


The House Oversight Committee met November 12 to discuss H.B. 4001, which lowers the required payments to government entities for access to public records. 

The Public Service Commission will meet November 14 to review an investigation into the electric and natural gas universal system benefits programs.


The Health Care Reform Review Committee met November 13 to discuss the immediate needs and challenges of the North Dakota health care delivery system, and the feasibility of developing a plan for a private health care model that will comply with the federal Affordable Care Act. 


The House Finance Committee held a hearing November 12 to discuss S.S.H.B. 1, which addresses the expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.


The Senate Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Committee met November 13 to discuss the heroin and prescription drug epidemic on Long Island, and its impact on Long Island's youth.


The Senate Finance Committee met November 12-13 to discuss amendments to S.B. 206, which creates program oversight for the Medicaid program. 

Absentee Voting bill SB 205 passed the Senate (22-11). This bill permits the secretary of state to mail unsolicited applications for absent voter's ballots only in even-numbered years and only if the General Assembly has made an appropriation for that purpose, among other provisions.


The House Education Committee will hold a hearing November 14 to discuss H.B. 1722, which bases teacher furloughs on teacher performance.

The House Labor and Industry Committee will hold a hearing November 14 to discuss H.B. 298, which extends family medical leave benefits to siblings, grandparents and grandchildren. 


The special session is scheduled to adjourn November 15.

Voter Registration bill HB 1267 was reintroduced and retained in present status. This bill would extend the deadline for online voter registration, ending eight days before an election instead of 11. A registered voter may update their registration 29 days before election day (currently, it is 28 days). 

Youth Voting bill HB 1279 was reintroduced and retained in present status. This bill establishes the Young Voter Registration Equality Act. The bill allows eligible citizens who are at least sixteen years of age to preregister to vote. Such individuals would be automatically registered to vote and eligible to cast a ballot upon turning 18 years of age.

Voter ID bill HB 1317 was reintroduced and retained in present status. This omnibus bill makes several changes to voting procedures at polling places, including voter ID. This bill would establish a photo voter ID requirement to vote in person or by mail. ID must be government-issued. Student ID and public assistance ID are accepted for voting purposes. First-time mail voters must provide identification at the time of registering to vote or provide ID to the county auditor at any time prior to the mailing of ballots, otherwise, the voter must vote in person. Voters with religious objections to being photographed may complete an affidavit in lieu of providing photo ID to vote. All other voters without required ID must vote a provisional ballot and present proper ID to an election official within five days of the election. 


Absentee Voting bill AB 54 was heard November 12 at 9:00 a.m. by the Assembly Committee on Campaigns and Elections. This bill would eliminate the opportunity to vote after 5 p.m. or on weekends during the early voting period. The offered substitute would allow voters to request weekend "appointments" to vote early. 

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