As November elections creep ever closer, let's check in on some of the sexier statehouses.
- The battle for the Kentucky House (54 D/46 R) is officially under way as the filing deadline came and went on Tuesday. Only 45 of the 100 seats will be contested this fall, and Democrats are pleased that several of their members in the increasingly conservative western part of the state will be unchallenged in November. Republicans are optimistic about their chances to win control of the state House for first time since 1921, but Democrats think the GOP fell short of fielding the candidates necessary to flip the chamber.
- A Michigan House (50 D/59 R/1 I) committee has passed a lazy oppo researcher bill (as I like to think of it, anyway). The measure would require all candidates for office to reveal any felony convictions from the previous decade when they file to run.
- Minnesota Democrats are accusing the state Republican Party of failing to report spending in 2012 state Senate (39 D/28 R) campaigns. Last year, the GOP accused the DFL of improperly coordinating with Senate candidates, a matter settled in December with a fine. Republicans are hoping to erode Democrats' majorities in the state House (73 D/61 R) and Senate this fall.
- Now that the Utah legislature is in session, the state AG is asking lawmakers to slow their roll on reactionary bills -- both pro- and anti-equality -- that could muddy the legal waters around an eventual SCOTUS ruling on the constitutionality of the state's ban on same-sex marriage.
- Speaking of marriage equality, a Republican lawmaker in Oklahoma has reacted to a court decision overturning that state's same-sex marriage ban by introducing a bill that could ban all marriages. Clever. (Not.)
- In the event that marriage remains legal in Oklahoma, another lawmaker has introduced a bill to make ending marriages more difficult. The measure would impose a six-month waiting period on couples seeking a divorce.
Fun fact: Oklahoma imposes no waiting period on gun purchases.
- Department of loose threads: And while we're still on the subject, last week I announced that HJR3, the proposed constitutional ban on same-sex marriage in Indiana, had just been maneuvered to the House (31 D/69 R) floor by Speaker Brian Bosma's scheming. As predicted, the measure passed the House, but only after language banning all civil unions was stripped from it. Now the measure must pass the state Senate (13 D/37 R).
- Theme-spotting: "Ban the box" bills are popping up all over the place this session. Versions of the measure, which would ban questions about criminal background on job applications and help ex-offenders find employment, have surfaced in Delaware, Nebraska, Virginia, and New Jersey. According to the National Employment Law Project, nine states (CA, CO, CT, HI, MA, MD, MN, NM, RI) already have "ban the box" laws (and IL has an administrative order).
- Olympic fever: The Olympics are almost upon us, so this seems like a great time to point out that Dick "Foz" Fosbury, the Olympic track and field champion who basically invented the modern, backwards high jump (the Fosbury Flop!) is running for the Idaho House of Representatives (13 D/56 R) as a Democrat.
Headline writers and sports metaphor junkies, rejoice!
And because it all comes back home in the end...
- In Virginia, the final recount results boosted Democrat Lynwood Lewis's lead in the SD06 special election from nine votes to 11. Lewis's swearing-in gave each party 20 members in the state Senate, but Democrats have an effective majority in most matters with Democratic LG Ralph Northam presiding.
- History lesson: Back in 2011, when the shoe was on the other foot, Republicans refused to enter into any kind of power-sharing agreement, despite existing precedent. Shady GOP antics (remember the re-redistricting Senate GOPers rammed through while a Democratic lawmaker and civil rights leader attended Obama's second inauguration?) followed.
- And the inevitable response: This recent GOP-set precedent emboldened Democrats to take the authority to which they were entitled as they reorganized the chamber yesterday.
The following 36 state legislatures are actively meeting this week: ALABAMA, ALASKA, ARIZONA, CALIFORNIA, COLORADO, DELAWARE, GEORGIA, HAWAII, IDAHO, INDIANA, IOWA, KANSAS, KENTUCKY, MAINE, MARYLAND, MASSACHUSETTS, MICHIGAN, MISSISSIPPI, MISSOURI, NEBRASKA, NEW HAMPSHIRE, NEW JERSEY, NEW MEXICO, NEW YORK, OHIO, PENNSYLVANIA, RHODE ISLAND, SOUTH CAROLINA, SOUTH DAKOTA, TENNESSEE, UTAH, VERMONT, VIRGINIA, WASHINGTON, WEST VIRGINIA and WISCONSIN.
Also meeting: DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, PUERTO RICO
The National Conference of State Legislatures will hold its Executive Committee and LSCC January 30-February 1 at The Omni Hotel in Austin, Texas.
The House Committee on Energy, Environment and Natural Resources held a public hearing January 27 to discuss H.B. 2226, regarding changes to the vehicle emissions inspection program.
The House Economic Development, Banking, Insurance and Commerce Committee met January 28 to discuss S.B. 6, which increases minimum wage to $8.25 per hour.
The House Economic Development, Banking, Insurance and Commerce Committee will meet January 29 to discuss H.B. 60, which relates to the direct shipment of wine in the state.
The Human Relations and Aging Committee met January 27 to discuss H.B. 290, which allows employees to use sick leave for the care of immediate family members.
The Courts and Criminal Code Committee met January 27 to discuss H.B. 1248, which would make any material, compound, mixture or preparation containing ephedrine or pseudoephedrine a schedule III controlled substance.
The House Ways and Means Committee met January 28 to discuss H.B. 63, which provides a tax exemption for the purchase of college textbooks.
Governor Deval Patrick (D) delivered his State of the Commonwealth Address January 28.
The House Environment and Agriculture Committee met January 28 to discuss multiple bills addressing an exemption from FDA labeling standards if the product is produced and remains in the state.
The House Labor, Industrial and Rehabilitative Services Committee held a hearing January 28 to discuss H.B. 1592, which requires the state to pay prevailing wages on state-funded public works projects.
A runoff election was held January 28 for House District 50, which was vacated by Mark Strama (D). Democrat Celia Israel won with 59% of the vote. Her victory gives the Texas legislature two out members for the first time.
The Senate Health and Human Services Committee met January 29 to discuss A.B. 445, which requires a person to present identification before a pharmacist may dispense a schedule II or III controlled substance.