But all the world's a stage, and all the lawmakers merely players (42 legislatures are currently in session).
- Shakespeare In Love (with whomever he pleases): Arizona Governor Jan Brewer has vetoed that hateful bill I mentioned last week that would have allowed businesses to refuse service to same-sex couples. Similar measures are languishing in Hawaii, Idaho, Kansas, Maine, Mississippi, Ohio, South Dakota and Tennessee, but others remain alive in Missouri, Georgia, and Oklahoma, while voters in Oregon may be faced with a pro-discrimination ballot measure this fall. (h/t Amanda Terkel for a great roundup of these proposals on HuffPo.)
- Speaking of Arizona, Gov. Jan Brewer has compared her contemplation of whether or not to challenge the state's Constitution (does a term-and-a-half bump up against the two-term limit?) and run for reelection to considering "letting go of your baby." Weird. Anyway, Brewer's decision could come any day now, as she's said she'll announce around March 1.
- Meanwhile, also in Arizona, a Democrat is pushing a measure that would allow 16-year-olds to vote.
- Raging Bully: Maine Gov. Paul LePage is being called out in a federal report for pressuring state Department of Labor staff to render more employer-friendly decisions in unemployment claims appeals.
- Gov. LePage and his administration are otherwise continuing to be paragons of sound policy and leadership in the state, as they have most recently demonstrated by refusing to work with the legislature to craft a budget, lying about the impact expanding Medicaid would have on state agency funding, and pretending that the governor's epic 2011 income tax cut (the largest in state history) isn't actually impacting the finances of those state agencies.
- Also, I know my talk of "crazy legislators" is a rather tired refrain, but if you're bored, here's a little light reading about a freshman lawmaker in the state House (89 D/58 R/2 I/2 U) with a... colorful past. (He seems to think that crying Russian Olympic bear drinks blood, or something.)
- How The West Was Won (or lost?): The filing deadline for legislative candidates in New Mexico is less than two weeks away, and both Democrats and Republicans want to come out of 2014 with a majority in the state House (37 D/33 R). A slew of retirements is adding a wrinkle to both parties' plans; so far, four Democrats and two Republicans are calling it quits this year.
- The English(-only) Patient: A law making English the official state language of Georgia has been on the books for almost two decades, but one lawmaker wants to enshrine that edict in the state Constitution as well as mandate that all official state business be conducted in English.
- (Right next to) Fargo: The Minnesota legislative session just got under way this week, and hearings began today on what the House (73 D/61 R) Speaker calls a top priority -- if not the top priority -- this year: raising the state's hourly minimum wage from $6.15 to $9.50 by 2015. (If you're interested, you can totally watch members debate this and other measure in their fabulous Minnesota accents.)
- A Patch of Blue(grass): The GOP-controlled Kentucky Senate (14 D/23 R/1 I) has passed a bill that would amend the state Constitution to restore voting rights to most felons. A similar measure has already passed the Democratic-majority House (54 D/46 R), and after the differences are worked out in conference committee, it's headed to the ballot this fall for voters' ratification or rejection.
- Green Dolphin Street: Instead of begging for money to build a new stadium, the Miami Dolphins are approaching the Florida legislature with a different sort of proposal: legislation designed to combat bullying in athletics. The Safe Athletics and Training Education Act of 2014 is based on study "suggested" by Dolphins owner Stephen Ross after last year's bullying and abuse scandal.
- (Not so) Sweet Home Alabama: Lawmakers in Alabama are going after baby hosts (known to some as "women" or "mothers" or "people") and folks in need of financial assistance hard this session. The raft of anti-choice legislation I mentioned last week is moving forward, and most observers expect all the measures will pass. The legislature is also considering a welfare drug-testing bill, one that would only test those with drug convictions in the past five years.
Oh, and if any lawmakers supporting those LGBT discrimination laws head out to Hollywood this weekend for the festivities, they won't be welcome at The Abbey.
The following 42 state legislatures are in session this week: ALABAMA, ALASKA, ARKANSAS, ARIZONA, CALIFORNIA, CONNECTICUT, COLORADO, DELAWARE, GEORGIA, HAWAII, IDAHO, ILLINOIS, INDIANA, IOWA, KANSAS, KENTUCKY, MAINE, MARYLAND, MASSACHUSETTS, MICHIGAN, MINNESOTA, MISSISSIPPI, MISSOURI, NEBRASKA, NEW HAMPSHIRE, NEW JERSEY, NEW YORK, OHIO, OKLAHOMA, OREGON, PENNSYLVANIA, RHODE ISLAND, SOUTH CAROLINA, SOUTH DAKOTA, TENNESSEE, UTAH, VERMONT, VIRGINIA, WASHINGTON, WEST VIRGINIA, WISCONSIN and WYOMING.
Also meeting: DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, PUERTO RICO.
The Democratic Governors Association will hold its Annual Winter Policy Conference February 28-March 1, in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
The National Association of Counties will hold its Annual Legislative Conference March 1-5 at The Washington Hilton Hotel, in Washington, DC.
The House Education Policy Committee met February 26 to discuss H.B. 507, which relates to climate change and its impact on the state.
The Senate Judiciary Committee and the Senate Banking and Financial Institutions Committee met February 25 to discuss an agenda titled "Beyond the Breach: Protecting Consumers' Personal Information in the Retail Environment."
The House Education Committee met February 24 to discuss H.B. 1131, which addresses online harassment.
The General Law Committee met February 25 to discuss H.B. 5258 relating to food safety standards.
The Pollution Control Board accepted comments through February 24 regarding proposed amendments to drinking water regulations related to laboratory testing of drinking water samples.
The Senate Commerce, Economic Development and Technology Committee met February 24 to discuss H.B. 1139, which would prohibit a person from selling, leasing or renting a hearing aid unless the hearing aid has been fitted and adjusted by a hearing aid dealer who has been issued a certificate of registration or is a licensed audiologist.
The Senate Pensions and Labor Committee met February 26 to discuss H.B. 1242, which prohibits discrimination against a prospective employee based on their veteran status.
The House Economic Matters Committee met February 25 to discuss H.B. 949, which establishes a training wage of $7.25 per hour for an employee hired by an employer for the first time and applies to employers with 100 or fewer employees.
The Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee met February 25 to discuss S.B. 707, which would require a store to charge a $0.05 fee for each disposable carryout bag the store provides a customer.
The Legislature convened its 2014 Legislative Session February 25.
Voter ID bill HB 1073 passed the House Rules Committee. This bill would require all voters to show government-issued photo ID to vote. It would become effective upon voter approval of a constitutional amendment that authorizes the General Assembly to enact photo voter ID requirements.
Voter ID bill HJR 47 passed the House Rules Committee. This bill submits to the qualified voters of Missouri an amendment to article VIII of the Constitution of Missouri to require photo ID to vote.
Voter Registration bill LB 661 is adopted by Government, Military, and Veterans Affairs Committee. This bill requires the secretary of state and the Department of Motor Vehicles to develop and implement a registration application process to allow citizens to register to vote or update voter registration records electronically through the secretary's Web site. Citizens with a valid Nebraska driver's license or state ID may use the application process to register to vote using their signature on file with the DMV. Anyone who knowingly submits a false application is guilty of a Class IV felony.
The Assembly Labor Committee met February 25 to discuss A.B. 443, which prohibits an employer from requesting that an employee or applicant disclose any means for accessing an electronic personal account or service.
Early Voting bill SB 238 was signed by the governor. This bill shortens the availability of early voting from the 35th day before the election to the first day after the close of voter registration, effectively ending "Golden Week," during which citizens may register to vote and cast an early ballot. The bill also shortens the availability of mail-in absentee ballots to the same time period, except for military and overseas voters.
The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee met February 25 to discuss S.C.R. 25, a measure to urge state agencies to use green building rating systems for their new buildings.
A special election was held February 25 for House District 49, vacated by Lisa Baldelli-Hunt (D). Democrat Michael Morin defeated any number of write-in candidates to win the seat.
The Senate State and Local Government Committee held a hearing February 25 to discuss S.B. 1759, which encourages the purchase of energy efficient alternative fuel state vehicles.
The House Transportation Subcommittee met February 26 to discuss H.B. 2301, which relates to texting and driving.
Election Day Registration bill HB 156 was first read and introduced. This bill amends provisions of the Election Code by establishing a pilot project to test the advisability of implementing election day voter registration in Utah.
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