Thursday, July 24, 2014

Sellout edition

It was tough to get through a week without you, dear reader, but I made it, and it's statehouse action time. Because it's always statehouse action time. SO MUCH STATEHOUSE ACTION, ALL THE TIME. Really, if this email had a sponsor, it could totally be Red Bull.

Hrmmm.... Sponsor...

Anyway, yesterday alone, two major state stories popped hard
And speaking of hot court action...
  • Hobby Lobby was going to sponsor this item, but it, ah, pulled out: Down-ballot Democrats in Ohio are going to remind voters which party stands up for women's health in the wake of that Hobby Lobby SCOTUS decision. Democratic women in the state House and Senate are introducing the "Not My Boss's Business Act" (a bill bearing a striking resemblance to the one that failed in the U.S. Senate last week). The measure would prohibit employers from offering insurance that doesn't cover all forms of FDA-approved contraception.
    • Reality check, brought to you by A.C. Moore: Does this bill have a snowball's chance of passing this year? Hell, no. But it'll help remind women what's at stake at the ballot box in the fall.
      • Speaking of attempts to counter recent SCOTUS decisions, in the wake of the ruling that struck down a law mandating a 25-foot buffer zone around abortion clinics, Democrats in Massachusetts are just about to pass a slightly tweaked version of those zones, since Kevlar and Bose noise-canceling headphones don't come cheap. 
        • They'd best hurry; the legislative session is set to wrap up next week. 
  • Coathanger manufacturers, rich forever...since they may seen an unfortunate uptick in demand in coming years if a certain Tennessee ballot measure passes this November. 
    • Once upon a time in 2000, the Tennessee Supreme Court found that language the state's Constitution provides women an even stronger right to obtain an abortion than the wording of the U;S. Constitution. Fourteen years later, state lawmakers are still aching for the power to deprive women of the right to make their own healthcare decisions, and those legislators are hoping voters will hook them up by approving Amendment 1, because what makes us so special, anyway?
      • The folks behind the "Yes on 1" ballot measure campaign have raised $518,000 of their $2.1 million goal; the "Vote No on 1" supporters of abortion rights have pulled in $360,000 of their $4 million goal.
        • The contest seems like jump ball at this point. According to a recent Vanderbilt University poll, respondents split "pro-life"/"pro-choice" 48/45, but only 23 percent wanted to give state lawmakers "more power to regulate abortions."
  • Family dysfunction, brought to you by the American Psychological Association: ...conceivably, if the APA were some sort of commercial enterprise. Because if a ballot measure in North Dakota is successful this fall, lots of kids are going to need some serious therapy. 
    • This ballot measure essentially places a presumption that both parents should get equal physical custody above the essential consideration in all custody cases: the best interests of the child
      • Because everyone knows that forcing a child to shuttle between two homes/two schools/two towns/two doctors/two sets of friends (if s/he's in one place long enough to make any) is obviously in the best interest of the child. What are you, some nagging ex-wife who expects the father to pay child support OMG STOP TAKING THINGS AWAY FROM MEN AND GET BACK IN THE KITCHEN WOMAN!?@#!!1! 
        • Because that's really what this is all about. The "fathers' rights movement" is an insidious offshoot of the "men's rights movement." Courts giving custody preference to mothers is demonstrably a thing of the past
          • When men seek primary physical custody in a disputed divorce, 50% get it. In 51% of cases, both parents agree -- on their own, without involvement of the courts -- that the mother become the custodial parent. 
          • In fact, 91% of child custody after divorce is decided without any interference from a court at all. 
      • Fun fact! This ballot measure, should it become law, will actually make it harder to deny custody to abusive fathers (law nerds! Check out section (j), second sentence: credible evidence < clear and convincing evidence, which is what the new law will require to rebut "the presumption of fitness as a parent"). 
      • Funner fact! North Dakotans rejected a similar measure back in 2006. 
  • You, too, can buy your own statehouse! long as you spend ALL THE MONEY on state legislative elections (which really is a bargain as far as political spending goes, but that's another conversation for another time). 
    • North Carolina's Art Pope achieved notoriety when he effectively bankrolled the GOP takeover of that state's legislature in 2010. Now Missouri's Rex Sinquefield, discontent with the massive Republican majorities already existing in his state's legislature, wants to buy himself a GOP statehouse that agrees with him on ALL THE THINGS. 
      • Republican lawmakers who sided with Gov. Jay Nixon in his veto of an income tax cut bill (that benefits wealthy folks the most and places education funding and the state's AAA bond rating in jeopardy, but whateverare being attacked by the Sinquefield-funded Missouri Club for Growth in advance of the August 5 primary. 
        • Fun fact! GOP lawmakers successfully overrode Gov. Nixon's veto of the tax cut bill. That's right -- Sinquefield got what he wanted, and he's going after Republicans who disagreed with him anyway
  • Brought to you by the U.S. Postal Service, technically: Fundamentalist LDS leader Warren Jeffs may be serving a life + 20-year prison sentence for sexually assaulting children, but he's apparently found a way to spend his time: snail-mail spamming members of the Utah legislature. 
  • Must Be The Sunshine: If you were hoping to book that Florida re-redistricting getaway before the this fall's elections, you're probably out of luck. In a Thursday hearing over whether the state's congressional maps should be redrawn before November 4, the judge remarked that he was "extremely skeptical" about the the ability and capacity of the parties involved to clean up the map mess in time. He'll issue his ruling by the end of next week.

For the Week of July 24, 2014 

The following 3 state legislatures are meeting actively this week: MASSACHUSETTS, NEW JERSEY and NORTH CAROLINA.
Also meeting: PUERTO RICO


The National Lieutenant Governors Association will hold its Annual Meeting July 23-25 in Girdwood, Alaska. 
The National League of Cities will hold its Summer Board of Directors and Policy Meetings July 24-26 in Saint Paul, Minnesota. 
The Council of State Governments Southern Legislative Conference will hold its Annual Meeting July 26-30 in Little Rock, Arkansas.


The Joint Committee on Public Health, Welfare and Labor will meet July 24-25 to hear a presentation about the private health care option and the Community First Choice State Plan Option; to discuss proposed rules relating to psychology interns providing various services under supervision to patients; and to discuss a proposed rule regarding the application of fluoride varnish by dentists, physicians and nurse practitioners. 


The Building Standards Commission met July 22 to discuss proposed updates to the building code regarding zero emission vehicles and electric vehicle charging stations.


The District Council Committee on Economic Development meet July 23 to discuss bill 20-0805, which approves the development of a Major League Soccer Stadium.


A primary runoff election was held July 22 to decide the races from the May 20 primaries where no candidate received a majority of votes, including House and Senate seats.


The Committee on Health and the Committee on Consumer Protection and Commerce held an informational briefing July 21 to receive updates from the Hawaii Health Connector about the continued implementation of the insurance exchange and the Affordable Care Act.


The Chicago Committee on License and Consumer Protection met July 23 to consider an ordinance requiring secondhand cellular phone dealers to catalog additional information when purchasing cellular phones. 


The Commission on Proprietary Education held a public hearing July 22 to discuss proposed rule amendments concerning applications, permits and renewals for proprietary schools. 


The Baton Rouge City Council met July 23 to consider an ordinance regulating vehicles for hire and rideshare companies. 


The Legislative Oversight Committee met July 22 to receive and discuss the MNsure's (State Health Insurance Exchange) most recent enrollment figures. 


The Senate Higher Education Committee held a public hearing July 22 to discuss the impact of technology and online courses in higher education. 

The Higher Education Coordinating Board will meet July 24 to discuss proposed amendments to rules related to institutional eligibility for the B-On-Time Loan Program. 


The Joint Education Task Force met July 22 to discuss a new funding formula for higher education. 


The Health Care Oversight Committee will meet July 24 to discuss an economic analysis of health care reform in the state as well as the Health Care Claims Uniform Reporting and Evaluation System

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Let's Get Ready To Rumble edition

I can't help but lead with some seriously amazing breaking news out of Florida.
  • TKO:  A Leon County judge has just ruled that all 27 of Florida's congressional districts have to be redrawn because two of them violate the state's Fair District constitutional provisions. The Republican lawmakers who drew the map will appeal, of course, so expect this fall's congressional elections to proceed on the existing lines. Who's excited to spend some quality time in Tallahassee?
    • You can read the whole decision (and I do recommend it -- lots of good nerdy bits, especially for data folks), but the 41 pages can mostly be condensed to "Really? REALLY? Come on, now. I didn't just fall off the turnip truck." 
And now, back to our main event, already in progress.
  • Ground and pound: Many state legislative races are won or lost by just a few hundred votes, and in closely-divided chambers -- say, for instance, the Iowa, Nevada and Colorado Senates --  those few hundred votes can tip the entire state's balance of partisan power. 
  • Opening round: In Kansas, the Brady Campaign to End Gun Violence is getting its lawsuit on. The group filed a suit against Gov. Sam Brownback over a year-old law that ostensibly nullifies all federal gun laws state officials feel are in violation of their Second Amendment rights. The law also permits unregulated manufacture and sale of guns and ammo, as well as background check- and record-free weapon purchases. Guns don't kill people. Kansas kills people.
  • Tapping out: An effort by Restore Colorado (led by the folks pushing last year's 11-county secession effort) to effectively gerrymander the Colorado House into Republican hands is fizzling out... this year, at least. The group wants to ditch that whole "proportional representation" nonsense and allot each county one seat in the state House, giving the several hundred residents of a rural county the same voice in government as... well, the hundreds of thousands of folks who live in Denver. Can't let all those "urban" people have fair representation, amirite? Because someone needs to speak for all that empty land between white people in sparsely-populated areas. 
  • Trash talking: Lawmakers say the darndest things. Last week, a Kentucky state Senator declared global warming a myth, since his knowledge of "data" in "academia" makes it clear to him that Earth and Mars have the same surface temperature, and that's meaningful, because Mars has no coal mines or factories. Except that Mars also has an average temperature of -81 degrees Fahrenheit. 
    • Cross-party crazy: A lawmaker from the other side of the aisle didn't deny that climate change exists, but he assures everyone that we'll totally be okay, since global warming definitely didn't kill the dinosaurs, except then "the dinosaurs died, and we don't know why, but the world adjusted." Science!
    • Also, a state Senator in Arizona indulged her constituent conspiracy theorists by having staffers from the state Department of Environmental Quality come to a town hall meeting to address... "chemtrails." Yes, some people in Sen. Kelli Ward's district think they're being contaminated by chemicals spewed from airplanes flying overhead, and she made two innocent state employees meet with these folks and pretend they weren't wasting time and taxpayer money. 
And speaking of Michigan, now seems like a good time for a programming note.
TWISA will be taking a little break next week while I attend Netroots Nation in Detroit. I'm on a sweet panel with the Daily Kos Elections crew, and you should definitely come (Saturday, 7/19, 11 a.m., Cobo Center Room 140 AB) for an in-depth discussion of the 2014 elections. It's a great chance to ask me face-to-face all the things you've been too shy to bring up online.

For the Week of July 10, 2014 

The following 4 state legislatures are meeting actively this week: MASSACHUSETTS, NEW JERSEY, NORTH CAROLINA and PENNSYLVANIA.

 The National Governors Association will hold its Summer Meeting July 10-13 in Nashville, Tennessee. 

The National Association of Counties will hold its Annual Conference and Exposition July 11-14 in New Orleans, Louisiana. 
The Democratic Governors Association will hold a DGA Reception July 12 in Nashville, Tennessee. 

The Republican Governors Association will hold its Summer Reception July 12 in Nashville, Tennessee. 

The National Association of Secretaries of State will hold its Summer Conference July 13-16 in Baltimore, Maryland. 

The Council of State Governments Midwestern Legislative Conference will hold its 69th Annual Meeting July 13-16 in Omaha, Nebraska. 

Early Voting bill AB 2177 is scheduled to be heard by the Senate Appropriations on August 4 at 10:00 a.m.  This bill would require election officials to allow voters to vote at an early voting location on at least one Saturday on or after the election official delivers ballots to absentee voters. Early voting under this bill is defined as casting a mail ballot in person.

Youth Voting bill SB 113 was read a second time and amended. This bill would extend California's pre-registration policy to citizens at least 16 years of age. Currently, 17-year-old citizens can pre-register to vote and would be automatically eligible to vote upon turning 18. This bill exempts election officials from having to send preregistrants a residency confirmation postcard.

Conduct of Elections bill SCR 123 was chaptered by the Secretary of State Res. Chapter 78, Statutes of 2014. This bill would proclaim the week of September 21 through September 27 as Voter Awareness Week.


The Legislative Commission on Data Privacy met July 8 to discuss proposed legislation regarding data privacy and emerging issues in data security. 


The Office of Energy and Planning held a public meeting July 8 to discuss the development of a state energy strategy. 


The Senate Environment and Energy Committee will hear testimony July 10 from the Renewable Energy Stakeholder Working Groups regarding mitigating solar development volatility, achieving Global Warming Response Act goals and reconsidering incentives for Class I Renewables. 


The Interim Economic and Rural Development Committee met July 7-9 to discuss and hear testimony about public television as an economic development tool, the role of breweries in the state economy and the Liquor Control Act. 


The Department of Environmental Conservation accepted comments through July 9 about proposed rule amendments to cap-and-trade programs that reduce nitrogen oxide and other emissions from major stationary sources. 

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Life, the Legislature, and Everything edition

So, now that Belgium is finally the dirty word we were warned it would be, I'm here to guide you through the universe of state legislative politics, elections, and antics this week. Grab a towel.
  • Don't panic. A vast array of state laws went into effect on July 1. Did you or someone you love become a criminal yesterday? 
    • In California, minimum wage-earners are now making $9 an hour, and the state is barred from establishing building codes targeting facilities that provide abortion services (Republicans have used these bogus building restrictions in other states as a back-door mechanism for shutting clinics down).
    • In Minnesota, the Women's Economic Security Act goes into effect, expanding parental leave to 12 weeks, reducing the gender pay gap, and enhancing work-related support and protection for victims of domestic violence (among other things, of course). 
      • Also, the state is launching an initiative to save bees, which is a smart move, if you like eating food.  
    • In Georgia, Gov. Deal is delaying implementation of the nation's harshest law using drug testing on welfare recipients, since he's going to be sued and all. 
      • Not too many people noticed, though, since most minds were on the state's new "Guns Everywhere" law going into effect. Now Georgians can carry guns in bars and government buildings and, if you ask real nice, in churches and schools, too. 
        • The law also expands the state's "Stand Your Ground" statute and gets rid of state recordkeeping for gun sales. We can only assume the "Kevlar vest for every man, woman, and child" provision got cut from the bill in committee. 
    • A new law in Alabama will shut down three of the state's five abortion clinics by forcing them to adhere to onerous building codes. Because the best thing before and after a medical procedure is a long drive, amirite ladies? And twice, no less, given the state's 24-hour waiting period.
    • A close call in Missouri may prevent the state from forcing women to wait 72 hours to think really really hard because having lady parts must make that decision-making stuff awfully difficult before obtaining an abortion. Gov. Jay Nixon just vetoed HB 1307, which on top of being incredibly invasive, insulting, and onerous also provides zero exceptions for victims of rape or incest. 
      • Considering that state Senate Republicans had to make a devil's bargain with Democrats to pass the wretched thing in the first place, Gov. Nixon's veto may very well survive. Way back in May, Senate GOPers quietly struck a deal with Democrats to pass this stuck  "waiting period" bill (and a constitutional amendment aimed at restricting early voting) in exchange for killing two proposed constitutional amendments requiring voter ID and banning paycheck deductions of union dues. 
    • Speaking of abortion, Mississippi has outlawed the procedure at 20 weeks
      • Also, the state's Religious Freedom Restoration Act went into effect, sparking protests as some state residents worry the measure will lead to state-sanctioned discrimination against gays and lesbians. How many Hobby Lobbys are there in Mississippi?
  • Time is an illusion, and lunchtime doubly so. Illusory or not, time brings Election Day ever nearer, and summertime or not, campaign season is hurtling forward at the speed of bad news. Campaign committees are targeting and posturing, and Larry Sabato-wannabes are gazing into their crystal balls. It's too early to make meaningful calls on many states and chambers with narrow margins, but not all. Especially if they've, say, just had their primaries.
    • Colorado falls into that "just had primaries" category, and the outcome of those contests had a major impact on Republicans' hopes of flipping the state Senate (18 D/17 R) from Democratic control in November. Two extreme right-wing candidates won GOP primaries in swing districts in the Denver suburbs, candidates one former state Republican Party chairman said "cannot" win in the general election.
      • Fun fact! Senate Districts 19 and 22 went 53.5% and 54.2% for Obama in 2012, respectively, per Daily Kos Elections. Not an indicator of future performance, certainly, but it's a handy way to gauge the leanings of a district. 
        • So where does that leave us? This chamber went from arguable tossup to legit Lean Democratic last week. Expect mainstream national Republicans to direct their resources to flipping other majorities.
    • And while it's not exactly competitive, Florida falls into the filing-deadline-was-so-last-week pile. No matter how glass-half-full you are, there's no denying that the state House (45 D/75 R) and Senate (14 D/26 R) are not pickup opportunities for Democrats this cycle, especially after the state's candidate filing deadline came and went and left a third of the legislature totally unopposed for reelection
      • Eight of 26 incumbent Senate Republicans are as good as reelected, and elections for 38 House seats have only one candidate. 
      • Only one of the 20 Senate elections this year is expected to be anywhere near close. Democracy! (Also, redistricting!)
And now some news about a group that caught on to the importance of state legislatures way before most other folks did:
  • If there's anything more important than my ego around, I want it caught and shot now. Hooray! The speakers for the 41st Annual ALEC Annual Meeting have been announced! Herman Cain is back, along with his pal Newt Gingrich, cardinal number expert Rick Perry, and elected officials from Oklahoma, North Carolina, and Texas. Good times.

For the Week of July 2, 2014 

The following 7 state legislatures are meeting actively this week:ARKANSAS, CALIFORNIA, DELAWARE, MASSACHUSETTS, NEW JERSEY, NORTH CAROLINA and PENNSYLVANIA.


The General Assembly convened a special session June 30.


The Legislature is scheduled to recess July 3. 


The General Assembly adjourned June 30. 

The General Assembly convened a special session July 1. 


The Legislature recessed July 1. 


The General Assembly was scheduled to recess June 30.