Thursday, November 20, 2014

Lameducken edition

D.C.'s not the only place seeing hot pre-Thanksgiving lame duck action right now. As post-election dust settles across the country, most legislators are doing prep work for upcoming sessions in the new year, but a few are still scrambling to get this year's final items to the table... er, governor's desk.

  • Maybe they sucked at drawing hand turkeys in school: Lawmakers in Ohio are spending the final weeks of their session trying to keep Toledo's drinking water safeshield the identities of manufacturers and sellers of drugs used in executions, and screw teachers
    • Republicans snuck an amendment into an otherwise minor piece of legislation that would eradicate the statewide teacher minimum pay schedule. 
Fun fact! This provision was a part of 2011's notorious Senate Bill 5, the union-busting law that voters soundly rejected at the ballot box.
    • The bill is a direct attack on public education, teachers, and rural schools, and it's a ham-handed attempt to force educators into a merit-pay system -- a system that overvalues standardized testing, undermines educational quality, and ultimately hurts students even more than it does teachers.
      • The legislation passed out of committee on Monday and will be heard by the full GOP-dominated House.
Bonus item to watch: A new redistricting proposal that purports to provide for more input from the minority party -- but may actually make gerrymandering worse. 

  • When turkeys and humans don't get pardoned: Execution by firing squad could be on its way back in Utah. The method of execution was eliminated in the state in 2003, but as traditional lethal injection drugs grow scarce and newer drug cocktails lead to more botched executions, lawmakers are considering bringing back the bullets as an alternative, for "maneuverability," according to the bill's sponsor. The legislation passed out of committee on Wednesday.

  • Overstuffed turkeyMichigan's post-election session is already chock full o' shenanigans, but the Wolverine State has seen quite a bit of lame duck craziness over the past few years. 
    • The GOP-controlled legislature is really trying to outdo itself this year, though. Republicans are pushing two terrible measures before the end of session, hoping that voters are too busy to notice and/or will totally have forgotten lawmakers' antics by the time the next election rolls around.
      • Way back in the long-ago time of 2011, Republicans had just gained control of the state House and the governor's mansion to win a trifecta of GOP control of state government. Republicans proceeded to pass lousy laws -- like the one banning domestic partner benefits for public employees.
Fun fact! That law was declared unconstitutional by a federal judge last week.
    • The second piping-hot item on the Michigan GOP's post-election agenda is the latest chapter in the GOP's ongoing saga of Gerrymandering The Electoral College. 
      • The original story was set in Pennsylvania way back in 2011, when a GOP Senator decided he was tired of his state's electoral votes always going to Democrats, because so what if the Democratic candidate got more votes
        • So he proposed a bill to allocate electoral votes by congressional district -- districts he helped gerrymander to benefit Republicans. 
        • But other members of his party balked, the bill went nowhere, and everyone lived happily ever after...(There was a little post-credits scene in Wisconsin [featuring a cameo of Michigan], when a similar proposal to distribute EVs by CD popped up month later, also going nowhere.)
      • ...until 2013, when gerrymandered Republican majorities in states that went for Obama in 2012 were vexed that the majority of their states' voters gave those EVs to a Democrat againThe nerve! 
        • Gerrymandering The Electoral College: Catching Fire: In 2013, proposals to allocate electoral votes by congressional district popped up in every state that
          • Was governed by Republican trifectas (GOP gov, state House/Assembly, and state Senate) AND 
          • Gave its EVs to Obama in 2012. (That's PennsylvaniaWisconsinMichiganFloridaOhio, and Virginia.)
            • All of those proposals died in committee or fizzled before they got to the drafting stage in 2013.
      • And now, before the 2014 election results are even certified, a Michigan Republican is back for Part 3: MockingLund
        • The same lawmaker behind the state's previous two attempts to allocate electoral votes by congressional district has a "new" proposal. This time, Rep. Lund simply wants to divide those 16 Electoral College votes based on how lopsided -- or not -- a presidential candidate's win is in the state. 
          • So the next time a Democrat has the temerity to win the majority of the popular vote, Republicans could rest assured that such an upstart wouldn't win all 16 of those EVs (unless it's a blowout win of 61.6% or more, which is extremely unlikely). 
Fun fact! Due to term limits, Rep. Fund won't be returning to the legislature next year. This is his last EV hurrah.
        • At the measure's committee hearing on Monday, many concerns were expressed -- by both Republicans and Democrats -- and no action was taken. Some observers have already declared it dead, but that's a bit premature; the measure will be heard again on December 2, so save the date!
Yet another fun fact! A GOP operative in Michigan thinks Democrats should shut up about splitting the state's EVs, because it totally won't be that big of a deal and anyway Democrats totally did it themselves one time -- in 1892. And we know it was a great idea then because Republicans immediately switched it back to winner-take-all when they took over after the next election.

    • Other states to watch for more electoral vote shenanigans as their sessions reconvene next year: Those old chestnuts Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, and Florida
      • Pennsylvania and Virginia EV antics will be stopped by their Democratic governors.
        • Nevada is a new one to watch, since it will meet the criteria of
    1. won by Obama in 2012 and 
    2. trifecta GOP government control after its new legislators are sworn in.

  • Ugh, leftovers: And while we're on the subject of that new Republican trifecta in Nevada, GOP lawmakers are already preparing to serve up a helping of voter suppression with their new majorities. 

    • It's a bigot, inside of a homophobe, inside of a racist turkey: No discussion of Nevada's new GOP majorities would be complete without recognizing the Assembly's newly-designated Speaker, Ira Hansen. Hansen seems like a curious pick for the shiny new GOP majority, since he uses the word "negro" a lot and has repeatedly espoused sexist, homophobic, and racially-charged viewpoints
        • How do we know so  much about his beliefs? Well, he's been writing about them in his columns in the Sparks Tribune since 1994.
      • The Nevada Assembly will officially elect its Speaker when it convenes for session in February. If Hansen weathers this storm and is elected, we'll know a great deal about the new Republican majority before the first bill is even passed.

The following 6 state legislatures are meeting actively this week: ILLINOIS, INDIANA, MASSACHUSETTS, NEW JERSEY, OHIO, and VIRGINIA.



The National League of Cities will hold its Congress of Cities and Exposition November 19-22 in Austin, Texas. 
The Republican Governors Association will hold its Annual Conference November 19-21 in Florida.
The Republican Lieutenant Governors Association will hold its Policy Summit November 23-25 in Washington, D.C. 

The Oil and Gas Taskforce will meet November 20-21 to hear from local government officials and discuss surface owner rights. 
The House and Senate met November 19-20 for a veto session. 
The Act 240 Subcommittee of the Department of Education met November 17 to discuss the teacher evaluation system. 
The Joint Committee on Public Employee Retirement met November 19 for a quarterly report on the status of pension funds and will discuss underfunded pension plans. 

The Retirement Systems Committee met November 19 to examine the public employees' retirement system administered by the Public Employees Retirement Board. 
The House Republicans met November 18 for leadership elections.
The Department on Environmental Services will meet November 21 for a public meeting to discuss proposed amendments to the Safe Drinking Water Act. 
The Legislative Education Study Committee met November 17-20 to discuss the Higher Education Funding Formula and the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC). 

The Legislative Assembly concluded its Fourth Ordinary Session November 18
The Senate Education Committee met November 17 to discuss school choice programs, the trigger program and the implementation of charter schools. 
The Water Development Commission met November 18 to discuss water issues within the state.
The Join Health and Human Services Interim Committee met November 19 to discuss potential legislation regarding Medicaid payments, health worker certifications and health care practitioners. 
The Economic Development and Workforce Services Interim Committee met November 19 to discuss the Motion Picture Incentive Program and other economic development incentives. 

The Carbon Emissions Reduction Taskforce met November 17 to present a report on their recommendations for the design and implementation of a market-based carbon pollution program. 
The Health Care Oversight Committee met November 18 to discuss telemedicine and affordability issues associated with the Affordable Care Act. 

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