Friday, October 23, 2015

In A Capitol Far, Far Away edition

It is a period of electoral war. Democratic candidates, striking from campaign HQs, look for victory against the Republican Party. 
Pursued by the Republicans' sinister agents, Democrats race to Election Day, custodian of the hopes and plans that can save their people and restore freedom to the country... [[camera tilt]]

  • This isn't the election day you're looking for... But you're getting it anyway! Saturday, October 24, is primary day in Louisiana for state legislative races (and the gubernatorial, and other constitutional offices, if you're into that), and because of the state's wacky primary system, a few contests will actually be decided by the end of the night (polls close at 8 p.m.), but most won't. 
    • The final episode of the Louisiana statehouse election saga falls on November 21.

  • Hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match for a good super PAC at your side, kid: November 3 is coming up awfully fast, too, and that's when MississippiNew Jersey, and Virginia will all elect state legislators (just the Assembly in New Jersey; both chambers in the rest). 
    • The Virginia Senate is the hottest chamber of these, where Republicans are clinging to a one-seat majority (19 D/21 R), and the final weeks of the race have seen a glut of fresh funds.
      • Stay on target: On Wednesday, Everytown announced a $700,000 buy for Democrat Dan Gecker in SD 10, a targeted open seat in suburban Richmond. 
      • STAY ON TARGET: On Thursday, Everytown for Gun Safety announced a $1.5 million TV and online ad buy to support Democrat Jeremy McPike in SD 29, an open Northern Virginia seat and a top target for both parties this cycle.
        • Andy Parker, the father of one of the Roanoke reporters shot on live TV in August, appears in both ads. 
      • They came from behind! Earlier this month, Gabby Giffords' Americans for Responsible Solutions announced a donation of $600,000, divided among three Senate districts: the aforementioned SDs 10 and 29, as well as SD 13, which is represented by the infamous Dick Black (R-Plastic Fetus). 

  • The lines are what give a politician his power. They surround us and bind the states together: Elections aren't the only thing happening in Virginia at the moment. The Commonwealth's redistricting drama lurches onward with some recent developments. 
    • On Thursday, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia dismissed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of 12 House of Delegates districts. 
Fun fact! This same court found Virginia's 3rd Congressional District unconstitutional last summer using the same criteria
      • The current gerrymander gives House Republicans a 2-to-1 edge in a state where all five statewide officeholders are Democrats. 
      • The case will be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. 
So either everyone's Thanksgiving is ruined or maybe we'll be trying to analyze new maps through the haze of our New Year's Day hangovers. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

    • Never tell me the odds: Redistricting turmoil reigns in Florida, too, as state lawmakers struggle to not poke out their own eyes with their map-drawing pens, basically, and not repeat their August congressional redistricting fiasco as they try to redraw state Senate district lines. 
      • The Senate Reapportionment Committee approved a map Friday morning, but the GOP majority is already at war with itself over it. 
      • The Republicans' rebellion extends beyond the physical placement of district lines and into the actual numbers of those districts. 
        • At least half of the state Senate will be up for reelection in 2016; those with luckier district numbers could have an additional two years to get to know their new constituents. 
And we get two more weeks of this! (The special session ends on November 6.)
      • Oh, and about that that failed Florida congressional redistricting -- the state Supreme Court has scheduled oral arguments on the proposed map on November 10.

  • I felt a great disturbance in the law, as if millions of dollars suddenly got spent and were suddenly untraceableWisconsin Republicans are still going full tilt on their schemes to rid the state of any semblance of campaign accountability or integrity. 
    • On Friday, Gov. Scott Walker signed legislation that will prevent district attorneys from using the state's "John Doe" law to investigate political corruption and misconduct, signaling Walker's re-commitment to screwing up his state now that he's no longer distracted by a presidential campaign.
      • If Wisconsin's "John Doe" law rings a bell, it may be because a John Doe investigation resulted in six convictions of Walker's campaign aides and associates over the past few years. 
      • Now the John Doe law is totally defanged, so Republicans won't have to fret about that any more. 
I mean, who needs all that pesky investigation of corruption, anyway? 
    • The measure gutting John Doe is part of the larger package of election "reform" bills state Republicans are ramming through the legislature. 
    • The other pieces passed the state Assembly on Wednesday night with Republican votes only.
      • Every Democrat in the chamber recused him/herself, arguing that this loosening of campaign finance rules was so generous that the bills actually create "a substantial financial interest" for lawmakers, a conflict that must be resolved by recusal, according to state statute 19.46.
    • Posturing? Sure, but these bills seriously amp up the political cash flow in the state:
      • Limits on individual donations -- which are already above the national average, according to NCSL --  would be doubled (to $60,000 for gubernatorial candidates, $6,000 and $3,000 for Senate and Assembly candidates, respectively), and limits would be adjusted for inflation every five years.
      • Donations from PACs to campaigns would be unlimited.
      • Donors could give unlimited amounts of money to campaign committees (except PACs, which would be limited to donating a mere $12,000 per year), and those committees can then pass the money along to candidates, making those individual donation limits pretty pointless, anyway. 
      • Also, candidates would be allowed to coordinate with interest groups that don't disclose their donors.
    • Coupled with the proposed gutting of the state's campaign oversight apparatus, Democrats understandably feel the need to go to extremes to slow down and call attention to current events in Madison. 
    • These measures are generally expected to pass the state Senate next week. If they do, you'll be hard-pressed to find a more wretched hive of campaign finance scum and villainy.  

The following 9 state legislatures are meeting actively this week: ALASKA, FLORIDA, ILLINOIS, MASSACHUSETTS, MICHIGAN, NEW JERSEY, OHIO, PENNSYLVANIA and WISCONSIN.



The Legislature will convene for a special session October 24 to consider funding a liquified natural gas project. 


The Public Utilities Commission held a public hearing October 19 to discuss proposed amendments to electric and renewable energy standard rules. 


The Legislature convened for a special session October 19 to redraw the state’s Senate districts. 

The House Committee on Children, Families and Seniors met October 20 to discuss H.B. 103, which allows authorized vendors to accept SNAP benefits at fresh produce markets. 

The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Health and Human Services met October 20 to discuss Medicaid expenditure projections and the financial status of statewide Medicaid Managed Care. 


Louisiana will hold a primary election October 24 for the offices of the Governor and Attorney General as well as all House and Senate seats. 


The Department of Environmental Conservation held a public hearing October 19 to discuss proposed amendments to implement cap-and-trade programs that reduce NOx and SO2 emissions from electric generating units larger than 25 MWe. 


The Senate Health and Human Services Committee met October 21 to discuss H.B. 188, which revises the circumstances under which a pharmacist may dispense without a prescription. 


The Health and Human Services Interim Committee met October 21 to consider draft legislation permitting the use of marijuana products for medical purposes. 


The Joint Minerals, Business and Economic Development Interim Committee met October 22-23 to discuss proposed legislation on the Clean Power Plan, carbon sequestration permitting and other issues within the Committee’s charge.

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