Friday, November 13, 2015

November Rain edition

You think that, just because the off-off-off year elections are (mostly) behind us, things are quieting down?

Yeah, not so much. 

Obviously, Election Day 2015 was a thing that happened last week (except in Louisiana). And it was pretty good for Democrats, generally.
  • One-seat pickup in the Virginia House, breaking the GOP supermajority.
  • Four-seat pickup in the New Jersey Assembly, giving Democrats our largest majority there in 37 years
  • Sweep of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, which will enable Democrats to block GOP gerrymanders of the state House and Senate in 2021.
  • Recalls of Koch-backed school board members in Colorado's Jefferson County -- a county that overlaps with Democratic state House and Senate pickup targets for 2016.
  • Passage of a Maine ballot measure strengthening the state's Clean Elections laws.
  • Some mayoral pickups and stuff

The meh news for Democrats is that neither they nor Republicans flipped any legislative chambers last week. Majorities were grown, majorities were shrunk, and the big brass ring of the Virginia Senate stayed in the GOP's hands.

The biggest (and most surprising) news of the night came out of Kentucky, where "unexpected headwinds" (or something) gave Republican Matt Bevin a historic win. 
  • Folks are understandably worried that Bevin is going to dismantle the state's breakthrough healthcare exchange, known as Kynect, since he campaigned on the issue and has since pledged to make good on his threat by the end of 2016
Fun fact! About 500,000 Kentuckians are covered through Kynect.
  • While the Democratic majority in the state House can't protect Kynect (it was created by Gov. Beshear through an executive order), Speaker Greg Stumbo and his caucus are now the only things standing between the GOP and 
    • new abortion restrictions, 
    • prevailing wage law repeals, and 
    • Kentucky becoming the next so-called "right to work" state. 
Funner fact! House Republicans have already filed legislation to defund Planned Parenthood next year. 

But that was last week! What's going on now?

  • Chinese DemocracyMichigan's post-Election Day sessions have become notorious for their shenanigans in recent years ("right to work" passed in December 2012, and the last big push to gerrymander the Electoral College by allocating votes based on which candidate won a congressional district was in November 2014). 
    • While the current term isn't technically "lame duck" in that a legislative election hasn't just occurred, it's seen the rise of another especially nasty partisan attack by Republicans on their Democratic colleagues.
    • On Tuesday, the Senate passed a bill that eliminates straight-ticket voting in the state (which is regarded as benefiting Democrats more than than Republicans). Republican senators also added a $1 million appropriation to SB13, making it referendum-proof.
Fun fact! The last time Michigan Republicans tried to eliminate straight-ticket voting (2001), the law was overturned by citizens at the ballot box the next year.

    • The bill (and the subversive move to keep it off the ballot) is generally thought to be retaliation for Democrats' refusal to assist in the passage of the "roads plan" Gov. Snyder just signed into law -- a plan described by the Detroit Free Press as "irresponsible, reckless, shortsighted, ill-advised, wrongheaded." 
    • Democrats' objections to the measure are justifiable; as badly as Michigan needs new road funding, cutting $600 million from the general fund (which means cuts to state services) and hiking registration fees by 20 percent is a pretty regressive and irresponsible way to do it.
    • So instead of coming up with a responsible way to fund the state's road, Michigan Republicans decided to make voting harder.
      • The availability of straight-ticket voting saves time. When voters have to spend extra time filling in all those extra bubbles for candidates they could have just selected by filling in that one bubble at the top of the ballot, voting lines get longer. 
      • When voting lines are longer, fewer people are able/willing to wait in those lines to vote. 
      • And when fewer people vote, Republicans win.
    • The measure passed the Senate this week, with two Republicans joining the chamber's Democrats to oppose it. It hasn't been scheduled for a committee hearing in the state House...yet.

  • Welcome to the JungleWisconsin is well on its way to becoming a haven of dark money shenanigans, if Republican lawmakers get their way. 
    • A controversial set of bills passed the state Senate in the wee hours of Saturday morning, after the Republican Senate Majority Leader had delayed the vote for two weeks (probably because he didn't have sufficient support from his own party to eliminate the state's campaign oversight board and gut campaign finance and coordination laws). 
    • Senator Fitzgerald finally scrounged up those votes last Friday, though, and a little after midnight, 18 Republicans voted to eliminate the watchdog Government Accountability Board. 
Fun fact! Twelve of the 18 Republicans who voted to eliminate the Government Accountability Board voted to create it back in 2007.
    • As a refresher, some of the shady provisions in the new campaign finance bill include:
      • No longer requiring donors to disclose their employers.
      • Doubling contribution limits.
      • Reducing financial reporting by candidates and committees to just twice yearly.
      • Allowing unlimited corporate donations to political parties and legislative campaign committees.
      • Expressly permitting coordination between candidates and issue advocacy groups (which don't have to disclose their donors) as long as communications don't include those magic "express advocacy" words of "vote for," defeat," "support," and the like. 
    • Some small changes to the measures were made by the Senate, so the Assembly with convene on November 16 to pass the amended bills. 
      • Scott Walker will sign them into law.
    • Assembly Democrats have proposed an alternative campaign finance bill that would actually strengthen the state's campaign finance laws and an amendment to the state Constitution that would prohibit changes to campaign finance law from taking effect until the members who voted for those changes face the electorate one more time. Don't hold your breath for a hearing on either of those.

  • Since I Don't Have You: The Speaker of the Kansas House has booted three of his fellow Republicans off the House Health and Human Services Committee because of their support for Medicaid expansion under Obamacare. 
    • One of the ousted Republicans thinks that Medicaid expansion would have passed the committee before their removal.
Fun fact! The three ousted pro-Medicaid expansion Republicans were also the only members of the committee with actual healthcare experience: One's a retired physician, another is a pharmacist, and the third served as the ED of a health foundation. 

  • Patience: SCOTUS has just agreed to take up the Virginia congressional redistricting case, pretty much guaranteeing that the current districts will remain in place for the 2016 elections. 
  • Don't Cry: Meanwhile, efforts to approve both congressional and state Senate maps in Florida stagger on. 
    • After the legislature's second special redistricting session ended last week in utter failure (just like the first one did back in August!), the process of redrawing the state Senate maps falls to the state's courts. 
      • But in a last-ditch effort to avoid court proceedings (and the associated discovery and depositions), Senate Republicans requested that the Court appoint an outside consultant to redraw the maps. A Leon County Court judge declined.
    • In congressional redistricting news, the Florida Supreme Court heard arguments on a proposed congressional map this week. A ruling could come, like, basically whenever.

  • Live and Let Die: So you want a wall calendar of crazypants (not a term I use casually! I mean... Cancer is a fungus! Which can be flushed out with salt water!) Nevada Assemblywoman (and U.S. House candidate) Michele Fiore posing with a bunch of guns? I think that's a little odd, but to each his/her own, and I won't judge your calendar if you won't judge my preoccupation with Batman. Or Virginia wine. Or... Look, just enjoy the heck out of your calendar, okay? Especially October. And December is just heartwarming. 

The following 7 state legislatures are meeting actively this week: ILLINOIS, MASSACHUSETTS, MICHIGAN, NEW JERSEY, OHIO, PENNSYLVANIA and WISCONSIN.



The Republican Legislative Campaign Committee will hold its Club 100 Retreat November 12-13 in New York, New York.

The Democratic Governors Association will hold its Senior Staff Summit November 12-13 in Middleburg, Virginia. 

The National Conference of Insurance Legislators will hold its Annual Conference November 12-15 in San Antonio, Texas. 

The Republican Attorneys General Association will hold its Fall National Meeting November 14-17 in Scottsdale, Arizona. 


The Department of Public Health and Environment held a public meeting November 9 to discuss the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan. 


The Senate Study Committee on Youth Mental Health and Substance Use Disorders met November 10 to discuss treating and preventing youth substance abuse. 

The Senate Cybersecurity Study Committee met November 12 to discuss the cybersecurity marketplace and identify opportunities for the cybersecurity industry in the state. 


The Senate Judiciary Committee met November 10 to discuss S.B. 509, which prohibits the intentional posting of sexually explicit material of another person without consent. 


The Legislative Task Force on Child Protection met November 10 to discuss efforts to implement the recommendations of the Governor’s Task Force on the Protection of Children.


The Division of Environmental Protection held a stakeholder meeting November 12 to discuss the development of the state’s plan under the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan. 


The Department of Health and Environmental Control held public engagement sessions November 11-12 to discuss the state’s energy plan and the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan. 


The Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission met November 9 to discuss Medicaid eligibility determination. 

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