Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Have Yourself A Merry Little Session edition

It's the holiday season, which means bill file & chill for most lawmakers. But others have spent the seaon rockin' around the Speaker's dais, because it's never too late to get on the naughty list.
  • I Heard the Bells on Election DayMichigan has a special history of year-end session shenanigans ("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).
    • Welp, they've done it again. Last week, at 5 p.m. on the last day of joint session for the year, Republican leaders in the state House and Senate began scheming to pass SB13, a measure that eradicates straight-ticket voting in the state. 
    • Legislative maneuvers had been going on for weeks, and for a while, it looked like the bill would get tabled at least until the new year.

Yeah, not so much. 
    • The bill ending straight-ticket voting just barely scraped by in each chamber. At 10:30 p.m. on Wednesday nightMichigan Republicans successfully executed their latest manipulation of democracy in the state (among other things, I'm specifically referring to the fact that Democrats received more votes than Republicans for state House in 2012 and in 2014, but Republicans retained a majority in the chamber both years).
      • Michigan Republicans last tried to deny voters the option to vote straight-ticket in 2001, but Democrats launched a petition drive, and voters overturned the measure at the ballot box.
    • Republicans in the state Senate wouldn't give Michigan's citizens the chance to thwart GOP machinations again. They added a $5 million appropriation to the measure -- a ploy that immunizes it from a citizen referendum. 

Because Democrats make voting easier, and Republicans make it harder.

  • It's Beginning to Look a lot like DarknessWisconsin Gov Scott Walker surprised no one last week by signing into law legislation eradicating the state's nonpartisan election watchdog board and overhauling campaign finance laws. 
    • As a refresher, in addition to dismantling the Government Accountability Board, the new laws 

      • No longer require donors to disclose their employers.
      • Double contribution limits.
      • Allow unlimited corporate donations to political parties and legislative campaign committees.
      • Expressly permit 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. 
    • Gov. Walker was so proud of signing the legislation that he didn't even tell anyone he was doing it. The Republican lawmaker who sponsored the bill spilled the beans on Twitter. Gov. Walker publicly owned up to signing the measure three hours later
I mean, why wouldn't he be proud of turning his state into a dark money haven with ineffective oversight?

Wisconsin does not have a death penalty law, but with significant practice and careful aim, law abiding citizens can help clean our society of these scum bags. 
    • Rep. Gannon proceeded to offer, um, tips on technique:

A gang banger in the mall with a gun is going to think twice if there could be a law abiding CCW holder standing behind them fully prepared to shoot center mass.

Remember, kids: Head shots are for zombies.

  • Here we come a-bankrollingMontana's elections watchdog is alleging that the National Right to Work Committee has been illegally bankrolling and managing campaign activities for Republican legislative candidates since 2008. 
    • Services provided by the National Right to Work Committee to candidates who accepted the "package" included assistance with fundraising, website production, voter research, direct mailings, voter ID lists and general campaign advice, according to the state's Commissioner of Political Practices. 

More like National Right to Buy Elections Committee, amirite?
    • The trial in which these allegations were levied is scheduled for March 28


  • Booze ChristmasNew Mexico (and new Chair of the RGA!) Gov. Susana Martinez might have gotten a little too caught up in the spirit of the season last week at her staff holiday after-party. 
    • After "troublesome" guests in her group's hotel room wouldn't chill out or leave, an Eldorado Hotel employee called the police. 
    • After learning of the call, Gov. Martinez tried to throw her gubernatorial weight around to find out who ratted her out and to convince the police dispatcher to chill out. 
    • She ended up apologizing, sort of, because she insists the party just wasn't the rager described by hotel employees. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

    • While minorities and women remain underrepresented in state legislatures, these groups are best represented in Democratic caucuses.
      • Women comprise 35 percent of Democratic state lawmakers but only 17 percent of Republicans.
        • Women make up the majority of the Democratic caucuses in Colorado, Idaho, Montana, and Utah.
    • Also, minority groups are better represented among Democrats (33 percent) than Republicans (five percent).
      • Minorities fill the majority of Democratic seats in the Arizona, California, Hawaii, and Nevada statehouses.
      • In nine Southern states, a majority of Democrats are black.
      • In New Mexico, the majority of Democrats are Hispanic.

    • Speaking of Colorado... Keep an eye on the redistricting "reform" proposal out there. 
      • While Initiative 55 drafters claim the effort is "bipartisan," no actual Democratic leaders or elected officials seem to have been involved in the process. 
      • The crafting of the measure's redistricting "priorities" was notoriously opaque, and groups like Common Cause, the NAACP, and civil rights leaders are justifiably skeptical of the whole affair.

It's just so weird that Republicans only seem to want to change the existing partisan redistricting process in states where it's likely to be controlled by Democrats post-2020: Colorado, MarylandIllinois

The following 2 state legislatures are meeting actively this week: PENNSYLVANIA and WISCONSIN.


The Twin Falls City Council met December 21 to consider approving a request to add the words "or vaping" to the signs in parks that currently read "thank you for not smoking." 


The Springfield City Council met December 21 to discuss a prohibition on the sale of loose cigars. 


The Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee met December 21 to discuss A.B. 4275, which establishes the New Jersey Secure Choice Savings Program to create a retirement program for private sector workers.

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