Wednesday, August 24, 2016

I Know What You Did Last Session edition

The heat's broken, and while it'll be back in two shakes of a lamb's tail, let's enjoy some refreshing statehouse action on the patio while we can.

Wipe Out: Two Republican-appointed federal judges in Ohio have re-eradicated the state's "Golden Week," the period during which voters can register and vote early at the same time. 
  • Some history:
    • Ohio lawmakers expanded the state's early voting period, including the week-long overlap of registering and casting ballots, in 2005 as a means of avoiding the epic lines, complications, and logistical issues Ohio voters notoriously endured in the 2004 election. 
    • The GOP-controlled legislature eliminated Golden Week in 2014, shortening the state's early voting period from 35 days to 29.
  • Fast forward to May, when a U.S. District Court judge found the GOP-controlled legislature's law eliminating the Golden Week to be unconstitutional and in violation of the Voting Rights Act. 
    • Minority voters were especially likely to register and vote during this overlap period, and while Ohio's early voting period remained among the most extensive in the country, the District Court judge ruled that the reduction disproportionately affected African Americans.
Fun fact! African American voters took advantage of "golden week" 3½ times as often as white voters in 2008, and more than 5 times as often in 2012.
  • But two white judges declared in their majority ruling on Tuesday that the 29-day early in-person voting period was "really quite generous," so maybe minority voters in Ohio are supposed to be grateful for only having their voting rights partially eroded, or something...? 


Primary season is finally gasping its last in key states across the country. Voters in Michigan, New Hampshire, Maine, and beyond have waited in sweaty lines in recent weeks to cast their ballots. 

Summer Nights Lake(Michigan)side: After Michigan's August 2 primary, Democrats' chances of picking up the nine House seats needed to break the GOP's stranglehold on state government went from optimistic long shot to… well, just optimistic. Here's why:
  • Because of term limits, Republicans have more open House seats than Democrats -- 25 to 13, respectively. 
  • Democrats' recruiting efforts this year were highly successful, and a quality crop of candidates emerged in many of those open seats.
  • Some of the tea party Republicans who won their primaries in more moderate districts created opportunities for Democrats to pick up seats that might not otherwise have been in play. 
Additionally, polling is revealing serious trouble in terms of top-of-ticket drag for down-ballot Michigan Republicans.
    • Republican Gov. Rick Snyder's approval rating is at an all-time low (39.7 percent, specifically). 
      • Even among base Republicans, 25 percent disapprove of his performance. 
      • Only 38 percent of Michigan voters say the state is on the "right track."
    • Hillary Clinton has a narrow lead in the traditional Republican strongholds of west and southwest Michigan, which could put even "safe" GOP House seats in those areas in play.
    • If a recent court decision overturning the GOP-supported ban on straight-ticket voting in the state survives a last-ditch attempt at an emergency appeal, Trump's unpopularity spells even bigger problems for down-ballot Republicans. 

Summer schooled: To get even nerdier about the situation in Michigan (I know, I know, you're shocked), based on an April interview, House GOPers could be screwed despite their best efforts to gerrymander themselves into a decade-long majority. The whole bit is worth a listen, and it doesn't take into account current polls and primary results, but the salient part of the conversation goes thusly:
  • Former Michigan GOP House staffer Brian Began, the main architect of the current state House district maps, claims Republicans’ best case scenario is to only lose one seat this fall, but they'll "probably" lose "five to six at least." 
  • According to his his consulting firm colleague Adrian Hemond, the maps were designed to sustain a Republican House majority through three presidential cycles -- but this was reliant on the top of the ticket garnering at least 47% of the vote statewide
  • Especially in light of Trump's poor performance among minorities and women in many competitive districts, Hemond thinks Trump won't come close to hitting 47%, putting several otherwise “safe” state legislative districts in play.
And while we're talking about Michigan, here's some good news, everyone!
  • Muslims in Michigan -- and beyond -- who are troubled by Donald Trump's hateful rhetoric are taking some comfort in the sweeping primary victory of Abdullah Hammoud, an Muslim Democrat running for the state House.
    • He'll face WWE wrestler Rhino, aka Terrance Guido Gerin, in November. 
Fun fact! Democrat George Darany won his last election in this seat (HD15) with 67.5% of the vote (he's term-limited out this year), so Hammoud's election prospects are pretty rosy.

Granite State grooveNew Hampshire won't hold its primary elections until September 13, but Democrats are already "outhustling" their GOP counterparts. 
  • Democrats are fielding candidates in 361 of the state's 400 House districts. Republican have at least one candidate in just 335. 
  • Republicans were already struggling with the retirement of more than 60 incumbents. 
  • Additionally, both the Democratic state House and Senate campaign committees are reporting strong fundraising numbers this summer and entered August with record-breaking cash on hand amounts

Summertime Blue(berrie)sMaine's primary elections are a couple of months behind us now, so campaigns are in full swing -- and state Democrats are steamrolling their opponents in fundraising. 
Watch for Maine Democrats to win a majority in the state Senate and expand their caucus in the House this fall.

Cruel Summer ...for GOP state legislators, anyway. Republican lawmakers continue to freak out about the impact of Trump's candidacy on state legislative races. Some greatest hits:
  • The prospect of a Trump presidency "scares the bejeebies" out of Georgia Republican state Rep. Alan Peake. He worries that Trump-ian policies will lead his party towards "extinction." 
    • ...but he's still going to support Trump in November, so talk is awfully cheap. 
Welp, that's enough good news for one week. 

Also, here. You're welcome. 

The following 2 state legislatures are meeting actively this week: ALABAMA and CALIFORNIA.



The State Legislative Leaders Foundation will hold its National Speakers Conference August 24-27 in Burlington, Vermont. 

The National Association of Insurance Commissioners will hold its Summer Meeting August 26-29 in San Diego, California. 


The Science, Technology and Telecommunications Committee will met August 22-23 to discuss and receive presentations regarding electric cooperative broadband development, projects within the Department of Information Technology, public-private partnerships for infrastructure development, policy issues for remote piloted aircraft, Education Networks of America and the state’s business climate for technology enterprise. 

The Legislative Health and Human Services Committee met August 23 to receive an analysis of the proposal to increase the liquor excise tax.


A primary runoff election was held August 23 for House and Senate seats where no candidate received more than 50% of votes cast in the primary election. (Check out results here.)


The Agency of Natural Resources held public hearings August 22 and 24 regarding proposed amendments to state water quality standards. 


The Department of Natural Resources will hold a public hearing August 25 regarding proposed amendments to air pollution control rules.