Thursday, August 30, 2018

Lawmakers of Summer edition

Cripes, y’all. Summer’s almost gone.
(Okay, no, not technically, but amusement parks are about to close on weekdays and pools are shutting down after this weekend and we’re no longer supposed to wear white for some reason, so in the lay, non-astronomical sense, I think we’re all agreed that summer spiritually ends with Labor Day.)
(Which is, like, here.)
But before we all take off for the holiday that heralds the last hurrah of the season, let’s check in on what’s happening in the states. Because, while most legislatures aren’t in session in the summers, that doesn’t mean statehouse action takes a vacation.
Summer Fights: First, let’s pay a visit to North Carolina.
Because, thanks to the GOP-controlled legislature and its never-ending series of power-grabs and general assaults on democracy, there’s ALWAYS something happening in North Carolina.
  • Two weeks ago in this space (my vacation was lovely, thank you), I wrote about a court fight over the GOP’s super-brazen (even for them) attempt to change the rules in the state’s Supreme Court race mid-game, so to speak.
Two weeks was, like, forever ago, so let me catch you up:
  • Last year, Republicans passed legislation specifically designed to impact the 2018 elections by allowing any candidate running for office to change his or her party affiliation right up to the time they officially file as a candidate.
    • Oops:
      • Just before the filing deadline, a third candidate got into the state Supreme Court race, which had previously just had one Democrat—Anita Earls—and one Republican—Barbara Jackson—running.
      • That candidate—Raleigh attorney Chris Anglin—filed to run as a Republican, sparking GOP fears that he’d siphon votes away from Jackson, splitting the party’s vote and easing Earls’ path to the bench.
      • Until June 7 of this year, this fresh Republican face in the race was a registered Democrat.
  • The state Republican Party vowed to treat Anglin as “the enemy he is.” Both Anglin and state Democrats aver that no shenanigans are afoot here; rather, Anglin is just a concerned citizen who wanted to run as a “constitutional Republican.” (Yeah, I don’t know what that means either, but whatevs, cool, you do you.)
  • GOP lawmakers went further in their response to his candidacy: The state Senate majority leader filed a fun ex post facto bill this week that would have prevented Anglin from being listed on the ballot as a Republican.
    • While Anglin’s not mentioned by name in the bill, it applies only to judicial elections, and it only allowed candidates to display their party affiliation on the ballot if they were a member of that party 90 days prior to filing to run.
  • The bill passed along party lines, of course.
  • And it was immediately challenged in court, of course.
    • A Wake County judge swiftly issued an injunction to prevent the state from printing ballots unless the candidates are identified on them by their preferred party, and the court ultimately ruled in favor of Anglin appearing on the ballot as a candidate of his party of choice.
  • This week, the state Court of Appeals declined Republicans’ request to stay the lower court’s ruling.
  • And, for once, GOP lawmakers gave up.
I mean, yeah. Republicans literally tried to change the rules mid-game.
Summer Pain: Also in North Carolina, the fight over a series of tremendously impactful series of amendments to the state constitution continues.
Yup, the Republicans’ lawyer basically argued that lawmakers have a right to mislead voters.
  • Never mind that the GOP is asking voters to make fundamental shift to the balance of power among branches of government, obstruct ballot box access, and dramatically undermine the state’s tax base, resulting in inevitable cuts to schools and other essential government duties.
  • Last week, a state court blocked two of the proposed amendments because of their deceptive wording.
    • Specifically, the one concerning stripping the governor’s power to appoint the elections board and giving it to the legislature, and the one giving the legislature control over who the governor can select to fill judicial vacancies.
  • The GOP-controlled legislature both immediately appealed and convened a special session to hastily rewrite those amendments.
    • Shockingly, they’re still misleading.
Okay, not shockingly.
Fun fact! Ballot printing is supposed to begin Saturday.
Read the rest of this week's edition here.
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Thursday, August 9, 2018

Doggo Days of Summer edition

It’s just that time of year.
It feels like the dog days of summer are in full effect, but I may be a little bit behind on this one. Or I’m not, depending on where you are while reading this—astronomical dog days occur at different times, depending on things like latitude and the position of the stars relative to the Earth and such.
The term “dog days” originates in Greek and Roman literature and actually refers to the days when the dog star, Sirius, appears to rise just before the sun. It’s a time those civilizations generally associated with catastrophe.
Which may be a fair assessment of GOP electoral prospects this fall. And it’s almost always a reasonable take on Republican antics in statehouses.
Let’s fetch some news.
Hair Of The Dog: Kris Kobach’s fight to become the Kansas gubernatorial nominee got most of the headlines in Tuesday’s primaries, but interesting things were afoot down-ballot, too.
Big freaking deal, it’s Kansas, after all, right?
  • The resurgence of conservative Republicans in the Kansas House presents a serious reversal of a pretty significant swing the other way in 2016, when not only did Democrats flip 13 seats in November, but 14 moderate Republicans ousted conservative incumbents while seven more won nominations for open seats in that year’s primary.
  • It’s tough to predict what this shift back to right for Republicans means for legislative elections in November.
    • Will the contrast against the Brownback-esque policies that resulted in a disastrous budget chasm help Democrats flip even more seats?
    • Or is the conservative faction of the House Republicans on its way back to legislative hegemony?
(By the by, the state Senate isn’t up this year, and the Republicans there are just as divided as their House counterparts.)
Wolves: The judicial drama in West Virginia I wrote about a few weeks ago has reared its head again—just in time for GOP lawmakers to capitalize on it for a state Supreme Court coup.
  • It all started last fall, when reports began to surface concerning Supreme Court justices indulging in Trump cabinet-esque spending on fancy furniture amid lavish renovations of their chambers (in the neighborhood of $700,000 for things like fancy couches, elegant flooring, and pricey rugs).
Fun fact! Republicans made state Supreme Court races nonpartisan when they took control of the legislature in 2014.
  • Before the corruption scandal broke, Democrats had an ostensible one-seat majority on the bench.
  • If impeachment proceedings had been concluded by Aug. 14, the open Supreme Court seats would have been on the ballot this November.
But why would the GOP-controlled legislature want that when foot-dragging would let the Republican governor just appoint the replacements himself?
Just in case you think this is anything but a brazen Republican attempt to replace an entire branch of government through GOP appointments, consider this:
  • A Democratic member of the House attempted to initiate impeachment proceedings back in February—which would have left plenty of time to resolve the matter and place judicial candidates on the ballot this fall.
  • At the time, Republican leadership called the move “a political stunt.”
And why entertain timely steps to remove corrupt justices when you can slow your roll and execute a Supreme Court coup instead?
Read the rest of this week's edition here.
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