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Politics & leadership

Plan To Unseat Judicial Appointee Disrupted | 08-21-2015

Virginia lawmakers’ plan to oust Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s (D) interim appointee to the state Supreme Court (see VA LAWMAKERS REJECT GOV’S JUDICIAL APPOINTMENT in Aug. 8 issue of SNCJ ) hit a snag last week. The Republicans who control...

OR Needs Impeachment Process | 08-21-2015

In a guest viewpoint appearing in The Register-Guard of Eugene, Oregon last week, retired teacher and counselor Gary Crum advocates for the adoption of a proper impeachment process in the state “to address serious transgressions by state officials...

Politics In Brief - August 24 2015 | 08-21-2015

IL Nixes Lawmaker Payraise With his state’s ongoing budget stalemate in mind, ILLINOIS Gov. Bruce Rauner (R) signed a law passed by the General Assembly this month forgoing an automatic pay raise for state lawmakers this year, in accordance with...

MD Gov Wants Redistricting Reform | 08-14-2015

Although their constitutionality has been upheld by federal courts, Maryland’s congressional districts - drawn in 2011 by then-Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) and the Democrats who control the state’s General Assembly - are considered by some...

FL Takes Up Court Ordered Remap | 08-14-2015

Florida lawmakers returned to Tallahassee last week for a 12-day special session to draw new congressional districts in accordance with a state Supreme Court ruling that found previous maps drawn by the state’s Republican-controlled Legislature...

Politics In Brief - August 17 2015 | 08-14-2015

MN House Members Age Increase The median age of MINNESOTA House members has increased by seven years - from 47 to 55 - since 1995. For senators the increase is eight years, from 47 to 55 (TWIN CITIES PIONEER PRESS). KS Cracks Down on Voter Fraud...

VA Lawmakers Reject Gov's Judicial Appointment | 08-07-2015

Last month Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) appointed former Fairfax Circuit Court judge Jane Marum Roush to the state Supreme Court to replace retiring Justice LeRoy F. Millette Jr. Although judicial appointments in the state are usually made by the...

Federal Court Rejects TX Voter ID Law | 08-07-2015

The U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last week that Texas’ four-year-old voter ID law is not an unconstitutional “poll tax” as plaintiffs alleged but that it has a “discriminatory effect” that violates the federal...

IL Gov Pushes For Clampdown On Collective Bargaining | 08-07-2015

Illinois’ Democrat-controlled Senate passed legislation last month that would freeze property taxes statewide for two years and provide about $200 million in relief for Chicago’s troubled teacher pension system. But Gov. Bruce Rauner (R) said...

Politics In Brief - August 10 2015 | 08-07-2015

Women Lawmakers In The States COLORADO has the highest percentage of female state lawmakers in the nation, at 42 percent, according to data from the National Conference of State Legislatures. LOUISIANA has the lowest percentage, at 11.8 percent (HONOLULU...

New Sagebrush Rebellion In CO | 07-31-2015

The fight for more control over federal lands within state borders has been waxing and waning in the American West since at least the 1890s. The latest flare-up of the Sagebrush Rebellion is centered in Colorado, where Republican gubernatorial nominee...

Solar Power Initiative Touches Off City Feud In FL | 07-31-2015

The Florida League of Cities, which represents more than 400 municipal governments in that state, has filed a legal brief with the Florida Supreme Court urging it to reject a citizens’ initiative bound for the state’s November 2016 ballot...

Politics In Brief - August 3 2015 | 07-31-2015

MA HB 3665 Clears First Hurdle A bill aimed at strengthening MASSACHUSETTS’ public records law, considered one of the nation’s weakest, cleared a joint House-Senate committee last month. HB 3665 still has to clear another committee, as...

FL Supreme Court Rejects Congressional Remap | 07-17-2015

The Florida Supreme Court threw the state’s political landscape into chaos this month when it threw out the congressional district map drawn by the Republican-led Legislature in 2010, as well as a revised map drawn by the Legislature last year,...

Voting Rights Case Begins In IL | 07-17-2015

A federal trial opened last week in North Carolina that will decide whether sweeping election law changes made by the state’s Republican-dominated Legislature in 2013 - after the U.S. Supreme Court ended the requirement that North Carolina and eight...

Politics In Brief - July 20 2015 | 07-17-2015

MO Signs Reform Bill MISSOURI Gov. Jay Nixon (D) signed a broad municipal court reform bill aimed at ending what the bill’s sponsor has called predatory practices targeted at the poor. Among other things, the bill limits fines and bans jail sentences...

CO Ballot Measures Aimed at Gay Marriage | 07-10-2015

Two Littleton, Colorado residents, Gene and D’Arcy Straub, have filed a pair of ballot initiatives that would redefine same-sex marriages in the state as civil unions and allow wedding-related businesses that oppose gay marriage to hire contractors...

PA Pay Raise Gone But Not Forgotten | 07-10-2015

In 2005, public outcry over a pay raise Pennsylvania lawmakers voted themselves helped erase it just four months after it took effect and fueled a major purge of both chambers in the next two election cycles. Government reform advocates have marked the...

Politics In Brief - July 13 2015 | 07-10-2015

States to Wrap Up Same Sex Marriage Cases The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ordered judges in LOUISIANA , MISSISSIPPI , and TEXAS to wrap up same-sex marriage cases in their states in line with last month’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling. The...

Same Sex Ruling Too Soon For Some States | 07-02-2015

One of the many talking points about the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 26 ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide has been the speed at which that decision has come. As Bloomberg noted, in a little over a decade gay couples...

High Court Gives Boost To Nonpartisan Redistricting | 07-02-2015

Last week the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that Arizona voters acted legally when they amended the state’s Constitution in 2000 to transfer the power to draw the state’s congressional districts from lawmakers to an independent redistricting...

Politics In Brief - July 6 2015 | 07-02-2015

ME Considers Impeachment For LePage Six MAINE House members said last month they are exploring disciplinary action against Gov. Paul LePage (R) -- including impeachment - for allegedly forcing Democratic House Speaker Mark Eves out of a new job as...

Summer of Power in UT | 06-19-2015

The ‘60s saw the Summer of Love in San Francisco. But according to the political news website Utah Policy, we are on the verge of a “Summer of Power” in Utah, with Beehive State leaders enjoying a “vortex of power nationally”...

Politics Kills Clean Energy In TX | 06-19-2015

A Texas rebate program for electric vehicles is ending on June 26 – only about a year after it began. Not because state leaders think green rebates are a waste of money or threaten the free market. In fact, a House committee unanimously passed a...

Politics In Brief - June 22 2015 | 06-19-2015

The head of the Orlando-based group People United for Medical Marijuana announced a “massive, statewide paid petition effort” to get a constitutional amendment allowing medical pot on FLORIDA’s 2016 ballot. A medical pot amendment fell...

AZ Agency Website Shut Down By Cyberattack | 06-12-2015

The website of Arizona’s Department of Weights and Measures was hacked this month by a group calling itself the Middle East Cyber Army (MECA). The agency, which ensures the accuracy of various meters and scales, as well as licenses vehicles for...

Major Change Coming In Initiative Process In ME | 06-12-2015

A bill that would make it tougher to get an initiative on the Maine ballot is on the verge of passage in the state’s Legislature. As amended, SB 272 (LD 742) would require sponsors of initiative campaigns to collect signatures from at least 10 percent...

Politics In Brief - June 15 2015 | 06-12-2015

TEXAS Gov. Greg Abbott (R) said last week he did not plan to call a special session to consider legislation to bar county clerks from issuing same-sex marriage licenses despite calls for that action. A ruling is expected soon from the U.S. Supreme Court...

Public Policy Innovation A Myth? | 06-05-2015

“States are mythologized as laboratories of public policy innovation,” but in reality they are often “no more than factories of replication, captured by political myths and doomed to re-enact failed policies,” David Schultz, a...

No Room For Compromise In Today's GOP | 06-05-2015

Rep. William Howell (R), speaker of the Virginia House for the last dozen years, opposes the Affordable Care Act and is a former chair of the American Legislative Exchange Council. But despite his conservative credentials, he’s facing a challenge...

Right To Work Doesn't Work | 06-05-2015

Conservative politicians often blame unions and right-to-work laws for lagging employment and overly generous worker pay. But according to an article last month in the Great Falls Tribune by Alvah MacWilliam, data from The National Conference of State...

Politics In Brief - June 8 2015 | 06-05-2015

Seventeen months ahead of the 2016 presidential election, Democrats allied with Hillary Rodham Clinton have launched a nationwide legal effort aimed at overturning Republican-backed restrictions on voter access that could be decisive in a close race....

Supreme Court To Revisit 'One Person, One Vote' | 05-29-2015

Since a series of Supreme Court decisions in the 1960s, including Baker v. Carr and Reynolds v. Sims , the state legislative and congressional districts drawn by state legislatures or commissions after each decennial census have had to be roughly equal...

Online Voter Registration Coming To FL | 05-29-2015

This month, Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) signed legislation requiring the state to implement an online voter registration system by October 2017. The decision was somewhat of a surprise because the bill, SB 228, was sponsored by a Democrat, Sen. Jeff Clemens...

Appeals Court Tightens Standard For State Restrictions On Campaign Donations | 05-29-2015

A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has reversed a U.S. District judge’s ruling in 2012 upholding Montana’s limits on campaign contributions. The 9th panel ruled that the standard U.S. District Judge Charles Lovell...

Politics In Brief - June 1 2015 | 05-29-2015

CO Signs HB 1057 COLORADO Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) has signed a bill (HB 1057) requiring citizen petitions for constitutional amendments to include estimates of the proposals’ fiscal impact. Currently such estimates aren’t required until...

Washington Lobbyists Migrating To States | 05-15-2015

Washington gridlock has evidently taken a toll on lobbying at the federal level. After peaking at $3.52 billion in 2010, federal lobbyist spending dropped to $3.24 billion in 2014, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics. Lobbyist spending...

Conservative UT Passes Liberal Laws | 05-15-2015

Last week, laws took effect in Utah that among other things institute gay-rights protections and mandate treatment instead of prison for drug offenders. And tax hikes for transportation and education will take effect in July. But those laws were passed...

Some US House Members Sweating Remap Ruling | 05-15-2015

Vulnerable incumbents in the U.S. House are bolstering their campaign accounts in anticipation of an impending Supreme Court decision that could force state legislatures to redraw congressional districts in 13 states or more, possibly before elections...

Politics In Brief - May 18 2015 | 05-15-2015

VT Assembly Approves Election Day Registration The VERMONT General Assembly has given final approval for a bill that would allow Vermonters to register to vote on Election Day. If Gov. Peter Shumlin (D) signs SB 29 -- and a spokesman said he supports...

States Can Ban Direct Fundraising By Judicial Candidates | 05-08-2015

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 last month that states can prohibit judicial candidates from personally soliciting campaign donations. The decision (in Williams-Yulee v. Florida Bar) , upholding a Florida law similar to those in 29 other states, rejected...

County Officials Kill Online Voting Bill In TX | 05-08-2015

A bill to bring online voter registration to Texas came before the state’s House Elections Committee this month. Dozens of people signed up in support of the measure, HB 76, and a number of experts testified about its viability, but a handful of...

Politics In Brief - May 11 2015 | 05-08-2015

KS Approves SB 34 The KANSAS Senate has approved a bill (SB 34) that would grant the Secretary of State the authority to prosecute election fraud. LexisNexis State Net’s legislative prognosis tool places the bill’s chances of passage at...

TN Considers Making Bible State Book | 05-01-2015

Last month the Tennessee House of Representatives passed a bill (HB 615) to make the Holy Bible the official state book. The vote was 55-38, with 20 of the chamber’s 73 Republicans, including House Speaker Beth Harwell, voting against it, six of...

Promoting Civility In 'Next Generation' Of Lawmakers | 05-01-2015

Over 200 state legislators have attended Next Generation workshops, designed to cultivate collaboration across party lines in the development of public policy. The workshops were hosted by the nonprofit, nonpartisan National Institute for Civil Discourse...

OH Judge Sues State Supreme Court Justice | 05-01-2015

Judge Colleen O’Toole, of Ohio’s 11th District Court of Appeals, has filed a federal lawsuit against Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor and two other state court officials, alleging that fundraising restrictions on judicial...

Politics In Brief - May 4 2015 | 05-01-2015

Bloomberg Philanthropies Improves Policymaking Bloomberg Philanthropies, the charitable organization founded by former New York City mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, plans to spend $42 million on the What Works Cities Initiative, which will help 100 cities...

Group Pushes To Bolster Liberal Muscle In States | 04-17-2015

The Democracy Alliance, an organization that advises top Democratic donors, is launching an effort to boost the amount of money being contributed to liberal organizations in the states. The aim of the five-year initiative, called 2020 Vision, is to increase...

WI DNR Considering Eliminating Science Bureau | 04-17-2015

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s (R) proposed budget calls for reductions of science staff at the state’s Department of Natural Resources. But administrators at the agency are considering doing away with the agency’s Bureau of Science Services...

Gun Rights Push In TX About More than 2nd Amendment | 04-17-2015

Thanks in part to the relative looseness of its gun laws, Texas is already known as a gun-friendly state. But Republican lawmakers who control both chambers of the Legislature are pushing for additional freedoms, including “campus carry” and...