Hurricane Harvey Big Short-Term Blow to TX Budget: | 10-13-2017
Texas state Comptroller Glenn Hegar (R) said last week that the cost of responding to Hurricane Harvey, including dispatching first responders, repairing roads and aiding affected schools, could reach $2 billion in the current two-year budget cycle.
“On the expenditure side, this hurricane event is going to cost more than anything we’ve had before,” he said.
But he also indicated that the state’s economy looked good going forward.
“In fiscal 2017, the Texas economy returned to its normal pattern of growth in excess of the national rate of growth. We are projecting continued modest expansion of the Texas economy in this biennium,” he said in a letter to state leaders accompanying his certified revenue estimate for 2018-19. “The most likely scenario is one of steady expansion after a brief slowdown due to Hurricane Harvey.”
The rosy outlook after such a big revenue hit doesn’t surprise Dale Craymer, president of the Texas Taxpayers and Research Association and a former chief revenue estimator for the state comptroller’s office.
“All of a sudden, three months later, there are huge lines at Home Depot and everyone’s buying building supplies,” he said. “You have to spend $50,000 on building materials and lumber to recreate that house, so you get a lot of sales tax money from that.” (TEXAS TRIBUNE)
IL County Repeals Soda Tax | 10-13-2017
Last week, facing strong public opposition to the penny-an-ounce tax on soda and other sweetened beverages imposed in Chicago a little over two months ago, the Cook County Board voted 15-2 to repeal it, effective Dec. 1.
The vote marked another win for the beverage industry, after voters in Santa Fe, New Mexico rejected a soda tax referendum in May and the Michigan Senate passed a bill (SB 583) this month that would block local governments from enacting soda taxes. But those victories came after a string of losses over the past few years in Berkeley, Oakland, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Seattle and other localities where soda taxes were passed, despite the industry’s opposition.
The industry’s cause was apparently helped in Cook County by what Commissioner John Fritchey, a Chicago Democrat, described as “tax fatigue,” with city residents having been hit in recent years with both a record property tax increase and a major state income tax hike.
The tax was also opposed by many retailers whose sales declined after the tax was implemented Aug. 2. Some had posted signs in their soda aisles letting customers know they would pay $1.44 more for each 12-pack of soda they bought because of the tax and urging them to ask their county commissioner to seek its repeal.
Now that the tax is gone, the county will have to figure out how to address the $200 million hole that’s been blown in its $5.4 billion proposed budget for next year. County Clerk David Orr wasn’t optimistic about that prospect, saying “$200 million is a lot of money, and people will lose their jobs and some services may be cut.” (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, ASSOCIATED PRESS, ABC7 CHICAGO)
America’s Partisan Divide Growing | 10-13-2017
It may come as no surprise to anyone who’s observed the political discourse in this country during the last two presidential administrations, but the gap between Democrats and Republicans is widening, according to a new study from the Pew Research Center, which is based on surveys the organization has conducted since 1994, most recently this past June and July. The study found that there is greater disagreement now between Democrats and Republicans on such issues as the role of government, race and immigration than at any time in the past two decades.
For instance, 71 percent of the respondents to Pew’s recent surveys who identified themselves as Democrats or Democratic-leaning said “government should do more to help the needy, even if it means going deeper into debt,” while only 24 percent of Republicans and those who lean Republican held that view. In 1994 those numbers were 58 percent and 38 percent, respectively.
The growing partisan divide between Democrats and Republicans on such issues has been accompanied by increasing animosity between the parties themselves. Eighty-one percent of Democrats said they had an unfavorable view, and 44 percent had a very unfavorable view, of the Republican Party. The number of Republicans who viewed the Democratic Party the same way was virtually identical: 81 percent and 45 percent, respectively. In 1994 the numbers were 57 percent and 16 percent, respectively, for Democrats and 68 percent and 17 percent for Republicans.
The partisan divide extends to President Trump’s approval rating. Eighty-eight percent of Republicans and Republican leaning voters said they approved of the job the president was doing, while just 8 percent of Democrats and Democratic-leaning voters approved of his job performance. Roughly the same proportion of Democrats approved of President Obama’s job performance in his first year in office, but 23 percent of Republicans also viewed it favorably.
Interestingly, only about half of both Republicans and Democrats (53 percent and 56 percent, respectively) said they chose their party because they are for what it represents, while at least 40 percent of the respondents from both parties said they chose their party because they are against what the other party represents.
“People assume policy ideas they view as offensive (e.g. deporting unauthorized immigrants, single payer health care, etc.) are driven by malicious motives and immoral goals,” said Emily Ekins, director of polling for the Cato Institute.
The Pew study also suggests there may not be a lot of opportunity to change that perception, with a majority of both Republicans and Democrats saying most of their friends are like-minded politically, and 14 percent and 21 percent, respectively, saying they have no friends of the opposite party.
But consensus is possible. Majorities of both parties - 83 percent of Democrats and 54 percent of Republicans - now say homosexuality should be accepted by society. In 1994 it was just a slim majority of Democrats, 56 percent, and just 38 percent of Republicans, who held that view. (HILL, PEW RESEARCH CENTER)
Budgets In Brief - October 16 2017 | 10-13-2017
NY NEEDS $27B FOR BRIDGE REPAIRS
NEW YORK state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli (D) said the state needs $27 billion to repair hundreds of locally owned bridges in the state. Nearly 13 percent of the roughly 8,500 bridges owned by local governments are considered structurally deficient, and many are over fifty years old. (TIMES UNION [ALBANY])
OIL REVENUES UP IN OK
September tax collections on oil and gas production in OKLAHOMA were up 7.7 percent, or $72.4 million, over the same month last year. State lawmakers raised the tax rate on older wells in their last legislative session. (OKLAHOMAN [OKLAHOMA CITY])
-- Compiled by KOREY CLARK
Lawmaker Resignations Costing OK | 10-13-2017
Oklahoma could spend over a quarter of a million dollars on special elections this year. The reason? The need to fill eight vacancies in the state’s Legislature - four in the House and four in the Senate.
One of those vacancies was created by the death of Rep. David Brumbaugh (R) in April. Three others were the result of lawmakers stepping down to take other jobs. But the rest were due to resignations over sex and ethics scandals.
The cost of special elections for House seats in the state ranges between $10,000 and $24,000 and between $18,000 and $44,000 for Senate seats. But with some of the required elections scheduled for the same date, the Oklahoma State Election Board estimates the total cost of filling the eight seats will be between $194,000 and $250,000.
The state may also have to hold a congressional election this fiscal year, however, with U.S. Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-Oklahoma) having been nominated by President Trump to be the next administrator of NASA. And such elections can cost as much as $600,000, if a runoff is required along with a primary and general election. So if Bridenstine resigns before Jan. 1, the election board will have to ask the Legislature for the money to pay for it.
But Election Board spokesman Bryan Dean said, “If we do not need a congressional special election, we can likely make everything work within our current budget.” Still, one state lawmaker has proposed legislation that would require lawmakers who leave office for dishonorable reasons to pay for special elections they necessitate.
“With just the cascade of special elections from resignations from bad actors and all the other reasons, it’s becoming a bit of a financial burden to the state,” said Sen. Rob Standridge (R), who filed the bill (SB 6 a). (OKLAHOMAN [OKLAHOMA CITY], LEXISNEXIS STATE NET)
Hackers To Help Make US Elections More Secure | 10-13-2017
One of the highlights of this year’s DEFCON - one of the world’s largest hacker conferences, held each summer in Las Vegas - was a Voting Machine Hacking Village, where attendees were invited to infiltrate more than 25 different voting machines, most of which are widely used in state and local elections across the country. By the time the conference was over, every piece of equipment had been successfully hacked.
Researchers associated with the event announced last week that members of the DEFCON community will now be forming a coalition with academic institutions, government agencies and cyber and national security leaders focused on making U.S. elections more secure. The coalition plans to recommend election security best practices in the next couple of months.
The effort joins others directed at the problem, including the Defending Digital Democracy program launched in July by Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government and funded in part by Facebook. (CNN MONEY)
Politics In Brief - October 16 2017 | 10-13-2017
OK CONSIDERS COOLING-OFF PERIOD FOR STATE OFFICIALS
The OKLAHOMA Ethics Commission is considering banning state officials and employees from lobbying for two years from the time their government service ends. Over 30 states already have such cooling-off periods, with those in eight states two years in duration, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures (ASSOCIATED PRESS)
HI COUNTIES URGE LAWMAKERS TO LET SUN SHINE ON LEGISLATIVE PROCESS
The county councils of HAWAII, Kauai and Maui all adopted nonbinding resolutions last month calling on the Legislature to apply the state’s Sunshine Law to itself. Lawmakers effectively exempted themselves from the open records law when it was passed in 1975, and many islanders were unhappy with the Legislature’s recent bailout of the Honolulu rail project. (STAR ADVERTISER)
-- Compiled by KOREY CLARK
A Party Of One | 10-13-2017
It’s often said that showing up is half the battle. If you need proof, we present the case of Manhattan, Montana resident Glen Clements. As the Bozeman Chronicle reports, Clement is assured of becoming the town’s next mayor. How can they say that when the election is not until next month? Easy: he’s the only one technically eligible to take the position. It turns out Clements submitted paperwork a while back declaring his intention to be a write-in candidate. That matters a lot because there are no other official candidates, meaning that under Montana law he is the only one now that counts even if voters were to write in other names on Election Day. Presuming, that is, he votes for himself.
If You Bake It, They Will Come | 10-13-2017
If you live in Wisconsin and you’ve always thought your grandma’s cookies were so good she ought to sell them, take heart. As Wisconsin Public Radio reports, it’s now perfectly fine for home bakers to sell their scrumptious goodies to whoever wants to buy them. But Badger State residents need to pause before they start sketching out plans to open a home bakery. The ruling did not sit well with restaurants and grocery stores, who note they have spent big bucks making sure they meet state safety, cleanliness and food labeling standards. They urged the court to stay its ruling. So you might say that at the moment this cookie is currently only half baked. Wah wahhh.
Root, Root, Root for... | 10-13-2017
Anyone but the Dodgers. Yep, that’s generally the feeling here in Northern California from early April to late October. And while Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti deftly sidestepped a question about his gubernatorial ambitions during his luncheon appearance before the Sacramento Press Club last week, he did take the opportunity to urge folks to drop their longstanding affiliations to the A’s or Giants and cheer his Dodgers on to a World Series win for the first time in 29 years. The genial and polished-without-seeming-polished Garcetti appeared to make inroads with Carol Dahmen-Eckery, a well-known Democratic consultant and a lifetime Giants fan who brought up baseball during the Q&A, but not everyone was convinced. Namely one lifetime A’s fan who still hasn’t gotten over the dramatic Kirk Gibson home run that sparked the underdog Dodgers to an upset win over his beloved boys from Oaktown in the 1988 Series. Not that I’m bitter.
Strange Bedfellows, Statehouse Style | 10-13-2017
On the surface Connecticut lawmakers Art Linares and Caroline Simmons don’t have a lot in common. He’s a Republican loved by the NRA who has done volunteer work for Florida Sen. Marco Rubio; she’s a Democrat who worked on Barack Obama’s historic first presidential campaign. But as the Hartford Courant reports, their similarities clearly outweigh their differences...which is why by the time you read this they will be man and wife. Sadly, while they planned their nuptials and honeymoon for what is usually the Legislature’s slow time, the state’s ongoing budget fiasco seems likely to force them to hold off on at least the latter of those events. With lawmakers hoping to get something settled this week, it appears they will be stuck in Hartford for a critical budget vote. Because everyone knows that if you are in the game, the game is your real spouse.
-- BY RICH EHISEN
Will Massive Equifax Breach Spur State Regulation? | 10-13-2017
The unauthorized accessing of sensitive financial and personal information about 145.5 million consumers at Equifax, which the company made public last month, has prompted numerous lawsuits, congressional hearings, and investigations by federal agencies and state attorneys general, along with a big drop in the company’s stock price and the sudden retirements of its chief information officer, chief security officer and CEO. The massive breach could also lead to a state regulatory crackdown on credit reporting agencies, which aren’t currently subject to some of the requirements imposed on other businesses that manage sensitive consumer data, and possibly to tighter controls on that larger universe of businesses as well.
Equifax and the two other major consumer credit bureaus, Experian and TransUnion, compile and store confidential information, including credit card numbers, phone numbers, addresses, birth dates and Social Security Numbers, on about 200 million Americans. The companies use that trove of data to calculate the credit scores used to help decide whether someone gets a credit card, a home loan or a job, among many other things.
Despite the critical function they serve and the lucrative target they pose for identity thieves, however, the credit reporting agencies, though required to abide by many of the data security laws that apply to banks and other financial institutions, aren’t subject to the same level of federal regulatory oversight as those entities, according to a report by the New York Times. While banks are continuously monitored for compliance by a team of agencies, the credit bureaus generally only come under scrutiny after a problem has arisen, that report indicated.
“Credit reporting agencies are the plumbing of our financial system but are much less regulated than many banks,” Rohit Chopra, a senior fellow at the Consumer Federation of America, an association of nonprofit consumer organizations, told the Times.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) wants to change that situation. He has directed his state’s Department of Financial Services (DFS) to issue new regulations requiring credit reporting agencies to register with the state each year and giving the superintendent of the DFS the power to deny or revoke a credit bureau’s authorization to operate in the state for failing to comply with the state’s Cybersecurity Requirements for Financial Services Companies, which went into effect in March, or engaging in unfair, deceptive or predatory practices, among other things.
“A person’s credit history affects virtually every part of their lives and we will not sit idle by while New Yorkers remain unprotected from cyberattacks due to lax security,” Cuomo said, according to a DFS press release. “Oversight of credit reporting agencies will help ensure that personal information is less vulnerable to cyberattacks and other nefarious acts in this rapidly changing digital world. The Equifax breach was a wakeup call, and with this action, New York is raising the bar for consumer protections that we hope will be replicated across the nation.”
Whether other states will heed that call remains to be seen. But the Equifax breach also highlighted other gaps in the laws governing credit reporting companies and other financial institutions. According to congressional testimony given by former Equifax CEO Richard Smith this month, the company didn’t disclose its breach to the public until over a month after initially detecting it, in part because it took time to ascertain the extent of the infiltration and because it was advised by outside cybersecurity counsel to have a plan in place for protecting consumers affected by the breach first. Yahoo added insult to that injury when it revealed last month that it had suffered a breach affecting 500 million of its users back in 2014.
Forty-eight states have laws requiring private or public entities to notify individuals of breaches of their personal information, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. But the laws are somewhat vague, generally requiring only that notification be provided expeditiously. Disclosure is complicated by the fact that it can take time to determine the size of a breach and what, if anything, was taken, and companies also want to protect their reputations.
“Is it really ‘lost’ if you can’t find it out in the Darknet for sale?,” said Chris Roberts, chief security architect at Acalvio, a Santa Clara, California-based company that provides advanced threat detection solutions, as TheStreet reported. “Is it ‘lost’ if you have no trace of it leaving? Is it lost and do we have to disclose if we can’t actually work out what happened? Disclosure is a mess, and that’s putting it nicely. Lawyers are involved, and they care less about the ‘normal human’ and simply have a duty to protect the corporation. It’s as simple as that.”
Another issue that has likely become apparent to many impacted by the Equifax breach is that taking action to prevent the fraudulent use of the information that was illegally accessed, such as initiating a “credit freeze,” blocking lenders from pulling your credit report and, thereby, preventing someone from fraudulently opening a new account in your name, or lifting a freeze once it is in place, isn’t free, unless you live in one of handful of states that bar credit bureaus from imposing such fees or you can prove you were the victim of credit theft, such as by providing the number of a filed police report. According to the consumer research website ValuePenguin.com, the fees for a freeze, for instance, generally range from $3 to $10, making the expense of freezing your credit at all three major credit bureaus as much as $20 until Jan 31, 2018, when a waiver of the fee for a credit freeze at Equifax expires and the cost rises to $30.
Some members of Congress have indicated their willingness to address these issues. U.S. Rep. Jim Langevin (D-Rhode Island) has reintroduced legislation (HB 3806) that would establish a 30-day national standard for breach notifications and direct the Federal Trade Commission to help coordinate the disclosures, according to The Hill. The publication also reported that U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), chairman of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, said he’s been working with U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-California) and other senators of both parties on a national breach notification standard for years.
“I remain committed to getting a good bill put together and over the finish line,” he said before his committee’s hearing on Equifax this month.
U.S. Rep. Jim Himes (D-Connecticut) and U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts), meanwhile, have all introduced legislation providing for free credit freezes, HB 3766, SB 1810 and SB 1816, respectively, according to LexisNexis State Net’s legislative tracking system. But the enactment of any of the congressional measures seems unlikely with a presidential administration inclined to loosen rather than tighten government regulations, most recently evidenced by the Environmental Protection Agency’s move to repeal President Barack Obama’s signature policy for curbing carbon emissions from power plants.
But at least five states have also introduced bills this year, or prefiled measures for next year, that were likely prompted by the Equifax breach, given their subject matter and the fact that they were proposed after the breach was made public on Sept. 7 (see Bird’s eye view in this issue). The measures include New York SB 6879, which would require credit reporting agencies to automatically place a freeze on consumer credit files affected by a breach, and SB 6880, which would require any business that uses computerized data including private information to disclose breaches of its system within 15 days of discovering them unless directed otherwise by law enforcement, as well as measures providing for free credit freezes in Illinois (HB 4095 and SB 2230) and Michigan (HB 5055). Bills dealing with data breaches and credit freezes that were introduced prior to the Equifax breach was made public are also still pending in at least nine states. And those measures could get a boost from the abundant media coverage of the Equifax incident.
Brown Signs CA Drug Price Transparency Bill | 10-13-2017
Resisting opposition from the pharmaceutical industry, California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) signed legislation last week requiring drug makers to give the state more notice and justification before raising drug price increases.
“Californians have a right to know why their medication costs are out of control, especially when pharmaceutical profits are soaring,” Brown said in a statement.
The bill, SB 17, requires drug makers to provide a 60-day notice if certain drug prices are raised more than 16 percent in a two-year period, applicable to drugs that have a wholesale price of more than $40 for a 30-day supply. The measure further requires health insurers to file annual reports with the state detailing the impact of drug pricing on health care premiums.
Health advocates like Charles Bacchi, president and chief executive of the California Assn. of Health Plans, have long complained that drug pricing is a main factor in the soaring cost of health care.
“Pharmaceutical prices have long played an outsized role in driving up the cost of health coverage across the board. SB 17 gives us the tools to address the issue by helping us prepare for price hikes and discouraging needless cost increases,” he said in a statement on Monday.
But SB 17 drew intense opposition from drug makers, who said the law is too narrowcast and won’t do anything to lower drug prices.
“It is disappointing that Gov. Brown has decided to sign a bill that is based on misleading rhetoric instead of what’s in the best interest of patients,” Priscilla VanderVeer, a spokeswoman for the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, said in a statement.
The pricing bill was just one of dozens Brown addressed as he worked his way toward the Oct. 15 signing deadline. Other key measures he endorsed include a suite of bills reforming the state’s juvenile sentencing laws and another that addresses gender pay equity and additional protections for female workers. (LEXISNEXIS STATE NET, CALIFORNIA GOVERNOR’S OFFICE, LOS ANGELES TIMES, KAISER HEALTH NEWS)
Baker Enlists Social Workers In MA Opioid Battle | 10-13-2017
Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker (R) announced a “first-in-the-nation set of educational core principles” he says will help ensure the Bay State’s more than 4,000 enrolled social work students are equipped with the skills needed to confront the state’s ongoing opioid abuse crisis.
All nine of the state’s schools of social work have agreed to those core principles, which include being able to demonstrate an understanding of prevention techniques and strategies; assessing a person's risk for substance use disorders; showing an awareness of how to inform individuals about the risks associated with substance misuse; eliminating stigma; and recognizing substance use disorders as chronic diseases that affect individuals and families physically, mentally, spiritually and socially.
Baker said it was critical to provide students with the training to deal with opioid abuse because social workers are often “on the front lines” of people’s efforts to beat addiction. But Baker also cautioned that getting a handle on the opioid crisis will take an even broader effort going forward.
“The most important thing we need to do here is get everybody to understand and accept that they have a role to play in this, and not simply the purview of those who might choose to enter a field or a space where you might see more of this because as we've said before, this is everywhere,” Baker said. (MASSLIVE.COM, BOSTON HERALD, WBUR.ORG [BOSTON])
Governors In Brief - October 16 2017 | 10-13-2017
VT GOV ISSUES CYBER SECURITY ORDER
Saying his state needed to do more to address cyber security, VERMONT Gov. Phil Scott (R) issued Executive Order 18-17 to create the Governor's Cyber Security Advisory Team, a group tasked with developing a plan for protecting the state’s information and systems, evaluating statewide cybersecurity readiness and developing best practices for policies and procedures. (ASSOCIATED PRESS, VERMONT GOVERNOR’S OFFICE)
BROWN REPLACES OR EDUCATION CHIEF
Barely two years after hand picking him for the job, OREGON Gov. Kate Brown (D) accepted the resignation of state schools chief Salam Noor last week. Brown installed state education innovation officer Colt Gill as his replacement until a national search produces a replacement. (PORTLAND OREGONIAN, NEWS-REVIEW [ROSEBURG])
SCOTT ORDERS NEW FL GENERATOR RULE
Saying families rely on assisted living facilities to be fully prepared to care for their loved ones during an emergency, FLORIDA Gov. Rick Scott (R) ordered the Agency for Health Care Administration and the Department of Elder Affairs to begin crafting permanent rules requiring Sunshine State nursing homes and assisted living facilities to have emergency generators on hand to protect residents in a power outage. The move comes after 14 elderly nursing home patients died in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma after their facility lost power. (NEWS PRESS [FT. MYRES])
-- Compiled by RICH EHISEN
Equifax Breach Spurs State Legislation | 10-13-2017
At least five states have introduced legislation this year, or prefiled bills for next year, that appear to have been spurred by the recent data breach at Equifax, according to Lexis Nexis State Net’s legislative tracking system. Most of the measures, proposed after the breach was made public on Sept. 7, provide for free credit freezes, credit reports or credit monitoring. Legislation dealing with credit freezes and consumer notification of data breaches that was introduced earlier in the year is also pending in nine states.
Source: LexisNexis State Net
Business - October 16 2017 | 10-13-2017
California Signs SB 20
CALIFORNIA Gov. Jerry Brown (D) signs SB 20, which requires passengers on commercial busses equipped with seat belts to use those safety devices. The law further requires drivers of those busses to inform riders of the law (LOS ANGELES TIMES).
California Vetoes AB 1461
Also in, CALIFORNIA Gov. Brown vetoes AB 1461, which would have required subscription in-home food delivery services like Blue Apron to obtain food handler cards for employees handling unpackaged ingredients (CALIFORNIA GOVERNOR’S OFFICE).
Gov. Brown Signs SB 63
Gov. Brown also signs SB 63, which provides 12 weeks of unpaid maternity or paternity leave for CALIFORNIA residents who work for companies with 20 to 49 employees and protects these new parents from losing their jobs and health care benefits (CALIFORNIA GOVERNOR’S OFFICE).
Gov. Brown Signs AB 168
Gov. Brown also signs AB 168, which prohibits all CALIFORNIA employers, including the Legislature and state and local governments, from seeking salary history information about an applicant for employment and requires an employer to provide the pay scale for a position to an applicant upon reasonable request (CALIFORNIA GOVERNOR’S OFFICE)
Education - October 16 2017 | 10-13-2017
California Vetoes AB 1399
CALIFORNIA Gov. Jerry Brown (D) vetoes AB 1399, which would have required the state Department on Teacher Credentialing to develop program standards on teaching the subject of genocide and human rights. Brown said such programs already exist in the state’s curriculum framework (CALIFORNIA GOVERNOR’S OFFICE).
California Signs AB 830
Staying in CALIFORNIA Gov. Brown signs AB 830, which eliminates the high school exit exam as a condition of graduation (CALIFORNIA GOVERNOR’S OFFICE).
California Signs AB 738
Also in CALIFORNIA, Gov. Brown signs AB 738, which requires state education officials to develop a model curriculum for Native American studies and requires schools with grades 9-12 to offer courses based on the model curriculum (CALIFORNIA GOVERNOR’S OFFICE).
Gov. Brown Signs AB 10
Gov. Brown also signs AB 10, which requires CALIFORNIA middle and high schools where at least 40 percent of students meet the federal poverty threshold to stock half their campus restrooms with free menstrual products (SACRAMENTO BEE).
Environment - October 16 2017 | 10-13-2017
Jerry Brown Signs A Dozen Bills
In an effort to bolster the state’s market for zero- and near-zero emissions vehicles, CALIFORNIA Gov. Jerry Brown (D) signs a dozen bills aimed at broadening their use in the Golden State. A sampling of the bills include SB 498, which requires at least 50 percent of the state’s light-duty vehicle fleet to be zero-emission by 2025 and AB 739, which sets a 15 percent zero emission goal by the same year for the state’s heavy duty vehicles (CALIFORNIA GOVERNOR’S OFFICE).
California Signs SB 50
Also in CALIFORNIA, Gov. Brown signs SB 50, which grants a first right of refusal to the State Lands Commission prior to the sale or lease of federal public land located in California and bars the transfer of title on such lands if that right of refusal has not been exercised (CALIFORNIA GOVERNOR’S OFFICE).
Health & Science - October 16 2017 | 10-13-2017
California Vetoes AB 715
CALIFORNIA Gov. Jerry Brown (D) vetoes AB 715, which would have created a new state working group tasked with determining best practices in prescribing opioid medications. Brown said such state-level work groups already exist, making another one unnecessary (LOS ANGELES TIMES).
California Signs SB 17
Also in CALIFORNIA, Gov. Brown signs SB 17, a bill that requires pharmaceutical companies to provide a 60-day notice when raising drug prices with a wholesale price of more than $40 for a 30-day supply by more than 16 percent in a two-year period. The law also requires health plans and insurers to file annual reports outlining how drug costs impact health care premiums in California (CALIFORNIA GOVERNOR’S OFFICE).
California Signs SB 323
Staying in CALIFORNIA, Gov. Brown signs SB 323, which allows federally qualified health centers and rural health clinics to receive reimbursement for providing substance use disorder and specialty mental health services (LEXISNEXIS STATE NET).
Pennsylvania Signs HB 45
PENNSYLVANIA Gov. Tom Wolf (D) signs HB 45, so-called “right to try” legislation that allows terminally ill patients to try experimental medications not approved by the Food and Drug Administration. The law also provides civil immunity to doctors and drug makers who assist patients in getting those drugs (WPMT FOX 43 [YORK]).
Social Policy - October 16 2017 | 10-13-2017
Social Policy In Oklahoma
An OKLAHOMA court strikes down a Sooner State law that required doctors prescribing abortion-inducing medications to follow a protocol established in 2000 rather than updated protocols offered by drug makers. District Judge Patricia Parrish said HB 2684 was unconstitutional because it creates an undue burden on a woman's access to abortion (OKLAHOMAN [OKLAHOMA CITY]).
California Signs SB 239
CALIFORNIA Gov. Jerry Brown (D) signs SB 239, which lowers from a felony to a misdemeanor the crime of knowingly exposing a sexual partner to HIV without disclosing the infection (LOS ANGELES TIMES).
Social Policy In Kentucky
The U.S. Supreme Court declines to hear an appeal from KENTUCKY officials to a lower court ruling requiring the Bluegrass State to pay relatives who are providing foster care to family members. The ruling requires the state to pay them the same amount as it does licensed foster care families (COURIER-JOURNAL [LEXINGTON]).
Social Policy In Massachusetts
The MASSACHUSETTS House approves legislation that would ban so-called “bump stocks” and any other device that could be used to turn a legal gun into one capable of firing like an automatic weapon. The measure was attached as an amendment to a budget bill making its way through the House. It is now in the Senate (STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE [BOSTON]).
-- Compiled by RICH EHISEN
Coffee Conundrum | 10-06-2017
If you thought that steaming hot cup of delicious black goodness that gets us through the wretched, awful time of day we call morning would perhaps kill you, would you drink it anyway? California residents could soon face that question pending the outcome of a lawsuit that kicked back into gear a few weeks ago. As the AP reports, something called the Council for Education and Research on Toxics alleges that California’s Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act – better known as Prop 65 to us natives – requires coffee manufacturers, brewers and retailers to post warnings about a hazardous chemical found in a brewed cup of joe. That chemical, acrylamide, is a natural byproduct of the roasting process. Coffee folks acknowledge it is there, but contend in amounts hardly dangerous to humans. Whatever. You could slap a skull and crossbones on my cup but I’m not giving up my coffee
And We Thought It Was Jerry | 10-06-2017
Every fall California Gov. Jerry Brown has to hunker down and sift through hundreds of bills that arrive on his desk at the end of the legislative session. Most are of great gravity to a nation state that likes to tell anyone who will listen it is the sixth largest economy in the world. And for that reason alone we commend the gov for inking his name to legislation declaring the Augustynolophus morrisi as the state’s official dinosaur. All kidding aside, it turns out the creature was actually only found in what is now California. Kind of like Brown himself, wouldn’t you say?
To Czar Or Not To Czar | 10-06-2017
Utah legislators are pondering doing away with the Beehive State’s so-called “porn czar,” officially known as the “obscenity and pornography complaints ombudsman.” The state made big news in 2000 when it created the position as a way to give local governments some state-level legal help in battling against anything it considered smutty. Alas, budget cuts essentially killed the position just a few years later, though the law creating it still remains on the books. But don’t say so long just yet. As the Salt Lake Tribune reports, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Todd Weiler wants to revive the ombudsman position with a scope beyond just porn. Perhaps, but he also says his motivation comes from a new Cosmopolitan magazine ad campaign some folks call obscene. Proving once again that everything old eventually becomes new again.
-- By RICH EHISEN
Business - October 9 2017 | 10-06-2017
Business In California
The CALIFORNIA Public Utilities Commission opts to not require ridesharing services like Uber and Lyft to submit to the state fingerprints of their drivers. The agency did codify the need for the companies to submit proof annually that they have conducted background checks on those drivers, something the companies already do voluntarily (SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE).
California Signs SB 306
CALIFORNIA Gov. Jerry Brown (D) signs SB 306, which allows the state labor commissioner to seek an immediate and temporary injunction when workers face retaliation for reporting violations of law in the workplace (LEXISNEXIS STATE NET).
California Signs SB 295
Also in CALIFORNIA, Gov. Brown signs SB 295, which will require farm labor contractors to train employees on how to prevent and report sexual assault (LOS ANGELES TIMES).
California Signs SB 33
Remaining in CALIFORNIA, Gov. Brown signs SB 33, the so-called “Wells Fargo” bill which prohibits forced arbitration in cases where a financial institution has wrongfully used consumer information to commit fraud. The measure allows consumers harmed by those actions to file suit against those institutions (CALIFORNIA GOVERNOR’S OFFICE).
Education - October 9 2017 | 10-06-2017
California Signs AB 1178
CALIFORNIA Gov. Jerry Brown (D) signs AB 1178, which will require colleges to send students personalized reports detailing their cumulative loan amounts and the percentage of federal borrowing limits they have reached (LOS ANGELES TIMES).
California Signs AB 667
Also in CALIFORNIA, Gov. Brown signs AB 667, which requires a pupil facing suspension to attend an informal conference conducted by the principal and to be informed of the other means of correction that were attempted before their suspension (LEXISNEXIS STATE NET).
California Signs AB 226
Staying in CALIFORNIA, Gov. Brown signs AB 226, which requires the state Commission on Teacher Credentialing to approve or reject within seven days the completed application of an applicant whose spouse or legal partner is an active duty military personnel (LEXIS NEXIS STATE NET).
Environment - October 9 2017 | 10-06-2017
Environment In California And New Mexico
A federal judge orders the Trump administration to immediately enforce restrictions on the release of potent methane emissions at oil and gas drilling operations on public land. The rules, which went into effect on January 3rd, are intended to cut the release of 175,000 tons of the greenhouse gas annually and reduce the emission of associated toxic pollutants. The ruling came in a suit filed by CALIFORNIA and NEW MEXICO. U.S. Magistrate Judge Elizabeth Laporte ruled the administration cannot legally postpone a rule that has already taken effect (LOS ANGELES TIMES).
Health & Science - October 9 2017 | 10-06-2017
California Vetoes AB 1279
CALIFORNIA Gov. Jerry Brown (D) vetoes AB 1279, which would have required the state Department of Health to develop an outreach program to increase awareness of the disease Valley Fever. Brown said the agency already has numerous materials to educate the public about the disease (CALIFORNIA GOVERNOR’S OFFICE).
California Signs SB 512
Also in CALIFORNIA, Gov. Brown signs SB 512, which requires doctors to inform patients if they are performing a stem cell therapy that is not approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration (LEXISNEXIS STATE NET).
California Signs AB 156
Staying in CALIFORNIA, Gov. Brown signs AB 156, which extends the open enrollment period for consumers buying coverage through the state’s health benefits exchange to Jan. 15 2018 (CALIFORNIA GOVERNOR’S OFFICE).
Immigration - October 9 2017 | 10-06-2017
Supreme Court Declines Case
The Supreme Court of the United States declines to take on a case seeking to challenge the University of CALIFORNIA system’s decision to allow unauthorized immigrants to pay in-state tuition and receive financial aid (SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE).
Immigration In California
The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rules that immigrants who are being held while seeking the right to remain in the United States, and who would pose no threat if released, are entitled to have bail set in an amount that considers how much they can afford to pay and whether they can be safely monitored without bail. The ruling, which would apply to CALIFORNIA and eight other western states, was challenged by both the Obama and Trump administrations (SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE).
Social Policy - October 9 2017 | 10-06-2017
Social Policy In Iowa
A county judge in IOWA upholds the Hawkeye State’s new law imposing a 72-hour waiting period on women seeking an abortion. The plaintiffs in the case, Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union, filed an intention to appeal the ruling to the state Supreme Court (DES MOINES REGISTER).
California Vetoes AB 859
CALIFORNIA Gov. Jerry Brown (D) vetoes AB 859, which would have lowered the burden of proof when suing a nursing home for elder abuse or neglect if a judge finds evidence of intentional destruction of evidence. Brown said judges already have numerous options for dealing with that issue (CALIFORNIA GOVERNOR’S OFFICE).
California Signs SB 219
Also in CALIFORNIA, Gov. Brown signs SB 219, which bans senior care facilities from denying admission or otherwise discriminating against a resident based on gender identity, sexual orientation or HIV status. The measure also mandates that staff use names and pronouns that correspond to how residents identify themselves (CAPITAL PUBLIC RADIO).
Potpourri - October 9 2017 | 10-06-2017
California Signs AB 562
CALIFORNIA Gov. Jerry Brown (D) signs AB 562, which makes it a misdemeanor crime for anyone to interfere with, obstruct or impede a State Auditor’s investigation, with violators facing a fine of up to $5,000 (LEXISNEXIS STATE NET).
-- Compiled by RICH EHISEN
Brown Signs Bill Making CA ‘Sanctuary State’ | 10-06-2017
California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) signed almost a dozen immigration-related bills last week, including a so-called “sanctuary state” measure (SB 54) that will make the Golden State the only one to significantly limit how much local law enforcement officials can assist federal authorities in carrying out immigration enforcement actions.
Brown included a rare signing message with his signature on SB 54, a bill seen by many as a direct rejection of immigration policies being undertaken by the Trump administration. In that message Brown took great pains “to note what the bill does not do,” which he says included not preventing the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) or the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) “from doing their own work in any way.”
Senate President pro Tem Kevin de León (D) introduced the bill in January as a means to blunt President Donald Trump’s stated intention to increase deportations of unauthorized immigrants nationwide. California is home to an estimated 2.3 million unauthorized immigrants.
But Brown was not on board with the bill in its original form. He demanded that the number of previous convictions which would disqualify an immigrant from the law’s protections be significantly expanded. The bill he signed on Thursday notes over 800 such crimes, from serious felonies to even a few misdemeanors, almost 12 times the 65 exempting crimes the bill originally listed. It also allows federal agents at least some access to immigrants in Golden State jails and exempts the California Department of Corrections from its mandates. Those changes convinced the state’s police chiefs to drop their opposition to the measure, though sheriff’s agencies still remain opposed.
In his signing message Brown said the bill now “strikes a balance that will protect public safety, while bringing a measure of comfort to those families who are now living in fear every day.”
The signing also comes as the state is locked in a battle with U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who has attempted to significantly cut federal funding to cities with similar sanctuary policies. A federal judge blocked that attempt last month, but some immigration opponents believe the new law could lead to still more litigation.
“It’s significant in the fact that it now gives Jeff Sessions what he needs if he wants to pursue a lawsuit against California,” Ira Mehlman, a spokesman for the Washington, D.C.-based organization Federation for American Immigration Reform, which advocates for immigration controls and stricter enforcement, told the San Jose Mercury News, adding, “I think they’re trying to test just how far they can push the federal government, and we certainly expect the federal government will respond.”
But de León has insisted all along his bill is defensible in court. He hailed Brown’s signing, saying, “We will not stand idly by as President Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions seek to divide this nation by scapegoating honest, hardworking families and casting immigrants as threats to be neutralized.”
Other bills Brown signed include measures to prohibit landlords from using a person’s real or perceived legal status against them (AB 291) and AB 450, which would require employers to require proper court documents before allowing immigration officials access to the workplace or to employee information. (CALIFORNIA GOVERNOR’S OFFICE, LEXISNEXIS STATE NET, SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS)
Kasich Hints At Leaving GOP | 10-06-2017
Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) said last week that the GOP is broken and needs to be fixed. If that doesn’t happen, he said, he might not be a Republican much longer.
Appearing on the CNN show “State of the Union,” Kasich lamented the direction the party has taken in recent years. He specifically called out comments made by Republican Senatorial candidate Roy Moore on birtherism and gay people during the campaign as being “ludicrous” and “divisive.” The big question, he said, was “is the tail wagging the dog, or is that the dog?”
And if it is the dog?
“I’m certainly fighting to make sure that it’s the tail wagging the dog and the party can be fixed,” he said. “If the party can’t be fixed...then I’m not going to be able to support the party, period, that’s the end of it. I mean, I’m worried about our country and my kids’ future. I am worried.”
He denied he was working toward an independent presidential campaign in 2020, saying he was only expressing his desire that the party fix what he sees as being wrong with it, saying, “If the Republican Party is going to be anti-immigration, if it’s not going to be worried about debt, if it’s going to be anti-trade, this is not where our party can be.” (CNN, ASSOCIATED PRESS)
Baker Calls For Bipartisan Health Care Reform | 10-06-2017
Speaking to a meeting of Bay State health officials, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker (R) called on Congress to take steps to stabilize the individual health insurance market and act quickly to extend two recently expired programs that fund community health centers and health care coverage for poor children.
Noting he was part of a bipartisan group of governors who testified during a health reform hearing in the U.S. Senate last month, he also decried the hyper-partisanship that has dogged the entire health care debate. He said that in the conversations he had with fellow governors it would have been hard for someone to recognize who belonged to what party.
“The shame of what’s happened so far is that dialogue and that conversation, which I thought was incredibly productive and informed, has been pushed aside, as have many efforts of that kind over the past six to eight months, by a far more partisan conversation that would have required a significant rush to judgment involving trillions of dollars and the health care of millions of people,” Baker said.
“I’m still waiting on the bipartisan conversation on health care ...in Washington,” he added. (BOSTON GLOBE, MASSLIVE.COM)
Governors In Brief - October 9 2017 | 10-06-2017
SANDOVAL DECLARES NV HEALTH EMERGENCY AFTER MASS SHOOTING
In the immediate aftermath of the mass shooting in Las Vegas that saw 59 people killed and more than 500 injured, NEVADA Gov. Brian Sandoval (R) issued an executive order temporarily suspending some state medical rules to allow doctors and nurses from other states to temporarily practice in the Silver State. (THE HILL)
NV SHOOTING PROMPTS INSLEE CALL FOR NEW WA GUN REGS
Citing the carnage of the mass shooting in NEVADA last week, WASHINGTON Gov. Jay Inslee called for Evergreen State lawmakers to ban “bump stocks,” a device that can be used to modify a semi-automatic rifle so it can mimic a fully automatic weapon. The Las Vegas shooter reportedly had two bump stocks in his possession during the shooting. (NEWS TRIBUNE [TACOMA])
BEVIN, KY GOP READY TO INTRO PENSION REFORM
KENTUCKY Gov. Matt Bevin (R) and legislative leaders say they will likely release the framework of a major pension overhaul plan this week. House Speaker Pro Tem David Osborne said they won’t have the exact proposal but will unveil “a pretty comprehensive outline and summary.” The Bluegrass State is facing an estimated $40 billion public pension shortfall. (LEXINGTON COURIER-JOURNAL)
BROWN SIGNS 15 CA HOUSING BILLS
As reported in this space last week, CALIFORNIA Gov. Jerry Brown (D) signed legislation last month aimed at easing the Golden State’s critical shortage of affordable housing. But while we focused on the three most high profile measures, Brown actually signed a total of 15 housing-related bills, a full list of which can be found here. (LEXISNEXIS STATE NET, CALIFORNIA GOVERNOR’S OFFICE)
-- Compiled by RICH EHISEN
Vegas Shooting Unlikely To Change Some US Gun Numbers | 10-06-2017
The mass shooting at a country music festival in Las Vegas last week that left 59 people dead has displaced the mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando last year, in which 49 people were killed, as the deadliest such attack in modern U.S. history. But other statistics associated with U.S. gun violence and gun policies seem less subject to change.
For example, the United States has by far the most gun-related homicide deaths of any developed country, according to data from the United Nations and the Small Arms Survey compiled and reported by the Guardian. That data shows that in 2012 there were 29.7 homicides by firearm per 1 million people in America, nearly four times as many as in the country with the next highest rate, Switzerland (7.7), and almost six times more than in neighboring Canada (5.1). Other data collected by the Guardian, along with firearm homicide research reviewed by the Harvard School of Public Health’s Injury Control Research Center, suggests a simple explanation for America’s disproportionally high gun homicide rate: it has far more guns than any other developed country. Again according to the Guardian, the United States has 4.43 percent of the world’s 7.13 billion population but 42 percent of the world’s 644 million civilian-owned guns.
Gun-related homicide rates in individual U.S. states also generally correlate to levels of gun ownership (see Bird’s eye view in this issue), according to an article in Mother Jones, drawing in part on a report in the peer reviewed journal Injury Prevention and data from the Centers for Disease and Prevention.
“States with higher gun ownership rates have higher gun murder rates -- as much as 114 percent higher than states with lower gun ownership rates,” the article stated.
A similar relationship exists between gun ownership rates and homicides of law enforcement officers, according to a 2015 study published in the American Journal of Pediatric Health. That study found that the rate of such homicides was three times higher in the 23 states with the highest gun ownership rates (52 percent on average) than in the eight states with the lowest gun ownership rates (13.5 percent on average), 0.95 versus 0.31 per 10,000.
The economist Richard Florida, meanwhile, reported in the Atlantic several years ago that while there was “no statistical association between gun deaths and mental illness or stress levels” among U.S. states, gun deaths were “significantly lower in states with stricter gun control legislation,” such as bans on assault weapons and trigger lock or safe storage requirements.
But research by the Pew Research Center indicates that support for gun rights has increased over the last 17 years while support for gun control has declined and that mass shootings don’t appear to boost support for gun control. Still, some specific gun control policies, such as preventing the mentally ill from purchasing guns, requiring background checks for private gun sales and at gun shows, and barring gun purchases by individuals on federal watch lists, enjoy wide support. A similar contradiction in public opinion has also existed with regard to the parts and the whole of the Affordable Care Act. (VOX, CNN)
Supreme Court Begins Blockbuster Fall Term | 10-06-2017
After being short-handed for over a year, due to the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, a full-strength U.S. Supreme Court began its fall term last week with a docket full of major cases. They include: Gill v. Whitford, No. 16-1161, in which the court will consider whether there’s a constitutional limit to the amount of partisanship that can be involved in the drawing of voting districts; Husted v. A. Philip Randolph Institute, No. 16-980, concerning the constitutionality of Ohio’s aggressive efforts to purge its voter rolls of those who don’t regularly vote; Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, No. 16-111, dealing with whether businesses can refuse service to same-sex couples on religious grounds; Epic Systems Corp. v. Lewis, No. 16-258, concerning whether employers can use arbitration clauses in employment contracts to prevent their workers from banding together to sue them over workplace issues; Janus v. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, No. 16-1466, involving whether government workers who opt out of joining unions can be forced to support the unions’ collective bargaining efforts; and Carpenter v. United States, No. 16-402, involving the privacy of customer location data held by cellphone companies.
With Scalia’s replacement, Justice Neil M. Gorsuch, having consistently voted with the court’s most conservative justices in the few cases in which he participated last term but swing-vote Justice Anthony M. Kennedy having been drifting to the left recently, it’s unclear which way the cases will go. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg said last month, “There’s only one prediction that’s entirely safe about the upcoming term.”
“It will be momentous,” she said. (NEW YORK TIMES)
Russian Hacking Speeds Shift Away From Electronic-Only Voting Machines | 10-06-2017
After the recount in Florida in the 2000 presidential election with its infamous “hanging chads,” many states and counties, with the aid of federal funding from the Help America Vote Act, replaced their paper-based voting systems with, in many cases, entirely paperless direct recording electronic (DRE) machines. Over the last decade, however, on the advice of cybersecurity experts and election integrity advocates, many states and counties have abandoned their paperless DRE machines in favor of those that leave a “paper trail,” including equipment that optically scans paper ballots. Reports in June and last month that voter registration systems in 21 states had been targeted during the 2016 presidential election campaign by hackers tied to the Russian government has only sped up that transition.
The elections board in Virginia, one of those targeted states, decided last month not to allow the 12 counties in the state that still have electronic voting machines to continue using them.
“The fact that there is an ongoing attempt to undermine the election process was a big factor in our determination to get rid of paperless equipment,” said Virginia Department of Elections Commissioner Edgardo Cortés.
Georgia lawmakers are also considering doing away with their paperless DRE machines and the state will test a hybrid electronic-paper system in a municipal election in November.
But money is still an obstacle to updating voting equipment for many jurisdictions, with the Brennan Center for Justice estimating it would cost $130 million to $400 million to replace all the remaining paperless voting machines across the country.
“Funding is a huge problem. The question is who is responsible for paying for elections in the United States?” said Lawrence Norden of the Brennan Center. “The counties don’t have the money. The states are saying it’s not our job to fund new equipment. And the federal government is saying it’s not our responsibility either.”
Norden added, however, that for the first time in years, bipartisan proposals to provide funding for new voting equipment were being discussed in Congress.
“The Russian hacking incidents in 2016 have made a difference,” he said. “There’s more interest in Congress in this issue than there has been in a decade.” (STATELINE, WASHINGTON POST, REUTERS)
Politics In Brief - October 9 2017 | 10-06-2017
MI Senate Leader Backs Private Police Plan
MICHIGAN Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof (R) has proposed a bill (SB 594) that would authorize private, possibly for-profit police forces with full arrest powers to supplement public law enforcement agencies. The legislation was panned by Howell Police Chief George Basar, who said it seemed like it would create a “Blackwater for police” in the state, a reference to the private military company that gained notoriety in 2007 after some of its employees were charged with killing a group of Iraqi civilians in Nisour Square, Baghdad. (DETROIT NEWS, NEW YORK TIMES)
NM CRACKING DOWN ON CAMPAIGN REPORTING VIOLATIONS
NEW MEXICO Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver (D) has initiated a crackdown on violations of the state’s Campaign Reporting Act. Fines for campaign reporting violations have quadrupled since she took office in December. (SANTA FE NEW MEXICAN)
-- Compiled by KOREY CLARK
Congressional Republicans Reconsidering Scrapping State And Local Tax Deduction | 10-06-2017
The tax overhaul outlined by President Trump and GOP congressional leaders last month proposed doing away with the federal tax deduction for state and local tax payments to help offset the business and individual tax cuts included in the plan. But congressional Republicans are now reconsidering that idea to avoid losing support for the plan from lawmakers from California, New York and other high-tax states whose residents would be most impacted by the elimination of the state and local tax deduction.
U.S. Rep. Dave Reichert (R-Washington), a member of the House Ways & Means Committee, said the deduction was “a concern for every state - some more pronounced than other states,” adding, “What we don’t want to do is create a system where you have huge winners and losers across the country.”
One option Republicans are considering is capping the tax deduction for high-income earners. But that would make the tax plan even more of a burden on the federal deficit, which it is already projected to increase by $2.4 trillion over the next decade, according to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center. (LOS ANGELES TIMES)
Trump Signals Change of Course On Transportation Funding | 10-06-2017
In May the White House released a framework for President Trump’s promised $1 trillion infrastructure investment plan calling for an outlay of $200 billion in federal funding to “incentivize additional non-Federal funding,” including private-sector investment. And over the last several months Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and other administration officials have said private investment would be central to the president’s plan. But in a closed meeting last month with Republican and Democratic lawmakers on the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee, Trump said that public-private partnerships aren’t the solution for repairing the country’s infrastructure because such projects don’t work, according to two Democrats who attended that gathering, U.S. Reps. Brian Higgins of New York and Terri Sewell of Alabama.
Higgins took the president’s comments as a sign that he might be open to increasing the federal government’s financial commitment and to working with Democrats on the plan, after Congressional Republicans’ repeated failure to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
“The president obviously feels burned, burned by the House and Senate leadership,” he said. “I think in his mind that liberates him to find partnerships different from the one that hasn’t worked in the past eight months.” (BLOOMBERG)
Budgets In Brief - October 9 2017 | 10-06-2017
POT LEGALIZATION EXPANDING PUBLIC PAYROLL IN CA
With recreational marijuana becoming legal in CALIFORNIA in 2018, the state is in the process of hiring hundreds of new government employees to help oversee the industry, including environmental scientists to develop standards for marijuana farms near streams and lawyers to help resolve issues involving the state’s warren of environmental laws. The state has budgeted $100 million for marijuana regulation this year, in part to pay for the new personnel. (LOS ANGELES TIMES)
MI SENATE PASSES BAN ON LOCAL SODA TAXES
The MICHIGAN Senate overwhelmingly approved a bill (SB 583) last week that would prohibit local governments from taxing the manufacture, distribution or sale of food, reportedly a pre-emptive effort to prevent the enactment of taxes on sodas and other sugary beverages that have been passed in Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle and other local jurisdictions around the country. The bill’s author, Sen. Pete MacGregor (R), said the state “can’t have a patchwork” of cities and counties that tax certain items and others that don’t. (DETROIT NEWS, LEXISNEXIS STATE NET)
KS SUPREME COURT STRIKES DOWN NEW SCHOOL FINANCE LAW
The KANSAS Supreme Court ruled last week that the school finance law passed by the Legislature last year still fails to adequately and fairly fund the state’s schools. Lawmakers will now have to add more funding for schools statewide next year, as well as come up with a way of distributing it that ensures students in poorer districts have the same educational opportunities as those in more affluent ones. (WICHITA EAGLE)
CT HOUSE OPTS NOT TO VOTE ON BUDGET OVERRIDE
CONNECTICUT’s Democrat-controlled House opted not to bring a vote to override Gov. Dannel Malloy’s (D) veto of the budget passed by the chamber’s Republican minority, with the aid of a handful of Democrats, last month. None of the chamber’s Republicans even moved for an override vote because they knew they didn’t have the 101 votes required and they said they needed more time to convince some Democrats that their budget beats the alternative of running the government under an executive order from Malloy. (ASSOCIATED PRESS, LEXISNEXIS STATE NET)
-- Compiled by KOREY CLARK
Correlation Between Gun Deaths And Gun Ownership In States | 10-06-2017
States with higher rates of gun ownership generally have higher gun death rates than those with lower gun ownership rates, according to an analysis of 2013 data from the peer-reviewed journal Injury Prevention and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention by Mother Jones. Alaska, the state with the highest gun death rate in 2013, at 20 deaths per 100,000 residents, also had the highest rate of gun ownership, at over 60 percent. Rhode Island, with one of the lowest gun ownership rates, at around 5 percent, had a gun death rate of about 5 deaths per 100,000 residents, although Hawaii, the state with the lowest gun death rate, roughly 2.5 deaths per 100,000, had a relatively high gun ownership rate, at about 45 percent.
Source: Mother Jones, Injury Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Obamacare Survives But Not Home Free | 10-06-2017
The Affordable Care Act, often called Obamacare, has had more narrow escapes than the legendary Harry Houdini. But although a law created solely by Democrats has amazingly survived in a Republican political landscape, its long-term survival is not yet fully assured.
Obamacare’s latest escape was from a Senate bill by Sens. Lindsay Graham (R-South Carolina) and Bill Cassidy (R-Louisiana) that would have abolished the ACA exchanges under which people purchase medical insurance and replaced them with block grants to states. The bill was dropped after it became clear it lacked the votes to pass.
The No. 1 problem now facing Obamacare is rising premiums for individuals insured under the ACA. Jittery insurers are now finalizing — and in most cases increasing — premiums for 2018 before the next open enrollment period begins on November 1. State regulators have approved rate increases as high as 57 percent in Georgia and 45 percent in Florida. The insurance companies are making decisions in the dark, not knowing if the Trump administration will continue paying for subsidies that enable insurers to lower deductibles and other costs. Although President Donald Trump so far has made monthly payments to insurers to pay these subsidies, he’s given mixed signals as to whether he will continue doing so.
Meanwhile, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tennessee) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Washington) are trying to mobilize support for a law that would make these payments mandatory.
Alexander-Murray has been slow to get off the ground because this bipartisan effort was put on hold in September while Graham-Cassidy was being considered. Although Graham-Cassidy was dropped, it cost Alexander-Murray momentum, and the Senate has since moved on to other issues.
Obamacare is also under pressure because the Trump administration has reduced the open enrollment period for signing up for an ACA policy by half to 45 days and slashed the advertising budget to promote enrollment from $100,000 to $10,000. Five states and the District of Columbia that operate their own health insurance exchanges are trying to compensate. California, Colorado, Massachusetts, Minnesota and Washington have extended their open enrollment periods beyond the Dec. 31 federal cutoff. Covered California, one of the most robust state exchanges, will have the longest enrollment period, to Jan 31, 2018.
States are also trying to ease the financial burdens of the nine million Americans who buy health insurance without government subsidies and the millions more who might do so if policies were less expensive. Iowa, Minnesota and Oklahoma have submitted proposals that would let them provide cheaper polices with scaled-down coverage. Alaska this year began paying for 33 costly medical conditions, including HIV. This held the premium increase this year to 7 percent.
Alaska’s biggest achievement was to set up a program of “reinsurance” in which the state assumes some risks now borne by insurance companies. This has kept premium increases below the national average, albeit at a cost to taxpayers. Minnesota will adopt a similar plan in 2018 that is expected to stabilize premiums at current levels or lower them slightly, a welcome change in the Gopher State after years of double-digit increases. Evaluating reinsurance, The Economist wrote: “The model is tried and tested; the federal government provided reinsurance for the first three years of Obamacare.”
For all its problems, the Affordable Care Act has an impressive record of survival. Republicans threatened to abolish it almost from the moment it became law eight years ago. After the GOP gained control in 2010, the House passed more than 50 bills to repeal the ACA. The only bill that also passed the Senate was vetoed by President Barack Obama. Repeal seemed likely, however, after Trump won the presidential election while the GOP retained control of both houses of Congress.
House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) and Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) proposed repealing the ACA immediately and allowing a two-year grace period in which Congress would decide upon a replacement. According to The Hill, they did not have a ready-made replacement available because they had not anticipated that Trump would defeat Hillary Clinton.
Trump was wary about leaving health care up in the air for two years. He told CBS’s “60 Minutes” he wanted repeal and replace done simultaneously. In retrospect, this decision may have saved the ACA because Republicans soon found they disagreed on what a replacement bill should contain. They were particularly divided on Medicaid, the federal-state program that provides health care to low-income people and the disabled. Obamacare expanded Medicaid for states willing to do so, adding an estimated 16 million people to the rolls. Together with the Children’s Health Insurance Program, Medicaid now covers 70 million people, more than a fifth of all Americans.
When Ryan brought a repeal-and-replace bill to the House floor on March 24, it was voted down, to his chagrin. He made changes demanded by House conservatives, and the bill passed the House on May 4. But the changes had made the bill unpalatable to the Senate, where Republicans hold a narrow 52-48 majority. With all Democrats opposed, McConnell could afford to lose only two Republicans, producing a 50-50 tie that Vice President Mike Pence could break in favor of the repeal-and-replace bill.
After several senators declared the House bill dead on arrival, McConnell decided to draft a new bill, composed by a 13-member working group on which there were no female senators. The group worked behind closed doors. Neither the House nor the Senate held public hearings even though health care providers were clamoring to testify. In contrast, more than 40 public hearings were held before the Affordable Care Act was passed.
The Better Care Reconciliation Act that emerged from the Senate working group in June pleased neither conservatives nor moderates. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated that the bill would cost 22 million people their health insurance by 2026. Conservatives delayed a vote on the bill for weeks, and the vote was further delayed when Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) underwent emergency surgery for a brain tumor.
When McConnell finally brought the bill to the floor on July 25, he was barely able to muster enough support to debate it. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), saying that thousands of people who would lose insurance in her state, voted against the debate. So did Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), who said the bill would add to Alaska’s already high health costs. Pence broke a 50-50 tie, enabling the debate to proceed.
After the Senate rejected various versions of the measure, McConnell proposed a so-called “skinny” bill, which repealed ACA provisions requiring individuals to have health insurance and employers to offer it, defunded Planned Parenthood for a year, and gave states some flexibility on insurance rules. Even with Collins and Murkowski in opposition, McConnell believed he could get to 50 votes and rely on Pence’s vote to pass the bill. But McCain capped a dramatic post-midnight speech by voting no. He said the bill had not been the result of an open and orderly process.
That was the last recorded vote on Obamacare. As a disappointed McConnell moved on, Graham and Cassidy decided to make a last try. But they were hurried by a ruling of U.S. Senate parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough, who said the provision allowing repeal by 51 votes was part of a budget resolution that expired on September 30. Graham said later he thought the effort might have succeeded with more time, but three days before the deadline he and Cassidy decided not to seek a vote after Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) joined Collins and McCain in opposition.
After the collapse of Graham-Cassidy, a disappointed President Trump predicted that Obamacare would eventually be repealed, perhaps in 2018. But this won’t be easy. The draft of a 2018 budget resolution drawn up by congressional Republicans does not contain language allowing repeal of Obamacare with 51 votes. Unless this is changed, any repeal bill introduced next year would need 60 votes to protect it from a Democratic filibuster.
Trump opened the door to another tantalizing possibility last month when he reached out to Democratic congressional leaders for help in extending the debt ceiling and keeping the government open. Could this portend cooperation with congressional leaders of both parties to stabilize the soaring costs of health insurance, as Sens. Alexander and Murray propose? Stay tuned. The saga of the Affordable Care Act is far from over.
An Ocean of Lawyers | 09-29-2017
If you live in Rhode Island and need a lawyer, you might consider dropping in on the statehouse. That’s because, as the Providence Journal reports, the Ocean State Legislature has so many attorneys on its payroll it could qualify as the state’s third largest law firm. How many legal beagles, you ask? As the PJ notes, the legislature employs 56 attorneys to help its 113 part-time lawmakers do the state’s legislative business. And as one might guess that expertise doesn’t come cheap: $3.1 million annually in salary and another approximately $773,000 in health benefits. Even more surprising – said nobody, ever - many of those barristers are either family of current and former lawmakers or former lawmakers themselves. And so it goes.
Hey, We’re Confused Too | 09-29-2017
Congressional Republicans – and millions of other Americans – aren’t the only ones confused by the often conflicting messages emanating from the White House these days. As the Washington Post reports, North Korea is also occasionally flummoxed by our president’s...uh...unorthodox style. So much so, the WaPo says, the totalitarian regime has reached out to GOP operatives in an attempt to figure out how to deal with his seemingly hourly changes of mood, tone and tenor. As one person put it, they’ve never dealt with a world leader quite like him before. To which many in this country would say neither have we. But given we’re talking about two leaders with their fingers on their respective nuclear buttons – North Korea’s equally volatile Kim Jong Un being the other – let’s hope they can figure out something other than the childish schoolyard name-calling they’ve both been using of late.
And Yet She Didn’t See This One Coming | 09-29-2017
Texas Rep. Dawnna Dukes is in some hot water, facing misdemeanor corruption charges for giving one of her aides a taxpayer-funded raise for shuttling Dukes’ daughter back and forth to school. But that is hardly the most interesting thing about her case. As the AP reports, documents filed with the case contend Dukes also spent $51,000 between December 2014 and January 2016 on an online psychic. Oddly, the filings indicate Dukes spent her own money, which would seem to make their inclusion unnecessary. But it does raise an obvious question: for $51K couldn’t your psychic have at least warned you that all this was about to go down?
Fake News Association | 09-29-2017
If you went online to take a look at a new news publication called the Free Telegraph and thought, “gee, they sure think highly of Republican governors,” you aren’t imagining things. The Free Telegraph does love itself some Reep govs. Alas, that’s because while it might look like a legitimate media publication, it is in fact put out by the Republican Governor’s Association to trumpet the awesomeness of GOP govs while giving a solid boo-hiss to their Dem counterparts. And because this is 2017 and lying for fun and profit has become the new normal, the RGA was perfectly happy to let folks think the Free Telegraph was an impartial news organization that decided all on its own that Dems just kinda blow. In fact, it was only after the Associated Press inquired that the RGA fessed up and put a disclosure on the site’s front page identifying it as being produced by them. What a world.
-- By RICH EHISEN
Business - October 2 2017 | 09-29-2017
Business In Wisconsin
A WISCONSIN Appeals Court upholds the Badger State’s right-to-work law, which bars unions and employers from requiring that all employees pay fees to join a union, either in membership dues or “fair share” payments for those who opt out of union membership but are still represented by the union. The three-judge panel’s verdict overturns a lower court’s ruling that the law is unconstitutional (MILWAUKEE JOURNAL-SENTINEL).
Business In Kansas
The KANSAS Court of Appeals rules it is permissible for local municipalities in the Sunflower State to impose location and other restrictions on mobile homes. The ruling referenced previous state Supreme Court rulings that had “upheld ordinances that treat the owners of mobile homes differently from other homeowners in order to protect the public health, safety, and welfare of citizens”(WICHITA EAGLE).
California Signs AB 569
CALIFORNIA Gov. Jerry Brown (D) signs AB 569, which bars employers from firing workers who use birth control or who have an abortion. The law also bars employers from requiring new hires to sign codes of conduct regarding abortion, contraception or sexual activity outside of marriage (CALIFORNIA GOVERNOR’S OFFICE).
Rhode Island Signs HB 5413
RHODE ISLAND Gov. Gina Raimondo (D) signs HB 5413, legislation that requires Ocean State employers to offer workers up to three sick days per year in 2018. The number will increase to four days in 2019 and five days thereafter (PROVIDENCE JOURNAL).
Illinois Signs HB 690
ILLINOIS Gov. Bruce Rauner (R) signs HB 690, which requires staffing firms that provide transportation for workers to workplaces to provide return transportation unless a temporary worker advises that he or she will obtain alternative transportation after the shift is completed (STAFFING INDUSTRY ANALYSTS).
Education - October 2 2017 | 09-29-2017
California Signs SB 557
CALIFORNIA Gov. Jerry Brown (D) signs SB 557, which allows Golden State schools to donate their cafeteria food leftovers to local food banks and charities (LEXISNEXIS STATE NET).
Health & Science - October 2 2017 | 09-29-2017
Health In Massachusetts
The MASSACHUSETTS Supreme Judicial Court rules that because the effects of marijuana vary so greatly between individuals, police officers cannot offer an opinion on whether an individual was “high” in court cases involving a driver accused of operating under the influence of marijuana (MASSLIVE.COM).
California Signs AB 1102
CALIFORNIA Gov. Jerry Brown (D) signs AB 1102, which increases to $75,000 the maximum fine for a misdemeanor violation of provisions that prohibit a health facility from discriminating or retaliating against an individual who has presented a grievance or participated in an investigation or administrative proceeding related to the quality of care, services, or conditions at the facility (LEXISNEXIS STATE NET).
California Vetoes AB 154
Also in CALIFORNIA, Gov. Brown vetoes AB 154, which would have required Golden State courts to make a recommendation for mental health exams on offenders sentenced to state prisons. Brown said corrections facilities already conduct those examinations on every person in the system regardless of court recommendations (LEXISNEXIS STATE NET).
California Signs AB 1119
Staying in CALIFORNIA, Gov. Brown signs AB 1119, which allows emergency health care providers to obtain access to a patient’s complete medical records (CALIFORNIA GOVERNOR’S OFFICE).
Social Policy - October 2 2017 | 09-29-2017
Social Policy In Indiana
A federal court permanently strikes down provisions of an INDIANA law passed last year that would have banned abortions sought due to fetal genetic abnormalities and required that aborted fetuses be buried or cremated. U.S. District Judge Tanya Walton Pratt found those two provisions and a third one which required abortion providers to tell women the state prohibits such abortions are unconstitutional. Then-Gov. Mike Pence (R) signed the provisions into law in 2016 (ASSOCIATED PRESS).
Kentucky Strikes Down HB 2
A federal judge in KENTUCKY strikes down HB 2, a bill signed into law in January that requires women to receive an ultrasound before they can legally have an abortion. Western District of Kentucky Judge David Hale said the bill was unconstitutional. State officials are weighing an appeal (CNN).
Illinois Signs HB 40
ILLINOIS Gov. Bruce Rauner (R) signs HB 40, a bill that allows Medicaid and state health plans to cover abortions. The measure also ensures the legality of abortion procedures in the Prairie State by overriding a so-called trigger in current state law that some contend would make the procedure illegal in the state if the U.S. Supreme Court overturned its landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling (CHICAGO TRIBUNE).
-- Compiled by RICH EHISEN
Brown Signs CA Housing Package, More Bills Pending | 09-29-2017
With the October 15 signing deadline fast approaching, California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) is slowly working his way through the annual slew of bills that end up on his desk after the frantic final days of the legislative session come to an end. But while Brown has already inked his name to some of his biggest legislative priorities – a new gas tax to fund desperately needed infrastructure repairs, chief among them – he has yet to determine the fate of several more of the state’s most high-profile measures.
Among the most closely watched bills yet to be acted upon is SB 54, the so-called “sanctuary state” bill that would determine if, when and how much state law enforcement officers will cooperate with federal immigration officials. The Trump administration, and specifically U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, has already threatened to withhold federal funds from so-called “sanctuary cities” with similar policies, though the courts have so far sided with cities on the matter. Even so, a federal lawsuit is expected if Brown signs the bill.
Two major gender pay equity measures also await his decision: AB 1209, which would require large employers to publish the company’s average gender pay gap for both workers and corporate board members, and AB 168, which would bar employers from asking job applicants to supply their wage history.
With health costs still at the crux of the health coverage debate, Brown will also weigh in on a closely watched measure intended to help curb rising prescription drug prices. Under SB 17, drug makers would have to give public and private drug buyers advance notice before making most price increases, typically those of more than $40. The measure, which is vehemently opposed by drug makers, would also require health insurers to report to the state how much they spend on prescriptions and the proportion of health insurance premiums that go toward drugs.
Other notable legislation Brown must weigh in on includes measures to make the first year of community college tuition-free (AB 19); a bill to require schools to offer female students a ready supply of free menstrual products (AB 10); a proposal to create a new nonbinary gender designation (SB 179); an expansion of the state’s family leave law to include companies with less than the current benchmark of 50 employees (SB 63); and a measure to give hourly school workers up to six weeks of paid furlough during the summer recess (SB 621).
Brown won’t have to deal with one highly controversial issue, however. Sen. Ricardo Lara (D) has shelved SB 349, a union-backed measure that would have drastically changed staffing requirements at the state’s 562 licensed dialysis centers. The measure, which was strongly opposed by the dialysis centers and many doctors’ groups, cleared the Senate in May. But Lara pulled the bill from further consideration in the Assembly as the legislative session wound down, saying he wanted to give stakeholders an opportunity to work out a compromise on their own. (For more on this, see SNCJ Spotlight [INSERT LINK] in this issue).
The governor also ended the suspense on another high-profile issue late last week, signing off on a trio of bills intended to help ease the Golden State’s affordable housing crisis. The measures collectively ease some environmental review regulations developers say discourage new building (SB 35), impose real estate transaction fees to help fund new affordable housing units (SB 2) and put a $4 billion housing bond before voters in 2018 (SB 3). Brown previously expressed his support for the package but had never definitively said he would sign them. (LEXISNEXIS STATE NET, ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER, LOS ANGELES TIMES, ED SOURCE)
Walker Signs Amended WI Foxconn Bill | 09-29-2017
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker signed off on a controversial deal granting almost $3 billion in incentives to lure Taiwanese electronics giant Foxconn to build a new plant in the Badger State. If Foxconn follows through on its plan to invest $10 billion into the plant – and to create 13,000 jobs in the process – the deal could become the largest incentive package in U.S. history.
The legislation, which Walker has championed for months, passed through the Legislature along predominantly partisan lines, with most Republicans in favor and all but a handful of Democrats opposed. Even so, Walker vetoed a portion of the bill that granted lawmakers oversight of $250 million in borrowing to advance work on road infrastructure to serve the factory. The governor also scaled back provisions to allow towns involved in the deal to convert to villages to avoid being annexed by larger communities.
Environmental groups are thought to be weighing litigation over the Foxconn project being made exempt from several state environmental laws. The measure is also designed to quickly expedite appeals of Foxconn-related lawsuits to the state Supreme Court, where conservatives have a solid majority. (USA TODAY, MILWAUKEE JOURNAL-SENTINEL)
Governors In Brief - October 2 2017 | 09-29-2017
BAKER TO FORM MA TRANSPORTATION TASK FORCE
Responding to a business group’s report that called for an independent review of state transportation infrastructure needs, MASSACHUSETTS Gov. Charlie Baker (R) said he will issue an executive order in the coming weeks to create a new commission tasked with reviewing the Bay’s State’s transportation situation and devising means of funding needed projects. (STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE)
SANDOVAL WANTS NV GAMING, WEED REVIEW
NEVADA Gov. Brian Sandoval (R) said he wants the Silver State to take another look at the relationship between the gaming and legal marijuana industries. He issued an order last week for the Nevada Gaming Policy Committee to meet by Dec. 15 to review rules on allowing marijuana entrepreneurs to finance gaming ventures and casino owners to invest in marijuana dispensaries or cultivation operations. (LAS VEGAS SUN)
SCOTT SEEKS NEW FL EFFORTS TO BATTLE OPIOID ABUSE
FLORIDA Gov. Rick Scott (R) announced support for $50 million in new funding to help battle opioid abuse in the Sunshine State. He also called for a three-day limit on opioid prescriptions, requiring that doctors who prescribe pain medications take part in the Florida Prescription Drug Monitoring Program and a new effort to shut down unlicensed prescribers. (TAMPA BAY TIMES)
-- Compiled by RICH EHISEN
Graham-Cassidy Bill Comes Up Short In Senate | 09-29-2017
U.S. Senate Republicans abandoned their last-ditch effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act last week ahead of a Sept. 30 deadline to do so with a simple majority of 50 votes. That decision came after U.S. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) joined U.S. Sens. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) and John McCain (R-Arizona) in opposing the plan authored by U.S. Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) and Bill Cassidy (R-Louisiana), leaving the GOP one vote short of the 50-vote threshold.
Collins announced her opposition to the bill just minutes after the Congressional Budget Office released a report projecting that millions of Americans would lose insurance coverage if it became law and despite last-minute changes to the measure that would have sent more money to Collins’ home state and that of fellow centrist U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska).
“Obviously this was an issue to which I’ve given a great deal of thought because there are many problems in the Affordable Care Act that do need to be fixed. However it was clear to me that the Graham-Cassidy bill was not the answer,” Collins said.
Bipartisan negotiations on a plan to address those problems could now resume, and some congressional Republicans have expressed support for that course of action.
U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-Florida), who represents a swing district in his state, said, “I think the time for partisan health-care reform has passed, and we should focus on a bipartisan package that provides some regulatory relief” and “guarantees [cost-sharing subsidies] for the most vulnerable people.”
But other Republicans aren’t similarly inclined.
“I personally think it’s time for the American people to see what the Democrats have done to them on health care,” said Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah). “They’re going to find they can’t pay for it, they’re going to find that it doesn’t work.... Now that will make it tough on everybody. Maybe that’s what it takes to wise people up.” (HILL, NEW YORK TIMES, WASHINGTON POST, BANGOR DAILY NEWS, ABC NEWS)
Moore Bests Trump In AL Senate Race | 09-29-2017
Former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore handily defeated sitting U.S. Sen. Luther Strange (R-Alabama) in a special primary runoff last Tuesday to determine the Republican who will potentially serve out the term of now-Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Strange had been appointed to fill Sessions’ vacant seat following his appointment by President Trump.
The final vote in last week’s contest was 54.6 percent to 45.4 percent in Moore’s favor, in spite of the fact that he was removed from the state Supreme Court twice - the first time in 2003 for refusing to remove a statue of the Ten Commandments from the Alabama Judicial Building in Montgomery, which houses the Supreme Court, and then last year for directing state judges to defy federal orders allowing same-sex marriage - and despite the support for his opponent by Trump and U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R). In fact, the election marks the first time an incumbent U.S. senator with White House support has lost since Arlen Specter was defeated in a Democratic primary in Pennsylvania after switching parties.
Moore is expected to be the favorite in the state’s Dec. 12 general election, in which he will face Democrat Doug Jones, who was a U.S. attorney under President Bill Clinton. But the primary result could encourage other challenges to establishment Republicans in next year’s midterm elections. (NEW YORK TIMES, FOX NEWS)
CA Moves Up Primary Election Date | 09-29-2017
For the last few years, California has held its primary elections in June, which, in 2016, was after Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump had already become their respective parties’ presumptive nominees. Under a bill (SB 568) signed by Gov. Jerry Brown (D) last week, however, the state will hold its primaries on Super Tuesday in March, when several other states have their primaries.
Secretary of State Alex Padilla said the change will give the nation’s most populous state more influence in the presidential nominating process.
“Candidates will not be able to ignore the largest, most diverse state in the nation as they seek our country’s highest office,” he said.
But some say moving the state’s primaries to March could also make it harder for congressional and legislative candidates to raise money and mount a serious challenge to established incumbents. (HILL, LOS ANGELES TIMES, LEXISNEXIS STATE NET)
Politics In Brief - October 2 2017 | 09-29-2017
DHS CONTACTS STATES ABOUT 2016 ELECTION HACKING
The Department of Homeland Security directly notified election officials in 21 states last month that they had been targeted by hackers connected to the Russian government during the 2016 election campaign. The states that confirmed they were targeted are: ALABAMA, ALASKA, ARIZONA, CALIFORNIA, COLORADO, CONNECTICUT, DELAWARE, FLORIDA, ILLINOIS, IOWA, MARYLAND, MINNESOTA, NORTH DAKOTA, OHIO, OKLAHOMA, OREGON, PENNSYLVANIA, TEXAS, VIRGINIA, WASHINGTON and WISCONSIN. (WASHINGTON POST, NEW YORK TIMES)
NONCITIZEN VOTING MEASURE PASSES AND THEN FAILS IN MD CITY
The city council of College Park, MARYLAND, a suburb of Washington, thought it had approved a measure this month allowing noncitizens to vote in city elections, after it voted 4-3 in favor of the proposal. But city officials later discovered that the measure, as a charter amendment, required a supermajority of the council’s nine members and, therefore, actually failed. (WASHINGTON POST)
-- Compiled by KOREY CLARK
Trump And GOP Congressional Leaders Propose Sweeping Tax Plan | 09-29-2017
Last week President Donald Trump and Republican congressional leaders outlined their plan for a sweeping overhaul of the federal tax code. While many details of the plan still have to be worked out, it currently calls for a 4.6 percent reduction in the top tax rate for individuals, from 39.6 percent to 35 percent, and a 15 percent cut in the tax rate for corporations, from 35 percent to 20 percent. It also proposes eliminating taxes on the profits multinational businesses earn outside the United States and allowing such businesses to repatriate past profits at a reduced rate; allowing businesses to write off investment costs immediately rather than deducting them over time; simplifying the tax code by ending many deductions; doing away with the estate tax; and nearly doubling the standard deduction for individuals.
“We want tax reform that is pro-growth, pro-jobs, pro-worker, pro-family, and yes, tax reform that is pro-American,” Trump said at a rally in Indiana last Wednesday.
“This is a revolutionary change, and the biggest winners will be the everyday American workers as jobs start pouring into our country, as companies start competing for American labor and as wages start going up at levels that you haven’t seen in many years,” he said.
But Democrats say the wealthy would benefit most under the GOP plan, given that only individuals earning over $418,000 a year would qualify for the lower top income tax rate and that the estate tax only applies to those with over $5.49 million in assets. Some working families, meanwhile, could end up paying more in taxes because the plan would raise the lowest income tax rate from 10 percent to 12 percent and eliminate personal exemptions, they say.
“Under this plan, the wealthiest Americans and wealthiest corporations make out like bandits, while middle-class Americans are left holding the bag,” said U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York).
The National Conference of State Legislatures was also “dismayed” by the plan’s proposed elimination of the federal income tax deduction for state and local tax payments, which has been part of the federal tax code since its inception. The organization said that change would increase the tax burden on “tens of millions of middle-class taxpayers of every political affiliation” and hinder states’ efforts to invest in education and other government services.
And a preliminary estimate from the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, a Washington, D.C.-based watchdog group, indicates that the GOP plan includes about $5.8 trillion in tax cuts but only $3.6 trillion in offsetting revenue increases.
“This is a massive tax cut with an insufficient plan to pay for it,” said Maya MacGuineas, the group’s president. (NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO, WASHINGTON POST, NEW YORK TIMES)
Congressional Action On Remote Sales Taxes Likely On Hold | 09-29-2017
There are currently three bills dealing with the collection of sales taxes from out-of-state sellers pending in Congress: the Marketplace Fairness Act of 2017 (SB 976) and the Remote Transactions Parity Act of 2017 (HR 2193), both of which would allow states to collect sales taxes from remote sellers, and the No Regulation Without Representation Act (HR 2887), which would codify the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Quill Corp. v. North Dakota (1992), prohibiting states from imposing sales taxes on sellers without a physical in-state presence.
But some state tax watchers say action on any of those bills is unlikely while there’s a chance the U.S. Supreme Court will review a decision by the South Dakota Supreme Court last month striking down a 2016 state law (SB 106) requiring out-of-state sellers with over $100,000 in annual sales or more than 200 individual transactions in the state to collect and remit sales taxes.
“At this point, the only scenario in which I can see likely congressional action next year is one in which the Supreme Court reverses Quill, and some members move to reverse such a decision or impose the kind of uniformity and simplification requirements that are included in MFA and RTPA,” said Michael Mazerov, a senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities’ State Fiscal Project.
Jamie Yesnowitz, a principal at Grant Thornton LLP who leads the firm’s state and local tax (SALT) practice and National Tax Office, likewise, said, “I think it is difficult to see a path forward to a full vote in the House or Senate on any of these bills [or another alternative] until very late in the current Congressional session at the earliest.”
South Dakota officials have 90 days to appeal the state Supreme Court’s ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court, which they said they intend to do. (BLOOMBERG BNA, SOUTH DAKOTA LEGISLATURE, LEXISNEXIS STATE NET)
Hartford Headed For Bankruptcy? | 09-29-2017
Last week Standard & Poor’s lowered the bond rating for Hartford, Connecticut from B- to CCC, a four-grade drop. That news was bad enough, particularly coming after another four-grade drop in the city’s rating, from BB to B-, less than two weeks earlier. But the reason S&P gave for its latest downgrade of the city’s rating was even more alarming.
“The downgrade to ‘CC’ reflects our opinion that a default, a distressed exchange, or redemption appears to be a virtual certainty,” the agency said in a statement. “S&P Global Ratings could take additional action to lower the rating to ‘D’ if the city executes a bond restructuring or distressed exchange, or files for bankruptcy.”
The city is facing a cash shortfall of $7 million in November and $39.2 million shortfall in December, along with $30 million in debt payments in the next few weeks. And Mayor Luke Bronin said bankruptcy is a possibility unless the General Assembly approves at least $40 million in additional funding for the city this fall. But that body has problems of its own, with Gov. Dannel Malloy (D) having just vetoed the budget it narrowly approved this month. (HARTFORD COURANT, REUTERS, LEXISNEXIS STATE NET)
Budgets In Brief - October 2 2017 | 09-29-2017
BIG DISPARITIES IN ECONOMIC RECOVERY BETWEEN US ZIP CODES
Fifty-two percent of the new jobs created in the first few years of the recovery from the Great Recession came in the 20 percent of U.S. ZIP codes that were already among the most prosperous, according to a report from the Economic Innovation Group. But in the 20 percent of ZIP codes that are the least prosperous, total employment actually declined by 0.1 percent. (HILL, ECONOMIC INNOVATION GROUP)
RURAL GA HOSPITALS NOT GETTING MUCH HELP YET FROM DONATION TAX CREDIT
In 2016 GEORGIA lawmakers approved $180 million in tax credits for taxpayers willing to donate to struggling rural hospitals, and last year they increased the amount of the tax credit from 70 percent of the donated amount to 90 percent. But as of mid-September only about $3 million worth of the credits had been claimed. (ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION)
VAPE TAX PUTS PA SHOPS OUT OF BUSINESS
Over a quarter of the 400 stores dedicated to vaping - an alternative to smoking involving the vaporization of liquid laced with nicotine - that have opened in PENNSYLVANIA over the last few years have closed in twelve months, largely because of a 40-percent state tax on vaping products that took effect last October, according to Charles Huff, president of the Pennsylvania Vape Association. (PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW)
IA PROPERTY TAX REFORM FAILS TO MEET EXPECTATIONS
IOWA businesses have saved only about half as much as state officials projected they would when lawmakers overhauled the state’s property tax system in 2013, according to the state’s nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency. And analysis by the Des Moines Register shows that local governments have also received a total of $107.2 million less than they would have under the old system. (DES MOINES REGISTER)
-- Compiled by KOREY CLARK
Seven States Have Minimum Staffing Requirements For Dialysis Centers | 09-29-2017
Seven states have set minimum staffing levels for dialysis clinics through administrative regulations, according to analysis by the Service Employees International Union. California also considered an SEIU-backed bill (SB 349) this year that, if passed, would have imposed the first such staffing requirements legislatively. But after passing the state’s Senate, the bill was tabled by its author, Sen. Ricardo Lara (D), until next year.
Source: Medscape, Sacramento Bee, LexisNexis State Net
CA Dialysis Regulation Effort Stalled...For Now | 09-29-2017
Three mornings every week for the last few years California resident Dave Kennedy grabs his headphones, a reading tablet and a few pillows and makes a 15-minute drive to the dialysis clinic nearest his home in the foothills east of Sacramento. Once there, he settles into what looks like a high-tech lounge chair for the better part of the next five hours as a machine takes over the work his severely damaged kidneys are no longer able to on their own. It is a routine that will continue for him for the foreseeable future.
“This is my life now until either I get a transplant or I’m dead,” he says.
He is not alone. He is on a kidney transplant waiting list, but until a suitable donor is found he will remain one of about 63,000 Californians and approximately 470,000 Americans nationwide who rely on regular dialysis machine treatments to remove waste, salt and excess water from their blood. Without it they would most likely die within a few weeks.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 4.9 million Americans suffer from kidney disease, and it is the nation’s ninth leading cause of death. It also has a somewhat peculiar place in American health care in that because of legislation signed by President Richard Nixon in 1972, anyone with kidney disease is guaranteed Medicare coverage to pay for its treatment, including dialysis and even transplants. In that way many consider it to be the only form of U.S. socialized medicine.
As reporter Robin Fields noted for ProPublica in 2010, the legislation was the culmination of “a supremely hopeful moment” in which lawmakers saw a chance to help a small number of people suffering from a devastating disease who were generally being blocked from life-saving treatment solely because of its tremendous expense. There initial legislation was expected to apply to only 11,000 such patients in 1972, and the overall cost was a manageable $135 million.
But while the critical nature of such care has not changed, the price tag has grown exponentially, now consuming 1 percent of the entire federal budget. And since most of that care is done by private, for-profit providers, it also generates enormous annual revenues for dialysis treatment clinics like DaVita Kidney Care and Fresenius Medical Care.
With so much on the line for both patients and providers, any proposed changes to how that treatment is meted out come with significant concerns. But the dialysis industry has come under increasing scrutiny in recent years, mostly over what critics contend are serious staffing shortages and a lack of state oversight they argue are putting patients at risk.
Those complaints were brought front and center in May when comedian John Oliver of HBO’s “Last Week Tonight” assailed the industry’s alleged churning of patients, which critics contend was leading to those patients receiving treatment under less than sanitary conditions. During the segment, Oliver showed comments from Megallan Handford, a former DaVita nurse who accused the company of putting profits ahead of patients.
“When I was working at DaVita, the priorities for transitioning patients was to get them on dialysis and get the next patient on as soon as possible,” Handford said in the clip. “You would have sometimes 15, maybe 25 minutes to get that next patient on the machine, so you were not properly disinfecting.”
While being the focus of an immensely popular show like Oliver’s brought the issue in front of a wider audience than would normally be paying attention to it, the dialysis community was already closely following legislation in the California Legislature aimed at imposing several strict new regulations on the Golden State’s 562 dialysis treatment clinics. Although a handful of other states (see Bird’s Eye View [INSERT LINK] in this issue) have imposed staffing ratios via administrative regulations, none have yet adopted such standards legislatively.
Under SB 349 – authored by Sen. Ricardo Lara (D) in February at the behest of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) – dialysis treatment nurses would be limited to no more than eight patients at a given time. The bill also calls for facilities to have at least one technician on duty for every three patients receiving treatment, mandates at least 45 minutes of transition time between patients and requires clinics to undergo annual state inspections.
The measure cleared the Senate in May. It was also endorsed by two Assembly committees, but amidst speculation the bill might not get through the full Assembly, Lara pulled it from further consideration as the legislative session was winding down in September.
In a statement, Lara said he had introduced the bill “in response to the shocking stories I heard from patients and workers about lack of protections and oversight in this rapidly expanding industry,” which he said California treated “like a Wild West with bare minimum standards.”
Those stories include complaints of patients obtaining infections from insufficiently cleaned dialysis machines, theoretically because staff were too rushed to do that cleaning properly.
But Lara’s measure drew fierce opposition not only from the likes of DaVita and Fresenius, but from a wide array of health organizations, business groups, doctors and even dialysis patients. Their most significant complaint was that increased staffing ratios were unnecessary and more about the desire of the SEIU to unionize those facilities. Citing data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, opponents contend that 69 percent of California dialysis patients give their clinic a score of nine or 10 out of 10. Only 10 percent of those patients rated their clinic at a six or below.
Doctors like Berkeley-based nephrologist Dr. Bryan Wong argued that the proposed staffing ratios would likely force clinics to offer fewer appointments or even turn patients away, particularly in rural or underserved areas. If so, he told Kaiser Health News, everyone would feel it in the pocketbook.
“It would drive up the cost of care because the patient would have to be hospitalized to get their treatment,” he said.
Lara noted the concerns over the potential impact on rural health facilities, agreeing to amendments that would have allowed the state Department of Public Health to issue waivers on staffing requirements in certain situations. But he ultimately opted to pull the bill in an effort to bring stakeholders, including the administration of Gov. Jerry Brown (D), together to see if they could hammer out a compromise.
“To give this process time to develop, I will not seek a vote in the Assembly before the end of session and will bring SB 349 up for consideration when the Legislature reconvenes [in 2018] after we have conducted stakeholder meetings. I will invite industry, workers’ groups, patient groups, advocates and the administration to work together in the coming months to find common ground that protects patient safety and increases oversight,” he said in his statement.
The SEIU, however, made it clear they are not ready to roll over without a more contentious fight. In their own statement, SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West President Dave Regan lauded the bill, saying it had “successfully raised awareness of the disturbing patient care problems in dialysis clinics that the industry claimed were not happening, and we are eager to have productive discussions to find solutions that improve patient care for the 66,000 Californians who need dialysis to survive.” But he also sounded a warning, saying “If the discussions are not productive, we will ask California voters to stand up for dialysis patients through a statewide ballot initiative planned for the November 2018 election.”
While that plays out, patients like Kennedy have no choice but to just wait and see what happens next. He says he is perfectly happy with the treatment he gets from the DaVita facility he goes to, but he would also welcome more staffing. Whatever comes out of this, he says, he only hopes all sides remember to keep patients like him at the forefront of their thinking.
“I know this is a business,” he says. “But to me and a lot of people like me, this is life and death.”
After Trump, Why Not? | 09-15-2017
If you thought politics couldn’t sink any lower...wait for it...guess again. That’s because, as Cleveland.com reports, TV talk show host Jerry Springer, a.k.a. “The King of Trash TV” is pondering a run at the Ohio governor’s office. And if you think that is even more absurd than a serial business failure-turned reality TV star winning the White House, Springer can at least say he has previously won an elected office. Yes, for those who forget, Springer was in politics before he was in television, first as a member of the Cincinnati City Council and then for a year as the Queen City’s mayor. He’s also been down this particular road before. He sought but failed to garner the Ohio Democratic gubernatorial nomination in 1982, a loss that moved him first to local journalism and then into tabloid talk TV. Alas, the political bug is hard to kill. He pondered Congressional runs in 2000 and 2004 but opted against both times, citing negative reaction to his talk show. But given the surrealistic nature of current politics, this time around it might actually help.
After Trump, Why Not II? | 09-15-2017
Speaking of surrealistic, how about Sen. Kid Rock? And if self-proclaimed rocks are your thing, perhaps President Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson? Or if sharks are more your style, how about Dallas Mavericks owner and Shark Tank panelist Mark Cuban? And since Facebook already runs your world – at least if you are a Baby Boomer who likes to rant all day about politics – then why not President Mark Zuckerberg? And don’t worry if none of those folks float your boat. As NBC News reports, about a million other people – many of whom you’ve never heard of – are also pondering a run at the White House in 2020. The smart money might be on Cuban, if for no other reason than sharks generally react very strongly to blood in the water.
How Is This Not The Law Everywhere? | 09-15-2017
For many folks the initial training in the fine art of driving a car comes from a parent. In my case, said training came from my mother...and I still have the ringing in my right ear to prove it. Now Stateline reports that a growing number of states are passing laws requiring that a young person seeking their first driver’s license must have a parent take the driver education course as well. Some folks have predictably pitched a hissy fit about the interference of big government yada, yada, yada. But as someone who spends a lot of time in traffic – and who had to unlearn a lot of bad driving habits picked up from said previously mentioned parent – I offer a hearty huzzah! In fact, it might be time to send a whole lot of parents back to school in a whole lot of subjects, eh?
Education - September 18 2017 | 09-15-2017
California Assembly Gives Final Approval
The CALIFORNIA Assembly gives final approval to a bill making the first year of community college free for in-state students going full time. The measure (AB 19) now goes to Gov. Jerry Brown (D) (ASSOCIATED PRESS, SACRAMENTO BEE).
New Arizona Law Backed by Governor
A new ARIZONA law, backed by Gov. Doug Ducey (R), makes all public school students eligible for vouchers to attend private schools, though the program is capped at 30,000 participants by 2022. But state elections officials said opponents of the new law, led by Save Our Schools Arizona, have qualified a referendum (Proposition 305) to reverse the law for the November 2018 ballot (ARIZONA REPUBLIC).
Health & Science - September 18 2017 | 09-15-2017
California Signs SB 17
The CALIFORNIA Senate gives final passage to a measure (SB 17) requiring drug makers to give a public explanation for some price increases. The bill, believed to be the first in the nation to require such transparency in pharmaceutical pricing, now goes to the desk of Gov. Jerry Brown (D) (KPCC RADIO).
New York Signs AB 7901 and SB 6398
NEW YORK Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) signs legislation (AB 7901/SB 6398) granting unlimited sick time to New York government employees who became ill from working at the World Trade Center rescue and recovery effort after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. The bill, passed by the Legislature earlier this year, allows rescue and recovery workers who now work for government entities outside of New York City to receive the same benefits already offered to city cops, firefighters, correction officers and sanitation workers (NEW YORK GOVERNOR’S OFFICE).
Iowa Attorney General's Puts Hold
The IOWA Attorney General’s office puts part of the state’s new medical marijuana law, requiring the state to license two out-of-state dispensaries to ship cannabis oil into Iowa until an in-state production and dispensing system is in place this spring, on hold because it could run afoul of federal restrictions on transporting marijuana across state lines. The underlying law, allowing the in-state system to move forward, isn’t affected (ASSOCIATED PRESS).
Crime & Punishment - September 18 2017 | 09-15-2017
California Governor Signs Marijuana Bill
Gov. Jerry Brown (D) signs a bill (SB 65) banning the smoking of marijuana or ingestion of marijuana products while driving or riding in a vehicle, starting Jan. 1 when recreational pot becomes legal in the state. It was already against the law to drive under the influence of marijuana or have an open bag of pot in a vehicle (KCAL TV). CALIFORNIA legislators give final passage to a measure (AB 725) prohibiting smoking at state parks and beaches, a plan aimed mainly at reducing litter. Violations could be punishable with a $50 fine under the bill, which now heads to Gov. Jerry Brown (D) (LOS ANGELES TIMES, SACRAMENTO BEE)
BEVIN ADVISES UNIVERSITIES TO STOP TEACHING DANCE AND BOOST ENGINEERING DEGREES | 09-15-2017
Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin (R) said this week that public universities should cut programs that don’t produce workers for the high-paying jobs the economy needs. Bevin said that producing graduates who can fill the kind of jobs he’s trying to bring to the Bluegrass State is an important part of making it an emerging center for engineering and manufacturing.
“If you’re studying interpretive dance, God bless you,” Bevin said. “But there’s not a lot of jobs right now in America looking for people with that as a skill set.”
Kentucky is on track to have a $200 million shortfall at the end of its fiscal year in the summer of 2018. In the last decade, Kentucky’s funding of state higher education has dropped by about $200 million.
Echoing the comment he made last year that taxpayers shouldn’t be subsidizing the study of French literature, Bevin, who has a degree in East Asian studies, urged universities to do away with the idea of a liberal arts education and programs that have outlived their need.
“Find entire parts of your campus...that don’t need to be there,” Bevin said at the Governor’s Conference on Postsecondary Education Trusteeship in Louisville. “Either physically as programs, degrees that you’re offering, buildings that...shouldn’t be there, because you’re maintaining something that’s not an asset of any value, that’s not helping to produce that 21st-century educated work force.”
Bevin, who has made workforce development a top priority, also challenged engineering schools to boost the number of students they graduate.
His remarks were not particularly welcomed by university professors, some of whom argue that diverse program offerings create graduates who go on to lead fulfilling lives, while still giving them chances to develop flexible skill sets that can be useful in the workplace.
“Universities produce public goods both for the students and for the broader community,” University of Louisville philosophy professor Avery Kolers told Inside Higher Ed. “Bevin seems to want to turn universities into training arms for the corporations. Corporations have a duty to train their employees as well, and they have been underinvesting in that for a generation or more.”
And University of Kentucky spokesman Jay Blanton said in a statement that narrowing education isn’t what the economy needs.
“Employers also tell us they need graduates who communicate well, think critically and work well in teams,” Blanton said. “These soft skills are exactly what students learn in majors and classes in English, history, the humanities and fine arts, among others.” (ASSOCIATED PRESS, INSIDE HIGHER ED)
Social Policy - September 18 2017 | 09-15-2017
Missouri House Members Fail to Override Veto
House members fail to override a veto by Gov. Eric Greitens (R) on a spending bill (HCB 3) that will mean budget cuts to senior services will remain in place for now. Legislative leaders say they’ll continue to work on a plan to undo the cuts, and hope to have Greitens call lawmakers back next month to try to restore the funding (ASSOCIATED PRESS).
BROWN AGREES TO CHANGES ON SANCTUARY CITIES BILL AS CALIFORNIA SESSION NEARS CLOSE | 09-15-2017
California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) reached an agreement this week with Senate leader Kevin de Leon (D) to make changes to California’s “Sanctuary State” bill (SB 54), adding specified circumstances when law enforcement should share information with federal immigration officials when unauthorized immigrants have criminal convictions.
The bill, introduced by De Leon this year, limits the role of state and local law enforcement in enforcing federal immigration laws, prohibiting police from asking about immigration status and from detaining suspects for federal immigration officials.
The agreed-on changes would allow law enforcement officers to share information with federal officials on inmates who have been convicted of any of hundreds of specific crimes. The amendment would also allow federal officials limited access to certain state or local law enforcement databases.
The proposal has already been passed by the state Senate, but was facing trouble in the Assembly in the face of opposition from law enforcement. The California session was set to end Friday. (LOS ANGELES TIMES, SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE)
CUOMO, CARNEY, WOLF BACK FRACKING BAN IN DELAWARE RIVER BASIN | 09-15-2017
The Delaware River Basin Commission, which manages water resources in that mid-Atlantic watershed, adopted a resolution this week to issue draft rules that would permanently ban hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, for oil and gas in the basin. The rules would also include provisions for safe storage, treatment and disposal of wastewater. The vote was 3-1 with one abstention. Commission members Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York (D), Delaware Gov. John Carney (D) and Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf (D) voted in favor of the resolution to ban fracking, while the representative of the federal government on the commission, an official with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, voted against it. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) abstained. (DELAWARE RIVER BASIN The Delaware River Basin Commission, which manages water resources in that mid-Atlantic watershed, adopted a resolution this week to issue draft rules that would permanently ban hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, for oil and gas in the basin. The rules would also include provisions for safe storage, treatment and disposal of wastewater. The vote was 3-1 with one abstention. Commission members Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York (D), Delaware Gov. John Carney (D) and Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf (D) voted in favor of the resolution to ban fracking, while the representative of the federal government on the commission, an official with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, voted against it. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) abstained. (DELAWARE RIVER BASIN COMMISSION)
Governors In Brief - September 18 2017 | 09-15-2017
ABBOTT ORDERS FREE REPLACEMENT GUN CARDS: TEXAS
Gov. Greg Abbott (R) directed the Texas Department of Public Safety to waive the cost of replacing licenses to carry handguns for residents who lost their cards as a result of Hurricane Harvey. Residents in counties covered by a state disaster declaration can get the free replacement cards. (Texas Governor’s Office)
SANDOVAL WORRIED ABOUT PUBLIC POT SMOKING: NEVADA
Gov. Brian Sandoval (R) said in an email to the Reno Gazette-Journal that he’s concerned a recent opinion from lawyers for the state’s Legislature could lead to “piecemeal” rules on the smoking of marijuana in public that could differ in different parts of the state. That opinion said nothing in state law prohibits local governments from allowing consumption in pot bars or cafes. Adults have been able to legally buy marijuana for recreational use in the Silver State since July 1. (RENO GAZETTE-JOURNAL, ASSOCIATED PRESS)
SCOTT WANTS POWER ON NOW: FLORIDA
Gov. Rick Scott (R) implored electric companies to do everything possible to restore the power in the Florida Keys, which were battered by Hurricane Irma. Local officials are worried about the possibility of riots as the heat has soared well into the 90s with no electricity and the main road into the Keys is still closed in many places, preventing locals from returning home several days after the storm. (POLITICO)
VA Ditching Touchscreen Voting Machines Ahead of Nov Election | 09-15-2017
On Nov. 7 Virginia will hold a governor’s race that the Washington Post described as “a harbinger of the 2018 midterms and a test of politics in the era of President Trump.” The state’s voters will also decide contests for lieutenant governor and the House of Delegates. But before any of that happens, 22 local jurisdictions in the state will have to replace touchscreen voting machines that more than 190,000 of the state’s 5 million active voters use to cast ballots.
The state’s three-member Board of Elections voted unanimously this month to decertify the direct recording electronic (DRE) voting machines, in part because several types of the machines, including those in use in Virginia, were reportedly hacked at DefCon, a conference of hackers held each July in Las Vegas, and also because the DRE machines don’t provide a paper trail. The board’s chairman, James Alcorn, said the action was necessary to “ensure the integrity of Virginia’s elections.”
But in addition to doing all of the work that will be required to make the switch, the localities will also have to pick up the bill for the new machines. Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) proposed allocating $28 million to help localities pay for new voting machines in his 2014 budget plan, but that proposal didn’t make it into the final spending plan approved by the state’s Republican-controlled General Assembly. (WASHINGTON POST)
Congressional Redistricting Reform Coming to OH? | 09-15-2017
In 2015 Ohio voters overwhelmingly approved a ballot measure reforming the state’s highly partisan legislative redistricting process, but congressional redistricting was left untouched. Now there’s talk around the Statehouse of remedying that situation.
“I have had a number of conversations over the summer with other legislative leaders about that,” said Senate President Larry Obhof (R). “We’re going to take a long, hard look at it.”
Obhof said much the same thing back in March, but little came of it. Several significant developments have occurred since then, however. In June the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear a case from Wisconsin, in which a federal court struck down the legislative district maps drawn by that state’s GOP-controlled Legislature in 2011 on the grounds that the maps were so favorable to Republicans that they infringed on “the representational rights of Democratic voters.” A decision from the Supreme Court upholding the lower court’s ruling, though unlikely, would potentially necessitate map changes in many states.
More impetus could come from a drive to place an initiative on Ohio’s November 2018 ballot seeking voter approval to turn the congressional redistricting process over to a bipartisan commission. The Fair Districts = Fair Elections Coalition backing that effort says it has already collected 121,000 of the 309,521 signatures required to qualify the measure.
“There’s no question they are going to get their signatures. And there’s no question in my mind that the people of Ohio want to change this process,” said Sen. Frank LaRose (R), who has been pushing for redistricting reform for seven years.
Support for such reform is also getting a boost from some nationally known Republicans, including U.S. Sen. John McCain of Arizona and former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, as well as current Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who signed the state’s current congressional map into law in 2011 but considered including redistricting reform in his state budget proposal this year.
“I support redistricting reform dramatically,” he told the Columbus Dispatch in 2015, when he was running for the Republican presidential nomination. “We carve these safe districts, and then when you’re in a safe district, you have to watch your extremes, and you keep moving to the extremes.” (COLUMBUS DISPATCH, MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL)
CA Sues to Block Elimination of DACA | 09-15-2017
Last Monday, a week after the attorneys general from 15 states filed a lawsuit to block the Trump administration from ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program created in 2012 through an executive order from President Obama, California AG Xavier Becerra (D) filed a similar legal challenge. Becerra said he decided to file the separate suit -- although it was joined by Maine, Maryland and Minnesota -- because a quarter of the 800,000 undocumented immigrants protected from deportation by DACA are California residents.
“I think everyone recognizes the scope and breadth of the Trump decision to terminate DACA hits hardest here,” he said.
Robin Hvidston, executive director of We the People Rising, a California-based group seeking stricter enforcement of immigration laws, however, criticized Becerra’s action.
“It’s misguided and premature and a misuse of tax dollars,” she said, noting that the Trump administration has delayed the termination of the program for six months to give Congress time to address the issue legislatively. (LOS ANGELES TIMES)
Politics In Brief - September 18 2017 | 09-15-2017
SUPREME COURT STAYS TX REMAP ORDER:
The U.S. Supreme Court stayed the Aug. 24 ruling by a three-judge panel of the United States District Court for the Western District of TEXAS that several of that state’s legislative districts had been drawn in a way that intentionally discriminated against minorities and needed to be redrawn. The high court’s 5-4 decision, for which it gave no further explanation, will allow the state to continue using its current maps while it appeals the lower court’s ruling. (AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN, U.S. SUPREME COURT)
HISTORIC STATE CONVENTION HELD IN AZ:
The first national convention of states since 1861 was held in Phoenix last week to lay the groundwork for the first Article V Convention -- a process by which states can propose amendments to the U.S. Constitution -- in U.S. history. The aim of that future gathering would be to propose an amendment requiring Congress to pass a balanced budget every year. (ARIZONA REPUBLIC [PHOENIX])
MA BALLOT MEASURE BACKER PAYS RECORD SETTLEMENT:
Families for Excellent Schools-Advocacy, a nonprofit group that poured $15 million into an unsuccessful ballot measure in MASSACHUSETTS last year aimed at expanding charter schools in the state (Question 2), paid $426,466 as part of a legal settlement with the state’s Office of Campaign and Political Finance (OCPF) over the group’s failure to disclose its donors. That sum is the largest settlement amount in the agency’s 44-year history, surpassing the previous record of $185,000 set in 2016. The group was also required to reveal its donors, who include two officials in the administration of MASSACHUSETTS Gov. Charlie Baker (R). (BOSTON GLOBE, OFFICE OF CAMPAIGN AND POLITICAL FINANCE)
TX LAWMAKERS ON FRONT LINES OF HURRICANE RESPONSE:
Four members of the TEXAS House were among hundreds of Texas State Guard members activated as part of the response to Hurricane Harvey. The members are Republican Reps. Phil King, Tony Dale, Briscoe Cain and Cecil Bell. (SAN ANTONIO EXPRESS-NEWS)
Late State Budgets on Rise | 09-15-2017
Over the past few years, late state budgets have become increasingly common. In 2013 five states had to call special sessions to pass their FY 2014 budgets, although all five managed to do so before the 2014 fiscal year actually began. But 11 states started the current fiscal year without budgets in place, and 10 others missed their initial budget deadlines and had to call special sessions to get their budgets passed.
“I have never seen it this widespread,” said Donald Boyd, director of fiscal studies at the Rockefeller Institute of Government.
One reason for the abundance of late budgets is that although states have largely recovered from the Great Recession, fixed costs are still outpacing revenues in many of them, according to Boyd.
“Pensions and Medicaid dollars are growing quickly,” he said, “and not leaving much money to spend on the things you want to do.”
Another reason for the late budgets is that the 2014 elections increased the number of states with divided governments, those in which the legislative chambers or the legislative and executive branches are controlled by different political parties. Since 2015 at least half of the late budgets have been in such states. Illinois’ epic two-year budget impasse, for example, began after Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner was elected and began clashing with the Democrat-led General Assembly over fiscal issues.
There are also reasons that are more state specific. For instance, Wisconsin’s budget process stalled this year over basically a single issue: transportation funding. And similar circumstances delayed budgets in Maine, New Jersey and Rhode Island.
But the delayed budgets aren’t necessarily a trend. Nicholas Samuels, an analyst for Moody’s, points out that most of the 11 states that began FY 2018 without a budget passed one within weeks of the start of the fiscal year. Samuels also said most states have provisions for keeping their governments running in the event of a late budget, so passing a spending plan on time “isn’t necessarily a concerning factor,” although he added that “the underlying causes could be.” He said some states like Connecticut, Illinois and Pennsylvania, for example, have addressed systemic financial imbalances with one-time fixes, and it’s becoming increasingly difficult to do that year after year as budget pressures continue to mount. (GOVERNING, LEXISNEXIS STATE NET)
States Backing Tax Amnesty Program for Online Sellers | 09-15-2017
Twenty-four states are participating in a tax amnesty program for online sellers that contract with “marketplace facilitators” to expand their sales but that have failed to pay sales taxes on the associated transactions.
Small businesses often use services like Amazon Marketplace to reach more customers, but because of the complexity of such arrangements the businesses often end up not paying sales taxes associated with the resulting sales. States may lose as much as $2 billion each year on sales through Amazon Marketplace alone.
Under the amnesty program -- engineered by the Multistate Tax Commission (MTC), an intergovernmental agency created in 1967 to facilitate the administration of state tax laws applicable to multistate and multinational business operations -- online sellers will have until Oct. 17 to apply for relief from back taxes and penalties they owe in any of the participating states.
Most of those states have indicated they are less interested in collecting back taxes from sellers that use marketplace facilitators than in getting those sellers on their tax rolls so they can collect taxes on future sales, including those in the near future.
“States are anxious to get taxes on Christmas shopping,” said Richard Cram, director of MTC’s national nexus program. (STATELINE, MULTISTATE TAX COMMISSION)
Budgets In Brief - September 18 2017 | 09-15-2017
OK GOV TO CALL SPECIAL SESSION TO FIX BUDGET: OKLAHOMA
Gov. Mary Fallin (R) said she will ask lawmakers to convene a special session on Sept. 25 to make adjustments to the budget after the Oklahoma Supreme Court rejected a proposed cigarette tax. The court’s decision to strike down that $1.50-per-pack levy will leave the state with a $215 million shortfall, mostly impacting the state’s Department of Human Services, Health Care Authority and Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services. (ASSOCIATED PRESS)
KY GOV CALLS FOR MORE AGENCY BUDGET CUTS: KENTUCKY
Gov. Matt Bevin (R) is asking most state agencies to cut their budgets by more than 17 percent to address a projected $200 million budget shortfall. The requested cuts come on top of a 9-percent cut that was part of the 2016-18 state budget along with other cuts going back to the start of the Great Recession. (COURIER-JOURNAL [LOUISVILLE])
IL GOV TO BORROW $6B TO PAY OVERDUE BILLS: ILLINOIS
Gov. Bruce Rauner announced this month that the state will borrow $6 billion to work on paying down its huge backlog of unpaid bills. State lawmakers gave the governor that borrowing authority in the budget they enacted over his vetoes in July. (CHICAGO TRIBUNE)
WI SENATE APPROVES RECORD SUBSIDY:
The WISCONSIN Senate has approved nearly $3 billion in cash payments for Foxconn Technology Group, which plans to invest up to $10 billion on a new flatscreen production factory in the state that could ultimately employ 13,000 people. The subsidy, if approved by the Assembly, would be the biggest ever given to a foreign company by a U.S. state and 10 times larger than any Wisconsin has ever given to a private business. (ASSOCIATED PRESS)
States With Most NAFTA Trade Exposure | 09-15-2017
In 2016 North Dakota sent a larger proportion of its exports (82 percent) to Canada, and New Mexico sent a bigger share of its exports (43 percent) to Mexico, than any other states, according to analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data by Fitch Ratings. Sixty-five percent of Michigan’s exports, meanwhile, went to the two countries combined. Consequently, the three states are among those most likely to be impacted if the Trump administration makes major changes to the North American Free Trade Agreement between the United States, Canada and Mexico. Many of the states with major NAFTA exposure supported Donald Trump in 2016.
Source: Fitch Ratings
Largest exporters to Canada by percentage: North Dakota (82%), Maine (48%), Montana (47%), Vermont (40%), Ohio (39%), Indiana (33%), Wisconsin (31%)
Largest exporters to Mexico: New Mexico (43%), Texas (40%), Arizona (38%), California (15%), Nebraska (23%), Iowa (19%), Kansas (18%)
Largest exporters to both countries: Michigan (43%, 22%), Missouri (38%, 18%), South Dakota (37%, 25%)
Voted for Trump: Arizona, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, Texas, Wisconsin
High Risks for States in NAFTA Talks | 09-15-2017
With the fate of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) hanging in the balance, trade experts and U.S. governors are warning that industrial and farm states would suffer economic damage if President Donald Trump carries out his threat to scrap the three-nation treaty.
A third round of negotiations to update the 23-year-old treaty is scheduled to begin in Ottawa on Sept. 23. The negotiators claimed unspecified progress in the first two rounds of talks in Washington and Mexico City but have yet to tackle the tougher issues, such as a U.S. demand to increase the use of U.S.-made materials in automobiles and other products.
Trump’s provocative attacks on NAFTA have not been helpful, said Wendy Cutler, a veteran U.S. trade negotiator. The president has called NAFTA “the worst treaty in the history of the world” and irritated Mexican leaders by trying to link it to his campaign promise to build a “big beautiful wall” on the U.S.-Mexican border that would be paid for by Mexico. Trump has also criticized Canada. “What they’ve done to our dairy workers is a disgrace,” he said.
Trump, who prides himself on deal-making, may be pursuing a negotiating strategy designed to force concessions. But the strategy, which The Economist calls “odd,” could backfire. Cutler said the president’s repeated putdowns of Mexico and Canada make it difficult for leaders of these countries “to muster the political support they need to make meaningful concessions.”
Negotiated by President George H.W. Bush and signed by President Bill Clinton in 1994, NAFTA eliminated most tariffs on products traded among the United States, Mexico and Canada. Liberalization of trade in agriculture, textiles, and automobile manufacturing was a major focus. The treaty also sought to protect intellectual property and established dispute-resolution mechanisms. Trade among the three countries has quadrupled under NAFTA and cross-border investment has surged.
States have an enormous stake in preserving NAFTA, particularly border states such as Texas and Michigan whose exports to Mexico and Canada account for a large share of their domestic economy. Texas, where NAFTA enjoys bipartisan support, was the nation’s top exporting state based on total dollar value in 2016, sending nearly $93 billion in exports to Mexico. The Lone Star State imported $81 billion from its neighbor south of the border. Michigan stands to lose more than any other state if NAFTA is scrapped, according to the credit rating service Fitch Ratings. The state sent 43 percent of its exports to Canada and 22 percent to Mexico. Fitch cited the state’s global role in the automotive sector and its proximity to Canada.
Texas and Michigan voted for Trump in the 2016 election. So did North Dakota, the top exporter to Canada by volume, at 82 percent. In addition, farm belt states such as Indiana, Iowa, Kansas and Nebraska are major exporters of agricultural products to NAFTA partners. Trump also carried these states.
Raw numbers of exports and imports don’t tell the full story. The three NAFTA nations are involved in a complex supply chain involving high-volume trade in “intermediate goods,” materials that companies import and integrate into a finished product. For example, workers in Tennessee or South Carolina may have made half the parts in an automobile assembled in Mexico and then imported into the United States. Texas, Illinois, Michigan, New York, Ohio and Washington all import more than $15 billion in intermediate goods, accounting for half the nation’s total. “Given the large size of their economies, disruptions to trade in these states have significant potential to influence national economic growth,” said a Brookings Institution analysis.
The United States imports more from Mexico than it exports, resulting in an annual trade deficit. It was $55.6 billion in 2016. The United States had a $12.5 billion trade surplus with Canada. Trump’s case against NAFTA rests on two assertions: that any trade deficit is harmful and that the treaty has caused job losses in the United States.
Most economists flatly reject the first contention. They say a trade deficit is at best a partial measurement of a treaty’s value and observe that the U.S. trade deficit with Mexico was relatively low during the Great Recession of 2009 and increased as the U.S. economy recovered. NAFTA provides American consumers with a greater variety of goods at lower prices, they say.
But Trump’s point about job losses caused by NAFTA resonates with organized labor, particularly automotive workers. The United Auto Workers (UAW) and Canada’s UNIFOR, who together represent 245,000 workers in the industry, have issued a statement calling for “meaningful renegotiation” that would address the disparity of U.S. and Mexican wages. Autoworkers in the United States make $18 or more an hour compared to $4 an hour for their Mexican counterparts.
“No amount of spin can erase the fact that NAFTA cost hundreds of thousands of jobs and the closure of thousands of U.S and Canadian manufacturing facilities,” the union statement said. “NAFTA renegotiations will only be successful if they lead to higher wages in all three countries, reverse crippling trade deficits with Mexico, and create new manufacturing jobs in the U.S. and Canada.”
Labor economist Brad DeLong of the University of California Berkeley disputes the claim that NAFTA is responsible for heavy job declines in the automotive and other U.S. manufacturing sectors. He notes that manufacturing jobs fell for 40 years before NAFTA, mostly because of mechanization. Long cites data that puts the net U.S. job loss attributable to NAFTA at 100,000, about 0.1 percent of the U.S. labor force. But thousands of new jobs that NAFTA has created are scattered across the United States, while job losses have been concentrated in Michigan and other Rust Belt states. Blue-collar resentment of NAFTA helped challenger Bernie Sanders upset Hillary Clinton in the Michigan Democratic primary in 2016 and may have been a factor when Trump edged Clinton in Michigan by 10,074 votes.
U.S. public opinion of NAFTA has become more favorable since the election with slight pluralities favoring the treaty, according to surveys conducted by Gallup and Pew Research. In the Pew survey two-thirds of Democrats saw NAFTA as beneficial to the United States; slightly less than a third of Republicans agreed. NAFTA is heavily favored by majorities in Canada and Mexico, according to Pew polls in these countries.
One hope for saving NAFTA is that the three countries may be able to draw upon progress made in the negotiation of another trade pact, the 11-nation Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP). Trump withdrew the United States from the TPP on the first day of his presidency. But part of the TPP included modernization of NAFTA, and negotiators had made headway in updating NAFTA’s labor, environmental and customs chapters. These could be picked up in the NAFTA re-negotiation.
Even NAFTA’s most ardent boosters agree that some changes are needed. E-commerce was virtually non-existent when NAFTA took effect and customs assessments were made on pen and paper rather than electronically. U.S. trade representative Robert Lighthizer has made it clear, however, that he wants more than tweaking. He has called for substantial changes on NAFTA rules for importing auto parts, higher labor standards and a new dispute-settlement process that respects sovereignty of individual countries.
Alternating meetings in the three countries, NAFTA negotiators hope to wrap up work by December 31. If they fail to meet this ambitious deadline, progress could be problematic in 2018 when Mexico will be preoccupied by campaigning for the presidential election on July 31. The current president, Enrique Peña Nieto, who has jousted with Trump, is ineligible to succeed himself.
If the negotiators fail to reach agreement, Trump has threatened to withdraw the United States from NAFTA. That wouldn’t be easy. In theory Trump could invoke Article 2205 of NAFTA, which says a country can withdraw from the agreement six months after giving written notice. But such notice would be likely to provoke congressional and legal challenges and cause disarray in major industries.
Warren Maruyama, a Washington lawyer who worked on trade issues in both Bush administrations, told the Los Angeles Times that Trump’s threat to pull out of NAFTA was not creditable. “Trump would do serious political damage and split the coalition that got him into the White House,” Maruyama said. “While his win is often credited to anti-trade, blue-collar voters, he won just about every rural county, and Mexico is a huge market for American farm products.”
Maybe so, but as Wendy Cutler observes, Trump is unpredictable and it would be better not to test him. Everyone will breathe easier if negotiators can make sensible updates to NAFTA, avoiding the peril of withdrawal and allowing all three countries to claim victory.
Autonomous Vehicle Enactments Accelerating In States | 09-08-2017
Nevada became the first state to authorize the operation of autonomous vehicles on its roads in 2011. A few states, including California, Florida and Nevada, enacted laws dealing with such vehicles over the next few years, with the exception of 2014, when no such laws were passed. But nine states passed autonomous vehicle laws in 2016, and 13 states, including Nevada, have passed such laws this year.
Source: National Conference of State Legislatures
Whiter Shade Of Pale Indeed | 09-08-2017
Charlotte, North Carolina mayoral candidate Kimberly Paige Barnette thinks she has all the skills, talents and abilities she needs to be the city’s next mayor. After all, she’s a former county magistrate, believes in traditional values and is a white person. Wait, what? What the actual [bleep] did she just say? Yes, as the Charlotte Observer reports, in a since-deleted Facebook post Barnette listed her mayor bona fides as: “REPUBLICAN & SMART, WHITE, TRADITIONAL.” She has since practically tripped over herself trying to walk it all back, but even her fellow Tar Heel State Republicans aren’t having it. In a statement state GOP Chairman Robin Hayes called her comments “offensive” and said they have “no place in our public discourse.” The mayoral primary is September 12.
Big Fish, Big Pond | 09-08-2017
Sacramento is no Washington D.C. but it has its share of similarities, not the least of which is having a lot of people who love to hear how important they are. Which could explain why the entire Capitol community goes a thither each year waiting for Capitol Weekly to announce its ranking of the 100 most powerful non-elected players in Golden State politics. And even though CW head honcho John Howard will tell you the list is all in good fun, the folks on it take it pretty seriously. With that in mind, the 2017 Top 100 was announced last week, with Gov. Jerry Brown’s chief of staff Nancy McFadden garnering the No. 1 position. McFadden replaces California First Lady Anne Gust Brown, who topped the list the previous six years in a row. We’re told it was because Anne’s attention has been diverted away from politics toward the retirement property she and husband Jerry Brown will be off to after the election in 2018. Even so we’re pretty sure the gap between her and the No. 3 position – California Air Resources Board chief Mary Nichols – was pretty wide.
You Gotta Fight For Your Right To Par-Tay! | 09-08-2017
Or so vows California state Sen. Scott Wiener. As the San Francisco Chronicle reports, Weiner was incensed last week when the Assembly Appropriations Committee gutted his Senate-endorsed measure to allow local communities to decide if they wanted to allow bars to stay open until 4:00am. He insisted the votes were there in the full chamber to get the bill to the governor’s desk, but Committee chairman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher – a fellow Democrat – gutted the measure, opting instead to create a task force to study the issue. Wiener took to social media to rant about it, saying, “there is nothing to study” and insisting late night partying is critical “culturally and to the economy” of cities like San Francisco. While we’re sure that’s true, groups like Mothers Against Drunk Driving were not pleased. Wiener vowed to bring the bill back next year.
First, Stop Digging | 09-08-2017
If you haven’t noticed, Republicans are as relevant in California as a screen door on a submarine. But it hasn’t always been that way. Reeps were once the state’s preeminent political force. But that started to wane after then-Gov. Pete Wilson, a Republican, got behind Proposition 187, a 1994 ballot measure that cut off unauthorized immigrants from any kind of state services, including sending kids to school. Voters endorsed it but it was later tossed by the courts before it was ever implemented. The state’s fast-growing Latino population abandoned Reeps en masse and now Dems control every portion of Golden State government. Fast forward to later this month when, as the LA Times reports, a big GOP fundraiser in Fresno will feature former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio, the same guy convicted of criminal contempt of court for refusing to stop the profiling of Latinos by his officers. And yes, the same Sheriff Joe who was just pardoned by the president, further enraging those who see that act as a gross miscarriage of justice. The event has been dubbed the “Let’s Lose Whatever Latino Votes We Still Had Gala.” Okay, not really. But it might as well be.
-- By RICH EHISEN
Business - September 11 2017 | 09-08-2017
California Approves AB 260
The CALIFORNIA Senate approves AB 260, which adds hotels, motels, and bed and breakfasts to the list of businesses already required to post a notice with information on human trafficking resources, including national and statewide hotlines. It moves to Gov. Jerry Brown (D) for consideration (LEXISNEXIS STATE NET).
California Signs SB 33
CALIFORNIA lawmakers also sign off on SB 33, so-called “Wells Fargo” legislation that would eliminate the use of forced arbitration in cases where a financial institution has wrongfully used consumer information to commit fraud. The measure now heads to Gov. Brown (LEXISNEXIS STATE NET).
California Signs AB 1689
Also in CALIFORNIA, Gov. Brown signs AB 1689, a bill that requires businesses that handle combustible metals or metal alloys, in specified quantities, to establish and implement a business plan for emergency response to a release of the material (CALIFORNIA GOVERNOR’S OFFICE).
Education - September 11 2017 | 09-08-2017
California Approves AB 10
The CALIFORNIA Senate unanimously approves AB 10, which would require schools where 40 percent of the kids meet the federal poverty threshold to provide free feminine hygiene products to female students. The bill, which would apply to schools with sixth through 12th grade students, returns to the Assembly (SACRAMENTO BEE).
California Declines To Act On AB 1321
The CALIFORNIA Senate, meanwhile, declines to act on AB 1321 which would have required every school to publish reports on how much money they spend per student (LEXISNEXIS STATE NET).
California Vetoes AB 1261
CALIFORNIA Gov. Jerry Brown (D) vetoes AB 1261, which would have required “a local educational agency with a mandatory expulsion policy or zero tolerance policy for the use of alcohol, intoxicants, or controlled substances to consider if the policy is deterring pupils from seeking help for substance abuse.” Brown said the issue is better handled at the local level (CALIFORNIA GOVERNOR’S OFFICE).
Environment - September 11 2017 | 09-08-2017
California Approves SB 51
The CALIFORNIA Assembly and Senate approve SB 51, which would require the California Environmental Protection Agency to preserve any scientific information “at risk of censorship or destruction by the federal government” and prevent state regulators from suspending professional licenses for federal employees who might face disciplinary action for publicly disclosing scientific or environmental information (LOS ANGELES TIMES).
California Signs AB 861
Also in CALIFORNIA, Gov. Jerry Brown (D) signs AB 861, which allows local governments to take actions to remove Africanized honeybees if those hives present a public nuisance (CALIFORNIA GOVERNOR’S OFFICE)
Health & Science - September 11 2017 | 09-08-2017
California Signs AB 602
CALIFORNIA Gov. Jerry Brown (D) signs AB 602, which prohibits pharmacies from acquiring diabetes testing devices from unauthorized distributors (CALIFORNIA GOVERNOR’S OFFICE).
California Signs SB 374
Also in CALIFORNIA, Gov. Brown signs SB 374, which requires large group, small group and individual health insurance policies to provide all covered mental health and substance use disorder benefits in compliance with those provisions of federal law governing mental health (LEXISNEXIS STATE NET).
Social Policy - September 11 2017 | 09-08-2017
California Signs SB 332
CALIFORNIA Gov. Jerry Brown (D) signs SB 332, which requires that foster youth are provided with voter registration resources and paperwork when they are progressing into adulthood (CALIFORNIA GOVERNOR’S OFFICE).
-- Compiled by RICH EHISEN
Republican Govs Differ On DACA | 09-08-2017
Most GOP governors chose to tread lightly in the wake of President Donald Trump’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program last week. The program, implemented by former President Barack Obama in 2012, grants temporary legal immigration status to unauthorized immigrants who were brought to the United States as children, has long been a sore spot for many Republican immigration hardliners. But while many publicly supported Trump’s plan to give Congress six months to work out a reform plan, a few prominent Republican governors also publicly called the president out for his decision.
“President Trump made the wrong decision today that could negatively impact our economy and many of the Commonwealth's families,” Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker said in a statement, adding, “I hope Congress acts quickly to find a bipartisan, permanent solution to maintain the protections of DACA recipients, which includes approximately 8,000 young Massachusetts residents who are right now serving in our military, attending our schools and contributing to our economy while striving to give back to their communities.”
In an interview with CBS News, Ohio Gov. John Kasich laughed dismissively when asked if he supported the president’s decision to end DACA. He followed with an impassioned defense of the so-called “Dreamers” impacted by the decision, saying it should take Congress only “about six hours” to come up with a reasonable replacement for the program. Kasich, a former presidential candidate who many observers speculate might again challenge Trump for the GOP nomination in 2020, offered his state as a place where Dreamers would be welcomed.
“If the dreamers want to go somewhere and live, come to Ohio, we want all the immigrants to come to Ohio, we know how much immigrants contribute,” he said.
The president’s decision came in reaction to a threatened lawsuit by attorneys general in nine states that contend DACA is unconstitutional. Meanwhile, 15 states and the District of Columbia filed suit last Tuesday seeking to block Trump’s ruling and to ensure the program continues. (For more on this, see Politics & Leadership in this issue.) (BLOOMBERG, WASHINGTON EXAMINER, CBS NEWS)
Kasich, Schwarzenegger Push End To Gerrymandering | 09-08-2017
Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) and former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) joined forces with other prominent Republicans last week in filing briefs with the U.S. Supreme Court urging justices to rule that extreme political gerrymandering — the drawing of voting districts to give lopsided advantages to the party in power — violates the Constitution.
Some of the other current and former elected Republicans filing briefs were U.S. Sen. John McCain of Arizona, former Republican Senate leader and presidential nominee Bob Dole of Kansas and former senators John C. Danforth of Missouri, Richard G. Lugar of Indiana and Alan K. Simpson of Wyoming.
Battling gerrymandering has become a prime effort of Schwarzenegger’s post-gubernatorial career, saying the way voters are forced to choose their elected officials is creating the partisan gridlock that has plagued Washington D.C. over the last decade. He has been a vocal proponent of changing how districts are drawn for almost a decade, beginning with his support in 2008 of a successful ballot measure that created an independent commission to draw the Golden State’s legislative district boundaries. Another successful ballot measure in 2010 expanded the law to include congressional districts.
Kasich has also long lobbied lawmakers to change how the Buckeye State draws district lines, a plea lawmakers have to date ignored. He says changing how voters choose representatives is critical to breaking partisan stalemates in Congress.
“As I’ve continued to serve in public office and watched our political divide deepen, I’ve grown increasingly concerned with how primaries are pushing candidates to the extreme right and extreme left, which is creating more polarization and division,” he said in a statement last week, adding, “The Court has a unique opportunity in this case to support fair, common sense standards for how districts are drawn and put legislators in a better position to work together to effectively govern and get results.”
The Supreme Court agreed in June to hear a Wisconsin case revolving around a situation where Republicans won 61 percent of the Statehouse seats with just 49 percent of the vote, something plaintiffs contend was a direct result of Republican map-drawing efforts to sharply reduce Democratic representation. (GOVERNING, LOS ANGELES TIMES, NEW YORK TIMES)
Governors In Brief - September 11 2017 | 09-08-2017
CHRISTIE PROPOSES NEW NJ OPIOID RULE
NEW JERSEY Gov. Chris Christie (R) announced a new rule prohibiting prescribers of opioid medications from accepting meals and uncapped compensation for speaking engagements, consulting work, and other services from pharmaceutical companies. Garden State doctors accepted $69 million from drug companies and medical device manufacturers in 2016, leading to concern they were allowing those payments to influence how often they prescribe opioid drugs. Hearings and public comment on the proposed rule begin next month. (CAPE MAY COUNTY HERALD)
RAUNER CREATES IL OPIOID TASK FORCE
With opioid related deaths having quadrupled in ILLINOIS since 2013, Gov. Bruce Rauner (R) last week issued Executive Order 17-05, which will create a government panel tasked with devising strategies for slowing the expansion of the opioid abuse epidemic in the Prairie State. Those strategies are expected to include options for treatment and recovery. (KFVS12.COM [CAPE GIRARDEAU])
CARNEY ORDER CREATES DE AUTONOMOUS CARE PANEL
DELAWARE Gov. John Carney (D) issued Executive Order No. 14, which will create a 19-member advisory council to devise recommendations to prepare the state’s transportation network for connected and autonomous vehicles. The council is expected to report its findings to Carney and lawmakers by September 2018. (DELAWARE GOVERNOR’S OFFICE)
BROWN PUSHES MORE CLIMATE COOPERATION
Appearing at the Eastern Economic Forum conference in Vladivostok, Russia, CALIFORNIA Gov. Jerry Brown (D) called on global governments and businesses to make greater efforts to address climate change. “The world has never had more power or more danger – or more opportunity if we can work together,” Brown told dozens of leaders from South Korea, Japan, Russian and many other countries. (CALIFORNIA GOVERNOR’S OFFICE)
-- Compiled by RICH EHISEN
States Sue To Block Termination Of DACA | 09-08-2017
Democratic attorneys general from the District of Columbia and 15 states - Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and Washington - filed a lawsuit last week seeking to stop the Trump administration from terminating the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, granting approximately 800,000 undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children a reprieve from deportation. AG Xavier Becerra (D) of California, where a quarter of DACA recipients reside, intends to file a separate lawsuit.
DACA was launched by President Barack Obama via executive order in 2012. But facing the threat of legal action from Republican attorneys general who oppose the program, the Justice Department reviewed the policy and determined it had been “implemented unilaterally” after Congress had repeatedly rejected legislation aimed at extending similar benefits to “this same group of illegal aliens,” according to televised comments made last week by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
“Such an open-ended circumvention of immigration laws was an unconstitutional exercise of authority by the Executive Branch,” he said.
Consequently, the Trump administration has decided to end the program in six months, allowing Congress time to come up with a legislative solution.
The states’ lawsuit alleges that ending DACA would be harmful to the states.
“Rescinding DACA will cause harm to hundreds of thousands of the States’ residents, injure State-run colleges and universities, upset the States’ workplaces, damage the States’ economies, hurt State-based companies, and disrupt the States’ statutory and regulatory interests,” the suit states.
But the states face an uphill battle. Although the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel affirmed in 2014 that DACA was constitutional, it also noted that because it was implemented by executive order, it “could be terminated at any time” through executive action.
D.C. AG Karl A. Racine (D), a naturalized U.S. citizen originally from Haiti, however, said the states may be able to make the case that the decision to end DACA was spurred by bias against Mexicans on the part of President Trump.
“We think there are enough references to his comments — both before he was president and while he was president — that illustrate a bias against Mexicans,” he said, noting that in rulings against the administration’s proposed bans on travel from mostly Muslim countries, courts have taken into account the president’s comments on the campaign trail in rendering their decisions. (For more on this issue, see Governors in this issue.) (ASSOCIATED PRESS, FOX NEWS, WASHINGTON POST, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE)
States Not Investing In Election Security | 09-08-2017
Most election officials and lawmakers agree that the cyberattacks targeting America’s voting systems last year are an ongoing threat. But resources aren’t being allocated for updating voting equipment, strengthening voter databases, training election workers and other actions needed to deal with the problem, according to a survey by POLITICO.
Election officials have requested more money for election security this year in only 10 states, and legislatures in only six of them have consented or are expected to, according to that survey. Officials in 21 states favor having the federal government pay for any needed election security measures. But Congress passed the Help America Vote Act in 2002, providing nearly $4 billion to help states update their voting equipment, and congressional leaders don’t seem inclined to do more at the moment.
“States ought to get their own money up,” said U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Alabama), who chairs the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration, which oversees federal elections. “We’re borrowing money. We got a big debt limit coming up.”
Lawrence Norden, deputy director of the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice, said, “We just don’t fund elections,” adding, “Nobody’s really sure who’s responsible for this.”
The situation is a major concern for U.S. Sen. Angus King (I-Maine), which is pushing for $160 million in federal funding for state and local governments to purchase auditable election systems.
“There’s every likelihood that there will be further attempts to tamper with state election systems,” he said. “For us to ignore that risk...would be a huge mistake.” (POLITICO)