News Clips from America Votes
Tuesday, June 14, 2011
COLORADO: Supreme Court rejects argument that officials' votes are protected free speech
David Savage for the Denver Post
WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Monday upheld ethics laws across the nation that forbid legislators and city council members from voting on matters in which they have a conflict of interest, rejecting the argument that governmental votes cast by elected officials are "free speech" protected by the First Amendment.
Conflict-of-interest rules "have been commonplace for over 200 years," said Justice Antonin Scalia. They have never been thought to infringe on the free-speech rights of lawmakers, he said.
The issue arose when Michael Carrigan, a city councilman from Sparks, Nev., was censured by the Nevada Commission on Ethics because he had cast a vote in favor of a hotel and casino project that was backed by his campaign manager. The commission said that under the state ethics law, he was required to abstain from voting because of his close relationship with his campaign manager
FLORIDA: Amid bad publicity over job hype, don't count Scott out just yet
Robert Trigaux for the St. Petersburg Times
It's too easy to punch holes in Gov. Rick Scott's economic storytelling about creating jobs in Florida.
Most of the state's press is having a field day lampooning Scott for taking credit for recent meager jobs relocations or expansions in Florida when, quite often, these deals were cut well before he took office.
Don't count him out yet.
MICHIGAN: Michigan House Republicans to release redistricting plans
Karen Bouffard for the Detroit News
Lansing— State House Republicans plan to release proposed new political maps for legislative and congressional districts Friday, unveiling the results of a process shrouded in secrecy.
The boundaries are required to be redrawn every 10 years based on population counts from the U.S. Census. The 2010 tally showed Michigan was the only state in the nation to lose population over the past decade, resulting in the loss of one congressional seat.
The state also saw significant population shifts, with losses in southeast Michigan and gains in west Michigan and other parts of the state.
MINNESOTA: Rep. Hackbarth raises Hitler, Castro in email to union leader
ST. PAUL, Minn. - The leader of a Minnesota state employee union is taking a Republican state lawmaker to task for an email to a constituent in which he compares union politics to Fidel Castro and Adolf Hitler.
Rep. Tom Hackbarth of Cedar responded last week to an email from Robin Seifert, a constituent who is also a member of the Minnesota Association of Professional Employees. In her message, Seifert told Hackbarth she wants state lawmakers to support Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton's proposal to increase the income tax increase on the state's wealthiest earners.
MINNESOTA: Dayton to help fundraise for group working to defeat marriage amendment to Minn. Constitution
ST. PAUL, Minn. - Gov. Mark Dayton is attending the first public fundraiser held by groups that want to defeat a gay marriage amendment to the Minnesota Constitution.
The Democratic governor is scheduled to speak briefly at the Monday evening fundraiser sponsored by the group "Minnesotans United for All Families" at a restaurant in downtown Minneapolis. There's no set donation but organizers are asking people to give generously.
NEVADA: U.S. Supreme Court upholds Nevada ethics law
David McGrath Schwartz for the Las Vegas Sun
CARSON CITY — The U.S. Supreme Court has rescued Nevada’s ethics oversight of politicians from the brink of irrelevancy.
The ruling, handed down Monday, overturned a 2010 Nevada Supreme Court decision that laws restricting politicians from voting because of conflicts of interest violate their First Amendment right to free speech.
The 2010 state Supreme Court ruling had left the Ethics Commission with an uncertain role, coming after a series of rulings overturning its decisions and undercutting its powers.
NEW MEXICO: Health union strike looms
Phaedra Haywood for the New Mexican
The local branch of the National Union of Hospital and Health Care Employees was scheduled to vote Monday night on whether to authorize its negotiators to give Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center a 10-day notice if its nurses and technical workers decide to strike.
The result of the vote was not known in time for this story, but 1199 District President Fonda Osborn said Monday that she was fairly confident the union members would give the go ahead to provide notice of a strike if progress is not made during contract negotiations with the hospital this week.
The union must give a 10-day notice of intent to strike to allow the hospital time to plan for patient care, among other things.
OHIO: Rep. Tim Ryan says Rep. Paul Ryan's Medicare proposal will cost patients $6,000 more a year: PolitiFact Ohio
Sabrina Eaton for the Plain Dealer
Rep. Tim Ryan, a Democrat from Niles, Ohio, shares a last name with House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, but the pair don’t share the same vision for Medicare, the U.S. government’s health insurance program for the nation’s elderly and chronically disabled.
Republican Paul Ryan’s budget blue print suggests retaining the current Medicare system for people who are currently over age 55 but giving future retirees a "premium support payment" they could use to purchase private insurance, prompting Democrats to accuse the GOP of attempting to dismantle Medicare.
Those on the House Energy and Commerce Committee even put out a report that purports to outline the amount of extra Medicare costs that the new program would require taxpayers in every congressional district to pay.
OHIO: Ohio House Democrats propose revival of Depression-era program to create jobs
Joe Guillen for the Plain Dealer
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- A pair of Cleveland-area lawmakers want to revive a Depression-era jobs program in Ohio to create about 5,000 jobs.
The program, called the Ohio Works Progress Administration and modeled after a federal agency President Franklin D. Roosevelt established during the Great Depression, would create an average of 50 jobs in each of the state's 88 counties. Each job would pay $27,500 a year to perform a variety of public services.
The program would run for two years and cost about $400 million in salaries and benefits. An expected state budget surplus this summer of about $1 billion would cover the costs, said Rep. Nickie Antonio, a Democrat from Lakewood who is behind the program.
PENNSYLVANIA: Poll shows gender gap on Corbett's job approval
Staff for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
A poll released early Tuesday morning shows Gov. Tom Corbett holds a slight job approval rating overall, but there is a huge gap when it comes to how the genders look at him.
As the governor approaches the six-month mark in office, the latest Quinnipiac University poll of registered voters shows men approve of his job by 48-34 percent
Women, however, disapprove by 43-30 percent.
Voters said by 51-14 percent -- including 45-16 percent among women -- that they like Mr. Corbett as a person, but they don't like his policies: 43-38 percent disapprove, including 49-31 percent among women.
WISCONSIN: Collective bargaining limits may rejoin state budget bill
Jason Stein and Patrick Marley for the Journal Sentinel
Madison - The Legislature will write Gov. Scott Walker's frozen limits on collective bargaining into the state budget Tuesday if the state Supreme Court hasn't restored them by then, the leader of the state Assembly said Monday.
As time was running out for the high court to act and the budget showdown loomed, Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald (R-Horicon) and other Republicans said they also would seek to pass the budget bill under so-called extraordinary rules that allow it to be advanced more quickly from one house to the next.
Meanwhile, the marble hallways of the Capitol were patrolled by dozens of State Patrol troopers and Capitol police as the Assembly prepared to take up the budget bill, which would balance a $3 billion hole using deep cuts to schools and local governments in place of new taxes. The state's teachers union and the Wisconsin AFL-CIO called on members to protest in Madison ahead of Tuesday's vote, raising the specter of renewed large-scale protests at the Statehouse.
WISCONSIN: Expense of fake Democrats in primaries will top $400,000
Emma Roller and Patrick Marley for the Journal Sentinel
Madison - A plan by Republicans to run fake Democratic candidates in this summer's recall elections would cost taxpayers upward of $428,000, according to election clerks.
In one Senate district alone, the cost would top $100,000, interviews with county and municipal clerks show.
Even if Republicans back off their plans in some of the districts, taxpayers are all but guaranteed to have to pay the costs of the primary, because Democrats now plan to run multiple candidates in order to guarantee all the recall elections are held on the same day. Tuesday is the filing deadline.
Recall elections for six Republican senators are scheduled for July 12. But if there are multiple candidates from the same party in any of those elections, the July 12 election becomes a primary, with a general recall election to follow on Aug. 9.
MONTANA: GOP complaint against Bullock dismissed
Charles Johnson for the Billings Gazette
HELENA — The state political practices commissioner has dismissed the state Republican Party’s complaint against Attorney General Steve Bullock, a Democrat, for raising campaign funds without specifying which office he is seeking.
In a decision Friday, Commissioner David Gallik tossed out the complaint filed by the GOP in March.
“The allegations in your complaint against Mr. Bullock fail to state potential violations of statutes or rules within the commissioner’s jurisdictions and no investigation is required or will be conducted,” Gallik said in the decision. “Accordingly, your complaint is dismissed.”
IDAHO: Prospects improve for deal for redistricting in Idaho
Staff for the Idaho Statesman
Democrats came to the Capitol last week acting like whistlepigs with hawks in the sky — wary, dodgy and fearing for their lives.
Allen Andersen, the former teachers union leader from Pocatello elected to co-chair the Redistricting Commission, said on the first day he figured the Republican strategy was my way or the highway. “You need to come over to our side, or we’re not going to settle,” was Andersen’s read.
After three days of map training, a compromise on a hearing schedule and some one-on-one chats with GOP Co-Chairman Evan Frasure, Andersen began to relax.
WASHINGTON: Sonntag: I’ll look at governor’s race
Staff for the Seattle Post Intelligencer
Veteran Washington State Auditor Brian Sonntag said Monday he will “take a look at” running for Governor, soon after Gov. Chris Gregoire announced she will not seek a third term.
Sonntag is an independent-minded Democrat, but has on occasion backed Republicans for public office: He was a prominent endorser of Susan Hutchison against Dow Constantine in the officially nonpartisan 2009 King County Executive Race.
As well, Sonntag’s critical audits of state and local government agencies have won praise from professional initiative sponsor Tim Eyman.
Rebekah Metzler for Maine Today Media
AUGUSTA — Gov. Paul LePage and Republican legislative leaders praised the passage of a regulatory reform package during a ceremonial bill signing Monday on the lawn of the Blaine House.
The measure, L.D. 1, recently passed unanimously in the Senate and with just three dissenting votes in the House.
"This bill is a down payment on what needs to be done to improve the business climate in the state of Maine," said LePage, a Republican.
OREGON: Oregon House sends concealed weapons privacy bill to Senate, again
Janie Har for the Oregonian
The Oregon House voted for the second time this session Monday to keep the identities of handgun license holders private -- forcing another fight with the Senate over records and guns.
Senate Bill 347 started in the upper chamber as a narrow bill to make sure that records of people who seek help at Portland's Gateway Center for Domestic Violence Services are exempt from public records law.
Most domestic violence service centers are run by private nonprofits. The Gateway Center is a private-public partnership, with space donated by Multnomah County and operated by city of Portland employees. Staffers have not kept records of people who seek services, worried that private information could be made public.
MINNESOTA: Campaign against anti-gay marriage amendment gears up, Dayton lends support
Andy Birkey for the Minnesota Independent
Several groups working to defeat a proposed constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage are gearing up their efforts. Gov. Mark Dayton will speak at the first fundraising event for Minnesotans United for All Families, a coalition of groups that oppose amending the Minnesota Constitution to ban gay marriage. An official kickoff is planned next week. Conservative groups have also planned events opposing the amendment, one of which will coincide with this weekend’s RightOnline conference.
Dayton is the featured guest at an event Monday night at Thom Pham’s Wondrous Azian Kitchen in downtown Minneapolis. The event comes one week before the official kickoff of Minnesotans United for All Families next Monday at the Loring Theatre. At that event, Sen. Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis, will speak and artists including Stacia Rice, Bradley Greenwald, Belladiva, George Maurer, Anne Michaels and the Flying Foot Forum will perform.
MICHIGAN: Firefighting cops to begin Benton Harbor patrols in July
Eartha Jane Melzer for the Michigan Melzer
Benton Harbor Emergency Manager Joe Harris is downsizing and combining the city’s police and firefighting functions in a move he says will save the city $1 million.
Though Harris has not released a formal plan for the move, WBST reports that he says eight police officers have been trained to respond to fires and that the city, which last year had 23 police and 10 firefighters, will ultimately have 22 Public Safety Officers who will provide both police and fire services. Patrols by the new Public Safety Officers are expected to begin in July.
Benton Harbor will be a testing ground for this type of combined emergency services and some are worried that response time and overall safety will suffer.
FLORIDA: Transparency questions dog upcoming public redistricting hearings
Cooper Levey-Baker for the Florida Independent
An “unprecedented” part of “the most open, transparent, interactive” redistricting process ever, or a “sham” designed by Florida lawmakers to placate the public while they work to draw new district lines to benefit themselves? That’s the question dogging the set of 24 public redistricting hearings scheduled by the state Legislature to kick off next week.
As the Florida Legislature gears up to redraw state House, state Senate and congressional districts before next year’s elections, it has booked a series of public meetings around the state, the goal of which is to solicit citizen input on the redistricting process. According to the Legislature’s online RSVP form, the “sole purpose” of the hearings that start Mon., June 20, “is listening to learn how you want the standards governing redistricting to be implemented and how you think districts in your area can work best for all voters and constituents.”
FLORIDA: West fires intern for ‘unauthorized’ pro-gay tweet
Ashley Lopez for the Florida Independent
Rep. Allen West, R-Fort Lauderdale, fired an intern this past Friday for re-tweeting a message supportive of gays on West’s Twitter account. West earlier this month called gay marriage an “oxymoron.”
Roll Call reports that the message the intern sent out was “a tweet from the Scissor Sisters, the very out-of-the-closet three-person band specializing in dance tracks and camp”:
The group tweeted: “Dear Tracy Morgan’s son: if you are gay, you can TOTALLY come live with me. We’ll read James Baldwin & watch Paris is Burning. xxANA”