News Clips from America Votes
Thursday, June 30, 2011
COLORADO: Beltway Blog — Colorado! Are you ready for lots of 2012 TV ads?
Allison Sherry for the Denver Post
WASHINGTON — It seems like yesterday when we were hearing about GOP Senate candidate Ken Buck being “too extreme for Colorado” and (now Democrat Senator) Michael Bennet being a puppet for the Obama administration and “out of touch.”
Get ready for another round. It is starting startlingly early for the presidential election next year.
Crossroads GPS, a conservative organization, has dumped $5 million in anti-Obama ads in 10 battleground states, including Colorado, for the next two weeks. The group has pledged to raise and spend $120 million on the 2012 election, according to The Washington Post.
FLORIDA: Florida Gov. Rick Scott, Legislature turn cost-cutting attention to law enforcement
Steve Bousquet and Emily Nipps for the St. Petersburg Times
TALLAHASSEE — After eliminating thousands of rank-and-file jobs from the state work force, Gov. Rick Scott and the Legislature are turning their cost-cutting attention to a more politically sensitive area: law enforcement.
A little-noticed bill the governor signed last month creates a task force on law enforcement consolidation — an idea likely to send shivers up the spines of police officers in a time of double-digit unemployment.
The legislation directs the task force to "evaluate any duplication of law enforcement functions," including training, legal services, cars, airplanes and the regional deployment of police officers.
MICHIGAN: GOP redistricting plans head to Snyder; Dem challenge likely
Karen Bouffard for the Detroit News
Lansing— The state Legislature on Wednesday sent new political district maps to the governor for signing, but the final configuration of congressional and state legislative boundaries could still end up being decided in court.
The maps passed final hurdles in the Senate despite cries from opponents that they were railroaded through by Republicans who control the state House, Senate and Governor's Office. The Michigan League of Women Voters and Common Cause were among the groups to ask the GOP majority to slow down the process.
Democrats claimed throughout the review process that wildly irregular districts — especially in Metro Detroit — were engineered to protect Republican incumbents.
MINNESOTA: Shutdown ruling takes pressure off schools
Eric Roper for the Star Tribune
Minnesota education officials breathed a sigh of relief this morning when Judge Kathleen Gearin ruled the state must make "lawfully appropriated payments" to schools during a shutdown.
Under Gov. Mark Dayton's previous plan, the state would have ceased payments to school districts altogether, forcing them to borrow funds or dip into reserves to keep summer activities afloat. Gearin's ruling restores about 80 percent of normal funding to school districts.
That 80 percent includes general education dollars, the largest chunk of the K-12 equation. Some other money will not be doled out because the funds are not already appropriated.
The Department of Education will remain largely dormant durnig a shutdown, with only six full-time employees remaining on board.
NEVADA: Who rules Nevada’s elections? Court to decide.
Anjeanette Damon for the Las Vegas Sun
Seems there’s nothing like a deadline, or perhaps a U.S. House vacancy, to focus the mind.
That mantra apparently applied to both the Legislature — which passed a bare bones special election law eight years ago — and the secretary of state’s office, which never got around to writing regulations governing how a special election should be conducted.
Now that Nevada is facing its first U.S. House vacancy, the state Supreme Court will decide how the next representative from the 2nd Congressional District will be chosen.
NEW HAMPSHIRE: Public employees unions ask court to block pension reforms
Tom Fahey for the Union Leader
CONCORD - Public workers unions joined the legal battle over pension reform Wednesday, asking a court to block state law that takes an extra 2 percent and more of their pay.
One day after the New Hampshire Retirement System board voted to seek a court opinion on the pension revisions that became law at midnight, unions went for a restraining order that would bar its implementation.
Attorney Glenn Milner argued in requesting the court order that quick action is the only way to prevent a permanent loss to workers.
NEW MEXICO: Chávez running for First District seat
Luke Johnson for the New Mexico Independent
Former three-term Albuquerque Mayor Martin Chávez is running as a Democrat for the U.S. House in New Mexico’s First District, writes Albuquerque Journal.
Democratic Rep. Martin Heinrich is vacating the seat, which includes Albuquerque and its environs, to run for an open U.S. Senate seat. Former Democratic Lt. Governor Diane Denish told NMpolitics.net that she is not running. State Sen. Eric Griego, a former Albuquerque city councilman, is also running in the Democratic primary.
On the Republican side, Albuquerque City Councilor Dan Lewis has declared himself a candidate and former State Rep. Janice Arnold-Jones has formed an exploratory committee.
OHIO: SB 5 opponents make a statement in a big way
Joe Vardon for the Columbus Dispatch
They dubbed it the "million-signature march" and then delivered, literally.
We Are Ohio, the coalition leading the effort to repeal Senate Bill 5, directed a parade of thousands through Downtown yesterday that culminated in the delivery of nearly 1.3 million signatures to the secretary of state to place Ohio's new collective-bargaining law on the November ballot.
The exact signature total - 1,298,301, or an amount equal to nearly 1 out of 6 of Ohio's 8 million registered voters - obliterated the previous state record of 812,978 set in 2008 on a proposed casino for Clinton County.
PENNSYLVANIA: Pennsylvania House passes state budget
Amy Worden, Angela Couloumbis, and Alfred Lubrano for the Philadelphia Inquirer
HARRISBURG - The Pennsylvania House on Wednesday night approved a $27.15 billion budget for the fiscal year that begins Friday, setting the stage for Gov. Corbett to sign the document into law before the official deadline.
Corbett got most of what he wanted - deep spending cuts and no new taxes on natural gas or anything else - on a day when his administration pushed through a controversial last-minute Senate measure to shift control of billions in welfare funding from the legislature to his administration.
The Republican governor is about to make history with his first budget: It will be the first in nine years to be completed on time, and the first in two decades to reflect a decrease, roughly 3 percent, from the previous budget.
WISCONSIN: State blocks plans to apply for federal health grants
Guy Boulton for the Journal Sentinel
The state is blocking plans by the Milwaukee Health Department and University Health Services in Madison to apply for federal grants that would provide about $27.5 million for health programs designed to promote healthier lifestyles and reduce chronic diseases such as diabetes.
Dennis Smith, secretary of the state Department of Health Services, contends that the programs would duplicate services already being offered in Wisconsin.
"Why are we asking for taxpayers' money for stuff that we are already doing?" he asked. "How long have people been doing tobacco cessation, for heaven's sake? This is stuff that goes on all the time."
WISCONSIN: Diminished, union leaders promise action
Don Behm and Jason Stein for the Journal Sentinel
As the state's new collective bargaining law took effect Wednesday, public employee union representatives said they would become more visible in their communities, speaking out on workplace issues at school board, city council, village and county board meetings, now that the law allows certified unions to negotiate only wages.
Prohibiting public unions from helping to resolve disputes over safety, seniority, hours, working conditions and other issues with human resources departments will move the discussion to public meetings, said Rick Badger, executive director of AFSCME Council 40, the union representing about 33,000 members of nearly 600 locals throughout the state outside Milwaukee County.
AFSCME Council 24 represents about 23,000 state workers, while Council 48 represents about 10,000 employees of Milwaukee County and the City of Milwaukee.
OREGON: Oregon lawmakers debate, strike agreements as they prepare to end their session
Michelle Cole for the Oregonian
SALEM -- As the Oregon Legislature rushes to finish its 2011 session, Wednesday brought some political fireworks: Should the names of Oregonians who have concealed weapons permits be secret? Does a bill intended to cap the number of hookah lounges actually open the door for more? Should tribal police have expanded powers?
When they weren't butting heads, lawmakers crossed a number of key items off their "to do" list, including a congressional redistricting plan.
Channeling his inner Grateful Dead, Rep. Peter Buckley, D-Ashland, concluded the final meeting of the Joint Ways and Means budget committee saying: "What a long, strange trip it's been."
WASHINGTON: McGinn offers support on gay marriage
Lynn Thompson for the Seattle Times
Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn phoned state Sen.Ed Murray earlier this week to offer his support on legalizing gay marriage in the state.
McGinn, who took part in the Pride Parade on Sunday wearing an "I (Heart) New York" T-shirt, said an interview Wednesday that marriage is a powerful institution and "gays and lesbians should be able to share in that."
In a phone call from Chicago, where McGinn is attending the Clinton Global Initiative conference, McGinn said he also thought it was important for him to tell Murray that as the leader of the city, he supports gay marriage.
MAINE: Local pastors back marriage equality
Trevor Maxwell for the Portland Press-Herald
Two Methodist pastors from Portland are among the leaders of a national movement to officiate marriages for same-sex couples, despite the denomination's longstanding prohibition that condemns those unions and homosexuality in general.
The Rev. Allen Ewing-Merrill and his wife, the Rev. Sara Ewing-Merrill, pastors at the Hope.Gate.Way Church on High Street, signed a statement this month in support of marriage equality.
About 30 other Methodist clergy members in Maine signed the statement this month, and more than 800 have signed nationwide. If pastors follow through on the pledge in such large numbers, they could force the United Methodist Church to change its rules when delegates gather at a worldwide conference next summer.
MINNESOTA: Bachmann’s counseling clinic takes Medicaid payments
Andy Birkey for the Minnesota Independent
The Christian counseling clinic started by Rep. Michele Bachmann and her husband Marcus has taken in $137,000 in Medicaid payments over the last several years, despite the congresswoman’s public opposition to government involvement in health care, NBC News reported Tuesday. That’s in addition to the $30,000 in state funds that the Minnesota Independent first reported last summer.
Bachmann and Associates, Inc., the family’s clinic, uses overtly conservative Christian counseling, an issue which raised questions about the clinic possibly violating the separation of church and state with the money it receives from the Minnesota taxpayers.
FLORIDA: Progress Florida launches petition calling for Haridopolos to return book money
Ashley Lopez for the Florida Independent
Progress Florida has launched a petition aimed at state Senate President Mike Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island, asking him to return $152,000 he received from taxpayers to write a book about the “political history of Florida.”
Haridopolos assured critics that even though he received a large sum of money to write the book, proceeds would go back to Brevard Community College, which gave him the book the deal. However, according to Progress Florida, the book “has sold only 70 copies, with only $487.90 earned for Brevard Community College (as of 6/21.)”
Haridopolos, now a U.S. Senate candidate, wrote a 175-page, double-spaced manuscript for the school. The book, titled Florida Legislative History and Processes, is now being sold for $9.99 per copy as an eBook via Amazon.com.
COLORADO: Bennet lambastes photo ID requirements
Scot Kersgaard for the Colorado Independent
Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet today requested that the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) carefully review highly restrictive photo identification voter requirements that are under consideration or recently signed into law in several states. He said such laws could potentially disenfranchise thousands of eligible voters.
“These laws are a solution in search of a problem,” said Bennet in an email. “Instead of protecting the integrity of our voting system, many of these laws effectively disenfranchise thousands of eligible voters. Voting is integral to the strength of our democracy, and we should be working to increase voting participation, not keeping valid voters from having their voices heard.”
INDIANA: Live Action video claims Obama admin. — not Planned Parenthood bill — is to blame for withholding Medicaid funds from Indiana
Ashley Lopez for the American Independent
Live Action, Lila Rose’s anti-abortion rights group, recently released a video that features “undercover phone calls” aimed at displaying how Indiana’s law defunding Planned Parenthood has no effect on Medicaid beneficiaries. The group is claiming that the Obama administration is exercising an “abuse of power” by threatening to withhold federal Medicaid funds from the state.
The video features recorded phone calls of women asking Planned Parenthood employees whether they (as Medicaid beneficiaries) can obtain the services they would otherwise get at Planned Parenthood elsewhere. Because the clinic lets the women know that they can get the same services at other clinics, Live Action dismisses the need for Planned Parenthood as a Medicaid provider in the state.
PENNSYLVANIA: Pa. Senate passes bill that would appoint committee to sell off public assets of underwater municipalities
Mikhail Zinshteyn for the American Independent
A bill in Pennsylvania that would empower the governor to appoint two members to a management board that would have the authority to influence collective bargaining agreements and arbitration, and force the liquidation of public holdings, passed the state Senate Tuesday. It awaits a vote in the House as lawmakers scramble to pass the state’s budget and ancillary amendments.
Sen. Jeffrey Piccola proposed Senate Bill 1151 after Harrisburg officials balked at a list of recommendations brought to them by a state-appointed committee charged with finding cuts to a struggling city’s budget. The committee indicates in its report that Harrisburg owes $220 million despite its 2011 General Fund budget just barely exceeds $55 million.
Piccola’s plan would obviate the authority of Harrisburg elected officials, with the management board acting alone in clearing city structures and services. The state committee appeared before the Harrisburg City Council earlier in June, proposing the city outsource waste management, sell a local incinerator, raise property taxes, order public employee layoffs and negotiate contracts to freeze wages and restructure health benefits. The full 418-page document can be found here.
PENNSYLVANIA: Finger pointing, frustration between Republicans as school voucher bill in Pa. falls flat
Mikhail Zinshteyn for the American Independent
Finger pointing and agitation is quick on the heels of disappointment following a collapse in negotiations between Pennsylvania House and Senate leaders over a school voucher bill despite Republicans controlling both chambers and the governor’s office.
The state will likely have to wait until after lawmakers return from their two-month summer recess following a last-minute failure to cobble together legislation both chambers could agree. Sen. Jeffrey E. Piccola (R), chairman of the Senate Education Committee and co-sponsor of the controversial proposed voucher legislation SB1 accused the House of being “unable or unwilling to engage in any meaningful discussions to finalize” a compromise.
That remark did not sit well with Republican Rep. Curt Schroder, who authored two bill proposals that would establish a school voucher program in the state. “All I know is that for six months [the Senate] was telling us they would send a school choice bill and they didn’t do that,” said Schroder in an interview with TAI. “Failure to do that can’t be pinned on the House. So it is beyond me as to why they’d be using that reasoning or excuse to hide behind in this instance.”