Catch up quick: 10 things you missed in the states this week

Natural disasters are snow joke.
Silvestre, 6, of Washington, sleds over a snow bump on the hill at the U.S. Capitol, as schools are closed due to a winter storm, Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2024. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

The Pluribus News team suffered this week with what has been an uncommon ailment in and around the Washington area: School closures caused by snow. As we write this, another few inches are falling outside our world headquarters, and the neighborhood NextDoor group is packed with complaints about unplowed roads.

It reminded us that elected officials face a particular peril — and in some cases opportunity — when nature interrupts everyday life.

Chicago Mayor Michael Bilandic so badly mismanaged a snowstorm in 1979, when he ordered the city’s subways to bypass certain stops that happened to be in majority-Black neighborhoods, that he lost the Democratic primary for renomination to Jane Byrne, who had filmed campaign ads in the snow.

In 1982, Denver was slow to clear snow from a Christmas Eve storm that was so bad that both the Denver Post and Rocky Mountain News canceled newspaper delivery the following day. Mayor Bill McNichols lost re-election to a state representative — and future presidential cabinet member — named Federico Pena.

Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels ordered the city to use sand, rather than salt, to combat a 2008 snowstorm, an environmental initiative that flopped. Nickels finished third in the following year’s primary.

And heaven help elected officials who are out of town when the white stuff starts to mount. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg were both vacationing in sunnier climes when their region got socked by a 2010 storm. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) took no end of grief when he jetted off to Cancun in the midst of a 2021 freeze that struck his state.

On the other side of the coin stands Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear (D), who, during his first term in office, navigated a global pandemic and a series of floods and tornados. His deft handling of natural disasters became a cornerstone of his successful bid for a second term.

Winter is a great time to take a vacation to a warmer climate. But mayors, governors and any prominent elected officials would do well to check the long-term forecast first.

Here are 10 things you might have missed this week:

HEALTH CARE: Republican lawmakers in three of the 10 states that have not yet expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act are considering new efforts to do so, in part to solve the crisis of hospital closures impacting rural America. Lawmakers in Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi are open to expansion, though serious hurdles remain. (Pluribus News)

IMMIGRATION: New York Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) asked the legislature to spend $2.4 billion on migrant services, a $500 million increase over this year’s spending, as part of her $233 billion budget proposal. Hochul said she would travel to Washington this week to pressure the Biden administration to secure the border and help handle the crisis. (Pluribus News)

PUBLIC SAFETY: Lawmakers in at least eight states have introduced bills to increase penalties for or create a new crime of “swatting,” making hoax phone calls to law enforcement to elicit an armed response. The bills come after an increasing number of swatting incidents targeting elected officials and schools. (Pluribus News)

Two Ohio lawmakers who introduced bills to outlaw swatting became the victims of hoax calls themselves.

LGBTQ RIGHTS: An Ohio House committee heard testimony over legislation that would require students to use bathrooms and locker rooms that correspond to their gender at birth. Supporters of the measure made tweaks to bring the bill in line with a measure barring gender-affirming care for transgender minors. Gov. Mike DeWine (R) vetoed the gender-affirming care ban, but the House voted to override that veto last week. (Statehouse News Bureau)

The Utah House is considering its own bathroom ban that includes legal definitions of “male” and “female.” The bill would require taxpayer-funded buildings to provide more unisex or single-occupant restrooms and facilities. (Deseret News)

SOCIAL MEDIA: The Florida House Judiciary Committee approved a bill banning children under 16 from social media, setting it up for passage in the full House. (Orlando Sentinel)

Georgia Sen. Jason Anavitarte (R) has introduced legislation to require social media companies to verify the ages of their users, and to require the state Department of Education to develop curriculum around social media safety. Anavitarte said the bill would help reduce cyberbullying. (Georgia Public Broadcasting)

LGBTQ RIGHTS: The Florida House Constitutional Rights, Rule of Law and Government Operations Subcommittee voted to approve legislation to ban the display of LGBTQ pride flags in public buildings or schools. Similar legislation introduced in the Senate has not yet received a hearing. (Orlando Sentinel)

GUN POLITICS: The Maine House Judiciary Committee voted along party lines Wednesday to allow victims of gun violence or the attorney general to sue firearms manufacturers or dealers who irresponsibly market or sell their products. Democrats who control the legislature say they want new gun laws following the mass shooting in Lewiston last year. (Portland Press Herald)

ALCOHOL: The Indiana House has approved legislation allowing beer wholesalers to sell liquor-based ready-to-drink cocktails. Liquor distributors oppose the change, which would allow liquor-based mixed beverages to be covered under a wine license. (Indiana Capital Chronicle)

TECHNOLOGY: The Indiana Senate overwhelmingly approved legislation to prohibit adult-oriented websites from displaying content unless consumers verify their ages. The legislation requires users to submit detailed personal information as part of the age-verification process. (Northwest Indiana Times)

POLITICS: California Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins (D) is expected to announce her campaign for governor at an event in San Diego today. Atkins joins Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis (D) and Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond (D) in the race. Attorney General Rob Bonta (D) is also contemplating a bid. (Sacramento Bee)

New Jersey Sen. Jon Bramnick (R) is likely to enter the race for governor later this month. He is likely to face 2021 nominee Jack Ciattarelli (R), who came within 3 points of upsetting Gov. Phil Murphy (D), and radio personality Bill Spadea (R). (New Jersey Globe)

The Louisiana Senate voted to overhaul the state’s congressional district map, creating a second Black-majority district that would likely give Democrats a new seat in Congress. The bipartisan vote, backed by Gov. Jeff Landry (R), now advances to the state House. (Associated Press

The Michigan Republican Party is in default on a $500,000 loan provided by Comerica Bank, according to a court filing. The bank has demanded immediate payment of the loan, a demand the state party ignored. (Bridge MI)