Catch up quick: 7 things you missed in the states this week

A sprawling neighborhood in Colorado Springs, Colo., on Wednesday, Nov. 23, 2022. (AP Photo/Thomas Peipert, File)

In our years covering state policy, national interest in particular policies ebbs and flows. In 2021, lawmakers embarked on wholesale rewrites of election laws. Last year, lawmakers moved en masse to expand school voucher and education savings account programs.

This year, the big and emergent theme is housing. Everyone knows there’s a housing shortage, from rural West Virginia to urban San Francisco.

But the crisis looks different in different places — the solutions that are going to work for rural America are different than those that will work in urban cores. California Assembly Speaker Robert Rivas (D) told us a few months ago that even the urban cores in his state face different challenges, that the crisis in the Bay Area is distinct from those in Los Angeles or San Diego.

Housing is an intensely local issue, but one that can demand state action. Lawmakers in Florida and Washington last year — one very red state, one very blue state — both moved to preempt local governments from certain zoning rules. Lawmakers in Missouri this week advanced a measure to ban eviction moratoriums, big-footing such bans in St. Louis and St. Louis County.

Local officials hate preemption, whether on housing or energy or gun regulations. But sometimes, state action can allow local officials to shift the blame — and achieve their housing and growth goals all the same.

In a Pluribus Spotlight event this week, we heard a great example of that: Colorado Rep. Judy Amabile (D) told us she’s hearing from local officials calling for statewide regulations, even if it means preempting their own power.

“They’re saying to me, ‘Please get this done at the state level, so that we can have this here and that we can blame you all instead of taking the heat ourselves,’” Amabile said.

Watch the full event here:

Here are seven other things you might have missed in the states this week:

HEALTH CARE: Lawmakers in at least 10 states have introduced measures placing new requirements that insurers cover GLP-1 drugs like Ozempic and Wegovy for weight loss purposes. The drugs are starting to cost Medicaid systems hundreds of millions of dollars as they explode in popularity, but only 16 state Medicaid programs cover at least one weight loss drug to treat obesity in adults. (Pluribus News)

Alabama Republican lawmakers introduced legislation to authorize a state lottery, casinos and legal sports betting — and to expand Medicaid. A provision of the measure would allow, but not require, lawmakers to fund rural health care and health benefit plans for those making below 138% of the federal poverty limit. Funding would come from the Gaming Trust Fund. (AL.com)

Telling: Neither the sponsors nor Medicaid expansion proponents nor House Minority Leader Anthony Daniels (D) wanted to discuss the provision.

PUBLIC SAFETY: Oregon lawmakers kicked off their legislative session with plans to revise a first-in-the-nation drug decriminalization bill approved by voters in 2020. Democrats are backing a bill to recriminalize fentanyl, meth and heroin as low-level misdemeanors, and to give law enforcement more power to prosecute dealers. Republicans back harsher penalties. (Pluribus News)

LABOR: The Washington House approved legislation to permit workers on strike or locked out over labor disputes to qualify for unemployment insurance benefits. Sen. Karen Keiser (D), the lead Senate sponsor, thinks the bill will make it to the floor, and Gov. Jay Inslee’s (D) office says he backs the proposal. (Washington State Standard)

ABORTION: A Tennessee House subcommittee has advanced legislation that would make it illegal for an adult to help a minor get an abortion without parental consent. The bill would ban adults from providing minors with information about nearby abortion providers. (Associated Press)

Idaho is the only other state with a so-called abortion trafficking law on the books, though that measure is on hold after abortion rights groups sued to block it.

DEI: The Kentucky Senate approved legislation barring diversity, equity and inclusion practices at public universities. The bill would prohibit schools from providing preferential treatment based on political ideology. (Associated Press) Nebraska’s Senate Education Committee considered a bill banning DEI programs at state schools, too. (Associated Press)

Republican lawmakers have introduced about 50 bills in 20 states to restrict initiatives on diversity, equity and inclusion. Democrats have filed about two dozen bills in 11 states that would require or promote DEI initiatives. Most of the restrictive bills focus on higher education, as well as K-12 schools, state government, contracting and pension investments. (Associated Press)

MARIJUANA: Hawaii’s Senate Health and Judiciary Committees approved legislation to legalize recreational marijuana for adults, a measure written by Attorney General Anne Lopez’s office. Gov. Josh Green (D) says he supports the measure. (Hawaii News Now) The South Carolina Senate approved a bill to legalize medical marijuana. Its chances in the House don’t look great. (South Carolina Daily Gazette)

POLITICS: Pennsylvania Democrat Jim Prokopiak won a special election to claim a Bucks County seat in the state House, giving his party 102 out of 203 seats. The district leaned Democratic, but Prokopiak won with 68% of the vote, a surprisingly wide margin. (Pennsylvania Capital-Star)

Republicans hold 100 seats, after one of their members resigned last week for health reasons. They’re likely to reclaim that seat in a coming special election.

The Kentucky Senate State and Local Government Committee has advanced legislation to block governors from granting pardons in the run-up to or just after Election Day, after former Gov. Matt Bevin (R) issued more than 600 pardons on his way out the door. If the measure passes, voters would have to approve a constitutional amendment in November. (Associated Press)

Among Bevin’s pardons was a man later convicted in federal court for a drug-related killing. The Louisville Courier Journal won a Pulitzer Prize for their coverage of Bevin’s pardon spree.

The Texas Republican Party voted Saturday to censure House Speaker Dade Phelan (R) over his role in impeaching Attorney General Ken Paxton (R). The party also voted for a resolution stating it would not associate with antisemites, after voting down a similar measure in December. (Texas Tribune)