Pluribus AM: AGs urge crackdown on robo-texts; tech group sues over CA privacy law; how the Grinch stole the HOV lane

Good morning, it’s Thursday, Dec. 15, 2022. In today’s edition, AGs urge crackdown on robo-texts; tech group sues over Calif. privacy law; and how the Grinch stole the HOV lane:

Top Stories

COLORADO RIVER: Upper Colorado River Commission states will spend $125 million to pay residents not to use their water rights. Water managers in seven states that pull from the river are meeting in Las Vegas this week in an effort to come up with massive cuts to water usage. There remains a serious disagreement between upper basin states (Wyoming, Colorado, Utah and New Mexico) and lower basin states (California, Nevada and Arizona). (Las Vegas Review-Journal)

ROBO-TEXTS: The nation’s attorneys general have asked the Federal Communications Commission to pass a new proposal cutting down on automated texts. The AGs back a plan to require mobile wireless providers to block texts from invalid, unassigned or unused numbers, and from numbers on a Do Not Originate list. (Inside Investigator) Far be it from us to editorialize, but: Yes, please.

OHIO: In the final hours of a lame-duck session, lawmakers approved an election overhaul bill that includes tougher photo ID requirements, eliminates a day of early voting and limits the number of available drop-boxes. The legislature voted to bar cities from passing strict tobacco laws after Columbus banned flavored tobacco. (Cleveland Plain Dealer, Columbus Dispatch)

CALIFORNIA: The tech industry trade group NetChoice has sued over the California Age-Appropriate Design Code Act, also known as Kid’s Code, which requires tech companies to set high levels of privacy as the default for younger users. NetChoice alleges the bill violates First Amendment rights. (California Globe)

Read our report about the measure, and copycats coming up in states across the country, here.

FLORIDA: Lawmakers gave final approval to a $1.25 billion spending package after this year’s hurricanes. One bill spends $751 million to help homeowners rebuild and repair, fund beach erosion projects and offer rebates on property taxes. Another bill spends $500 million on rebates for drivers who record more than 35 trips a month on toll roads. (Orlando Sentinel)

TEXAS: Attorney General Ken Paxton’s (R) office asked the Department of Public Safety in June to compile a list of individuals who had changed their gender on driver’s licenses over the previous two years. The Department did not ultimately provide the list to Paxton’s office. Paxton’s office refused to comment. (Washington Post)

WASHINGTON: Gov. Jay Inslee (D) has proposed raising $4 billion in new bonds to build thousands of new housing units. Inslee’s $70 billion budget proposal, a 12% increase from last year, also calls for new spending to cover early childhood education. (Seattle Times)

MISSOURI: Lawmakers will consider increasing the starting salary of new teachers to $34,000 a year in the 2024-2025 school year, and to $38,000 a year by the beginning of the 2026 school year. Legislation introduced by state Rep. Ed Lewis (R) would also raise pay for teachers with more than a decade of experience or with master’s degrees. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

MONTANA: Gov. Greg Gianforte (R) has approved $309 million in federal funding for broadband expansion prioritizing underserved and unserved communities. The money will fund more than 60 projects across the state, covering 62,000 homes and businesses. (Daily Montanan)

MISSISSIPPI: The state Ethics Commission has formally ruled that the legislature is not a “public body,” and therefore is not covered by state open meetings law. The Mississippi Free Press had asked the commission to declare meetings of the House Republican Caucus open to the public. Republicans hold enough seats in the House, 77 of 122, that caucus meetings constitute a quorum of all legislators. (Jackson Clarion Ledger)

In Politics

AGRICULTURE: A dozen states still elect agriculture commissioners, and for the first time in history, all 12 of those commissioners will be Republicans beginning next month, when Florida Commissioner-elect Wilton Simpson (R) takes office. As recently as 1999, Democrats held 10 of the 12 posts. (Pluribus News)

ARIZONA: A Mohave County judge will hear oral arguments on Monday in Republican attorney general candidate Abe Hamadeh’s challenge to election results that show him trailing Attorney General-elect Kris Mayes by just 511 votes. If the judge does not accept a motion to dismiss filed by Mayes’s attorney, trial will begin Dec. 23. (Arizona Republic)

MORE: Secretary of State Katie Hobbs (D) and Secretary of State-elect Adrian Fontes (R) have filed motions to dismiss a lawsuit by Republican Secretary of State candidate Mark Finchem (R) seeking to overturn Fontes’s victory last month. The lawsuit includes no evidence of tabulation malfunctions or of voters who were disenfranchised. (Arizona Mirror)

GEORGIA: Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R) says the legislature should end runoffs, after two consecutive election cycles in which big U.S. Senate races went to overtime. Republican legislative leaders haven’t yet weighed in. A Kennesaw State University survey found runoffs in 2021 cost taxpayers $75 million. (Atlanta Journal Constitution) Louisiana is the only other state that holds a runoff if no one hits a simple majority.

PEOPLE: Tennessee House Speaker Cameron Sexton (R) has tapped Kevin Johnson as his new chief of staff. Johnson replaces outgoing chief Sammie Arnold. (Tennessee Journal)

By The Numbers

1.5%: The estimated decrease in opioid overdose deaths recorded in Massachusetts over the first nine months of the year, compared to the same point last year. State officials acknowledge it’s a small decline, but it’s reason for guarded optimism. (WBUR)

20%: The decline in the number of apple boxes producers in Washington State will fill this year, thanks to a mid-April snowstorm and a cold snap at the end of harvest. The upshot: You’re likely to see smaller apples in stores this year. (Northwest News Network)

Off The Wall

For the first time in 370 years, Maryland has a Supreme Court. The state’s highest court, known since its inception in 1650 as the Court of Appeals, has changed its name to the Supreme Court after Gov. Larry Hogan (R) signed a proclamation acknowledging the results of a ballot measure voters approved by a wide margin in November. (Maryland Matters)

A bipartisan pair of Florida legislators have filed measures to name the Florida scrub jay as the state’s official bird. State Sen. Tina Polsky (D), a scrub jay backer, wants to change an honor currently held by the northern mockingbird — which is also the official state bird of Arkansas, Mississippi, Tennessee and Texas. Among the northern mocking bird’s most prominent backers is Marion Hammer, the powerful former NRA lobbyist. (Florida Politics)

An Arizona state trooper pulled over a driver in the high-occupancy vehicle lane on Interstate 10 in Phoenix last week after he noticed a “Suesspicious-looking” green passenger. The driver was cited after the trooper discovered an inflatable Grinch in the front seat. (Associated Press) Do not miss the photo.

Quote of the Day

“Some Southern Californians may have felt somewhat protected from these extreme conditions over the past few years. They shouldn’t anymore. We are all affected.”

Gloria Gray, chair of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, after her agency declared a regional drought emergency. (San Diego Union-Tribune)