Pluribus AM: Arizona’s abortion earthquake

Good morning, it’s Wednesday, April 10, 2024. In today’s edition, Arizona ruling puts abortion in swing-state spotlight; Minnesota advances state voting rights act; Florida, California move to confront retail theft:

Top Stories

ABORTION: The Arizona Supreme Court upheld an 1864 law barring abortion and mandating prison sentences of two to five years for anyone who helps a woman obtain an abortion. The law supersedes legislation signed in 2022 by then-Gov. Doug Ducey (R) that restricted abortion after 15 weeks. (Pluribus News)

Many Republicans, including U.S. Senate candidate Kari Lake (R), distanced themselves from the ruling Tuesday — a sign they see the political writing on the wall.

VOTING RIGHTS: The Minnesota House approved legislation granting individual voters the right to sue over potentially discriminatory practices, after the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the federal Voting Rights Act doesn’t cover individuals. The bill also stiffens penalties for campaign-related deepfake materials meant to interfere with elections. (MPR News)

AGRICULTURE: Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) has signed legislation requiring disclosure requirements for foreign owners of state farmland. The law requires foreign landowners to provide details about agriculture holdings in other states that exceed 250 acres, and boosts penalties for foreign owners who fail to register land holdings. (Des Moines Register)

FREE SPEECH: The New Hampshire Senate is considering legislation requiring colleges to guarantee free speech rights to students and to ban the adoption of “free speech zones” that limit where public displays may take place. Students would be able to bring a civil complaint if they feel their rights are violated. The measure passed the House last month on a mostly party-line vote. (New Hampshire Union Leader)

EDUCATION: The Nebraska legislature gave first-round approval to new legislation creating Opportunity Scholarships that low-income families could use to pay for tuition to private or parochial schools. The bill would nullify a referendum petition launched by the state teachers’ union that would leave school choice up to the voters. (Nebraska Examiner)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE: The Tennessee Senate has approved legislation allowing the death penalty to be applied to those convicted of raping a child. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) signed similar legislation last year. (Associated Press)

MORE: DeSantis signed legislation increasing punishments for individuals convicted of retail theft and porch piracy. The law lowers the threshold dollar amount applicable to third-degree grand theft charges. (Spectrum News) California Assembly Democrats have unveiled bills to combat retail theft in part by allowing restraining orders to keep those who steal away from certain stores. (Los Angeles Times)

PUBLIC SAFETY: The Pennsylvania House approved legislation to make using an electronic device while driving illegal. The measure must return to the Senate for concurrence before it goes to Gov. Josh Shapiro (D). (Harrisburg Patriot-News)

Today, 34 states and the District of Columbia ban all drivers from using cell phones while driving.

In Politics & Business

NEW JERSEY: Former Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli (R) has launched his second campaign for governor, three years after coming within a few points of scoring a major upset against outgoing Gov. Phil Murphy (D). Ciattarelli faces state Sen. Jon Bramnick (R) in the GOP primary. (New Jersey Globe)

RHODE ISLAND: Attorney General Peter Neronha (D) says he’s “doubtful” he’ll run against Gov. Dan McKee (D) in 2026. In a new magazine profile, Neronha speaks highly of Helena Foulkes, who came within 3,500 votes of beating McKee in the 2022 Democratic primary. (Boston Globe)

NEBRASKA: Gov. Jim Pillen (R) will call a special session this year if legislative leaders can round up the votes to change the way Nebraska allocates its electoral votes. Nebraska is one of two states that awards votes by congressional district; President Biden carried one of those votes in 2020. (Nebraska Examiner)

TEXAS: Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) has sued Harris County, home of Houston, to block a new guaranteed income pilot program offering low-income residents $500 a month for 18 months. Paxton alleges the program violates a provision of the state constitution that bars government from granting public money to individuals. (Texas Tribune)

By The Numbers

46.2 million: The number of foreign-born residents in the United States in 2022, about 14% of the population. More than half of those residents live in California, Texas, Florida and New York. (Associated Press)

73 cents: The new price of a Forever stamp under a proposal by the U.S. Postal Service, an 8% increase over the current price. The Postal Service is trying to recoup $160 billion in projected losses over the next decade. (New York Times)

29.5 inches: The amount of snow that fell on the Twin Cities this year, just a third of the amount that fell over the winter of 2022-2023. Minnesota’s Department of Transportation said less snow meant they will save money next year on salt purchases, because of stockpiles that remain unused. (MPR News)

55 miles: The length of the traffic backup on Interstate 87 in New York on Monday, as visitors flocked to view the solar eclipse. (New York Times)

Off The Wall

Who’s that playing a reluctant dental patient in Mount Mansfield Union High School’s production of “Little Shop of Horrors”? None other than Vermont Gov. Phil Scott (R), who made his theatrical debut on Friday. Students at the school spent months asking Scott to appear in their play, and he obliged. (Burlington Free Press)

Teaching your teenager to drive? There’s an app for that — and Ohio lawmakers want to allow student drivers to complete their eight hours of in-car training solely through the new product being developed by a Columbus-based company. Students would still have to have an adult in the car, but lawmakers say the measure would help low-income kids who can’t afford the cost of driving school. (Columbus Dispatch)

Quote of the Day

“I’ve never really seen any public policy matter that involves such a complete suspension of disbelief on the very real fact that we don’t have the energy to power all these places.”

John McCarthy, senior adviser to the Piedmont Environmental Council, on the proliferation of data centers that strain the energy grid. (Pluribus News)