Pluribus AM: Ark. Gov pitches teacher pay raise; red states advance trans care bans; Sununu moves toward WH bid

Good morning, it’s Thursday, Feb. 9, 2023. In today’s edition, Ark. Gov. proposes big teacher pay hike; red states advance transgender care bans; Sununu moves toward presidential bid:

Top Stories

EDUCATION: The Missouri Senate approved a bill prohibiting instruction in critical race theory in K-12 schools, though with exceptions for teaching about “sexism, slavery, racial oppression, racial segregation [and] affirmative action.” (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Associated Press) An Indiana House committee has advanced a bill allowing school districts to hold partisan school board elections. (Associated Press, Indianapolis Star)

MORE: Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders (R) wants an omnibus education reform package to raise starting teacher pay from $36,000 a year to $50,000 a year. Sanders’s plan would establish “education freedom accounts,” vouchers of up to $7,800 per pupil to pay for private or home schooling. (Talk Business & Politics, Arkansas Democrat Gazette) Tennessee House Speaker Cameron Sexton (R) has introduced a bill opting the state out of federal K-12 education funding. (Nashville Post) The Arizona Senate approved a bill allowing schools to spend money allocated last year, avoiding devastating budget cuts. (Arizona Republic)

LGBTQ RIGHTS: The South Dakota Senate Health and Human Services Committee has approved a bill barring physicians from prescribing puberty blockers or performing surgeries on transgender youth. The bill has already passed the state House. (South Dakota Searchlight) An Oklahoma Senate committee advanced a ban on transgender care for minors. (Tulsa World) The Wyoming Senate has passed a bill barring transgender athletes from participating in sports leagues that align with their gender identities. (Casper Star Tribune)

ENERGY: Arkansas lawmakers will consider a measure rolling back net-metering rules that govern how much a utility has to pay a homeowner for energy produced by solar panels. (Arkansas Times) A Georgia House committee advanced a bill Tuesday that would require solar panel installers to be certified by the state Public Service Commission. (Georgia Public Broadcasting)

MICHIGAN: Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) laid out a $79 billion state budget Wednesday that boosts the Earned Income Tax Credit, establishes universal pre-K for 4 year olds, mandates universal background checks and safe storage requirements for guns and allocates $800 million for incentives to attract new businesses. The budget also creates a $150 million fund to attract insulin manufacturers. (Detroit Free Press)

IOWA: The legislature has approved a $2 million cap on damages awarded in medical malpractice lawsuits against hospitals and a $1 million cap in lawsuits against clinics and doctors. Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) made tort reform one of her highest priorities this year. (Des Moines Register)

FLORIDA: The House State Affairs Committee advanced a measure overhauling Disney’s Reedy Creek Improvement District in a bipartisan vote. The bill would give Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) the authority to appoint board members for a new Central Florida Tourism Oversight District. (Orlando Sentinel) The Senate Community Affairs Committee unanimously approved a housing bill that bars local governments from imposing rent controls. (Florida Politics)

WEST VIRGINIA: The state Senate voted Wednesday to cut personal income tax rates by 15%, half the reduction Gov. Jim Justice (R) and the House of Delegates backed last month. West Virginia has a $1.3 billion surplus bolstered by high energy prices. (Associated Press)

MISSISSIPPI: The state House approved a bill Wednesday creating a new court system overseeing Jackson appointed by statewide officials, rather than locally-elected judges and prosecutors. Jackson leaders called the bill an oppressive overreach. (Mississippi Free Press, Magnolia Tribune, Jackson Clarion Ledger)

In Politics & Business

OHIO: Ohio Physicians for Reproductive Rights plans to file ballot language this month with the Attorney General’s office to begin collecting signatures for a proposed ballot measure to enshrine abortion rights in the state constitution. The group has to gather 413,446 valid signatures to make the 2023 ballot. (Columbus Dispatch)

PENNSYLVANIA: House Speaker Mark Rozzi (D) has signaled he is considering stepping down after Democrats reclaimed the majority in special elections held Tuesday. Rozzi said he would “reassess” his post after the House approves measures to allow victims of childhood sexual abuse sue their alleged abusers. (Philadelphia Inquirer)

Don’t miss our story on Rozzi’s ascent to the speakership as a compromise candidate.

MASSACHUSETTS: The state Senate is poised to pass a rule package that eliminates term limits for the body’s president. The change means Senate President Karen Spilka (D) would be eligible to serve through the end of the 2026 legislative session. (Boston Globe)

VIRGINIA: Ex-U.S. Rep. Denver Riggleman, elected as a Republican, says he is considering running for governor as an independent in 2025. Asked if he would run for Congress again, Riggleman said: “I’d rather light myself on fire.” (Daily Progress)

WHITE HOUSE: New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu (R) is launching a 501(c)(4) organization to pay for his political travel as he considers a presidential bid. Sununu, in Washington for this weekend’s NGA meeting, said he would bring up the new primary calendar with President Biden. (WMUR) 

By The Numbers

0: The number of women on the South Carolina Supreme Court, after Justice Gary Hill was confirmed to replace retiring Justice Kaye Hearn. South Carolina is the only state with an all-male high court. (Associated Press)

2: The number of states that have yet to extend postpartum Medicaid coverage to women for a year after they give birth. That number could fall to one after the Mississippi state Senate approved a bill extending coverage. Wyoming is the only other state that has yet to do so. (Supertalk)

Off The Wall

Public records show employees of Oregon’s Liquor and Cannabis Commission routinely set aside rare and popular bourbons for themselves in potential violation of state ethics laws. A whistleblower at the commission said bottles of Pappy Van Winkle were sent to certain liquor stores where the commission’s recently-dismissed executive director and his top deputy would pick them up. (Oregonian)

Alabama legislators will consider a bill making it illegal for an employer to require employees to implant microchips or identification markers. Employers are already banned from requiring implanted devices in Arkansas, California, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Utah and Wisconsin. (

Quote of the Day

“The IRS has indicated that it is in the process of reaching its own determination, and we believe that the agency should conclude, too, that the payments are exempt.”

Maine Revenue Services spokeswoman Sharon Huntley, on state efforts to convince the IRS that $850 relief checks sent to residents last year are not federally taxable. (Portland Press Herald)