Pluribus AM: AZ will keep busing migrants; TX GOP attacks its own Speaker; NM’s minority leader is an ultramarathoner

Good morning, it’s Monday, Jan. 23, 2023. In today’s edition, lawmakers challenge vaccine rules; Ariz. will continue busing migrants; Texas GOP attacks its own speaker:

Top Stories

VACCINES: Lawmakers in 18 states have introduced at least 82 bills weakening existing vaccine policy. There’s a lot of variation, but at least 29 of those bills are specific to vaccines against the virus that causes Covid-19, and 46 are related to vaccines in general. Some bar businesses and government agencies from requiring vaccinations, and some expand the number of exemptions someone can claim to avoid a vaccine. (Pluribus News)

ARIZONA: Gov. Katie Hobbs (D) will continue former Gov. Doug Ducey’s (R) practice of moving migrants to other states, though a spokeswoman later said the state will send migrants to the destinations they intended to reach. The busing program costs Arizona about $1 million per month. (Arizona Republic) Hobbs and Attorney General Kris Mayes (D) are pausing executions as they review the death penalty process. (Arizona Republic)

LOUISIANA: Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) has called a special session next week to address the property insurance crisis. Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon (R) wants the legislature to put $45 million into a new fund that would incentivize insurance companies to offer plans for state homeowners. (Baton Rouge Advocate)

ILLINOIS: An Effingham County judge has placed a temporary restraining order blocking the new assault weapons ban signed into law this month by Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D). The order applies only to the more than 850 plaintiffs who have challenged the bill in court. (State Journal-Register, Chicago Tribune) Several other state and federal challenges to the bill are working their way through other courts.

TEXAS: Gov. Greg Abbott (R) will sign legislation banning citizens and foreign entities from China, Iran, North Korea and Russia from purchasing land in the state. Chinese investors own about 383,000 acres of U.S. farmland, about 1% of the land owned by foreign entities. Canadian investors are by far the largest foreign owners of U.S. farmland. (Texas Tribune)

MICHIGAN: Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) will call for legislation requiring universal background checks for all firearm sales and extreme risk protection programs, known as red flag laws. Whitmer will ask legislators for more money for law enforcement programs, too. (MLive)

MISSISSIPPI: The state House unanimously approved a measure removing fentanyl test strips from the list of illegal drug paraphernalia. (Supertalk) The House also passed a measure barring electric vehicle manufacturers from selling vehicles directly to consumers, a measure aimed squarely at Tesla. (Supertalk)

MARYLAND: Gov. Wes Moore (D) proposed a $63.1 billion budget that increases funding for education and transportation programs. Moore wants to put $500 million each into education and transportation, though details about specific transportation projects weren’t released. (Maryland Matters) Maryland’s state Senate is considering a bill to spend $12 million to fund the 988 suicide and crisis prevention hotline. (WYPR)

IOWA: House Speaker Pat Grassley (R) has introduced legislation limiting foods that can be purchased through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, better known as food stamps. The bill would exclude items like butter, canned vegetables, fruits and soups, along with meat and poultry. (Cedar Rapids Gazette)

CALIFORNIA: The Assembly will consider legislation to create a state stockpile of infant formula, after last year’s devastating shortage. The legislation, introduced by three Democrats, would direct state agencies to determine the type of formula needed and how much to hold in reserves. (Sacramento Bee)

In Politics & Business

REPUBLICANS: The mainstream conservative Republican Main Street Partnership and the State Freedom Caucus Network, aligned with the House Freedom Caucus, are racing to set up state-level chapters. Freedom Caucuses have been set up in 10 states, while factions aligned with the RSMP are just getting off the ground. (Pluribus News)

A fascinating state-by-state fight for the future of the GOP.

TEXAS: The Republican Party of Texas has launched radio ads criticizing state House Speaker Dade Phelan (R) over his decision to allow Democrats to continue chairing some state House committees. Phelan’s allies in the House blasted the ads, which will cost about $15,000 over two weeks. (Texas Tribune)

INSURRECTIONISTS: Lawmakers in New York, Connecticut and Virginia have proposed measures barring anyone convicted of participating in an insurrection from holding public office or becoming a law enforcement official. (Associated Press)

ENERGY: The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission has certified an Oregon company’s design for a small modular nuclear reactor.  The company, NuScale, has signed 19 agreements in the U.S. and internationally to build small reactors. (Associated Press) We wrote last year that nuclear is getting a new look in states across the country.

By The Numbers

380,000: The square footage of office space the state of Michigan has given up since the start of the pandemic, as more of its 47,000 public workers work from home or in hybrid systems. The cut in office space has saved the state $19 million. (Detroit News)

$163,295: The salary Rhode Island Gov. Dan McKee (D) will earn, after an 11.9% pay hike for statewide officeholders went into effect. (Providence Journal) If they ever meet for lunch, Massachusetts Gov. Maura Healey (D) should pick up the tab — Healey’s salary just went up to $222,185, which doesn’t include a $65,000 housing allowance.

27,916: The number of registered nurses in Arkansas, about three-quarters of what the state actually needs to provide national average level of care standards. A study commissioned by Arkansas Hospital Association Services found the state needed about another 9,000 nurses to meet the standard. (Talk Business & Politics)

Off The Wall

Former Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder (R) goes on trial today, two and a half years after he was arrested on allegations he accepted a $61 million bribe to help pass a law steering $1.3 billion to a utility company. Two of the five defendants in what has become Ohio’s biggest-ever corruption scandal have pleaded guilty. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)

Feeling bitter about a relationship gone bad? Spend $15 to name a Madagascar hissing cockroach after your ex at the Hammill Family Play Zoo in Brookfield, Ill. (Chicago Sun-Times)

Quote of the Day

“The alarm goes off at 3:25 and you never get used to that.”

New Mexico state Rep. Ryan Lane (R), the new House Minority Leader, who gets up well before dawn to train for ultramarathons. Last month, Lane ran 100 miles in 26 hours to raise money for a wrestling team at his old high school. (Albuquerque Journal)