Pluribus AM: Beware the AI robocalls

Good morning, it’s Wednesday, February 7, 2024. In today’s edition, attorneys general warn over AI-generated robocalls; Alabama governor backs education savings accounts; blue states promote heat pumps:

Top Stories

Connecticut lawmakers kick off their legislative session today. Welcome back to Hartford!

ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE: New Hampshire Attorney General John Formella has identified the Texas company allegedly behind the AI-generated robocalls made to Granite State voters ahead of their primary last month featuring an imitation of President Biden’s voice. All 51 attorneys general sent a formal warning to the company in a letter on Tuesday. (Pluribus News)

Lots of lawmakers we’ve talked to took careful note of the phony calls, ahead of an election in which many fear the influence of misinformation.

ENERGY: Environmental officials in nine blue states have signed an agreement to increase installation targets for heat pumps, aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions from buildings. The states — California, Colorado, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon and Rhode Island — agreed to meet 65% of residential-scale heating, air conditioning and water heating shipments by 2030, and 90% by 2040. (Pluribus News)

LGBTQ RIGHTS: An Iowa House committee has advanced Gov. Kim Reynolds’s (R) proposal to define “sex,” “man” and “woman” under state law. The bill also requires birth certificates list both a resident’s sex at birth and current identity. Transgender residents said at a committee hearing that the bill would force them to out themselves against their will. (Des Moines Register)

EDUCATION: Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey (R) used her State of the State address to throw her support behind an education savings account measure that would provide children up to $7,000 to pay tuition at accredited, participating public or private school. The program would be available to low-income families for the first two years, at an estimated cost of $100 million, and to all families afterwards. (Yellowhammer News)

MORE: The Indiana Senate approved legislation requiring school districts to publicize sex ed curriculum and information about how and by whom the curriculum is taught. (Indiana Capital Chronicle) The Senate also approved bills giving the power to appoint members of boards of trustees at state colleges and universities to legislative leaders, rather than alumni councils. The bill also prevents boards from granting tenure to professors “unlikely to foster a culture of free inquiry, free expression and intellectual diversity.” (Indiana Capital Chronicle)

TECHNOLOGY: The Massachusetts Legislature’s transportation committee is expected to approve language that would ban the use of virtual reality headsets while behind the wheel of an automobile. House chairman William Straus (D) drafted the measure this week after seeing videos of drivers using Apple Vision Pro headsets while driving Teslas in autopilot mode. (Boston Globe)

“They’re all over the internet, these idiots riving Teslas with their hands up in the air,” Straus said.

HEALTH CARE: The Virginia Senate Commerce and Labor Committee advanced legislation creating a prescription drug affordability board that would have the power to review the cost of certain drugs and to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies to bring down costs. The measure passed in a bipartisan vote. (Cardinal News)

GUN POLITICS: The Georgia Senate approved legislation to remove sales taxes on the purchase of firearms, ammunition and other gun accessories during the first week of hunting season in October. The bill’s lead sponsor said more hunters are needed to control the state’s deer population. (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

MARIJUANA: Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro (D) used a state budget address to call for legalizing recreational marijuana, which his administration said would generate as much as $230 million in tax revenue by its fourth year. The proposal is likely to face GOP opposition. (Philadelphia Inquirer)

Recreational marijuana is legal in all but one state that borders Pennsylvania. West Virginia is the lone holdout.

In Politics & Business

MINNESOTA: The Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party has asked the state Supreme Court to revoke the major party status of the Legal Marijuana Now Party, citing the pot party’s recent nomination of a presidential candidate against her wishes. The DFL lawsuit seeks to kick the Legal Marijuana Now Party off the presidential ballot because it does not hold a national convention, required under state law. (Minnesota Reformer)

MORE: The Minnesota Senate DFL has chosen Sen. Erin Murphy (D) to serve as majority leader, after Sen. Kari Dziedzic (D) stepped down to deal with a cancer diagnosis. Murphy beat out Senate President Bobby Joe Champion (D) for the post, though the vote total wasn’t clear. (Minneapolis Star Tribune)

HAWAII: The Senate Judiciary Committee gave approval to a measure that would bar candidates from the ballot if they are disqualified by a constitutional or statutory provision. Former President Donald Trump’s name does not appear in the bill, though it is clearly aimed at claims that Trump instigated the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. (Honolulu Star-Advertiser)

MICHIGAN: The Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission has whittled down the number of proposed maps of Metro Detroit legislative districts to ten. The proposals come after a three-judge panel ruled the existing maps improperly diluted the influence of Black voters. (MLive)

By The Numbers

9: The number of people confirmed dead in massive storms that rolled through California over the last few days. More than a foot of rain had fallen around parts of Los Angeles through 5 a.m. Tuesday. (Los Angeles Times)

84,058: The number of abortions performed in Florida in 2023, according to provisional CDC data — up about 1,477 from the 2022 figures. More abortions now take place after six weeks of pregnancy, a reversal from the years before the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. (Orlando Sentinel)

$30,000 to $40,000: The estimated value of Marilyn Monroe’s signed Connecticut driver’s license, circa 1958, being auctioned off this week by a Wilton-based company. Monroe lived in Roxbury, Conn., for five years while she was married to the playwright Arthur Miller. (Hartford Courant)

Off The Wall

Iowa Rep. Dean Fisher (R) has introduced a program to award residents $5 for every raccoon tail they turn in to the Department of Natural Resources. The legislation comes after Iowa residents harvested just 34,529 raccoons between 2021 and 2022, the lowest total since 1958. (Cedar Rapids Gazette)

A scary sign of the times: Maine lawmakers and legislative staff took part in active shooter training for the first time as part of an effort to increase security at the Capitol, after a growing number of threats and a mass shooting in Lewiston last year. (Portland Press Herald)

Quote of the Day

“Look, y’all, I’m not going to stand here and preach like I know a blooming thing about AI.”

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey (R), announcing a new AI task force during her State of the State address. (