Pluribus AM: Big tech versus the states

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Good morning, it’s Tuesday, December 18, 2023. In today’s edition, tech giants sue Utah over parental consent law; Google settles with states; Abbott signs law making illegal immigration a state crime:

Top Stories

SOCIAL MEDIA: A top tech industry group on Monday sued Utah over new legislation requiring social media companies to obtain parental consent before their kids open accounts. The group, NetChoice, alleges the Utah law violates free speech rights and federal law. (Pluribus News)

NetChoice won a legal battle over an Arkansas law requiring parental permission earlier this year, along with a temporary injunction against a California youth digital privacy law.

MORE: Google agreed to pay $700 million in a settlement with all 50 state attorneys general over charges it stifled competition in its Google Play App Store. Google agreed to let developers offer alternative in-app payment systems alongside Google Play, along with a handful of other changes. About 90% of the settlement money will be returned to consumers. (The Verge)

IMMIGRATION: Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) signed legislation creating a state crime of illegally crossing the border from Mexico, and another bill earmarking $1.5 billion for construction of a border fence. The bill creating a state-level immigration crime, which could lead to up to six months in jail, is likely to set off a legal battle with the federal government. (Texas Tribune)

MORE: Massachusetts Gov. Maura Healey (D) has outlined plans to dip into a state surplus account to cover mounting costs of housing migrants in the emergency shelter system. Healey’s office projected the system will need $224 million more in funding this fiscal year, and $915 million in the next fiscal year. (Boston Globe)

TECHNOLOGY: South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley (R) has proposed legislation to make a crime of possessing, making or distributing computer-generated child pornography, subject to 10 years in prison. Possession of computer-generated pornographic material is legal under current state law. (South Dakota Searchlight)

WORKFORCE: Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) will allocate $330 million for retention bonuses for thousands of state employees next year. The $1,000 bonuses, delivered in end-of-year paychecks next week, will go to teachers, school support staff and other state employees. (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Georgia is sitting on $16 billion in budget reserves — enough to fund the government for half a year without any other revenue.

WILDFIRES: Hawaii Gov. Josh Green (D) has requested $425 million from lawmakers next year to help Maui recover from August’s devastating wildfires. The money will include $200 million to cover insurance payments, and $10 million for new fire and emergency response equipment, including 20 new jobs building firebreaks. (Associated Press)

In Politics & Business

NEVADA: Six Nevada Republicans who submitted fake electoral documents to the National Archives pleaded not guilty to charges of offering false instruments for filing. Those charged include party chairman Michael McDonald and Republican National Committee member Jim DeGraffenreid. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)

GEORGIA: A state judge heard arguments in a lawsuit seeking to bar Lt. Gov. Burt Jones (R) from holding office because he served as a fake elector for Trump. The plaintiffs’ lawyer says he expects the judge to reject the suit before an appeal to the state Supreme Court. (Associated Press)

ARIZONA: The House Ethics Committee holds an open meeting today to consider ethics complaints against state Rep. Leezah Sun (D), who interfered in a child custody case and loosed a stream of profanities at officials in Tolleson’s City Hall in May. Fellow Democrats filed the complaint. (Arizona Republic)

MORE: Arizona Attorney General Kris Mayes’s (D) office is signaling that an inquiry into fake electors who submitted bogus electoral votes on Trump’s behalf will wrap up by March. Prosecutors in Michigan, Georgia and Nevada have brought charges against fake electors in those states. (Arizona Republic)

PEOPLE: Kentucky Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman (D) underwent a successful double mastectomy on Monday, after concerns raised during a routine exam. Coleman said she took the step because of “a significant family history of cancer.” (Associated Press) Kentucky Sen. Amanda Mays Bledsoe (R) is recovering after emergency surgery she underwent after the family’s horse unexpectedly kicked her in the face. Bledsoe said she would make a full recovery. (Lexington Herald Leader)

Our best wishes for a speedy recovery to both Kentucky leaders.

By The Numbers

$1.26 trillion: The amount states are expected to spend this year, according to the National Association of State Budget Officers. States expect to collect $1.18 trillion in revenue, down 1.8% from last year — but, significantly, up 34% from FY 2019, before the pandemic. (Pluribus News)

5.2%: The decline in enrollment in kindergarten in the 2022-2023 school year, compared with the pre-pandemic year of 2019-2020, according to Associated Press data. Enrollment across all public schools is down 2.2%. (Associated Press)

6: The number of states that have not applied for a federal grant program to support solar energy projects. The states skipping out on the federal money — Florida, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, Nevada and South Dakota — are all led by Republican governors. (South Dakota Searchlight)

$1.5 million: The amount Google spent lobbying California legislators this year, about six times the amount the company has averaged over the last 18 years. Google spent heavily on an ad campaign blasting a proposed law that would require social media platforms to pay news publishers to repost their articles. (Los Angeles Times)

280,000: The number of North Carolina residents who enrolled in Medicaid under the state’s new expansion program, through Dec. 12. Of those, about 273,000 were already on a limited-benefit program. Another 56,000 have applied for Medicaid. The Department of Health and Human Services expects about 600,000 people will eventually be eligible for Medicaid. (Raleigh News & Observer)

Off The Wall

Today in state symbols: Kansas has a new license plate, after state residents overwhelmingly voted in favor of a design with bands of light gold and blue, evocative of a prairie sunset. The winning design took 53% of the vote over four rival options. (Associated Press) Minnesota’s State Emblems Redesign Commission will vote Tuesday on a final state flag. The commission has narrowed down more than 2,000 concepts submitted by the public to a single design that shows a blue abstract of the state borders and an eight-pointed North Star. (Minneapolis Star Tribune)

Our condolences to the family of Indiana First Dog Henry Holcomb, who passed away at the age of 13. Gov. Eric Holcomb (R) said the miniature schnauzer “was more than a family pet to me and Janet.” (Indiana Capital Chronicle)

Outside Magazine has compiled some of the best worst reviews of America’s national parks this year. In comments on TripAdvisor, Yelp and other social media platforms, visitors have complained that Yosemite National Park doesn’t have enough stores, that Shenandoah wasn’t entertaining — and that Hawaii Volcanoes National Park didn’t have “a single pickle ball court in sight.” (Outside)

Quote of the Day

“The compensation offered for the responsibilities and commitments of this role has not been commensurate with the cost of living and my family’s financial needs.”

Colorado state Rep. Said Sharbini (D), who became the second freshman legislator to resign in recent weeks over what he called the “vitriol” at the state capitol and low pay. (Denver Post)