Pluribus AM: Budget boom times come to an end

Good morning, it’s Thursday, August 17, 2023. In today’s edition, budget booms wane in the states; Hawaii lawmakers prepare Maui recovery package; North Carolina lawmakers ban gender-affirming care for minors:

Top Stories

This week’s newsletters look a little different: As lawmakers gather in Indianapolis for the National Conference of State Legislatures’ annual meeting, we’re spotlighting the top legislative trends of the year.

ECONOMY: State revenue growth is finally slowing down after soaring in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. Revenue analysts are not expecting a major drop that would force lawmakers to cut funding for key services, but lawmakers in many states will have less money to spend on programs, tax cuts and one-time projects than they did two years ago.

Fiscal Year 2023 revenues fell in a third of the 42 states that have reported year-end data so far, according to Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center expert Lucy Dadayan, and rose just 1% in the typical state compared to fiscal 22. The hardest-hit states, such as California, rely on taxing high-income people who earned less from financial markets last fiscal year.

The economic outlook has been so uncertain since the pandemic began that state analysts and budget writers have consistently underestimated revenue collections, bracing for a recession that is yet to arrive.

Lawmakers say they are prepared for revenue collections to weaken this year.

State leaders have for the past three years used surplus revenue to increase savings, pay down debt and fund one-time programs such as housing assistance and tax rebates. They say their cautious approach will help ensure vital services stay funded even if a recession hits.

Read the full story here.

DISASTER RELIEF: Hawaii lawmakers are beginning preparations for a package of legislation to help Maui recover from devastating fires last week that have claimed at least 106 lives. Details are scarce so far. Estimates suggest the fires caused $5.6 billion in damages. (Pluribus News)

LGBTQ RIGHTS: North Carolina’s General Assembly voted Wednesday to override Gov. Roy Cooper’s (D) veto of legislation banning gender-affirming care for minors, limiting classroom discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity before 4th grade, and barring transgender girls from playing on girls’ and women’s middle school, high school and college sports teams. (Raleigh News & Observer, Associated Press)

MORE: Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita’s (R) office has issued at least three civil investigative demands to medical providers as part of a hunt for information on gender-affirming care practices. Civil investigative demands act as subpoenas. The three recipients are asking a state judge to overrule Rokita. (Indianapolis Star)

ABORTION: The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ordered a ban on telemedicine prescriptions and shipments by mail of the abortion drug mifepristone. The court stopped short of ordering the drug off the shelves. The Biden administration said it would appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. (Reuters)

In Politics & Business

WHITE HOUSE: Former Vice President Mike Pence used an appearance at the National Conference of State Legislatures to unveil a plan to revive federalism. Pence huddled with GOP legislative leaders before and after the address in his home state, blocks from the building where he served as governor. (Pluribus News)

OHIO: Ohio voters this year will weigh whether to legalize marijuana for recreational use, after Secretary of State Frank LaRose’s (R) office said supporters had turned in enough signatures to qualify for the November ballot. The initiative would tax marijuana products at a 10% rate. A recent Suffolk University poll found 58% of voters back legal pot. (Columbus Dispatch)

MORE: LaRose fired his official spokesman, veteran GOP strategist Rob Nichols, after a series of tweets Nichols sent critical of former President Donald Trump. LaRose, who is running for a U.S. Senate seat, is vying for Trump’s endorsement. (NBC News)

NORTH CAROLINA: The legislature on Wednesday approved an elections overhaul bill that will require absentee ballots to be returned by Election Day, ban local elections boards from accepting private money to administer elections, and tighten same-day voter registration rules. (Associated Press)

TEXAS: State House investigators accused suspended Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) of taking steps to cover up his relationship with real estate investor Nate Paul, including creating a fake Uber account so they could meet and so Paxton could continue an alleged extramarital affair. The allegations appear in new filings ahead of Paxton’s Senate impeachment trial next month. (Texas Tribune)

By The Numbers

$3 billion: The amount of money Michiganders are expected to spend on recreational and medical marijuana this year, after cannabis sales reached a record $276 million in July. That would make Michigan’s pot market the second-largest in the nation, after California. (Bridge MI)

$4 million: The amount Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R) has repaid himself in campaign loans from his first campaign for governor, in 2018. DeWine, who faces term limits in 2026, closed his campaign account on July 31. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)

Off The Wall

The former chairman of the Massachusetts Republican Party and more than 20 current members of the party’s governing board are suing their own organization, accusing new chair Amy Carnevale of improperly ending a lawsuit against the party’s treasurer. The former chairman, Jim Lyons, had filed suit accusing Treasurer Patrick Crowley of freezing the party’s bank account in a financial dispute. (Boston Globe)

In the midst of a budget dispute, Mercer County, N.D. Auditor Carmen Reed told county commissioners just what she thought of their work: The first-term auditor told commissioners their salaries were a “misappropriation of county funds.” (Fargo Forum)


Headline of the day: “Naked neighbor exposes cracks in indecency laws in Chicago.” (WGN)

Quote of the Day

“I’ve debated Donald Trump 1,000 times, just not with the cameras on.”

Former Vice President Mike Pence, asked by a state lawmaker whether he wants Trump to attend next week’s GOP presidential debate in Milwaukee. (Pluribus News)