Pluribus AM: Calif. Dems still fighting over Speakership; Iowa targets tort reform; new Ky. Gov. poll

Good morning, it’s Thursday, Jan. 26, 2023. In today’s edition, GOP lawmakers target drag shows; Calif. Dems fighting over Speakership; new poll in Ky. Gov contest:

Top Stories

CIVIL RIGHTS: Conservative lawmakers in at least 11 states have proposed new restrictions or limitations on drag performances, bills that would bar shows from public property and establish criminal penalties if they are held where kids or teens might be present. Opponents say the bills are clear violations of First Amendment rights. (Pluribus News)

CALIFORNIA: Assembly Democrats agreed last month to transition power from Speaker Anthony Rendon (D) to Assemblyman Robert Rivas (D) later this year — but now Assemblyman Joaquin Arambula (D) says he’s considering a bid for Speaker as well. The emergence of Arambula, a Rendon ally, is likely to sew further discord among California Democrats. (Los Angeles Times)

Get out the popcorn, this is going to be a fascinating fight.

MICHIGAN: Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) used her State of the State address to call for tax cuts and a new pre-K program. She urged the Democratic-controlled legislature to pass universal background checks, safe-storage and red flag laws to address mass shootings. Whitmer also asked lawmakers to open tuition-free associate’s and skills certificate programs to those between the ages of 21-25. (Pluribus News, Detroit Free Press, MLive)

NEBRASKA: Gov. Jim Pillen (R) used his first State of the State address to call for cuts to the top income tax rate from 6.84% to 3.99%. His budget includes $2.5 billion in new aid to K-12 schools and $574 million for a canal in Perkins County meant to collect and store water from the South Platte River. (Nebraska Examiner, Omaha World-Herald)

IOWA: The state Senate Judiciary Committee has approved a $1 million cap on noneconomic damages in lawsuits against health care providers. Backers say large damages in medical malpractice lawsuits are driving hospitals out of business. (Iowa Capital Dispatch)

NEW MEXICO: Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) announced a new measure to provide $750 rebates to taxpayers and $1,500 to couples filing jointly, at a cost of about $1 billion. (Santa Fe New Mexican) Democrats will reintroduce a Voting Rights Act that would create a permanent absentee voter list, reinstate voting rights for felons and make Election Day a state holiday. (Santa Fe New Mexican)

MISSISSIPPI: A state Senate committee has passed a measure to give control of Jackson’s water system to a new statewide public entity. The bill, coming after Jackson’s water crisis last year, would give the mayor, the governor and the lieutenant governor authority to appoint members to the nine-person board. (Supertalk)

WASHINGTON: The state Supreme Court hears arguments today over a capital gains tax passed into law in 2021. Conservatives sued to block the tax, which they say violates a 1933 opinion barring income taxes. The tax would apply to capital gains profits that exceed $250,000. (Crosscut)

ABORTION: Wyoming’s Senate Labor, Health and Social Services Committee has voted to advance a bill outlawing the use, manufacture and distribution of prescription abortion pills. All 98 abortions reported in Wyoming in 2021 were medication abortions. (Casper Star Tribune) A Montana bill that would exclude abortion from the constitutional right to privacy passed the state Senate on Wednesday. The Senate must pass the measure one more time before it heads to the House. (Montana Free Press)

EDUCATION: Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) says his state will reject the College Board’s AP class on African American Studies if the group complies with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’s (R) demand to strip Black queer curriculum from the course. (Chicago Sun-Times) Picking a fight with DeSantis is good politics for ambitious Democratic governors. 

MORE: Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne (R) has ordered presentations on trauma, diversity and equity canceled at statewide teacher conferences run by his department. (Arizona Republic) New training for public school teachers in Florida includes a warning that choosing books that run afoul of the Stop WOKE Act could carry a third-degree felony charge. (Florida Politics) Utah’s Senate approved $8,000 scholarships for private school tuition and a $6,000 pay raise for teachers. (Deseret News)

In Politics & Business

PRESIDENTIAL PRIMARIES: The DNC’s Rules and Bylaws Committee voted to give New Hampshire and Georgia additional time to make changes to state laws allowing them to participate in the early primary process. Changes that would hand Iowa’s first-in-the-nation slot to South Carolina are slated to be approved at a DNC meeting next week in Philadelphia. (Associated Press, WMUR)

Our take: Give New Hampshire all the time in the world to accept going second — it’s not going to happen. Gov. Chris Sununu (R) and party leaders on both sides have made that abundantly clear.

KENTUCKY: A new Mason-Dixon poll of the race for governor released Thursday morning shows Attorney General Daniel Cameron (R) leading the GOP field with 39% of the vote. Former Ambassador Kelly Craft (R) takes 13%, Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles (R) has 8% and Auditor Mike Harmon (R) takes 5%. 

Beshear leads all four of those Republicans in head-to-head matchups. The poll puts Beshear’s approval rating at a healthy 61%. (Kentucky Fried Politics)

MISSISSIPPI: Secretary of State Michael Watson (R) will run for re-election, after months of rumors that he would challenge Gov. Tate Reeves (R). Watson reportedly commissioned a poll gauging his chances in the GOP primary. (Jackson Clarion Ledger)

ARIZONA: State Republican Party Treasurer Sheila Muehling is criticizing $530,000 party chair Kelli Ward spent on an election night party and a three-day bus tour during the final weeks before Election Day. Muehling is one of three candidates vying to replace Ward at a party meeting Saturday. (AZ Mirror)

By The Numbers

2013: The last year in which a woman chaired a committee in North Dakota’s state House of Representatives. State Rep. Vicky Steiner (R) has proposed a bill requiring the House to pick women to lead at least two of 11 standing committees each session; the House Judiciary Committee voted to recommend against the bill’s passage on Wednesday. (Fargo Forum)

$7.1 billion: Wisconsin’s projected budget surplus for the current fiscal year, up half a billion dollars over projections released just two months ago. Gov. Tony Evers (D) wants to cut middle class taxes and increase spending on K-12 education; Republican legislators are eyeing a flat tax. (Wisconsin State Journal)

24: The number of legislators in Colorado’s 100-member General Assembly who initially took their seats through appointments, rather than election. Another new member will be appointed Saturday to fill an open House seat in Boulder. (Colorado Sun)

Off The Wall

Indiana state Sen. Jeff Raatz (R) has proposed legislation allowing schools to enforce dress codes to prevent students from dressing and acting like animals in classrooms. “IndyStar hasn’t been able to find evidence of an Indiana school district actually reporting that students are dressing as animals.” (Indianapolis Star) The furry conspiracy theory just won’t die.

A new measure in Utah would encourage communities to schedule Halloween celebrations for the last Friday in October, regardless of when the 31st comes. The bill is meant to prevent disruptions at school the day after kids go trick-or-treating. (KSL)

The U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments between the makers of Jack Daniel’s and a dog toy that resembles a bottle of the famed Tennessee whiskey. Arizona-based VIP Products is defending its Bad Spaniels toy, which the spirits company says infringes on their trademarked property. (Arizona Republic)

Quote of the Day

“The ink is fresh as anything.”

Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs (D), showing off a red “VETO” stamp she inherited from former Gov. Janet Napolitano (D), foreshadowing a contentious legislative session ahead. (Arizona Republic)