Pluribus AM: Calif. ends Covid emergency; DeSantis vs. Disney; Wis. Supreme Court race getting expensive

Good morning, it’s Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2023. In today’s edition, Calif. ends Covid emergency; DeSantis puts his stamp on Disney district; and that Wis. Supreme Court race is getting expensive:

Top Stories

COVID: California’s Covid-19 state of emergency officially ends today, three years after they were first imposed by Gov. Gavin Newsom (D). Just five other states — Connecticut, Illinois, Kansas, New Mexico and Texas — have Covid orders still in effect. (Los Angeles Times, Associated Press)

At the same time, legislatures in New Mexico and Alaska are dealing with recent Covid outbreaks among lawmakers and staff.

FLORIDA: Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) signed legislation stripping Disney of its control over the Reedy Creek Improvement District, installing five allies to run the new governmental unit that will oversee the Magic Kingdom. DeSantis tapped Bridget Ziegler, co-founder of Moms for Liberty; GOP donor Martin Garcia; Christian conservative activist Ron Peri; Orlando Federalist Society president Michael Sasso; and Clearwater attorney Brian Aungst Jr. to serve on the commission. (Orlando Sentinel)

MISSISSIPPI: House Speaker Philip Gunn (R) says he will allow the House Medicaid Committee to consider a bill to expand postpartum Medicaid coverage from two months to a full year, after Gov. Tate Reeves (R) said he backed a Senate-passed proposal. Gunn killed a previous bill last year. (Associated Press)

MASSACHUSETTS: Gov. Maura Healey (D) has unveiled proposals for $859 million in tax cuts aimed at low- and middle-income earners. The package includes a $600 child and family tax credit, increased deductions for rent and a higher property tax credit for low-income seniors. It also includes cutting short-term capital gains tax rates in half. (Boston Globe)

MARYLAND: Gov. Wes Moore (D) has proposed legislation increasing the minimum wage by $1.25 per hour by Oct. 1 and tying future increases to inflation. Senate President Bill Ferguson (D) said his chamber is skeptical. The Senate Finance Committee will hold a hearing on the bill tomorrow. (Maryland Matters)

INDIANA: The House has approved a bill requiring the state’s two largest public pensions to divest from funds that practice ESG investing and giving state Treasurer Daniel Elliott (R) the power to investigate funds that allegedly use the practice. (Indiana Capital Chronicle)

WASHINGTON: The state Senate approved a measure Monday to require cities and counties to allow residents to construct accessory dwelling units, otherwise known as in-law suites, on properties with single-family homes. The bill is meant to address a housing crisis that has sent real estate prices soaring. (Spokane Spokesman-Review)

WYOMING: The House Appropriations Committee has advanced a bill barring transgender girls from competing in sports. (Casper Star Tribune) The House and Senate both passed a bill targeting crossover voting in primary elections, sending it to Gov. Mark Gordon’s (R) desk. (WyoFile)

MISSOURI: Gov. Mike Parson (R) signed supplemental budget legislation into law on Monday giving state workers an 8.7% cost-of-living raise and a $2 per hour bump for workers with late-night or overnight shifts. (St. Louis Public Radio)

In Politics & Business

WHITE HOUSE: President Biden has named former Columbia, S.C., Mayor Steve Benjamin as director of the Office of Engagement, taking over for departing director Keisha Lance Bottoms. (Associated Press) Update those rolodexes, lawmakers!

ILLINOIS: It’s Election Day in Chicago, where voters will choose mayoral and city council candidates ahead of April 4 runoffs. Mayor Lori Lightfoot faces eight rivals, including U.S. Rep. Chuy Garcia (D), state Rep. Kam Buckner (D), Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson, Aldermen Sophia King and Roderick Sawyer, former Chicago Public Schools CEO Paul Vallas and philanthropist Willie Wilson. (Chicago Tribune, Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times)

Don’t expect final results tonight. Mail-in ballots postmarked today can arrive up to 14 days after polls close. A late poll conducted by Victory Research shows Vallas and Johnson leading the field, with incumbent Lightfoot narrowly trailing in third.

TEXAS: The Senate State Affairs Committee has taken the first step toward reestablishing felony penalties for illegal voting, a priority of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R) this session. Under the bill, voting illegally could carry penalties of up to 20 years in prison and $10,000 in fines. (Votebeat)

IDAHO: The state Senate approved a proposed constitutional amendment Monday requiring supporters of ballot measures to collect a certain number of signatures from all 35 state legislative districts, up from the current requirement of 18 districts. The state Supreme Court struck down a similar law passed in 2021 as unconstitutional. (Boise State Public Radio)

GEORGIA: The Seante Ethics Committee voted along party lines Monday to bar local governments from accepting donations to help them run elections, after Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg made millions in contributions through the Center for Tech and Civic Life in 2020. Georgia counties received an estimated $43 million to facilitate election administration that year. (Atlanta Journal Constitution)

WISCONSIN: Liberal backers of state Supreme Court candidate Janet Protasiewicz have booked more than $7 million in TV ads ahead of the April 4 general election. A group funded by GOP mega-donor Dick Uihlein has purchased just $866,000 in ads for Dan Kelly, the conservative candidate in the race. Protasiewicz’s first ads, which hit the air last week, focus on abortion rights and crime. (Wisconsin State Journal)

VIRGINIA: Over a dozen legislators have said they will not seek re-election this year, setting off what could be big turnover in Richmond. Longtime Senate Republican Leader Tommy Norment, Senate Democratic Leader Dick Saslaw and Del. Ken Plum (D), the longest-serving member of the House, have all announced their retirements. (Associated Press)

By The Numbers

4 a.m.: Closing time for bars in 14 Wisconsin counties during the Republican National Convention, under a budget proposal Gov. Tony Evers (D) unveiled Monday. Legislators considered a similar proposal ahead of the Democratic convention in 2020, though that convention went virtual in the midst of the pandemic. (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

3,200: The number of residents who live in Empire Township, Minn., America’s newest city. Empire Township officially becomes its own town today, after voters elected its first mayor and city council in a Valentine’s Day special election. (MPR News)

Off The Wall

The University of Hawaii and the USDA are planning to release a Kenyan wasp to eat the larvae of coffee berry borers in an effort to save the state’s coffee crop. Agricultural scientists have been studying the wasps, which don’t sting, at Volcanoes National Park. (Hawaii News Now)

What could go wrong?!?

Speaking of Hawaii: State residents have the longest life expectancy in the nation, and the highest levels of emotional and physical well-being. They also consume more Spam than residents of any other state. (Hawaii News Now) Coincidence? Of course not!

Quote of the Day

“My official statement is, ‘I can neither confirm nor deny that it was an intentional act.’”

Connecticut state Rep. Mike D’Agostino (D), chairman of the legislature’s general law committee, on the sheer coincidence that rules governing legal marijuana products fall under Chapter 420 of the state’s general code. (Danbury News-Times)