Pluribus AM: California lawmakers clear the decks

Good morning, it’s Friday, September 15, 2023. In today’s edition, California finally wraps up its work; UAW members go on strike; Paxton impeachment trial set for closing arguments:

Top Stories

LABOR: Members of the United Auto Workers began a strike at three Midwestern auto plants on Friday in the midst of a contract dispute over pay, benefits and work hours. Workers walked off the lines at a GM plant in Wentzville, Mo.; a Stellantis facility in Toledo, Ohio; and a Ford plant in Wayne, Mich. UAW president Shawn Fain said the union would not hold talks with the companies on Friday. (Detroit Free Press, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Toledo Blade)

PUBLIC HEALTH: California lawmakers gave final approval to a plan that would overhaul the state’s mental and behavioral health systems. The package will allow billions in behavioral health funding to be used to treat substance use disorders, adds 10,000 new mental health treatment beds and creates $200 million in new funding for housing the homeless. Voters must give final approval to the $6.4 billion bond package in a March election. (Pluribus News)

MORE: Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders (R) signed legislation Thursday banning schools and state agencies from imposing Covid-19 vaccine mandates. Government agencies cannot require people to receive a vaccine as a condition for employment, education or services. (Arkansas Democrat Gazette)

GUN POLITICS: California lawmakers approved a resolution backed by Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) calling for a constitutional convention to address gun ownership. Legislators also approved bills requiring credit card companies to use new merchant category codes for firearms retailers; tightening concealed carry laws; and establishing an 11% excise tax on firearm and ammunition purchases. (Pluribus News)

Several red states passed laws this year banning credit card companies from using merchant category codes, so the legal landscape for those companies is as clear as mud.

MORE: Michigan Democrats held hearings Thursday on legislation that would prohibit those convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence charges from possessing a firearm for eight years. Federal law already prohibits possession by convicted domestic abusers, but Democrats want a law that could be charged at the local  level. (Detroit Free Press, MLive)

ENERGY: The California legislature voted Thursday to give Newsom’s administration the authority to purchase millions of dollars in energy to avoid blackouts during extreme heat waves. The extra power would be funded by a surcharge on residents’ electric bills. (Associated Press)

RAIL SAFETY: Ohio’s Senate Select Committee on Rail Safety issued a 132-page report calling for long-term testing of water and soil near the site of a train derailment in East Palestine earlier this year. The report does not specify which agency should manage the testing. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)

EDUCATION: Applications open Wednesday for a new Missouri education grant program that parents can use to pay for tutoring, computers, internet access, summer camps and other academic programs. Lawmakers approved $25 million to fund grants for up to 16,700 students; the grants will be targeted at those whose families earn less than 185% of the federal poverty limit. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

TAXES: The Arkansas legislature approved new cuts to personal and corporate income taxes, and a one-time tax credit of up to $300 for joint filers. The tax cut slashed the top personal income tax rate from 4.7% to 4.4%, and the top corporate rate from 5.1% to 4.8%. (Pluribus News)

In Politics & Business

TEXAS: Closing arguments begin this morning in suspended Attorney General Ken Paxton’s (R) impeachment trial after Paxton’s defense rested Thursday afternoon. Following those arguments, senators will deliberate in private. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R) has said the trial will continue through the weekend if necessary. (Texas Tribune, Associated Press)

GEORGIA: Trial ended Thursday in a case challenging state legislative and U.S. House district maps that voters say unduly suppress the rights of Black voters. Judge Steve Jones issued a preliminary ruling last year that the maps probably violate federal law. (Associated Press)

OHIO: Attorney General Dave Yost’s (R) office has again rejected ballot language for a proposed constitutional amendment aimed at redistricting reform. Yost raised concerns over a provision in the language that requires certain numbers of Democrats, Republicans and independents to be appointed to a new redistricting commission. (Associated Press)

OREGON: Three Republican state senators who clocked more than 10 unexcused absences this year filed for re-election on Thursday, setting off a test of a state law that bars chronically absent senators from seeking new terms. Senate GOP leader Tim Knopp (R) and Sens. Dennis Linthucum (R) and Art Robinson (R) plan to challenge that law’s constitutionality. (Associated Press)

WISCONSIN: Senate Republicans voted Thursday to fire Elections Commission administrator Meagan Wolfe, who became a target of election deniers after the 2020 presidential election. Minutes later, Attorney General Josh Kaul (D) filed suit in Dane County Circuit Court asking a judge to block the GOP’s move. (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel) The state Assembly approved legislation to create an Iowa-style redistricting commission, a measure Gov. Tony Evers (D) opposes. (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

NEBRASKA: Gov. Jim Pollen (R) has tapped state Sen. Tom Briese (R) to serve as state Treasurer. Incumbent John Murante (R) is resigning effective Monday to take a job leading the state Public Employees Retirement System. (Nebraska Examiner)

By The Numbers

71%: The share of Generation Z, those between 12 and 26 years old, who say they trust science a great deal or quite a lot. Just 12% say the same of Congress, 14% of the presidency and 21% of the U.S. Supreme Court. (Gallup)

More than 3,000: The number of Oregonians who have signed up for the waitlist at Epic Healing Eugene, the state’s first licensed psilocybin center. Clients must stay at the service center until the magic mushrooms wear off. (Associated Press)

Fewer than 10,000: The number of Arizona children who are in state guardianship, the lowest figure in more than 15 years and about half the number of kids who were in state care as recently as 2019. (Arizona Republic)

Off The Wall

A new Worker’s Rights Amendment in the Illinois constitution will get an unexpected early test — from staff working for House Speaker Chris Welch (D). Legislative aides seeking to unionize say they will use the amendment, which voters approved last year, to seek recognition after Welch refused to recognize their union voluntarily. (Capitol News Illinois)

The other big impeachment trial in Texas is nearing its end. Texas A&M student body president Hudson Kraus faces impeachment over allegations he misused his office to help his younger brother. Kraus apologized for his actions and asked the student Senate to reconsider. (Texas Tribune)

Multnomah County Sheriff’s deputies arrested a 44-year old Portland man suspected of stealing a rescue boat from the Portland Fire Department’s boathouse early Thursday. The man allegedly raced to Kalama, Wash., about 43 miles down the Columbia River, before being apprehended. (Oregonian)

Quote of the Day

“Of course I’m worried about it.”

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D), on the UAW’s strike against the big three automakers. (Detroit Free Press)