Pluribus AM: California’s Committee on Happiness

Good morning, it’s Monday, March 18, 2024. In today’s edition, lawmakers consider “usage fees” for social media companies; Texas Gov wants to limit Wall Street’s housing buys; Louisiana lawmakers target labor unions:

Top Stories

SOCIAL MEDIA: Lawmakers in California, New York and Illinois have introduced measures to impose “usage fees” on social media companies that link to or display news content to local residents. Tech industry groups say those fees, which they describe as link taxes, are unconstitutional. Meta, Facebook’s parent company, has threatened to block news on its platforms if measures are passed. (Pluribus News)

MORE: The Oklahoma House approved legislation requiring social media companies to verify user ages, and to ban those under 18 from holding accounts without parental consent. Those under 16 wouldn’t be allowed on social media platforms at all. (McCarville Report)

HOUSING: Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) has called on the legislature to limit corporations from purchasing single-family homes. The National Association of Realtors found 28% of all Texas homes sold in 2021 went to institutional investors, the highest rate in the nation. (Texas Tribune)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE: The Vermont House has approved new legislation creating a felony charge for repeat retail thefts. The bill would allow prosecutors to aggregate the value of multiple thefts and bring felony charges when the total stolen tops $900 within a two-week period. (VT Digger)

MORE: Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb (R) has signed legislation banning revenge porn generated by artificial intelligence. The bill expands the state’s current ban on revenge porn. (Fox 59) Massachusetts lawmakers plan to take up a measure this week criminalizing revenge porn. (Boston Herald)

Massachusetts and South Carolina are the only two states without revenge porn bans on the books.

PUBLIC HEALTH: The Vermont House passed a bill to ban flavored nicotine products and tobacco substitutes. The Senate has already approved the measure, though it’s unclear if Gov. Phil Scott (R) will sign it. (VT Digger)

LABOR: Louisiana lawmakers are considering a package of 15 laws aimed at weakening the power of public-sector employee unions. Bills would outlaw collective bargaining by teachers and city workers, make it harder to collect dues through payroll deductions, require more frequent elections and make changes to worker compensation policies. (Baton Rouge Advocate)

IMMIGRATION: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) has signed legislation increasing criminal penalties on undocumented immigrants caught driving without a license or committing felonies. Those convicted of driving without a license twice or more would be subject to a year in jail. (Orlando Sentinel)

DRUGS: Maryland lawmakers voted almost unanimously to create a task force to investigate decriminalizing psychedelic substances. Eight other states have task forces looking into the matter. Psychedelics are legal in Oregon and Colorado. (WYPR)

In Politics & Business

NEW JERSEY: Attorney General Matt Platkin told a federal judge his office will not defend state law that allows parties to determine the ballot order for candidates, a practice known as “organization lines.” Platkin said the lines are unconstitutional, in response to a lawsuit filed by U.S. Rep. Andy Kim (D). (New Jersey Globe)

Backstory: Kim is running to replace indicted Sen. Bob Menendez (D). He faces New Jersey First Lady Tammy Murphy (D), who has an edge among the state’s high-powered political bosses.

NORTH DAKOTA: Voters will decide in June whether to set an age limit for members of Congress. The ballot measure would bar those over the age of 81 from seeking federal office, though constitutional scholars say it’s likely to be ruled unconstitutional if it passes. (MPR News)

CALIFORNIA: The Assembly’s Select Committee on Happiness and Public Policy Outcomes held its first public hearing last week. The first-of-its-kind group, chaired by former Speaker Anthony Rendon (D), will study how to make state residents happier. (Associated Press)

By The Numbers

80: The number of state Supreme Court seats on the ballot in 33 states this year. Elections in Ohio and Michigan will determine whether liberals or conservatives control the court. (Associated Press)

More than 1 million: The number of acres burned in the Smokehouse Creek fire in the Texas panhandle, the largest in Texas history. Firefighters said Saturday they had completely contained the blaze after three weeks. (Texas Tribune)

38: The number of days marine scientist Noelle Holder and her team spent rowing across the Atlantic Ocean. The four women crossed from the Canary Islands to Antigua, a journey of more than 3,000 miles. (Anchorage Daily News)

You couldn’t pay us enough…

Off The Wall

Last week, we told you about South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem’s (R) glowing review about her cosmetic dentistry. Now, she’s endorsing two new businesses: Fit My Feet, a Rapid City business that makes custom insoles, and Common Grounds, a coffee shop in Spearfish where she held her latest town hall meeting. (South Dakota Searchlight)

Also last week, we told you about Massachusetts senators who crashed Senate President Karen Spilka’s (D) annual Galentine’s Day fundraiser dressed as Kens from Barbie. Now it’s Gov. Maura Healey (D) and Lt. Gov. Kim Driscoll (D) showing up in costume — dressed in full Dunkin’ Donuts jumpsuits, calling themselves the “DunQueens.” Politico has photographic evidence.

Quote of the Day

“I apologize that you’re stuck with me writing my own material. The good news is that I practiced all my jokes in Utah, in front of sober people, so I should be much funnier tonight.”

Utah Gov. Spencer Cox (R), the Republican representative telling jokes at this weekend’s Gridiron Club dinner in Washington. (Deseret News) Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) got laughs as the Democratic speaker. (Detroit News)