Pluribus AM: Death, taxes and redistricting litigation

Good morning, it’s Tuesday, November 21, 2023. In today’s edition, all the redistricting news that’s fit to print; Colorado lawmakers wrap special session on property taxes; Virginia Dems will prioritize assault weapons ban:

Top Stories

THANKSGIVING: Turkey production is expected to increase this year after dropping in 2022, according to World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates projections. American farms produced 210 million turkeys last year; this year’s production was up 5% through September. (Pluribus News)

TAXES: Colorado lawmakers ended a special session Monday when they approved legislation to raise property tax exemptions from $15,000 to $55,000. The legislature approved $135 million to fund education, $30 million on rental assistance and $35 million on summer food assistance for low-income kids. (Pluribus News)

The special session to address rising property taxes came after voters rejected a ballot proposition two weeks ago that would have raised the amount the state was allowed to keep under the 1992 Taxpayer Bill of Rights.

MORE: Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers (D) has vetoed a $2 billion tax cut approved by the Republican-led legislature. Evers had asked the legislature to spend $1 billion to fund child care services and workforce programs, which lawmakers ignored in favor of their approach. (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

GUN POLITICS: Virginia Democrats will seek to ban assault weapons in one of their first bills of the year, House Speaker Don Scott (D) said Monday. The bill would make buying, selling or transferring an assault weapon a Class 1 misdemeanor subject to up to 12 months in jail. It would also ban high-capacity ammunition feeding devices. (Richmond Times-Dispatch)

Democrats said they would also pursue constitutional amendments guaranteeing the right to abortion and to automatically restore voting rights once convicted felons have completed their sentences.

MORE: Michigan’s state Capitol building will deploy new artificial intelligence technology to identify firearms and alert authorities to potential threats on campus. The system can identify a threat and dispatch an alert in three to five seconds. (Detroit News)

ENVIRONMENT: New Jersey’s Department of Environmental Protection will file proposed rules Tuesday to require all new car sales to be electric by 2035, with the first requirements beginning in 2026. Climate advocates said the rule would mean 90,000 more electric cars on the roads by 2030. (NJ Advance Media)

LABOR: Las Vegas hotel union workers voted overwhelmingly to approve a new contract with Caesars Entertainment. Votes to approve contracts with Wynn Resorts and MGM Resorts are expected later this week. (Associated Press)

In Politics & Business

ARKANSAS: The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Monday that only the federal government can challenge a state’s redistricting plans, striking down the ability of individuals and groups to bring suit under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. Other courts have upheld an individual right of action on Section 2. (Talk Business & Politics)

This case is almost certainly headed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

WISCONSIN: The state Supreme Court will hear arguments today challenging legislative district map lines, months after control of the high court flipped to liberal justices. Republicans hold 63 of 99 seats in the Assembly and 23 of 33 seats in the Senate. (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

NORTH CAROLINA: Voters in Eastern North Carolina are challenging newly-drawn state Senate districts in federal court, arguing those district lines dilute the power of Black voters. Senate Minority Leader Dan Blue (D) said the maps that divide the state’s eight majority-Black counties between four separate districts amount to cracking the vote. (Raleigh News & Observer)

OHIO: Supporters of a proposed constitutional amendment to reform the redistricting process can begin gathering signatures to qualify for the 2024 ballot, after a typo delayed the signature-gathering process. The amendment would replace the current partisan redistricting commission with a citizen-led commission including five Republicans, five Democrats and five unaffiliated voters. (Ohio Capital Journal)

DEBATES: The nonpartisan Commission on Presidential Debates will hold next year’s events on Sept. 16 at Texas State University in San Marcos, Oct. 1 at Virginia State University in Petersburg and Oct. 9 at the University of Utah. The vice presidential debate is scheduled for Sept. 25 at Lafayette College in Easton, Pa. (Associated Press)

Odds of all four debates actually taking place: Slim to none.

By The Numbers

55.4 million: The number of Americans expected to drive more than 50 miles for Thanksgiving, according to AAA, slightly higher than last year. About 4.7 million people are expected to travel by air, up 6.6% over 2022. (Associated Press)

3.5%: The pay raise Pennsylvania lawmakers will receive beginning Dec. 1. The boost will increase a lawmaker’s base salary to $106,422. Lawmakers voted to tie their salaries to the Consumer Price Index back in 1995. (Harrisburg Patriot-News)

$2.005 billion: The size of Illinois’s rainy day fund, the highest it’s ever been. Back in 2017, the state had just $48,000 in the account — enough to fund state government for about 30 seconds. (WCIA)

Off The Wall

Today in turkey pardon news: Colorado Gov. Jared Polis (D) pardoned four turkeys: Gus, Maple, Matilda and Pumpkin. (Colorado Public Radio) Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) offered reprieves to Freedom and Flourish. Ava Moline, the 15-year old farmer who raised the turkeys, said she originally named the birds Jack and Diane. (Des Moines Register) Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) has pardoned Dolly Pardon, a name selected from among 3,900 entries. (Whitmer’s office)

Geoffrey Holt, a caretaker of an RV park in Hinsdale, N.H., lived a spartan lifestyle before he died earlier this year. He had no television or computer, and no car. But he did have $3.8 million dollars stashed away, which he left to the town to benefit the community. (Associated Press)

Quote of the Day

“I’ve put ranch work on hold, often to its own detriment, and now — quite literally — cows are calling me home.”

Texas state Rep. Andrew Murr (R), who led the impeachment of Attorney General Ken Paxton (R), announcing his retirement from the legislature. (Texas Tribune)