Pluribus AM: Dems eye wealth taxes; Repubs target proxy firms; AK House has a Speaker, but no majority

Good morning, it’s Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2023. In today’s edition, blue state Dems eye wealth taxes; Repub AGs target proxy firms on ESG; Alaska’s House has a Speaker, but no majority:

Top Stories

WEALTH TAXES: Democratic legislators are preparing to introduce bills in seven states this week to impose wealth taxes on the rich. The bills, some of which resemble Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s (D-Mass.) signature proposal in the 2020 presidential campaign, will show up in California, Washington, New York, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maryland and Illinois. (Washington Post) This feels like a multi-year effort; don’t expect quick passage this year.

ESG: Twenty-one Republican attorneys general have written to the nation’s two largest proxy-voting advisory firms in search of assurances that they will not include non-financial environmental, social and governance criteria in their advice. The letter, spearheaded by Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes (R), says the two companies have offered advice based on net-zero emissions goals at least one. (Pluribus News)

GAS STOVES: Blue states are moving to ban gas stoves in new construction. Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) called for a ban in her State of the State address. Washington’s building code council imposed new rules barring gas stoves in new buildings beginning in July. California regulators voted to ban sales of gas furnaces and water heaters beginning in 2030. (Route Fifty)

The red state counterattack: Twenty states have prohibited local governments from passing restrictions on natural gas.

FLORIDA: Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) has asked lawmakers to permanently ban mask and vaccine mandates related to Covid-19. DeSantis issued executive orders banning the mandates early on in the pandemic; two bills he signed in November 2021 to punish businesses that required masks and vaccines expire in July. (Orlando Sentinel)

MONTANA: State Sen. Keith Regier (R) has introduced a measure that would interpret the state constitution’s right to privacy to exclude the right to an abortion. The bill would overturn a 1999 ruling by the state Supreme Court that protects a woman’s right to a pre-viability abortion. (Missoulian)

MAINE: Democratic lawmakers and Gov. Janet Mills (D) will introduce a suite of new bills expanding and protecting abortion access. Mills’s bill would waive viability standards for abortions deemed medically necessary. She also backs bills to protect abortion providers from criminal prosecution in other states. (Maine Public Radio)

HAWAII: Legislators have proposed a new bill to make preschool available to all 3- and 4-year olds by 2032. Hawaii will start by opening 80 new classrooms in 2024, each with the capacity to serve 20 students. (Associated Press) Georgia, New York and Maine have the highest share of 4-year olds in preschool.

ILLINOIS: The first two lawsuits challenging a new ban on assault weapons have been filed, and the Illinois State Rifle Association said it would file a federal lawsuit soon. A state judicial circuit court will hold the first hearing on a challenge filed by former Attorney General candidate Tom DeVore (R) this morning. (Chicago Sun-Times)

SOUTH DAKOTA: State Sen. John Wiik (R) and state Rep. Mary Fitzgerald (R), the newly-elected chair and vice chair of the state Republican Party, will be the main sponsors of Gov. Kristi Noem’s (R) proposal to exempt groceries from the state’s 4.5% sales tax. A similar bill survived the state House last year but died in the state Senate. (Keloland)

In Politics & Business

NORTH CAROLINA: Attorney General Josh Stein (D) will run to replace term-limited Gov. Roy Cooper (D) next year, Stein said in a video announcement Wednesday morning. (Raleigh News & Observer) Expect a crowded primary field, especially among Republicans. 

LOUISIANA: State Rep. Richard Nelson (R), 36, will run for governor, he said Wednesday. Nelson is the latest entrant in a field that already includes Attorney General Jeff Landry (R), Treasurer John Schroder (R) and state Sen. Sharon Hewitt (R). Rep. Garret Graves (R) is also considering a run. (Baton Rouge Advocate) Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) is term-limited.

ALASKA: The state House has unanimously elected state Rep. Josiah Patkotak (I) as a temporary speaker as disparate factions try to organize the 21 votes necessary to form a majority caucus. In 2019 and 2021, the House took until February to elect a permanent speaker. (Anchorage Daily News, Associated Press)

ALABAMA: Secretary of State Wes Allen (R) has formally pulled his state out of the Electronic Registration Information Center, a group of 32 states that share data to maintain accurate voter rolls. Allen’s predecessor, John Merrill (R), had criticized his intent to withdraw from the bipartisan program. (Associated Press) Louisiana withdrew from the ERIC program earlier this year.

MONTANA: Republican lawmakers blasted a proposed redistricting plan for state legislative districts during an initial hearing Tuesday. Legislators have no legal input into the final map, which is in the hands of a bipartisan commission. The maps virtually guarantee a decade of GOP control in the legislature. (Missoulian)

WISCONSIN: The state Senate on Tuesday approved a proposed constitutional amendment expanding judges’ discretion on bail decisions, and rejected a Democratic proposal to add an amendment protecting abortion access. The bail amendment would appear on the April 4 ballot when a state Supreme Court seat is at stake. The Assembly will vote on the amendment tomorrow. (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

ARIZONA: A state Court of Appeals rejected a lawsuit from the Arizona Republican Party that sought to ban voting by mail. The state GOP and chair Kelli Ward had argued that allowing people to vote from home violated a constitutional requirement to a secret ballot. (Arizona Capitol Times)

NEW YORK: State Assembly staffers are planning a push to unionize in the coming months, they said in a letter to Speaker Carl Heastie (D). Staffers will seek voluntary recognition of their union, New York State Legislative Workers United, in the coming weeks. (State of Politics)

By The Numbers

$52 million: The amount of money Maine stands to gain in tax revenue from a Mega Millions ticket sold at a small-town gas station. The $1.35 billion prize will face 7.15% in state taxes, along with the 24% the feds will claim. (Pluribus News)

$30 billion: The amount of money California plans to spend over the next 30 years to protect the Central Valley from devastating floods. The Central Valley Flood Protection Board has approved spending $3.2 billion over the next five years on flood control projects. (Los Angeles Times)

Off The Wall

Women in Vermont’s legislature showed off their bare arms in session on Tuesday in solidarity with women in Missouri after lawmakers in Jefferson City amended the legislature’s dress code. But members of the Vermont state House only removed their jackets after session — because it’s not clear that Vermont’s own dress code allows them to go sleeveless on the floor. (VTDigger)

A 40,000-pound sperm whale that washed ashore in northern Oregon this weekend will be allowed to decompose, officials said, rather than blown up. (Oregonian) 

Who in their right mind would blow up a whale carcass? We’re glad you asked. Here’s what happened when Oregon officials blew up a 45-foot sperm whale in 1970, according to the Oregon Encyclopedia: “Chunks of the animal flew in every direction, and spectators began to scream and run for cover when they glimpsed large pieces soaring directly overhead.” 

Quote of the Day

“They might thwart their own agenda in a way Democrats never could.”

University of Cincinnati political scientist David Niven, on the rift between Republicans in Ohio’s state House over Speaker Jason Stephens’s (R) election over state Rep. Derek Merrin (R). (Columbus Dispatch)