Pluribus AM: DeSantis targets teacher’s unions; Iowa Gov’s ed reform wins passage; GAO finds $60 billion in Covid-era fraud

Good morning, it’s Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2023. In today’s edition, DeSantis aims to weaken teacher’s unions; Iowa education overhaul wins final passage; GAO estimates $60 billion in Covid-era fraud:

Top Stories

TAXES: Governors and lawmakers in at least 8 states have proposed using billions in surplus tax revenue to provide rebates — in some cases, for the second or third time in just a few years. Bipartisan backers from blue states like New Mexico and Hawaii and red states like Mississippi and Alabama say one-time rebates are a more prudent way to spend surplus dollars than permanent tax cuts. (Pluribus News)

ABORTION: The Florida Supreme Court has declined requests to halt a new law preventing abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. (Orlando Sentinel) Oregon’s Department of Justice has created a new state hotline for those seeking abortions. (OPB) Washington State lawmakers will hear 5 abortion rights bills in committee today. Among them is a measure to boost health data privacy protections. (Pluribus News)

FLORIDA: Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) on Monday unveiled a “Teacher’s Bill of Rights” that would substantially weaken the ability of teacher’s unions to collect dues from members. The package would also raise teacher pay and limits school board members to eight years in office, down from 12. (Pluribus News, Orlando Sentinel)

IOWA: The state House and Senate gave final approval to Gov. Kim Reynolds’s (R) proposal to allow families to receive vouchers of up to $7,598 to pay for private school tuition. Public school districts will receive an additional $1,205 in funding for students who receive the voucher funding. (Des Moines Register)

CONNECTICUT: Gov. Ned Lamont (D) has rolled out his gun control proposals for the year: He backs a statewide ban on open carry, new registration requirements for ghost guns and a monthly limit on handgun purchases. (CT Mirror, Associated Press)

HAWAII: Gov. Josh Green (D) has proposed a $1 billion investment in affordable housing and tax breaks for people in all income brackets. The housing fund would provide rental subsidies to low-income families and upgrades for public housing. Green signed an emergency proclamation to allow construction of 12 small villages to house the homeless. (Associated Press)

MARYLAND: The state Supreme Court will hear arguments in May over whether a new tax on digital advertising violates the U.S. Constitution’s Commerce Clause. An Anne Arundel County Circuit Court judge put the measure on hold over Commerce Clause concerns; the state Comptroller has appealed. (Maryland Daily Record, Baltimore Sun)

SOUTH DAKOTA: The state House has given approval to a $200 million fund for housing infrastructure, over the objections of conservative lawmakers. The bill will speed funding for roads and water lines around new housing developments. It now goes to Gov. Kristi Noem (R) for a signature. (Associated Press)

NEVADA: Gov. Joe Lombardo (R) proposed business tax cuts, a suspension of the gas tax and $313 million for the rainy day fund in his first State of the State address Monday. Lombardo said none of the state’s budget surplus will go toward recurring funding, in the face of a possible recession. (Associated Press)

NORTH DAKOTA: The House Judiciary Committee has passed a bill to make it a misdemeanor to allow a minor to attend a drag show, with a second offense carrying a Class C felony charge. The bill, backed by conservative groups, passed on a 10-1 vote. (Fargo Forum)

In Politics & Business

ARIZONA: Attorney General Kris Mayes (D) will repurpose her predecessor’s election integrity unit to focus instead on voter suppression cases. Mayes said the office, created by ex-Attorney General Mark Brnovich (R), would also protect elections officials, volunteers and poll workers from threats and interference. (New York Times)

OHIO: Republicans who backed state Rep. Derek Merrin (R) for Speaker will push a major set of rule changes in the state House today to strip Speaker Jason Stephens (R) of the unilateral authority to choose committee chairs and to decide what amendments and bills are brought up. (Columbus Dispatch) 

LOUISIANA: State Democratic Party chair Katie Bernhardt sounds like a candidate for governor in a new ad being run by a super PAC. Term-limited Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) doesn’t think Bernhardt should run, according to a source. State Transportation Secretary Shawn Wilson (D) is also a likely candidate. (Baton Rouge Advocate)

MISSISSIPPI: John Witcher, a doctor who created a group to oppose Covid-19 vaccines, will challenge Gov. Tate Reeves (R) in the Republican primary. Witcher lost his job at a Yazoo City hospital in 2021 when he allegedly tried to switch patients on remdesivir to Ivermectin, the anti-parasitic drug that became the focal point of conspiracy theorists during the pandemic. (Supertalk)

UTAH: Gov. Spencer Cox (R) says his state plans to sue social media companies over alleged harm to children, comparing prominent apps to pharmaceutical companies that make opioids. Attorney General Sean Reyes (R) says the suits have not yet been filed, though they could be filed within the month. (KSL)

By The Numbers

$60 billion: The amount of fraudulent unemployment insurance benefits paid out during the Covid-19 pandemic, according to the Government Accountability Office. The Labor Department has flagged at least $45 billion in potential fraud, while states have identified another $4.3 billion. (CNN)

745: The number of roadway deaths in Colorado last year, the highest figure since 1981 and up 57% from a decade ago. More than a third, 37%, of deadly crashes involved impaired drivers. (Colorado Sun)

$1.3 million: The amount Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’s (R) administration has spent on legal and expert-witness fees in the course of a state effort to ban Medicaid coverage of treatments for transgender people. Costs are being run through Holtzman Vogel, the powerful D.C.-based law firm. (CBS)

Off The Wall

Maryland Gov. Wes Moore (D) has a request for Chick and Ruth’s Deli, the iconic Annapolis spot that names a meal after the sitting governor: He’d like his meal-of-honor to be crab cakes and waffles. The meal named after his predecessor, ex-Gov. Larry Hogan (R), was a cheesesteak with grilled onions. (Baltimore Sun)

Buried in the story: Lt. Gov. Aruna Miller (D) ordered a grilled cheese with pickle on rye — what?!?

If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em: Banker Rob Hotaling, running as an Independent Party candidate, won just 12,400 votes against Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont (D) last year. But Hotaling so impressed Lamont administration officials during a debate that they have hired him to become deputy commissioner of the Department of Economic and Community Development. (CT Mirror)

Quote of the Day

“I think there should be some standards. I don’t think we would allow anyone in state government to be able to have a drink on break before doing state business.”

New Mexico Sen. Harold Pope Jr. (D), who has proposed a new rule barring members from drinking alcohol before or during committee meetings and floor sessions. (Albuquerque Journal)