Pluribus AM: Fla. set to pass vouchers, tort reform; Ga. bans Covid vaccine requirements; N.C. Lt. Gov. to announce Gov bid

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Good morning, it’s Friday, March 24, 2023. In today’s edition, obscenity laws for the 21st century; Ga. bans Covid-19 vaccine requirements; DeSantis endorses media defamation bill:

Top Stories 

TECHNOLOGY: A new generation of obscenity bills are coming up in legislatures, seeking to require smartphone and tablet manufacturers to create default settings designed to prevent kids from viewing porn. Bills have been introduced in Florida, Idaho, Iowa, Maryland, Montana, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas. (Pluribus News) Idaho senators rejected the porn filter bill on Thursday. (Idaho Reports) Utah Gov. Spencer Cox (R) on Thursday signed the nation’s first law requiring parental permission for teenagers to have social media accounts. (Pluribus News)

LGBTQ RIGHTS: The Nebraska Senate has approved a ban on gender-affirming care for those under 19, after 33 senators voted for a cloture motion ending a long filibuster. (Omaha World Herald) The Minnesota House approved a measure preventing state courts or officials from complying with child removal requests, extraditions or subpoenas related to gender-affirming health care. (MPR News) 

MORE: Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) has signed a bill barring gender-affirming care for minors. (Atlanta Journal Constitution) A South Carolina Senate committee began considering a gender-affirming care ban on Thursday. (The State) A gender-affirming care ban passed a second reading in the Montana House on Friday. The bill is expected to clear third reading today and return to the Senate for a final vote next week. (Daily Montanan)

EDUCATION: The Iowa Senate has approved legislation creating new “age-appropriate” definitions for books that depict sex acts, banning teaching gender identification or sexual orientation through sixth grade and requiring schools to notify parents if their children come out as transgender. (Des Moines Register, Iowa Public Radio)

ESG: The Kansas House has approved legislation barring the Public Employees Retirement System from investing money with companies that use environmental, social and governance practices. The bill would also forbid state, county, city and school board governments from giving weight to ESG criteria when signing contracts. (Kansas Reflector)

COVID: The Georgia House gave final approval to a measure barring public schools, state agencies and local governments from imposing Covid-19 vaccine requirements. The bill makes permanent a one-year ban now in place. (Associated Press) The Alabama Senate unanimously passed a bill requiring health care facilities to allow visitors even during a pandemic. (Yellowhammer News)

ALCOHOL: The Michigan Senate has approved a bill allowing restaurants to sell alcoholic beverages to-go on a permanent basis. (Fox17) Illinois state Rep. John Cabello (R) has introduced legislation lowering the state drinking age to 18. (NBC Chicago) What could go wrong?!?

FLORIDA: Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) signaled Thursday he backs new legislation that would make it easier for public officials to sue for defamation. The measure made it through the House Judiciary Committee’s Civil Justice Subcommittee last week, with one Democratic vote in support. (Pluribus News)

MORE: The Florida Senate approved bills creating universal school vouchers and limiting lawsuits that target the insurance industry. Both are major DeSantis priorities.  (Orlando Sentinel, Tampa Bay Times) The Florida Department of Law Enforcement declined to apply for a $15 million federal grant to implement emergency risk-protection programs that would seize guns from those who are a danger to themselves or others. (Orlando Sentinel)

CALIFORNIA: The state Senate on Thursday advanced Gov. Gavin Newsom’s (D) call to punish oil companies that reap windfall profits at times of high gas prices. The measure would create a new state agency to monitor the oil market. (Los Angeles Times)

In Politics & Business

NORTH CAROLINA: Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson (R) will announce his campaign for governor next month at the Ace Speedway in Alamance County. He’ll be the front-runner for the GOP nomination, though ex-U.S. Rep. Mark Walker (R) and Treasurer Dale Folwell (R) are considering bids. (Axios Raleigh)

MISSISSIPPI: Gubernatorial candidate Bob Hickingbottom (D) has hired a Jackson attorney to represent him as he prepares to sue the state Democratic Party in an effort to get his name on the primary ballot. Hickingbottom and another candidate were disqualified for failing to file a Statement of Economic Interest with the state ethics commission, though the Democratic Party has allowed dozens of other candidates to run without filing the statement. (Magnolia Tribune)

OHIO: State lawmakers working to raise the threshold for a constitutional amendment to pass must reinstate August elections, just three months after banning those elections in a major election overhaul bill. Republicans want to raise the threshold to block a proposed amendment that would extend abortion rights. (Ohio Capital Journal)

GEORGIA: The state House has approved legislation offering workers time off to cast a ballot during early voting or on Election Day. The measure would also require audits of at least one statewide race after every primary, runoff or special election. (Atlanta Journal Constitution)

SOUTH CAROLINA: Comptroller General Richard Eckstrom (R) will resign next month over a $3.5 billion accounting error under his watch. A Senate panel investigating the screw-up accused Eckstrom of “willful neglect of duty.” (Associated Press)

The photo in the story shows Eckstrom holding the book “Accounting for Dummies.” Ouch.

RHODE ISLAND: State Republicans vote Saturday on a new chair, choosing between former chairman Giovanni Cicione and former state Senate candidate Joseph Powers. (Boston Globe)

IOWA: Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate (R) will pull his state out of the Electronic Registration Information Center, the bipartisan consortium of states working to clean up voter rolls. Pate called the system a “godsend” and defended ERIC on Twitter just last month. (Cedar Rapids Gazette, Iowa Capital Dispatch)

By The Numbers

$302.6 billion: The size of the two-year state budget approved by the Texas House Appropriations Committee on Thursday. (Texas Tribune)

1,200: The number of municipal police officer positions that are unfilled in Pennsylvania. Gov. Josh Shapiro (D) has proposed offering a three-year, $2,500 tax credit to help attract new officers. (Pennsylvania Capital-Star)

$500,000: The amount Maine House Minority Leader Bob Faulkingham (R) wants to set aside for a legal defense fund for the lobster industry. Maine created the fund last year to fight federal rules aimed at protecting endangered right whales. (Maine Public Radio)

700: The number of inches of snow that have fallen at Brighton Ski Resort in Utah so far this year, about 200 inches higher than average. (Deseret News)

Off The Wall

Curling is now North Dakota’s official state sport, after Gov. Doug Burgum (R) signed a bill on Thursday at Bismarck’s Capital Curling Club. He called it a “sweeping” change to state law. (Fargo Forum)

The dad jokes came hot and heavy in Burgum’s remarks. Then he followed it up by throwing a few stones.

Massachusetts residents who want to bet on Olympic events next year will be barred from wagering on Russian or Belarusian athletes competing under neutral flags. Sportsbooks would be barred from allowing betting on athletes competing individually or on a team that is “known to represent Russia or Belarus.” (MassLive)

A Florida State House subcommittee has approved legislation enhancing penalties for illegally handling venomous reptiles. (Florida Politics) 

As our colleague Stephanie Akin observed when she flagged this one, there are some pretty obvious natural consequences to mishandling venomous reptiles.

Quote of the Day

“There’s a 0% chance this is actually going to result in a ban of Skittles.”

California Assemblymember Jesse Gabriel (D), defending his bill that would ban chemicals like titanium dioxide from foods. Titanium dioxide is found in Skittles, M&Ms and some dairy products. (USA Today)