Pluribus AM: Fla., Wash. diverge on death penalty; Texas Senate backs religion in schools; Iowa GOP moves against Dem auditor

Good morning, it’s Friday, April 21, 2023. In today’s edition, Fla., Wash. go different ways on death penalty; Texas Senate backs religion in schools; Iowa GOP moves to neuter Dem auditor:

Top Stories

CRIMINAL JUSTICE: Attorneys general in 17 states are urging the federal government to recall millions of Kias and Hyundais because they lack standard anti-theft features. Those vehicles have been the subject of an increasing number of thefts, at least 14 of which have ended in crashes. (Associated Press, Sacramento Bee, Baltimore Banner)

MORE: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) has signed legislation allowing death sentences for convicted felons if eight of 12 jurors agree. Florida will be just the second state, after Alabama, to allow the death penalty in cases of a non-unanimous jury. (Miami Herald) Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D) has signed legislation formally repealing the death penalty (Spokane Spokesman Review)

EDUCATION: The Texas Senate has approved legislation requiring public schools to prominently display the Ten Commandments in every classroom. They approved another bill requiring schools to set aside time for students and employees to read the Bible or other religious texts. (Texas Tribune) The Senate also backed a bill ending tenure at public universities. (Texas Tribune)

MORE: The Iowa legislature has given final approval to a measure limiting instruction on gender identity and sexual orientation, removing school books depicting sex acts and giving parents a “constitutionally protected right” to make decisions for their children. (Des Moines Register) Indiana lawmakers are planning to bring back a bill banning materials deemed harmful to minors after an initial version died in the House. (Indiana Capital Chronicle)

LGBTQ RIGHTS: North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum (R) has signed legislation criminalizing gender-affirming care for minors. (Associated Press) The legislature failed to override Burgum’s veto of a bill that would have prohibited educators from using a transgender student’s preferred pronouns. (Associated Press) Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly (D) has vetoed a bill banning transgender individuals from bathroom facilities that conform to their gender identity and a bill prohibiting gender-affirming care for transgender youth. Republicans in the legislature will try to override her vetoes. (Topeka Capital-Journal) 

MORE: As Montana lawmakers debate legislation that would insert a binary definition of sex into state law, House Speaker Matt Regier (R) has refused to recognize state Rep. Zooey Zephyr (D), the first openly transgender woman to serve in the legislature. Reiger objected after Zephyr said those voting for a gender-affirming care ban would have blood on their hands. (Montana Free Press, Missoulian)

ABORTION: North Carolina House Speaker Tim Moore (R) says consensus is forming over a bill to prohibit abortions after the first trimester, rather than a stricter ban after cardiac activity is detected. (Associated Press) The Rhode Island House Judiciary Committee has approved a bill granting insurance coverage to state employees and Medicaid recipients seeking abortions. (Providence Journal) Oregon has joined several other blue states in securing thousands of doses of the abortion-inducing drug mifepristone. (Oregonian)

HOUSING: The Rhode Island House of Representatives unanimously approved legislation prohibiting application fees for apartment rentals. The bill still allows landlords to require background checks and credit reports from residents. (Boston Globe)

IOWA: The legislature is poised to strip power from the office of the State Auditor, handing authority to resolve disputes to a panel of gubernatorial appointees and allowing agencies to withhold criminal, education, medical, legal, law enforcement, legislative or security records in many cases. It is no accident that Auditor Rob Sand (D) is the only statewide elected official who is a Democrat. (Pluribus News)

NEW YORK: Budget talks will drag into a fourth week after lawmakers approved another short-term extension. An ambitious housing plan backed by Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) is now off the table. Legislators refused to support Hochul’s plan to override local zoning on affordable housing developments. (State of Politics)

In Politics & Business

IOWA: The legislature will ask voters to approve a constitutional amendment clarifying the gubernatorial line of succession. The proposal would allow a lieutenant governor elevated to the top job to pick a new second-in-command. When Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) took office, after her predecessor Terry Branstad (R) left to become ambassador to China, it wasn’t clear that Reynolds had the authority to appoint her own lieutenant gubernatorial replacement. (Des Moines Register)

MICHIGAN: The state Senate has approved legislation allowing absentee ballots cast by military members and their families up to six days to get back to election administrators, so long as the ballots are postmarked by Election Day. The Secretary of State’s office said those overseas military ballots are much more likely to be delayed, and not counted, because of mailing problems. (MLive)

TEXAS: The Senate has voted to end countywide voting centers on Election Day, requiring voters to cast a ballot at their assigned precinct. Currently, 90 of Texas’s 254 counties — including both urban cores like Harris and Dallas counties and rural areas — allow countywide vote centers. (Texas Tribune)

ARIZONA: The state Senate will pay $150,000 in a public records lawsuit filed by the liberal group American Oversight, which sought emails, texts and other records relating to the partisan audit of the 2020 elections. (Arizona Republic) An appellate court ruled the Arizona Republican Party must play attorney fees for the Secretary of State’s office after filing bad faith lawsuits related to the 2020 elections. (AZ Mirror)

UTAH: Gov. Spencer Cox (R) says the state is looking to past lawsuits against opioid and cigarette makers as they prepare for an inevitable fight with social media companies over the new law requiring companies to get parental consent before a minor creates a new account. (Deseret News)

By The Numbers

137.1: It’s not just the West Coast that’s having a banner year for snow — the amount of snow that has fallen in Duluth this year makes it the snowiest year since the National Weather Service began keeping track in 1870. A two-inch storm that rolled through this week pushed the city into record territory. (Fargo Forum)

100%: The share of water requests made to the California State Water Project that the agency says it will meet this year, after winter storms filled reservoirs. It’s the first time since 2006 that there has been enough water to fully meet requests. (Associated Press, Sacramento Bee)

99 million: The number of Americans who live in a wild land-urban interface, areas where residential and commercial developments are adjacent to areas filled with wildfire fuel. U.S. Fire Administrator Lori Moore-Merrell visited the Sacramento area Thursday to talk about fire mitigation efforts. (Sacramento Bee)

Off The Wall

Tennessee state Rep. Scotty Campbell (R) has resigned after a House ethics subcommittee acting in secret found he had sexually harassed at least one legislative intern, and possibly two. The legislature spent thousands to relocate one intern from a downtown apartment building where they both had apartments and placing her in a hotel for the rest of the legislative session. (NewsChannel 5)

Delaware Gov. John Carney’s (D) pick to fill a vacant seat on the state Supreme Court, Christopher Griffiths, is in the midst of serving a suspended sentence after pleading guilty to a reckless driving charge stemming from a DUI in January. Carney nominated Griffiths after he pleaded guilty, and a spokesperson for Carney said he stood by his choice. (WMDT)

Belgian customs officials have destroyed a shipment of 2,352 cans of Miller High Life at the request of the Comité Champagne, a French trade body that guards the champagne label. Miller High Life calls itself the “Champagne of Beers.” The beers were headed for Germany, where the buyer did not contest the decision to destroy them. (Associated Press)

Think twice before you lean on your horn: A three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that honking your car horn is not an expression of protected speech. The case stems from a 2017 incident in which a San Diego resident was cited for misuse of her car horn after she honked in support of protestors. (Los Angeles Times)

Quote of the Day

“It’s been this attorney’s dream to stand in front of the Supreme Court. But I never thought the Supreme Court justices would be sitting in front of me. It puts me in an awkward position.”

Louisiana Rep. Candace Newell (D), a member of the House Governmental Affairs Committee, during a hearing with three of Louisiana’s seven Supreme Court justices arguing over their pay. (Baton Rouge Advocate)