Pluribus AM: Hot slaw in the summer time

Good morning, it’s Wednesday, January 31, 2024. In today’s edition, Google drives texting legislation; Utah passes bathroom bill; Florida considers bans on moving Confederate monuments:

Top Stories

TECHNOLOGY: Google is driving legislation in state legislatures this year that would require texting applications on smartphones to come with encryption and other features. Nearly identical bills introduced in Iowa, Ohio, Oklahoma and Wisconsin would require messages to maintain photo and video quality. (Pluribus News)

If you’ve ever texted a photo or video from an iPhone to an Android phone or vice versa, you’ve felt the pain.

ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE: Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D) has signed an executive order directing state agencies to study uses of generative AI and to write guidelines for its use. Inslee said state agencies would explore integrating AI into operations and services. (Seattle Times)

LGBTQ RIGHTS: Utah Gov. Spencer Cox (R) signed legislation Tuesday that requires people to use bathrooms and locker rooms in public schools and government buildings that match their sex assigned at birth. The law requires schools to create “privacy plans” for transgender students. (Associated Press) The New Hampshire Senate is considering legislation to ban transgender girls from school sports. (WMUR)

MORE: The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles has told county tax collectors they may no longer allow people to update their gender identities on driver’s licenses. The new rule rescinds existing policy that allowed a Floridian to change their gender marker on licenses. (Orlando Sentinel)

RELIGIOUS FREEDOM: The Iowa House and Senate advanced legislation barring government from burdening individuals exercising religious rights. The bills would allow residents who think they were burdened to sue government entities. Opponents say the bills will allow discrimination against LGBTQ people. (Des Moines Register)

GUN POLITICS: The Indiana House has given approval to a measure barring government entities or individuals from maintaining a database of firearms or firearm owners. The bill would ban payment processors from labeling gun sales with specific merchant category codes, or MCCs. (Chicago Tribune)

New merchant category codes announced by the International Organization for Standardization in 2022 prompted outrage among gun rights advocates. Texas, Florida, Idaho, Mississippi, Montana, North Dakota and West Virginia have adopted similar bans on those codes.

DEATH PENALTY: Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost (R) and two House Republicans will introduce legislation to allow the state to conduct executions by nitrogen gas, after Alabama carried out an execution that way last week. Gov. Mike DeWine (R) recently told reporters he wasn’t making the death penalty a priority during his remaining years in office. (Cincinnati Enquirer)

PUBLIC HEALTH: A Providence nonprofit will open Rhode Island’s first supervised drug use site this summer, under a 2021 state law meant to prevent overdose deaths. Rhode Island was the first state to authorize a state-supervised use center. (Boston Globe)

PREEMPTION: Legislation banning cities and counties from removing or relocating Confederate monuments is advancing in the Florida House and Senate. The House version would apply to any statue or marker that has existed for at least 25 years, while the Senate version would sanction local governments that removed or relocated statues after Oct. 1, 2020. (Politico, Florida Politics)

In Politics & Business

TRUMP: The Illinois Board of Elections voted unanimously to leave former President Donald Trump’s name on the state primary ballot, rejecting an objection based on the 14th Amendment’s insurrection clause. The objectors said they would appeal the decision to the Cook County Circuit Court. (Capitol News Illinois)

WISCONSIN: Gov. Tony Evers (D) has vetoed new legislative district maps advanced by the legislature last week. The veto gives the state Supreme Court — and its new liberal majority — control of new district lines. (Wisconsin Examiner)

GEORGIA: The Fair Fight organization founded by former gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams (D) is laying off staff as it faces mounting legal debt incurred in court battles over voting rights. The group faces $2.5 million in debt, with just $1.9 million in the bank. It plans to lay off about 75% of its staff. (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

PEOPLE: Georgia House Rules Committee chairman Richard Smith (R) has died at age 78, after fighting the flu. Smith had served in the House for 20 years. (Atlanta Journal-Constitution) Our condolences to the Georgia legislative family.

By The Numbers

3: The number of sports betting ads that will air during the Super Bowl next month, after the NFL set limits on in-game sports betting advertising. The industry is just fine with those limits: The American Gaming Association in 2021 said high levels of advertising was becoming an “unsustainable arms race.” (Associated Press)

$1.5 billion: The amount the Biden administration will lend to Holtec International Corp., to restart the Palisades nuclear plant in Michigan. The Energy Department has warned that as many as half the nation’s nuclear reactors are at risk of closing in the face of economic challenges posed by cheaper energy sources. (Detroit News)

30%: The decline in the number of western monarch butterflies that overwintered in California last year, likely caused by the unusually wet winter. (Associated Press)

Off The Wall

Residents of Helena-West Helena, Ark., population 1,400, have been without running water for two weeks, after a cold snap burst pipes across the city. Residents have had to line up for bottled water and take showers at a truck brought in by state officials. (Associated Press)

In more water news, Google is teaming up with New Mexico to use satellite imagery to hunt for leaky pipes. The state estimates it is losing 40% to 70% of all treated drinking water because of breaks and leaks in aging infrastructure. (Associated Press)

Philip Carcia and Andrew Soares have set a new winter record for climbing all 48 of New Hampshire’s 4,000-foot mountain peaks. The duo raced up those hills in five days, 18 hours and 58 minutes. (Boston Globe)

Quote of the Day

“That’s slawful I even have to get into this.”

Tennessee Sen. Jeff Yarbro (D), during a debate over whether to name hot slaw the official state food. The story notes Yarbro drew groans for what, in our opinion, is an A+ dad joke. (State Affairs)