Pluribus AM: It’s John Roberts’s Court, Again

Good morning, it’s Wednesday, June 28, 2023. In today’s edition, SCOTUS rejects broad independent legislature theory; SBA finds $200 billion in Covid fraud; N.C. advances gender-affirming care ban:

Top Stories

SUPREME COURT: The U.S. Supreme Court ruled against North Carolina lawmakers who challenged their state Supreme Court’s ability to strike down congressional district map lines under the independent state legislature theory. Writing for the 6-3 majority, Chief Justice John Roberts said legislatures are subject to judicial review. (Pluribus News)

Roberts cited Bush v. Gore, a case he was involved in just a few years before President George W. Bush appointed him to the high court. It’s the first time the case has been cited in a majority opinion. Rick Hasen explains more.

FRAUD: New estimates from the U.S. Small Business Administration find more than $200 billion may have been stolen from Covid-19 relief initiatives, a figure much higher than previous projections. The inspector general report found at least 17% of funds from the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program and the Paycheck Protection Program were disbursed to potentially fraudulent actors. (Associated Press)

LGBTQ RIGHTS: The North Carolina Senate has approved legislation banning hormone therapy, puberty blockers and gender reassignment surgeries for minors. The bill is a stricter version of one that only bans those treatments at public health care facilities. (Associated Press) The Michigan Senate has given final approval to a bill banning conversion therapy for minors. (Detroit News, Bridge MI) The Maine legislature has approved a bill allowing transgender minors to begin hormone therapy without a parent’s permission. (Maine Public Radio)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE: The Pennsylvania Senate approved legislation limiting the length of probation and preventing people from being sent back to jail for minor violations. The measure passed on a bipartisan vote. (Associated Press) Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) vetoed legislation that would reduce incarcerations over technical probation violations. The bill passed the legislature unanimously. (Orlando Sentinel)

GUN POLITICS: The Maine Senate has rejected legislation requiring background checks on private gun sales, just a day after the state House narrowly approved it. Nine Democrats joined Republicans to kill the bill. (Maine Public Radio)

HEALTH CARE: Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) signed legislation that will allow the state to run the Obamacare health care exchanges. Illinois now becomes the 19th state to run its own exchange. (Chicago Tribune) Maine lawmakers have approved a bill that will allow abortions any time before birth if deemed necessary by a medical provider. (WMTW)

WORKFORCE: Maine lawmakers reached agreement early Wednesday on a two-year budget that will fund paid family and medical leave and child care programs. The budget includes doubling an existing wage stipend for child care workers, and a larger subsidy program for families. (Portland Press Herald)

EDUCATION: The North Carolina House has approved a measure stripping the State Board of Education of its oversight powers over most charter schools. A new Charter School Review Board will have authority to grant, terminate or renew charters. (NC Newsline)

TAXES: Texas lawmakers returned to Austin for a special session Tuesday focused on property tax cuts. Gov. Greg Abbott (R) said he would keep legislators in session until they reach a deal. Abbott and House Speaker Dade Phelan (R) back a proposal that would split tax cuts between homeowners and businesses. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R) favors a plan that would boost the homestead exemption. (Texas Tribune)

In Politics & Business

ALABAMA: Gov. Kay Ivey (R) has called lawmakers into special session July 17 to consider new congressional district lines, after the U.S. Supreme Court said previous lines violated Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. Plaintiffs in the case have submitted a dozen proposed maps, all of which create a second Black-majority district targeting U.S. Rep. Barry Moore (R). (Pluribus News)

MICHIGAN: The legislature on Tuesday gave final approval to a measure that will allow at least nine days of early voting in Michigan, conforming to a November ballot measure that added new voting rights to the state constitution. (Detroit News)

OHIO: State lawmakers will consider legislation to close primary elections ahead of next year’s presidential contest. Voters would have to declare a party affiliation before voting in a primary. (Ohio Capital Journal)

VERMONT: The state legislature overrode Gov. Phil Scott’s (R) veto of legislation that will allow 16- and 17-year olds to vote in local elections in Brattleboro. It’s the first town in Vermont that will allow minors to vote. (Associated Press)

WHITE HOUSE: South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem (R) is throwing cold water on rumors that she’ll seek the presidency. In an interview, Noem said she was focused on South Dakota, and that she didn’t see a lane for anyone other than former President Donald Trump in the GOP field. (South Dakota Public Broadcasting)

By The Numbers

272,000: The amount of natural growth — births minus deaths — in the United States over the last three years, the lowest rate of natural growth in a century. Births continue to trend downward, while the coronavirus pandemic killed an extra 1.2 million people. (Pluribus News)

73%: The share of bottles and cans Michiganders returned for a ten-cent refund in 2020, still among the highest in the nation but down from a nearly 89% return rate before the pandemic. The state issued a temporary ban on bottle and can returns to stop the spread of the virus, and the rate has yet to rebound. (Bridge MI)

20.2%: The increase in the number of hate crimes reported in California in 2022, down from the all-time high set in 2001 but more than double the number reported in 2013. (Los Angeles Times)

6: The number of vetoes North Carolina’s state House overrode on Tuesday, the largest number of vetoes ever overcome in a single day. Gov. Roy Cooper (D) has issued 81 vetoes since taking office in 2017, more than twice as many as all previous North Carolina governors combined. (Carolina Journal)

Off The Wall

Virginia is the state best equipped to handle a UFO invasion, according to a new study conducted by a New Jersey casino marketing company, followed by Georgia, Massachusetts, New York and Louisiana. The prevalence of caves and a significant military and police presence makes Virginia the best place to be if ET phones our home. (Topeka Capital-Journal)

Of course, who better to trust on alien invasions than a New Jersey casino marketing firm?

A California man has been sentenced to six years and nine months in prison over a years-long scheme to bilk investors out of millions of dollars. The man said he would convert cow dung to green energy, at huge profits. (Associated Press)

Something didn’t smell right.

Quote of the Day

“With no regrets, I quit.”

Pinal County (Ariz.) Elections Director Geraldine Roll, in a scathing email to county manager Leo Lew. Roll quit after less than a year on the job, citing a toxic work environment and attempts to politicize election administration. Roll signed her letter: “Really, Not Respectfully, Geraldine Roll.” (Arizona Republic)