Pluribus AM: Legislative sessions kick off; our big themes to watch; landmark laws blocked in Calif., Ill.
Good morning, it’s Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2023. In today’s edition, the first 2023 legislative sessions officially kick off; big themes we see coming; landmark Ill., Calif. laws blocked:
BIG THEMES: We see 7 big themes emerging in legislatures across the country this year: Mental health, abortion flights, election reform, preparing for an economic downturn, infrastructure spending, technology and social media, and — the one that hangs over all the others — workforce development. A state without a workforce is a state without an economic future. Read our comprehensive preview of what’s coming in state legislatures this year, right here.
CALIFORNIA: A Sacramento County judge on Friday temporarily blocked California from implementing the new law meant to raise wages of fast food workers. The judge sided with restaurant industry groups that are trying to force a referendum on the 2024 ballot. The law would be blocked until voters decide that referendum. (Los Angeles Times, Associated Press)
Read our backstory on California’s FAST Act here.
ILLINOIS: The state Supreme Court on Saturday halted implementation of the SAFE-T Act, just hours before the bill to eliminate cash bail for some crimes was to take effect. The court said the law would take bail discretion out of the hands of judges. A lower court had previously paused the bail provision in 64 counties where state’s attorneys and law enforcement had objected. (CBS News, Chicago Tribune)
ARIZONA: A three-judge panel ruled Friday that abortions in Arizona are legal up to 15 weeks after conception, saying a Civil War-era ban on abortion does not supersede legislation passed in the last half century. (AZ Mirror) A senior Arizona Republican legislator told us recently that he expects Gov. Katie Hobbs (D) to push changes to abortion laws, though the legislator did not expect any Republicans to back her call.
MISSISSIPPI: A schism is opening between Republicans over how to spend a $1 billion surplus this year. House Speaker Philip Gunn (R) wants to eliminate the state income tax, in line with Gov. Tate Reeves’s (R) proposal. Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann (R) wants to give rebates to those who paid income taxes, rather than make a permanent cut. (Associated Press)
CONNECTICUT: A new highway use tax taking effect in the new year has the trucking industry planning a potential lawsuit. The tax, expected to generate $90 million a year for transportation projects, applies to large commercial trucks. John Blair, president of the state Motor Transport Association, said they would explore a “legal remedy” if the legislature does not reverse the tax. (CTPost)
OREGON: The state Supreme Court on Friday struck down all nonunanimous jury verdicts reached before 2020, when the U.S. Supreme Court outlawed divided verdicts in a case out of Louisiana. The ruling applies to more than 470 convictions handed down in Oregon since voters approved nonunanimous verdicts in 1934. (Oregonian)
DELAWARE: Lawmakers will consider legislation to allow winemakers to ship wine direct to consumers. Delaware remains one of three states where direct wine shipments are illegal. Unions who represent workers who carry product from producers to distributor warehouses are the loudest opponents. (Delaware Public Media)
MARIJUANA: Recreational pot sales begin Jan. 10 in Connecticut, when seven retail cannabis stores are set to open. Two more shops will open when they are ready to begin sales in the next month or so. (Hartford Courant) New Hampshire House Speaker Sherman Packard (R) expects his chamber to pass legislation legalizing recreational marijuana. Such a bill’s fate in the state Senate is unclear, and Gov. Chris Sununu (R) remains skeptical. (WMUR)
In Politics & Business
GOVERNORS: Arizona’s Katie Hobbs (D) and Nevada’s Joe Lombardo (R) have been sworn in to their first terms. New York Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) was sworn in after winning election to her first full term, and Rhode Island Gov. Dan McKee (D) joins her today. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz (D) and Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers (D) begin second terms today, and Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon (R) started his yesterday.
PENNSYLVANIA: House Republican officials are warning their members not to accept deals offered by House Democrats in the contentious vote over the speakership. In an email to members, Jake Smeltz, chief of staff to Republican Leader Bryan Cutler (R), said Democrats had been telling Republicans that Gov.-elect Josh Shapiro (D) “would deliver on projects” in their districts if they vote for Democratic leadership. (Pennsylvania Capital-Star)
Read the backstory on the battle for control of the Pennsylvania State House, after Democrats won more seats but three were left vacant, giving the GOP an early upper hand.
OREGON: Supporters of a ballot measure to open Oregon primary elections to all voters won approval of a ballot title. Those supporters must now gather 149,360 valid signatures to qualify the measure for the Nov. 2024 ballot. (Willamette Week) Oregon voters rejected open primaries in a 2014 ballot measure by a 32%-68% margin.
GEORGIA: State Rep.-elect Danny Rampey (R) has withdrawn from office after he was charged with stealing prescription narcotics from a retirement complex. Gov. Brian Kemp (R) signed an order Saturday scheduling a Jan. 31 special election to fill the vacancy in Rampey’s heavily Republican district. (Atlanta Journal Constitution)
Legislators in Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island all begin their annual sessions today. Five more states begin meeting tomorrow.
By The Numbers
90,000: The number of new electric vehicle charging stations California plans to install along highways and in vulnerable communities this year alone. California’s goal is to install 250,000 EV chargers by 2025. The state expects to need 1.2 million chargers by 2030. (Sacramento Bee)
$24 million: The amount of money Colorado budget officials expect newly legal sports betting to generate for water projects in this fiscal year, double the amount collected in the last fiscal year. Legislators voted this year to crack down on free bets that sports betting operators offer, bets that do not generate tax revenue. (Colorado Sun)
More than 750: The number of requested vanity plates rejected by Ohio’s Bureau of Motor Vehicles last year. Among those rejected plates: EFFGAS1. FKBDN. FU GOP. PO BUTT. Read the complete, hysterical list at The Columbus Dispatch.
Off The Wall
An Iowa-based church that allegedly charges up to $800 to use a hallucinogenic drug in religious ceremonies is suing the IRS to win tax-exempt status. The Iowaska Church of Healing wants to build a facility in Iowa, but they’re eying Florida as a backup because Iowa has no version of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. (Cedar Rapids Gazette)
Georgia’s legislature is scheduled to begin its 40-day session on Jan. 9, but don’t expect much action — at least a dozen lawmakers plan to attend that day’s college football national championship in Los Angeles, in which UGA is favored over TCU. Gov. Brian Kemp (R) will be sworn in on Thursday, Jan. 12, to accommodate those who are traveling for the game. (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
Quote of the Day
“I invite you all to look around for a second, look at your neighbors and realize this is as healthy and happy as you’ll be for the next four months. It’s all downhill from here.”
— Montana Senate Minority Leader Pat Flowers (D), starting this year’s session off on a gloomy note. (Montana Free Press)