Pluribus AM: Medicaid officials brace for drop; crab populations plummet; new evidence of voter surge

Good morning, it’s Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2022. In today’s edition, Medicaid officials brace for steep drops; crab populations plummet; and more evidence of a turnout surge:

Top Stories

HEALTH CARE: State Medicaid officials are preparing for severe enrollment declines and slower spending growth when COVID emergency orders end early next year. A survey of health officials shows they expect to bear more of the costs as federal stimulus dollars ebb, while millions will no longer qualify for coverage. (Pluribus News)

CRABS: Fishery managers are documenting massive die-offs among crab populations from Alaska to Washington to Maryland, an environmental catastrophe with deep economic consequences for the fishing industry. Fishing bans are in force in several states, though they have not led to population rebounds yet. (Pluribus News)

MASSACHUSETTS: Gov. Charlie Baker (R) has signed a bill to allow military spouses to expedite transfers of professional licenses if they move to the Bay State. The new law will grant “in-state” status for active-duty military members, their spouses and children at state colleges and universities. (MassLive)

NEW YORK: The state Supreme Court has ordered New York City to rehire government employees who were fired for refusing to get vaccinated against COVID. The court found New York Health Commissioner David Chokski violated the state constitution. Rehired employees would be eligible for back-pay. New York City is appealing the decision. (New York Daily News)

MICHIGAN: State prosecutors will appeal a judge’s decision to dismiss criminal charges related to the Flint water crisis. The Genesee County Circuit Court judge dismissed the charges after the state Supreme Court ruled in June that prosecutors could not rely on one-person grand juries to indict defendants. Former Gov. Rick Snyder (R) was among the nine defendants charged. (BridgeMI)

ARIZONA: Abortion rights advocates have agreed to drop a lawsuit over an 1864 law barring abortions in exchange for a promise that the state will not enforce the ban as other litigation continues. Gov. Doug Ducey (R) signed a new law this year that bans abortions after 15 weeks; Ducey says the new law supersedes the old ban. (Arizona Republic)

CONNECTICUT: Gov. Ned Lamont’s (D) administration mailed out almost 248,000 checks to low-income households over the weekend, the second tax rebate in the last two months. Families who qualified for checks under the Earned Income Tax Credit Enhancement Program received about $170 each, costing the state about $42 million. (CTMirror)

CALIFORNIA: The Public Utilities Commission has proposed fining Pacific Gas & Electric more than $155 million for sparking the Zogg fire in 2020. The conflagration destroyed 200 homes and left four people dead. The utility pleaded not guilty in June to four counts of involuntary manslaughter. (Associated Press)

HAWAII: Almost $50 million in state grant funds have not been delivered to nonprofit groups after the legislature left out key language in this year’s budget bill. The legislature transferred grant money into one state office, creating a bottleneck that has added to the delay. Some of the programs the money funds include aid to the disabled and victims of sex crimes, and refurbishment of Honolulu’s Chinatown. (Honolulu Civil Beat)

WATER: New Mexico, Texas and Colorado have reached a proposed settlement over management of the Rio Grande River. But attorneys at the Justice Department and two irrigation districts near Elephant Butte reservoir say the deal is unworkable. New Mexico and Texas are suing each other over Rio Grande water in a case that has been before the Supreme Court for a decade. (Santa Fe New Mexican)

In Politics

GOVERNORS: Voters in 36 states will choose governors in next month’s midterm election, and the number of extremely tight races is higher than in any year we can recall. Check out our comprehensive rundown of every race, distilled into bite-sized chunks.

TURNOUT: More than 1 million Georgians have already voted in person and by absentee ballot, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R) said. That’s 55% higher than at this point in 2018. (Atlanta Journal Constitution). More than 770,000 Michiganders have returned absentee ballots, close to double the figure from 2018. Turnout has increased the most in traditionally Republican counties. (BridgeMI)

PENNSYLVANIA: Attorney General Josh Shapiro (D) leads state Sen. Doug Mastriano (R) 54%-45% in a new CBS News/YouGov poll. Almost two-thirds of voters say they dislike the way Mastriano handles himself personally; two-thirds call Shapiro’s positions generally mainstream, while 62% say Mastriano’s positions are extreme.

TEXAS: Gov. Greg Abbott (R) leads ex-Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D) 46%-42% in a new University of Texas poll conducted for Univision. O’Rourke leads among Latino voters 58%-28%; Abbott’s favorable rating stands at 51%. 

FLORIDA: Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) leads former Rep. Charlie Crist (R) 55%-41% in a new University of North Florida Public Opinion Research Lab survey. Attorney General Ashley Moody (R) leads former Orange County State Attorney Aramis Ayala (D) 50%-36%. Florida Republicans have built a lead over Democrats of more than 300,000 registered voters. Democrats have traditionally held the edge in voter registration. (The Capitalist)

CONNECTICUT: Gov. Ned Lamont (D) leads businessman Bob Stefanowski (R) 52%-41% in a new Emerson survey for WTNH and The Hill. Lamont’s favorable rating stands at 57%, and 53% see Connecticut headed in the right direction.

ARIZONA: The League of Women Voters of Arizona has filed suit to block three groups — the Oath Keeps, the Lions of Liberty and Clean Elections USA — from surveilling ballot drop boxes. The Secretary of State’s office has forwarded harassment and intimidation complaints to state and federal prosecutors. (AZ Mirror)

By The Numbers

20.8%: The percentage drop in new car registrations in Colorado over the third quarter, as interest rates rise and inventory shortages dampen sales. Registrations across the country have dipped 16.9% this year. (Denver Post)

$3.5 billion: The cost to Virginians in lost labor, health care and crime caused by the opioid epidemic in 2020, according to the state Department of Health. An average of more than four people died from opioid drug overdoses every day that year. (WRIC) 

Off The Wall

The mega-drought ravaging the West is coming for Halloween. Farmers say they expect a weak pumpkin harvest. David Beck, a farmer who supplies the grocery chains Smith’s and Associated Foods, said in a typical year he sells 100 tons of pumpkins a day in the run-up to Halloween. (KSL)

An investigation into stolen truckloads of frozen beef has uncovered a massive criminal enterprise responsible for 45 thefts across North and South Dakota, Nebraska, Minnesota, Iowa and Wisconsin. Authorities say three Florida men are responsible for thefts totaling $9 million in losses. (Fargo Forum) Finally, an answer to the age-old question: Where’s the beef?

Quote of the Day

“I am in this until the fat lady sings. And this fat lady hasn’t even tuned up yet.”

Former Oregon state Sen. Betsy Johnson, the independent candidate running for governor. (Oregon Capital Insider) Johnson, former state House Speaker Tina Kotek (D) and former House Minority Leader Christine Drazan (R) have spent a combined $60 million on the race, an Oregon record.