Pluribus AM: Mississippi River blues

Good morning, it’s Monday, August 7, 2023. In today’s edition, the Mississippi River runs low; No Labels makes ballot in Nevada and South Dakota; Ohio voters head to polls tomorrow:

Top Stories

ECONOMY: Low water levels on the Mississippi River are threatening to disrupt barge traffic for the second year in a row. Water levels in St. Louis and Memphis are 10 to 20 feet lower than at this point in 2020 or 2019. The Army Corps of Engineers has 16 dredges operating on the river to keep channels deep enough for transit. (Wall Street Journal)

ABORTION: A federal judge has blocked a new Illinois law allowing the state to penalize anti-abortion counseling centers over deceptive practices, a week after Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) signed it into law. District Court Judge Iain Johnston said the law “is painfully and blatantly a violation of the First Amendment.” (Associated Press) The Texas Attorney General’s office has appealed a lower court’s ruling allowing women with complicated pregnancies to obtain abortions. The appeal means the judge’s ruling is on hold until the state Supreme Court takes the case. (Texas Tribune)

BUDGETS: Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro (D) has signed a $45.5 billion budget, ending a month-long impasse. Shapiro vetoed a $100 million line item for private school vouchers, a pledge he made to win Democratic support. (Spotlight PA) Virginia budget writers are close to a compromise after a positive meeting between Senate and House conferees. They plan to meet again Monday to work through final details. (Virginian-Pilot)

HEALTH CARE: Florida’s Office of Insurance Regulation held a hearing last week over new rules governing pharmacy benefit managers. The proposed rules require managers to notify the state within 30 days of any complaint settlement or discipline. Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) backed the rule, which he said would reduce prescription drug costs. (Florida Politics)

PUBLIC HEALTH: Illinois Gov. Pritzker signed legislation creating a Farm to Food Bank Program after a two-year pilot program distributed 2.5 million pounds of food to low-income programs around the state. The program purchases food from Illinois producers, and provides grants for storage and transportation. (WREX)

HOMELESSNESS: Maine leaders are spearheading an effort to house 100 homeless veterans in the next 100 days. Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough, visiting VA clinics in Rumford, Portland and Augusta, acknowledged those facilities are short staffed. (Maine Public Radio)

EDUCATION: North Dakota lawmakers are considering a response to Minnesota’s new plan to offer income-based free tuition to students. Lawmakers worry the plan will deprive them of students who might otherwise leave Minnesota to attend a North Dakota school. Sen. Tim Mathern (D) has drafted a bill to create a forgivable student loan program to keep enrollment up. (Fargo Forum)

PUBLIC SAFETY: Washington State has joined four others in launching a Yellow Alert system to identify hit-and-run drivers, similar to Amber Alerts. The system, also used in California, Colorado, Maryland and New Jersey, will help police catch drivers who cause serious crashes and flee the scene. (Pluribus News)

GAS: Oregon Gov. Tina Kotek (D) on Friday signed legislation allowing drivers to pump their own gas across the state, ending a 70-year old law that required full service at stations. The new law still requires stations to have full-service attendants on hand. (Pluribus News)

New Jersey is now the only state in the nation where self-service is banned.

In Politics & Business

OHIO: Voters head to the polls Tuesday to decide the fate of a proposed constitutional amendment to raise the threshold future amendments must meet to pass, from a simple majority to 60%. Opponents of the amendment have raised more than three times as much as supporters — and both sides are getting most of their money from out of state donors. (Associated Press)

MORE: Supporters of legal recreational marijuana say they have submitted enough signatures to qualify for the November ballot. The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol turned in an extra 6,545 signatures on Friday, after they initially fell 679 signatures short of qualifying. (Columbus Dispatch)

NO LABELS: No Labels has qualified as a recognized political party in South Dakota, Secretary of State Monae Johnson (R) said Friday. (South Dakota Searchlight) The group also qualified for minor party status in Nevada, the first time a minor party has qualified there since the 1970s. (Nevada Current)

WISCONSIN: Liberals who reclaimed a majority on the Wisconsin Supreme Court voted Friday to reduce the powers of conservative Chief Justice Annette Ziegler. The liberal justices voted to make administrative meetings open to the public and to form a committee to study judicial recusals. (Associated Press)

MISSISSIPPI: A state law banning people convicted of certain crimes from ever regaining their voting rights violates the U.S. Constitution, a three-member panel of federal judges wrote Friday. The panel’s majority said a lifetime ban violates the Eighth Amendment prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. (Mississippi Free Press)

PEOPLE: Alabama Sen. Tim Melson (R) says he will be home in a few days after suffering cardiac arrest while on an official visit to South Korea. Melson, who spent several days on life support, was moved out of the ICU last week. (Alabama Daily News)

MORE: Funeral services honoring the late New Jersey Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver (D) will be held Saturday, Aug. 12, part of a three-day celebration of her life. Oliver will lie in state in the rotunda of the Statehouse in Trenton on Thursday, and in repose at the Essex County Courthouse in Newark on Friday. (New Jersey Globe)

By The Numbers

170,606: The number of clean energy jobs created in the United States in the last year, an industry group found. Kansas leads the way, with 20,600 new jobs created in the last year. (AZ Mirror)

$5.04: The average price of a gallon of gasoline in California, the highest in the nation. Washington State trails at $4.99 a gallon. The national average is $3.82 per gallon. (Washington State Standard)

$3.9 million: The amount fast food chains spent on lobbying and advertising campaigns against a California bill that would hold corporate owners responsible for abuses that happen at franchise restaurants. The bill is likely to come up when the Senate returns from its August recess. (Sacramento Bee)

Off The Wall

Four suspects are in custody after a string of break-ins at homes around South Lake Tahoe. The suspects — a large female black bear and her three cubs — are responsible for at least 21 instances of property damage since last year. (Associated Press)

The Loch Ness Center in Drumnadrochit, Scotland, is gearing up for the biggest search for their famous monster since 1972. Searchers and volunteers will use drones fitted with infrared cameras, and hydrophones to detect unusual underwater sounds. (BBC) The legend of the Loch Ness Monster dates to the Middle Ages, when an Irish monk encountered a creature in the river that flows from the lake.

Quote of the Day

“It was entertaining as a Hollywood script, but the session did not have a lot of accomplishments.”

Arizona lobbyist Scott Smith, on this year’s legislative session where Gov. Katie Hobbs (D) vetoed 143 bills. (Arizona Republic)