Pluribus AM: More free lunch; test scores plummet; RGA chair sees ‘wave’ ahead

Good morning, it’s Monday, Oct. 24, 2022. In today’s edition, states move to make school meals free; test scores plummet; RGA chair sees ‘historic national wave’ in midterms:

Top Stories

SCHOOL LUNCH: States are dedicating funding to provide free meals to students, now that pandemic-era federal aid is winding down. California and Maine have already approved extended free meal programs; Colorado voters are likely to pass a ballot measure to do the same. Expect to see similar bills pop up in Arkansas, Iowa, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, Utah and Wisconsin next year. (Pluribus News)

TEST SCORES: The pandemic significantly set back student reading and math scores, erasing decades of gains and widening racial disparities. National Assessment of Educational Progress results show reading scores at 1992 levels, and math scores dropped by the largest margins since NEAP was first administered in 1969. (Associated Press)

CLIMATE: The 8th Circuit Court of Appeals has rejected a challenge to the Biden administration’s “social cost of carbon” calculation used in rule-making processes and permitting decisions. Republican attorneys general from 13 states, led by Missouri, challenged the rule, which they said would overburden farmers and manufacturers. (Reuters)

HEALTH: Hospitals in Maine and Maryland are struggling with a surge in children hospitalized with respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV. Federal data shows three-quarters of pediatric hospital beds are occupied. (Portland Press Herald, WYPR)

ARIZONA: Gov. Doug Ducey (R) has filed suit against the Bureau of Reclamation and the U.S. Forest Service seeking control of land at the U.S.-Mexico border. The agencies have demanded Arizona remove shipping containers it placed along the border near Yuma. Ducey’s lawsuit alleges President Theodore Roosevelt did not have the right to declare the area federal property in 1907. (Arizona Mirror)

NEW YORK: Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) and New York City Mayor Eric Adams (D) announced a plan to add police patrols in the subway, amid a spike in violent crime. The state will help the city pay for 1,200 overtime shifts per day. Adams: “If New Yorkers don’t feel safe, we are failing.” (New York Times)

SOUTH DAKOTA: A proposal to eliminate sales tax on food will cost the state $119 million, or 8.8% of the sales tax the state collected in FY 2022, according to the Legislative Research Council. Gov. Kristi Noem (R) now supports ending the food tax. (Dakota Free Press) South Dakota would be the 38th state without a tax on food if the measure passes.

WASHINGTON: Legislative Democrats will push a constitutional amendment to protect the right to an abortion and the right to use or refuse contraceptive services, Gov. Jay Inslee (D) said Friday. The amendment would need two-thirds of the legislature before going to voters. (Seattle Times) Democrats hold majorities, but they would need some Republican votes to get an amendment approved.

VERMONT: Residents are turning to wood heat as the cost of home-heating fuel surges ahead of winter. But now wood stoves are on backorder and firewood is in short supply, companies say. The price of firewood is now rising, from wholesalers to retailers. (VTDigger)

In Politics

REPUBLICANS: Republican Governors Association chairman and Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) sees “an opportunity for an historic national wave election year” as late-breaking polls show advantages for the GOP. In an interview with us on Friday, Ducey said COVID lockdowns in blue states sparked voter anger at Democratic incumbents. (Pluribus News)

TEXAS: Gov. Greg Abbott (R) leads ex-Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D) 52%-42% in a new Emerson College poll conducted for The Hill. Emerson’s last poll, conducted in September, showed Abbott up eight points. Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R) each lead their Democratic opponents by 5 points.

OHIO: Gov. Mike DeWine (R) leads Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley (D) 54%-41% among those who say they will definitely vote in November’s election, according to a new Marist College poll. Whaley leads 59%-39% among those who have already voted. Almost a million Ohio voters have requested ballots, up about 2.7% from the 2018 midterms. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)

ARKANSAS: Support for a constitutional amendment legalizing recreational marijuana is slipping. A new Hendrix College poll shows support for the measure leading 51%-43% — down from a 59%-29% lead last month. Republican voters and those aged 45-64 are hardening in their opposition. (Talk Business & Politics)

GEORGIA: About 740,000 Georgians have cast a ballot ahead of the midterm elections, up 159% from the same point in 2018 — and 20% higher than the six-day total in the 2020 presidential election. (Georgia Secretary of State)

ARIZONA: The Secretary of State’s office says it will sue Cochise County if the county continues its plan to hand-count ballots cast this year. The County Attorney’s Office and the state Legislative Council say state law bars a hand count. The County Board of Supervisors appears likely to approve a hand count at a meeting today. (Arizona Mirror)

By The Numbers

2.4 million: The number of migrants arrested at the southern border over the last fiscal year, the highest number ever reported by Border Patrol. Officials arrested 227,000 migrants in September, up 11% from August. Arrests are 37% higher than last year. (Texas Tribune)

$110: The average retail price of an ounce of recreational marijuana in Michigan, down 73% from September 2020. Businesses are producing far more marijuana than consumers are buying, leading to the steep price drop. (MLive)

Off The Wall

The National Park Service and the Institute of Museum and Library Services has donated $500,000 to the University of Alaska’s Museum of the North to help preserve an old Fairbanks transit bus that served as the setting for Jon Krakauer’s “Into the Wild.” The bus was moved to the University museum in 2020. (Alaska Beacon)