Pluribus AM: N.C. Medicaid expansion near finish line; states tackle fentanyl penalties; Calif. Gov. Newsom hanging out with Shrek

Good morning, it’s Thursday, March 23, 2023. In today’s edition, N.C. on the brink of expanding Medicaid; states take up increased fentanyl penalties; Calif. Gov. Newsom hangs out with Shrek:

Top Stories

NORTH CAROLINA: The state House on Wednesday gave initial approval to a bill expanding Medicaid coverage to those who make up to 138% of the federal poverty limit in a broad bipartisan vote. Expansion will cover an estimated 600,000 North Carolina residents. The measure is likely to win final passage today, and Gov. Roy Cooper (D) will sign it. (Pluribus News)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE: States across the political spectrum are advancing bills to increase penalties for fentanyl manufacturing, possession or distribution. Bills have advanced in Oregon, West Virginia, Nevada, while South Carolina lawmakers passed new punishments for fentanyl trafficking. (Associated Press) The Alabama House Judiciary Committee approved a bill imposing mandatory prison time for possession of a gram or more of fentanyl. (

Drug overdoses cause 100,000 American deaths every year, about two-thirds of which are linked to fentanyl.

LGBTQ RIGHTS: Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) has signed bills barring gender-affirming care and preventing transgender people from using school bathrooms that conform to their gender identity. (Des Moines Register) The North Dakota House sent Gov. Doug Burgum (R) legislation that would bar school districts from creating policies to accommodate transgender students without parental permission. (Fargo Forum)

EDUCATION: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’s (R) administration is moving to ban classroom instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in all grades. Currently, the state’s so-called “don’t say gay” law only applies through 3rd grade. (Associated Press) The Idaho Senate has approved legislation giving high school graduates up to $8,000 to attend community college or career-technical education schools. (Idaho Ed News) The North Carolina House has approved a measure requiring schools to give parents 30 days notice before a speaker addresses issues of race, gender or sexual orientation. (NC Policy Watch)

ABORTION: A Wyoming judge has temporarily blocked a new ban on abortions while legal challenges move through courts. (Casper Star Tribune) Hawaii Gov. Josh Green (D) has signed a measure allowing physician assistants to perform medical and surgical abortions during the first trimester. The law repeals a requirement that an abortion be performed at a hospital or clinic. (Associated Press) The Kansas House approved a measure requiring protections in the event of a live birth during an abortion procedure. (Kansas City Star, Associated Press)

GUN POLITICS: The Michigan House has approved legislation creating safe-storage requirements for firearms. Several bills in the eight-measure package passed with bipartisan support. (Detroit News, BridgeMI) Vermont’s state House gave preliminary approval to a measure adding new storage restrictions and imposing a 72-hour waiting period on gun purchases. The bill did not win veto-proof majorities, and Gov. Phil Scott (R) has hinted at a veto. (VTDigger)

OIL AND GAS: The California Senate Appropriations Committee will vote today on proposed penalties for oil companies that generate windfall profits when gas prices are high. (Sacramento Bee, Associated Press) North Dakota lawmakers signed off on a bill cutting requirements that oil producers pay higher tax rates when oil prices are high. (Fargo Forum) Alaska lawmakers are fast-tracking a bill to fill a budget shortfall because oil prices are too low. (Alaska Beacon) 

Blue America, Red America and Green America, all in one item. 

FLORIDA: Lots of action in Florida this week: The House Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee unanimously backed a bill to cover children whose families make up to 300% of the federal poverty limit. (Florida Politics) The Senate Rules Committee unanimously approved a measure barring China, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Russia, Syria and Venezuela from buying or holding land interests. (Florida Politics) The Senate is poised to give final approval to tort reform legislation making it almost impossible for plaintiffs to recover attorney fees from insurance companies. (Florida Politics)

ILLINOIS: The House of Representatives has approved legislation phasing out single-use polystyrene foam foodware by January. (WTTW)

In Politics & Business

LIEUTENANT GOVS: The Democratic Lieutenant Governors Association says it will raise $15 million by 2026, and spend $2 million each on lite gov races in North Carolina in 2024 and Virginia in 2025. (Politico)

ARIZONA: The state Supreme Court has declined to hear former gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake’s (R) challenge to her election loss in November, though justices sent one claim — related to Maricopa County’s signature verification process — back to a lower court judge. (Arizona Republic)

MISSOURI: The chairs of the state Republican and Democratic parties testified together Wednesday, asking lawmakers to reinstate a presidential primary on March 12. Lawmakers killed the primary last year in favor of nominating conventions. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

SOUTH DAKOTA: Gov. Kristi Noem (R) has signed a package of 12 election-related laws, including bills to prohibit ranked-choice voting, creating post-election audits, and setting new rules for ballot initiative petitions. (Dakota News Now)

MISSISSIPPI: Gov. Tate Reeves (R) has signed legislation banning ballot harvesting, with exceptions for mail carriers, family members and household members. (Supertalk)

MONTANA: The state House has backed a bill giving the majority party control of interim committees, a break with tradition that gave Republicans and Democrats equal numbers of seats on panels that do their work when the legislature is not in session. (Montana Free Press)

By The Numbers

800 days: The length of time the California Labor Commissioner’s Office takes to adjudicate workers’ wage theft claims, four times longer than is allowed under state law. California workers filed 38,000 wage theft claims last year, an all-time record. (CalMatters)

$5 million: The amount of funding former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has given to American Opportunity, an outside group that is running ads backing New York Gov. Kathy Hochul’s (D) agenda in Albany. (New York Times)

$283 million: The amount New Jersey has spent renovating the state capitol building in Trenton. The project has taken six years, but parts of the building are now reopening to the public. (New Jersey Globe)

Off The Wall

California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) has asked legislators to allow Hollywood studios to convert portions of state tax credits into cash payments, a “refundable” plan that the state does not offer to any other industry. Newsom’s budget calls for $330 million per year in credits and refunds, though Democratic legislators are skeptical. (Los Angeles Times)

Let’s be honest, we linked to this story solely for this photo of Newsom with Shrek and some troll dolls.

Remember Elian Gonzalez, the Cuban boy who became central to a custody dispute during the Clinton administration? He’s set to become a member of Cuba’s National Assembly when the island nation holds elections Sunday. Gonzalez said he had been encouraged to get into politics by the Castro brothers. (Miami Herald)

Congratulations to Mr. and Mrs. Pickles, a pair of radiated tortoises at the Houston Zoo who have three new hatchlings. Mr. Pickles, 90, is a father for the first time. The hatchlings are Dill, Gherkin and Jalapeño. (New York Times)

Quote of the Day

“We’re going first whether they like it or not. Come and enjoy the show. It’s going to be a circus. It’s the funnest circus in town. It’s great.”

New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu (R), pledging to maintain his state’s first-in-the-nation slot on the presidential primary calendar. (Boston Globe)