Pluribus AM: New abortion rules in Mont.; Ariz. Repubs lose election challenges; Alaska gets new apartments for lawmakers

Good morning, it’s Tuesday, Dec. 27, 2022. In today’s edition, the U.S. is growing again, slowly; Dems will push paid leave programs; Ariz. Republicans lose election challenges:

Top Stories

US POPULATION: The nation added 1.2 million residents between July 2021 and July 2022, an increase of 0.4%. The vast majority of that growth came from immigrants moving to the country, figures that slumped during the pandemic. Texas and Florida added more than 400,000 residents each; New York, California and Illinois all lost more than 100,000 residents. (Pluribus News)

PAID LEAVE: Proponents of family and medical leave programs will push lawmakers in Michigan, Minnesota, Illinois, New Mexico and Maine to implement programs in coming legislative sessions. Democrats made gains in all five states in midterm elections. New paid leave programs begin in January in Oregon and Colorado. (Pluribus News) A big trend to watch in blue states.

ARIZONA: Gov. Doug Ducey (R) has agreed to remove a makeshift barrier of shipping containers erected at the U.S. border with Mexico, after the federal departments of Interior and Agriculture sued earlier this month. The barrier, made up of 182 containers in Yuma County, will come down by Jan. 4. (Arizona Republic)

MORE: Attorney General Mark Brnovich (R) has ordered Tucson to rescind a law that prohibits landlords from barring tenants who receive government assistance. Tucson amended its fair housing code in September in an effort to address an affordable housing crisis. (Arizona Republic) 

MONTANA: The Department of Public Health and Human Services will propose a rule change that would prohibit nurse practitioners and physician assistants from billing Medicaid for abortion services. The new rule would also require proof of “medical necessity” for abortions covered by Medicaid. (Missoulian)

MICHIGAN: Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) has signed two bills expanding the Michigan Reconnect Grant Act, a program that pays tuition and fees that remain after financial aid for students attending college, training schools or certificate programs. A new age provision approved by lawmakers will make 88,000 people eligible to enroll in school. (MLive)

CONNECTICUT: Low-income families will be eligible for an extra $430 in home heating aid this winter, after Congress added millions to the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program in the spending bill passed last week. Low-income families could qualify for up to $2,320 in relief payments — less than half the $4,825 cap from last winter. (CTMirror)

MASSACHUSETTS: The Massachusetts Gaming Commission intends to launch in-person sports betting on Jan. 31, in time for the Super Bowl. Officials hope to have online and mobile betting up and running by March, in time for the NCAA tournaments. (Boston Herald)

In Politics

ARIZONA: A Maricopa County judge threw out former television broadcaster Kari Lake’s (R) challenge to the results of the midterm elections, ruling that Lake’s legal team never showed proof of her claims over election integrity. Lake pledged to appeal. (Arizona Republic) Gov.-elect Katie Hobbs (D) and lawyers for Maricopa County asked the judge to sanction Lake’s lawyers to the tune of $700,000. (Arizona Capitol Times)

MORE: A Mohave County judge has denied Republican Abe Hamadeh’s challenge to his own 511-vote loss to Attorney General-elect Kris Mayes (D). Hamadeh’s attorney acknowledged during the three-hour trial that there weren’t enough votes in question to make up the difference. (Arizona Republic, AZ Mirror) State Rep. Mark Finchem (R), who lost his bid for Secretary of State by 120,000 votes, will appeal his own failed election challenge. (Arizona Republic)

INDIANA: Sen. Mike Braun (R) holds an early lead among Republican primary voters in the race to replace retiring Gov. Eric Holcomb (R). A new Bellwether Research poll shows Braun at 25%, Attorney General Todd Rokita (R) at 9%, Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch (R) at 7% and ex-Rep. Trey Hollingsworth (R) at 6%. Almost half of primary voters are undecided. (Statehouse File)

KENTUCKY: Former U.S. Ambassador Kelly Craft (R) is the first candidate to begin airing ads in the Republican primary to take on Gov. Andy Beshear (D). Craft’s ads begin this week, and are set to run during two University of Kentucky basketball games. (Lexington Herald Leader)

MISSOURI: The race to replace term-limited Gov. Mike Parson (R) is already underway. Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe (R) has backing from mega-donor Rex Sinquefield. State Sen. Bill Eigel (R) has formed an exploratory committee. And Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft (R) is raising his profile by proposing an obscenity regulation for libraries. (Kansas City Star)

ALASKA: A Superior Court judge has ruled state Rep. David Eastman (R) is eligible to hold office. The judge ruled Eastman, a member of the far-right Oath Keepers, did not intend to further the group’s efforts to overthrow the U.S. government. An Eastman rival had sued over a so-called disloyalty clause in the Alaska constitution. (Anchorage Daily News)

MARYLAND: State elections officials are implementing a new change to election procedure that would alert residents by text message if they need to take steps to “cure” mail-in ballots. (Baltimore Sun) Clever idea.

By The Numbers

$142,000: The annual salary New York State lawmakers will make after legislators approved a $32,000 pay increase for themselves in the days before Christmas. The raise, passed on a party-line vote, will make New York legislators the best-paid in the nation, surpassing lawmakers in California. (Pluribus News)

28,000: The amount, in pounds, of fentanyl seized by California authorities in the past year, almost six times as much as they recovered last year. The California National Guard hired 160 members to work specifically on reducing the amount of fentanyl on the streets. (Associated Press)

Off The Wall

Alaska lawmakers have set aside $6.6 million to renovate a downtown Juneau office building into 33 apartments for legislators and staff. The Assembly Building, built in 1932, was originally meant for apartments but it was converted into office space in the 1980s. (Alaska Beacon)

As if this weekend’s weather weren’t awful enough: A “snowado” — that’s right, a snow tornado — appeared over a highway in Idaho. A state Department of Transportation employee happened to be filming stock footage at the time, so don’t miss the video. (Idaho Statesman)

Speaking of Idaho, archaeologists have found 13 “razor sharp” stone dart tips that are about 15,700 years old, making them the oldest weapons ever found in the Americas. The tips were found on a terrace of the lower Salmon River, on traditional Nez Perce land. (Idaho Statesman)

Quote of the Day

“There’s probably more cash at cannabis stores than there is at your bank.”

Adan Espino, executive director of the Craft Cannabis Coalition in Washington State, where the number of armed robberies of pot-related businesses has spiked to a record high. Because marijuana remains a federally-listed drug, businesses in the industry still operate in cash. (Seattle Times)