Pluribus AM: Our 2024 crystal ball

Good morning, it’s Friday, December 29, 2023. In our last edition of the year, we take predictions for the coming year in legislatures; Maine boots Trump from ballot; recall elections hit new highs:

Top Stories

We asked smart readers, legislators and lobbyists for their predictions on what the year ahead will bring. Some highlights:

Tim Storey, chief executive officer, National Conference of State Legislatures: “Education remains a top priority for states, with a continued emphasis on improving teacher compensation. Additionally, states are paying attention to the behavioral health of their workforces.”

Liz Malm, vice president, MultiState: “AI will be a big topic, as lawmakers will want to get out in front of the issue rather than playing catch up as they did with privacy.”

David Quam, president, 56 Capitals: “Jobs are becoming more complex, and states and companies need skilled workers to replace retiring Boomers.  Critical positions such as teachers and nurses remain in short supply.  These shortages will lead to more states using skill-based hiring to fill positions – a growing trend that will spill over into higher education policy.” 

Former Maryland Del. Keiffer Mitchell (D), vice president of State and Local Advocacy at BGR: “Democrats will look to move away from the ‘defund the police’ mantra and pass a mix of police reform bills and increase in penalties for repeat and violent offenders. Republicans will look toward preemption legislation to check ‘soft on crime’ policies that local mayors and district attorneys are perceived to support.”

Greg LeRoy, executive director, Good Jobs First: “I predict that public officials will become increasingly skeptical of and less willing to subsidize data centers, including some that are actually crypto mining operations.”

Lee Cowen, president, Cowen Consulting: “Some states are already starting to see the return of budget deficits, or at least projections of deficits. But many states were careful not to lock in spending increases that were based directly or indirectly on federal streams of money. 

Ex-Arizona Sen. Eddie Ableser (D), chief executive, Tri-Strategies, Reno, Nev.: “Many western states are looking for ways to maintain their tax base and we are seeing legislators talk about taxing behaviors that are not socially acceptable (Gas, Cannabis, Pollution, fatty foods,etc.).”

In Politics & Business

A few more predictions on the political front:

Heather Williams, president, Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee: “2024 is going to be the year of the states. More and more Americans are coming to realize how state legislatures impact their lives – from deciding abortion access to determining how elections are run to shaping school curricula.”

Dan Colegrove, partner, The Prism Group: “I expect legislative debates on hot button topics such as guns, abortion, gender issues, voting, etc., from both the left and right sides of the aisle. Much of this will be driven by a desire to motivate certain voter blocs, so what actually makes into law may be different than what first ignites the headlines.”

TRUMP: Maine Secretary of State Shenna Bellows (D) ruled Thursday that former President Donald Trump is ineligible for the ballot under the U.S. Constitution’s 14th Amendment insurrection clause. Bellows suspended her own ruling in anticipation of the appeal Trump and his campaign are sure to file. (Portland Press Herald, Associated Press)

The one thing absolutely everyone agrees on: These decisions are headed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which has never ruled on the insurrection clause.

GEORGIA: A federal judge has upheld redrawn political boundary lines that leave in place Republicans’ 9-5 advantage in the U.S. House delegation and its majorities in the General Assembly. Plaintiffs, who plan to appeal, say the new maps still dilute the voting power of Black voters. (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

SOCIAL MEDIA: A federal judge ruled in favor of California’s new law requiring social media companies to issue semiannual reports describing their content moderation practices and to provide data about the number of objectionable posts. Judge William Shubb dismissed a request by X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, to block the law on First Amendment grounds. (Reuters)

By The Numbers

99: The number of elected officials who faced recall elections in 2023, the highest number in more than a decade. About three-quarters of those who faced recalls, 77, were ousted from office. Another 31 officials resigned before recall votes could be held, according to recall expert Joshua Spivak. (Pluribus News)

28: The number of consecutive losses suffered by the Detroit Pistons, matching the longest-ever losing streak by an NBA team. If they lose Saturday against the Toronto Raptors, they will match the longest losing streak in major North American sports, held by the NFL’s Chicago Cardinals, who lost 29 in a row between 1942 and 1945. (Associated Press)

6.61%: The average rate of a 30-year mortgage, the lowest level since May and the ninth straight week mortgage rates have declined. The higher rates have slowed sales of existing homes by 19.3% over the first 11 months of the year. (Associated Press)

64%: The amount of water, as a share of capacity, in California reservoirs at the end of December. That’s well above the 55% average over the last 30 years, thanks to last year’s historically wet winter. (Los Angeles Times)

Off The Wall

Now that Minnesota has settled on a new design for the state flag, the old flag is becoming retro chic. Flag stores in Minnesota are reporting bumper sales of the old flag before it is officially replaced. (MPR News)

Major pornographic websites have cut access to North Carolina users ahead of a new state law taking effect this weekend that will require them to verify user ages. It’s the latest instance of adult websites cutting access, after new age verification laws passed in Mississippi, Utah and Virginia. (Raleigh News & Observer)

Actor Pierce Brosnan faces criminal charges for allegedly walking in off-limits hydrothermal areas in Yellowstone National Park. The 007 actor will appear in court Jan. 23. Recent violators of the federal law that bars walking through hydrothermal areas have faced a week or more in jail. (NPR)

Quote of the Day

“AI is not so much a new threat to elections, but it is a way to amplify existing threats.”

— Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon (D), who said his office was worried about the new technology’s ability to spread misinformation about elections. (Fargo Forum)