Pluribus AM: Punxsutawney Phil predicts early spring

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Okay campers, rise and shine, it’s Friday, February 2, 2024. Happy Groundhog Day! In today’s edition, GOP governors head to the border; Massachusetts Senate backs gun reform; Wisconsin lawmakers propose new AI rules:

Top Stories

IMMIGRATION: Fourteen Republican governors will visit Shelby Park in Eagle Pass, Texas, on Sunday for a security briefing led by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R). The governors will hold a press conference to highlight state efforts to secure the border in the midst of a growing dispute with the federal government. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

MORE: Minnesota Democrats have introduced legislation to make the state a so-called sanctuary state. The bill prohibits state and local agencies from cooperating with federal immigration authorities to deport people. It would ban state agencies from collecting data related to immigration status. (Minnesota Reformer)

Fox News goes live to St. Paul in 3, 2, 1…

GUN POLITICS: The Senate voted 37-3 to pass a sweeping bill that overhauls the state’s gun laws, including provisions to ban ghost guns and codify an assault weapons ban. Senate leaders must now negotiate with the House, which passed its own gun bill. (Boston Globe)

LGBTQ RIGHTS: Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) has introduced legislation defining the words “sex,” “man” and “woman” in state law. The bill requires government agencies to identify people only as “male” or “female,” and would require transgender people to carry unique birth certificates or driver licenses. (Des Moines Register)

ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE: Wisconsin lawmakers serving on a special AI task force have recommended five new bills governing the emerging technology. Three of the bills would regulate generative AI, including measures addressing pornography, revenge porn and campaign advertisements. Another bill would protect consumer data, and a fifth would track how the state uses AI in government. (Center Square)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE: The Georgia Senate voted Thursday to require cash bail for 30 crimes, including 18 that are always or usually misdemeanors. The bill also limits charitable bail funds or individuals from bailing multiple people out of jail. The measure comes six years after then-Gov. Nathan Deal (R) signed a bill allowing judges to release more people accused of misdemeanors without bail. (Associated Press)

MORE: The South Dakota Senate approved legislation to make it a class 1 misdemeanor to threaten a police officer on social media. The measure adds social media posts to current law, which makes a misdemeanor of written threats delivered by mail. (South Dakota Searchlight)

GAMBLING: The Mississippi House approved a measure legalizing online sports betting in a wide, bipartisan vote. Sports wagering is already legal in Mississippi, but existing casinos have resisted legalizing online betting. The state would levy a 12% tax on sports wagers. (Associated Press)

ABORTION: New Hampshire’s narrowly-divided House likes its abortion statutes just the way they are: Lawmakers rejected two measures that would have introduced new restrictions on abortion, and a third that would have added an affirmative right to abortion in state law. (Boston Globe)

In Politics & Business

OREGON: The state Supreme Court ruled unanimously on Thursday that 10 state senators who accrued more than 10 unexcused absences in the midst of a walkout last session are ineligible to run for re-election in 2024 or 2026. The senators, nine Republicans and one independent, walked out to block Democratic bills on gun control and abortion rights. (Pluribus News)

FLORIDA: Disney has appealed a judge’s dismissal of its free speech lawsuit targeting Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R). The suit alleges DeSantis retaliated against Disney by taking over its special governing district after the company objected to the parental rights law frequently dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill. (Associated Press)

MORE: Supporters of Medicaid expansion will try to qualify an initiative for the 2026 ballot. They will need to collect almost 1 million signatures to secure ballot access. The GOP-controlled legislature has shown no interest in expanding Medicaid. (Orlando Sentinel)

INDIANA: Venture capitalist Eric Doden (R) has received two $1 million contributions in his campaign for governor — from his parents. (Northwest Indiana Times)

Thanks, mom and dad!

By The Numbers

84%: The share of Oregon’s general fund revenue that comes from state income tax, the highest percentage of any state. (Pluribus News)

$3.5 million: The amount of money, in zero-interest and forgivable loans, that Ohio has given to businesses in East Palestine, a year after the train derailment disrupted life there. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)

About 1,200: The number of historical markers around Florida, recognizing noteworthy people and events. Just 20 of those markers are dedicated to women. A bill advancing through the House would require many more markers honoring women and their contributions to the state. (Florida Politics)

Off The Wall

Punxsutawney Phil did not see his shadow at Gobbler’s Knob, a sign that an early spring is on the way. In a press release, the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development said it’s just the 21st time in the 138-year old Groundhog Day tradition that Phil hasn’t seen his shadow.

But not all is well in Groundhog World: Massachusetts’s groundhog, Ms. G, couldn’t attend her big event because of recent hair loss, leading her handlers to decide she shouldn’t be out in the cold. (Boston Globe)

Virginia residents, we hope you’re hungry. Del. Tony Wilt (R) has introduced legislation allowing anyone who hits a deer, bear, turkey or elk to claim the carcass — expanding current state law that only allows someone to claim a deer or bear. The bill won unanimous support from the House Agriculture, Chesapeake and Natural Resources Committee this week.

Hat tip to a loyal reader for flagging that delightful bill.

Kansas residents, your dreams of supporting Patrick Mahomes during a trip to the grocery store are closer to reality. Sen. Kellie Warren (R) has introduced legislation to create a special Kansas City Chiefs license plate — something that’s already available to Missouri drivers. (KSNT)

Quote of the Day

“It’s really fun to talk about eliminating the income tax, and it’s really not to try and talk about how you would replace this massive amount of revenue that it generates.”

Richard Auxier, senior policy associate at the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center, on the 41 states that tax personal income. (Pluribus News)