Pluribus AM: Rail safety in spotlight; Wyo. to ban medication abortions; Mich. kicks off gun debate

Good morning, it’s Thursday, March 2, 2023. Have you registered to join our conversation with California Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon next week? Click here and register today! In today’s edition, rail safety in the spotlight; Wyo. to ban medication abortions; Mich. kicks off gun control debate:

Top Stories

RAIL SAFETY: The Ohio Senate held its first hearing on rail safety after the derailment in East Palestine last month. Senate President Matt Huffman (R) has said lawmakers could consider changes to tort law allowing residents to seek relief in civil suits. (Columbus Dispatch) The Pennsylvania Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee voted to subpoena Norfolk Southern CEO Alan Shaw to appear for a hearing next week. (Harrisburg Patriot-News)

GUN CONTROL: Michigan’s House Judiciary Committee held an initial hearing on gun control measures following the mass shooting that killed three at Michigan State University last month. The Democratic-backed bills include safe storage, universal background checks and a red flag law. (Pluribus News, Detroit Free Press) The Missouri Senate advanced legislation exempting firearm and ammunition purchases from all taxes. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

ABORTION: Wyoming’s House gave final approval to a bill barring the prescription, distribution, sales or use of medications that induce abortions. The state Senate has already approved a similar bill. (Casper Star Tribune) Michigan House and Senate committees approved bills to repeal existing statutes that bar access to abortions, laws made irrelevant by a voter-approved initiative passed last year. (MLive)

EDUCATION: A Missouri state House committee is debating legislation to bar teaching about gender identity and sexual orientation in all K-12 grades. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch) Minnesota’s Senate Education Policy Committee heard bills to require high school students to take a personal finance class before graduating. (KARE-11) The Arkansas state House will debate Gov. Sarah Sanders’s education overhaul bill today, the last step before it heads to her desk. (Talk Business & Politics)

MASSACHUSETTS: Gov. Maura Healey (D) released her first budget proposal Wednesday, a $55 billion plan that hikes spending on environmental, child care and higher education initiatives. Healey’s budget projects the state’s new millionaires tax, approved by voters last fall, will raise $1 billion. (Boston Globe) Healey’s budget includes a plan to cover the “last dollar” spent by students at state community colleges. (Boston Globe)

SOUTH DAKOTA: Gov. Kristi Noem (R) told reporters Wednesday she would not sign a state budget that does not include a repeal of sales taxes on groceries. Legislative Republicans favor a broader sales tax cut; a committee voted to send that cut to the full Senate on Wednesday. (South Dakota Searchlight)

MONTANA: The Senate Business, Labor and Economic Affairs Committee advanced a bill that would bar internet service providers from allowing anyone to access TikTok, punishable by a $10,000 fine for each instance. (Missoulian)

IOWA: A House Health and Human Services subcommittee has advanced “right to try” legislation that would allow patients with “debilitating” illnesses to use drugs for off-label purposes. The bill has to clear the full committee next week to survive the session. (Iowa Capital Dispatch)

“Right to try” legislation has been a big — if controversial — theme in recent years. Drug companies don’t like the idea, but it gained traction especially during the pandemic.

IDAHO: The House Judiciary, Rules and Administration Committee has advanced a bill to allow firing squads as a method of execution when lethal injection is unavailable. The state Department of Corrections has been unable to obtain lethal injection drugs to carry out a death warrant issued in a 1985 murder case. (Idaho Capital Sun)

In Politics & Business

ARIZONA: Former broadcaster Kari Lake (R) has asked the Arizona Supreme Court to review lower court decisions rejecting her challenge to 2022 election results, which she lost to Gov. Katie Hobbs (D). (AZMirror)

NEVADA: Representatives from the Democratic National Committee will be in Carson City this weekend to oversee state Democratic Party elections. Party chair Judith Whitmer, a backer of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) who won office in 2021, faces a challenge from Assemblywoman Danielle Monroe-Moreno (D). (Las Vegas Sun)

OHIO: Dueling factions of House Republicans are still not getting along. Factions backing Speaker Jason Stephens (R) and state Rep. Derek Merrin (R) could not agree on a replacement for former state Rep. Brian Baldridge (R), who quit to take a job in Gov. Mike DeWine’s (R) administration. Stephens backs Justin Pizzulli (R) to replace Baldridge; Merrin supporters back Adam Bird (R). (Statehouse News Bureau)

SOUTH DAKOTA: Voters will get to decide whether to amend the state constitution to include gender-neutral language in a measure headed for the 2024 ballot. (Keloland)

GEORGIA: The Senate Ethics Committee voted along party lines to advance a measure expanding the ability of state residents to challenge others’ voting eligibility based on allegations that a challenged voter had changed their address. Civil rights groups warned the bill would lead to mass disenfranchisement. (Atlanta Journal Constitution)

CALIFORNIA: The Shasta County Board of Supervisors has canceled its contract with Dominion Voting Systems amid conspiracy and voter fraud claims. Board members are considering alternative ways of counting votes, including by hand. (Los Angeles Times)

Shasta County had 111,000 registered voters as of Oct. 24, 2022.

By The Numbers

33: The number of mushers who will participate in this year’s Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, the smallest field ever to take part in the nearly 1,000-mile race. Thirty-four mushers started the first Iditarod in 1973. In 2008, 96 mushers took to the starting line. (Anchorage Daily News)

40 inches: The amount of snow on the ground in Yosemite Valley, four inches higher than the previous record for Feb. 28. The park is closed indefinitely. Up to 15 feet of snow has fallen in higher elevations. (Tribune News Service)

Off The Wall

What better way to handle a flight delay than with a cocktail? A South Carolina Senate committee has approved legislation declaring any post-security area within an airport as “on-premise” territory for alcohol consumption. The bill would let travelers sip their drink at the gate while waiting to board. (The State)

The Missouri House Children and Families Committee heard testimony over a bill to end a requirement that doctors test children living in high-risk areas for lead poisoning. The twist? The Missouri chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics thinks ending the requirement would actually lead to more access to lead testing and education. The Academy’s top lobbyist says existing laws require doctors to know which ZIP codes fall under the high-risk category. (Missouri Independent)

Colorado’s Capitol Building Advisory Committee is debating how to retrieve a 19th century bronze wall sconce from the state capitol building that showed up on eBay. If they choose to buy it back, it’s not clear where the money will come from — the seller wants $8,995 for the item, which was probably removed when the Capitol was renovated in the 1950s. (Colorado Sun)

Quote of the Day

“If our entire state general fund budget was a gallon jug of water, we would spend less than a tablespoon on housing. That’s not going to cut it.”

Minnesota state Rep. Mike Howard (DFL), laying out a $3 billion housing package, twice the amount Gov. Tim Walz (DFL) has proposed. (Minnesota Reformer)