Pluribus AM: Safety scares shutter capitols

Good morning, it’s Thursday, January 4, 2024. In today’s edition, hoax bomb threats clear capitols; DOJ sues Texas over illegal immigration law; Kentucky Republicans want to move statewide elections:

Top Stories

PUBLIC SAFETY: Officials in at least 17 states received bomb threats on Wednesday, leading to evacuations and building closures as law enforcement swept buildings and grounds. The FBI said the threats were a hoax, and that it had no evidence of a credible or specific threat. (Pluribus News)

Capitols in Connecticut, Georgia, Hawaii, Kentucky, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana and South Carolina were evacuated. Police searched buildings in Alaska, Rhode Island, Wyoming, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Missouri, Utah and Maryland, too.

MIGRATION: The Justice Department has sued Texas over a new law that would allow police to arrest migrants who enter the U.S. illegally. The law also gives state judges the authority to order migrants to leave the country. The lawsuit says the Texas law violates the Constitution’s Supremacy Clause. (Associated Press)

MORE: New Hampshire lawmakers have introduced legislation that would criminalize undocumented immigrants driving with legal out-of-state licenses, after Massachusetts approved its own law allowing the undocumented to obtain licenses. Vermont has allowed undocumented licenses since 2013. ( Denver is offering migrants bus tickets to other cities where hotel and apartment space is more readily available. (Colorado Sun)

LGBTQ RIGHTS: Nebraska Sen. Kathleen Kauth reintroduced legislation that would bar transgender athletes from high school sports teams that conform to their gender identities and limit transgender access to bathrooms and locker rooms. The bills failed after emotional debates last year. (Associated Press)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE: The New Hampshire House approved a package of bail reform laws that will increase training and pay for bail officers, provide notice to victims when offenders are released and create a centralized database. One bill would require a judge to hear charges in certain felony cases, to increase oversight. Negotiations with the Senate remain ahead. (Boston Globe)

MORE: Florida lawmakers have introduced legislation increasing penalties for luring minors to physical locations for unlawful purposes, an effort to crack down on internet predation. The bills would also increase penalties on those who solicit nude images from minors online. They require makers of smartphones and tablets to include filters preventing access to material harmful to minors. (Florida Politics)

HEALTH CARE: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’s (R) administration will expand Medicaid coverage to poor and low-income children in compliance with new Biden administration rules. (Florida Politics)

EDUCATION: Kentucky Sen. Mike Wilson (R) has filed legislation that would prohibit public colleges and universities from promoting “race or sex scapegoating” and limit diversity, equity and inclusion practices. The bill would allow someone to sue a higher education institution for damages. (Lexington Herald Leader)

ENERGY: New Mexico lawmakers will consider legislation to ban oil and gas production within a mile of schools and day care centers. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) has directed the Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department to craft rules that would establish so-called “setbacks” from schools, hospitals, medical facilities, homes and bodies of water. (Associated Press)

In Politics & Business

KENTUCKY: Sen. Chris McDaniel (R) has filed legislation that would ask voters to approve a constitutional amendment that would move statewide elections to a presidential year, beginning in 2032. McDaniel said moving those elections would boost turnout. (Pluribus News)

The proposed amendment comes just two months after Gov. Andy Beshear (D) won re-election in a ruby-red state.

TRUMP: Former President Donald Trump has appealed a ruling by Colorado’s Supreme Court kicking him off the ballot to the U.S. Supreme Court. The Colorado court stayed its own ruling in anticipation of the appeal. The U.S. Supreme Court has never ruled on the 14th Amendment’s insurrection clause. (Denver Post, Associated Press)

FLORIDA: The state Supreme Court will hear arguments Feb. 7 over ballot language for a proposed constitutional amendment to enshrine abortion and reproductive rights. Supporters have collected nearly all the 891,523 valid signatures needed to qualify for the ballot in November. (Orlando Sentinel)

MASSACHUSETTS: Six measures relating to Uber, Lyft, DoorDash and other gig companies are headed to the legislature after collecting more than 74,000 valid signatures. One petition backed by labor would allow gig workers to unionize. Other measures backed by the companies would categorize workers as independent contractors. (Boston Globe)

The legislature can pass the measures as-is, or propose substitute measures. If they fail to act, supporters of the measures must gather more signatures to qualify for the November ballot.

CRIME BLOTTER: Former Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan’s (D) racketeering trial has been postponed until Oct. 8, after the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear an appeal of a bribery case against a former mayor of Portage, Ind. A decision in that case could have implications on Madigan’s case. (Chicago Tribune)

By The Numbers

15.6 million: The number of new vehicles Americans purchased in 2023, a 12% increase over the previous year and the largest increase in a decade. Sales have yet to rebound to the 17 million per year they reached before the pandemic. (Associated Press)

$3.74 billion: The amount in tax revenue Florida collected in November, 6.9% ahead of forecast. Higher-than-expected sales, corporate income and insurance taxes led the gains. (Capitolist)

Off The Wall

Hawaii Sens. Kurt Fevella (R) and Brenton Awa (R) are still divided over which of them gets to serve as Senate minority leader. And there’s no one to break the tie — Fevella and Awa are the only two Republicans in the 25-member Senate. The consolation prize: Whomever doesn’t get chosen as leader still gets the title of minority floor leader. (Honolulu Star-Advertiser)

Congratulations to Willis Gibson, 13, who became the first person to “beat” the original Nintendo version of Tetris. Gibson scored so many points he hit what gamers call a “kill screen,” where the game’s code glitches and crashes. Gibson made it to level 157 before the game crashed. (Associated Press)

Quote of the Day

“I think what happened with valuation increases really upped the appetite among senators to be a little more bold.”

Nebraska Sen. Ben Hansen, on proposals to shift tax burdens by lowering property taxes and increasing sales taxes after higher home values led to eye-popping tax bills. (Nebraska Examiner)