Pluribus AM: Social media in the spotlight

Good morning from Indianapolis and the National Conference of State Legislatures’ annual meeting. It’s Tuesday, August 15, 2023. In today’s edition, why lawmakers are focusing on social media; Montana court sides with youths on climate; No Labels makes the North Carolina ballot:

Top Stories

This week’s newsletters look a little different: Every morning, we’re spotlighting a major legislative trend that’s emerged this year.

SOCIAL MEDIA: Growing alarm over social media harms and the online privacy of youth has fueled a bonanza of state legislation aimed at setting new rules of the road for how tech companies interact with users under 18.

State lawmakers generally took one of two paths this year when it came to regulating online spaces.

In Republican-led states, such as Arkansas, requiring age verification and parental permission for kids to have social media accounts emerged as the preferred approach in 2023.

In Democratic-led states, a coalition of youth advocates led a coordinated effort this year to try to export California’s age-appropriate design code law, modeled on regulations in the United Kingdom. Bills were introduced in Maryland, Minnesota, Nevada and New Mexico. Legacy media companies joined the tech industry in opposing the bills, none of which passed. Elements of the AADC, including stricter privacy protections and prohibitions on addictive features, were adopted in ConnecticutFlorida and Utah.

The effort has drawn fierce opposition from the tech industry and triggered lawsuits that will test whether state lawmakers are on solid legal ground or need to adjust course in their quest to make the internet safer for children.

Read the full story here. Lawmakers and the tech industry clashed Monday at an NCSL panel on social media regulations. Sophie Quinton covered the confrontation here.

ENVIRONMENT: A Montana District Court on Monday ruled in favor of 16 youths who alleged the state is violating their constitutional rights to a “clean and healthful environment.” The court ruled unconstitutional a provision of the state Environmental Policy Act that prohibits agencies from taking climate change and greenhouse gas emissions into account during environmental reviews. (Pluribus News, Helena Independent Record)

WATER: The Department of the Interior said Monday it will spend $50 million over the next five years to improve water infrastructure in the Upper Colorado River Basin. The Bureau of Reclamation will spend $8.7 million this year on drought mitigation in Utah, Wyoming, Colorado and New Mexico. (Deseret News) Federal officials are expected to reduce water cuts thanks to a wetter than usual winter. Still, deeper cuts are expected over the long run. (Associated Press)

LGBTQ RIGHTS: Twenty attorneys general led by California’s Rob Bonta (D) filed an amicus brief seeking to overturn bans on gender-affirming care for minors in Tennessee and Kentucky. Judges have allowed those laws to stand as the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals considers the cases. (Michigan Advance)

In Politics & Business

ALABAMA: Federal judges overseeing Alabama’s redistricting process questioned why lawmakers ignored the court’s order to create a second Black majority district. Plaintiffs in the case say the new maps, which created a district where Black voters make up about 40% of the population, did not comply with the court’s directive. (Associated Press)

NEVADA: The state Republican Party will hold presidential nominating caucuses on Feb. 8, two days after the presidential preference primary. Only the caucuses will count toward delegate selection. The decision will put Nevada ahead of South Carolina, which plans to hold party primaries on Feb. 24. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)

NORTH CAROLINA: The state Board of Elections voted 4-1 to formally recognize No Labels as a political party. The group turned in 15,000 signatures, more than 1,000 more than necessary to qualify. (Raleigh News & Observer)

OHIO: Supporters of redistricting reform have submitted a proposed constitutional amendment to the Attorney General’s office ahead of next year’s presidential election. The proposal would nix the current seven-member redistricting commission in favor of a 15-member panel made up of Democrats, Republicans and independents from across the state. (Columbus Dispatch)

The current board, dominated by Republicans, drew a GOP-friendly U.S. House district map after the 2020 Census.

SOUTH DAKOTA: The state Attorney General’s office has posted a draft explanation of a proposed ballot measure to legalize recreational marijuana. Supporters must collect 17,509 valid signatures to qualify for the 2024 ballot. (South Dakota Public Broadcasting)

PEOPLE: Alabama Sen. Tim Melson (R) is back in the United States after suffering a cardiac arrest while on a trade mission to South Korea last month. In a post on Facebook, Melson’s daughter thanked the South Korean medical team who helped save her father’s life. ( New Jersey Sen. Richard Codey (D) will retire at the end of his 14th term this year, capping a 50 year career in the state legislature. Codey, the longest-serving legislator in state history, began his tenure when Richard Nixon was in the White House. (NJ Advance Media)

By The Numbers

75%: The share of Texas counties that are under a wildfire disaster declaration Gov. Greg Abbott (R) has issued. About 8,500 acres of Texas land have burned this month. A storm system moving through the state today threatens to spark more conflagrations. (Texas Tribune)

$45.1 million: The amount by which Mississippi’s revenue collections exceeded estimates in the first month of the fiscal year. The total collected is 8.2% above estimates. (Magnolia Tribune)

$1.6 billion: The amount of money Maryland took in from gamblers in Fiscal Year 2023, the state said Monday. Maryland’s six casinos contributed $848 million in tax revenue, while lottery sales contributed $714 million. (Maryland Matters)

Off The Wall

Impeached Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) is getting support from a group of conservative Gen Z influencers, who came together through a company that manages social media stars. The influencers met in June in Fort Worth, where they heard from former Trump campaign chief Brad Parscale and oil tycoon Tim Dunn, a longtime Paxton supporter. Now those influencers are claiming the legislature that impeached Paxton is secretly run by Democrats. (Texas Tribune)

More than 50 thrill-seekers participating in a charity event rappelled down the side of Portland’s U.S. Bancorp Tower, a 536-foot tall skyscraper. Participant George Cummings, 87, raised $5,000 for a mountaineering charity to participate in the event. (Oregonian)

Life guards and New York Park Police officers are expanding their use of drones to watch for sharks after a handful of bites reported this summer. A fleet of 19 drones is scanning Jones Beach, where life guards closed the water three times in a single day over possible shark sightings. (CNN)

Quote of the Day

“It sure scares away primary challengers. You’ve got to look on the bright side of this.”

Arizona Sen. John Kavanagh (R), speaking Monday at an NCSL panel on the low salaries state legislators earn. Arizona lawmakers earn a base salary of $24,000. (Pluribus News reporting)