Pluribus AM: Sounding alarms on Colorado River; FL gov signs insurance overhaul; NC court strikes down Senate maps

Good morning, happy Hanukkah, it’s Monday, Dec. 19, 2022. In today’s edition, feds sound alarms over Colorado River levels; the GOP’s anti-TikTok campaign; N.C. court strikes down state Senate district lines:

Top Stories

COLORADO RIVER: The federal government has given the seven basin states a Jan. 31 deadline to negotiate major cuts before they step in to preserve water levels on Lake Powell and Lake Mead. Both reservoirs, which provide hydro power to much of the West, are three-quarters empty. (Los Angeles Times, Las Vegas Review-Journal)

CHINA: Republican governors are boosting their rhetorical war on China, banning TikTok from state-owned phones and devices and calling for prohibitions on Chinese ownership of American farmlands. Read our 30,000-foot view of the new trend here. Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte (R) is the latest to jump on the ban bandwagon. (Missoulian)

FLORIDA: Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) has signed insurance industry reform that offers a bailout to companies without providing immediate relief for policyholders. DeSantis said the measure will create more choice for consumers. In a news conference, DeSantis said he would push legislation to allow people to carry firearms without a permit. (Orlando Sentinel, Florida Politics)

CALIFORNIA: A federal district court judge on Friday blocked part of a new law that would require those who file lawsuits challenging California gun laws to pay the government’s legal fees if they lose. Legislators passed the measure to make it more expensive to challenge those laws in court. (Associated Press)

OHIO: A state court of appeals has upheld a Hamilton County judge’s decision to block enforcement of a state law banning access to most abortions. The 2019 law bars abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected. Attorney General Dave Yost’s (R) office said he would appeal to the state Supreme Court. (Columbus Dispatch)

NORTH CAROLINA: The state Supreme Court struck down North Carolina’s voter identification law and maps that drew new state Senate district lines. In both cases, the vote fell along party lines — and the cases came just weeks before Democrats lose their 4-3 majority on the high court. (Carolina Journal) When new justices are sworn in next month, Republicans will hold a 5-2 majority. 

ALASKA: The U.S. Department of Justice found Alaska violates the Americans with Disabilities Act by unnecessarily detailing children diagnosed with mental health problems. A report issued Friday found that kids are regularly sent to state hospitals for up to six months, or to facilities as far away as Missouri and Texas. (Anchorage Daily News)

VERMONT: A committee of nine lawmakers and officials concluded the state should legalize sports betting and establish a state-controlled betting market, after three years of consideration. Gov. Phil Scott (R) has been on board with legal sports betting since he first proposed it in his 2020 budget. (VTDigger)

In Politics

PENNSYLVANIA: The Department of State says it will move forward with plans to hold three special elections for open state House seats on Feb. 7 unless a court says otherwise. House Republican leader Bryan Cutler wants to delay two of those special elections until May. Democrats are likely to win all three seats, giving them a 102-101 majority — but the vacancies mean Republicans hold the most seats right now. (Associated Press)

MONTANA: The Montana Districting and Apportionment Commission has adopted new state House and Senate maps, after a marathon 13-hour debate last week. The House maps create 56 safe Republican seats, 35 safe Democratic seats, and nine swing seats. Senate maps create what will probably be 29 safe Republican seats, 18 safe Democratic seats and three competitive districts. (Montana Free Press, Missoulian)

ARIZONA: A Maricopa County Superior Court judge has thrown out a lawsuit filed by state Rep. Mark Finchem (R) seeking a new election for Secretary of State. The judge allowed attorneys for Secretary of State Katie Hobbs (D) and Secretary-elect Adrian Fontes (D) to seek sanctions from Finchem. (Arizona Republic)

OREGON: The Government Ethics Commission has ruled that state lawmakers cannot hire family members to work for political caucuses. The case stems from Senate Minority Leader Tim Knopp (R), who wanted to hire his son Reagan to serve as the Senate GOP’s chief of staff. (Oregon Capital Chronicle) Oregon went through a major ethics overhaul after a 2007 scandal in which corporate lobbyists paid for lawmakers to travel to Hawaii.

ILLINOIS: Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) is holding on to most of his senior staffers as he begins a second term, and he will keep paying those staffers an extra salary in addition to their official pay. Pritzker pays some of his top staffers through an LLC that he has said is meant to attract and retain top talent. (Chicago Sun-Times)

KENTUCKY: House Democrats elected state Rep. Derrick Graham (D) as their new caucus leader. State Rep. Cherlynn Stevenson (D) will serve as caucus chair, and state Rep. Rachel Roberts (D) will serve as whip. (Kentucky Fried Politics) Republicans hold 80 of 100 seats in the state House.

KANSAS: Outgoing state Treasurer Lynn Rogers is considering whether to run for chairman of the state Democratic Party. Current chair Vicki Hiatt says she will seek a third term. (Sunflower State Journal)

PEOPLE: Multnomah County (Ore.) Circuit Court Judge Chanpone Sinlapasai celebrated her investiture on the court in October, making her the first Laotian American judge in U.S. history. (Oregonian)

By The Numbers

$2 million: The amount Colorado Gov. Jared Polis’s (D) Office of Information Technology wants to spend to migrate the state’s website from a .us domain name to a .gov domain name. Officials wrote to legislators that .us domain names are more subject to phishing attempts than .gov accounts. (Colorado Sun)

47%: The increase in the price of a head of romaine lettuce since October, as crop disease runs through the Salinas Valley. Federal data shows a head of romaine costs an average of $2.50. Taco Bell, Chick-fil-A, Panera and Chipotle have all warned customers their supply may be impacted. (San Jose Mercury News)

6,301: The number of firearms confiscated by the TSA at U.S. airports so far this year, nearly 10% over last year’s all-time high. TSA will increase the maximum civil penalty for firearms violations to $14,950, and violators will lose PreCheck status for five years. (Associated Press)

Off The Wall

California’s Department of Fish & Wildlife on Saturday had to euthanize P-22, the famous mountain lion who roamed the hills of Los Angeles, because of injuries the animal had suffered recently. The Los Angeles Times honored P-22’s life with a great photo gallery.

A semi truck hauling soluble red dye across two interstates around Portland sprung a leak over the weekend, leaving red streaks down the middle of the road. The dye, used for coloring mulch, will wash off in the rain. (Oregonian)

Quote of the Day

“Are you really that shocked that the House of Representatives is doing something kind of wacky and unexplainable?”

New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu (R), whose relationship with state House leaders from his own party is a bit strained, to put it mildly. (New Hampshire Bulletin)