Pluribus AM: States sue Meta over alleged child harm

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Good morning, it’s Wednesday, October 25, 2023. In today’s edition, states sue Meta over alleged child harm; Georgia abortion ban will stay in effect; popularity of school voucher programs bust budgets:

Top Stories

SOCIAL MEDIA: A bipartisan coalition of 33 attorneys general sued Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, in the Northern District of California for alleged harms to minors after a two-year investigation. Attorneys general from eight other states and the District of Columbia will file separate but related lawsuits against the company. Utah Gov. Spencer Cox (R) compared the litigation to prior lawsuits against the opioid industry and Big Tobacco. (Pluribus News)

TECHNOLOGY: The California Department of Motor Vehicles said Tuesday it was suspending Cruise LLC’s permit to operate autonomous vehicles without a driver present after determining the vehicles aren’t safe for public operation. The company, owned by General Motors, operates a fleet of robot taxis in San Francisco. (Sacramento Bee)

ABORTION: Restrictions on abortions after fetal cardiac activity is detected will remain in effect in Georgia while legal challenges play out, the state Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday. Abortion rights backers argued the 2019 law, passed before the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision overturning Roe v. Wade, was invalid. (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

EDUCATION: Nine states adopted rules that phase out, eliminate or significantly raise income limits for school voucher programs this year, allowing far broader access to the programs. Four of those states — Arizona, Florida, Iowa and Ohio — have seen substantially more applicants than expected, busting budgets and forcing lawmakers to consider new spending. (Associated Press)

MORE: Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) has rolled out a plan to consolidate early childhood education programs and funding into one new state agency. Early childhood programs are currently spread across three agencies. Pritzker pointed to Colorado, New Mexico, Massachusetts and Georgia, which have created unified agencies in recent years. (Capitol News Illinois)

LGBTQ RIGHTS: Florida has filed an application with the U.S. Supreme Court to block a lower court ruling that prohibited enforcement of a new law targeting drag show bans as litigation plays out. An 11th Circuit Court of Appeals panel upheld a lower court’s ruling granting a preliminary injunction against the law. (Associated Press)

INSURANCE: Florida legislators are negotiating ahead of a special session to help homeowners upgrade their homes to lower insurance premiums. The My Safe Florida Home program has doled out most of the $215 million it received for grants, reducing premiums an average of $1,000, but state CFO Jimmy Patronis (R) said there are still 17,000 applications awaiting funding. (Orlando Sentinel)

FOREIGN AFFAIRS: California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) held a surprise meeting with Chinese leader Xi Jinping in Beijing on Wednesday during Newsom’s weeklong tour of China to tout climate cooperation. Newsom also met with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, to whom he expressed support for the One-China policy. (Associated Press)

In Politics & Business

MICHIGAN: The Michigan Senate has approved legislation repealing a ban on hiring drivers to give voters a ride to the polls. The existing ban was approved in 1895. The House has already approved the repeal, and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) is likely to sign it. (Bridge MI)

WISCONSIN: The Senate and Assembly elections committees held a joint hearing Tuesday to advance proposed constitutional amendments to outlaw private funding for elections and enshrine existing voter ID requirements. Constitutional amendments must pass in two consecutive legislative sessions before heading to voters. (Associated Press)

FLORIDA: Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) has pulled his support for state Rep. Randy Fine’s (R) application to become the next president of Florida Atlantic University, after Fine decided to support former President Donald Trump in the Republican presidential primary. Fine said in a Monday opinion piece he was disappointed with DeSantis’s response to Hamas’s terror attack on Israel. (Orlando Sentinel)

OREGON: The Oregon Supreme Court will hear a legal challenge from five Republican state senators who say they should be allowed to run for re-election despite repeated absences from the legislature this year. The lawmakers are challenging the wording in Ballot Measure 113, approved by voters in 2022 to bar legislators who accrue more than ten unexcused absences from seeking re-election.

MISSOURI: House Speaker Dean Plocher (R) has repaid more than $3,300 in taxpayer dollars he inappropriately received as reimbursements for travel. Plocher received reimbursements from the state even though he paid for some trips and expenses out of his campaign fund, rather than his own pocket. (Kansas City Star) Top Missouri Republicans called for an investigation. The House Ethics Committee is scheduled to meet Friday. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

By The Numbers

36: The number of states that have rules on the books barring state contractors from refusing to do business in Israel, or boycotting or divesting from Israel. Illinois was the first state to adopt an anti-BDS law in 2015. (KCUR)

$50 million: The amount Florida’s emergency management agency has authorized for a government contractor to fly Florida residents home from Israel. It’s not clear all the money will be used for evacuation flights — the same firm also won a contract earlier this year for flights taking undocumented migrants to California. (Orlando Sentinel)

$4 million: The amount California Gov. Newsom’s campaign says he has raised for President Biden’s re-election bid. (Sacramento Bee)

Off The Wall

A decade after the devastation wrought by Superstorm Sandy, New Jersey will kick off the first two flood control projects designed to protect densely populated cities at risk of flooding. The projects get under way today in Hoboken and the Meadowlands. (Associated Press)

Brach’s, the company behind candy corn, produces about 30 million pounds of the stuff each fall, enough to circle the globe five times. Sales of candy corn amounted to between $75 million and $88 million last year, according to an industry research firm. A candy corn mix featuring flavors like green beans, roasted turkey, cranberry sauce, stuffing and apple pie wasn’t such a hit — the company says it won’t be back after two years in production. (Associated Press)

Quote of the Day

“I’ve never seen an audit like this. This is the worst audit I’ve ever seen. And it’s every worse nightmare pulled together.”

Maryland Sen. Clarence Lam (D), on an audit that showed $1.4 billion in unaccounted for spending by the state Department of Health during the Covid-19 pandemic. (Maryland Matters)