Pluribus AM: Texas catches impeachment fever

Good morning, it’s Tuesday, September 5, 2023. In today’s edition, Paxton impeachment trial kicks off; judge strikes down Florida district lines; Dems send $1.2 million to Virginia races:

Top Stories

REDISTRICTING: A Florida circuit judge ruled congressional district lines approved by the legislature last year violates the state constitution and must be redrawn. The decision centers on the legislature’s move to eliminate a Black-majority district in Northern Florida. (Associated Press) Trial begins Tuesday in a federal lawsuit challenging Georgia’s congressional and legislative district lines. Plaintiffs argue there should be an extra Black-majority U.S. House district and several more Black-majority state Senate seats on the west side of the metropolitan Atlanta area. (Associated Press)

Combined with cases in Alabama, Louisiana and Texas, these lawsuits threaten the future of the GOP’s hold on the U.S. House of Representatives.

IMPEACHMENT: The Texas Senate returns to Austin today to begin the impeachment trial of suspended Attorney General Ken Paxton (R). It’s the first impeachment trial in Texas since 1917. The state House sent 20 articles of impeachment to the Senate in May, including charges of abuse of office, bribery and obstruction justice. The Senate will consider a motion to dismiss the charges today, but that motion is likely to fail. (Dallas Morning News)

The Dallas Morning News and the Texas Tribune are live-blogging the trial.

BUSINESS: Officials in seven states are asking the Federal Trade Commission to oppose a merger between the grocery giants Kroger and Albertsons. Delaware Treasurer Colleen Davis (D), one of those officials seeking to block the merger, says the merger would threaten access to groceries, especially in low-income communities. (Delaware Public Media)

SOCIAL MEDIA: California lawmakers have killed legislation that would hold social media companies liable for promoting harmful content about eating disorders, self-harm and drugs. The bill died in the Assembly’s Appropriations Committee. A separate bill focused on combatting child sexual abuse on social media won passage in the Senate Appropriations Committee. (Los Angeles Times)

BROADBAND: Virginia has established a five-year plan to use federal money to extend broadband access to the 162,000 homes and businesses that do not yet have access. The state expects to spend $958 million, or about two-thirds of the money allocated under the bipartisan infrastructure bill, to connect those locations. (Richmond Times-Dispatch)

TAXES: Wisconsin lawmakers are considering a constitutional amendment to require two-thirds majorities in the legislature to approve future tax increases. The amendment would have to pass the legislature in two consecutive sessions before voters get a final chance to weigh in. (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

TABOR, version 2023.

LABOR: New Jersey’s Department of Labor is using drones to investigate construction sites suspected of violating state labor laws. The drones help investigators count the number of workers on the job and the types of work they do, to determine if payrolls filed by employers are accurate. Twelve investigators have passed commercial drone license tests. (NJ Advance Media)

MORE: The Illinois Legislative Staff Association says House Speaker Chris Welch (D) has refused to recognize their efforts to unionize legislative aides. The union says Welch, an ally of organized labor, has ignored their requests for meetings for nine months. (WAND)

In Politics & Business

WEST VIRGINIA: Del. Moore Capito (R) leads the Republican field vying to replace term-limited Gov. Jim Justice (R), a new Research America poll finds. The poll shows Capito with 32% of the GOP vote, ahead of Attorney General Patrick Morrisey’s 23%. Auto dealer Chris Miller (R) stands at 9%, and Secretary of State Mac Warner (R) wins 7%. (Pluribus News) Huntington Mayor Steve Williams (D) on Monday became the first Democrat to enter the race. (Associated Press)

KENTUCKY: Gov. Andy Beshear (D) has launched a new ad targeting Attorney General Daniel Cameron (R) for backing the state’s abortion ban, which does not include exceptions in cases of rape or incest. The ad comes a year after Kentucky voters rejected a proposed amendment to enshrine the abortion ban in the state constitution. (Pluribus News)

That Beshear’s team sees abortion as a winning issue in deep-red Kentucky says something about the politics of a post-Roe world.

VIRGINIA: The Democratic National Committee is plowing $1.2 million into Virginia legislative races to counter mega-bucks raised by Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R). Youngkin’s PAC raised $5.9 million in the last quarter, a record for any Virginia governor. (Washington Post) The DNC has now contributed $1.5 million to Virginia Democrats, 15 times what the party gave before the 2019 legislative elections.

CRIME BLOTTER: Minnesota state Rep. Dan Wolgamott (D) has pleaded guilty to a drunk driving charge. Under a deal with prosecutors, Wolgamott will receive a 45-day jail sentence suspended for two years. (Minnesota Reformer)

By The Numbers

75: The number of times suspended Texas Attorney General Paxton has denied legal representation to state agencies in the last two years. Those denials forced agencies to hire their own legal counsel, at substantial cost. Texas lawmakers voted in 2021 to require the AG’s office to report every time it declined to aid a state agency. (Texas Tribune)

25%: The growth in the risk of explosive wildfires in California caused by climate change, according to a study from the Breakthrough Institute in Berkeley. Explosive wildfires are defined as those that burn more than 10,000 acres a day. (Los Angeles Times)

$75,000: The signing bonus Alameda, Calif., is offering to new police officers, on top of a $110,000 yearly salary. The town, where a third of officer positions were vacant, received 170 applications and now has enough officers enrolled in academies to cut vacancies by more than half next year. (CalMatters)

Off The Wall

Congratulations to Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. Austin Davis (D) and his wife Blayre Holmes Davis, the proud parents of a new baby daughter. Davis, 33, is the youngest lieutenant governor in the nation. (Harrisburg Patriot-News)

Kansas Attorney General Kris Kobach (R) is looking for a new deputy attorney general with a very specific brief: Suing the Biden administration. A job posting made by Kobach’s office seeks “aggressive and thoughtful litigators who take an entrepreneurial and opportunistic approach” to suing the federal government. (Topeka Capital-Journal)

Minnesota’s State Emblems Redesign Commission meets for the first time today to reconsider the state flag. Members have four months to come up with a new flag after years of lobbying by Native American tribes and vexillologists who say the current design is a mess. The current flag was adopted in 1957. (Minneapolis Star Tribune)

Flamingos have been sighted in Alabama, North Carolina, South Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee and Virginia in the wake of Hurricane Idalia, apparently blown north in the midst of the storm. Birders say it’s unusual for the Caribbean natives to show up so far north. (Columbus Dispatch)

Quote of the Day

“I didn’t have goat herders on my bingo card for this budget year.”

California Assemblyman Vince Fong (R), on a budget proposal to extend a minimum wage policy for the goat herding industry, which helps mitigate wildfires. (Sacramento Bee)