Pluribus AM: The rise of the swatting epidemic

Good morning, it’s Tuesday, January 16, 2024. In today’s edition, lawmakers tackle “swatting” incidents; Ohio advances bathroom bill; Washington lawmakers move gun safety bills:

Top Stories

Lawmakers in Alaska, Illinois, New Mexico, Utah and Wisconsin return to session today. Welcome back, everybody!

PUBLIC SAFETY: Lawmakers in at least eight states have introduced bills to increase penalties for or create a new crime of “swatting,” making hoax phone calls to law enforcement to elicit an armed response. The bills come after an increasing number of swatting incidents targeting elected officials and schools. (Pluribus News)

Two Ohio lawmakers who introduced bills to outlaw swatting became the victims of hoax calls themselves.

IMMIGRATION: The Biden administration has demanded that Texas authorities stop blocking Border Patrol agents’ access to the border with Mexico in a cease-and-desist letter to Attorney General Ken Paxton (R). The letter came after a woman and two children drowned in the Rio Grande River after Texas troopers denied Border Patrol agents access to Shelby Park in Eagle Pass. (Texas Tribune)

MORE: Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) refused a request from Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) to pause flights and buses sending migrants north while Illinois experiences a dangerous cold snap. Pritzker paid for advertisements in five Texas newspapers asking Abbott to halt the transport program. Pritzker later said Abbott declined. (Chicago Sun-Times)

LGBTQ RIGHTS: An Ohio House committee heard testimony over legislation that would require students to use bathrooms and locker rooms that correspond to their gender at birth. Supporters of the measure made tweaks to bring the bill in line with a measure barring gender-affirming care for transgender minors. Gov. Mike DeWine (R) vetoed the gender-affirming care ban, but the House voted to override that veto last week. (Statehouse News Bureau)

MORE: The Utah House is considering its own bathroom ban that includes legal definitions of “male” and “female.” The bill would require taxpayer-funded buildings to provide more unisex or single-occupant restrooms and facilities. (Deseret News)

GUN POLITICS: The Washington Senate heard testimony on a bill to bar open carry of firearms in parks, at bus stations and in libraries and local government buildings. The House will take up five bills today, including bills to require a permit for purchasing a firearm and requiring gun owners to report the loss or theft of a firearm within 24 hours. (Washington State Standard)

EDUCATION: An Idaho House committee voted Monday to approve legislation that would allow parents to seek damages from libraries if their children are exposed to “harmful” materials under Idaho’s 1972 obscenity law. The bill’s sponsor said the measure would only require that objectionable books be removed from children’s sections. (Idaho Statesman)

ENERGY: California’s Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee approved a bill to end offshore drilling off the state’s coasts. The measure would require the California State Lands Commission to take immediate steps to terminate existing offshore leases. (Sacramento Bee)

BUDGETS: California’s nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office called Gov. Gavin Newsom’s (D) budget proposal “plausible, but optimistic.” Newsom’s budget estimated the state’s deficit at $38 billion, while the analyst’s office says the deficit sits at around $58 billion. Both the governor’s office and the analyst’s office see deficits of about $30 billion annually through 2027-2028. (CalMatters) New York Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) will introduce her $233 billion budget proposal today. (Albany Times Union)

The old saying in government: A billion here, a billion there and soon you’re talking about real money.

In Politics & Business

DELEGATE TRACKER: Former President Donald Trump won 20 delegates in Monday’s Iowa caucuses. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) took eight, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R) took seven, and businessman Vivek Ramaswamy (R) took three. Two delegates are yet to be allocated. A candidate needs 1,215 delegates to win the GOP nomination.

Ramaswamy suspended his campaign Monday night after placing a distant fourth.

NEW JERSEY: State Sen. Jon Bramnick (R) is likely to enter the race for governor later this month. He is likely to face 2021 nominee Jack Ciattarelli (R), who came within three points of upsetting Gov. Phil Murphy (D), and radio personality Bill Spadea (R). (New Jersey Globe)

The Democratic field includes Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop (D) and former Senate President Steve Sweeney (D). Newark Mayor Ras Baraka (D) and U.S. Reps. Josh Gottheimer (D) and Mikie Sherrill (D) have been exploring the race.

TEXAS: Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) campaigned with Republican activist David Covey, who is challenging House Speaker Dade Phelan (R) in the March primary. It’s Paxton’s latest stop on a revenge tour against House members who voted to impeach him last year. (Texas Tribune)

WASHINGTON: Attorney General Bob Ferguson (D) is suing to block supermarket giants Kroger and Albertsons from a $24.6 billion merger over concerns that consolidation in the grocery business would raise prices for consumers. The Federal Trade Commission is also considering a lawsuit to block the merger, though the companies said they were engaged in discussions with state attorneys general and the FTC. (Seattle Times)

By The Numbers

30%: The amount by which political ad spending is projected to rise in 2024, over 2020. Digital advertising is expected to more than double, to almost $3.5 billion, and to account for about 28% of total political ad spending. Meta and Google alone are expected to earn more than $1.1 billion from political ads. (Pluribus News)

$84,000: The annual yearly salary Alaska lawmakers will earn, after new pay raises adopted by the State Officers Compensation Commission take effect. That’s up from the $50,400 lawmakers made last year. (Associated Press)

1: The number of Native American lawmakers who have served in California’s legislature — ever. Assemblyman James Ramos (D) is a member of the Serrano/Cahuilla tribe. (Sacramento Bee)

Off The Wall

A bipartisan pair of Ohio lawmakers have proposed a pilot program that would award students who attend school $500 cash payments. The pilot program would apply to up to two schools per district that have chronic absentee rates. The bill would also award payments to high school graduates in low-performing schools. (Columbus Dispatch)

South Dakota lawmakers are having fun ribbing Lt. Gov. Larry Rhoden (R) over his habit of breaking gavels as he tries to bring the legislature into order. Rhoden now boasts six gavels — the two he has broken, plus four more given to him by legislators over the last year. The latest: An aluminum gavel gifted by House Speaker Hugh Bartels, which Rhoden called a “Thor’s hammer-type gavel.” (South Dakota Searchlight)

Quote of the Day

“Do remember when we have lunches, breakfasts, dinners and things like that, the folks that are sponsoring those dinners are sponsoring to spend time with you, to get to know you.”

Kansas House Majority Leader Chris Croft (R), reminding lawmakers to pay attention to the lobbyists who feed them. (Topeka Capital-Journal)