Pluribus AM: The Taylor Swift Effect

Good morning, it’s Wednesday, July 19, 2023. In today’s edition, states skip low-income food program; DOJ sues Texas over floating border barrier; Taylor Swift inspires new ticketing legislation:

Top Stories

FOOD SECURITY: Nine Republican-run states have not yet been approved to participate in a federal program to give low-income children an extra $120 to spend on groceries this summer. Officials in some of those states say they will not apply for the federal aid, citing the end of the public health emergency over Covid-19. (Pluribus News)

IMMIGRATION: The U.S. Justice Department is suing Texas and Gov. Greg Abbott (R) after Abbott refused to remove a floating barrier on the Rio Grande River. The Justice Department alleges the barrier was installed without authorization from the Army Corps of Engineers, and that the barrier obstructs navigation on the river. (Texas Tribune)

GUN POLITICS: Massachusetts House Speaker Ron Mariano (D) said a sweeping gun safety package will be delayed until the fall to deal with legal hurdles after recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions. The 140-page measure deals with ghost guns, red flag laws, right-to-carry provisions and requirements to register some firearm parts. (Boston Herald)

TICKETING: The Massachusetts legislature held hearings Monday on bills to eliminate “junk fees” in concert ticket sales and dynamic pricing that allows prices to rise for in-demand tickets. Ticket sellers and resellers would be required to show the full cost of tickets and fees before a consumer selects their seat. (Boston Herald)

Taylor Swift’s tour has spurred more action on ticket fees than anything we’ve seen in a decade or more.

TAXES: Abbott signed an $18 billion property tax cut package that was the cornerstone of his 2022 re-election campaign. The package cuts school taxes for all property owners by an average of 40% while adding tax savings for small business and commercial properties. (Texas Tribune)

ENERGY: Maine lawmakers are poised to approve legislation to create an offshore wind program that would produce enough clean power for 900,000 homes. The bill was revised to allow non-union companies to compete for business, assuaging a veto threat from Gov. Janet Mills (R). (Associated Press)

NATIVE AMERICAN RIGHTS: Maine’s legislature is also set to give final approval to a proposal that would restore the state’s commitment to honor treaties with Native American tribes inherited from Massachusetts when Maine became its own state. Voters would be asked to approve the constitutional change as tribal governments seek more autonomy. (Boston Globe)

LGBTQ RIGHTS: The Michigan Supreme Court ruled Monday that a gay woman can seek shared custody of her former partner’s biological child who was conceived while the two were a couple. The court ruled that the non-biological mother must show that the couple would have gotten married before the child was born except for the fact that same-sex marriage was illegal at the time. (Michigan Radio)

In Politics & Business

WEST VIRGINIA: Auditor J.B. McCuskey (R) is dropping his bid for governor in order to campaign for attorney general. Incumbent Attorney General Patrick Morrissey (R) is the leading contender to replace term-limited Gov. Jim Justice (R), who is in turn challenging Sen. Joe Manchin (D). (West Virginia Watch)

OREGON: State Treasurer Tobias Reed (D) will run for Secretary of State, officially Oregon’s number-two position. Reed ran for the Democratic nomination for governor in 2022, losing to then-House Speaker Tina Kotek (D), who won November’s general election. (Willamette Week)

CALIFORNIA: Voters will be asked to approve billions in new bonds in next March’s primary election, including $4.7 billion for up to 10,000 new behavioral health beds, $15 billion for climate resiliency programs, $14 billion to modernize schools and $10 billion for affordable housing. (Sacramento Bee)

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: The Board of Elections voted to allow a proposed ballot initiative to implement ranked-choice voting and open primaries to go forward. The D.C. Democratic Party opposes ranked choice voting. Supporters must now collect signatures to qualify the initiative for the ballot. (Washington Post)

By The Numbers

121%: The increase in the number of opioid-related deaths in California between 2019 and 2021, according to the state health department. The vast majority of that increase came in deaths linked to fentanyl. (CalMatters)

142,264: The number of Indiana residents who have lost Medicaid coverage during the “unwinding” of pandemic-era protections, including 35,595 in June alone. Officials estimate between 300,000 and 400,000 Hoosiers would lose coverage during the year-long process. (Indiana Capital Chronicle)

$22 million: The amount Virginia officials are working to claw back after making payments to insurers covering people who had already died. An audit released by the federal Department of Health and Human Services found Virginia paid to cover about 12,000 dead people between 2019 and 2021. (Richmond Times-Dispatch)

Off The Wall

Legal recreational marijuana is coming to Minnesota — but not every Minnesota city is on board. City council members in Duluth, Detroit Lakes, Alexandria, Lakeville and West St. Paul are considering proposals to ban cannabis use in parks and other public places. Minnesota’s legal pot law, unlike most states that have allowed marijuana, will let people smoke or vape in public, unless cities take action. (MinnPost)

Georgia officials have rededicated a 40-foot Big Peanut statue along I-75, almost five years after the original was blown over by winds from Hurricane Michael. The replacement — this time made of sheet metal, not fiberglass — cost about $70,000 to reconstruct. (Associated Press)

Quote of the Day

“There’s a lot to worry about here for you guys, not just us writers.”

Game of Thrones author George R.R. Martin, speaking to a panel of New Mexico lawmakers on the rise of artificial intelligence at an event in Los Alamos. (Albuquerque Journal)