Pluribus AM: Will Biden be a drag on down-ballot Dems?

Good morning, it’s Thursday, July 11, 2024. In today’s edition, Dems say 2024 is about abortion rights, not Biden; Pennsylvania moves to restrict PBMs; Kansas considers medical pot:

Top Stories

ELECTIONS: Democratic state legislators say they plan to localize races and focus on abortion rights, insisting their party’s chances in November won’t be dragged down by President Biden after his disastrous debate performance last month. Democrats plan to highlight housing affordability, child care, LGBTQ rights, education and gun violence, legislators said.

In a call with reporters, Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee president Heather Williams said Democratic candidates have outperformed Biden by an average of 6 points in special elections this year. Democrats didn’t lose a single legislative chamber in the 2022 midterms.

Our take: State legislators are uniquely prone to the instability caused by a wave election. See, for example, the 2010 midterms, when Republicans picked up six governorships and 20 legislative chambers — a debacle from which Democrats are still trying to recover. If Biden gets blown out, state-level Democrats are headed back to deep minorities.

HEALTH CARE: Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) has signed legislation prohibiting insurance companies from requiring “step therapy,” in which patients must use different treatments or medications before those prescribed by their doctor. The law also bars insurers from requiring prior authorization before receiving in-patient or overnight treatment. (Chicago Tribune)

MORE: The Pennsylvania Senate voted to approve legislation to regulate pharmacy benefit managers. The bill would bar “patient steering,” in which PBMs offer discounts to patients who fill prescriptions at preferred pharmacies, and spread pricing in which PBMs reimburse pharmacies for less than what they earn from drug sales. (Pennsylvania Capital-Star)

ELECTRIC VEHICLES: The Pennsylvania House approved legislation that would require electric vehicle owners to pay a $200 annual registration fee, rising to $250 by 2026, in lieu of gas taxes. Pennsylvania drivers pay an average of $285 in gas taxes every year. (Pennsylvania Capital-Star)

ENERGY: Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) has signed legislation allowing Dominion Energy to petition the State Corporation Commission to raise rates to pay for the development of a small modular nuclear reactor. The proposed reactor, to be built close to an existing plant at Lake Anna, would generate about a third the power of a traditional reactor. (Virginian-Pilot)

EDUCATION: Oregon will require high school students to take stand-alone classes on financial literacy and college and career preparation in order to graduate. School officials wanted those courses integrated in existing classes, but lawmakers issued a legal opinion requiring classes to be distinct. (Oregonian)

MARIJUANA: Kansas legislative leaders will spend two days during interim session hearing options for developing medical marijuana bills ahead of next year’s session. Sen. Michael Fagg (R) says the conversations were made necessary after the federal government moved cannabis to a lower tier of restrictions. (Kansas Reflector)

In Politics & Business

ARIZONA: Supporters of an Arizona ballot measure protecting abortion rights are suing the state over ballot language Republicans submitted to the state voter’s pamphlet. The language, approved by the majority-Republican Legislative Council, uses the term “unborn human being” rather than “fetus” in its description of the measure. (Arizona Republic)

ARKANSAS: The Secretary of State’s office has rejected petitions submitted for an abortion-rights ballot measure after organizers failed to file required statements about paid signature gatherers. Supporters had filed 101,000 signatures, more than the 90,704 required to earn a spot on the ballot. The group backing the measure promised to sue. (Associated Press)

IDAHO: Supporters of a ballot initiative to open primary elections to voters of all parties and to implement ranked-choice voting say they have enough signatures to qualify for November’s elections. They need 63,000 total signatures, spread across 18 legislative districts, to earn a spot. (Idaho Capital Sun)

TEXAS: The House Ethics Committee plans to meet next week, and Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) says the panel will aim to impeach him a second time. The panel doesn’t usually make its agenda public. Paxton remains under federal investigation on obstruction of justice and wire fraud charges. (Texas Tribune)

By The Numbers

$7.7 billion: The economic toll California bore in emergency health responses, productivity losses, industry disruption and infrastructure damage caused by extreme heat over the last decade, according to the state’s Insurance Department. High heat killed more than 400 California residents over that period, the report found. (Sacramento Bee)

$13.3 million: The amount local governments in Minnesota spent lobbying state legislators in 2023, up 20% from the previous year. A total of 146 local governments, either county or municipal, hired lobbyists to woo lawmakers. (Minnesota Reformer)

Off The Wall

Clark County, Nev., Commissioner Tick Segerblom (D) thinks it’s time to change the name of Nevada’s largest jurisdiction. “It’s time to change our name to Las Vegas County,” Segerblom wrote on X, the former Twitter. Clark County is named for William Andrews Clark, a copper magnate who was one of Nevada’s first senators in Washington. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)

The Libertarian Party and its Colorado affiliate have submitted competing presidential tickets to the Secretary of State’s office. A spokesperson for the office said they’re confused — they’ve never had two different levels of the same party disagree on who their presidential nominees would be. (Denver Post)

Quote of the Day

“We recognize that this is a unique opportunity, so we’re going to have the first and the fiftieth state, so transcontinental.”

Delaware Lt. Gov. Bethany Hall-Long (D), on a pilot program to offer SNAP recipients an app to address food insecurity. The pilot will run in Delaware, the first state to ratify the Constitution, and Hawaii, the fiftieth state admitted to the union. (Delaware Public Media)