Pluribus AM: Winter weather hits state capitols; states in good fiscal shape; the state that spends most on lottery tickets

Good morning, it’s Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2022. In today’s edition, winter weather hits state capitols; Mich. Dems plan climate action; and the state that spends the most on lottery tickets might surprise you:

Top Stories

WINTER WEATHER: Last week’s winter storm caused pipes to burst in two state capitol buildings on Tuesday. Water flooded Ohio’s Senate chamber, its press room and outside Gov. Mike DeWine’s (R) office. (Columbus Dispatch) In Alabama, the Secretary of State’s office and offices in the Department of Finance flooded. (Yellowhammer News) A record high tide flooded the streets of Olympia, Wash., too, but water didn’t get anywhere near the capitol building. (King 5)

FINANCES: States ended the 2022 fiscal year with cash balances of nearly $343 billion, a record high. Now, rising interest rates mean states are earning even more money on their investments. Minnesota expects to earn $428 million from investments this year, up 1,427% over previous projections. (Associated Press)

MICHIGAN: Democrats who will control all levers of state government next year plan to put the state on a path to carbon neutrality by 2050. Legislators hope to speed adoption of electric vehicles, and to increase reliance on wind and solar power to reduce the carbon footprint. (Pluribus News)

MORE: One of the leaders of a plot to kidnap Whitmer was sentenced to 16 years in prison on Tuesday. Prosecutors wanted the court to sentence Adam Fox to life in prison. The court will sentence another leader of the group, Barry Croft Jr., today. (Associated Press)

MASSACHUSETTS: Lawmakers have approved road safety legislation aimed at cutting down on pedestrian and bicyclist deaths. The bill requires a wider passing distance. Trucks and large vehicles would have to install crossover mirrors and sideboards. It also requires the state to create a standardized system for reporting accidents. (State House News Service)

MINNESOTA: Gov. Tim Walz (D) wants to add an inspector general to the Department of Education and spend more money on fraud investigations and audits in the wake of a scandal over Feeding Our Future, a nonprofit that stole millions in pandemic aid. Fraud cost Minnesota at least $250 million in federal aid. (Minneapolis Star Tribune)

FLORIDA: A top public safety czar under Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) used the alias Clarice Starling — the FBI profiler from “Silence of the Lambs” — to help a former client secure a state contract to operate Florida’s migrant flight program. Records suggest the official, Larry Keefe, wrote some of the language the private contractor used in its bid to fly migrants from Texas to other states. (Miami Herald)

MORE: State Supreme Court justices urged lawmakers not to add more judgeships across the state, and to consider trimming some positions because of excess capacity. The high court, which makes recommendations to the legislature each year, recommended cutting a judgeship in Brevard County and positions in two courts of appeal. (Orlando Sentinel)

NEW ENGLAND: Energy regulators in Connecticut and Massachusetts will hold an interstate hearing Jan. 3 to address rate increases proposed by the utility Eversource. The company, which covers customers in those states and New Hampshire, plans to double its rates on Jan. 1. Legislative leaders are critical of the company for paying executives so much. (Hartford Courant)

In Politics & Business

ARIZONA: Ex-TV broadcaster Kari Lake (R) asked the state Court of Appeals to hear the 10 counts she cited in her lawsuit seeking to overturn results of November’s midterm elections. A Maricopa County judge who ruled against Lake ordered her to pay $33,000 to Gov.-elect Katie Hobbs’s (D) legal team, a fraction of the penalty Hobbs sought. (Arizona Central)

SOUTHWEST: The Biden administration is investigating the meltdown that has caused Southwest Airlines to cancel thousands of flights through the end of the week. Winter weather hit Southwest hubs in Chicago and Denver, while the carrier’s schedule of tight turnarounds and underinvestment in operations exacerbated the problems. (CNN, Los Angeles Times)

PENSIONS: Cash holdings are near record lows for major U.S. government pension funds heading into what may be a mild recession. Cash made up just 1.9% of assets in state and local government pension funds as of June 30. (Wall Street Journal)

By The Numbers

$55,000: The cost of a hand recount of the 2020 presidential election that will be conducted next month in Lycoming County, Pa., approved by the two Republicans on the County Commission. Former President Donald Trump took 70% of the vote there, a hair more than he won in 2016. (PennLive)

11: Maps we made out of data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s annual American Community Survey. We visualized states by median age, divorce rates, education, veteran’s status and a whole bunch of other metrics. Check it out here.

Off The Wall

Massachusetts residents spend an average of $805 per year on lottery tickets and scratch-offs, according to a new report by LendingTree, almost double the amount spent per capita in the next-highest state, New York. North Dakota residents spend just $32.24 per capita on lottery tickets, the lowest in the country. (LendingTree)

Iowans have a new favorite liquor. The state Alcoholic Beverages Division said that Tito’s Handmade Vodka sold more units than any other type of spirit last year, displacing Black Velvet Canadian Whisky. (Cedar Rapids Gazette)

Quote of the Day

“I think I’ll probably take a vacation first.”

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R), on his timeline for deciding on a presidential bid. (Maryland Matters)