Volume XX, No. 12
April 16, 2012
The next issue of Capitol Journal will be available on April 23rd.
For more than a century, California has been a beacon for dreamers and innovators from around the globe. But after years of budget malaise, Gov. Jerry Brown is trying to lead the state back to its old glory.
Can Jerry Brown rekindle the California Dream?
More than six decades ago, social critic Carey McWilliams defined California as a mercurial "great exception" among the states in the rapidity of its growth. After bursting into American consciousness with the Gold Rush of 1849, California built cities and ports and railroads and advertised itself to the world. Elsewhere in the United States, wrote McWilliams, the tempo of development began slowly and gradually accelerated, "but in California, the lights went on all at once, in a blaze and they have never been dimmed."
How nostalgic these words sound now. Recurrent recessions, a housing collapse, crumbling infrastructure and a decline in educational opportunities have eroded public confidence and dimmed the lights in many corners of California. The ebullient sense of forward motion that pervaded the Golden State in the heady aftermath of World War II, when McWilliams wrote California: The Great Exception, is a distant memory. The optimism was in many ways a byproduct of the war, when California was discovered anew by servicemen who embarked to the Pacific and defense workers who came to work in airplane and munitions factories. Dazzled by California's blue skies, rolling beaches, and easy ways, one newcomer gushed to Life magazine: "Mister, this is Dreamland."
After the war, California rushed to fulfill the dream. It built new colleges and expanded others for veterans suddenly able to afford higher education because of the GI Bill of Rights. Developers bulldozed orchards and replaced them with houses, roads and schools. By 1964, California had become — and remains — the most populous U.S. state. It was a nation-state with a budget that exceeded all but a half dozen countries in the world, at once an agricultural cornucopia, a concrete matrix of interlocking freeways and a global leader in science and technology with world-class universities and a far-flung array of state and community colleges that were the envy of the country. Spurred by the Cold War, the aerospace industry flourished. During the apogee of California's development when Pat Brown (D) was governor from 1959 through 1965, voters at his urging approved the construction of a gigantic aqueduct, visible from space, to transport water from the abundant north to the parched south. For a time, anything seemed possible in California, which seemed to hold the nation's future in its hands.
Inevitably, however, California began to choke on what McWilliams had called its only constant: "rapid, revolutionary growth." The skies became less blue and the beaches and freeways more congested. As commutes lengthened and taxes and regulations increased, life in California became stressful. Racial and ethnic tensions rose. Watts rioted. University students rebelled. Farm workers organized. Pat Brown was defeated in 1966 by rising Republican star Ronald Reagan, a former movie actor who had emigrated from Iowa three decades earlier to pursue his Hollywood dreams. Reagan looked askance at government but was astute enough in forward-looking California to refrain from practicing too much of what he preached. Among other things, Reagan signed into law the largest tax increase that had ever been levied in any state and expanded an extensive system of public parks.
California's tipping point came in 1978, when Reagan was out of office and pursuing the presidency and Pat Brown's son Jerry was governor. Jerry Brown was then an apostle of limited government, expressed as "small is beautiful." The younger Brown was creative but unfocused — and out of touch. He didn't realize that many Californians, especially those with fixed retirement income, were in danger of losing their homes because of soaring local property taxes, which rose with every assessment. Brown and the Legislature were sitting on a huge state surplus they could have used for property tax relief. Instead, they ignored the angry homeowners, who turned to the ballot box and approved an initiative known as Proposition 13. The measure capped property taxes and kept many Californians in their homes. But it also put a cap on California's future by requiring a two-thirds vote to raise taxes — even though Proposition 13 did not itself achieve this threshold.
California has been struggling ever since. The state took a heavy hit in the early 1990s when the aerospace industry imploded and another a decade later when the dot.com boom collapsed. Just when California was climbing to its feet, the Great Recession struck the overblown housing market with seismic ferocity. From 2005 to 2009 California lost 600,000 jobs, many of them in housing construction and related businesses. Few of these jobs have been regained. California's unemployment rate in February was 10.9 percent, third highest in the nation. State and local government revenues collapsed during the recession, prompting heavy cutbacks in education spending. Seven million Californians lack health insurance and nearly a quarter of the state's children are in poverty. A Legislature that in the mid-20th century was known for its professionalism became dysfunctional, perennially balancing the budget with gimmicks that kicked the can down the road while failing to address underlying structural problems.
But help could be on the way in the unlikely form of an older and wiser Jerry Brown. As California's youngest governor during the two terms he served from 1975 through 1983, Brown flitted from issue to issue, earning the sobriquet of "Governor Moonbeam" from columnist Mike Royko. Times — and Brown — have changed. Brown matured and learned the ropes of hands-on governance during two terms as mayor of Oakland, a gritty city across the bay from San Francisco. He was elected governor again in 2010 and recently celebrated his 74th birthday. Governor Moonbeam no longer, Brown sounded like his father last year as he extolled the virtues of education and pushed through the Legislature the California Dream Act, enabling illegal immigrants who were brought to the United States before they were 16 to receive financial assistance for higher education.
Now, Brown is trying to close the state's multi-billion dollar state budget gap with an initiative on the November ballot that would raise the sales tax by a quarter cent and increase state income tax rates on those making more than $250,000 a year. Some business groups are grumbling about the tax hikes, and Republicans oppose them. Nonetheless, a USC/Los Angeles Times poll found that 64 percent of Californians favor Brown's plan. These voters seem responsive to Brown's plea that education cutbacks imperil the state's future. California's two university systems have raised tuitions and limited enrollments. The community college system, crucial for working-class students, has also increased fees and in some cases eliminated courses needed for graduation.
Stephen Levy, who directs the Center for Continuing Study of the California Economy, believes that the gap between rich and poor will grow without a tax increase. "Presently, there are two Californias, one of which is prospering and the other which isn't," Levy told me. The prosperous ones, on the whole, are those who make a living in technology, trade or tourism. But Californians who depend for their livelihood on the housing market or inter-related industries, from financial services to furniture manufacturing, are hurting. Levy said the Brown initiative would raise half the revenue California needs to balance its budget and that the continuing recovery should do the rest.
Not everyone agrees. William Hauck, former president of the California Business Roundtable, believes that increased revenues from higher taxes won't help much unless Brown and, even more, the Democrat-controlled Legislature curb their appetite for spending. Hauck is also skeptical of polls showing the Brown initiative a slam dunk at the ballot box. Historically, measures that raise taxes on the wealthy have attracted well-funded and effective opposition.
But Brown seems determined to lead California back to its glory days when it spent unstintingly on education and development, and his plan has some surprise backers. The Los Angeles Times editorially called Brown's initiative "a realistic plan." In Sacramento, lobbyist George Steffes, no fan of Brown's earlier governorship, said he is doing better this time around. More than four decades ago Steffes was legislative liaison for Gov. Reagan when he signed his historic $1 billion tax increase — $6.8 billion in today's dollars. In those days, Steffes said, governors and legislators came together in crises and did their best for California.
"The old guys did pretty well, and Brown's an old guy now," Steffes said.
Economist Stephen Levy, in a view shared by many others, believes the future of California will be written by young people, many of them Latino or Asian, who are now attending increasingly under-funded elementary and high schools and junior colleges. Perhaps Jerry Brown, the old guy who remembers how it used to be, can help the young Californians to keep the lights on in the Golden State.
— By Lou Cannon
The Week in Session
States in Regular Session: AK, AL, AZ, CA, CO, CT, DC, DE, HI, IA, IL, LA, MA, MD, ME, MI, MN, MO, MS, NE, NH, NY, OH, OK, PR, SC, TN, US, VT
States in Recess: KS, NC, NJ, PA
States in Special Session: VA "a"
Special Sessions in Recess: DE "b"
States Adjourned in 2012: AR, FL, GA, ID, IN, KY, NM, OR, SD, UT, VA, WA, WI, WV, WY State Special Sessions Adjourned in 2012: FL "b", WA "c", WA "d", WV "a"
Letters indicate special/extraordinary sessions
— Compiled By OWEN JARNAGIN
(session information current as of 04/12/2012)
Source: State Net database
Bird’s eye view
Foreclosures hit five-year low
U.S. foreclosure activity in the first quarter of this year — as measured by the number of default notices, scheduled auctions and bank repossessions — was at its lowest level since the fourth quarter of 2007. Foreclosure filings were reported on 572,928 properties this past quarter, about 1 out of every 230 U.S. housing units. Counter to the long-term trend, foreclosure starts rose for the third straight month. Nevada had the nation's highest foreclosure rate for the quarter overall, with filings on one in every 95 housing units in the state, but for the first time in 62 consecutive months, it slipped to No. 2 in March, behind Arizona.
Budget & taxes
CT PULLS PLUG ON MANAGED CARE FOR MEDICAID: The way states used to pay doctors and hospitals for treating Medicaid patients was by directly reimbursing them for the services they rendered. But spurred by criticism that the so-called "fee-for-service" method encouraged health care providers to rack up fees for unnecessary tests and procedures, states have been switching to managed care plans, in which contracted health care organizations agree to a flat monthly fee for covering Medicaid beneficiaries, regardless of the actual costs they incur.
Connecticut, however, is going back to the old system. After struggling for years with managed care arrangements that state officials say were no longer saving the state money or providing patients adequate care, the state scrapped its Medicaid managed care system in January and began directly reimbursing providers again.
The state's payment system may be a return to the past, but its method for providing care to Medicaid patients isn't. A non-profit organization — one of the state's former managed care organizations — provides care coordination for all Medicaid beneficiaries, including intensive case management for the elderly, blind and disabled. The state is also aggressively promoting "medical home" programs by providing grants to primary care physicians for hiring case managers to track patient care. And it is taking part in a federal grant program to improve care for individuals who qualify for both Medicaid and Medicare, as well as helping seniors transition out of nursing homes.
Proponents of managed care don't put much stock in the state's efforts, however.
"We see Connecticut as an anomaly," said Margaret Murray, executive director of the Association for Community Affiliated Health Plans.
Most states are moving to managed care because it provides more budget certainty and flexibility than they can get running their own programs, Murray said. For instance, managed care organizations can create new types of services, like mental health counseling, to meet a community's needs as they arise, whereas states would have to get federal approval first, she pointed out. She also said many states don't have the personnel to coordinate care, develop a provider network and process claims efficiently.
But according to Sylvia Kelly, CEO of Community Health Network, the organization managing Connecticut's new Medicaid program, the transition there has been "a non-event." Three months in, she said most providers are signing up and few patients have reported losing care. Moreover, the state expects the overhaul to save $41 million this year and $80 million in 2013.
Oklahoma is the only one other state that has moved away from managed care. But its overhauled program, launched in 2003, is widely considered a success. (STATELINE.ORG)
WA PASSES BUDGET IN DOUBLE OT: The Washington Legislature finalized a budget last week (HB 2127b) and sent it on to Gov. Christine Gregoire (D) for her signature.
"Reaching this point wasn't easy," Gregoire said.
The governor called lawmakers into a second special session at midnight last Tuesday after they failed to agree on a budget by the end of the first 30-day special session.
Sen. Joe Zarelli (R), the Senate's minority party leader on budget issues, said the deal was "accomplished in a bipartisan way, sometimes tugging and pulling, but nonetheless, in a bipartisan way."
The plan that ultimately drew a bipartisan 64 votes in the 98-member House of Representatives and 44 votes in the 49-member Senate relies heavily on an accounting maneuver that will generate $238 million by giving the state temporary control of local sales taxes before they are redistributed back to the local jurisdictions. The budget also makes no cuts to K-12 or higher education, eliminates a tax deduction for some large banks and holds $320 million in reserve.
One of the major sticking points of negotiations was reportedly early retirement benefits for future state employees. That impasse was broken when separate legislation was approved cutting benefits up to 50 percent for workers hired after May 2013 who retire at age 55. The change is expected to save the state $1.3 billion over 25 years. (OLYMPIAN, STATE NET)
BUDGETS IN BRIEF: The public pension fund that provides retirement benefits for nearly half a million CALIFORNIA teachers is facing a projected $64.5 billion shortfall over the next three decades, according to the fund's deputy chief executive. Ed Derman told reporters last week the California State Teachers' Retirement System, the nation's second largest public pension fund, has only 69 percent of the assets it needs to meet future obligations (LOS ANGELES TIMES). • A new program that kicked off in NEW YORK in January allows homeowners to pay for energy efficiency upgrades using money they save by reducing energy use. Similar "on-bill financing" programs are in the pilot stage in at least 20 states, according to the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (STATELINE.ORG). • MARYLAND's General Assembly failed to approve an income tax measure negotiated by House and Senate leaders before the end of the regular 90-day session last week, triggering a so-called "doomsday" budget, balanced solely through hundreds of millions of dollars in cuts, for the fiscal year that begins July 1. Legislative leaders said they would ask Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) to call a special session to allow them to take another shot at an income tax plan (BALTIMORE SUN). • NEBRASKA Gov. Dave Heineman (R) signed a scaled down version of his income tax-cut plan into law last Tuesday. LB 970 would initially have cost the state $327 million over three years but was pared down to $97 million by lawmakers (LINCOLN JOURNAL STAR).
— Compiled by KOREY CLARK
Politics & leadership
CONGRESS CASTING CRITICAL EYE ON CA HIGH-SPEED RAIL: The state agency overseeing California's multi-billion-dollar high-speed rail project received a frosty letter from the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform last week. The letter informed California High Speed Rail Authority Chairman Dan Richard that the committee would be examining the agency's operations.
Among the committee's concerns is the agency's use of the nearly $4 billion in federal money that has already been allocated for the project. The project's estimated cost has fluctuated between $33 billion and $98.5 billion, with the current projection at $68 billion. And the federal government is on the hook for half of that amount. The committee intends to assess "the potential risk CHSRA activities might pose for overall federal transportation investment," committee chair U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-California) wrote in the notification letter.
The committee also wants to look into allegations of conflicts of interest involving rail officials and contractors.
"I understand that these conflicts may have contributed to a pattern of weak oversight and mismanagement of the project," the letter stated. "The ability of the California High-Speed Authority to evaluate properly these contractors is incredibly important for the protection of taxpayer money."
The letter indicated there were also questions about the ridership model the CHSRA used to estimate the number of passengers that will use the system, questions about the project's proposed route, and questions about whether the agency has complied with Proposition 1A, the ballot measure authorizing the project.
"California high-speed rail was sold to voters as a grand vision for tomorrow but in practice appears to be no different than countless other pork-barrel projects — driven more by political interests and consultant spending than valid cost-benefit analysis," Issa said. "Before more taxpayer money is sent to the rail authority, questions must be answered about mismanagement, conflicts of interest, route selection, ridership and other risks."
CHSRA officials said only that they would cooperate with the committee and were confident no problems would be found. (LOS ANGELES TIMES, HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES COMMITTEE ON OVERSIGHT AND GOVERNMENT REFORM)
IDAHO'S ONLY BLACK LEGISLATOR RECEIVES KKK MAILING: Idaho Rep. Cherie Buckner-Webb also received some disturbing mail this month: a hand-addressed application to join the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. The application requested a photo, $35 in annual dues and a written statement proclaiming: "I am a White Christian man or woman."
The state's only black legislator, Buckner-Webb said the mailing rekindled childhood memories of a cross burning on her lawn.
"It conjured up a lot of things for me that weren't very comfortable — not fear, but sometimes we get to thinking things are settled," she said.
Although the mailing contained no personal note, Buckner-Webb didn't think it was just a coincidence that she received it.
"Initially, I wondered what was someone's thought process in sending that to me. My first inclination was someone wants me to know the Klan is still around," she said.
But she said the incident had only strengthened her resolve to fight all forms of prejudice.
"I would be a fool not to take note and govern myself accordingly," she said. "It was a sign for me to remain vigilant, to remain careful and to remain thoughtful." (IDAHO STATESMAN [BOISE])
FL HIGH COURT RESTRICTS LOBBYING BY JUDGES: The Florida Supreme Court has promulgated new rules restricting judges from lobbying the Legislature. The rules — reportedly spurred by the "Taj Mahal Scandal" in 2010, when it was revealed that judges had persuaded state lawmakers to approve construction of a lavish $50 million courthouse — bar individual judges from taking budget requests and other legislative suggestions directly to lawmakers without first obtaining approval from the Supreme Court and budget oversight committees. The rules also impose an eight-year term limit on all chief judges.
The Conference of Circuit Judges, chaired by Judge Ronald N. Ficarrotta, is seeking a formal hearing on the rules before they are imposed. The circuit judges contend the restriction on communicating with legislators could violate judges' right to free speech and impose a chilling effect on their ability to respond to lawmakers.
"This could result in an unnecessarily harsh consequence for a judge making an unapproved, yet good faith, recommendation or comment about judicial branch policy," Ficarrotta noted in a brief.
The judges also suggest that term limits for chief judges may be unconstitutional since they are not mentioned in the state Constitution, and may do nothing to strengthen the court system. (TAMPA BAY TIMES)
POLITICS IN BRIEF: A coalition of wealthy NEW YORK residents, unions and other organizations is pushing to enact a public financing system for elections in the state. The group, called New York Leadership for Accountable Government, includes media moguls Barry Diller and Chris Hughes, a founder of Facebook, restaurateur Danny Meyer and philanthropist David Rockefeller Sr. (NEW YORK TIMES. • Only three of the 16 new districts in the congressional map drawn by OHIO lawmakers and signed into law last week by Gov. John Kasich (R) are competitive, according to analysis by the Ohio Campaign for Accountable Redistricting (DAYTON DAILY NEWS).
— Compiled by KOREY CLARK
(04/12/2012 - 05/03/2012)
Arizona Special Primary
US House District AZ 08
Alabama Primary Runoff
US House Districts AL 04 and AL 06
Pennsylvania Primary Election
Constitutional Officers: Treasurer,
Attorney General, Auditor General
US House (All)
Pennsylvania Special Election
House Districts 22, 134, 153, 169, 186 and 197
CHRISTIE STANDS BY TUNNEL DECISION: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) last week vehemently defended his 2010 decision to cancel a train tunnel intended to relieve traffic congestion across the Hudson River after a new government report said he had greatly exaggerated the project's costs.
Although he did not mention the report by name, in a speech at a conference on taxes and the economy held by the George W. Bush Institute in New York City last Tuesday, Christie called the cancelled project "a tunnel to the basement of Macy's" that would have left Garden State residents to pay for billions of dollars of cost overruns.
Christie was reacting to the release of a report from the Government Accountability Office - Congress's independent, nonpartisan investigative arm — that challenged the veracity of his reasons for killing the project, then the biggest public works project in the nation. When he scuttled the project in October 2010, Christie claimed the tunnel would cost between $11 billion and $14 billion. But according to the GAO report, state and federal officials had already agreed that the costs would be from $9.5 billion to $12.4 billion, with Garden State transportation officials saying the tunnel would cost no more than $10 billion. Gov. Christie also said the state was responsible for paying 70 percent of those costs; the GAO report placed the figure at 14.4 percent, with the federal government paying for the rest. The report also disputed his contention that the state was to pay for any cost overruns, saying that was still being negotiated between state and federal authorities at the time Christie killed the project.
The report prompted scathing criticism of the governor from state and federal officials who supported the project, which had been in the works for 15 years and was over a year - and $600 million — into construction at the time it was halted. Assemblyman John S. Wisniewski, who chairs the state Assembly Transportation, Public Works and Independent Authorities Committee, accused Christie killing the project solely to redirect money already set aside for it into the state's moribund transportation trust fund, which subsequently allowed him to keep a campaign promise to not raise the gasoline tax. He called on the state to revive the project, telling the New York Times that, "The governor seized upon incorrect facts and followed the old saw that says if you repeat something often enough, it becomes the truth."
Killing the deal also didn't end the state's financial obligations. The state spent over $1 million more on legal fees after federal officials demanded it repay $271 million in federal dollars already spent on the project. The two parties eventually agreed that the Garden State would repay $95 million of that total.
But Christie spokesman Michael Drewniak argued last week that the GAO report did not include $775 million to build a new portal bridge, a required part of the project, or the costs incurred by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, an entity operated by both states. Drewniak said it also did not account for federal highway and stimulus funds earmarked for state, all of which, when combined, would have put the state's share at 65.5 percent.
"The bottom line is that the G.A.O. report simply bears out what we said in the fall of 2010 and say to this day: the [tunnel] project was a very, very bad deal for New Jersey," he told the Times. (NEW YORK TIMES, NORTHJERSEY.COM, RECORD OF BERGEN COUNTY)
WALKER PLANS NEW DNA PUSH: Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) said he plans to revive a controversial proposal to require police to collect DNA samples from suspects upon arrest in at least some felony and sex cases in his next state budget. Legislation to that effect died in the Badger State Legislature this year amidst concern over the program's cost, estimated to be approximately $4 million in its first year and $2.6 million annually thereafter.
The governor did not reveal details as to what specific offenses would require offenders to give the DNA sample, telling reporters it would be "some felonies and serious sex-related offenses." Walker said he would task Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen with developing the plan. That decision could theoretically add tens of thousands of samples to the state's current DNA database. The state Department of Justice estimated that the requirements of this year's failed legislation, for instance, would have added 90,000 profiles to the database.
Walker, who called DNA the "modern day fingerprint," said that although the program would have significant startup costs, it would eventually save the state money by shortening investigations, get more dangerous offenders off the street and help exonerate wrongly convicted people currently in jail. (LACROSSE TRIBUNE, WISCONSIN GOVERNOR'S OFFICE)
KITZHABER, OTTER CLOSE YEAR VETO-FREE: Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber, a Democrat, and Idaho Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter, a Republican, last week addressed the final bills lawmakers sent them for their respective 2012 sessions, ending the year without vetoing a single measure, though Otter allowed the final three pending measures he faced to become law without his signature. Kitzhaber signed all 112 bills sent to him this year; Otter signed or otherwise allowed 342 measures that came his way to become law. Neither governor was alone in their veto paucity: Utah Gov. Gary Herbert (R) rejected only two of 477 bills that Beehive State lawmakers passed, while to date Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire has outright vetoed only two of 238 bills, though she has partially vetoed a dozen more. (STATE NET)
HICKENLOOPER CALLS FOR MORE WATER CONSERVATION: Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) called for significantly greater water conservation efforts in the Centennial State, telling attendees at a "State of the Rockies" conference that "self-discipline in the amount of water we use is going to be the foundation of everything we will do." The governor pointed to water-poor nations like Australia and Israel as prime examples of highly efficient water usage practices. He also called for building more dams on the imperiled Colorado River, which provides water for 30 million people in seven states and Mexico. Federal data shows those withdrawals exceed the river's annual supply, a situation made all the worse by climate change, population growth and drought. (DENVER POST, COLORADO SPRINGS INDEPENDENT)
GOVERNORS IN BRIEF: U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) voiced cautious support for CALIFORNIA Gov. Jerry Brown's (D) latest proposed high-speed rail plan last week, saying federal support would likely rest on the project's final projected cost. "Do I think it is doable? Yes," she told reporters at a meeting of local government and business leaders in Sacramento. "Do I think it's doable with all the bells and whistles? No" (STATE NET). • NEBRASKA Gov. Dave Heineman (R) signed a five-bill package last week intended to improve the Cornhusker State's child welfare system. The measures, among several things, create a state commission on child welfare (LB 821), ratchet up foster parent payments (LB 1160) and require greater transparency in child welfare spending (LB 949). The two other measures are LB 820 and LB 961 (LINCOLN JOURNAL-STAR). • ILLINOIS Gov. Pat Quinn (D) approved 52 pending clemency requests last week, part of a backlog of over 2,500 such requests. The Prairie State governor also rejected 136 clemency pleas (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES). • KENTUCKY Gov. Steve Beshear (D) signed HB 495, a bill that will allow the Bluegrass State to issue revenue bonds to pay the first three years of interest on $963 million in federal loans that kept the state's unemployment insurance program operating during the recession. Starting in 2014, employers will be assessed a $21-per-employee surcharge to repay the $79 million for the first three years of interest payments and future interest on the debt to the federal government (BOWLING GREEN DAILY NEWS). • NEW YORK Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) said he remains unsure of whether he will support proposed legislation to legalize medial marijuana use in the Empire State. Cuomo said the issue needs more study, saying "the risks outweigh the benefits at this point" (DEMOCRAT AND CHRONICLE).
— Compiled by RICH EHISEN
Here are some of the topics you will see covered in upcoming issues of the State Net Capitol Journal:
- Health care
- The Amazon tax
BUSINESS: The MARYLAND House gives final approval to HB 964, which bars Old Line State employers from asking or requiring job applicants to hand over their user names and passwords for social networking accounts like Facebook and Twitter. The measure moves to Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) for review (STATE NET, BALTIMORE SUN). • The COLORADO Senate approves SB 1, which would give companies bidding for state contracts a 5 percent preference if they certify that at least 90 percent of their workers are Centennial State residents. It is now in the House (DENVER POST). • WISCONSIN Gov. Scott Walker (R) signs SB 202, which bars employees who prevail in workplace discrimination lawsuit from collecting compensatory and punitive damages. Workers could still be awarded back pay, costs and attorney fees (POST-CRESCENT [APPLETON]). • MAINE Gov. Paul LePage (R) signs HB 1214, which limits the legal liability of landowners who participate in the Pine Tree State agritourism industry as long as they post signs stating that visitors accept the "inherent risks" of any activity associated with their business (STATE NET, BANGOR DAILY NEWS). • IDAHO Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter (R) signs SB 1295, which requires Gem State massage therapists to be licensed. Therapists currently practicing have 18 months to obtain a license or face fines (STATE NET, SPOKESMAN-REVIEW [SPOKANE]). • MISSISSIPPI Gov. Phil Bryant (R) signs SB 2878, which permits the professional brewing and sale of beer with alcohol content of up to 8 percent by weight. Current law caps alcohol content at 5 percent. The law takes effect on July 1 (HATTIESBURG AMERICAN). • Also in MISSISSIPPI, the House approves HB 825, which would end the Magnolia State's ratemaking authority over 30,000 local-only AT&T landlines. The measure moves to Gov. Bryant, who is expected to sign it (HATTIESBURG AMERICAN). • OREGON Gov. John Kitzhaber (D) signs SB 1552, legislation that creates a Beaver State foreclosure mediation program that requires banks to meet with borrowers who elect to participate. The law also bars lenders from initiating foreclosure proceedings while simultaneously negotiating for a possible loan modification (OREGONIAN [PORTLAND]). • The CALIFORNIA Supreme Court unanimously rules that while Golden State employers are required to ensure that workers receive "uninterrupted" lunch and other breaks, they are not responsible for making employees actually take those breaks. The decision came in response to a class action lawsuit charging Brinker International, which owns various chain restaurants, of not ensuring their workers get their breaks (SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS).
CRIME & PUNISHMENT: The LOUISIANA House unanimously approves HB 48, which creates the crime of theft of copper and other metals, with violators facing a fine up to $5,000 and up to 10 years in jail. It moves to the Senate (TIMES-PICAYUNE [NEW ORLEANS]). • FLORIDA Gov. Rick Scott (R) signs HB 37, so-called "Caylee's Law" legislation that makes it a third-degree felony to give false information to a law-enforcement officer in the event of missing child. Violators will ace up to five years in prison (ORLANDO SENTINEL). • Still in FLORIDA, Scott vetoes HB 177, which would have allowed some Sunshine State inmates to be released prior to reaching 85 percent of their sentences if they are enrolled in a qualified substance abuse program (ORLANDO SENTINEL). • WISCONSIN Gov. Scott Walker (R) signs AB 397, another so-called Caylee's Law that requires parents or guardians to inform police in a timely manner if a child is missing (WISCONSIN GOVERNOR'S OFFICE). • Still in WISCONSIN, Gov. Walker (R) signs SB 104, which allows Badger State judges to order GPS monitoring for people who violate restraining orders (LACROSSE TRIBUNE). • IDAHO Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter (R) signs SB 1309, which requires Gem State retailers to use an electronic tracking system that allows them to see if a consumer buying pseudoephedrine-containing cold or allergy medications have already reached their purchase limit. Pseudoephedrine is also key ingredient in the production of illegal methamphetamine (STATE NET, IDAHO GOVERNOR'S OFFICE). • The CONNECTICUT House approves SB 280, which would make the Constitution State the 17th, along with the District of Columbia, to repeal capital punishment. The bill is on concurrence in the Senate (HARTFORD COURANT).
EDUCATION: The COLORADO Senate approves SB 15, which would allow undocumented immigrants at Centennial State colleges and universities to pay tuition that is less than out-of-state fees but more than in-state tuition. It now goes to the House (DENVER POST). • WISCONSIN Gov. Scott Walker (R) signs SB 174, which limits participation in the Badger State's voucher program to those school districts in the program when the law took effect (STATE NET, WISCONSIN GOVERNOR'S OFFICE, LACROSSE TRIBUNE). • The LOUISIANA House and Senate give final approval to two bills, HB 974 and HB 976, that collectively would base teacher tenure and compensation at least in part on student performance; tie superintendents' job security to student performance; shift hiring and firing power from school boards to superintendents; create new paths to open independent public charter schools; and establish a statewide program that uses the public-school financing formula to pay private-school tuition for certain low-income students. The bills move to Gov. Bobby Jindal (R), who is expected to sign them into law (TIMES-PICAYUNE [NEW ORLEANS], STATE NET). • ARIZONA Gov. Jan Brewer (R) vetoes HB 2626, which would have expanded the Grand Canyon State's voucher-like program for special needs students to include students classified as gifted, children of military families, and children who attend a failing school (EAST VALLEY TRIBUNE [MESA]). • MISSISSIPPI Gov. Phil Bryant (R) signs HB 1095, which allows Magnolia State colleges and universities the leeway to waive out-of-state tuition fees if they deem doing so to be fiscally responsible (CLARION LEDGER [JACKSON]). • TENNESSEE Gov. Bill Haslam (R) allows HB 368, which would bar schools from prohibiting teachers from challenging curriculum on climate change or evolution, to become law without his signature. Critics argued the law allows teachers to introduce their personal religious or political beliefs into classroom instruction (LOS ANGELES TIMES).
ENERGY: The NEBRASKA Legislature approves LB 1161, a bill that allows the state Department of Environmental Quality to review a new route within the Cornhusker State for TransCanada Corp's Canada-to-TEXAS Keystone XL crude oil pipeline. The measure moves to Gov. Dave Heineman (R) for review (REUTERS).
ENVIRONMENT: The ARIZONA House gives final approval to HB 2199, which would allow mining companies and others businesses to keep environmental audit secret, even if they reveal pollution problems, and would generally disallow them from being used as evidence in civil suits. Under the measure, which now heads to Gov. Jan Brewer for review, businesses still would be subject to sanctions for environmental violations spotted by regulators. And the new legal privilege would not apply in criminal cases (ARIZONA REPUBLIC [PHOENIX], STATE NET). • The HAWAII House approves SB 2873, which would make certain construction projects exempt from environmental impact study requirements. The measure returns to the Senate (ASSOCIATED PRESS). • The NEBRASKA Legislature approves LB 928, a bill that would legalize mountain lion hunting and create a state program that lets hunters donate deer meat to the hungry. The bill moves to Gov. Dave Heineman (R) for review (LINCOLN JOURNAL-STAR).
HEALTH & SCIENCE: The IOWA House approves HF 2458, which would create a loan reimbursement plan for doctors who agree to work in the Hawkeye State's rural areas for at least five years. The proposal, which would offer a maximum of $200,000 in reimbursements, moves to the Senate (DES MOINES REGISTER). • IDAHO Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter (R) signs SB 1294, legislation that bars medical personnel from denying life-prolonging procedures to patients who have requested them (STATE NET, IDAHO GOVERNOR'S OFFICE, IDAHO STATESMAN [BOISE]). • The ALABAMA Senate approves SB 283, which would require health insurers to offer some plans that include coverage for autism treatment. The measure is now in the House (BIRMINGHAM NEWS).
SOCIAL POLICY: The ARIZONA House approves HB 2036, which would bar abortion after the 20th week of pregnancy. The proposal is now with Gov. Jan Brewer (R) for review (EAST VALLEY TRIBUNE [MESA]). • WISCONSIN Gov. Scott Walker (R) signs SB 92, which bars health insurers that participate in a health insurance exchange from offering coverage for abortions except in cases of rape or incest (POST-CRESCENT [APPLETON]). • Also in WISCONSIN, Gov. Walker signs SB 306, which requires a woman seeking an abortion to undergo a physical exam and consult with a doctor alone, away from her friends and family (STATE NET, POST-CRESCENT [APPLETON]). • MICHIGAN Gov. Rick Snyder (R) signs SB 712, which requires lottery winnings to be counted when determining eligibility for public assistance like food stamps. Gov. Snyder also signs SB 711, which requires lottery officials to notify the Dept. of Human Services within seven days of a lottery player winning at least $1,000 (STATE NET, MLIVE.COM).
POTPOURRI: The ALASKA House approves HB 255, which specifically bans drivers from sending, reading or writing text messages while behind the wheel. Lawmakers banned the practice in 2008, but a recent court decision ruled the law was not clear enough. The new measure moves to the Senate (JUNEAU EMPIRE). • IDAHO Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter (R) signs SB 1274, a bill that bans drivers from sending, reading or writing text messages while behind the wheel. The Gem State becomes the 36th state to bar texting-while-driving, as does the District of Columbia. The law takes effect July 1 (IDAHO GOVERNOR'S OFFICE, IDAHO STATESMAN [BOISE]). • MINNESOTA Gov. Mark Dayton (D) signs HF 1829, which allows county attorneys and assistant attorneys to carry firearms on duty as long as they have a valid permit (BRAINERD DISPATCH).
— Compiled by RICH EHISEN
In The Hopper
At any given time, State Net tracks tens of thousands of bills in all 50 states, US Congress, and the District of Columbia. Here's a snapshot of what's in the legislative works:
Number of Prefiles last week: 32
Number of Intros last week: 617
Number of Enacted/Adopted last week: 1,466
Number of 2012 Prefiles to date: 9,941
Number of 2012 Intros to date: 69,318
Number of 2012 Session Enacted/Adopted overall to date: 13,014
Number of bills currently in State Net Database: 164,249
— Compiled By OWEN JARNAGIN
(measures current as of 04/11/2012)
Source: State Net database
Once around the statehouse lightly
SOME HEAVY HUMOR: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is used to jokes about his ample girth. Who, after all, has forgotten former Gov. Jon Corzine's not-remotely subtle ads accusing Christie of "throwing his weight around" as a federal prosecutor. Christie routinely ignores such taunts, but New Jersey Sen. Richard Codey is not so inclined. As the Newark Star-Ledger reports, Codey recently became incensed at a New York Post story about Christie's visit to Israel, headlined "The Whale at the Wall." Codey condemned the story, which also noted that Christie had made "a huge impression" on his trip. Codey, himself a former governor and a possible rival for Christie's job next year, called the story "childish" and "a slap in the face" to serious journalists. Christie, who has sparred with Codey in the past, thanked him but also pled indifference, saying, "If that's the way they want to sell newspapers, that's up to them."
SPEAKING OF LOW BLOWS: Former Michigan Gov. George Romney — father of GOP presidential candidate Mitt — passed away in 1995. But that did not stop him from getting a few moments at center stage of his son's campaign last week via the popular AMC drama, "Mad Men." During the show, a [fictional] character working for New York Mayor John Lindsay [not fictional] rebuffs a request to have the mayor appear at an event with the elder Romney by referring to the governor as "a clown." That sent conservatives to screeching about the allegedly biased liberal media. But as the Hollywood Reporter notes, the dig actually had some historical context. Romney and Lindsay each harbored presidential aspirations, and the two men did not mask their dislike for one another. Sadly for both, the show's resident ad wizard Dom Draper did not actually exist to help either man make it to the White House.
MY GOOGLY EYES ARE WATCHING YOU: As previously noted in this column, women across the country have taken to unusual methods to protest what they see as overreaching regulation of their bodies by some lawmakers. The latest in this ongoing skirmish comes from Arizona, where the Arizona Republic reports that 32 GOP lawmakers each received a special gift a few weeks back: a fuzzy, hand knitted uterus with big googly eyes and a bow. Each individually wrapped uterus came with a letter from a woman opposing legislation that restricts contraception health-care coverage. Neither the receivers nor the sender would comment on the knitting, but each bag also came with a note that read, "Please treat the women in your life as the intelligent persons they are. I have provided you with a uterus. Please leave ours alone."
ALL THE NEWS UNFIT TO PRINT: You would think that even the shadiest political spindoctors would know that everything they put into the public sphere will be scrutinized and dissected like a frog in a 7th grade science class. Wrong. As the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting notes, the state GOP was forced last week to remove a post from Gov. Rick Scott's Facebook page that showed a copy of the Miami Herald featuring a huge headline lauding a new state law that had spurred job growth. Alas, the headline was a fake. The real headline — and the story below it — dealt with the rising murder rate in Guatemala. The brainiacs who carried out the phony photo caper didn't even change the story's original dateline, Guatemala City. A GOP spokesperson blamed the gaffe on "overzealous graphics," which sounds like the words in the headline somehow changed themselves. Herald management called it something else: copyright and trademark infringement. The post came down soon after.
— By RICH EHISEN
In Case You Missed It
We won't know until June whether the Supreme Court will uphold or strike down the Affordable Care Act. But regardless of what the High Court decides, several states are still poised to move ahead with their version of health reform.
In case you missed it, the story can be found on our Web site at http://www.statenet.com/capitol_journal/04-09-2012/html#sncj_spotlight
Editor: Rich Ehisen
Associate Editor: Korey Clark
Contributing Editor: Cynthia McKeeman and Art Zimmerman
Editorial Advisor: Lou Cannon
Correspondents: Richard Cox (CA), Lauren Davis (MA), Steve Karas (CA) and Ben Livingood (PA)