Weekly Web Gems: The Politics of the States

Will crucial independent voters turn out in next Tuesday's California primaries?

For the first time under a new procedure, California voters will be able to vote for anyone in their relevant primaries, regardless of party affiliation. Passed in 2010, Proposition 14 instituted non-partisan blanket primaries in which candidates of any party affiliation compete for a top-two runoff in the general election. Many believe that newly-empowered unaffiliated voters will be crucial to this process, but the question remains as to whether they will turn out. Groups like the Independent Voter Project are aiming to do just that. [Sacramento Bee]

They’re back. New Jersey’s most prominent bipartisan couple, Governor Chris Christie and Newark Mayor Cory Booker, seem to have gotten past a minor spat last fall, and created a “Seinfeld” parody together. It’s an old video, to be sure, but it’s worth noting for the bipartisan spirit. The video, filmed for the New Jersey Press Association’s Legislative Correspondents Club, consists largely of Booker foiling Christie’s attempts at outdoing the Mayor’s larger-than-life feats of strength and bravery. (Warning: there is Tebowing with a baby.) [Huffington Post]

If Wisconsin is a sign of things to come in November, we all have a lot to worry about. Democrats especially. As that state’s gubernatorial recall election fast approaches (also on June 5; keep your calendars open), incumbent Republican Scott Walker and his allies have massively outspent challenger Tom Barrett. (Though to be fair, Walker was not subject to the same fundraising limits as Barrett leasing up to the election.) In any event, both Walker and Barrett, the Milwaukee mayor who faced Walker in the 2010 election, have been aided by millions in outside funding, including $4.8 million from the Republican Governors Association and $4.4 million from labor groups who attacked Walker in support of Barret’s primary opponent, former Dane County executive Kathleen Falk. [Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel]

Sometimes, a state’s problem lies beyond partisan bickering and simply fall under the category of “poor choices.” Such is the case in Rhode Island, which effectively owns 38 Studios, a creator of video games. Or, as it were, a former creator of video games. In 2010, then-governor Donald Carcieri pushed for a major loan to 38 Studios, which former Boston Red Sox pitcher Curtis Schilling founded in 2006. The deal was unpopular with the public, and all three major gubernatorial candidates in 2010 opposed it. Now, after releasing precisely one game, 38 studios effectively went out of business last Thursday, taking 400 Rhode Islanders’ jobs, their health insurance, and $112 million in loan principal, interest, and fees with it. [CNN]

Zac Byer’s Prix Fixe Politics: Super Tuesday Special

Good morning, and welcome to Super Tuesday! As Mitt Romney continues his quest to win the look-alike contest with the guy in the Levitra commercials — I mean, win the Republican nomination — here is your prix fixe menu for one of politicos’ favorite days of the year…

Appetizer: Anti-incumbent sentiment is at an all-time high. If you took high school civics, you know that incumbents have a 90+% re-election rate. In 2012, however, nearly 50% say they would vote out their congressman, and Congress’ approval rating is 9% (I bet Gaddafi had a higher approval rating). We won’t see turnover like that, of course, but there’s fear on Capitol Hill of a “Vote Them All Out” groundswell propagated by someone like Donald Trump. What do House Republicans have going for them, even though they could give back the congressional majority they won on the Tea Party wave in 2010? We’ve found Nancy Pelosi’s unfavorability numbers are 15 points higher than John Boehner’s. Not that people are pleased with Boehner, but tell them that Pelosi may become Speaker again, and they shudder. Look for a recycling of the anti-Pelosi videos and images from the best ads of 2010.

Read the rest of…
Zac Byer’s Prix Fixe Politics: Super Tuesday Special

The RP’s Weekly Web Gems– The Politics of the States

An attempt at mediating Ohio's congressional redistricting woes has fallen on deaf ears.

We start the first Politics of the States for quite some time in Ohio, where Secretary of State Jon Hustead has reached out across party lines to reform the redistricting process in a state marred by partisan gerrymandering and other redistricting woes. Hustead, a Republican and former state Senator and Representative, sent a letter to Republican Speaker William Batchelder and to Vernon Sykes, a Democrat on the Ohio Constitutional Modernization Commission, calling for an improvement to the system and restoration of trust in Ohio’s government. A spokesman for Batchelder, who represents a rural area outside of Cleveland, said the Speaker would “look into” the Secretary’s concerns. [Columbus Post Dispatch]

Judgeships are at work creating partisan divides in Wisconsin again, though this time, mostly within the Republican Party. A dispute has arisen in rural Marinette County, near the border with Michigan’s Upper Peninsula between two potential appointees to a vacant seat for a circuit judge in that county; the applicants are a lifetime Marinette resident and a former resident who had been living just over the border in Menominee County, Michigan. The details of the case are complex and deal largely with Wisconsin Republican politics, but it nevertheless highlights, as the article points out, the extent to which supposedly non-partisan judicial appointments and elections are driven by political affiliations. [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel]

Florida is looking to reform car insurance, an industry that sees more than $1 billion in fraud per year in the Sunshine State alone. At the behest of Governor Rick Scott, several plans are being explored in the State Senate and House of Representatives– By Republicans. Surprising no one, these myriad plans have yet to attract any substantial measure of Democratic support in a state where the GOP controls both the executive and legislative branches. As a result of the lack of support from the left side of the aisle, legislators are beginning to look at proposals that had been discarded out of hand. [Tampa Bay Times]

It may be generously described as good news for California, but is certainly bad news for Illinois, as the Golden State has fallen behind the Land of Lincoln as the US State with the worst credit rating. Moody’s Analytics downgraded Illinois to an A2 rating as a result of that state’s inability to deal with outstanding pension liabilities, while California has slowly been crawling out of its massive debt hole, although a failed debt reduction deal earlier this year contributed to an increase in the state’s deficit. [Sacramento Bee]

It hasn’t been dominating headlines, but New York has been having a bit of a fight over whether to expand the State Senate to 63 seats from its current 62. The sides in the debate have fallen along, what else, party lines. Albany’s Times Union provides an interesting overview of the situation. [Albany Times Union]

The RP’s Weekly Web Gems– The Politics of the States

US House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) has been implicated in a far-reaching report about Ohio Republicans' redistricting practices.

Something is afoot in Ohio, and a report last Monday showed as much. According to a document compiled and released by the Ohio Campaign for Accountable Redistricting, which includes the League of Women Voters of Ohio and Ohio Citizen Action amongst other groups, redistricting conspiracies may have actually occurred in that state involving Speaker of the United States House of Representative John Boehner. The report, which uses public records for many of its sources, says that Boehner was working behind the scenes to help guide a redistricting effort that heavily favored Republicans, and that two Republican legislative staffers were paid some $210,000 for three months of work. Moreover, the group alleges that $10,000 in taxpayer money was used to pay for a hotel room in which to do redistricting work in secret. Ohio Democrats are calling for a large-scale investigation. [Columbus Dispatch]

The saga continues in Wisconsin, as Scott Walker’s campaign and the state Republican Party are suing the non-partisan Government Accountability Board, the state’s election watchdog. The Board was created in 2007 to replace an overtly partisan elections board whose members were appointed one apiece by the governor, the speaker of the Assembly, the Senate majority leader, the Assembly minority leader, the Senate minority leader, the chief justice of the Supreme Court, and the state chairs of the Democratic and Republican parties, with the occasional addition of a third party. The change was made in response to allegations that the elections board was giving unfair advantage to then-incumbent Democratic governor Jim Doyle in his reelection effort. The great irony of all this? Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald, a Republican, voted in favor of the GAB’s creation in 2007, and is now working to dismantle it in favor of the old system. [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel]

Not all hyper-partisanship leads to a totally broken system. In Illinois, legislators have spent the past year learning to work together, and though the state has some major budgetary hurdles left to jump, both Republicans and Democrats are willing to admit that progress has been made. Amongst other achievements, Illinois tightened Medicaid eligibility to ensure its further survival, abolished the death penalty, enacted education reform, and legalized same-sex civil unions, all with bipartisan support. Perhaps most importantly, the state’s budget was written in a much more public manner, while Republicans softened their rhetoric on House Speaker Mike Madigan when it came time to work with him on these issues. [Springfield State Journal-Register]

New York’s own unique redistricting issues continue, as Upstate Republicans file suit in the state Supreme Court over a 2010 law that mandates prisoners be counted in their last known address. In the past, prisoners have been counted as living in their jail cells, and most of New York’s are in sparsely-populated Upstate congressional districts, while most prisoners are coming from New York City and other points downstate. The official reasoning behind the Republicans’ complaint is that prisoners who do not provide a valid non-prison address would not be counted at all, thus leading to inaccurate apportionment of districts. [Albany Times Union]

They haven’t had a pay raise in over five years, but Florida’s state legislators have found another way to reward themselves for a hard session’s work by taking off December 23. Ostensibly a way of cutting back on state expenses, Governor Rick Scott has given legislators this break partially in recognition of the lack of cost-of-living salary increases. [Miami Herald]

The RP’s Weekly Web Gems– The Politics of the States

In New York, Assembly Minority Leader is saying nothing about his recent meeting with Governor Andrew Cuomo, but it is an improvement over the partisan bickering that New York has suffered through in recent years.

It’s hard to say if this is good or bad. New York’s Assembly Minority Leader, Brian Kolb, a Syracuse area Republican, and Democratic governor Andrew Cuomo are keeping their lips sealed about a recent meeting. On the one hand, secretiveness in government is never a good thing, but Kolb and Cuomo are specifically refraining from trashing each other over the rather contentious matter of whether Assembly Republicans will be joining their Democratic colleagues for an extra session later this month, so that has to be worth something. [Albany Times Union]

In a win for civility, if not for bipartisanship, Lenny Curry, chairman of the Florida Republican Party, has called for an end to personal attacks in that party’s Senate primary race this year and next. Attacks have been brutal, especially since US Representative Connie Mack entered the race and became an automatic frontrunner based on name recognition alone. To be fair, Curry uses some rather strong language against incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson, but his plea for civility in the primary is nevertheless a step in the right direction. [St. Petersburg Times]

Because they apparently ran out of things to fight over, the Wisconsins State Legislature is up in arms over which party is more fiscally responsible when it comes to new train facilities in Milwaukee. Although high-speed rail was shot down last year, improvements still need to be made, in particular for the Hiawatha line between Chicago and Milwaukee. The brouhaha, which was set off by a no-bid contract awarded under previous governor Jim Doyle, a Democrat, is particularly pointless insofar as train spending in Wisconsin is dwarfed 40-fold by its road and highway expenditures. [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel]

Leading the country in Potemkin bipartisanship this week is Ohio, whose House of Representatives last Wednesday passed a bill that would ban the use of public funds for political purposes, after the Toledo Area Regional Transit Authority did just that in 2007. The bill passed 90-2, but House Republicans shot down an amendment that would allow the recall of public officials. [Columbus Dispatch]

The California Supreme Court is expediting its decision on whether and how to implement new State Senate maps, with a ruling expected by the end of January. It is hoped that by speeding along this ruling, the Court will be able to end the long partisan nightmare that has only exacerbated California’s already deeply-divided political world. [Sacramento Bee]

Weekly Web Gems- The Politics of the States

The New York State Legislature will be returning to chambers later this week, though no one seems to know why, or even if there will be any Republicans present.

Following up on a previous Recovering Politician blog post, the New York State Legislature will indeed be returning to chambers this week, though nobody seems quite certain what they’ll be doing. Moreover, only Democrats have promised to come back for further legislative sessions, while no Republicans have said whether they plan on working out the numerous budget issues that continue to face New York State. [NY Daily News]

In the story of partisan politics that just wouldn’t die, Wisconsin Republicans are refusing to pay legal expenses incurred by their Democratic colleagues during that state’s public sector union battle. Bob Jambois, a lawyer who represented Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca, a Kenosha Democrat, says he is owed $15,155 in legal fees, which the State Assembly is obligated to pay. “If we have to pay it, we’ll probably pay it,” Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald, a Republican representing rural Horicon, was quoted as saying, while not commenting on whether the assembly would pay the fees otherwise. Thus far, the Assembly has paid $294,094 to Michael Best, a lawyer who represented Republicans in that body, in addition to $27,706 to lawyers representing Senate Minority Leader Mark Miller and Secretary of State Douglas LaFollette, both Democrats. [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel]

In the interest of full disclosure, this is where the redistricting stories begin. Feel free to stop reading if you wish, but at least the first item should be of interest.

Following a court-drawn Congressional District map, Texas Secretary of State Greg Abbott has asked the Supreme Court of the United States to block that map from being implemented, calling it “legally flawed” and “likely to be overturned on further review.” The map was drawn after an earlier, heavily gerrymandered map was rejected by federal courts. Texas gained four new Congressional seats in the latest round of redistricting, after Census data showed the state had gained 4 million residents, growth that was driven almost exclusively by minorities and largely by Hispanics. Republican-drawn maps gave that party a massive advantage in the new seats, while the court-drawn map includes three minority-majority districts. [CNN]

A GOP-backed group has filed suit against newly-drawn State Senate maps, asking that they be shelved if and when the group receives the requisite 504,760 valid signatures to put the maps on statewide ballot. Fairness and Accountability in Redistricting (FAIR) argues that maps drawn by the state’s Citizens Redistricting Commission are unfair to California Republicans, and that the state should either revert to old maps, combine two adjacent Assembly districts to create each Senate district, or some combination of the above. This is not the first time Republicans have taken legal action against California’s new legislative districts; its new United States House districts have also been challenged in court. [Sacramento Bee]

Florida’s new State Senate maps were drawn without political data, but they nevertheless appear to benefit Republicans, who control the state legislature and the governor’s office. Although a handful of incumbents are squeezed in the new districts, Florida’s minorities and Democrats find themselves compressed into fewer districts than before in not one but two proposed State Senate maps, a state of affairs that is drawing some criticism in the Sunshine State. [St. Petersburg Times]

Weekly Web Gems- The Politics of the States

In some sad news for bipartisan cooperation, the friendly relationship between New Jersey's governor and the mayor of its largest city may be gone for good.

It may be the end of a beautiful (bipartisan) friendship in New Jersey, as Republican governor Chris Christie and Newark’s Democratic mayor, Cory Booker, are said to be no longer on good terms with one another. Earlier in Christie’s term, the two had been famously cordial, though a recent brouhaha over Christie’s interview with Oprah Winfrey in Newark seems to have highlighted a drifting apart. Explanations of this are varied, though they include Christie’s desire to cut funding to various institutions of higher education in Newark, in addition to Booker’s political aspirations– he is rumored to be considering a run agains Christie in 2013 or, failing that, a bid for the United States Senate in 2014. [NJ.com]

Redistricting fights have taken on a racial tone in Florida, where lawmakers are mulling Constitutional changes that would prohibit making it difficult for ethnic and language minorities to elect legislative representatives who are members of those same minorities. The chief issue here is that there is limited legal language, either state or federal, regarding what constitutes such maneuvering, and in the meantime, state legislators have been butting heads with each other and various interest groups over redistricting. Most notably, Republican State Senator Alan Hays has suggested that all Hispanic Floridians be checked for citizenship before majority-Hispanic districts are drawn, while Democrat Nan Rich has critiqued the NAACP’s efforts to keep minority-majority districts in spite of voter wishes. [St. Petersburg Times]

In California, Republicans continue to stoke redistricting fight fires, as the most recent, citizen-drawn legislative district maps are being challenged in federal court. Brought by former Congressman George Radanovich, the suit, which the California Supreme Court refused to hear last month, allege that by protecting three Los Angeles-area incumbents, the Citizens Redistricting Commission infringed on the rights of African-American and Latino voting communities. The redrawn lines preserve three African-American-plurality seats in Los Angeles County, a maneuver which the suit says costs other ethnic groups in the short run and may backfire on African-American voters in the longer run. [Sacramento Bee]

Still more redistricting fighting, this time in Wisconsin, where two cases are in court deciding whether upcoming recall elections should take place in new or old legislative districts. Republicans, who drew district lines that reach appropriate population levels and, unsurprisingly, favor that party, argue that it is unconstitutional for recall elections to be held along old lines, leading to a situation in which people will voting for or against someone who will not represent them in the state legislature after next year. Democrats, meanwhile, argue that the new map is unconstitutional, and that many people who voted for one person in the previous election will not be able to vote for or against that person again if the new maps are utilized. [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel]

They couldn’t all be about redistricting. New York’s elected officials are at odds as to whether or not the state legislature will be called back into session this year, with some Senate Republicans and Democratic governor Andrew Cuomo saying it most likely will next month, while party leaders on both sides deny that this is likely. The cleave over a new legislative session to address pressing budget concerns is indicative of intra-party splits in New York, most notably that between Cuomo and his more liberal party rank-and-file. [NY Daily News]

The RP’s Weekly Web Gems- The Politics of the States

Wisconsins is fed up on every level possible in a must-read from the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel

Wisconsin may have finally had enough of its toxic political climate–  the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel put up a must-read piece yesterday about that state’s loss of civility. It cites, amongst other evidence, protests held outside of politicans’ homes, and the recently-launched effort to recall Republican Governor and Lieutenant Governor Scott Walker and Rebecca Kleefisch and four Republican State Senators. Democrat Tim Cullen, a State Senator who has been referred to in this blog before, said he never received a death threat until this year, in spite of having served in the Senate for several years in the 1970s and 80s. [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel]

California, easily the country’s most financially-befouled state, finally has someone advocating for bipartisan solutions to the problem. Think Long, made up of business and labor leaders in addition to officials including former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown, proposes a mostly tax-based fix to the Golden State’s budget woes. In particular, they advocate flattening tax rates and implementing a sales tax on more goods than are currently taxed. A draft report can be seen here, but a final report is expected some time today. [Sacramento Bee]

Ohio Governor John Kasich, a Republican, appointed Democratic Senate Minority Leader Jason Wilson to head the Governor’s Office of Appalachia, a rare move of bipartisan goodwill for the embattled governor. Wilson, who would have had to move to run for Senate again as a result of redistricting, will continue to represent his far-eastern Ohio constituents in this position, intended to foster development in the economically-downtrodden Appalachian Mountains. [Columbus Dispatch]

The internal revolt in New York’s Democratic Party continues. State Chairman Jay Jacobs stymied a move on Thursday to endorse a millionaires tax hike and a ban on natural gas extraction via hydrofracking in western and Upstate New York. Both of these positions would have put the party decisively to the left of Democratic governor Andrew Cuomo, a split that has left the party rank-and-file, especially its influential New York City members, frustrated over the past several months. [Newsday]

Petty redistricting politics continue, as Democrats in the Florida House of Representatives tussle with their Republican counterparts about cancelled redistricting meetings across the state. [St. Petersburg Times]

The RP’s Weekly Web Gems- The Politics of the States

This is the message that greets visitors to California's newly-defunct transparency website.

Earlier this month, California Governor Jerry Brown (D) shut down a transparency website that his Republican predecessor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, had established. The site, transparency.ca.gov, was lauded as a centralized point from which Californians could access the complete array of official documents and spending reports publicly released by their state government, though a spokeswoman for Brown said that all records will be available at other sites or by request. The latter group includes trip and spending reports, which the Brown Administration maintains are fare lower than those of the Schwarzenegger Administration. [Sacramento Bee]

A federal court indicated that Texas’s Republican-drawn Congressional map will almost certainly be thrown out in favor of a court-drawn map, at least temporarily. Because of a history of racial discrimination, Texas, along with several other Southern states, is required to have its Congressional maps approved by the federal government, which in this case will be drawing a map considerably less favorable to Republicans, affording Democrats further opportunities to capture the United States House of Representatives in 2012. [The Hill]

In New York, Democrats failed to obtain a veto-proof State Assembly when Republican Raymond Walter bested Craig Bucki, his Democratic opponent, in a Buffalo-area special election to replace retiring Assemblyman James Hayes. Unexpectedly, this outcome is considered a win for Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo, as it strongly reduces the possibility of his party overriding vetos on issues where they are considerably to the left of the governor, namely property tax and budget cuts. [NY Daily News]

An attempt by Ohio Republicans to reach a Congressional map compromise with black lawmakers and avoid a Democratic-backed referendum is being met with further criticism, as it only significantly changes the borders of one district, which makes it only slightly less Republican. Moreover, There are now actually fewer competitive districts than in earlier maps, all of which lean Republican, giving the party a strong shot at winning 12 of the 16 Congressional seats Ohio will have beginning in 2013. According to Jim Slagle of the Campaign for Accountable Redistricting, the current map scores lower for competitiveness than all 53 submitted in a statewide competition that the Campaign held. [Columbus Dispatch]

Wisconsin’s fall legislative session continues, but lawmaking appears to have stopped, with key economic initiativs and plans left in the lurch. Although the state legislature would normally have several more weeks of floor debate and votes, a new round of recall votes is expected to slow or stop progress for the next several weeks, and highly-involved economic bills have been left unattended to, with simpler legislation like a bill providing legal protection to people who shoot home invaders has passed with no difficulty. This is, in many ways, a repeat of this past summer, when a suite of recall elections stopped Wisconsin lawmaking in its tracks for weeks. [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel]

The RP’s Weekly Web Gems- The Politics of the States

According to a new book, Arizona Representative Gabby Giffords continues to recover from he near-fatal shooting and remains aware of the more amusing aspects of California politics.

A little bit of levity can never hurt. Arizona Representative Gabrielle Giffords, critically wounded in a shooting that left six others dead and 12 wounded, is quoted extensively in her and her husband Mark Kelly’s new book about  the ordeal as making numerous political witticism’s. Most notable? Upon seeing a picture of former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Giffords is reported to have said “Messin’ around. Babies.” The book, Gabby: A Story of Courage and Hope, hits bookshelves next Tuesday, November 15. [Huffington Post]

The New Jersey General Assembly continued, without resolution, its battle over whether Speaker Sheila Oliver (D-East Orange) would be able to keep her position. Oliver, the state’s first female, black Speaker, is being assailed by her own party, led by majority leader Joseph Cryan (D-Union), who is angling for the Speaker slot. Oliver’s offense? Breaking with her caucus and agreeing to bring healthcare and pension reforms up for debate in the Assembly. Vincent Prieto (D-Hudson), claimed Friday that a coalition to keep Oliver’s position safe had been established, but Cryan denounced that claim as premature. [NJ.com]

In the Wisconsin State Assembly, a bill is being voted upon that would lower the qualifications for primary and secondary school nurses. Opposed strenuously by the Wisconsin Association of School Nurses, the measure would repeal an administrative rule passed last year (and supported by the Association) that requires school nurses to possess a four-year bachelor’s degree. Although public health training requirements would remain the same, the Association argues that by permitting two-year Associate’s degrees, the level of care being provided will decline. [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel]

A bill was introduced in the Massachusetts State Senate that would require that state’s public schools teach social media skills. The bill, introduced by Sen. Katherine Clark (D-Melrose), was scheduled for a hearing last week, but there has been no word since on the status of the bill or the reaction from teachers’ unions and other such industry groups. [Boston Herald]

The race for New York’s 10th Congressional District is getting interesting as Democratic candidate Hakeem Jeffries, who is looking to unseat 15-term incumbent Edolphus Towns in next year’s primary, is looking to exploit a potential weakness in Towns’s fundraising. After using his considerable clout to direct fundraising efforts to his daughter Deidra, the elder Towns’s coffers are less than full, leaving Jeffries and others to wonder if that venture left him less able to compete in future House races. Deidra Towns was running in a special election to replace her brother in a State Assembly seat. [NY Daily News]

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