State and Local Government

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Nevada Senate Bill 111: Allow unscheduled audits of state agencies

 

Check out this key bill passed by elected officials in Nevada, check-in to the VoteSpotter app to see how your legislators voted, and comment below to share what you think!

 

Senate Bill 111, Allow unscheduled audits of state agencies: Passed 21 to 0 in the state Senate on February 22, 2017

 

To give the Chair of the Executive Branch Audit Committee unilateral authority to direct the Administrator of the Division of Internal Audits to audit an executive branch agency not slated for audit in its annual plan.

 

Comment below to share what you think of Nevada Senate Bill 111!

 

Iowa Senate Bill 481: To bar cities from enacting "sanctuary city" policies

 

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Senate Bill 481, To bar cities from enacting "sanctuary city" policies: Passed 32 to 15 in the state Senate on April 12, 2017

 

To prohibit cities and counties from banning their law enforcement officers from collecting information regarding an individual’s immigration or citizenship status and providing that information to the federal government.

Citizens and officials may file a complaint with the state attorney general against any local government that imposes a ban. The state may then withhold money from that government until it complies.

 

Comment below to share what you think of Iowa Senate Bill 481!

 

Colorado Senate Bill 040: Change rules governing public disclosure of government documents

 

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Senate Bill 040, Change rules governing public disclosure of government documents: Passed 35 to 0 in the state Senate and 39 to 26 in the State House on May 10, 2017 

 

To alter the reasons why a custodian of records may deny a request to examine public records. The bill would allow custodians of records to deny requests if the record related to physical or digital infrastructure in specific ways, including details of vulnerabilities. The bill also clarifies when a custodian must provide records in digital formats to those requesting the records.

 

Comment below to share what you think of Colorado Senate Bill 040!

 

Florida House Bill 647: Dissolve the Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission

 

 

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House Bill 647, Dissolve the Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission: Passed 118 to 0 in the state House on April 28, 2017

 

To abolish the Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission (PTC) and require the PTC to liquidate all assets and satisfy all obligations/debts by the end of 2017. The PTC is an independent special district created to regulate the operation of taxicabs, limousines, vans, basic life support ambulances, and wrecker services in Hillsborough County.

 

Comment below to share what you think of Florida House Bill 647!

 

McAuliffe’s Vetoes Stick in Virginia

 

Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe has vetoed more bills than any other governor in the commonwealth’s history. Remarkably, none of these vetoes have been overridden by legislators. That record still stands after a recent veto-override session of the General Assembly.


Legislators met on April 5 to vote on overriding Gov. McAuliffe’s vetoes of bills that emerged from the General Assembly this year. In the Senate, 27 votes are needed to override a veto. Republicans have a 21-19 edge in that chamber, so 6 Democrats would have to join the GOP in any override vote. In the House, legislators need 67 votes to override a veto. With a 66 to 34 edge in that chamber, it is easier for Republicans to peel off a Democratic vote to be successful. However, the House was unable to muster a 67-vote majority to override any bill this session.

 

Here are some of the bills vetoed by Gov. McAuliffe this year which are now officially dead after override efforts failed:

 

HB 1400, Allow students to take online schooling: Passed 57 to 40 in the House on February 7 and 22 to 18 in the Senate on February 21

To establish the Virginia Virtual School, which will serve up to 5,000 Virginia student. This online education must meet state standards and will be available beginning 2019.

 

House Bill 1468, Mandate cooperation with federal immigration authorities: Passed 68 to 31 in the House on January 25 and 21 to 19 in the Senate on February 13

To mandate that corrections officials and sheriffs comply with request from the federal government to turn over an incarcerated alien to them.

 

House Bill 2002, Mandate reporting of refugee or immigrant resettlement: Passed 59 to 36 in the House on February 3 and 21 to 19 in the Senate on February 14

To mandate that nonprofits resettlement agencies for immigrants or refugees make an annual report to the state of the number of individuals resettled, the demographic information of those resettled, and the locality where they were resettled.

 

Senate Bill 1362, Allow nonduty military personnel to carry concealed weapons: Passed 22 to 18 in the Senate on January 24 and 67 to 32 in the House on February 22

To allow members of the Virginia National Guard, Virginia Defense Force, Armed Forces of the United States, or Armed Forces Reserves who is on nonduty status to carry a concealed weapon without a permit.

 

Senate Bill 872, Require photo ID for absentee ballots: Passed 20 to 19 in the Senate on January 30 and 60 to 38 in the House on February 14

To require that anyone requesting an absentee ballot by mail to include a copy of his or her photo ID with the request. When the voter submits the completed ballot, he or she must also submit a copy of his or her photo ID. Exempt from this requirement are military and overseas voters as well as voters with disabilities.

 

Senate Bill 1455, Criminalize payments for registering to vote: Passed 21 to 19 in the Senate on January 30 and 60 to 29 in the House on February 14

To make it a felony to offer a payment to someone in exchange for that person registering to vote.

 

Senate Bill 1299, Allow concealed carry with protective order: Passed 27 to 13 in the Senate on January 24 and 66 to 32 in the House on February 14

To allow anyone who is protected by a protective order to carry a concealed weapon without a permit for 45 days after the protective order is issued. Only Virginians eligible under state law to carry a concealed weapon would be permitted to do this.

 

 

Do you think that legislators should have overridden his vetoes of some of these bills? Or are you happy that legislators sustained the governor’s vetoes?

 

Partisanship in Judicial Elections



Is it important for voters to know whether a judge is a Democrat or a Republican?

That is the question at the heart of the debate over whether judicial elections should be partisan.

 

The U.S. is a two-party system. With only rare exceptions, we elect people to the presidency, Congress, governorship, and legislatures from either the Republican or Democratic parties. These party labels are useful because they tell us something about the ideology of a candidate. Voters use party identification as shorthand to help them make up their minds about whom to vote for.

 

In judicial races, however, most states do not have partisan elections. According to Ballotpedia, there are seven states that have partisan races for state supreme court seats. Nine states have partisan elections for appellate court judges and twenty have partisan elections for trial court judges.

 

This issue has recently come up in North Carolina. Superior and district court elections were partisan in that state until 1996 and 2001, respectively. This year, Republican legislators passed a bill to once again make them partisan. Democratic Governor Roy Cooper vetoed the bill, but legislators overrode the veto. During a special session in late 2016, legislators passed a bill that made the state’s supreme court elections partisan. Then-governor Pat McCrory signed that bill into law. North Carolina supreme court candidates ran with party labels prior to the 2004 election.

 

Proponents of partisan judicial elections say that these party labels are needed so voters know the ideology of the judges they are electing. After all, the reasoning goes, these judges decide matters of great importance to the state, so voters should have as much information as possible to indicate how they may rule.

 

Opponents of partisan elections contend that judges have a different role to play than politicians. Judges interpret the law, not make it, so they should not be bringing partisan considerations into their role.

 

What do you think? Should judges run with party labels? Or do party politics have no role to play in judicial elections?

 

States Taking Different Directions on Sanctuary Cities

 

How should states and cities deal with illegal immigrants?

President Donald Trump has taken a variety of actions on immigration at the federal level. Lawmakers in the states are pondering what they can do on this issue, too. Some cities have declared that they are “sanctuary cities” in an attempt to blunt federal immigration efforts. Legislators in some states are working to counteract these efforts. In other areas, legislators want to see their entire state embrace a sanctuary policy.

 

The federal government controls immigration. Federal law determines who can enter this country and who cannot. There is a federal agency, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), that enforces immigration law. There is a longstanding U.S. legal doctrine that forbids the federal government from commandeering state resources to enforce federal laws. This was confirmed by a 1997 Supreme Court decision that overturned a federal law mandating that sheriffs perform background checks for gun purchases.

 

States and cities do not make immigration law, and the federal government cannot compel these law enforcement agencies to do so. City, county, and state law enforcement can cooperate with the federal government on immigration issues in many ways, however, such as informing ICE of detainees’ immigration status or turning over immigrants to ICE upon request.

 

In sanctuary cities, lawmakers have said that local law enforcement will not cooperate with the federal government’s immigration enforcement. ICE is still free to operate in the city, but if an illegal immigrant is in the city jail, for instance, the city will not inform ICE.

 

Cities that have sanctuary policies are not breaking federal law. However, these policies have earned the ire of some state legislators. State governments are ultimately in charge of the extent of cities’ lawmaking jurisdiction. In general, if the state mandates cooperation with the federal government, then cities must comply. Or if state governments refuse to provide funds to cities that do not cooperate with ICE, then cities face a fiscal penalty for their policies.

 

States where legislators are considering bills to prohibit or punish cities refusing to cooperate with federal immigration enforcement include Florida, Idaho, Iowa, Minnesota, Mississippi, North Carolina, Ohio Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Virginia.

 

Other states are moving in the opposite direction. Legislators in California and Maryland are considering bills that would prohibit state and local law enforcement officers from cooperating with federal immigration authorities. These bills would take sanctuary city policies and mandate them on a state level.

 

Do you support sanctuary cities (or sanctuary states)? Or should cities work with the federal government on immigration issues?

 

Missouri Senate Concurrent Resolution 4: Call to Congress for a Convention of the States

 

Check out this key bill recently passed by elected officials in Missouri, and check-in to the VoteSpotter app to see how your legislators voted.

 

Senate Concurrent Resolution 4, Call to Congress for a Convention of the States: Passed 31 to 0 in the state Senate on January 5, 2017

 

To submit an application to Congress calling for a "convention to propose amendments to the U.S. Constitution," limited to the issues of fiscal restraints, federal powers and congressional term limits.

 

 

More ways for lawmakers to exhibit warm-and-fuzzy

Last week explored methods lawmakers use to associate their names with certain interests or causes: Granting specialty license plate fundraising privileges toselect nonprofits. This edition expands on that theme, looking at bills in the current legilslature that grant select nonprofits additional privileges including state income tax fundraising privileges and property tax breaks.

 

House Bill 5225: Authorize income tax checkoff for prostate awareness group

Introduced by Rep. Paul Muxlow (R), to allow an individual to choose to automatically contribute $5 or more from his or her state income tax refund, which the state would give to a particular foundation named in the bill that does various things related to prostate cancer (PCUPS Foundation). Referred to committee, no further action at this time.

House Bill 4817: Authorize income tax checkoff for Junior Achievement organization

Introduced by Rep. Brandt Iden (R), to allow an individual to choose to automatically contribute $5 or more from his or her state income tax refund to provide grants to local Junior Achievement organizations. Signed into law by Gov. Rick Snyder on June 15.

House Bill 4647: Authorize income tax checkoff for Boy Scouts

Introduced by Rep. Phil Potvin (R), to allow an individual to choose to automatically contribute $5 or more from his or her state income tax refund to a state Scouts Fund. House Bill 4648 would convert an existing state Girl Scouts Fund into a Scouts Fund to benefit both organizations. Advanced from committee, pending before the full House.

House Bill 4892: Authorize Lions Club income tax checkoff

Introduced by Rep. Wendell Byrd (D), to allow an individual to choose to automatically contribute $5 or more from his or her state income tax refund to provide grants to the Lions Club organizations. Referred to committee, no further action at this time.

Senate Bill 428: Authorize Red Cross income tax checkoff

Introduced by Sen. Rick Jones (R), to allow an individual to choose to automatically contribute $5 or more from his or her state income tax refund to provide grants to the mid-Michigan Chapter of the American Red Cross. Signed into law by Gov. Rick Snyder on June 15, 2016.

Senate Bill 570 and House Bill 5109: Give tax break to some conservation clubs

Introduced by Sen. Peter MacGregor (R) and Rep. Jim Tedder (R), to exempt from property taxes conservation clubs that allow their facilities to be used for charitable purposes at least 55 days a year. SB 570 has been advanced from committee and is pending before the full Senate.

Senate Bill 732: Exempt Masons lodges from property tax

Introduced by Sen. Rick Jones (R), to allow local governments to exempt property owned by Masons' lodges from most property tax levies if the property is used for charitable purposes. Advanced from committee, pending before the full Senate.

What’s the Fuss over Sanctuary Cities in Pennsylvania?

Senator Pat Toomey doesn’t like sanctuary cities. He’s trying to make it a big issue in his campaign for re-election. So what are sanctuary cities?

When the federal government passes a law, it cannot direct state or local police to enforce that law. These agencies can cooperate with the federal government, but they are under no obligation to do so. Some cities, such as Philadelphia, use this leeway to refuse to cooperate with federal immigration authorities. While policies differ in municipalities that term themselves “sanctuary cities,” local police in these cities generally do not inquire about the immigration status of people they arrest. They also do not comply with federal orders asking them to continue detaining illegal immigrants who would otherwise be released from custody.

 

Senator Toomey sponsored legislation that would deny federal Economic Development Assistance and Community Development Block Grant funding for cities that do not share information about an individual’s immigration status with the federal government or that refuse to comply with an immigration detention order. In a July vote, that bill failed to gain the 60 votes necessary to proceed in the Senate.

 

According to Senator Toomey, “Sanctuary cities also create serious obstacles for the war on terror” by limiting local law enforcement cooperation with the federal government. Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney disagrees, saying Sen. Toomey’s claims are “nothing more than fearmongering to further his re-election campaign.”

 

Katie McGinty, who is challenging Sen. Toomey, says, “No one thinks sanctuary cities are the solution, but it’s the result of the immigration crisis Senator Toomey made worse.  Instead of trying to help Philadelphia solve this problem, he opposed comprehensive immigration reform and is now embracing the hateful policies of Donald ‘let’s build a wall’ Trump.”

Legislature grants special license plate fundraising privileges to select nonprofits

One of the methods lawmakers use to associate their names with certain interests or causes: granting select nonprofits the privilege of using specialty license plate sales to raise money. Here is a list of the bills from the current legislative session authorizing this for certain groups or causes:

 

House Bill 5586: Authorize autism specialty license plate; give profits to advocacy group

Introduced by Rep. Tom Barrett (R), to authorize a specialty license plate promoting autism awareness, and give the profits to a private advocacy organization. Referred to committee, no further action at this time.

Senate Bill 808: Authorize new specialty license plate; give profits to MADD

Introduced by Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker (R), to authorize a new specialty license plate, with the profits given to the Mothers Against Drunk Driving organization. Referred to committee, no further action at this time.

House Bill 5349: Authorize a no-kill animal shelters license plate; give profits to advocacy group

Introduced by Rep. Charles Brunner (D), to authorize a specialty license plate promoting animal shelters that don’t use euthanasia, and give the profits to a private organization campaigning for this. Referred to committee, no further action at this time.

House Bill 5224: Authorize a prostate awareness license plate; give profits to advocacy group

Introduced by Rep. Paul Muxlow (R), to authorize a prostrate cancer awareness specialty license plate, and give the profits to a particular foundation named in the bill (PCUPS Foundation). Referred to committee, no further action at this time.

House Bill 5204: Authorize new specialty license plate; give profits to libraries

Introduced by Rep. Edward McBroom (R), to authorize a new libraries specialty license plate, with the profits delivered public libraries. Referred to committee, no further action at this time.

House Bill 5108: Authorize a snowsports industry license plate; give profits to industry group

Introduced by Rep. Lee Chatfield (R), to authorize a snowsports industry specialty license plate, and give the profits to a trade and lobbyist organization called the Michigan Snowsports Industries Association. Referred to committee, no further action at this time.

House Bill 5083: Authorize new specialty license plate; give profits to Knights of Columbus

Introduced by Rep. Peter Lucido (R), to authorize a new Knights of Columbus specialty license plate, with the profits delivered to that organization. Referred to committee, no further action at this time.

House Bill 5082: Authorize new specialty license plate; give profits to Lions Club

Introduced by Rep. Peter Lucido (R), to authorize a Lions Club specialty license plate, with the net revenue going to the Lions Club. Referred to committee, no further action at this time.

House Bill 4932: Authorize a Kiwanis specialty license plate; give profits to Kiwanis Club

Introduced by Rep. Peter Lucido (R), to authorize a Kiwanis Club specialty license plate, with the net revenue going to the Kiwanis Club. Referred to committee, no further action at this time.

Senate Bill 367: Authorize a Thin Blue Line specialty license plate; give profits to advocacy group

Introduced by Sen. Mike Nofs (R), to authorize a Thin Blue Line specialty license plate, with the net revenue going to the “Thin Blue Line” organization, to be used solely to assist and support the families of injured or deceased law enforcement officers within the state. Reported from committee, pending before full Senate.

Senate Bill 308: Authorize black Greek letter organizations specialty license plate; give profits to United Negro College Fund

Introduced by Sen. Coleman Young, II (D), to authorize a specialty license plate honoring several African American fraternities and sororities specified in the bill, with the premium revenue going to the United Negro College Fund. Referred to committee, no further action at this time.

Senate Bill 264: Authorize wild turkey specialty license plate; give profits to advocacy group

Introduced by Sen. Wayne Schmidt (R), to authorize a specialty license plate honoring the National Wild Turkey Federation, with the premium revenue going to that organization. Referred to committee, no further action at this time.

Senate Bill 223 and House Bill 4360: Authorize Women’s Health license plate; use profits for government programs

Introduced by Sen. Hoon-Yung Hopgood (D) and Rep. Pam Faris (D), respectively, to require the Secretary of State to develop a Women’s Health license plate, with fees collected from its sale added to amounts spent for government programs to reduce unintended pregnancies, reduce child obesity, reduce sexually transmitted diseases and more. Referred to committee, no further action at this time.

House Bill 4348: Authorize Girl Scouts specialty license plate; give profits to Scouts

Introduced by Rep. Pam Faris (D), to authorize a specialty license plate honoring the Girl Scouts of America, with the premium revenue going to that organization. Referred to committee, no further action at this time.

Senate Bill 186: Authorize professional sports teams specialty license plates; give profits to team charities

Introduced by Sen. Jim Stamas (R), to authorize a specialty license plate for professional sports teams, including the Detroit Red Wings, Detroit Lions, Detroit Pistons, Detroit Tigers and the Michigan International Speedway. Proceeds from the sale of the license plates would go to charitable organizations created by these entities. Passed 35 to 1 in the Senate on May 26, 2015, referred to House committee.

Senate Bill 76: Authorize new specialty license plate; give profits to private organization

Introduced by Sen. Vincent Gregory (D), to authorize a new women veterans specialty license plate, and turn over the profits to the American Cancer Society. Referred to committee, no further action at this time.

House Bill 5447: Cap the number of fundraising specialty license plates

Introduced by Rep. Peter Pettalia (R), to cap the number of specialty fundraising license plates at 10, and revise details of this program including the amount an interest must pay to get this privilege, and how many of their plates must sell each year to keep it. Passed 90 to 18 in the House, referred to committee in the Senate.

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