This week at progressive state blogs: Skewing science in Idaho; jettisoning Baumgardner in Colorado

A ColoradoPols, a staffer writes—Dems Up Pressure on Grantham: Don’t Let Baumgardner Skate

In a statement issued moments ago, Colorado Senate Democrats are calling on Sen. Randy Baumgardner to resign from office.

Through media reports, we understand that an independent investigation has found sexual harassment allegations against Senator Randy Baumgardner to be credible — allegations that he inappropriately touched a staff member on multiple occasions.

Victims and the public at large deserve swift, deliberative, and transparent action in response to these allegations. Instead, despite having access to the independent investigation’s findings for weeks, Senate GOP leadership has taken no action and said that the public may never know what happens. Good faith efforts by our leadership to clarify the process and move things forward have been rebuffed and delayed.

We have no choice but to call for Senator Baumgardner to resign from public office. In the meantime, he must also be stripped of his committee chairmanships.

As the Pueblo Chieftain’s Peter Roper reports, Senate Democrats are sounding the alarm following a determination by investigators that a sexual harassment complaint against Sen. Randy Baumgardner is factual–demanding that Senate President Kevin Grantham allow his Democratic counterpart Minority Leader Lucia Guzman to participate in the disciplinary process and ensure the punishment fits the crime:

At Uppity Wisconsin, Scott Gordon writes—Gaps, Guardrails And The Fast-Advancing Math Of Partisan Gerrymandering:

The arguments driving a potentially landmark court case over partisan gerrymandering in Wisconsin may already be outdated.

Uppity Wisconsin state blog

Argued before the U.S. Supreme Court in October 2017 and due for a decision by June 2018, the lawsuit Gill v. Whitford centers around several different mathematical formulas that attempt to quantify the effects of redistricting on voters’ rights in a representative democracy. One prominent aspect of the case is a concept called the the efficiency gap, which quantifies the difference between the partisan makeup of the popular vote and the partisan makeup of the winning candidates across a number of legislative districts. Those ballots cast that do not contribute to the election of a given candidate are known as “wasted votes,” with that figure and the total number of votes used to calculate the efficiency gap figure.

The creators of the efficiency gap propose a formula that determines whether a party’s candidates received more wasted votes in a given legislative election. If votes for one party’s candidates are wasted to a level that sufficiently exceeds another’s, that may be evidence that partisan gerrymandering has gone too far. Proponents of the efficiency gap test aren’t necessarily saying it should be impossible for one party or another to have an advantageous map of legislative districts — they’re saying there’s a measurable point at which maps are so skewed that they make competitive elections impossible and violate the principle of one person, one vote.

However, the Supreme Court has generally held that politically-motivated gerrymandering is constitutional, as long as it’s not racially discriminatory. While justices have at times inveighed against it, the Court has no standard for intervening when a district map merely creates a partisan advantage. Justice Anthony Kennedy, who plays an instrumental role as a swing vote on the court, has hinted in previous cases that he’d be open to a partisan-oriented standard. But as of 2017, nothing in the case law even offers justices a road map for determining when a party has gone too far in redistricting to its own advantage. Formulas like the efficiency gap are one response to this challenge. […]

Ana Ceballos of Florida Politics writes—Divisive pro-life clinic bill heads to governor’s desk:

Legislation that would permanently set aside millions of dollars in taxpayer money for pro-life pregnancy clinics across the state was sent to Gov. Rick Scott on Thursday.

Florida Politics

“Yeah, (the clinics) are about life and about having that baby, but they are also about giving support where it didn’t exist before,” said Sen. Aaron Bean, a Fernandina Republican leading the effort in the Senate.

The Republican-controlled Senate passed the bill on a 21-12 vote, with Democrats opposed to the idea that service providers in these clinics can include faith-based organizations.

“I am not in favor of giving faith-based materials to a woman who is facing the most difficult decision in their life,” said Democratic Sen. Gary Farmer. “I am a true believer of a separation between church and state.”

If Scott signs the measure into law, it will codify an anti-abortion program run by the private Florida Pregnancy Care Network which has been in place for over a decade. Under the bill, that network would receive $4 million in state funds every year to give pregnant women free pro-birth services.

Jim Fuglie at the Prairie Blog of North Dakota writes—Should A Governor Take Free Super Bowl Tickets?

I just read on The Forum’s website that Governor Doug Burgum is taking free tickets to the Super Bowl. “Burgum and first lady Kathryn Helgaas Burgum will be attending the game at the U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis as guests of Xcel Energy, which leases a suite at the venue, Burgum spokesman Mike Nowatzki said.” […]

The Prairie Blog

Now I understand why there is a petition being circulated to create a North Dakota Ethics Commission. I’ve been skeptical of that idea. No more.

Excel Energy, one of the biggest corporations in one of the most highly regulated industries in North Dakota, is paying for tickets for the Super Bowl for not just our state’s top elected official, but also HIS WIFE.

Well isn’t that special. Y’know, there ought to be a law. Especially when it involves Excel. The company has long been in a dispute with North Dakota regulators—read Governors—over whether North Dakota customers should have to pay higher rates for electricity because Excel is moving more of its power generation in Minnesota to higher cost renewable sources. The conflict has been in and out of court for many years, as well as the subject of discussion between Excel and our regulators—read, the Governor.

At Dakota Free Press of South Dakota, Cory Allen Heidelberger writes—Troy Jones: Tapio Hates Trump!

The South Dakota Republican Party has a Trump problem. They have Neal Tapio, a rich outsider, trying to take the Trump route to fame and power. Tapio is saying radical things, playing to the bigoted, racist, Trumpist base, and trying to upset two happy and reasonably effective GOP establishment candidates in the U.S. House primary. Tapio is pushing his fellow Republicans to take his extreme Trumpist positions and calling those who don’t “enemies of the state.”

Dakota Free Press

The SDGOP knows Tapio’s message loses half its value after the primary and offers Democrat Tim Bjorkman the most likely path to victory. But crushing Tapio inevitably means putting dents in his pro-Trump rhetoric, and the South Dakota Republican Party doesn’t dare criticize Trump.

Enter Troy Jones to test this mindbending line: Trump is awesome, and Tapio is undermining his successful fight against terrorism:

…our President knows what he is doing and has marshaled the resources of the United States toward his goals.

But, the South Dakota Senate has 16 members who doubt President Trump, don’t think his Cabinet is competent, and supported a resolution usurping President Trump’s authority. […]

At Plunderbund of Ohio, Abe writes—Mexico Will Pay For The Parade:

Another day at the office…

A day when the shockers became the shockees?

Or was it the other way around when Chief of Staff John Kelly, billed as the new sheriff in the White House, expressed “shock” that Rob Porter could have socked his wife in the eye. He had known about it for months.

Kelly, after all, had already profusely befriended Porter as a “confidant and trusted professional” during Porter’s days as the White House staff secretary that ended today with his resignation when his current wife revealed a photo claiming that Porter was the perp. The bruised face zoomed to the top of charts on TV and in many newspapers.

Plunderbund blog logo

Such notoriety is not as easily expressed in a White House that generates so many red alerts on President Trump and his teammates. Kelly, after all, was still trying to dodge questions about his description of the “lazy asses” of Dreamers who didn’t sign up for DACA. You may recall that the same John Kelly had described a congresswoman as the amplified noise in an empty barrel for trying to correct something he had wrongly said.

But President trump, never at a loss to huff away bad news with fresh ideas to make America Great, turned to his gunwales to stage a military parade that would be bigger than the one for Bastille Day in France.

(It was an instant reminder of the one that Dennis Kucinich, as Cleveland mayor assembled to silence critics that the city wasn’t prepared to handle a heavy snow. Standing near the mayor, I could sense his enormous delight as every piece of mechanized city equipment – plowers, trucks and wherever else with four wheels – rumbled past City Hall in review to prove that Cleveland was indeed prepared.)

At Raging Kitchen Press of Pennsylvania, Sean Kitchen writes—Cris Dush Once Violated U.S. Constitution by Telling Students Haiti Devastated By Hurricane Because They “Didn’t Denounce the Devil”

raging kitchen press state blog

Pennsylvania Representative Cris Dush has come under scrutiny since announcing his plans to introduce articles of impeachment against the five sitting Pennsylvania State Supreme Court justices who ruled against partisan gerrymandering. Gerrymandering reform activists from Keystone Progress, Tuesdays with Toomey and other local Indivisible chapters had the opportunity to confront Representative Dush in his office over his antics, and I had the chance to ask the Representative why he wants to impeach these Supreme Court justices.  His answer can be seen below:

Now, if we’re going to talk about constitutionality and the rule of law, there’s this thing called the first amendment and the separation of church and state.  At a 2016 Brookville Area School District Veteran’s Day assembly, Representative Dush told a group of school students that Haiti was devastated by Hurricane Matthew, a category five hurricane that caused $1.9 billion in damage and killed 546 people, because of Haitians “refusal to denounce the devil.”

This, of course, prompted complaints submitted by parents to the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania and American Atheists.  According to the ACLU complaint, Representative Dush “opened the event by instructing students to bow their heads and pray to the ‘Lord’ and ‘Jesus Christ,’” and “VFW Chaplain James Porter concluded the program with a prayer.”  The ACLU stated that “allowing these speakers onto school grounds to proselytize or preach to students during the school day violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of the U.S.  Constitution.”

At Blue Jersey, Rosi Efthim writes—Are you candidate material? Or somebody who can get somebody elected?

Two things I want to flag for you, both on the Rutgers campus; Ready to Run campaign training and new training for young adults.

Last night, I attended a panel discussion called Running For and Holding Local Office, hosted by Camden County Progressive Democrats, featuring people with experience repping their NJ town or city. Great meeting, thoughtful questions, and a full room – with many people very close to making the decision to run. [Watch it at Citizens Media TV]

blue_jersey.png

Since Hillary Clinton lost, so many people new to politics have jumped in (or jumped back in), with many activated by the daily assaults by Nazi-comfortable, golfing-lazy Donald Trump. And the Republican Congress eager to help him do his worst. That’s powerful. But the truth is, that sometimes it’s even more effective to create change by taking a bigger role in a smaller place, by running for local office where you live. Some of the people leading the rallies outside congressmen’s offices, running rapid response operations with resistance groups, or sitting in the seats at activist meetings itching to do more, are exactly who we need leading our towns, school boards, county offices.

And one of the great things about programs like both these below – a women’s campaign Training by the outstanding Center for American Women and Politics (CAWP) at Rutgers Eagleton Institute of Politics and one focused on young adults also via Eagleton – is how many people leave convinced that they’re candidate material. […]

At The Progressive Pulse of North Carolina, Lisa Sorg writes—Senators trade barbs over funding bill directing DEQ to spend $2.4 million on “busy work”:

At a public forum earlier this month, a man from Bladen County asked state environmental and health officials a direct and desperate question: “Are we guinea pigs?” he pleaded. “I don’t want to die from GenX.”

One could not blame him, his neighbors and the thousands of residents downstream in Brunswick and New Hanover counties for wondering if they are also subjects of a political experiment.

The Progressive Pulse of North Carolina

Many lawmakers have underscored the “urgency” of dealing with an aptly described “public health crisis.” However, in terms of concrete legislation, the intent behind — and effectiveness of —  the bills to address the crisis are more akin to extinguishing a five-alarm fire, one glass of water at a time.

The latest glass of water arrived in the form of a Senate bill, publicly unveiled at 10:45 Tuesday evening and discussed at yesterday’s Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee meeting. It is a proposed substitute for the House version, which appropriated $2.3 million to the NC Department of Environmental Quality in part, to buy a high-resolution mass spectrometer to specifically sample and analyze drinking and surface water for emerging contaminants. There were other bureaucratic requirements, too, but the guts of the House bill was the directive that DEQ use the money and the machine to figure out what’s in the water and how to remove it.

The Senate version, though, dilutes its House counterpart. It rehashes work that’s already in progress and requires state officials to perform bureaucratic tasks torn from the pages of a Franz Kafka novel. 

Yes, DEQ would receive $2.4 million. But that money, as Sen. Angela Bryant, a Democrat representing six eastern counties, noted angrily at a committee meeting yesterday is for “busy work.”

If the bill becomes law, DEQ will indeed be busy: Reviewing the last 43 years of its federal wastewater permit program — known as NPDES — which is delegated to the states to administer. Forty-three years of the federal program covers eight presidential terms, 19 EPA administrators and varying rules depending on who was in charge and the state of science at the time.

Forty-three years ago, DEQ Secretary Michael Regan, 41, had not been born.

At Blog for Iowa, Dave Bradley writes—We Have Some Great Candidates For Governor!

The West Liberty Rotary and LULAC Council 310 of West Liberty sponsored a gubernatorial forum for Democratic candidates for governor of Iowa Tuesday night.

Blog for Iowa logo

Five of the seven candidates were in attendance. Nate Boulton and Fred Hubbell were attending a renewable fuels forum elsewhere. Mr. Boulton had a surrogate stand in for him.

Let me say right out of the chute that any of the five candidates on stage Tuesday night would make a much better governor than what we currently have and have had for the past 8 years. The Branstad/ Reynolds regime has bankrupted Iowa and taken our education way down while handing Medicaid over to for profit (read not-for-patients) companies.

We are desperately in need of a change and it looks like Democrats have the leadership to do it. […]

At Louisiana Voice, Tom Aswell writes—State Police Commission absence of cojones gives impetus to LSTA to continue making clandestine political contributions:

When an organization like the Louisiana State Troopers Association (LSTA) trots out sick children to promote its political agenda, one has to wonder about whether that organization is genuinely interested in helping the unfortunate or more focused on shamelessly exploiting them for the purposes of building and maintaining a political power base.

Louisiana Voices state blog

And when an attorney for that organization, its membership made up entirely of active and (some) retired state troopers, says it is a labor union, you have to wonder what, exactly, constitutes a labor union. State civil service employees are allowed to enter into collective bargaining agreements such as the one recently negotiated between the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) and the Louisiana Department of Health. But state employees are not allowed to strike as would your garden variety labor union. And therein lies an important distinction that attorney Floyd Falcon conveniently neglected to mention.

And when a state commission shirks from its responsibility to enact a RULE CHANGE (See agenda item no. 4) to ensure that state troopers, do not fall into the same trap that KENNER POLICE OFFICERS did a few years back with regard to political contributions, you have to wonder about the qualifications of those commission members to serve—and where their allegiance lies.

And when those same commission members emerge from an executive session with a RULING already neatly typed up (obviously agreed to in executive session) to summarily dismiss its investigation of those contributions—meaning there necessarily had to be a polling of members during the closed session to confirm a predetermined decision, an action blatantly illegal under the state’s open meeting laws—you have to assume a deal had been cut in advance despite the staged and choreographed dog and pony show passed off as a public hearing.

In short, there is little to distinguish this assemblage from the commission makeup of two years ago, when a completely different cast of characters occupied commission seats. The current makeup is comprised of members equally lacking in backbone, scared to death, apparently, to make any decision of consequence. The preferred game plan is to show up for the monthly meetings, occasionally issue a ruling on some trooper’s appeal of disciplinary action, exchange pleasantries and go home.

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