This week at progressive state blogs: Sinclair terrorizes with local news; FEMA wastes gobs of money

Trish Nelson at Blog for Iowa writes—How Sinclair Is Using Local News To Terrorize America:

Local news giant Sinclair Broadcast Group has been running a segment designed to gin up fear of Muslims, refugees, and immigrants. Media Matters fellow Pamela Vogel watched 200 “Terrorism Alert Desk” segments that aired on local news stations all across the country — and what she found was downright scary.

Sinclair uses deceptive tactics and misleading arguments to scare viewers. It ties ISIS into news events even if there is no connection. It fearmongers about “foreign” terrorists that lurk just around the corner. It cheers on law enforcement indiscriminately, hyping arrests even when no charges are issued. It touts anything deemed an anti-terrorist action, like walls being built around the Eiffel Tower.

But there’s one thing Sinclair’s terror segment usually avoids: Terrorism inspired by white nationalism, e.g. Charlottesville, rarely if ever appears. Instead, Sinclair’s strategy is all xenophobia all the time. And remember, this is not Fox News, whose viewers can tie the propaganda they see to the Fox News brand. Sinclair’s propaganda is hidden, instead run under the cover of the local stations it owns.

Yellow Dog at Blue in the Bluegrass of Kentucky writes—Not Even Raising Taxes Will Save KY Repugs

As Molly Ivins wrote about Ross Perot when he declared that the problem with Texas schools was too much football, KY House repugs have gone crazier than a peach orchard boar.

Blue in the Bluegrass

They wrote a budget that not only reverses the governor’s spending cuts, but does so by – wait for it – raising taxes.

Or maybe they are not so crazy as they are fucking terrified of their pissed-off voters replacing them with Dems in November.

But don’t worry: the taxes they propose are all on working people. They completely ignore the giant hordes of cash stolen by corporations and the already filthy rich.

Good job, House repugs. Keep making it easier for Democratic candidates to turn out our voters. 

From the Herald:

The Republican’s plan raises the tax on a pack of cigarettes by 50 cents, eliminates a $10 individual income tax credit and levies a 25 cent tax on prescription opioids each time a dosage is sold by a distributor to a pharmacy, the first such tax in the country, according to the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Steven Rudy, R-Paducah.

Tom Aswell at Louisiana Voice writes—Hurricane, flood recovery government contracts provide riches to consultants, little else but frustration to victims:

Louisiana residents victimized by floods and hurricanes don’t need a reminder of the frustrating-ineptness of the Feeble Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) or of the soul-crushing corruption of the Department of Housing and Urban Discrimination (HUD).

Louisiana Voices state blog

FEMA trailers, more appropriately designed as egg incubators than dwellings for human beings, stand as mute testimony to mismanagement on a grand scale. At a COST of $150,000 to $170,000 per trailer, including purchase and set-up following the 2016 flood, only to SELL the units for as little as $5,000 each a year later, it’s difficult to imagine even the Pentagon being able to match FEMA in a waste-for-waste competition.

With 144,000 trailers PLACED following hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Gustav, and Ike, and another 4,500 (upgrades vastly superior to the earlier models but still little better than a tent) following the 2016 floods, one can readily see how FEMA now claims to be broke.

Another reason? Try this: Following Hurricane Katrina, The Shaw Group was contracted to place tarpaulins over damaged roofs at a rate of $175 per square (one hundred square feet per square) after Katrina. That’s $175 for draping a ten-foot-by-ten-foot square blue tarpaulin over a damaged roof. Shaw in turn sub-contracted the work to a company called A-1 Construction at a cost of $75 a square. A-1 in turn subbed the work to Westcon Construction at $30 a square. Westcon eventually lined up the actual workers who placed the tarps at a cost of $2 a square.

In normal circumstances, MIKE LOWERY, an estimator for an Austin, Texas, company, said, his company would charge $300 to tarp a 2000-square-foot roof in Austin. For that same size job, the government is paying $2,980 to $3,500, or about 10 times as much, plus additional administrative fees that couldn’t be readily calculated.

FEMA ISSUED 81,241 blue roof tarps across Louisiana after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, said spokesman Aaron Walker ($14.2 million total cost: $8.1 million for Shaw as opposed to $162,000 for those who did the actual work).

Danny McAuliffe at Florida Politics writes—Legislature backs bill removing black farmer medical marijuana requirement:

The state is one step closer to removing a barrier for a black farmer to receive a medical marijuana growing license.

The Senate on Thursday passed a bill (HB 6049) that would delete a provision from statutes requiring a black farmer to be a member of the Black Farmers and Agriculturalists Association Florida Chapter to be eligible for one of the state’s medical marijuana growing licenses.

Florida Politics

The House passed the bill earlier, meaning it now awaits Gov. Rick Scott’s approval to become law.

The move comes in the wake of an ongoing lawsuit filed by Columbus Smith, a black farmer from Panama City who argued that the BFAA stipulation barred him from receiving a growing license.

The state is required to give one of its 10 pot-growing licenses to a recognized class member of the Pigford v Glickman class-action lawsuit, in which the federal government was found to have discriminated against black farmers. When the state crafted its medical marijuana licensing laws, it stipulated that in order for a black farmer to be eligible to receive a license under the Pigford v. Glickman clause, the black farmer must also belong to the Black Farmers and Agriculturalists Association.

Smith said he was not able to join BFAA and that the provision is unconstitutional. A Tallahassee judge in December sided with Smith and ordered Department of Health officials to stop awarding licenses, according to the News Service of Florida.

Shelby Steuart at Better Georgia writes—Ehrhart is leaving office, but another Ehrhart maybe replacing him:

Rep. Earl Ehrhart recently announced that he’s retiring and progressives across the state are counting down the days. For 30 years, Ehrhart has used his position to promote the most destructive conservative policies.

Better Georgia

In recent years he’s championed legislation that attacks rape survivors while protecting those accused of rape. He’s targeted members of the LGBTQ community, students, immigrants and women. He’s threatened to pull funding for universities that didn’t bow to his backwards policies.

Early last year, Ehrhart filed a bill that would have protected accused rapists on college campuses across Georgia by blocking schools from investigating campus sexual assault claims without an immediate police investigation. […]

The good news is that Earl Ehrhart is out.

The bad news is that his wife Ginny is running to replace him, and unfortunately, she doesn’t deserve the benefit of the doubt. Ginny Ehrhart has been behind Earl Ehrhart every step of the way. She even went so far as to file a lawsuit on behalf of an accused rapist with her husband.

Colorado Pols state blog

A staffer at Colorado Pols writes—Bennet Deservedly Takes Heat Over Banking Bill:

As the Denver Post’s Mark Matthews reports, sometimes you’ve just got to shake your head and wonder:

A bill that would weaken oversight of the banking industry is up for debate this week in the U.S. Senate, where Colorado Democrat Michael Bennet’s support of the measure is drawing heat from its liberal opponents who warn the proposal could lead to a repeat of the 2008 financial crisis.

Bennet was one of more than a dozen Democrats who joined with the Republican majority on Tuesday to help the measure clear a procedural hurdle and set up a final vote in the coming days.

Although Sen. Michael Bennet isn’t up for re-election for a number of years, it’s a problem to see him voting with Republicans once again on an issue for which his record has demonstrated a persistent blind spot. And it’s not just problematic for Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s consumer watchdog allies. As a moderate Democratic Senator who has always tried to bring opposing sides to a compromise on issues like protections for finance-product consumers, Bennet is co-sponsoring legislation that overwhelmingly aggrieves one side. Either Bennet is unaware of the staunch opposition to the bill he’s sponsoring or he doesn’t care, and neither seems likely to ingratiate the side of this debate he should be trying to persuade.

And we’ll say it as nicely as we can: although Bennet has little to lose in the short term, collaborating with Republicans to weaken banking protections over the loud objections of a possible 2020 presidential candidate isn’t the way to rally base Democratic voters ahead of the 2018 elections. We would encourage, to the extent a course change for Colorado’s senior U.S. Senator is possible here, that it be considered.

Montana Hat at Montana Cowgirl writes—After less than a year on the job, Greg Gianforte must not like being in Congress very much:

After campaigning for Governor, then again for Congress, on a promise (an obviously false one) to protect public lands, he’s just gone and done the exact thing he said he wouldn’t do. Shock!

Cowgirl of Montana logo Montana Cowgirl

Gianforte last week introduced not one, but TWO bills to get rid of federally protected wilderness. […]

The first is a House counterpart to Steve Daines’ bill to release nearly 500,000 acres of wilderness—but that just wasn’t quite enough for Gianforte. On top of that he had to go and outdo his good buddy in the Senate by introducing another bill to release an additional 240,000 acres. All together, that’s almost 750,000 acres of wilderness that Greg Gianforte thinks would be better off leased or sold to private interests.

You only need a passing knowledge of Montana politics to know that Republican, Democrat, or anywhere in between, public lands are sacred to Montana voters – you don’t mess with them. And make no mistake, these are some of the worst public lands bills in Montana history.

Greg Gianforte really much not care what Montana voters think of him, introducing this kind of access-killing legislation. After years of denying his obvious anti-public access positions, Gianforte got to D.C. and proved what everyone knew all along. He doesn’t care one bit about public lands in Montana, he’s only interested in following the marching orders from his bosses in Washington.

state blogs, blog for Arizona

AZ BlueMeanie at Blog for Arizona writes—Outlaw Dirty Money initiative launched:

The latest effort to regulate dark money in Arizona elections comes from the ballot initiative organization Outlaw Dirty Money. See,


This is a bipartisan (nonpartisan) ballot measure promoted by Republican state Rep. Noel Campbell, Paul Johnson, an independent and former Phoenix mayor, Republican Tom Horne, a former Arizona superintendent of public education and attorney general, and Democrat Terry Goddard, a former Phoenix mayor and Arizona attorney general. […]

They recently published this op-ed in the The Arizona Republic. Why we’re fighting to keep dirty money out of Arizona elections […]

At the national level, intelligence agencies tell us that foreign powers are still trying to manipulate American elections. They can get away with seeding chaos in our political system because we don’t require them to identify themselves.

How can we hold Facebook or other companies responsible for Russian meddling when we allow shell corporations to flood our election system with money and never reveal its original source? The answer is we can’t.

Our state has become the point of the dirty money spear. In the 2014 election, out of $28 million in non-candidate spending for statewide candidates, an estimated $18 million was dirty. That gives Arizona the highest participation of dirty money, as a percent of total election spending, in the entire country. […]

We believe all points of view have the right to contribute to political campaigns. But, when contributors try to hide their identity, you can bet they want to fool you.

Alby at Delaware Liberal writes—Carper, Coons Sell Out for Handful of Magic Bipartisan Beans

Delaware’s underwhelming Senate duo makes an appearance in this story of how Dodd-Frank was doomed by Democrats eager to appear bipartisan. All the other Democrats featured are in red states that back Trump; glossed over are the reasons for Carper’s and Coons’ perfidy. These Democrats, Politico declares, are hungry to show they can make Washington work again, no matter what it costs.

state blogs

Primary season is upon us — not in Delaware, but in places like Texas and Illinois, where some incumbent Democrats and “mainstream” challengers are feeling the heat from upstarts who are tired of being told progressives can’t have nice things.

Will Bunch looks at corporate leadership on the gun issue and states the obvious: Our corporate overlords are bypassing the politicians in determining How Things Will Be. We have a voice not as citizens but as consumers.

Josh Marshall surveys the wreckage of the John Kelly-Jared Kushner war in the White House and concludes that if Kushner’s business interests really set off a war in the Middle East, the rot and corruption go deeper than we dared to imagine.

Rory McIlmoil at Appalachian Voices writes—TVA’s “New Pricing Paradigm” is a bad deal for communities and clean energy:

Nearly 40 people attended the Tennessee Valley Authority’s February board meeting to speak out against TVA’s plans to change the way it charges its 154 local power companies.

Many speakers argued that the “New Pricing Paradigm,”as TVA has called it, would result in a disproportionate burden on low-income residents and would thwart future investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency.

state blogs

The proposed change in TVA’s rate structure would shift more than $1 billion of TVA’s revenues out of energy and demand charges and into a new “grid access fee” charged to local power companies. This fixed charge is not based on the amount of electricity used by customers of the local power company but is instead being described as a way for TVA to ensure recovery of its costs in the face of flat or declining demand for electricity.

TVA claims that this charge will be “revenue neutral,” meaning its wholesale power rate (rate per kilowatt hour) or the amount they charge for demand should be reduced as the new charge is added. But TVA has not explained how either of these charges will be reduced and, in October 2017, TVA actually approved a 1.5 percent increase in the wholesale power rate. Neither of these moves was justified by publicly available studies or data.

TVA also argues the change will “help low-income families who tend to have the highest cost of electricity relative to their income.” However, this type of rate structure often increases costs for low-income families, especially renters and those on fixed incomes. If local power companies were to add TVA’s proposed fixed charge on top of the recently approved rate increase the more than 400,000 families in Tennessee alone, who already spend 20 percent or more of their income on energy costs, could end up having to choose between necessities like food and medicine and paying their electric bills.

Beccl at SC Prog Blog writes—Sudden move on solar energy leaves public in the dark

Not to sound alarmist, but the last time we saw Rep. Bill Sandifer – Chair of the Labor, Commerce and Industry Committee – jam a bill through LCI was in 2007, when the now-maligned Base Load Review Act went straight to the House floor with no public hearing, and cleared both the House and Senate in a record three days.

SC Prog Blog

It is worth noting that Sandifer is also a Task Force Chair of the uber-business friendly American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

On Thursday, Sandifer introduced a bill (H-5045) to repeal the two sections of SC Code of Laws governing solar power. The bill is scheduled for a subcommittee hearing at 10am Tuesday, March 6. The bill – just one sentence long – would repeal Title 58 Chapter 39 and 40 of state laws passed in 2014.

Those utility-friendly laws allowed some solar power distribution by other than utilities and established a net metering system that gives utility credits to those who make more solar power than they can use. This was a small step forward, but South Carolina still has among the nation’s most restrictive solar laws.

No one knows what will take their place, but we are told an amended version of the laws will be introduced tomorrow morning. The new solar laws then go before the full LCI committee at 11:30 – before anyone has a chance to read them, much less study their implications.

Continue reading...