Each day, the DLCC’s experts comb through statehouse political news across the country to stay on top of the latest developments. Here are five stories that may have flown under your radar this week.
Oregon Senate approves minimum wage hike after marathon debate
The Democratically-led Oregon Senate has approved a unique bill that would phase in a three-tiered minimum wage over a period of six years. By 2023, SB 1532 would gradually increase the minimum hourly wage to $12.50 in most rural areas; $13.50 in Bend, Eugene, and counties surrounding Portland; and $14.75 within Portland's Urban Growth Boundary. The tiered wage system grew out of a desire to raise the wage for workers across the state, while recognizing that vastly different costs of living in a state like Oregon might make a single, statewide minimum wage inappropriate for all areas.
Gov. John Bel Edwards lays out plan to combat budget crisis: 'I don’t say this to scare you'
One year ago this week, The American Conservative published an article titled, "How Bobby Jindal Wrecked Louisiana." It turns out, the author didn't know the half of it, because no one did. State economists recently confirmed that new Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards (D), who thought he was inheriting "only" a $500 million budget mess left behind by GOP Governor Bobby Jindal, is actually facing an $870 million budget catastrophe, with only six months left to fill the gap. Louisiana also faces an additional $2 billion deficit next fiscal year, which would itself be the largest budget gap in the state's history.
The numbers are so unprecedented that Edwards asked for -- and received -- time on most network affiliates on Thursday to address the people of Louisiana directly and explain the situation. Unless Edwards' proposed solutions or a reasonable alternative are adopted at a special legislative session, the consequences could include hospital closures, loss of tuition scholarships, the financial bankruptcy of many state colleges and universities, and even the possibility that the beloved LSU Tigers football team may be unable to take the field next year as campuses shut down.
Chief Justice gives critics of state’s election maps a week to respond
When North Carolina's GOP-drawn congressional maps were struck down in federal court because of illegal racial gerrymandering, many predicted that conservatives on the U.S. Supreme Court would stay the decision because some absentee ballots have already been cast for the state's March primaries. But now, Chief Justice John Roberts has given plaintiffs in the case until Tuesday to file briefs opposing a stay, leading veteran court-watcher Rick Hasen to suggest that an order delaying any redrawing of the maps until after the 2016 elections may not be a forgone conclusion.
Maryland restores voting rights for over 40,000
Democrats in Maryland have decided that if someone convicted of a crime can be trusted to live in our communities, work in our places of business, and interact with our children, then they should probably be trusted to vote in our elections, too. Republican Governor Larry Hogan disagreed and vetoed the measure, but because Democrats have a supermajority in both legislative chambers, they overrode the veto and restored 40,000 people's right to vote.
Lawmakers propose changes to Voter Protection Act
Republicans in Arizona have repeatedly been hamstrung on issues like voting rights, redistricting, and others because of the possibility that their unpopular proposals will simply be rejected by the voters. But one Republican wants to change that by giving his party the right to overrule voter-approved ballot initiatives, potentially by a simple majority vote. The measure, HCR2043, would allow the legislature to overturn any future voter-decided initiative or referendum, so long as the vote in the legislature was wider percentage-wise than the original vote on the initiative. In most cases, this would drastically lower the current three-quarters threshold required to amend a ballot initiative, and in almost all cases, it would remove entirely the requirement that amendments must "further the purpose" of the original law. If Arizonans want a taste of how that might work in practice, they need only take a sip of the tap water in Flint, Michigan.