|Each Saturday, this feature links and excerpts commentary and reporting from a dozen progressive state blogs in the past seven days around the nation. The idea is not only to spotlight specific issues but to give readers who may not know their state has a progressive blog or two a place to become regularly informed about doings in their back yard. Just as states with progressive lawmakers and activists have themselves initiated innovative programs over a wide range of issues, state-based progressive blogs have helped provide us with a point of view and inside information we don't get from the traditional media. Those blogs deserve a larger audience. Let me know via comments or Kosmail if you have a favorite you think I should know about. Standard disclaimer: Inclusion of a diary does not necessarily indicate my agreement or endorsement of its contents.|
When I wrote the last post about Lt. Gov. Mark Darr and his questionable1 mileage reimbursements, I focused only on mileage in 2012 and 2013. This was not because 2011 did not have the same improper reimbursements, however. Far from it — Darr spent 2011 racking up thousands of dollars in reimbursed commuting mileage, in violation of either IRS regulations or Amendment 70 (or both).
So, why keep these separate instead of rolling them into the last post? Because, unlike the mileage reimbursements in that post, many of the reimbursements in 2011 have the added wrinkle that Darr let the taxpayers (via his state-issued credit card) or his campaign pay for his gas. As any CPA worth his salt will tell you, that ain’t good.
At Blue in the Bluegrass, Yellow Dog writes When the Empry Dress Fits, Stop Demanding Apologies:Three years later, fundamentalists in charge of Texas textbooks are again working to make sure our students come out of school as ignorant as possible. A report from the Texas Freedom Network and the National Center for Science Education reveals that official state textbook reviewers appointed by the State Board of Education are trying to take the facts out of science education.
They're trying to get "creation science" and climate change denialism injected into textbooks, less students get an adequate education.
This is literal insanity - a wholesale rejection of established fact - but our state educators aren't really interested in facts. Texas students shouldn't be subjected to the fundamentalist religious beliefs of these state education officials, but they are.
Head below the fold for more in this week's progressive state blogs.Jared Smith at the Kentucky Democratic Party is forwarding around a week-old email from Ditch Mitch seeking signatures on a petition asking Mitch McConnell to apologize for calling Alison Lundergan Grimes "an empty dress."
Sigh. Whatever international award for empty campaign gestures that make your candidate look weak and stupid the Kentucky Democratic Party is apparently working toward, KDP's gotta be the front-runner.
Hey, Jared: Instead of demanding a meaningless apology for a standard campaign tactic - making both you and your candidate look pathetic - how about proving the motherfuckers wrong with some campaign substance instead of the empty dress Grimes has presented so far?
Oh and Alison? That advice you're getting from Steve Israel at the DCCC to dodge questions on Syria? It lost you the chance to beat McConnell to the punch and look like a dress that might actually fit Kentucky's Democratic voters.
At Calitics, Brian Leubitz writes Split No More: Environmentalists Say No to Brown Supported Fracking Bill, Call for Moratorium.:
At ColoradoPols, Jason Salzman writes GOP Chair put “a little cold water on our parade” during Pueblo recall campaign, newly elected State Sen Says:Once there was a real split in the environmental community over fracking legislation. The National Resources Defense Council, CLCV and a number of other organizations were supporting Sen. Fran Pavley's SB 4 to regulate the process. Others were calling for a complete moratorium to gather sufficient data to ensure safety.
It seems that bifurcation has ended upon the oil and gas friendly amendments made to the bill in the Assembly. The only remaining California bill this term to address fracking (SB 4) passed through the Assembly yesterday morning with new amendments by the oil and gas industry that undermine the bill's original intent. The Natural Resources Defense Council, California League of Conservation Voters, Clean Water Action and Environmental Working Group no longer support SB4 due to these amendments.
"Californians deserve to have their health and drinking water sources protected from oil and gas development. Last-minute amendments, added due to oil industry pressure, threaten to weaken the environmental review required by CEQA," said Miriam Gordon, California Director of Clean Water Action. [...]
The bill has now passed the Senate concurrence as well, and is as good as on the Governor's desk. For better or worse, it looks like he is leaning toward signing it.
At Better Georgia, Brian Long writes Gov. Nathan Deal’s secret fund exposed:Yesterday, I urged reporters to keep an eye on a sub-plot that's emerged in the wake of the Republican recall victories: The "liberty" wing of the state GOP has apparently been re-energized by the election, and this could lead not only to a civil war among Colorado Republicans but also to serious election losses this year and into the future.
I mean, last time the base of the GOP got uppity in a sustained way, Ken Buck took down Jane Norton and Dan Maes fearlessly squeaked by Scott McInnis. (Maybe the insurgent air will inspire Scooter to write Musings Part II: Jaxine Bubis Style.)
Happy and hot after Tuesdays wins, the "liberty" faction isn't being polite about its dissatisfaction with the state GOP establishment, as evidenced by Tom Tancredo's comment yesterday, slamming State GOP Chair Ryan Call and expressing his amazement that the State GOP gets any "credibility whatsoever."
Though he was kinder toward Call than Tancredo was, newly elected State Sen. George Rivera hit the State Chair in a more home-spun way during an appearance on KNUS' Peter Boyles Show this morning.
At Progress Illinois, Ellyn Fortino writes Report: Pending Sale Of Five Illinois Coal Plants A Risk For Nearby Communities:Over the Labor Day weekend we finally learned why Gov. Nathan Deal is fighting so hard to keep insurance premiums high in Georgia and fighting to obstruct access to affordable health care.
And it’s not just a partisan political attack.
No, it’s even simpler than that: he’s raking in corporate anti-Obamacare money hand-over-fist.
Instead of protecting the rights of Georgia residents under the new Affordable Care Act, Gov. Deal’s family and business associates have profited from a secret Super PAC funded largely by corporations and political action committees that either do business with the state or have a financial stake in legislation.
Since 2011, Gov. Deal’s PAC has raised almost $1 million and spent over $300,000, all in secret.
At Louisiana Voice, tomaswell writes ‘Deliberative process’ defense used to protect ALEC records in Texas; reminiscent of 2012 LouisianaVoice experience:Environmental groups say they are even more wary of the pending, no-cash sale of five Illinois coal-fired power plants from St. Louis-based Ameren Corp. to Dynegy, a Texas-based energy company, now that a new financial analysis has shed more light on the proposed deal.
According to a report issued Thursday by ACM Partners, an independent financial analyst, Dynegy is preparing for the high-risk purchase by creating an unfunded shell company, Illinois Power Holdings, to operate the five central and southern Illinois coal-fired power plants. The plants are located in Bartonville, Canton, Coffeen, Joppa and Newton.
David Johnson, financial analyst and the report's author, said the findings show that Dynegy is purposefully using a shell company for shareholder gain and to minimize any financial hardship for itself. Essentially, the company is taking "a cost-free gamble that energy prices will rise," Johnson said.
At Dirigo Blue, JurisDebtor writes Maine Dems still in search of Sasquatch:Because we have all the metaphorical snakes we can kill right here in Louisiana, it’s rare that we dwell on events in other states unless there is a direct link to developments in the Louisiana political arena.
But a request for public records in Texas pertaining to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) under that state’s Freedom of Information Act raised a red flag when a favorite but questionable phrase of Louisiana officials was invoked by a Texas legislator in an effort to prevent the release of records.
For the record, we do not believe it a coincidence that the “deliberative process” ploy, so popular with Gov. Bobby Jindal and his minions reared its ugly head in Texas over the issue of whether or not ALEC records are public.
It is our opinion, impossible to prove because of the veil of secrecy thrown over this organization in an effort to conceal its agenda from public scrutiny, that Jindal did not originate the deliberative process maneuver to protect public records from becoming just that—public.
But he certainly knows how to use—perhaps abuse is a better word here—the exception that he slipped into a law that he proudly points to in his national travels as the “gold standard” of transparency that he rammed through the legislature in 2009.
At Blue Oregon, Carla Axtman writes in her round-up featureSASQUATCH is a mythical being that few people believe exist. Of course, like most myths, there are those who spend an inordinate amount of time and resources attempting to prove its existence. The proof of Sasquatch’s existence is anecdotal and speculative at best, but that does little to deter the believers who view the Patterson-Gimlin film as the ultimate proof of Sasquatch. Similarly, Maine Democrats have their own Sasquatch, and working tirelessly to prove its existence with speculation and anecdotes. Unlike the animal, proof of this Sasquatch can be refuted by data, but that does little to deter the Maine Dems from their quest of proving . . . the skills gap.
In short, the current skills argument goes like this; the unemployment problem in our country is structural, driven by workers lacking the necessary skills to gain employment. The obvious assumption made in that arguments is that there are jobs available, it’s just workers are not qualified to get them. In Maine, Democrats are bent on passing legislation to close this purported skills gap through various measures. [...]
The entire argument is specious for several reasons. First, on the national level, the skills gap, is largely overblown. Research (here, here, here, here, here) points to cyclical problems in the economy as the root cause of high unemployment, not structural problems such as the skills gap, and there are two major points that proponents of the skills gap cannot overcome. First, there was no talk of a skills gap pre-recession, and as economist Edward Lazear notes, “[t]he structure of a modern economy does not change that quickly.” In other words, how is it that in just a few years the workforce’s skills have depleted so rapidly?
Last week, Washington County authorities announced that they'd raided a marijuana growing operation in 15 homes. Sgt. Bob Ray of the Washington County Sheriff's Office is casting aspersions against the medical marijuana program, blaming people they consider abusers of the law for a rogue growing operation. The AG's office says not so fast, this was just a typical industrial growing operation. Either way, the taxpayers just foot the bill for six (yes, you read that right) different law enforcement agencies working on the raid and for an investigation that's been going since last December. The alleged pot growing and shipping operation is not accused of making or selling any other drugs.At Keystone Politics of Pennsylvania, Jon Geeting writes Who Does Don Sapatkin Think Would Save Money From Tom Corbett’s Medicaid “Reforms?”:
At Rum, Romanism and Rebellion of Arizona, Tedski writes The Empty Suit:Inquirer staff writer Don Sapatkin asserts in a straight news article that the Medicaid changes Tom Corbett is demanding will be “money-saving.”Corbett has made clear that he wants to change Medicaid. In recent statements, however, Beverly Mackereth, secretary of the Department of Public Welfare, was more specific about what “personal responsibility” might look like. There might be a “work-search” requirement, for example, and co-pays for emergency-room visits.That sure doesn’t sound like a money-saving idea. If I have Medicaid for my health insurance and have to start paying a co-pay at the emergency room, when I don’t currently, that makes it more expensive. It might save taxpayers a little bit of money, but nothing significant, and the main effect will be to make things more expensive for Medicaid enrollees.
And if my job just doesn’t pay very well so I qualify for Medicaid, making me waste my time on the completely useless Careerlink website to satisfy a “work search requirement” doesn’t save me any money or time. And if state employees have to spend extra time monitoring my busywork or helping me find a new job, that could end up costing taxpayers more too.
To use a well-worn paraphrase of Mark Twain, there are lies, damned lies, and campaign rhetoric. The last category includes those easily refutable throwaway little fibs that inevitably arise during a problematic candidacy.
One example of this comes involves the financials of the increasingly quixotic campaign of Ward III Republican Council candidate Ben Buehler-Garcia. As most readers know the City of Tucson has a public campaign finance system which became the inspiration for Arizona’s Clean Elections Law, which, in turn, has become a model nationally. Under this system, a candidate receives matching funds by getting at least 200 individual contributions of $10 or more from city residents. The system has been a good way of making sure that narcissistic auto dealers who live outside the city limits or sleazy political operatives from Phoenix are largely excluded from our elections.
Buehler-Garcia has not yet filed for matching funds, though he assures everybody that he has the 200 contributions he needs. He has been making this claim for weeks, though his campaign finance reports say differently. Though, at first glance, his reports seem to list sufficient contributions, the most cursory inspection shows that some contributors are listed multiple times and some live outside the city. In one case, a contribution from a Maricopa-County based PAC is listed as being from an individual.