Home / Politics / This week at progressive state blogs: Resistance in Rhode Island; the 'People's Agenda' in Kansas

This week at progressive state blogs: Resistance in Rhode Island; the 'People's Agenda' in Kansas

Steve Ahlquist at R.I. Future.org writes— Interfaith poverty vigil lets state leaders demonstrate their commitment to social justice:

Wednesday marked the ninth Fighting Poverty with Faith Vigil at the Rhode Island State House, held on the first Wednesday of the General Assembly‘s legislative session each year. As in the past two years, Governor Gina Raimondo, Senate President M Teresa Paiva Weed and Speaker of the House Nicholas Mattiello used the event to let the public know how deeply they are committed to social justice and the elimination of poverty in our state.

Rhode Island Future state blog

“I love that we kick off the legislative session each year with this event,” said Governor Raimondo, “I never miss it and it’s an honor for me to be here… I’m going to ask you… to every day recommit yourself to the cause of social justice… I want to see us raise the minimum wage again.” […]

The Rhode Island Interfaith Coalition to Reduce Poverty noted that 13.9 percent of Rhode Islanders are living in poverty, the highest rate in New England. About 1 in 5 Rhode Island children live in poverty. “As people of faith,” wrote interfaith coordinator Emily Jones in a press release, “we believe that each and every Rhode Islander deserves… affordable housing, nutritious food, accessible health care, equitable education and work with decent wages.”

Christopher Renner at The Kansas Free Press writes—Kansas People’s Agenda: Working to change the political discourse in Kansas:

Many have struggled during the past 6 years of the Brownback administration to find their voice as the radical conservatives in the Kansas Legislature set about to dismantle the State of Kansas we loved. Finally, in the 2016 election cycle, Kansans began taking back the state from the ALEC minions who had been elected under Brownback’s watchful eye. But there is still much work to be done to reverse the unjust tax system and give back the financial support our public schools and universities need to educate our future generations. The Kansas People’s Agenda hopes to give voice to those who are opposed to the direction the State of Kansas has taken under Brownback. […]

Kansas Free Press

In the autumn of 2016 Laura Dungan, founder of Wichita’s Seed House, and Rev. Sarah Oglesby-Dunegan, pastor of the Unitarian-Universalist Fellowship of Topeka, began talking about the leadership and work of Rev. Will J. Barber, the leader of the Moral Monday movement in North Carolina that has worked to halt the ALCE-inspired legislation that has destroyed democracy in that state.

Given the similarity between the political events in North Carolina and the Brownback administration’s efforts to alter the very nature of state government in Kansas, the two women began to envision a board alliance of organizations and stakeholder groups that could develop enough power to challenge the status quo.

tomaswell at Louisiana Voice writes—Bobby, you got $34.6 million lying around? That’s what your mismanagement of Northrop Grumman refund cost the state:

Bobby Jindal, the Rhode Scholar who rode into town on the crest of a billion-dollar surplus nine years ago this month, rode out 12 months ago leaving the state wallowing in red ink and now it is learned that he inflicted even more fiscal carnage on his way out the door.

Louisiana Voices state blog

And knowing the way in which he and his final Commissioner of Administration, Kristy Nichols, juggled the books, it’s not at all unreasonable to think that Jindal’s final example of fiscal irresponsibility may well have been an intentional act of political chicanery carried out to buy him time so that his successor would be left with the mess to clean up. (Of course, Kristy didn’t become commissioner until Paul Rainwater left in 2012, but that does not change the fact that a lot of dollars were moved around—swept—before and after she was promoted.)

Hey! It’s not that far-fetched. He did it with the Office of Group Benefits. He did it with higher education. He did it with the LSU Hospital System. Boy, did he do it with the hospital system—with a contract containing 50 blank pages, yet!

By the time Jindal left office, virtually the only state agency left with a shred of credibility and integrity was the office of the Legislative Auditor—and that’s largely because the office has complete autonomy and is independent from outside political pressure, particularly from the governor’s office.

William Phillis at Plunderbund of Ohio writes—Betsy DeVos PAC Still Owe’s $5.3 Million For Breaking Ohio Campaign Finance Laws:

How will Betsy DeVos respond to the fact that her defunct All Children Matter organization owes Ohio a $5.3 million fine?

Plunderbund blog logo

The Ohio Elections Commission found that the federal and Ohio All Children Matter PACs violated Ohio campaign laws. The Commission levied fines of $5.3 million and the court upheld the fines. Former House member Steve Dyer provides a narrative of the origin and chronology of this money laundering matter.

The All Children Matter organization was disbanded and the fines were never paid.

Violation of Ohio election laws have landed some Ohio public officials before judges in the Ohio court system. Some have paid fines.

So why should DeVos be let off the hook?

Matthew Brian Hersh at Blue Jersey writes—Flipping a District Is More Than Switching an “R” to a “D”:

On his second day in Congress, Rep. Josh Gottheimer was just one of four Democrats to vote to expand Congressional authority allowing Congress to overturn regulations issued in the last 60 session days of the previous session. This is not filibusterable in the Senate.

State blogs, Blue Jersey

The move makes vulnerable many of the regulations the Obama administration has advanced in recent weeks, including those that would reduce carbon emissions, regulate for-profit colleges, and a Labor Department rule that more than doubled the salary threshold for full-time employees to get overtime compensation.

From Roll Call, the “law has only been successfully used once in its 20-year history.”

Gottheimer’s vote in favor of the rarely used Congressional Review Act, an artifact of Newt Gingrich’s Contract on America (or was it “for”?) could be seen a practical politics. His district is PVI +4 Republican and he ran on a message of fiscal conservatism and social liberalism.

But this quote following his vote gave us pause:

“For too long, unnecessary and out-of-date regulations have been able to pile up on the books, burdening businesses large and small, and passing hidden costs along to families. I also think it’s critical that Congress is always a check on regulation, regardless of who is in the White House. I will support efforts to cut unnecessary and out-of-date regulations and help New Jersey’s businesses and families grow and prosper.”

Does that sound like a Democrat? More, does that sound like what we demand a 2017 Democrat to sound like?

Tom van Alten at FortBoise of Idaho writes—Welcoming our new galactic overlords:

Stumbling out of the gate, and curiously cooking up a swampy plan the day before the new Congress got sworn in, the House Republicans wanted to start off the session by neutering the House’s independent ethics office, because accusations can be so irksome. Word is, the leadership was opposed to something with astoundingly bad optics. But…House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy was in favor. It was the timing that didn’t seem quite right. Maybe do it on a Friday afternoon? Or some other time when not so many people are watching? Oh, what the heck, maybe we should involve the Democrats a little, too.

state blogs. fortboise

Both of Idaho’s Congressmen say they were opposed. Rep. Mike Simpson, believably, said he voted against it in the caucus’ secret ballot. Rep. Raúl Labrador said the dog ate his homework so he was late for the party, but by golly, now that he’s seen the answer in the back of the book, he for sure would’ve been opposed. Good timing.

What else you got? Paul Ryan, accepting his re-election as Speaker wanted to speak to the American people, and say “We hear you. We will do right by you.”

What we hear out in the cheap seats is yada yada yada confirmation bias, and let’s see if we lose our healthcare insurance. KFF.org shows the country about as evenly divided on the question of the Affordable Care Act as we were in the election. 50-50 for those who expressed an opinion, in spite of the tireless anti-marketing from the Republicans.

But yes, now that your party controls everything this “repeal and replace” trope will go forward, starting first and foremost with a “repeal” that’s a muddle of cherry-picking and delayed action, and a “replace” that we expect to be a pig in a poke.

If you had something to replace the ACA, you could just roll that out, eh? Just “replace,” and we’re done.

Sarah Kay at The Mudflats of Alaska writes—Blackwater’s Erik Prince Has a Solution for the Refugee Crisis:

In an opinion-piece penned for the respectable Financial Times, the adventurous Prince tackles the refugee crisis, that has affected the entire world but most specifically EU member states, struggling with the arrival of hundreds, if not thousands, of migrants – refugees and asylum seekers alike – on its external borders, mainly Italy and Greece. […]

This crisis has no end in sight. In addition to memorable photographs of abandoned life jackets left on pebble beaches in Greece, refugees in large numbers ride buses, trains or walk alongside newly carved out trails through Eastern Europe in the hope to reach Germany, France, England or Sweden. This has proved uncontrollable: Europol released that an estimated 10,000 unaccompanied children are “lost” on the continent; the shanty town that sprung up in Calais was home to over 8,000, including 3,000 children, before the French authorities decided to evacuate and destroy the camp. In the train stations of large capital cities, men, women and children, some injured, most suffering from intense trauma, all of them without assistance, are huddling for warmth in uncertainty. […]

The Mudflats of Alaska

As a lawyer, this has been constantly frustrating. The EU Commission isn’t interested in a long term, viable and lawful project of resettlement of the displaced. It has, through the EU-Turkey deal, violated provisions of the 1951 Refugee Convention. It is seeking to displace the problem rather than addressing it within its own territory. It is, very much so, displacing it and attempting to keep it in Libya, a disastrous result of failing policies for which it appears Erik Prince found a solution neatly encapsulated in an easy-to-read Financial Times column. What a time to be alive.

The solution is, of course, to bring private contractors in to assist EU border forces, facilitate border controls, and contain any potential security threats, all of this under the caveat that of course it would never supplant the existing structures. But in the absence of viable plans, I’m sure Prince’s solution would appeal to many. […]

But what’s more profitable than jumping into a glaring lack of leadership? Prince, who once lavished humble praise over himself for not having made more money with Blackwater (he’s a patriot, you see), sees yet another possibility to profit by deploying his employees to an area with little oversight and control. Collaboration with intelligence as well as enforcing border security poses a significant risk of inflating a terror threat or denying lawful and legitimate entry to vulnerable populations fleeing persecution. Prince’s constant insistence that such deployments are not just beneficial to states but also inherently carry humanitarian values is misguided. 

Pamela Powers Hannley at Blog for Arizona writes—Legislative Whirlwind Part 2: ADEQ Gas Tank Removal in Phoenix:

Did you ever wonder what happens to the storage tanks when a gas station closes? In Arizona, taxpayers often fund removal of the tanks– not the companies that installed them.

state blogs, blog for Arizona

When I was  professional photographer, one of my favorite subjects to photograph was industry, because of the sheer scale of the machinery and striking angles of industrial settings. Consequently, I jumped at the chance to watch two massive gas storage tanks being removed from an old, out-of-business gas station. The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) has a gas tank storage removal program, bankrolled by a special fund set up by the Arizona Legislature.

I think that is great to remove hazardous waste– like old gas storage tanks– and I would support more funding for ADEQ so they could step up the pace on the clean-up. According to ADEQ staff, there are hundreds of defunct gas stations and other industry-related environmental clean-up projects around Arizona that ADEQ is responsible for. Shouldn’t corporations take more responsibility for cleaning up their own environmental messes? Many “Mom-and-Pop” convenience stores/gas stations probably don’t have the funds for gas tank removal and clean-up after they close their doors, but corporate-owned gas stations should be cleaned up by the corporate people who own them, in my humble opinion.

As a Mom, I can’t remember how many times I have said: “You made that mess. You clean it up.”

Juanita Jean Herownself at Juanita Jean’s of Texas writes—The Dog Caught The Car:

Put up or shut up.

Fish or cut bait.

Honey, if you want to run with the big dogs, you gotta get out from under the porch.

state blogs, Juanita Jean's

It looks like the repeal of Obamacare is gonna stall in the Senate. Rand Paul, Bob Corker, Tom Cotton, and Susan Collins are saying “No, not until we have another plan,” and a fifth senator, Lisa Murkowski is raising her eyebrows.  The Republican Senator from Nevada, Dean Heller, has got to be nervous because Hillary won his state and Obamacare is very popular there 53/46.

And guess who is having a little fun with this?

Obama dares Republicans: Give me better health plant

and ‘I will publicly support repealing Obamacare’

Next you’ll hear the sound of roaring silence.

They’ve had 8 years to come up with a plan. I seriously doubt they are going to do it in 20 days.

Pete Talbot at Intelligent Discontent of Montana writes—Yo, Brian, are you running?

Former two-term governor Brian Schweitzer’s name has surfaced as the possible sole representative from Montana in the U.S. Congress. The soon to be open House seat could be up for grabs before May Day, 2017 (as we can safely assume that Rep. Ryan Zinke will be confirmed as secretary of the interior and resign as our representative).

Intelligent Discontent of Montana state blog

Schweitzer’s recent CNN appearance is whetting the appetites of many Montana Democrats. After a dismal showing in the 2016 election, they see Schweitzer as their best shot at taking back this seat. The last Democrat to hold the position was Pat Williams, whose term ended in early 1997.

Schweitzer has been quiet since his 2014 “gaydar” comment, which pretty much put an end to the rumors of a presidential bid. It looks like he may be getting back in the limelight, though.

He has yet to commit and this contest wouldn’t appear to be his modus operandi — running for the lowest ranking seat in the 435 member U.S. House of Representatives (and living in Washington, D.C.). […]

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I’m a STRONG Amanda Curtis supporter. She’s young, smart, progressive and a hard worker. However, I don’t see her throwing her hat in the ring if you’re going to run, Brian. So, to be fair to her, and other potential candidates, please let us know your intentions.

MN Progressive Project

Dan Burns at MN Progressive Project writes—Trump voters got well and truly suckered, Part 6:

From the guy who’s going to protect us from the ISIL hordes, coming to kill us all. Because among other things he knows more than the generals.

But arguably more important than Trump’s lazy dishonesty is his willingness to intensify his ongoing feud with U.S. intelligence agencies. In one juvenile tweet, the president-elect managed to attack the integrity of the agencies, their work, their professionalism, and their findings. He also has clearly made up his mind about the underlying controversy, choosing to believe Russia over American officials. […]

And then this.

Donald Trump and his transition team are working on a plan to revamp and reduce the size of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the CIA because the President-elect believes that the U.S. intelligence community is biased against him and has tried to undermine his election, the Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday evening.

Trump’s national security adviser, Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, and his nominee to lead the CIA, Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS) also believe that the DNI and CIA are biased, and the two are helping devise the plan to restructure the agencies, according to the Journal.
(Talking Points Memo)

I happen to think, myself, that given its history, and the general attitudes and motives of too many people who work for it, the CIA should be not “restructured,” but disbanded entirely. (What it has done well can be done at least as well elsewhere.) But in a very smart and careful way, not in an infantile fit of pique.

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