Around the South for January 17th: FL, SC, & AL

Florida: Hastings reveals he has cancer.  U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-FL) announced this week that he has pancreatic cancer, but that he plans to remain in office during his treatment.  The 82 year old congressman, who has been in office in Florida’s 20th Congressional District since 1990, says he feels “hopeful” about his treatment as well as in his ability to continue to serve his constituents.  South Carolina: Officials ponder paper ballots.  State elections officials are pushing to replace voting machines with paper ballots ahead of the 2020 elections, requesting $60 million from the state legislature to implement a new system that would leave a paper trail.  One problem – the new budget proposal from Gov. Henry McMaster includes just $5 million for voting machines.  Alabama: Ivey starts on a high note.  She hasn’t been in office for a week, but already Alabama Governor Kay Ivey is among the most popular governors in the nation.  A quarterly approval poll from The Morning Consult marks her approval rating at 63%, behind only Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker and Maryland Gov. Larry...

Around the South for January 10th: FL, TX, & VA

Florida: DeSantis makes first state Supreme Court pick.  New Governor Ron DeSantis has selected Miami Judge Barbara Lagoa as his first of three state Supreme Court appointees.  The “rule of law” conservative is the first Hispanic woman in history to serve on the Florida Supreme Court.  She takes over for retiring Justice Fred Lewis.  Texas: GOP moves past ‘bathroom bill.’  State Republican leaders are looking past the bathroom bill issue that has grabbed headlines across the country in recent years, promising instead to focus on “real issues” such as school finance and property taxes.  In 2017 a GOP backed bathroom bill was defeated following staunch opposition from the state’s business community.  Virginia: Supreme Court denies request.  The U.S. Supreme Court this week denied a request from a state Republican to delay the implementation of a new House of Delegates map for the 2019 elections.  The ruling means that state maps will be redrawn, a result of a suit filed that alleged state lawmakers used improper racial targets during the 2011 redistricting process to draw African-American voters into majority-minority districts.  The new maps are expected to lead to a more Democrat-friendly landscape in 2019 and...

Around the South for December 27th: LA, NC, & GA

Louisiana: Kennedy upset, Edwards pleased with justice reform.  Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) was among the small group of vocal opposition to President Donald Trump’s First Step Act, the criminal justice reform bill that passed earlier this month.  Democratic Governor Bill Edwards, who helped pass similar legislation in Louisiana, told reporters “I think Sen. Kennedy got it wrong” on the issue.  North Carolina: GOP stands by Harris.  The local arm of the Republican Party is standing behind Mark Harris, the congressman-elect whose legitimacy has come under fire after it was found one of his campaign workers is under criminal investigation for past election fraud.  The GOP argues that Harris’ November win should be certified on account of there not being any evidence that the 2018 election was interfered with.  That may not be true though, as the state elections board does not have to release the findings of its investigation into the race until later in January.  Former gubernatorial candidate indicted.  State Sen. and former gubernatorial candidate Michael Williams (R-Cumming) has been indicted for making a false report that computer servers were stolen from his campaign office earlier this year.  The candidate, whose aggressive and controversial campaign tactics drew national attention, is alleged to have committed insurance fraud, making a false statement and false report of a...

Around the South for December 20th: NC, AL, & TX

North Carolina: Extra congressional seat expected.  North Carolina’s growth rate has slowed from its peak, but the state is still expected to pick up another seat in Congress following the 2020 census.  The state’s population increased 1.1 percent in the past year, outpacing the national growth rate of 0.6 percent.  Alabama: Sheriff pleads guilty on tax charge.  Morgan County Sheriff Ana Franklin has agreed to plead guilty on charges of willful failure to file a tax return, with prosecutors saying they are leaving it up to the judge whether Franklin should serve prison time or be allowed to serve her sentence on house arrest or probation.  Franklin faces up to a year in prison and a fine up to $100,000.  Her term ends this January.  Texas: GOP donor threatens Abbott.  Dallas businessman and GOP donor Christopher Ekstrom has threatened to take action against state officials who support the removal of Confederate monuments on state property, saying he and his group will make more than 100,000 robocalls telling voters to contact their elected officials and voice their opposition to the move.  Republican Governor Greg Abbott publicly opposed the removal of a Confederate plaque in the Capitol in November, which many have taken offense to because it contains the “Children of the Confederacy creed,” stating that slavery was not the underlying cause behind the Civil...

Around the South for December 18th: AR, SC, & KY

Arkansas: Cotton takes heat over justice reform stance.  U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) is taking heat from fellow Republicans over his hard-line stance on criminal justice reform, the hot button issue that the White House is trying to push through the Senate before the year is out.  Cotton has become the face of opposition to the bipartisan bill, saying that it is “soft on crime” and would release violent criminals onto the streets.  South Carolina: Mulvaney named acting Chief of Staff.  Former South Carolina Congressman Mick Mulvaney has been named acting Chief of Staff for President Donald Trump, moving up from his current position of White House budget director.  Mulvaney has said he doesn’t plan to stay in the position for long, and only wants to serve until a more permanent replacement can be found.  Trump has had trouble filling the position, vacated by General John Kelly, after being turned down by his first choice, Georgian Nick Ayers.  Kentucky: Bevin slams pension ruling.  Governor Matt Bevin is furious after the state’s Supreme Court struck down a bill that would have would have reformed the state’s pension plan.  Teachers were furious with the bill, a 291 page piece of legislation that was tacked onto what was originally a sewer bill and rushed through the Republican-majority General Assembly earlier in 2018.  The Supreme Court said that it violated a provision within the Kentucky Constitution intended to assure that lawmakers have the “fair opportunity” to consider a bill before voting on it.  Democrats applauded the decision, while Bevin slammed it, pointing to the “broken” pension system that continues to rack up...

Around the South for December 13th: TX, FL, & GA

Texas: Castro eyes 2020 run.  Former San Antonio mayor and housing secretary under the Obama administration Julian Castro has formed a presidential exploratory committee, making him one of the first to semi-officially throw his hat in the ring for the 2020 Democratic primary.  Over two dozen potential candidates have been floated for the race, which has no clear frontrunners at the moment, including Castro’s fellow Texan Beto O’Rourke.  Florida: Goodbye Rays?  MLB’s Tampa Bay Rays may be headed out of the state, after St. Petersburg officials have been unable to drum up enough support to find money for a new stadium.  While many local leaders want the team to stay, public opinion doesn’t appear to be on their side, and the team, which plays in a dump of a stadium and draws some of the worst attendance in baseball, may see its days numbered.  Georgia: Atlanta scores Fortune 500 company.  Transportation giant Norfolk Southern announced this week that it will be moving its corporate HQ to Atlanta, bringing over 800 top level employees and spending more than half a billion dollars on a new office building in Midtown.  Governor Nathan Deal and Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms spoke glowingly of the decision, praising their economic development teams for landing yet another major company that was looking to...