Around the South for March 21st: TN, FL, & AR

Tennessee: Conservative group takes aim at Haslam.  As former Governor Bill Haslam continues to ponder a 2020 run for U.S. Senate to replace the retiring Sen. Lamar Alexander, some conservative groups aren’t too keen on his potential candidacy.  One such group, the The Club for Growth, has launched an ad campaign highlighting a federal investigation into a diesel rebate scam at Haslam’s family’s truck stop chain, Pilot Flying J.  The group has urged Republican Congressman Mark Green to join the primary.  Florida: Legislature disagrees on education budget.  The Florida state House and Senate each released their own version of a proposed state budget this week, and there seems to be a disagreement over education.  The House’s version contains more than $600 million less for k-12 education than does the Senate’s, a total of nearly $200 per student.  The two chambers will be forced to come together and try to meet in the middle as they move towards passing a budget this spring.  Arkansas: State rejects flag proposal.  A proposal to change the meaning of Arkansas’ state flag was rejected this week by the state House State Agencies and Governmental Affairs Committee.  Currently the blue star above the word ‘Arkansas’ on the flag represents the Confederacy, but this proposal would have changed that meaning to the U.S. (currently represented by a different star) and then attached to that star the Native American...

Around the South for March 14th: KY, TX, & VA

Kentucky: Teachers revolt against school-choice bill.  In response to Kentucky House Bill 205, teachers in several prominent public school districts including in Louisville and Lexington have held “sick-outs,” effectively cancelling school for the day.  The bill would allow parents to receive tax credits for their donations to  scholarship-granting organizations, which would then provide private school scholarships.  Advocates for public schools say the legislation is taking money out of local schools.  Gov. Matt Bevin has pledged to sign the bill into law.  Texas: Green calls for Trump impeachment.  U.S. Rep. Al Green (D-Houston) is going against his party’s wishes – and after Donald Trump.  Despite House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi telling her caucus not to, Green has said he will move forward with bringing an impeachment vote against the president to the House floor.  Green first brought impeachment to the House floor in 2017, where it was defeated by a 364-58 margin.  Virginia: Northam vetoes handgun bill.  Embattled Governor Ralph Northam issued his first veto of 2019 this week, rejecting a Republican proposal to expedite concealed handgun permits for out-of-state residents.  The bill narrowly passed both the House and Senate, so it is not expected to muster the 2/3 majority it would need to bypass the governor’s...

Around the South for March 7th: TN, FL, & NC

Tennessee: Lee touts school choice, criminal justice reform.  In his first State of the State address, Gov. Bill Lee unveiled his early legislative agenda that includes a heavy emphasis on charter schools, health care, and criminal justice reform.  He also pitched his plan for expanding rural broadband, as well as increasing the state’s rainy day fund to over $1.1 billion.  Florida: Too much money in politics?  A report from the Florida Phoenix says that the average net worth in Florida’s 40-member state Senate is $5.48 million.  Seven out of 10 members are millionaires.  It’s no secret that money rules politics, but critics point to the numbers as evidence that their elected officials, on either side of the aisle, are out of touch with the typical Floridian.  North Carolina: Date set for 9th District re-do.  The dates for the new elections to replace former Rep. Republican Mark Harris, forced to resign following a vote-rigging scandal, have now been set.  Primaries for both parties will be held on May 14th, with the general election set for September 10th barring any runoffs.  Harris will not run again, but his Democratic opponent Dan McCready is already campaigning and is expected to win his party’s nomination for his second...

Around the South for Feb. 28th: MS, AL, & SC

Mississippi: State named nation’s most conservative.  A recent Gallup poll shows that Mississippi is the most conservative state in the nation, with a full 50% of residents identifying as conservative.  Alabama comes in second, while New Hampshire is the most liberal state.  Alabama: Candidates line up for 2020.  The U.S. Senate seat held by Democrat Doug Jones is seen as one of the most vulnerable in the nation in 2020, and already Alabama Republicans are lining up to fight to face him.  U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne is the first official entrant, while others including state Sen. Del Marsh, state Auditor Jim Zeigler, and even former U.S. Sen. Roy Moore are considering bids of their own.  South Carolina: Dem candidates come through.  2020 Democratic presidential hopefuls are spending a lot of time in South Carolina as they continue to ramp up their campaigns.  California Senator Kamala Harris will speak at a business convention in a couple weeks, while former U.S. Rep. John Delaney of Maryland is holding a town hall in...

Around the South for February 21st: FL, LA, & MS

Florida: DeSantis waves to Amazon.  Following the announcement that Amazon would not be constructing part of its HQ2 in New York City, Florida Gov. Rick DeSantis offered a possible solution.  “We welcome you to come to Florida” he said in a press conference Wednesday, also hitting New York for its “demagoguery” after it pulled out of the running.  Amazon has said it has no plans currently to put its proposed New York operation somewhere else.  Louisiana: GOP hopes for more gubernatorial candidates.  With just two announced candidates ahead of this November’s gubernatorial challenge to Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards, Republicans are hoping for a bigger, better equipped field.  U.S. Rep. Ralph Abraham and Baton Rouge businessman Eddie Rispone are the announced Republicans, but the pair has raised less than $1 million combined and party officials fear they won’t be able to put up much of a fight in the general election.  The biggest GOP names in the state, including U.S. Sen. John Kennedy, Attorney General Jeff Landry and U.S. House Minority Whip Steve Scalise, have already said they won’t run.  Mississippi: GOP field heats.  Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves has been seen for some time as the frontrunner for the Republican nomination for governor, but he’s quickly seeing the competition line up.  This week Bill Waller Jr., former chief justice of the Mississippi Supreme Court announced he would seek the party’s nomination, offering a viable alternative to Reeves, who isn’t particularly popular among some circles.  State Attorney General Jim Hood will be the Democratic...

Around the South for February 14th: FL, TX, & KY

Florida: DeSantis pushes school security.  Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis this week issued an executive order putting into place several administrative actions meant to increase school safety and hopefully prevent school shootings.  The move comes almost exactly one year since the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland that killed 17.  The steps include a review of all school district discipline diversion programs, as well as a reopening of the state’s school guardian program and authorizing the state’s Department of Education to implement a data repository for timely school safety information.  Texas: Cruz calls for alternative wall funding.  U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) has called for a rather unconventional means of funding the controversial wall between the U.S. and Mexico – the assets seized from infamous drug kingpin ‘El Chapo.’  Cruz recently introduced The Ensuring Lawful Collection of Hidden Assets to Provide Order (El CHAPO) Act, which would use the $14 billion in assets sought by the government following El Chapo’s conviction this week.  Kentucky: Sports betting on the horizon?  A new bill from State Rep. Adam Koenig (R-Erlanger) would legalize sports betting in the state, raising an estimated $19 million per year which would be used to pay down Kentucky’s $37 billion unfunded pension liability.  Horse racing is of course already legal in the state, but other forms of sports betting are not.  Following the U.S. Supreme Court striking down a federal law that had largely outlawed sports betting outside of Nevada though, states can determine whether or not to allow gambling on sporting events in their states....