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....

Around the South for February 7th: GA, VA, & SC

Georgia: Abrams praised for SOTU response.  Stacey Abrams may have fallen short in her bid to win the Georgia governorship in 2018, but she remains a rising star in the Democratic Party.  Her nationally televised response to President Donald Trump’s State of the Union Tuesday was met with generally favorable reviews, mixing in personal anecdotes with a more general Dem platform, and avoiding the gaffes that have plagued many previous responders.  Allies are hoping to push her to run against Sen. David Perdue (R-GA) in 2020.    Virginia: State leaders plagued by scandal.  Gov. Ralph Northam, Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, and AG Mark R. Herring, all Democrats, have found themselves embroiled in potentially career-ending scandal.  Northam and Herring were found to have dressed in blackface in college during parties, while Fairfax has been accused of sexual assault.  While many have called for Northam to resign now state Dems are in a tight spot – if all three are forced to step down the governorship would go over to a Republican, House Speaker Kirk Cox.  South Carolina: Presidential hopefuls gear up.  Democratic candidates for president in 2020 are gearing up their campaigns in South Carolina, an important early battleground state.  Kamala Harris, Joe Biden and Cory Booker, among others, are jostling to hire key political operatives in the state, knowing that a win would show the ability to galvanize the black and southern vote which would give them a leg up in a very crowded primary...

Around the South for January 24th: VA, KY, & TN

Virginia: General Assembly ponders casinos.  Legislation that would allow 5 Virginia cities to vote on constructing a casino passed out of a Senate committee this week, moving one step closer to legalizing gambling in the state.  State officials, including Gov. Ralph Northam, have said they’d prefer to hold off on passing such legislation until they can study the issue further.  Kentucky: Grimes won’t run for gov.  Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes announced Monday that she will not seek the Democratic nomination for governor, pointing to the fact that she had her first child in December.  So far four Democrats, including Attorney General Andy Beshear and House Minority Leader Rocky Adkins have announced their campaigns in the race to unseat Republican Gov. Matt Bevin, who has said he will run for re-election.  Tennessee: Lee issues executive order on rural development.  Newly sworn in Gov. Bill Lee issued his first executive order this week, aimed at aiding economically distressed rural counties.  Helping rural areas was a key part of Lee’s platform for governor, and his executive order would require all state executive departments to provide recommendations for how they can better serve rural Tennessee.  Rural broadband, vocational training, and increased access to healthcare are all potential avenues for improvement in the...