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...

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...