After The NeverEnding Story III: Escape from Fantasia, I really didn't think the franchise would find any imitators. But then came the Texas redistricting saga, a neverending story in its own right. Still playing in theaters near you, if you happen to live in the Lone Star State.
Wednesday brought a new chapter in the drama. Legal battles have been raging for months, as different courts examine the legality of the state's original maps and over how state's interim maps should look. For the first time, all sides agreed on interim maps for the state Senate—likely the maps that will be used in 2012—but there's still disagreement on the maps for Congress and the state House. That means Texas' primary will be later than anyone was hoping.
In Florida, a coalition of Democrats and a few moderate Republicans killed what could have been a major expansion of private prisons. The measure would have privatized 27 prisons and displaced more than 3,500 corrections officers. In the Florida Senate, nine Republicans voted against the measure, along with all 12 Democratic state senators. It was a rare victory for both Democrats and the labor unions that fought the bill.
Republican delegate Bob Marshall says critics are overstating things when it comes to the personhood bill he is sponsoring in Virginia. Opponents of his bill have argued that not only does the measure grant legal protections to all fetuses beginning at conception, but it could also be construed to outlaw birth control.
The bill is ostensibly less stringent than similar measures that came up in Colorado and Mississippi. As Marshall points out, it does not directly outlaw abortion, but would force the courts to include embryos in definitions of person. "I think I struck a middle ground," says Marshall.
Mitt Romney has me counting the days until the Olympics (164 as of Tuesday.) Since he's not always eager to talk about his largely-moderate record as Massachusetts governor, we've gotten to hear a lot about Mitt's role planning the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympic Games. There was that lingering animosity between Romney and Rick Perry, supposedly because Romney didn't give the Boy Scouts enough of a role. Of course, most of it's been about the boring stuff, like how he turned around a potentially disastrous event and made it profitable. But, when he starts talking about it, I mainly just imagine people competing in sports I've usually forgotten exist.
Subsidized school lunches always seemed like a government program most people could get behind. The federal program gives food to low-income children. Giving food to children who live in poverty—hard to argue with that idea.
In 2010, I was covering a state legislative race out in East Texas. A Tea Party candidate explained to me that free school lunches are bad for society, because were it not for the government program, parents would provide food for their kids on their own. If the kids still couldn't get food, then he believed churches and charities should pick up the slack, rather than the government. But sadly for my Tea Party friend, in Texas, free lunches may be one of the few federal programs that hasn't stirred up too much controversy.
Each Friday—well at least most Fridays—I'm going to sum up the big news happening in states around the country. To make it more interesting, I'm naming a State of the Week where the biggest news came from. See something that's missing? Tell me: email@example.com or on Twitter @RaRapoport.
And this week's State of the Week is ... California
In 2014, no students will be behind in math or reading. All of them will meet grade-level goals. That's the plan according to No Child Left Behind.
Thursday, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced that ten states were getting waivers from the controversial law’s requirements. The states would implement their own plans, approved by the Department of Education, for improving public schools. New Mexico, the only other state that applied, was not granted a waiver, but Duncan explained htat this was because its application was incomplete. A few days, he said, and the state would likely be approved.
Ah, the old days when school buses were yellow, slow, and smelled funny. With state budget cuts to education around the country, more buses may soon stop being so yellow and instead become traveling billboards. (I'm guessing they're still going slow and smelly.)
Meet Craig James. If you aren't a football fan, you've probably never heard of the guy. If you are inclined toward the pigskin, well, James's voice should be pretty familiar to you—he's been commentating at ESPN for 20 years after a short but successful career with the New England Patriots. He's also running for U.S. Senate in Texas.
The GOP presidential primary has offered some odd debates on who cares about the "very poor" and whether there should be a "safety net" or a "trampoline" to help people get out of poverty. Meanwhile, in Kansas, it seems Governor Sam Brownback is hoping to dig a bigger hole for the poor fall into. Between his tax plans and his approaches to school funding, Brownback's agenda overtly boosts the wealthy and makes things harder for the poor. While many liberals speculate this to be a secret goal, Brownback is hardly making a secret of his agenda.
John Kasich is in a bit of a bind. The Ohio governor is, on the one hand, the tough Republican who tried to bring right-to-work legislation to Ohio and reduce government spending. He's also the guy whose efforts to limit collective bargaining got knocked down by Ohio voters. Partisan divides seem to be growing in the Buckeye State. All of which was likely on his mind when Kasich gave his State of the State address today. The governor opted to give the speech at a school rather than at the state capitol, where it's traditionally given. It wasn't the only unusual choice of the day.
It's already clear that gay marriage will be, once again, a major issue this year. Today, in a major victory for gay marriage advocates, a panel of federal judges ruled California's gay marriage ban is constitutional. Last week, the Washington state Senate approved a bill recognizing same-sex marriage, paving the way for gay marriage to become law.
But the fight for same-sex marriage is only a piece of a larger civil rights struggle. And with all eyes focused on the issue of matrimony, it's easy to miss some of the other battlegrounds.
Christine O'Donnell may not be a witch, but it appears she's also not much of a political figure. Just when we'd almost forgotten about the woman who seemed to spend her youth making unfortunate statements to Bill Maher, the Wilmington News Journal offered a damning look at the former candidate who garnered national attention in 2010 when her upstart Tea Party campaign defeated Congressman Mike Castle, the Republican establishment pick, in the GOP primary for Delaware's U.S. Senate seat.