Abby Rapoport

The Other Big Ohio Primary

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Tomorrow, one of the nastier primary races in recent memory will come to an end. Nope, not the Republican presidential race. (That may drag on for eternity.) Ohio will be the first state to hold a congressional primary, which means an end to the vicious fight between Marcy Kaptur and Dennis Kucinich, two Democrats who both currently hold office. (A third Democrat, Graham Veysey, is also running in what's likely to be a distant third.) After the 2010 Census numbers were in, Ohio lost two congressional seats. The GOP-controlled legislature decided to lump two of the most union-friendly representatives together in one district: Kaptur, from Toledo, and Kucinich, from Cleveland. Both are consistently pro-union, with the same high rating from the powerful United Auto Workers. The unions, by and large, are staying out of the race rather than choosing between the two . However, each campaign does have the the support of a super PAC . The Ohio district favors Democrats, and it's likely that...

Right to Know Versus Right to Withhold

In the debates over pre-abortion ultrasound bills, advocates often say such measures are vital to ensuring that women have all the relevant information. The argument is often based in part on the idea that abortion providers make money off of the procedures —and therefore may try to trick women into terminating their pregnancies . The reasoning also assumes that when deciding to have an abortion, a woman should know the physical details of the fetus, like how many fingers and toes have developed. That's why—in a messaging win for social conservatives—the pre-abortion sonogram requirement is often called a "Woman's Right to Know" legislation. But, Kansas Republicans may spoil all the fun. The state House is working on legislation that would allow doctors to withold information if it will help prevent an abortion, as well as requiring doctors to tell women that abortions increase odds of getting breast cancer—a theory many public health organizations reject. Forget right to know—the...

Zombie Bill Springs Back From the Dead

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Tuesday was a day for bills to come back to life—zombie bills you might call them. In Virginia, the Senate passed a revised version of its pre-abortion sonogram measure , which had looked dead only a few days before. And in Arizona, senators passed one of the measures aimed at killing public employee unions weeks after the measures appeared to have stalled out. Quite a day for the undead. Arizona started the legislative session with four anti-union bills, including one that would outlaw collective bargaining. Unlike Wisconsin, which also targeted public employee unions, these measures did not exempt firefighters or police officers. Two weeks ago, the senate passed a measure requiring yearly authorizations in order for unions (and other outside groups) to automatically make deductions from paychecks of public workers. The bill makes it harder for unions to collect money. However the other three bills didn't go anywhere. Arizona Governor Jan Brewer was hardly advocating for the measures...

Do You Know What Your Voter Wants to Hear?

Street view on Google maps still sort of wows me. I'm still not sure I'm prepared for the power of being able to see almost every house in America, block by block. So it's really no surprise that VoterMapping blew my mind. VoterMapping is a new campaign tool that allows a user to see not only every house, but who lives in the house, how they vote, and even what kinds of magazines they get. You can map the state of Illinois based on Democrats who give to religous organizations and enjoy gardening magazines. The tool not only can give likely ethnicities, income levels, and tell you whether people have a premium credit card, but it can also show all the data points around congressional districts, state legislative districts—even elementary school districts. In the meantime, national campaigns—with access to state money—can use the internet to figure out where you live, what you like, and where you shop. After that, it's easy to tailor web ads to appeal to you. Welcome to the new world of...

Virginia Passes Sonogram Bill After All

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In the end, even Jon Stewart couldn't kill the Virginia ultrasound bill. After more than a week of protests and national attention, the state Senate passed an amended version of the measure Tuesday afternoon which will require women seeking an abortion to get an ultrasound 24 hours ahead of the procedure. The Senate did unanimously pass an exemption for victims of rape and incest, but other amendments fell flat, including one to mandate insurance coverage of the sonograms. The House has already passed a version of the bill and it appears now to be headed for law. Much of the protesting focused on "transvaginal" ultrasounds, highly invasive procedures that would be required to get a clear image of a fetus in the very early stages of pregnancy. Opponents called the bill a "state rape" mandate. The Daily Show even had a bit on it. Public support for the measure tanked and, under pressure, the state's socially conservative Governor Bob McDonnell announced he opposed requiring transvaginal...

Dirty Tactics in Fight for Prison Privatization

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A couple weeks ago, the Florida Senate rejected a measure that would have privatized 27 prisons and displaced more than 3,500 corrections officers. Nine Republicans voted against the measure, giving the bill's opponents a narrow 21-19 win. It was an impressive victory at the time, but now we're discovering just how hard-fought it was. A senator who's suffered five heart attacks became the focal point of the debate, where advocates hoped to pressure her into changing positions on the bill. Things got so bad, she actually had to have protection. The Tampa Bay Times reports : The debate over privatizing much of Florida's prison system last week probably marks one of the few times a couple of senators provided an escort for one of their colleagues — from the opposing political party, no less. It attracted little attention last week when Sens. Charles Dean, R-Inverness, and Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, walked onto the Senate floor before the debate on privatizing prisons with Sen. Larcenia...

Education on the Cheap

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Publicly funded online schools run by private companies have been controversial with teachers groups and some education advocates since they started to take off a few years ago. But the concept of educating kids by computer has a strong appeal—not just among lawmakers but also among portfolio managers and investors. The two biggest companies offering online education—K12, Inc. and Connections Academy—are both for-profit, and until recently K12 had been a stock-market favorite. But an article this week on Seeking Alpha , a major investment website, casts doubt on the long-term profitability of K12 in light of poor student results. In the past few years, school districts and charter schools have increasingly subcontracted out certain operations to either Connections Academy or K12, Inc. In many states, lawmakers embraced the idea, which promised to bring private-sector efficiency to education. Online education also offered an idyllic image: Kids can take classes anywhere, at times that...

Reproductive Rights: I've Got Some Good News and Some Bad News

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It's hard to relax these days (though I still haven't tried yoga.) Take the current fight around reproductive rights. Pro-choice advocates of women's health have heard plenty of good news in the past few days. The trouble is, it's almost always been tempered by bad news. See what I mean: Pre-Abortion Sonogram Debate After days of protests and media coverage, Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell backed away from a state bill last week that required sonograms 24 hours before an abortion. Much of the criticism from pro-choice advocates focused on how the bill would require very invasive transvaginal sonograms for those women seeking an abortion early in the pregnancy. McDonnell explained he was opposed to requiring transvaginal sonograms and couldn't support the bill as written. The bill's opponents cheered. Now it seems likely Virginia will pass a less-extreme version of the bill—while Alabama may pass a bill more similar to Virginia's original. Virginia lawmakers have revised their...

With Time Running Out, States Debate Education

(Flickr/Dave Nicholas)
Time flies—just ask the legislators in the 11 states who have to get their business wrapped up in the next few weeks. (New Mexico has already adjourned.) Most of the states began the year with fairly extreme education reform agendas, in terms of both funding and policy. Since then, with pushback from teachers groups, most of those efforts have been watered down considerably. With only weeks to go, key education bills remain up in the air in most of the places, leaving the roles of charter schools, teacher protections, and school funding in the balance. Efforts at education reform are hardly new, but with the Obama administration giving states waivers for No Child Left Behind requirements , there's even more emphasis on teacher evaluations and student performance. While Indiana, among the states with legislative sessions almost over, already received its waiver, other states are working to make themselves more appealing to the U.S. Department of Education. The applications process for...

State of the Week

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: arapoport@prospect.org or on Twitter @RaRapoport. This week's State of the Week is ... Virginia! Virginia Republicans began this week with two bills very much alive—one that would change the legal definition of "person" to include fertilized eggs and another requiring women seeking abortions to receive a sonogram 24 hours beforehand. But a national outcry around the ultrasound measure—focusing on what would generally be a very invasive "transvaginal" sonogram—eventually prompted socially conservative Governor Bob McDonnell to back away from the bill. He's already taking heat for the move . While the personhood measure did not receive as much attention, opponents successfully raised a series of key questions, including whether the bill would...

Personhood Bill Dead in Virginia

Update: Virginia's personhood bill is now dead for the year . The bill, already approved by the state House, passed out of a Senate committee this morning and headed to the floor. But the Republican-dominated Senate voted to send the bill back to committee and carry it over to next year. It's the second big win for pro-choice advocates in Virginia this week, after Governor Bob McDonnell retracted his support for a bill requiring pre-abortion transvaginal sonograms yesterday. "By vote of 24-14, HB 1 is rereferred to Senate Ed & Health and carried over for the year," tweeted Democratic Senator Mark Herring triumphantly. "Translation = Bill is defeated." This morning, less than 24 hours after pro-life advocates saw a big victory over a Virginia pre-abortion sonogram bill, a Virginia Senate committee voted to move the controversial "personhood" bill forward . The bill, which would have changed the legal definition of "person" to include fertilized eggs and fetuses, passed the House...

Where Was the Outrage Over Texas's Sonogram Law?

(AP Photo/Richmond Times Dispatch/Bob Brown)
Pro-choice advocates around the country cheered Wednesday, as Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell withdrew support for a pre-abortion sonogram bill . The bill had risen to national attention, even earning a spot on The Daily Show. Critics focused on a particularly disturbing detail of the measure—most women having abortions have them early in the pregnancy, too early for the usual "jelly on the belly" ultrasound. So the bill mandated transvaginal sonograms, in which a probe would be stuck inside a woman's vagina and she would be offered a chance to see the fetus before she could terminate the pregnancy. "During the entire wand-forcibly-inserted-in-your-most-private-area experience, you still have complete and total control over which way your head is turned," The Daily Show's Jon Stewart told his guests. The focus from national media, social media, and bloggers all likely helped to force McDonnell into changing his position. At the same time many protested the Virginia effort, Texas this...

The Way the Girl Scout Cookies Crumble

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Between the Susan G. Komen controversy, the birth control panel, and Virginia's efforts at pre-abortion sonograms and personhood bills, you may have had enough of the culture wars and the fight against women. Well, tough—this week brings yet a new and bizarre episode. Indiana state Representative Bob Morris sent a letter to his colleagues urging them to oppose the resolution celebrating the Girl Scouts' 100th anniversary. In his letter, leaked to the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette, Morris didn't mince words . He writes that the Girl Scouts "promote homosexual lifestyles" and partners with Planned Parenthood: Nonetheless, abundant evidence proves that the agenda of Planned Parenthood includes sexualizing young girls through the Girl Scouts, which is quickly becoming a tactical arm of Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood instructional series and pamphlets are part of the core curriculum at GSA training seminars. Denver Auxiliary Bishop James D. Conley of Denver last year warned parents...

Wisconsin Poll Results: Should Walker Be Concerned?

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On its face, the latest poll from Wisconsin doesn't seem to offer much in the way of conclusions. But dig a bit and the poll offers a guide to the potential pitfalls of the Scott Walker campaign in the upcoming months, as the governor prepares for a likely recall election. The key results are sort of bland. The p oll of registered voters , the second one of the monthly polls conducted by Marquette University Law School, showed Walker's favorability rating to have slipped slightly. While 50 percent of respondents rated the governor's job favorably in January, only 46 percent did this time around. Meanwhile his negatives were up a bit—from 45 percent to 48. Certainly not good news for Walker, but hardly catastrophic. Meanwhile, there's been almost no movement among the Democrats who seem like potential challengers to Walker, assuming a recall occurs. Most have little name recognition; of the five Democrats the poll asked about, all had at least 47 percent of respondents giving a "don't...

Jan Brewer's Case for Government Spending

(Flickr/Gage Skidmore)
It was the finger jab heard round the world. Normally finger jabs do not make noise, but I'm confident that Arizona Governor Jan Brewer got even the air's attention as she stuck her digit at the president when the two met on an airport tarmac in January. Brewer has developed a strong reputation as a conservative—she championed Arizona's controversial immigration bill, among the most extreme in the country. She's pushing for a measure now to give public workers a 5 percent pay increase—so long as they give up their job protections. So far, fairly typical Republican stuff, right? Here's the curveball. In the past, she's pushed for increasing taxes and Tuesday she criticized state Republican lawmakers for offering a budget without enough spending for healthcare and education. Arizona House Republicans offered a state budget Monday with $200 million less than the budget Brewer proposed . As the East Valley Tribune reports , Brewer's spokesman called the plan "short-sighted and reckless."...

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