This week at progressive state blogs: Respecting voter initiatives in UT; gun control win in FL

At ColoradoPols, Jason Saltzman writes—Republicans Still Planning To Hang Trump Portrait At Colorado Capitol:

Neither the recent election results nor Trump’s ongoing controversies have prompted Colorado Republicans to reconsider their plan to place a portrait of Trump in Colorado’s Capitol rotunda.

Colorado Pols state blog

The Denver Post’s Anna Staver reported last week that Republican State Senate President Kevin Grantham of Canon City hopes the portrait will be on a Capitol wall with other presidential portraits before the 2019 legislative session starts Jan. 4.

Grantham was the key figure in a successful GoFundMe fundraising effort to create the Trump likeness, saying at the time that Trump is a “populist,” and all citizens should have the opportunity to donate. About $10,000 was raised from 216 donors.

The Republicans’ state senate spokesman Sean Paige did not return a call yesterday seeking to find out if any Republican lawmakers had expressed qualms about hanging the portrait in light of the recent election–as well as the escalating controversies involving the president, including special prosecutor Robert Mueller’s investigation.

Also unanswered is the question, have Republicans considered delaying the Trump portrait-project until the Mueller investigation is complete?

Asked if Republicans are obliged to hang the Trump portrait, or if it’s just a tradition, Jay Sellers, Director of Arts for Colorado, told the Colorado Times Recorder back in July that he was not aware of “any law that requires us to hang a president’s portrait in the Capitol.”


At BlueNC, scharrison writes—Tyrants of a feather: Trump’s love affair with murderous Crown Prince:

If we’re not talking about oil, guns, and money, I don’t want to hear it:

Tuesday’s message could become something of a blueprint for foreign leaders — a guide to how they might increase their standing in the eyes of the American president as well as how far they can go in crushing domestic critics without raising American ire.

It was also a revealing meditation on the role that Mr. Trump believes facts should play in political decision-making. The C.I.A. concluded that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia had ordered Mr. Khashoggi’s killing, American officials said last week. But on Tuesday, the president dismissed not only that assessment but also the very process of seeking the truth, implying that it did not really matter anyway. (“Maybe he did and maybe he didn’t!” Mr. Trump wrote of Prince Mohammed.)

It’s not just the Khashoggi killing that such irresponsible behavior affects; those 85,000 dead Yemeni children will likely be joined by tens of thousands more, because Trump will allow Saudi Arabia to continue with business as usual in that war-torn country. And what may be behind that unflinching support is that Saudi Arabia has only spent a fraction of the money on arms deals that Trump has been bragging about, and the more bombs they drop on Yemen, the more $$$$ may be forthcoming. […]

At Alliance for a Better Utah, Chase Thomas writes—Lawmakers Should Respect the Will of the People & Leave the Initiatives Alone:

In my opinion, the so-called “blue wave” did make its way to Utah. We saw change in a congressional district, several state house and senate districts, and other local offices. But most significantly, in my opinion, we saw hundreds of thousands of voters show up to vote in favor of the three propositions on the ballot, approving medical cannabis, Medicaid expansion, and redistricting reform. The election results clearly signal that Utahns support each of these policies.

state blogs, stateblogs, Alliance for a Better Utah

However, even before election day, there were reports in the media indicating that Utah lawmakers were planning to ignore the outcome of the elections. The most obvious example is the so-called “compromise” medical cannabis legislation, which the Governor and legislative leaders said would be adopted by the Legislature regardless of whether Proposition 2 passed or failed on election day. Lawmakers also indicated they would be making changes to the funding of Medicaid expansion, even though Proposition 3 already includes a sales tax funding mechanism, and that they were interested in adding work requirements, even though backers of the proposition purposefully excluded such provisions. And Proposition 4 made lawmakers so upset that they have threatened to repeal the initiative, completely ignore the commission it establishes, or even sue to have it invalidated.

Yesterday, we issued a statement calling on lawmakers to respect the will of the people and leave the initiatives alone.  […]

This statement builds off of an Op-Ed I wrote earlier this year that was published in The Salt Lake Tribune. In it, I explained the co-equal power that Utahns hold to pass legislation by initiative. As lawmakers threatened to preempt the initiatives during the Legislative Session, I argued that they should honor the concurrent power held by their constituents.

I believe the same principles apply now as lawmakers threaten to change, replace, or repeal the initiatives that have been duly passed by the residents of Utah. […] The people of Utah voted for the initiatives as they are written. They didn’t vote for a compromise bill, for added policies that lawmakers believe will “improve” the law, or for lawmakers to completely ignore what they voted for.  

At Capital & Main of California, Dan Ross writes—Is a New Toxic Danger Threatening California?

There are many well-documented threats to California’s drinking water resources, but the latest has sprung to prominence only relatively recently, and has regulators and lawmakers scrambling for a response.

stateblogs, Capital & Main, CapitalandMain

The potential “magnitude of the problem” is why the state must act more urgently “to try to understand this quicker and better,” said Democratic Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, about per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), potentially toxic chemicals found with increasing frequency in drinking water systems across California and the nation.

“I have half a million constituents in my district, and the majority use a water system with less than 10,000 connections,” added Garcia. The bulk of the drinking water monitoring for PFAS chemicals thus far has targeted large systems serving 10,000 or more people. What’s more, many are concerned about the possible impact on poor communities already disproportionately affected by unsafe drinking water. Garcia’s suburban Los Angeles district is comprised of mostly blue-collar Latino communities.

PFAS compounds are a class of chemical found in a long list of everyday items, including clothing, carpeting, furniture, food packaging, non-stick cooking products and fire-fighting foams. They’re persistent, meaning they biodegrade extremely slowly, hence their nickname, “forever chemicals.” And they’ve been linked in humans to cancers and hormonal disruption, as well as developmental, reproductive and immune system problems. […]

At Juanita Jean’s of Texas, El Jefe writes—Just in Case You Were Curious…

Yesterday, in true form, Trump sided with a foreign power against his own intelligence agencies; and no, at least this time, it wasn’t Russia.  This time, it is Saudi Arabia.  The Washington Post reported earlier this week that the CIA has concluded that Mohammed Bin Salman, the Saudi crown prince, ordered the murder and Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi dissident and columnist for the Post.  The Turks have provided audio recordings of the murder and other intelligence to the CIA and other agencies.  Trump, of course, downplayed MBS’s involvement, repeating the same lies that he told when the CIA concluded the Russians interfered in the 2016 election.  Defending his declaration, and addressing MBS’s involvement, Trump said, “Maybe he knew; maybe he didn’t”.  […]

state blogs, Juanita Jean's

One needs to ask why in the world would Trump once again side with a foreign dictatorship rather than his own agencies.  That answer is easy…he owes the Saudis A LOT…millions.  […]

BTW, this is the same Saudi prince who owns a big stock position in News Corp, the parent of Fox Noise Network.  In the ensuing years, Saudis have poured millions of dollars into Trump properties.  Early in his campaign, His Orangeness boasted of his close ties to the Saudis, that, of course, was prior to the time he started denying he did business with them. […]

This behavior is the very definition of his continuing violation of the Emoluments Clause in the Constitution, to wit:

No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States: And no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State. – Article 1, Section 9, US Constitution.

Enough of this is enough. The problem is that the invertebrates in Congress will continue to hide in dark corners rather than do their damn jobs.

 At Appalachian Voices, Lauren Essick writes—Blue Ridge Energy’s solar policies among the worst in Southeast:

Blue Ridge Energy electric cooperative has one of the worst solar energy policies of all electric utilities throughout the Southeast, a new interactive website launched by the Southern Environmental Law Center shows.

state blogs

SELC’s “Rates of Solar” lists Blue Ridge among its solar “brakers” because of the co-op’s high monthly fee for owner-members who install solar energy on their home. The additional fee, beyond what non-solar residents already pay, is a minimum of nearly $29 per month on top of the regular $24 monthly fee paid by all residential members. The electric cooperative serves the North Carolina High Country, a largely rural area.

“The added fee that Blue Ridge charges members who want more clean energy and the freedom to invest in their own solar systems is punitive and discriminatory,” said Rory McIlmoil, Energy Savings Program Manager for Appalachian Voices. “That fee alone nearly doubles the cost of a typical solar system over its lifetime. No other electric co-op in the state has as bad of a solar policy as Blue Ridge, so it’s easy to see why they’re being called out for putting the brakes on solar in the High Country.”

Blue Ridge members who have looked into installing their own solar panels have expressed their frustration at the co-op’s policies, according to Appalachian Voices Outreach Coordinator Lauren Essick. “Members want to be able to afford solar, but because of Blue Ridge’s policies, it’s just not cost-effective for them, and they don’t understand why their co-op is making it harder.” […]

According to SELC’s press release, the Rates of Solar website, provides simple, straightforward information about how utilities across the Southeast are treating customers with rooftop solar on their homes, highlighting more than 400 utility solar policies across SELC’s six -state region.

At Florida Politics, Jacob Ogles writes—Gun safety advocates claim victory with Nikki Fried win:

Some of Florida’s biggest gun control advocates saw in Nikki Fried’s Agriculture Commissioner race a victory.

Florida Politics

“This is a victory for those of us who believe we can do more for gun safety,” wrote Fred Guttenberg, whose daughter Jaime died in the Parkland high school mass shooting in February, on Twitter. […]

Fried emerged victorious in Florida’s closest and most drawn out statewide election, besting Republican Matt Caldwell by 6,753 votes, about 0.08 percent of more than 8 million votes cast. She was in Tallahassee on Tuesday, attending both legislative chambers’ Organization Sessions. […]

While Fried ran on a range of issues, most notably reform of marijuana laws, it was gun control advocates who quickly celebrated the Democrat’s victory. […]

Brandon Wolf, a survivor of the 2016 Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, tweeted Fried will soon be “making background checks great again.

That comment, of course, alluded to a scandal that broke this year under outgoing Republican Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam. The Tampa Bay Times broke a story that Putnam’s office stopped conducting background checks on concealed weapons permits for a year.

Blogging Blue

At Blogging Blue in Wisconsin, Ed Heinzelman writes— President Trump’s Most Unpleasant Day In Pleasure California:

Admittedly I am not a fan of President Donald Trump…and have been sharing some of the memes and cartoons being published at his expense…around his miscues, misstatements, and misinformation about the California fires. And one of my friends called me out for making fun of the president after I posted this meme:

He said I shouldn’t be making fun of the president. My response…the president doesn’t seem to be taking his responsibilities seriously and I don’t feel any obligation to take him seriously. And that is actually sad. That someone thinks the president is still defensible and that I can’t take our president seriously.

But then we continued, that the loss of life and property are not funny. That nearly 800 people still missing is not funny. And those things evoke no humor in me or anyone that I know. Which is why it is so discouraging that our president can spend time flying to California and talking to people involved and tour an area of utter destruction…and not even know where he is.

[CBS News tweeted] “What a name”: President Trump mistakenly called Paradise, California, “Pleasure” after touring the wildfire wreckage there.

At Dakota Free Press, Cory Allen Heidelberger writes—PUC Approves New Wind Farm in SE SD; Positive Blog Coverage Helps Wash Away Health Concerns:

The Public Utilities Commission has approved Prevailing Wind Park LLC’s application to build a 61-turbine, 219.6-megawatt wind farm in Bon Homme, Charles Mix, and a little niche of Hutchinson counties. Meeting Tuesday in Pierre, the PUC expressed some reservation about turbines not being set back sufficiently far from residences but shrugged as it did at far more justified concerns about the Keystone and Keystone XL pipelines running right through unwilling landowners’ property.

Dakota Free Press

Wind opponents solicited testimony from wind farm neighbors from other states who came all the way to South Dakota to talk smack about wind turbines (I would love to see who paid their gas money). Prevailing Wind brought doctors:

Interveners voiced concern over the wind farm’s potential impacts on their health and claimed Prevailing Wind Park did not meet the burden of proof to show otherwise. In previous hearings, interveners brought forward testimonies from residents who live near other wind farms throughout the Midwest who claimed wind farms were detrimental to their health and way of life.

Prevailing Wind brought in doctors to testify, who said there was no reason to believe the proposed energy facility would impair residents’ health. While he said he valued the testimonies from residents, Hanson said the expert witness testimonies from medical professionals had firmer legal standing [Sarah Mearhoff, “PUC Approves 50,000-Acre Wind Farm in Southeast SD,” Aberdeen American News, 2018.11.21].

The doctors are probably right—a new Canadian analysis agrees that some neighbors may find wind turbines annoying but that there’s no evidence of real health impacts:

The earlier Statistics Canada study found no direct link between residents’ distance from wind turbines and sleep disturbances (as measured by sleep assessments and the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index), blood pressure, or stress (either self-reported or measured via hair cortisol). However, the more recent study showed that survey respondents closer to wind turbines reported lower ratings for their environmental quality of life. Barry and her co-authors note that their cross-sectional study cannot distinguish whether these respondents were dissatisfied before the wind turbines were installed.

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