(Permanent Musical Accompaniment To This Post)
Being our semi-regular weekly survey of what’s goin’ down in the several states where, as we know, the real work of governmentin’ gets done and where you’re searching for the very souls whom already have been sold.
The predominant issue out in several states right now involves the incredible campaign of the Republicans in Pennsylvania to maintain the ludicrously gerrymandered map they produced in their state legislature. (In the last election, the Democratic candidates piled up more votes, but the Republicans won 13 of the 18 legislative seats. This is the very living definition of a partisan gerrymander.)
The state’s supreme court threw out the original map and gave the Republican legislature a chance to create a more equitable one. The Republicans produced another dead fish and the court threw that one out, too, and then drew up their own. That sent the Republicans up the wall. At the present moment, there is a serious movement to impeach the justices of the Supreme Court who have proven so inconvenient.
This is a position adopted by no less than United States Senator Pat Toomey. This is somewhat similar to the situation in Iowa in 2009, when a majority of that state’s supreme court ruled in favor of marriage equality only to have three of the justices fall victim to a well-financed recall campaign. (Have I mentioned recently what a terrible idea an elected judiciary is?) The same arguments are being made in Pennsylvania that were made in Iowa–imperial judiciary yadda-yadda.
And, as we learn from Mother Jones, the Republicans also have thrown a last-minute Hail Mary in the general direction of the Nine Wise Souls in Washington, D.C.
This is the Republicans’ second attempt to draw the U.S. Supreme Court into the case and avoid a map that is more friendly to Democrats. The two Republican leaders previously appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court matter last month, before the court’s replacement map was implemented, but Justice Samuel Alito, who oversees appeals from states in the Third Circuit, denied their request. This time, they are returning with the new map in place and essentially the same arguments. Election law experts are skeptical that the Supreme Court will decide to take up the case.
As with all things these days, the specter of an electoral cataclysm next November hangs over this desperate attempt by the Republicans to maintain the control that they have gathered to themselves since the 2010 census, and to ensure the survival of the gains they have made in their many-pronged assaults on the franchise. The original map was a product of that success. The new map gives the Democrats a legitimate shot at picking up four congressional seats. That’s what really has thrown this into DefCon 1.
Speaking of Iowa, there’s some shenanigans going on with Governor Kim Reynolds and that state’s Medicaid program. In 2016, Reynolds embarked on an experimental attempt to privatize Medicaid in Iowa. This did not go at all well. From The Des Moines Register:
Private insurance companies took over Iowa's Medicaid program in 2016. Since then, health care providers and Medicaid recipients have filed complaints about reduced services and delayed reimbursements. Representatives for the companies, which have dwindled from three to two in recent months, defend their work. The director of DHS also defends the new system but says he's working on addressing problems.
Reynolds called a closed-door meeting with Medicaid providers and declined to invite any legislators. Neither did this go at all well. Again, from the Register:
Democratic legislators recently asked if the public, including lawmakers or their representatives, could attend the informal group’s meetings. Randol said no, which upset the legislators.
“This meeting should be open to the public, because problems with Medicaid affect all Iowa taxpayers, more than 600,000 Medicaid members and healthcare providers across the state,” the legislators said in a prepared statement Wednesday. “Hundreds of hospitals, nursing homes and other Iowa healthcare providers face financial jeopardy because of Medicaid privatization. This issue affects Iowans in every county. If there’s going to be a bipartisan solution to this problem, more - not fewer - Iowans should be at the table for the discussion.”
The man overseeing the Iowa Medicaid experiment used to do the same kind of work for Sam Brownback in Kansas, so obviously, this was a fine hire. One more time, from the Register:
Sen. Joe Bolkcom, who is a leading critic of Iowa's shift to private Medicaid management, said the state needs an administrator with experience, but not one with a Kansas track record.
"We're vying with Kansas to have the worst Medicaid privatization in the country," said Bolkcom, D-Iowa City. "...Kansas has been an absolute disaster."
Bolkcom noted the cascade of complaints about service cuts in Kansas' privatized Medicaid program, and a federal finding last January that Kansas' program was "substantively out of compliance" with laws and regulations. Foxhoven said in an interview Friday afternoon he had expected critics to comment on the fact that Randol was involved in Kansas' privately run Medicaid program.
The man overseeing the Iowa Medicaid experiment used to do the same kind of work for Sam Brownback in Kansas, so obviously, this was a fine hire.
We move along to West Virginia where, on Thursday, all of the state’s public schools were closed because their teachers had walked off the job. The issues are fair pay and decent benefits. From CNN:
The work stoppage comes after Gov. Jim Justice signed legislation late Wednesday night granting teachers a 2% pay increase starting in July, followed by 1% pay increases over the next two years.
"We need to keep our kids and teachers in the classroom," Justice said in a statement after signing the pay raise bill. "We certainly recognize our teachers are underpaid and this is a step in the right direction to addressing their pay issue."
But the bill did not address further concerns of teachers, including issues with the teachers' public employees insurance program, the rising costs of healthcare, and a tax on payroll deduction options, according to Campbell. The pay raise, which amounts to 4% over the next few years, is a reduction from an earlier version of the bill that proposed a 5% total increase in wages, Campbell said, also remarking that teachers in surrounding states make anywhere from $5,000 to $20,000 more than teachers in West Virginia.
I certainly think that the priority should be in arming these teachers rather than making sure their insurance is in order in case of firefights. The relentless determination to “other” public education has entered a new, and very strange, phase.
And we conclude, as is our custom, in the great state of Oklahoma, where Blog Official Gentleman Farmer Friedman of the Plains brings us a tale of how that state has struck upon a solution to all that state’s problems. From the Tulsa World:
The bill says that if funds are available, a poster or framed image of the national motto, “In God We Trust,” the U.S. flag and the Oklahoma flag shall be placed in each classroom, library and in any public building or facility maintained or operated by state funds. An amendment making it nonmandatory failed to secure approval. The measure said the images may be donated or paid for through contributions. The effective date of the measure is Nov. 1. A similar measure, Senate Bill 1378, by Sen. Nathan Dahm, R-Broken Arrow, also passed. The measure also requires the display of the Bill of Rights, U.S. Constitution and Declaration of Independence, pending available funding.
(Here in the shebeen, we have met brother Dahm before, Last June, he tried to get all the wildlife in Oklahoma declared to be “the property of Almighty God.” I still don’t know whether he checked with God to see if the Almighty really wanted to own that many lizards.)
I predict that the Constitution falls off the wall within three days of being put up.
This is your democracy, America. Cherish it.