Summer is a slow time for the government. Here is some of the very important work being done during this hot, sleepy season.
It must be the season for old-law cleaning
Virginia is dealing with a law that is on the books but behind the times, one which states that "marriage between persons of the same sex is prohibited." Two openly gay state legislators would like for that language to be scrubbed. Doing so would take a lot of work (even though the state can't even legally enforce it anymore anyway): The legislature would have to agree to repeal it, and then the matter would have to be put to voters. The earliest that the issue could make it to a ballot? In 2018. According to the Washington Post, "Legislators in at least eight other states have tried to remove these types of 'dead-letter' laws since the June 2015 Supreme Court ruling."
Hairdressers don’t have to fear the law
It is no longer illegal to get a haircut at your house in Massachusetts. Yes, this was something barbers could technically get in trouble for until last month, thanks to the endless reams of outdated laws clogging up our various state governments. Manicurists and makeup artists can also make house calls now. It's not clear what prompted legislators to think it would be a good idea to implement such regulations in the first place, but ... progress, I guess?
“I’m sure as hell not going to trip a horse.”
Summer is apparently a slow time for local news stations too, judging by this perfect segment from New Mexico that focuses on — you guessed it — old, weird laws. Click here to watch a journalist walking up to random people and telling them that they can get in trouble for singing "The Star-Spangled Banner" incorrectly, and, later, hear one perplexed civilian say, "I'm going to watch where I spit from now on, and I'm sure as hell not going to trip a horse."
The local angle: Pokémon Go edition
If you were wondering whether state lawmakers had managed to find a way to talk about Pokémon Go, you should find something better to think about in your spare time. But yes, they did, and it was embarrassing. Here's a sampler.
Texas: A state representative tried to convince people to canvass for his campaign by noting that volunteers would have an opportunity to catch Pokémon while walking from door to door.
Florida: A state House candidate tricked young people into coming to his event by setting up lures around the location.
Wisconsin: Don't worry, the Pokémon at the Wisconsin state Capitol are still safe.
New York: State lawmakers are trying to make sure children can't catch Pokémon near the homes of registered sex offenders.
California: Senate candidate and State Attorney General Kamala Harris warned users to pay attention so they didn't fall off a cliff, like some local players have done. Elsewhere in the state, two state Senate candidates challenged each other to a Pokémon battle.
Colorado: Governor John Hickenlooper probably became the first person to ever say "Pokémon Go" during a convention.
Massachusetts: Pokémon hunters have been congregating outside Governor Charlie Baker's house.
The local angle: Convention edition
The conventions brought together all 50 states in one room, which, as we've mentioned, makes for amusing moments. It also provides local newspapers around the country with plenty of great angles for coverage, most of which never make it to the national news. Here's a brief assortment.
A Bernie Sanders delegate from Arkansas — Hillary Clinton's former home — was briefly kicked out of the convention hall after holding a "No TPP" sign. Another Sanders delegate from New Mexico with a megaphone then accused the rest of the Arkansas delegation, which had very nice seats this year thanks to its Clinton connections, of "fascism." Six Arizona delegates told their local newspaper that they trusted Tim Kaine with the nuclear codes. A Hawaii delegate gave the camera the middle finger, mortifying at least one person back home. After the Republican convention in Cleveland, Governor John Kasich bragged about how cool his state had becomesaying, "Now people are trying to choose, 'Am I going to go to Maui, or am I going to go to Cleveland?' That's how far we've come." Republicans from Texas think everyone will eventually rally around Trump ... by November.
New look, same great taste
Idaho wanted everyone to stop confusing its Bureau of Homeland Security with the federal Department of Homeland Security, which is something that apparently happened often enough that the state pushed for a law to let them switch things up (yes, they needed to pass a law for the agency to change its letterhead). The agency was once known as the Bureau of Disaster Services; it became the Bureau of Homeland Security in 2004 during the golden age of putting "Homeland Security" in agency titles. Now it's the Office of Emergency Management. All the employees who work there will get new email addresses and stationery, everyone will have to learn a new acronym, and hopefully people with big federal problems will leave Idaho alone.
FOAA, meet pen and paper
Weird state politics news round-up veteran Paul LePage is known for saying whatever thoughts come into his head without first filtering them through the politician's patented "Am I Going to Regret This?" filter. He apparently writes a lot of them down, too, and local journalists would like to read them. Last year, a newspaper filed a Freedom of Access request for all of LePage's handwritten missives related to government business. His office only sent back three of them, which were not very enlightening; one read, "Thank you for the card. Will take your suggestion under advisement. Have a nice day!" LePage's staff told the newspaper that the messages were all "personal" and did not have to be saved for posterity. The newspaper is aware of the potential entertainment value of these notes, as it has obtained a few through other means, including one to a Democratic state legislator that read, "You are a bold face liar and cheat! Character eludes you." LePage has also told his staffers to not use email, well before all the national electronic mail dustups. As he said to reporters, "They can’t FOAA my brain."