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This Month In State News: Good Riddance 2016 Edition

Fake news, goldfish, and crystal balls over the phone

2016 is almost over, but we still have time for one more roundup of the most bizarre news nuggets from state politicians around the country. For political types looking for some New Year’s resolution ideas, we’ve got some of those too. For starters, how about convincing your constituents to stop throwing their goldfish in random ponds? (We’ll come back to this.)

Letters to the Editor: Trump Era Edition

After The Enid News & Eagle endorsed Hillary Clinton, the newspaper lost 162 subscribers. It was the first time that the Oklahoma paper had ever supported a Democrat, and locals were not happy. Plenty of other newspapers in red states had the same problem, as readers declared their intention to never again buy a paper that didn’t tell them exactly what they wanted to hear.

On the national level, however, fighting Trump has had a far more positive effect on sustainable journalism. Subscriptions to the New York Times have skyrocketed since the paper became a frequent supporting actor in Trump’s indignant tweets. Vanity Fair saw a similar effect after publishing a review that panned Trump Tower cuisine, prompting the reality TV star/soon-to-be leader of the free world to blast the magazine on Twitter.

Still, that’s not much comfort to the outlets already shedding subscriptions, regardless of whether they endorsed Trump or Clinton. At least 21 states have no newspapers with a D.C. reporter. That trend is only going to get worse as print newspapers continue to fold, meaning fewer and fewer places will be able to provide trustworthy information about how government activity affects local communities.

Pizza in the Public Interest

State auditors have determined that the 33 calls to a psychic hotline made by the former clerk of Delhi, Iowa, were in fact not in the taxpayers’ best interest — unless said clerk used the nearly $2,000 spent on these queries to find out the fortunes of all 460 people who live in town. The 166 charges at Applebee’s, Carlos O’Kelly’s, Chuong Garden, Culver’s, Granite City Food & Brewery, Pizza Ranch, Pizza Hut, Shane’s Place, and Subway, auditors determined, also failed to promote the public good. Unsurprisingly, the former clerk was arrested. As the family that might require psychics for strategic help more than any first family in decades enters the White House, the rest of us should keep a vigilant watch for any strange phone purchases made from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

One Thousand Fish, Two Thousand Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish

One thing that the city of Wilmington, Delaware, learned this month? It costs $320,000 to remove 4,000 goldfish from a pond. Also, 4,000 goldfish weigh about 600 pounds, and it is exceedingly difficult to find new homes for all of them when you need to empty out the pond they have taken over. And most importantly, don’t dump your goldfish in a pond when you don’t want them as pets anymore. There are unintended consequences.

Electoral College Odds and Ends

Donald Trump was never going to lose the Electoral College vote on December 19. Even so, this year did feature more faithless electors than ever. Many protesters tried to get their proxy voters to cast a ballot against Trump, forgetting that one of the main lessons we learned on Election Day was that Republicans don’t have a problem with Trump, although plenty of people on the left have problems with Hillary Clinton. In the end, more electors defected from Clinton than from Trump. The bulk of the faithless came from Washington, where Colin Powell got three votes. Faith Spotted Eagle became the first Native American to get an Electoral College vote for president. She’s been a force at the Standing Rock protests, and was shocked by her impromptu entry into the election history books. “I thought it was fake news,” she told the Los Angeles Times.

Introducing a Fake-News Curator

Speaking of which, let’s meet an elected official responsible for spreading some especially odious stories. No, we’re not talking about Donald Trump — just the people he trusts to visit him at Trump Tower for job interviews. Texas agriculture commissioner and reported secretary of agriculture candidate Sid Miller — who retweeted a rando calling Clinton the c-word earlier this year — has a Facebook page that posted at least 10 completely false stories during the election cycle, per The Texas Tribune. The stories included a link falsely claiming that Obama held up a Che Guevara shirt, and a rumor that terrorists had been training in Texas. Miller later told a TV reporter that it was unfair to criticize his social media habits, as he is “not a news organization. Y’all are holding me to the same standards as you are a news organization, and it’s just Facebook.”

In other “local politicians Trump listens to” news, New York Republican Carl Paladino is arguing that saying he wants Michelle Obama to “return to being a male and let loose in the outback of Zimbabwe where she lives comfortably in a cave with Maxie, the gorilla,” is not racist. Meanwhile, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who lost his election last month, finally closed his investigation into Barack Obama’s birth certificate while simultaneously making sure to bring up the stupid, never-ending conspiracy for one final time before he leaves his position. “What we’ve concluded,” he said at a press conference where he didn’t answer any questions, “is that it’s a fraudulently created document that has been represented as an official copy of the original birth certificate of President Obama.” For the millionth time, Obama was born in Hawaii. He released his birth certificate in 2008.

The Years of the Bible

This week marks the end of 2016, better known as the Year of the Bible in Kentucky. However, next week, it starts all over again, as Governor Matt Bevin just signed another proclamation granting 2017 the exact same distinction. 2004 was also the Year of the Bible in Kentucky. It is not clear why Bevin seems to think his constituents are in danger of forgetting his religious beliefs, but he keeps signing new legislation to remind everyone of his faith — like the marriage license–changing Kim Davis law, which went into effect earlier this year.

When Kentucky’s next-door neighbor tried to make the Bible its official book in April, Tennessee’s Republican governor vetoed the bill. “Our founders,” he wrote, “recognized that when the church and state were combined, it was the church that suffered in the long run.”

Sleepless in Boise

What happens when two state legislators who represent districts 300 miles away from each other fall in love? You can find out by looking at what’s happening in Idaho. House Majority Leader Mike Moyle and State Representative Janet Trujillo, both Republicans, decided to elope this month, but have no plans to leave their respective districts in Star and Idaho Falls. The change in their status doesn’t immediately run foul of any ethical rules. This is not the first time a House speaker has married a fellow representative in the state, per The Idaho Press-Tribune. The newlyweds both serve on the Revenue and Taxation Committee.

Copyediting the Constitution

Republicans need the control and cooperation of 34 state legislatures in order to call a convention to possibly amend the Constitution, and after gains made in the past eight years, they’re almost there. Now some states are getting antsy about the possibility of making massive changes to our founding document. Texas Republicans might pass a resolution next year calling for a convention, adding the state’s voice to a handful of others that already want new amendments about things like balanced budgets and the federal debt. A legislator in Nebraska is going to try to make her convention proposal last longer than it did when she introduced it in 2015 (it was sent to a committee where it died alone), and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker says he likes the idea. Unfortunately for these conservatives, however, it would take 38 state legislatures to pass any amendments at said hypothetical convention, which means it is highly unlikely that anyone is going to go amendment-crazy in the near future. Fan fiction (a synonym for fake news) codifying conservative wish lists in the near-religious text they love most, however, will persist evermore.