It's spring cleaning season, but no one bothered telling our politicians, because there is still a lot to round up in state politics this month. Here's a taste of the weirdest news — or simply the most groan-inducing.
Rhode Island: This Month in Unexpected Headlines
— "R.I. lawmaker surprised by ‘insane amount of drinking’ at State House"
— "St. Patrick's toast held after fuss over lawmakers' drinking"
New Hampshire: Where Child Politicians Are Doomed to Fail
Seventeen-year-old Girl Scout Cassandra Levesque thought trying to ban child marriage in her state would be an easy political victory. Her bill, which she proposed earlier this year, still hasn't passed, but she has learned a valuable lesson: Expecting anything other than disappointment when it comes to state politics is dangerous. It's a fact that students have learned before in New Hampshire.
In 2015, a class of fourth graders went to the State Capitol to lobby for their bill "establishing the Red Tail Hawk as the New Hampshire State Raptor." It failed shortly after one representative argued that the raptor should instead be named the mascot of a different organization. “It grasps [its prey] with its talons then uses its razor sharp beak to basically tear it apart limb by limb,” Rep. Warren Groen noted before observing, “I guess the shame about making this a state bird is it would serve as a much better mascot for Planned Parenthood.” At least one parent had to explain what Planned Parenthood was to an elementary student. Another legislator said that they couldn't pass this law because standards for state-specific objects would suffer so much that they'd be picking state hot dogs soon enough.
Anyway, Levesque says she's going to keep trying to get the legal marriage age raised from 13 to 18, although she now realizes that passing laws can take a very long time.
North Carolina: When Bad Policies Get Expensive
It's the anniversary of HB2, North Carolina's infamous bill that doesn't let transgender individuals go to the bathroom of their choice. The AP looked at the numbers, for those not convinced that the bill was a bad idea already for basic human decency reasons, and found that the policy could cost the state more than $3 billion by 2028, thanks to all the businesses that have moved out of the state or blocked expansions. Millions of dollars have already gone missing after all the concerts and events that took place elsewhere after the bill, which passed last year. The lost revenue included several NCAA tournament games that were moved to stadiums elsewhere.
A repeal of the bill finally passed this week. However, advocates aren't pleased, as it also bans any local nondiscrimination ordinances that would help protect LGBTQ residents for the next four years. The original HB2, remember, was passed in response to Charlotte's new anti-discrimination ordinance, which still can't exist in the wake of this repeal. Schools and public universities could also find it hard to institute policies to specifically help trans students under the new law. Meanwhile, legislators in Texas, Missouri, Arkansas, Alabama, and a few other states have floated bathroom bills this year, despite the massive fallout in North Carolina.
The Last Abortion Clinic in Kentucky
There is only one place left in Kentucky where women can get an abortion. It is supposed to close on Monday, which is why the clinic just filed a federal lawsuit to keep its doors in Louisville open. The state argues that the clinic only has relationships with hospitals that are too far away, while the clinic says that having such close hospital connections is unnecessary, as complications during abortion procedures are rare. Legislation requiring clinics to have relationships with hospitals or surgical center-quality facilities in Texas were struck down by the Supreme Court last year, as there were "no significant health-related problem that [these measures] helped to cure." Also this week, the Indiana state legislature decided not to move forward with a bill that would have required clinics to tell patients about an abortion "reversal" procedure that has no basis in scientific fact.
Florida Man Physically Unable to Stay in D.C.
Donald Trump did not go to Mar-a-Lago last weekend, an occurrence rare enough to warrant a breaking news update.
And by working, they of course mean golfing. Anyway, when the president spends a healthy chunk of time in your neck of the woods, you can be sure that the local news will be on it. Especially when residents realize that even presidential visitors can outstay their welcome and cost more than it's worth to host them.
A local airport basically has to shut down when Trump is in town, costing firms in business there — like a flight school — about $15,000 a day. Flight patterns for planes coming from or to other nearby airports change when Trump is there. It costs taxpayers about $3 million every time Trump heads to Florida. (Golf cart rentals are expensive.)
As a result, officials and testy locals have been brainstorming ways to cover costs. A county commissioner thinks that additional taxes levied against Mar-a-Lago would efficiently solve the problem, while others just want the federal government to reimburse expenses. Another idea would use revenue from hotel taxes to help pay for Trump trips. One man writing a letter to the editor of the Palm Beach Post had this suggestion: "Let the motorcade stop at the traffic lights on Southern Boulevard and wait like the rest of us. Let the Secret Service watch the Intracoastal Waterway and Ocean Drive. If Trump wants protection, let him pay for it. It’s the art of the deal."
For now, however, the problem and expense persists. There are some still thrilled by the promise of traffic jams. A handful of Palm Beach residents, clad in #MAGA hats, were randomly picked up by White House staffers and taken for a tour of the fancy grounds, which were, oddly enough, designed for the purpose of one day being a Winter White House decades ago. When one woman had a chance to finally meet the man she voted for, she said, "Oh my god, your hair is real."
Walls Make Angry Neighbors
Mexico has already made clear it's not happy about Trump's plan for a wall — especially the parts where Mexico pays for it, or has to have the wall on its land. The states along the border also have many complicated opinions about the completely hypothetical project. Using eminent domain for construction projects is one of the few parts of governing that Donald Trump is familiar with, and Texas attorney general Ken Paxton has already said that he's onboard with paying people for their property. Unlike other projects he has quibbled with in the past involving water rights, Paxton says, the wall is in the public interest. According to the Texas Observer, a few families have already received letters from the government offering money for their land. In some places, the planned wall would split communities or businesses in half.
Out in West Texas, many Republicans say a wall would be overkill. "It’s not necessary,” one local party official told the Austin American Statesman. “We already have a barrier. God built it.” He is talking about Big Bend National Park, which is bigger than Rhode Island and sees relatively few illegal border crossings. Some Hispanic-owned construction firms have been getting death threats after expressing interest in the wall project. One told the Washington Post, “A lot of people are saying, ‘You’re Latino. How can you build a wall to keep other Latinos out?'" In Arizona, a tribal vice-chair of the Tohono O’odham Nation says the wall will be built “over my dead body." He's not alone; an Arizona sheriff born in Mexico has also been speaking out loudly against the project.
The wall wouldn't just affect humans on either side. The pygmy owl can't fly 30 feet in the air, and would be endangered by the wall. Black bears wouldn't be able to get to Texas from Mexico. One biologist told the Texas Tribune, “The only species we know that’s going to make it through the wall are people."
Of course, there are plenty of people on the border who support the wall too. One Arizona resident told ABC News, “I’m not saying all Mexicans are bad, because my mother came over here. My father came over here. But there’s a lot of bad people that shouldn’t be here."