Kentuckians Left Without Abortion Access After Lawmakers Override Governor’s Veto

“Kentucky is currently without abortion access, as the state’s only two abortion providers have suspended operations while they challenge a new law that they say makes it impossible for them to provide abortions legally.

The law—House Bill 3, passed in March—made abortion illegal after 15 weeks of pregnancy. It also instituted several new restrictions on abortion provision before this cutoff, including a ban on abortion pills being shipped in the mail or otherwise provided outside a physician’s office.

“Instead, the patient must visit a physician in person to receive the first dose and it requires her to be counseled that the procedure may be reversed after the first pill, an assertion which medical organizations say is not based on any evidence,” notes the Louisville Courier Journal.

The 15-week ban got the most attention, but it’s the other provisions that currently make it impossible for Kentucky’s abortion clinics to continue operating at all, say the providers. These provisions include requiring the state’s Cabinet for Health and Family Services to create an elaborate certification process for anyone making, shipping, or dispensing abortion pills.

“We cannot comply with the many, many, many, many burdens within the bill,” Tamarra Wieder, Kentucky state director for Planned Parenthood, told the Associated Press.

That’s in part because the regulations took effect immediately—before the processes for complying with them were even in place.

“The law requires that providers are, for instance, registered with the state, certified with the state as providers who can dispense medication abortions. That program doesn’t exist yet, so there’s no way for providers to be certified at the moment,” Heather Gatnarek, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in Kentucky, told NPR.”

Greg Abbott Has Used Migrants as Political Pawns Again and Again. Now, He Says He’ll Bus Them to Capitol Hill.

“Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has long held that his state is facing an “invasion,” which consists of thousands of migrants crossing into the United States from Mexico over the Rio Grande. Now, in an attempt to resist “the Biden open border policies” he claims are endangering Texans and compromising national security, Abbott is prepared to implement a policy that drew scrutiny as soon as he announced it.

“To help local officials whose communities are being overwhelmed by hordes of illegal immigrants,” said Abbott, “Texas is providing charter buses to send these illegal immigrants who have been dropped off by the Biden administration to Washington, D.C.””

“immigration advocates and those with a passing respect for individual rights pointed out that Abbott’s proposal, as stated, is both immoral and illegal. Transporting migrants across state lines against their will “sounds dangerously close to federal felony kidnapping,” argued Aaron Reichlin-Melnick, senior policy counsel at the American Immigration Council. Further, Title 8 of U.S. Code Section 1324(a) states that “any person who…knowing or in reckless disregard of the fact that an alien has come to, entered, or remains in the United States in violation of law, transports, or moves or attempts to transport or move such alien within the United States by means of transportation or otherwise…shall be punished.”

Perhaps those snags are why the governor’s office has since softened its tone on busing migrants north. A press release published after the press conference stressed that “a migrant must volunteer to be transported” in order to board a bus or flight to Washington, D.C.”

“the new busing policy sits atop a heap of misguided, expensive, and dubiously legal initiatives the governor has undertaken in order to keep migrants out of his state—people who have the right under U.S. immigration law to seek asylum in Texas.

This policy comes from the man who proposed building a border wall of his own after former President Donald Trump’s never came to fruition. Abbott’s project, which is ongoing, ran into many of the same issues as Trump’s—exorbitant costs, tension between federal and state jurisdiction, and the need for egregious eminent domain claims in order to get the job done (not to mention a lack of widespread support). “The elected officials in border communities don’t support [Abbott’s] plans,” American Civil Liberties Union of Texas attorney David Donatti told Reason last year.

The governor’s border-securing mission—Operation Lone Star—has been similarly fraught. While Abbott and other state officials bragged about “more than 11,000 criminal arrests, drug seizures that amount to millions of ‘lethal doses,'” and tens of thousands of undocumented immigrant referrals to the federal government for deportation, watchdogs reported “arrests of U.S. citizens hundreds of miles from the border,” “claiming drug busts from across the state,” and changing statistics and metrics of success, according to The Texas Tribune. Several Texas National Guard soldiers stationed at the border committed suicide during the operation, while dozens more criticized the mission’s execution in an internal survey. With its spotty track record, the still-active Operation Lone Star costs taxpayers more than $2.5 million each week.

With that background in mind, it isn’t surprising that Abbott would opt for a blusterous anti-migrant spectacle that comes at the expense of Texas taxpayers and neglects any humanitarian or legal obligations to asylum seekers.”

How a Simple Twist of Fate Could End Democrats’ Control of the Senate

“States have a range of laws about replacing a departed senator, but the large majority — 37 — call on the governor to pick a successor. Of those, only seven require the governor to pick someone in the same party. So there are 30 states where the governor can pick whatever new senator he or she wants.

What that adds up to, in practical terms, is that in nine states (as of Jan. 15), a Republican governor has the authority to replace either one or two Democratic senators. If a single Democratic senator in any of those states had to leave office, the Republican governor of that state could appoint a GOP replacement that would immediately give the party a 51-49 Senate majority.”

South Dakota’s Governor Succeeds in Blocking Voter-Approved Marijuana Legalization

“South Dakota voters made history last November by simultaneously approving ballot initiatives aimed at legalizing recreational and medical use of marijuana. The success of the broader initiative, Amendment A, was especially striking because it prevailed by an eight-point margin in a state that is mostly Republican and largely conservative. But thanks to a legal challenge backed by Republican Gov. Kristi Noem, Amendment A was almost immediately tied up in litigation, and last Wednesday the South Dakota Supreme Court definitively overturned it, ruling that the measure violated the “single subject” rule for constitutional amendments.”

“State legislators proved more willing to set aside their personal views on marijuana in deference to the policy preferred by voters. “In my mind, [legalization is] inevitable because we’ve already seen the support from the public,” Senate Majority Leader Gary Cammack said after Klinger’s decision. “I didn’t vote for recreational marijuana, but my constituents did,” added Greg Jamison, another Republican senator. “Rarely do we get a chance to enact a law and not for sure know what our constituents think of that. Here we know.”

In response to such comments from members of her own party, Noem threatened to veto any legalization bill the legislature might decide to pass. Noem later suggested she might be open to decriminalizing low-level marijuana possession. Possessing two ounces or less is currently a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and a maximum $2,000 fine.”

Texas’ Costly ‘Operation Lone Star’ Leaves Alleged Illegal Immigrants Trapped in Jail with No Due Process

“Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s border-control crusade is overwhelming court systems, leaving detainees stuck in jails for weeks or even months without due process, and generally isn’t resulting in many convictions.
Abbott launched “Operation Lone Star” in March. Border enforcement is ordinarily the federal government’s job, but Abbott decided to deploy the state’s Department of Public Safety and the Texas National Guard to “deny Mexican Cartels and other smugglers the ability to move drugs and people into Texas.”

Instead, according to media reports from multiple outlets, suspected illegal immigrants caught at the border are being arrested for misdemeanor trespassing and then being held in jail. And then…nothing, frequently. The Wall Street Journal reports that only 3 percent of the 1,500 people who have been arrested under Operation Lone Star have been convicted, all with guilty pleas of misdemeanor trespassing.

Texas does not have the authority to deport any of these people, so the rest are either still detained in jail or being released back into the community—the very outcome Abbott insists he was trying to stop.”

“Lacking any ability to deport these immigrants and apparently not being able to charge most of them with crimes other than trespassing and some property crimes (because they likely are not the drug cartel smugglers and human traffickers Abbott claims they are), many of them are just sitting in pretrial detention for weeks or months. Normally a person arrested in Texas for a nonviolent misdemeanor would be released or out on bail quickly, in a matter of days at most. That’s not happening here.”

“Meanwhile the courts on these border counties are being overwhelmed. Texas Monthly reports that Kinney County (population: 3,659), the ground zero for a lot of these arrests, hasn’t had a jury trial in seven years. Kinney officials have filed charges against those they’ve detained, more than 1,000 migrants, but it’s not entirely clear how they’ll be able to arrange trials.

Abbott’s crusade comes with costs, and they’re considerable. Abbott shifted $250 million dollars from elsewhere in the budget (including the prison system itself) to fund this program. And the state legislature directed another $3 billion his way for border enforcement. Officials in Kinney County calculate that actually prosecuting all these immigrants will cost them $5 million, but Operation Lone Star’s funding is sending only $3.19 million their way, according to Texas Monthly.”

How California’s bizarre recall system could elect a Republican governor

“The first question voters will see on the ballot: Should Governor Newsom be recalled? Voters get to answer yes or no.

The second question: If Newsom is recalled, who should be his replacement? Here voters are presented with 46 candidates (Republicans, Democrats, and others) — but not Newsom. Mail-in voting has already begun, and in-person voting will take place September 14.

Here’s where it gets bizarre. Newsom needs to win a majority of the vote to stay in office. If he fails to get that majority, his replacement can win merely by being the top-vote getter in a crowded field. Two recent polls have shown conservative talk radio host Larry Elder (R) in first place with 23 percent of the vote — a small plurality that could still make him governor if Newsom loses the recall question.”

“in theory, the recall process is all about giving more power to the people so they can boot out politicians they think need to go. Who could be against that? But the devil’s in the details about just who “the people” happen to be, and how that choice is structured.

For one, to get the recall on the ballot, activists needed to meet a relatively low signature threshold: 12 percent of the voters who turned out in the last governor’s election. Even in a deep-blue state like California, 38 percent of voters backed Newsom’s GOP opponent last time around, so with the proper shoe leather and funding, that wasn’t a very hard threshold to meet.

Turnout is another issue. The nature of a recall means it’s an election that happens at an odd time, and oddly-timed elections can have a different electorate, in which those who are more fired up are more likely to turn out. So in practice, what the recall can do is give an impassioned minority of voters a chance at scoring an unexpected victory, due to low turnout from the less-engaged majority.”

“The handling of the replacement candidates is also unusual because, unlike in typical elections, there are no primaries beforehand in which the field is sorted. So this time around there are 24 Republican candidates, 9 Democrats, and 13 others from third parties or with no party preference. With only a plurality necessary to win if Newsom loses the recall question, and no runoff, this poses the possibility that someone with a small slice of the vote would end up governor. This thrills conservatives, since a conservative candidate would have little chance of winning a typical two-candidate California election.

Another feature of the system takes away one possible choice from voters: Newsom is prohibited from appearing as a replacement candidate. That creates the strange asymmetry where Newsom needs a majority on the recall question to stay in office, but his replacement does not need a majority to be elected.”

The Texas GOP’s border wall fantasy

“It’s also not clear whether Abbott can use disaster funds to pay for the wall under Texas state law. He declared a disaster for 34 counties in the state last month due to a recent increase in unauthorized immigration at the border, freeing up resources to deal with the problem and allowing him to suspend state laws and regulations that would impede any solutions.”

“the current levels of unauthorized immigration might not truly constitute a “disaster.” While officials reported that the number of migrant apprehensions at the border in May was nearly eight times the total in the same month last year, that doesn’t necessarily mean the actual number of migrants trying to cross the border is higher.
Those numbers don’t account for the fact that there has been a surge in adults who have been caught trying to cross the border multiple times due to policies enacted during the pandemic. In 2020, 26 percent of migrants apprehended by Border Patrol had been caught more than once, compared to 7 percent the previous year.”

““A governor should not be able to circumvent the legislative process by declaring such matters to be emergencies and then implementing whatever measures he wishes,” state Rep. John Turner (D-Dallas), told the Texas Tribune. “If a governor can commence such a long-term, multi-hundred-million-dollar public works project under the cover of emergency powers, it is difficult to know what the limits of those powers are.””

“Abbott’s plans to arrest migrants at the border on various criminal charges, including trespassing and vandalism, would also likely face legal challenges if implemented.

Abbott has threatened to put such migrants “in jail for a long time,” but legal precedent isn’t on his side: The Supreme Court prevented Arizona Republicans in 2012 from similarly arresting migrants on trespassing charges, on the basis that states cannot enforce immigration law. It’s possible, however, that the 2012 ruling could be overturned with several new Trump-appointed justices on the Court.”

“Abbott and the Texas GOP’s embrace of a border wall seems to be part of their strategy for the 2022 midterm elections. Abbott is also up for reelection in 2022, but some have also suggested he could be setting up a run for president in 2024.

The Texas Republicans appear to be trying to appeal to their right-wing base in order to fend off potential primary challengers. There isn’t much concern about Democrats launching a serious offense in the general given that the party’s promises of Texas turning blue didn’t come to fruition in 2020.

Republicans in the state have also recently passed legislation aiming to fire up their base that removed the requirement of a permit to carry a handgun and established an effective ban on abortion. And Abbott’s agenda for an upcoming special session of the state legislature involves more items related to border security, restrictions on voting, and preventing the teaching of critical race theory in schools.”

“while there has been pushback from border counties and Democratic officials, the majority of Republican voters in Texas do support building the wall: about 74 percent, according to a recent survey by the Dallas Morning News and UT Tyler.”