Florida medical board moves to block gender affirming treatments for minors

“Florida’s medical board on Friday voted to begin the process of banning gender-affirming medical treatment for youths, a move that comes as Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis has become increasingly vocal in his opposition to such therapies.”

“The board also voted to start that process for requiring adults seeking such care to wait 24 hours before going forward with any medical procedures.”

“The American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Medical Association support gender-affirming care for adults and adolescents. But medical experts said gender-affirming care for children rarely, if ever, includes surgery. Instead, doctors are more likely to recommend counseling, social transitioning and hormone replacement therapy.
The proposed rule is the latest step taken by the DeSantis administration to tighten regulatory controls over gender-affirming care. Florida’s Medicaid regulator is also considering a rule that would block state-subsidized health care from paying for treatments of transgender people.”

No, Florida Republicans Do Not Care About Crony Capitalism

“Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis recently signed legislation that strips Walt Disney World of its independent, special-district status after the company objected to the state’s new law regarding discussion of sexual orientation or gender identity in classrooms. While the motive behind this action is problematic, some of its supporters argue that there is nothing to fret about, since it was time to revoke a cronyist privilege granted to Disney 50 years ago anyway. But if this is really a fight against cronyism, the legislation goes about it the wrong way.

Cronyism is the unhealthy alliance of business and government. It takes the form of government officials at the state, local, and federal levels granting special privileges to particular companies or industries. These privileges can include special tax breaks, government loans, direct subsidies, or—as in Florida—so-called “special districts.” I spend a great deal of my work hours researching the harm cronyism causes to citizens. That’s because, as my colleague Matthew Mitchell wrote a decade ago, “Whatever its guise, government-granted privilege [to private businesses] is an extraordinarily destructive force. It misdirects resources, impedes genuine economic progress, breeds corruption, and undermines the legitimacy of both the government and the private sector.”

So, is Disney benefiting from a handout that should be stripped away? Yes, Disney certainly has been getting an incredible privilege to act as its own government within the limits of Orange and Osceola counties. For instance, it runs its fire department, administers planning and zoning rules, writes building codes, employs its own inspectors, and is exempted from local regulations and some $200 million in taxes. It levies the remainder of the taxes it owes.

Removing special district status means these types of responsibilities would be absorbed by the two counties in which Walt Disney World sits. Local taxpayers would then shoulder the cost for all municipal services on the property—a cost estimated to be $1 billion. The company, in turn, would be subjected to the same subpar local government services and regulations that most of us are accustomed to. In addition, Florida will be tied up in years of costly litigation to figure out how to disentangle the company from the counties.

But maybe untangling this special treatment is worth the cost. Just don’t expect it to result in a fairer regime. Indeed, if this setup is so unacceptable—a claim most Republicans didn’t seem to make for the half-century the special district has been in place—it should also be unacceptable for the other 1,844 Florida special districts. Of these, 1,288 are, like Disney, independent districts. But we aren’t hearing significant Republican complaints about these.

In other words, GOPers want to continue the practice of extending privileges selectively. What legislators should have done is decide whether any such special districts are a good idea. If so, access to them should be made available to any company that meets certain minimum and clear criteria and denied to any company that does not.”

“This episode should serve as a warning for companies angling to score special privileges from government. Governments give arbitrarily and unfairly, and they take back with equal arbitrariness and unfairness. In addition, when a company’s profitability depends heavily on government largesse, it must make sure not to anger its government overlords. Disney obviously failed to do that.

This sad affair has done nothing to change cronyism in the state of Florida, but it has once again exposed the arbitrariness of government in our lives and the cost of depending on its favors.”

How Worrying Are Pro-Trump Gubernatorial Candidates Running on Rigged Election Claims?

“David Perdue cut straight to the chase.

“First off, let me be very clear tonight: The election in 2020 was rigged and stolen,” Perdue said at the beginning of his opening statement during a Republican gubernatorial debate on Sunday night.

It wasn’t just a cheap applause line for the MAGA crowd. It was something more like a thesis statement for Perdue’s campaign. Perdue, a former Republican senator who lost his bid for reelection in 2020, is now running against incumbent Republican Gov. Brian Kemp in the GOP gubernatorial primary in Georgia. And in Perdue’s telling, everything from rising gas prices to illegal immigration and even the U.S. coming “to the brink of war” over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine were the result of Kemp allowing “radical Democrats to steal our election.” Something that he says Kemp was responsible for aiding and abetting.

Kemp, of course, was one of the Republican officials who blocked then-President Donald Trump’s attempt to get state legislatures and governors to overturn the results of the 2020 election. Two weeks after the election, as state officials finalized the results showing that Joe Biden won by about 12,000 votes, Kemp called for tightening voter ID laws in Georgia and making other technical changes in how the state conducts future elections. But he also certified the result of the 2020 election, against Trump’s wishes.

Since then, he’s been a target for Trump, who vowed not long after the 2020 election to boot Kemp from office. Trump has helped Perdue fundraise and has even chipped in $500,000 of his own campaign cash to Perdue’s campaign.”

“Perdue is staking his claim to the governorship on the hope that Republican voters are motivated primarily by the former president’s delusions and rage.

But Georgia is hardly the only swing state where this year’s Republican gubernatorial elections are focused on Trump. In Pennsylvania and Arizona, too, Trump-backed candidates who say they believe the 2020 election was stolen are running at or near the top of the polls. If they’re successful, those governors might create major complications for the next presidential election—as they would be in a position to do some of what Kemp, and others, refused to do in 2020: decertify results that go against the Republican nominee.”

“Is this really how Republican voters want to define their party going forward: as little more than a tool for for Trump’s self-serving lies about the 2020 election? These three races will provide an answer—and it might not be one Trump likes, as his preferred candidates are facing difficult paths to winning in November. Perhaps it’s too simple of an explanation, but the average Republican voter is likely not as motivated by Trump’s grievances as Trump himself.”

“it remains unnerving that so many high-profile Republicans—in Perdue’s case, even a former U.S. senator—have decided that the path to political success on the political right requires rallying around a blatant falsehood constructed to serve the political ambitions of a single man.”

“it is a falsehood. Audits and recounts in swing state after swing state failed to turn up evidence of a stolen election—one much-ballyhooed audit conducted by Arizona Republicans actually found that Biden won by a slightly larger margin than originally thought. Dozens of lawsuits filed by the Trump campaign or its supporters alleging voter fraud and anti-Trump conspiracies collapsed in court. The myth of the stolen election lives on as a way to raise money and as a way to snare the endorsement of the most popular man in conservative politics.”

“In a nutshell, this is the worry of liberals, anti-Trump conservatives, and anyone else harboring concerns about rising authoritarianism on the political right: What if this campaign rhetoric translates into official behavior. What happens if elected Republicans begin ignoring their oaths of office and the rule of law to declare illegitimate any election the GOP loses?”

“Arizona, Georgia, and Pennsylvania’s gubernatorial races are rated as “toss-ups” right now. That means characters like Lake, Perdue, and Mastriano will have a decent shot at being elected in the fall (and helped by a political environment that’s shaping up to be favorable to Republicans across the board) if they can win their respective GOP primaries during the spring and summer. And this trend goes beyond those three. In Wisconsin, Republican gubernatorial hopeful Rebecca Kleefisch said this week that she believes the 2020 election was “rigged.” According to Politico, some 57 participants in the January 6 protest are running for office this year—though mostly for lower-level posts.”

“polls say the majority of Republican voters believe, despite massive amounts of evidence to the contrary, that Biden’s victory was not legitimate.”

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.”