Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Last Call For Dispatches From Bevinstan, Con't

Kentucky Republicans gaveled this year's General Assembly session into order on Tuesday, and now that House Dems and Speaker Greg Stumbo are gone and they have control of the legislature for the first time in 98 years, the GOP has a lot of catching up to do so the state can be as awful to women, black people, brown people, the LGBTQ community and schoolkids as the rest of the Republican-ruled South is.  First up on the docket: unconstitutional abortion bans!

Women would not be allowed to get an abortion in Kentucky if they are more than 20 weeks pregnant under a controversial bill filed Tuesday on the first day of the state’s 2017 law-making session. 
The bill appears to be on a fast track now that Republicans control the House, Senate and governor’s office. Most proposals in recent years to limit abortion have died in the Democratic-controlled House, but Republicans won a 64-36 super majority in November. 
Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, said Senate Bill 5 will be heard by a Senate committee Wednesday and could get a vote on the Senate floor this week.
Once approved by the Senate, the measure would go to the House, where newly elected Speaker Jeff Hoover, R-Jamestown, said there would be “overwhelming support” for the bill. 
The proposal is the first considered by the Kentucky legislature that would ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Stivers said a similar measure has been approved by a federal appellate court but has not been considered by the U.S. Supreme Court. 
Under the bill, which is sponsored by Republican Sen. Brandon Smith of Hazard, exceptions would be made in cases of rape and incest and when the mother’s life is in danger. Smith said his bill would require fines and suspensions for doctors who commit abortions after 20 weeks. 
Kate Miller, advocacy director for the state ACLU, questioned the constitutionality of the proposal and said decisions about abortions should not be made by politicians.

Get used to that whole "GOP super-majority" thing.  Kentucky requires a 3/5ths majority for most major changes to state law (particularly taxation and revenue legislation) which is why most Republican tea party nonsense died screaming in the House up until now.  They had the numbers in the State Senate, but never the House.

That all changed in November.

The rapid descent of Bevinstan into a Kansas-style economic disaster is almost assured at this point, but first up it's time to punish the Obama coalition, starting with women.

Read more here:

Bun Flyer Of The Vanities

Republicans are just really, really bad at this whole ethics thing, which is why they wanted the House's independent ethics investigator watchdog gone in the first place.

Rep. Duncan Hunter used campaign funds to pay for $600 of airline fees to fly a family rabbit, one of the more colorful expenses to surface in an ongoing review of his practices. 
Hunter’s staff told the Press-Enterprise newspaper that the House Office of Congressional Ethics questioned the pet expenses — offered as an example of over-reach by the agency. 
The ethics office’s independence was nearly clipped this week as one of the first orders of business for the GOP-controlled House, until President-elect Donald Trump and others questioned the move. 
Critics saw the proposal as weakening an important check on legislative abuses of power. Hunter spokesman Joe Kasper defended the proposed procedural changes, according to the Press-Enterprise. 
“The concerns are strong enough that it nearly prompted a significant structural change,” Kasper said. 
The ethics office last year conducted a review of Hunter’s campaign expenses. Release of the report, and any follow-up action by the House Ethics Committee, was recently postponed pending swearing-in of the new Congress. 
Hunter, R-Alpine, has reimbursed his campaign about $62,000 in campaign expenses that were personal in nature or lacked proper documentation, including oral surgery, a garage door, video games, resort stays and a jewelry purchase in Italy
The expenses came to light after inquiries by the Federal Election Commission and The San Diego Union-Tribune, and Hunter then hired a law firm to conduct a review that has not been made public.

They wanted the office neutered because it actually raised questions about how our lawmakers enrich themselves on lobbyist cash on a daily basis.  Embezzling tens of thousands is chump change for these guys and it would be so much easier if the office just went away, you know.

Oh, but keep in mind our incoming President is doing the same thing, only with several more zeroes at the end.

Trump Cards, Con't

Apparently running into the buzzsaw of annoyed constituents with too much time on their hands to call their Represenatative, House Republicans have shelved their plans for declawing the House Ethics Office for now.  For some reason, everyone assumes Trump caused this, because he invented oxygen or something. Simon Maloy:

The House GOP kicked off the new session of Congress in politically baffling fashion by holding a closed-door vote to approve a rules change that will hollow out the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE). That office was formed in 2008 as a response to the congressional ethics scandals that helped precipitate the 2006 Democratic midterm wave, and it functions as an independent, non-partisan ethics watchdog for the House of Representatives. Republicans in the House moved to strip OCE of some of its powers and place it under the oversight of the House Ethics Committee.

As far as political own-goals go, this was a fairly inexplicable one. Republicans met in the dead of night to cast a secret vote to hollow out an agency charged with maintaining ethical behavior in Congress. They were handing every Democrat in every congressional district across the country a pre-fabricated talking point to use against them — after all, who doesn’t like ethics in Congress? And they did so in the immediate aftermath of an election cycle that was shot through with allegations of corruption of promises to “drain the swamp” in Washington. 
Speaking of “drain the swamp,” the candidate who popularized that phrase, the fantastically corrupt president-elect Donald Trump, weighed in on the House GOP’s planned attack on OCE this morning via his medium of choice: Twitter. 
Trump’s position on this was clear. He didn’t have a problem with Republicans going after the “unfair” OCE, he just mildly suggested that maybe it shouldn’t have been the first thing on the agenda. (That critique doesn’t actually make much sense, given that it was part of the rules package that the House typically passes as its first order of business.) One of Trump’s senior advisers went on television to defend the House GOP’s proposed change as part of its electoral “mandate.”

But once this Twitter statement was sent, the political media tripped all over themselves to be the first to inaccurately report that Trump and the House GOP were at odds over ethics.

Everyone from the AP to CNN to FOX decided Trump was personally responsible for stopping the GOP on this. Greg Sargent is even more blunt on this media collusion:

Last week, I hectored you with my idea for a proposed rule of thumb for headline writing, one that would allow us to avoid the pitfall of allowing Trump to claim credit for things without alerting readers that his claim is open to doubt or dubious. 
Today, I’d like to ask for your indulgence as I propose another rule of thumb: If a casual reader would come away from your headline persuaded that Trump has adopted a clear stand that he hasn’t really adopted, then the headline is misleading and something is wrong. The threshold question here should be what impression a headline would leave with a reader who is skimming it. If it risks leaving a misleading impression, then it risks misinforming people. Trump often takes extremely slippery positions, making it more important to exercise care to avoid this. 
In this particular case, this is not a narrow, nitpicky criticism. It’s central to understanding the situation. Trump did not criticize the act of weakening ethics oversight, so for that reason alone, the implication that he struck a blow for the cause of good government is itself deeply misleading, particularly at a time when Trump is under intense fire for failing to take his own conflicts of interest seriously. What’s more, it would have been a lot harder for Trump to take the tough stand that these headlines ascribe to him, because if he did, he would be seemingly criticizing Republicans for trying to weaken ethics oversight on themselves. That’s a much more serious charge — and one much more unflattering to Republicans — than what Trump actually did say.

But that's the difference between how Trump is treated and how, say, Obama is treated.


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