Thursday, April 16, 2020

Egghead Week: Power Packed Pact

Just as the West Coast and Mid-Atlantic states have done, the Midwest is forming a regional group of state governments to coordinate getting states back on track, and that includes the KY-IN-OH tri-state.

The governors of Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois, Indiana and Kentucky announced Thursday that they will work in close coordination to reopen the Midwest regional economy in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic
The announcement came in a news release from Democratic Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, sent on behalf of all the participating governors. 
"Our number one priority when analyzing when best to reopen our economy is the health and safety of our citizens," the governors said in a joint statement. 
"We will make decisions based on facts, science, and recommendations from experts in health care, business, labor, and education," the statement added.

The governors said they will home in on at least four factors when determining when best to reopen the economy: sustained control of the rate of new infections and hospitalizations, enhanced ability to test and trace, sufficient health care capacity to handle resurgence and best practices for social distancing in the workplace. 
Similar collaborations have been undertaken by governors in recent days on the West and East coasts. 
Two of the governors involved in the new group -- Republican Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine and Democratic Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers -- made announcements on Thursday afternoon that suggest their states are looking toward how to reopen. 
DeWine said in a news briefing that he is developing a plan for a new phase of the state's response to coronavirus to start on May 1. Details of the new phase will come in the next few weeks, DeWine said. 
He added that talks need to continue with his group of economic advisers and speak with school district superintendents about how to reopen schools and businesses in the state, he said. The plan is to issue new guidance when they determine the best steps to move forward, DeWine said. 
Evers, meanwhile, extended his state's stay-at-home order until May 26 but loosened some restrictions on businesses, a statement from the governor's office read. 
Golf courses are now allowed to open again, and public libraries and arts and crafts stores may offer curb-side pickup, the announcement said. However, the statement also notes that public and private K-12 schools will remain closed for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year.

So hopefully that means getting testing, masks, and ventilators ready for everyone.  Accurate mass testing, tracing of outbreaks, and swift movement to limit them are the only way this works.

We'll see what happens, but this is a good sign.

Egghead Week: Maximum Override in Kentucky

Here in Kentucky, where the state legislature needs only a 50%+1 majority in both the State House and Senate to override any governor's veto, the Kentucky GOP has finally given the state one of the most ridiculous photo voter ID laws in the country, and all the DMV offices issuing acceptable IDs are closed during the pandemic.

Late last month, Gov. Beshear handed down an executive order providing that “all businesses that are not life-sustaining shall cease operations ... except as needed to conduct Minimum Basic Operations.” Among other things, the order suspends “all in-person government activities ... that are not necessary to sustain or protect life, or to supporting Life-Sustaining Businesses.”

Thus, Kentucky voters who lack an ID — perhaps because they recently moved to the state and didn’t get around to obtaining a Kentucky driver’s license before the coronavirus lockdown began — may be unable to obtain this ID in time to vote because the state offices that issue such IDs are closed. The future of life under coronavirus remains very uncertain, and it is, as yet, unclear when the country will return to anything resembling normal.

Even if Kentucky is able to relax restrictions as more testing for the virus becomes available, it may need to reimpose strict limits on businesses and government offices if an outbreak occurs. Voters may only have a limited window to acquire an ID, and that window might close just as a particular voter was preparing to obtain one.

Kentucky’s law, moreover, also resembles a similar Wisconsin law in that it requires voters to show ID in order to obtain an absentee ballot. So voters without ID cannot escape the law by voting by mail.

The new law does permit some voters to cast a ballot without showing photo ID — if they sign a sworn statement affirming that they are lawful voters and providing certain information. But this exemption from the photo ID requirement is only available to a limited group of voters, and it is far from clear that a healthy voter qualifies because they were unable to obtain an ID because government offices were shut down during a pandemic.

Although the law allows a voter to cast a ballot without showing photo ID if they were prevented from getting an ID due to “disability or illness,” the statute is not clear on whether the voter must themselves be infected by this illness in order to qualify. And voters who misuse the exemption could potentially face perjury charges.

It’s worth noting that there could potentially be a very high-profile race on Kentucky’s ballot this November. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is up for reelection, and there is some evidence that McConnell could be defeated if 2020 is a strong year for Democrats. In January, for example, one poll showed McConnell just 3 percentage points ahead of possible Democratic challenger Amy McGrath, and a second poll showed McConnell and McGrath tied.

So, while the impact of voter ID is uncertain under normal circumstances, there are good reasons to believe that such a law could have a larger effect during a pandemic. Whether that impact would be enough to skew a close election from McGrath to McConnell is also unclear. But, at the very least, many voters could struggle to cast a ballot if they are unable to obtain the IDs they need to vote.

Several other party line veto overrides were taken, including passing a measure that would stop the governor from pushing back choosing a Lieutenant Governor running mate, as well as insurance laws and redefining how the state calculates public education achievement gaps, which Beshear said would cut millions of dollars in funding from the poorest-performing schools.

And to top it all off, Kentucky Republicans are quickly crafting a measure that would give the General Assembly the power to reopen businesses across the state as long as state licensing bureaus (now controlled by Republicans in the General Assembly after the Governor's power of appointments to the licensing boards were all but written out this week) approve and can "open non-essential businesses safely" in their eyes.

Finally, the KY GOP is doing everything it can to deem abortion clinics as "non-essential" and taking the choice away from Gov. Beshear as long as the state remains under any health-related emergency.

Because that's the important part right now.
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