Indiana: Court rules lawmakers can keep emails private
INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana lawmakers can keep private their email correspondence with lobbying groups and businesses under a ruling from the state Supreme Court.
The decision released Tuesday comes in a lawsuit from consumer advocacy groups seeking emails between Republican Rep. Eric Koch of Bedford and utility companies about his unsuccessful push last year to cut payments for excess electricity generated by home solar power systems.
The court ruling says the General Assembly is covered by the state public records law, but ordering the release of the correspondence would violate the separation of powers between the legislative and judicial branches of government.
Legislative leaders argue they need to protect the privacy of correspondence between lawmakers and their constituents.
Mississippi: Legislature considers auditing Medicaid
JACKSON, Miss. — Lawmakers are considering a bill requiring audits of Medicaid recipients and tightening restrictions on other government aid.
A joint House-Senate committee filed the latest version of House Bill 1116 Monday. It would have an outside company build an electronic records system for Medicaid. Officials would periodically verify recipients’ financial information and residency to determine whether they’re still eligible for aid.
A discrepancy would result in someone losing aid indefinitely if that person doesn’t respond to auditors in writing within 10 days.
The bill also says Mississippi’s food stamp and welfare programs can’t be any more generous than required by federal law.
Officials wouldn’t be allowed to seek a waiver of work requirements for the programs. Recipients who don’t meet requirements would lose aid and their household would be temporarily disqualified.
Tennessee: Senate OKs guns on campuses
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The state Senate on Tuesday voted to allow faculty and workers with handgun carry permits to be armed on the campuses of Tennessee public colleges and universities.
The bill sponsored by Sen. Mike Bell passed on a 28-5 vote, and the House was expected to take up the measure on Wednesday. Republican Gov. Bill Haslam raised concerns about the measure for not giving institutions the power to opt out of allowing more guns on campus.
Bell, R-Riceville, was dismissive of the results of a survey of faculty at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville that largely opposed to measure.
“I think some of these people need to take their medication,” Bell said, adding that he hopes some professors will follow through on vows to quit if the bill becomes law.
“Maybe this will give UT a chance to hire some conservative teachers if we have a mass exodus of some of these liberals who responded to this,” he said.
Bell said that under the bill, workers and faculty would still be banned from carrying firearms at:
- Stadiums or gymnasiums while school-sponsored events are in progress.
- Meetings where disciplinary or tenure issues are being discussed.
- Hospitals or offices where medical or mental health services are provided.
- Any location prohibited by another law, such as at day care centers or elementary schools located on campus.
- While Tennessee’s handgun carry law allows permit holders to carry their weapons openly, the campus bill would require firearms to be concealed.
Tennessee: Legislature passes online voter registration
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The General Assembly passed legislation Tuesday that would allow Tennesseans to register to vote online.
The House unanimously passed a bill that the Senate had earlier approved. The measure allows Tennesseans to go online to register to vote or update their registration records. Applicants would be directed to apply on paper if their name, date of birth or other identifying information could not be confirmed with the Department of Safety.
Rep. Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga, who sponsored the House bill, said there would be safeguards to discourage voter fraud.
The move toward online voter registration is part of a growing national trend backed by bipartisan support that began after Arizona first implemented its own system in 2002. As of April 6, a total of 31 states plus the District of Columbia offer online voter registration, and at least four states have passed legislation that would allow citizens to register via the Internet, according to a report by the National Conference of State Legislatures.
The online registration systems are secure, a report released last year by the Pew Charitable Trusts said.
“Studies consistently show that online voter registration systems effectively protect voters’ private information,” the Pew report said. “All states employ safeguards meant to thwart cyberattacks, and to date, no state has reported a security breach.”
The online voter registration system would in place by July 2017 if Gov. Bill Haslam signs the bill.
Illinois: Lawmakers debate how to draw districts
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Illinois lawmakers are considering a pair of proposals that would change the way legislative districts are drawn every decade.
The issue is one that first-term Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner has asked lawmakers to address to ensure maps for congressional and state legislative seats are drawn fairly. It’s one of the matters he wants lawmakers to tackle as a condition to resolving the 10-month budget stalemate.
Currently, the majority party draws the maps. But a Democratic proposal advanced by a House committee Monday would give the job to an eight-member panel appointed by two state Supreme Court justices representing each party.
Another measure advancing in the Senate would maintain a lot of the power for drawing maps with lawmakers, but judges would get involved if there’s gridlock.