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Utah, Wisconsin Legislatures Convene for Special Sessions

StateTrack’s Cheryl Robins reports that Gov. Gary R. Herbert (R) of Utah and Gov. Scott Walker (R) of Wisconsin have called their respective legislatures back into to the capitals for special sessions. The Utah Legislature convened Wednesday, Oct. 16, a day after Walker called Wisconsin lawmakers back.

The Utah Legislature is considering various actions to offset the effect of the federal government shutdown on state operations. Issues under consideration include the appropriation of state funds to open and operate national parks, authorizing unemployment benefits for furloughed employees, and funding for other obligations occasioned by delays in federal funding. To view a copy of the proclamation, please click here.

Walker called the legislature back into session to consider legislation to cut taxes for property owners by $33 over two years for a typical homeowner, spending down the state surplus by $100 million. Wisconsin ended its 2011-13 budget with a $759.2 million surplus, $89 million higher than expected. The extra surplus is largely due to $71.5 million in higher-than-expected tax revenue.  The Legislative Fiscal Bureau reported that the tax cut proposal would increase the estimated shortfall in the 2015-17 budget to $725 million from $545 million.

On Tuesday, the Senate approved the property tax cut by 28-5, with Democrats arguing that the  cut would barely amount to a dollar a month and the funds instead should go into the state’s rainy day fund, which is currently $278.5 million, after a $153.2 million addition in the most recent budget. The Assembly is expected to take up and pass the legislation on Thursday and Walker  is expected to sign it shortly afterwards.

To view a copy of the Executive Order, please click here.

Mississippi Tea Party Candidate to Announce Possible Cochran Primary Challenge

Mississippi state Sen. Chris McDaniel is scheduled to announce on Thursday whether he will challenge six-term Sen. Thad Cochran in the GOP primary, according to invitations to the event from local tea party groups.

“Mississippi state senator Chris McDaniel, a favorite of many Mississippi for Liberty and Tea Party members, stated just minutes ago that he plans to make an important announcement regarding his future political aspirations this coming Thursday, October 17th,” wrote Mississippi for Liberty’s Jim Cunningham to supporters, according to an email obtained by CQ Roll Call.

Another organization, the Mississippi Tea Party, sent out a similar invitation for the Ellisville, Miss., event. The Clarion-Ledger, which first reported the news of the impending announcement, notes that a third organization, the South Mississippi Tea Party, is chartering buses to take supporters to the announcement.

Read More on Roll Call Mississippi Tea Party Candidate to Announce Possible Cochran Primary Challenge

Senate Leaders Optimistic About Debt, Shutdown Deal After House Plan Collapses

The Senate’s leaders appear to have a path forward on a legislative package to avert a default and reopen the government, but a lot of staff work remains before reaching the finish line.

“They’re still working out the details between Sens. McConnell and Reid, and we’re close,” Senate Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin said.

“They had a basic agreement of what would be included. The staff is now working on a lot of — action going on right now on a lot of different items, but all pointing in the right direction at this moment,” the Illinois Democrat told reporters a few minutes later.

To that end, senior aides from the Budget and Appropriations committees, as well as others, were seen in the vicinity of Majority Leader Harry Reid’s second floor suite.

Read More on Roll Call: Senate Leaders Optimistic About Debt, Shutdown Deal After House Plan Collapses

Clark Wins Democratic Nod in Massachusetts Special Election

State Sen. Katherine Clark won a crowded special primary in Massachusetts’ 5th District on Tuesday night, defeating  four other Democrats and most likely becoming the sixth woman ever elected to Congress from the Bay State.

Clark received 30 percent of the vote, beating Middlesex County Sheriff Peter Koutoujian, who recieved 22 percent of the vote, with 83 percent of precincts reporting, according to the Associated Press.

Read More on Roll Call: Clark Wins Democratic Nod in Massachusetts Special Election

Ted Cruz, House Republicans Meet in Secret at Tortilla Coast

Sen. Ted Cruz met with roughly 15 to 20 House Republicans for around two hours late Monday night at the Capitol Hill watering hole Tortilla Coast.

The group appeared to be talking strategy about how they should respond to a tentative Senate deal to reopen the government and raise the debt ceiling without addressing Obamacare in a substantive way, according to sources who witnessed the gathering. The Texas Republican senator and many of the House Republicans in attendance had insisted on including amendments aimed at dismantling Obamacare in the continuing resolution that was intended to avert the current shutdown.

Sources said the House Republicans meeting in the basement of Tortilla Coast with Cruz were some of the most conservative in the House: Reps. Louie Gohmert of Texas, Steve King of Iowa, Jim Jordan of Ohio, Raúl R. Labrador of Idaho, Justin Amash of Michigan, Marlin Stutzman of Indiana, Thomas Massie of Kentucky and Tim Huelskamp of Kansas.

The group is a collection of members who have often given leadership headaches in recent years by opposing both compromise measures as well as packages crafted by fellow Republicans. And, it seems, leadership unwittingly became aware of the meetup.

Read More on Roll Call: Ted Cruz, House Republicans Meet in Secret at Tortilla Coast