There’s a lot going on, so every Wednesday, the DLCC is sending a roundup of the state legislative stories you might have missed. It’s March 23rd, and here is the state of the states.
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- Today, we mark the anniversary of the Affordable Care Act. Since its passage, 31 million Americans have gained access to health care thanks in part to state Democrats across the country who have fought for a more accessible, affordable, and just health care system. Yet twelve years later, there are still twelve states controlled by Republicans who refuse to expand health care access to millions within their states. Just this month, Republicans in Mississippi shot down an opportunity to expand postpartum Medicaid coverage, which has been proven to reduce maternal mortality rates, and Republicans in Kentucky’s House passed restrictive work requirements for Medicaid eligibility. In Missouri, after attempting to ignore the will of the voters and refusing to implement Medicaid expansion, Republicans are once again attacking the program the state supreme court ordered into effect.
- Even with critical issues such as voting rights and abortion protections being decided in statehouses across the country, it’s no secret that state legislatures receive less attention than federal races. A recent survey reflected this fact and also showed that Republicans are more aware of the importance of statehouses than Democrats. The DLCC has worked to close this education gap and will continue to bring much-needed attention and resources to state Democrats across the country in their fight to protect abortion, strengthen voting rights, and beat back Republican attacks on our civil liberties.
- In this week’s edition of “Side by Side” we are looking at Washington State and West Virginia to highlight how Democrats and Republicans approach bodily autonomy and reproductive rights. In West Virginia this week, a Republican measure was signed into law that levies even more abortion restrictions in the state and requires physicians to report abortions or potentially have their medical license revoked. In Washington, a Democratic bill was signed into law blocking individuals from being sued if they undergo or help aid in an abortion, a direct rebuke of Texas’ restrictive abortion law and the copycat law passed next door in Idaho. The difference could not be clearer. Democrats across the country are defending the right to bodily autonomy and life-saving reproductive health care, while Republicans are callously obliterating personal freedom and putting the health and safety of their constituents at risk.
- Texas Republicans must have seen Idaho copy their now infamous, restrictive abortion ban and thought, “how can we retake the top spot for the cruelest state party?” They made an impressive effort this week, threatening that reproductive rights funds could be sued under the law and threatening to prevent the bank Citigroup from providing benefits to employees who travel outside the state to seek an abortion. Other major companies such as Salesforce and Uber have announced similar programs that could be targeted by a Texas Republican who vowed to propose legislation to authorize district attorneys from anywhere in the state to prosecute companies over the abortion law. Essentially trapping Texans within their state without medical care and under threat of criminal prosecution, Texas Republicans are quickly creating an authoritarian dystopia that obliterates reproductive freedom.
- John Fillmore is back in the spotlight this week. You might remember him as the Arizona representative who earlier this year said his state needed to “get back to 1958-style voting” when proposing a bill to eliminate vote by mail.. The bill was killed in the House but this week state senators used a procedural move to have his bill heard before a Senate committee that then advanced the bill to the full Senate. Fillmore and Arizona Republicans may think that the heat has died down and they can sneak this anti-democratic legislation through the legislature with parliamentarian tricks, but we will not let Republicans forget that their actions go against the will of the people and are unsupported by the majority of Americans.
- And you thought you had a productive week … Colorado Senate Democrats were busy the last couple of days advancing racial justice, solidifying reproductive protections, and keeping our communities safe from gun violence. All this week, the state Senate passed a bill that would make Juneteenth an official state holiday, sent a bill to enshrine abortion protections to the governor’s desk to be signed into law, and approved a bill that would ban firearms at polling places. Coupled together, these actions by Senate Democrats in Colorado this week work towards meaningful change in the Centennial State.
- In Arizona, state Republicans are grasping at straws to rationalize election conspiracies and justify anti-democratic attacks on voting and our election process. This month, Arizona Representative Jake Hoffman proposed a bill that would split Maricopa County, Arizona’s largest county, into 4 new counties – creating election supervisors in these new counties who may be more willing to indulge in the kind of costly election reviews or lies that Republicans like Hoffman continued to vie for. As a friendly reminder, Hoffman is among the 11 Arizonans who went against the will of the people and falsely declared themselves the electors for Donald Trump in 2020. Although he claims the bill is meant to make county governments more accountable, his past anti-democratic actions with the support of the Arizona GOP chair reveal his true intentions.
- As we marked the two year anniversary of COVID-19 being declared a global pandemic, state Republicans reminded us that despite the outpouring of data, science, and a revolutionary vaccine that has protected the lives of millions of Americans, the GOP is still pushing unfounded claims that put the health and safety of their constituents at risk. During an Iowa Senate committee meeting considering a vaccine requirement ban this month, an Iowa senator wanted to “put to rest” the notion that the vaccine was safe and effective. Democrats have lifted the nation from a historic economic downturn, ignited historic job growth, and fought to ensure that our businesses, schools, and communities have the resources needed to keep them safe. Republicans, on the other hand, are still spouting COVID lies and putting their own voters at risk of disease and death.
- Oklahoma Republicans passed a near-total abortion ban through the House yesterday. The bill would allow private citizens to sue anyone suspected of helping a person have access to or perform an abortion at any stage of pregnancy, making Oklahoma Republicans’ ban the most restrictive in the country if enacted. In the wake of Texas’ restrictive ban, Oklahoma has seen a sharp uptick of individuals crossing its border to access reproductive health care. While Democrats in nearby Colorado are working to protect abortion access in their state, the cruelty demonstrated by Oklahoma’s GOP disregards the right a person has to their bodily autonomy.
- Republicans in Tennessee looked to the south, saw Florida’s recent “Don’t Say Gay Bill” (but clearly not the swift backlash) and thought, “we could do worse!” Tennessee’s version of the horrendous bill goes even further than Florida’s, mandating that public schools should not “normalize” or “address” LGBTQ issues or lifestyles. In a shocking move more akin to the previous century, Republicans in Tennessee want to subject classrooms to a “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” level of denialism – putting LGBTQ youth at risk of heightened bullying, scrutiny, and personal violence, all of which are a part of a growing epidemic among kids.
- Democrats in Maryland are working to establish the state’s first family leave insurance program that would guarantee 12 weeks of paid leave following childbirth or to take care of a loved one with severe medical issues. Democrats across the country are working to ensure that caring for one’s family never comes at the cost of their ability to economically thrive.
- Democrats in Rhode Island’s Senate passed a measure that would allow voters to amend the state constitution to guarantee equitable and high-quality education in public schools. Modeled after a measure spearheaded by Democrats in Massachusetts that revolutionized its public education system, Democrats in Rhode Island are continuing the Democratic ideal of ensuring that every child, regardless of race, zip code, or circumstance, has access to a robust, quality education.
- Many talk about passing environmental protections, but Democrats in Vermont are taking action. Last week, Democrats in Vermont’s House advanced a clean heat standard bill that would incentivize fuel distributors and sellers to transition to cleaner heat options. Democrats are taking bold actions to reduce greenhouse emissions while protecting Vermonters from increased energy costs.
- Democrats in California are responding to the recent hike in prices at the pump, pushing to send $200 directly to the pockets of Californians to meet rising costs. Spearheaded by Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon and Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins, the plan ensures that consumers can quickly increase their spending power while limiting the impact on the state budget.
- Last week, Connecticut’s House passed a bill that significantly expanded access to the ballot box by strengthening and expanding vote-by-mail in the state. Spearheaded by Democrats, the measure would help ensure that all individuals are able to exercise their right to vote. Every vote against the popular measure came from Republican representatives. This not-so-subtle reminder tells us that Republican lawmakers across the country are resisting measures that make voting safe and accessible.
- Modeled after Democrats’ federal child tax credit that lifted millions of children out of poverty and revolutionized American families’ ability to weather the economic downturn, Illinois Democrats have introduced their own statewide child tax credit. Democrats across the country are putting money back into the pockets of hard-working families and working towards a country where no child goes hungry.