Here at the DLCC, we have had a fun run over the last year or so with our weekly newsletter, celebrating Dem feats, noting GOP fails, and churning out a whole lotta snark in the process. T.G.I.S.O.T.S. Thank God It’s State of the States! The DLCC is here to help you catch up on the state legislative stories you might have missed. It’s March 3rd; ease into the weekend with a roundup of state stories from across the country.
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- During the 2023 legislative session, Virginia Republicans introduced at least 12 anti-trans and LGBTQ+ bills. But beyond Virginia, in states all across the map like Oklahoma, Wyoming, and Kansas, Republicans are using LGBTQ+ people as political pawns to score cheap points with the fringes of their base, proposing hundreds of bills that attack vulnerable communities and distract from the fact that the GOP has no practical solutions to the real problems that face Americans. In response, state Democrats are fighting back — like in Virginia, where Senate Democrats blocked the Republican anti-trans and anti-LGBTQ+ agenda. Montana Rep. Zooey Zephyr again bravely spoke out on the floor to the real consequences these hateful bills have on the lives of trans and LGBTQ+ people across the country.
- Representative Joanna McClinton was elected as Pennsylvania speaker of the House – making history as the first woman and first Black woman to lead the chamber. And Speaker McClinton isn’t the only legislative leader making history this cycle. There are six Black speakers of the House in legislative chambers across the country, the highest in our nation’s history. They include Carl Heastie of the New York Assembly, Adrienne Jones of the Maryland House of Delegates, Chris Welch of the Illinois House, Rachel Talbot Ross of the Maine House, Joe Tate of the Michigan House, and now Joanna McClinton!
- Remember spot the difference games from elementary school? Let’s try one now with Michigan Democrats and Republicans. On the left, Michigan Democrats, who, after promising action on gun safety reform in the wake of the tragic shooting at Michigan State University, held their first of many gun reform hearings. Okay, now on the right, there are Michigan Senate Republicans who, during a recent vote on the Governor’s tax relief plan, refused to join Democrats to assemble the two-thirds majority needed to send rebate checks to Michiganders and their families. While Michigan Democrats are taking action to keep communities safe, their Republican counterparts are actively hurting their communities by opposing policies that put money back in the pockets of everyday people.
- Here is this week’s GOP Grab Bag of Bad, and oh boy… buckle up for this one. We start in Florida, where a Republican Senator has proposed a bill that would “cancel” the Democratic Party, designating all registered Democrats as no-party voters. Florida Republicans also prioritized passing another measure attacking Disney World, the latest piece of legislation aimed at the company after its public rebukes of the GOP’s extreme party agenda last year. In Mississippi, GOP lawmakers are poised to reenact a ballot process for voters to have a say on a variety of policy initiatives… except abortion access of course, which Republicans made sure to explicitly bar in their proposal. In Idaho, a Republican lawmaker apparently stepped out of his regressive time machine and introduced a measure to allow the state to execute by firing squad. Lastly, in Arkansas, Republicans have readied a massive education bill that could gut public education and divert millions of taxpayer dollars to private schools.
- Republican extremism in Arizona continues to heat up like the Sonoran Desert in a heatwave. The state’s Senate Elections Committee (chaired by infamous Oath Keeper Wendy Rogers) recently entertained hours of testimony from election deniers and conspiracy theorists that claimed, among other truly radical things, that officials were caught up in a drug cartel-backed bribery scheme. It’s easy to write off these hearings as being riddled with conspiracy theories and political stunts, but the GOP’s normalization of extremism and election denialism is having real consequences, as Arizona Republicans advanced even more anti-voter bills this week. And it isn’t just democracy that Arizona Republicans are attacking. GOP Senators advanced on strict party lines an anti-trans bathroom bill, one of several anti-LBGTQ+ measures that Arizona Republicans have proposed this year.
- Last year, Colorado Republicans suffered “an extinction level event” with their state legislative losses in the midterms, partly because of the rampant extremism and election denialism that has gripped the party. You would think that the GOP would head into the new year looking to change course, and… wait, of the six candidates vying to be the next state GOP chair, three are outright election deniers? Ah, noted. At the statehouse, legislative Republicans have spent the last two months pushing doomed, extreme legislation that would restrict trans kids from playing youth sports, make it harder to enforce gun safety reforms, and ban abortion. While Colorado Democrats are taking bold steps to enact popular progress, the GOP continues its MAGA zealotry, pushing extremist ideas and bills despite their unpopularity and threat to the health and welfare of communities.
- Red-state Democrats aren’t playing around — like in Nebraska, where Democratic Sen. Machaela Cavanaugh is filibustering hyper-extreme GOP bills in order to shield Nebraskans from Republicans’ radical agenda. Cavanaugh and fellow state Democrats were forced into action after Republicans began moving quickly on bills that would target LGBTQ+ kids and further restrict abortion in the state. While Republicans push legislation to score cheap political points with the fringes of their base, actions by red-state Democrats like Cavanaugh act as an important reminder that these laws are not only dangerous and unpopular but warrant a strong rebuke in order to ensure these bad bills are blocked.
- New Hampshire Democrats briefly took control of the House and passed two key bills that would bolster public education funding and force the state’s utilities to invest in more clean energy options. As a reminder, the New Hampshire House has four hundred members, yet stands at a historically slim margin after the DLCC helped secure a key special election victory last month. With their decisive policy moves last week, New Hampshire Democrats have demonstrated the kind of popular progress they can enact when they control the House — underscoring just how important it is for state Democrats to win a string of special elections this summer.
- After a historic run of award wins from Minnesota DFLers, this week’s Demmy for Outstanding Democratic Caucus goes to Colorado Democrats! Coming off the heels of introducing a historic package of gun safety reforms, Colorado Democrats haven’t stopped working towards enacting progress and building a better, brighter future for the Centennial State. For example, they are working to ensure that women and men are given equal pay for equal work, cutting hospital health care costs, strengthening the state’s workplace harassment laws, and shrinking the state’s teacher shortage. Colorado Democrats join an esteemed list of Democratic caucuses and Demmy award winners who have worked to enact popular progress for all.
Honorable Demmy mention goes to New Mexico Democrats, who advanced a trio of important bills this week. In the Senate, Democrats signaled support for a key, common-sense safety measure that would require safe gun storage, while also advancing a voting rights package on party lines that would enact automatic voter registration after getting a driver’s license, restore the voting rights of formerly incarcerated people, and greenlight the state’s Native American Voting Rights Act. House Democrats advanced a bill that would create significant incentives for firefighters who stay in the state. Working at the highest elevation of any statehouse in the country, New Mexico Democrats aren’t letting the lack of oxygen get in the way of enacting progress.