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 February 23rd, and here is the state of the states.
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- Last night, Keturah Herron won Kentucky’s special election for HD-42, making history as the first openly-LGBTQ person elected to serve in the Kentucky House. A born and raised Kentuckian, Herron has spent her entire life advocating for her community and achieving tangible criminal justice reforms while acting as a policy analyst for the ACLU of Kentucky. This election is historic for Kentucky and we are thrilled to welcome Keturah to statehouse service and excited to see the changes she brings representing diverse communities throughout Kentucky.
- While national lawmakers are debating legislation on critical issues, Republicans in state legislatures are quickly passing a plethora of laws that restrict abortion, limit access to voting, roll back LGBTQ rights, constrain teachers’ ability to freely discuss race in the classroom, and even ban books. The full scope of the GOP’s effort in state legislatures is terrifying and underscores how crucial it is that Democrats are elected to statehouses and fight back against a radical, regressive Republican agenda.
- Got any fun weekend plans? We are planning on catching up on some sleep and going on a hike. Arizona Representative Wendy Rogers, on the other hand, has been announced as a featured speaker at a white nationalist conference. Rogers is slated to speak at a conference organized by known white nationalist Nick Fuentes, joined by other extremists such as Arizona’s own xenophobe Joe Arpaio and Proud Boys founder Gavin McGinnes. Rogers’ shockingly blatant association with white nationalism shows the Republican Party’s turn to right-wing extremism and underscores the dire need for all Americans to reject the GOP’s normalization of hatred and bigotry.
- News broke that Arizona Representative Jake Hoffman submitted a letter to then-Vice President Mike Pence asking him to reject Arizona’s 2020 election results the day before Trump wound up his supporters and sent them towards the Capitol. Written on official letterhead and with the state seal, Hoffman demanded that Pence take the democratic process away from Arizonans and into the hands of the state legislature. Such blatant disrespect to democracy and the rule of law is now par for the course for Republicans. Democrats are working to ensure that this behavior is never normalized and joining the American people in vehemently rejecting anti-democratic efforts.
- Florida House Republicans rammed through an extreme, restrictive abortion ban that not only limits life-saving health care but also explicitly rejected exceptions for access to safe abortions in instances of rape, incest, and human trafficking. The move by the Florida GOP comes on the heels of a flurry of other restrictive abortion bills in Arizona, West Virginia, and Oklahoma that intend to limit reproductive freedom and punish medical professionals who provide this critical care.
- Virginia Democrats pushed back against the GOP’s unpopular and radical agenda, shooting down proposed measures that would have lessened penalties for concealed weapons violations, severely limited voting access, and concealed police records from the public. While Virginia House Republicans try to ram through extreme legislation and attempt to roll back voting rights and criminal justice reforms, Democrats are committed to defending popular measures that improve the wellbeing and civil liberties of all Virginians.
- How much do Republicans want to prevent expanded access to the ballot box? In New Mexico, a Republican senator ran out the clock on the legislative session to ensure that a vote was not held on popular voting rights reforms after Republicans in the Senate stonewalled a previous version of the bill. What are the reforms that Republicans were willing to go to such lengths to block? Making Election Day a school holiday, restoring voting rights to formerly incarcerated individuals, expanding voter protections for Native Americans and creating a permanent mail-in voter list. It is very simple: Democrats want everyone’s voice to be heard while Republicans want to silence Americans. The GOP is willing to stall, delay, and block popular voting rights measures in order to make it harder to vote.
- Imagine Republicans’ dream school library: there are some books (but only if they don’t mention race or homosexuality), and in Arizona’s case, a lot more guns. Last week, the Arizona House approved two Republican bills to allow firearms in libraries and other public buildings and to allow loaded guns in cars on school grounds. As parents are terrified for their children’s safety in classrooms, Republicans are doubling down on making educational environments less safe (and also less educational).
- Joining a wave of other Republican-led legislatures, Republican lawmakers in the Iowa House this week approved a bill that would prevent students from playing on the sports team that aligns with their gender identity. Republicans continue to demonize literal children who just want to live their lives and play sports with their friends.
- Unsatisfied with enacting abortion bans that would take effect if Roe v. Wade falls, Colorado House Republicans have introduced a bill to abolish abortion across the state and enforce homicide and assault provisions regardless of the legal status of Roe. Individuals who are unable to receive life-saving abortion care in heavily restricted states commonly travel to Colorado to access their right to have an abortion, a reality the state GOP callously wants to end.
- Connecticut Democrats are hard at work to make voting more accessible in the state. In November residents will vote on a ballot initiative that would allow the Connecticut state legislature to pass a law to institute in-person early voting; in the meantime, Democratic leaders in both chambers announced plans to allow anyone who fears exposure to COVID to vote by mail in the 2022 election as they undergo the long process of amending the state’s constitution to lift barriers to voting.
- To round out Black History Month, Georgia Democrats introduced legislation to honor the state’s first Black lawmakers. The first group of Black men to serve, known as “The Original 33,” was elected in 1858, but white lawmakers refused to seat them. Now, legislators want to highlight their story by adding a plaque on the interior of the state capitol building. This plaque would serve as a stunning reminder of how far Georgia has come.
- Democratic legislators in California are also taking steps to remove Native American slurs from the names of geographic features and places throughout the state. In a bill introduced this month, Democrats aim to restore the dignity of Indigenous peoples by codifying that slurs against Native populations will not be tolerated in California and will not be memorialized in the state’s landmarks.
- The climate achievements of blue states like Washington have not gone unnoticed. This week, former vice president and climate activist Al Gore took time to recognize the environmental achievements outlined in the Washington House’s recently passed climate initiatives. The Senate is now considering legislation that aims to revolutionize residential energy codes to ensure that cities are able to increase energy efficiency, reduce emissions, and work towards the state’s ambitious carbon reduction goals for 2031.
- Oregon Democrats are stepping up for voting rights by expanding enfranchisement in their state. Lawmakers proposed a measure that would restore voting rights to currently incarcerated individuals, reiterating the core Democratic belief that our democracy is healthier and most effective when more people, not less, are able to act on their right to vote.