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 2nd, and here is the state of the states.
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- March is Women’s History Month and state Democrats began the celebration early by applauding President Biden’s nomination of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to become the first Black woman to serve as associate justice on the Supreme Court. Republicans, on the other hand, honored the occasion by attempting to ram through anti-abortion bills in Colorado and Virginia and stop the advancement of an Equal Rights Amendment in Maine. State Democrats are working to protect and expand women’s rights, economic mobility, and reproductive justice, every month of the year.
- When President Biden first took office, we were in the depths of an economic downturn, reeling from the aftermath of a violent attack on our Capitol, and unequipped to safely respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. But in the first year of his presidency, President Biden and Democrats from the halls of Congress to Democratic-controlled statehouses delivered on once-in-a-generation investments to improve the lives of all Americans. Last night, President Biden delivered his first State of the Union to Congress and the nation outlining these historic achievements. Like the Biden administration and Democrats across the country, the DLCC will continue to be a strong advocate for American workers by fighting to lower costs, protect voting rights, and expand access to life-saving health care across the country.
- Republicans in Arizona have decided to shirk the will of citizens and asked the Supreme Court to throw out their vote-by-mail system, a safe and secure voting practice that is used by 90% of its citizens. The lawsuit filed by the state GOP comes amidst several Republican-proposed bills in the Arizona Legislature that attempt to restrict and even eliminate voting by mail. Pushing election changes that are widely unpopular on both sides of the aisle, Republicans are starting to act desperately, going as far as the state Supreme Court to try to justify their unwanted voting restrictions while state Democrats across the country remain laser-focused on expanding access to the ballot box and protecting one’s constitutional right to vote.
- What Republicans are pushing for another unpopular measure that the majority of Americans don’t want? As we closed out Black History Month, state Republicans intensified their coordinated campaign to ban books about history and race across the country. Not only a blatant attack on First Amendment rights of free expression and free speech, book bans are, get this, wildly unpopular with an overwhelming majority of voters. In fact, according to a CBS poll that dropped last week, more than eight in 10 Americans across the political spectrum and racial lines believe that books shouldn’t be banned from schools for focusing on race or criticizing American history. Banning books and eliminating vote by mail are just two examples in a long litany of unpopular and regressive initiatives that define the GOP, whose platform does little to improve the lives of Americans or address core issues facing the country.
- Five dollars lower than any other New England state, New Hampshire has no state minimum wage, preventing workers in the Granite State from being able to make ends meet. State Republicans this week blocked an attempt that would have raised the state’s base wage to $15 over the next two years. As Senate Democratic Leader Donna Soucy noted, Republicans “enthusiastically” passed tax cuts that benefit the wealthiest but refuse to help the state’s lowest earners.
- Time has moved strangely because of the pandemic and it’s sometimes hard to remember what year it is. But Republicans seem stuck in 2020 because a report authorized by GOP Speaker Robin Vos urged the Wisconsin General Assembly to decertify Wisconsin’s 2020 election results and argued that the legislature could exert partisan control over future election results. The report brought before the Assembly Committee on Campaigns and Elections came without any shred of credible evidence and ignored the numerous analyses conducted by local, state, and federal government that found no wrongdoing or irregularity during Wisconsin’s 2020 election. The collective amnesia on behalf of Wisconsin Republicans proves yet again that the anti-democratic wing of the Republican Party is no longer “fringe,” but a defining characteristic of a party hellbent on shirking democratic norms and embracing authoritarian tactics to achieve favorable electoral outcomes.
- President Biden called for empathy for transgender people across the country in his State of the Union address. We hope his plea for kindness reaches state Republicans who have been proposing and passing bills that attack the rights of LGBTQ Americans and hinder the ability for all people to be comfortably themselves. In Iowa, a Republican lawmaker compared being trans to having a mental illness at least 10 times during last week’s debate on a recent bill that would bar transgender students from playing on the school sports team that aligns with their gender identity. As Republican anti-trans attacks, like a recent measure in Texas, have already begun to take a toll on children’s mental health, we are continually saddened by the Republican lack of empathy and ability to accept all individuals for who they are.
- What was that sound? Oh, nothing, just the bar crashing into the floor. When news broke that Arizona Senator Wendy Rogers would attend a conference organized by a known white nationalist, Arizona Governor Doug Ducey was asked if he regretted investing half a million dollars to support her campaign. He quickly replied that he’d rather have Rogers in the state legislature than a Democrat in order to pass his radical agenda.
- Remember how we just said the majority of Americans overwhelmingly reject banning school materials that focus on race or criticize American history? The Kentucky Senate rejected a clear opportunity to listen to the people of their state, passing a bill this week that codifies that teaching racial disparties solely as a product of slavery is “destructive to the unification of our nation.” You know what else was destructive to the unification of our nation? Hint: Republicans don’t want children to learn about it in schools.
- Eric Garner, Rayshard Brooks, George Floyd. These men were killed at the hands of police and their deaths sparked social justice movements across the country to improve the lives of Black Americans. In Floyd’s case, video footage filmed by a bystander was instrumental in convicting the police who murdered him. This makes it all the more shocking that Arizona Republicans passed a bill through the House that would drastically limit the ability for individuals to film the actions of the police. If signed into law, this would limit public accountability over police departments. This legislation further underscores the Republican Party’s disregard for Black lives.
- All Americans have the right to parent on their own terms. In Colorado, Democrats took steps this week to protect abortion rights and expand reproductive freedom by first defeating three restrictive anti-abortion bills and then securing rights for people who conceive using reproductive technologies. Battles for reproductive freedom in Colorado demonstrate the clear difference between Republicans and Democrats when it comes to reproductive health and supporting families. Republicans want to restrict individual freedom while Democrats fight to protect the reproductive rights of everyone.
- State Democrats have spent the entirety of this pandemic making sure teachers have the support and resources they need. Democrats in Maryland are seeking to provide bonuses to school support staff, many of whom make less than $35,000 a year. New Mexico Democrats also celebrated as $10,000 teacher pay raises were signed into law. The actions of state Democrats across the country starkly contrast with Republicans in states like Iowa who balked at the opportunity to fully fund public schools.
- Under the strong leadership of Democrats in the statehouse, Connecticut has already taken steps to expand access to health care and protect reproductive rights. This week, Connecticut Democrats continued this work by proposing to enshrine abortion rights in the state constitution. As Republicans mercilessly attack abortion rights and mount numerous challenges to Roe v. Wade, Democratic legislators in states like Vermont and now Connecticut are taking bold steps to protect abortion rights. Democrats are unrelenting in their commitment to strengthen reproductive health for all Americans.
- Democrats in New York made us proud when they proposed a more inclusive version of the Equal Rights Amendment at the state level. If passed, the New York version of the ERA would include protections not only on the basis of sex, but also for race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, and even status of pregnancy.
- The federal child tax credit provided much-needed relief for working families and lifted millions out of poverty during the depths of the COVID-19 pandemic. Democrats in Vermont have passed a bill in the state House that enacts a similar program for families across the state. This bill further demonstrates state Democrats’ commitment to rewarding hard-working people and developing an economy that allows families to create a better future for themselves and their children.