Happy Groundhog Day! We just received word that Punxsutawney Phil lifted his little furry head out of his hole, saw the GOP’s continued crusade against abortion access, voting rights, and LGBTQ+ Americans, and said, “nope, six more weeks!” But while we ride out the rest of this GOP-laden winter, at least…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 February 3rd; ease into the weekend with a roundup of state stories from across the country.
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- Some exciting news! The State Democracy Action Fund (SDAF), a new nonprofit, launched this week to educate and mobilize Americans on what is happening in their state capitols. The group’s mission is to provide education and resources that equip Americans to preserve our sacred institutions, protect our rights, and encourage change in our communities. First reported in POLITICO, the nonprofit is focused on ensuring every American has the ability to fight for abortion access, fair representation, defeating voter suppression, and more. Following the announcement of Governor Youngkin and extremist lawmakers’ abortion ban proposals, SDAF is targeting Virginia in its first six-week digital advertisement. When people understand what state legislatures do, they can make informed decisions about policies that affect them.
- ICYMI: Abortion and birth control access are now enshrined into Minnesota state law thanks to Minnesota DFLers, who passed the historic PRO Act over the weekend. This means abortion will be protected no matter what a future state or federal court rules. With a new Democratic trifecta, the land of 10,000 lakes is quickly becoming the land of 10,000 pieces of impactful legislation! In addition to the historic abortion bill signed into law this week, Minnesota DFLers passed their own version of the CROWN Act to ban hair-based racial discrimination and formed a historic Queer Caucus — but they are far from done. On track to reach record levels of productivity this session, Minnesota DFLers are already pushing new legislation to establish the state as a refuge for anyone seeking gender-affirming health care, expand the state’s working family tax credit, and close the funding gap for special education in public schools. We’re not kidding; that 10,000 joke may not be that far off.
- This week’s Commonwealth Chatter is abuzz with the incredible actions Virginia Senate Democrats have taken to protect Virginians from the GOP’s dangerous agenda — so listen up! After Senate Democrats shot down the latest round of GOP abortion bans, Senate President Louise Lucas took to MSNBC to call out the GOP for its unpopular and dangerous crusade against Virginians’ reproductive health. Just this week, Virginia Senate Democrats also rejected the GOP’s proposed tax cuts for the ultra-wealthy and tossed out three Republican anti-LGBTQ+ measures — all while passing a historic package of common sense gun safety reforms through their chamber!
- On a different note, here is a grab bag of some lighter stories from state legislative Democrats as you head into the weekend: First up, in the Land of Enchantment, New Mexico Democrats are working to make the smell of roasting chiles the official state smell. Up north, Washington Democrats are also interested in some more esoteric state designations, drafting legislation with the help of local fourth graders to name the state’s official dinosaur (for all the Dinoheads out there, it’s the Suciasaurus rex).
- Big week for Republican conspiracy theorists in Arizona, where Representative Steve Montenegro spoke at a xenophobic anti-immigration event over the weekend that featured speakers connected to QAnon and hate groups, while GOP senator and notorious Oath Keeper Wendy Rogers took control of the Arizona Senate Elections Committee, one of the most important positions overseeing elections in this battleground state. Montenegro and Rogers are just two figures in a hyper-extreme Arizona Republican Party that spent the first few weeks of the new legislative session advancing legislation to restrict discussion of race in public school classrooms (just days before Black History Month), put up barriers to the ballot box, and exempt lawmakers from releasing their communications to the public. Clearly, the extremism of Montenegro and Rogers is not an exception to Arizona’s GOP, but par for the course.
- Despite Republicans coming up short in 2022, partially because of their extreme stance on abortion, the RNC passed a recent resolution urging GOP lawmakers to “pass the strongest pro-life legislation possible.” State Republicans said “say less.” In Nebraska, Republicans are under fire for their own proposed abortion ban that could render both medical providers and patients vulnerable to criminal charges if they perform or receive an abortion outside of the bill’s narrow parameters. And after a landslide vote last August that protected legal abortion access in Kansas, state Republicans have trotted out their own abortion ban. Republicans clearly have not ceased their crusade against popular abortion rights. Going all in on an unpopular policy platform that puts women in harm’s way and rids them of personal choice perfectly encapsulates the priorities of the GOP.
- State Democrats are ready to step in and provide resources as the federal government ramps down its pandemic-related programs, like subsidized school lunches, which millions of public school kids relied on throughout the pandemic. Democrats in Hawaii, Vermont, and Minnesota understand that even though the worst part of the pandemic is behind us, every student deserves to have access to proper nutrition at school regardless of their family’s income. With fewer federal pandemic programs and perpetual congressional gridlock, state Democrats’ work to take action on school meals demonstrates how state legislatures can provide resources to communities that need them most when Democrats are at the helm.
- State Democrats refuse to accept the epidemic of gun violence that this country faces. Instead of throwing up their hands or bending over backward for the gun lobby, Democrats across the country are working to pass sensible gun safety reforms and get dangerous weapons off the street, like in Virginia, where Senate Democrats recently passed a crucial assault weapons ban as a part of a packet of gun reforms through their chamber. Maryland Democrats are working on their own marquee gun safety reform bill that prevents dangerous weapons from being brought into schools and places of worship. And in Connecticut, Democrats are working towards closing assault weapons loopholes, just another reminder that Democrats won’t stop till every community is safe.
It’s officially award season, so the DLCC is reintroducing The Demmys, the premier award showcasing Democratic excellence throughout the states. A few nominees this week for the 2023 Caucus of Distinction Award: Michigan Democrats, for passing a historic spending bill that earmarks millions in new funding for expanding affordable housing and protecting local jobs. Maine Democrats, for proposing a series of bills to help protect trans rights within the state. And Georgia Democrats, for introducing a bill that would repeal the GOP’s cruel abortion ban. Tune in next week for more incredible nominees!