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 2nd, and here is the state of the states.
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- This Black History Month, state Democrats across the country are celebrating the accomplishments of Black Americans and fighting to protect representation at the polls. Republicans can’t say the same – as they have already introduced nearly 200 anti-voter bills a mere five weeks into 2022. In a memo released yesterday, the DLCC highlighted efforts Democrats have made around the country to protect and expand voting rights and outlined the 17 states where Republicans have passed restrictive measures, which often target communities of color.
- Arizona Republican Rep. John Fillmore blatantly reminisced about the Jim Crow era when he stated, “we need to get back to 1958-style voting” in an attempt to justify his bill that would give the Arizona legislature the power to reject the results of any state election. Rep. Fillmore said the quiet part out loud, reminding us that Republicans yearn for a time defined by literacy tests, poll taxes, and other insidious ways the government deterred Black and brown citizens from voting. It’s also a brazen attempt to give partisan legislatures more power over election results. Fillmore’s bill was just one of the dozens of bills introduced by Arizona Republicans that affirm their priority to strip voting rights at the state level by any means necessary.
- Senate Democrats in Virginia have formed a blue wall to protect against the radical agenda of Governor Youngkin and state Republicans. This week, Democrats pushed back against Republican-led attempts to ban books in schools, require partisan sham election reviews, and install a fossil fuel-loving former Trump crony to run the state’s natural resources department.
- Former President Donald Trump is throwing cold hard cash behind his baseless election fraud claims using his PAC to bankroll the campaigns of state legislative candidates in Michigan. The nine candidates, who together collected over $45,000 from the former president, have one thing in common (and no, it’s not an affinity for red hats): they actively promote Trump’s false election claims. Foiled by the courts, a failed insurrection, and the will of the American people, Trump has now resorted to helping elect conspiracy theorists in an attempt to seize control of the state legislatures.
- Trump-endorsed Michigan state Senate candidate Mike Detmer shamelessly encouraged supporters to “show up armed” and bring weapons to the polls. The MAGA-bankrolled candidate threatened, “if we can’t change the tide, which I believe we can, we need to be prepared to lock and load.” Detmer is sadly far from the first Michigan Republican to egg on violence. Rep. Matt Maddock (who was also bestowed a campaign check from Republicans’ tyrannical kingmaker), spoke at a rally on the eve of the violent insurrection on January 6th, was present the day of, and joined a group promoting violent rhetoric and conspiracy theories afterward. With Detmer and Maddock alone, Trump’s hand-picked conspiracy cabal in Michigan is turning out to be quite the group.
- Virginia state Sen. Amanda Chase suggested in a subcommittee hearing this week that masks led to a car crash. We know Republican lawmakers have a hard time with the concept of wearing masks, but they’re not supposed to go over your eyes.
- Georgia Republicans are once again refusing to listen to teachers, students, and administrators by introducing a bill that would limit how teachers discuss race and racism in K-12 classrooms and in state universities. Teachers have pleaded with lawmakers to stop interfering with education, but Republicans are charging full speed ahead to stop any discussion of race and racism. It is painfully clear that their intent is to whitewash history, control classrooms, and now even college campuses.
- What’s the old saying? “Well isn’t it the consequences of my own actions?” We’re sure Alaska Rep. David Eastman, a known Oath Keeper, could clarify for us. The Alaska Legislature took the first steps this week in removing Eastman from legislative committees due to his involvement with the far-right paramilitary group. Members of the House’s coalition majority have been considering for weeks whether Eastman’s membership violates the Alaska Constitution but an expulsion vote would require support from at least some of the House’s 18-member Republican minority, which leadership has said is not there. Although it is just a small step in the right direction, we wish we weren’t so shocked to see seditious Republicans held accountable for their actions.
- After advancing a bill to raise the minimum wage in their state, Hawaii Democrats made efforts this week to protect endangered species, improve language access throughout government services, and make housing more affordable. The Democrat-led statehouse continues to remind us why Hawaii is “a paradise” for the general welfare of a diverse population. The temperate weather and beautiful beaches are nice too…
- In the face of a conservative Supreme Court and an almost inevitable reversal of the Roe v. Wade decision, Democrat-held statehouses are the only fail-safe protecting reproductive rights. Vermont reminded us of this fact this week, as they continued the process to officially codify abortion access in the state constitution. Vermont is part of a growing list of states who are moving to enshrine reproductive freedoms in lieu of SCOTUS protection.
- As the onslaught of Republican anti-voter bills proposed across the country dominated news feeds and airwaves, House Democrats in Massachusetts passed legislation to expand vote by mail and make early voting permanent. Expanded voting measures brought on by the pandemic greatly increased public participation in the electoral process, prompting the common-sense move from Democrats to work toward permanently codifying laws that expand access to the ballot box.
- Washington Democrats are working to strengthen the rights of renters and check the growing power landlords have to decide who does and does not receive housing. In a bill proposed this week, Rep. Lauren Davis led the charge to prevent landlords from denying someone housing due to a prior criminal offense, especially those who are in the process of recovery due to mental health issues.
- Democrats in Maine have stepped up to alleviate the burden of student debt, advancing a bill that would prevent colleges and universities from withholding employer-required transcripts due to a student’s debt status. While Republicans remain silent on student debt, Democrats work to ensure that receiving higher education does not hinder one’s ability to thrive.