T.G.I.S.O.T.S. Thank God It’s State of the States! There’s a lot going on, so the DLCC is helping you catch up on the state legislative stories you might have missed. It’s August 26th; ease into the weekend with a roundup of state stories from across the country.
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- In a bombshell development that upends the GOP’s efforts to flip the Colorado Senate, Colorado Senator Kevin Priola announced this week that he is leaving the Republican Party due to its complicity in the January 6 insurrection, continued attempts to spread election fraud conspiracies, and refusal to act on climate change. Priola wrote, “Coloradans cannot afford for their leaders to give credence to election conspiracies and climate denialism. Simply put, we need Democrats in charge because our planet and our democracy depend on it.”
- This week, ousted Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers unabashedly slammed his Republican colleagues in an interview with The Guardian. Speaker Bowers said that the GOP has “lost its mind” and blasted its attempts to overturn the election: “Taking away the fundamental right to vote, the idea that the legislature could nullify your election, that’s not conservative. That’s fascist.” For context, earlier this month, Speaker Bowers decisively lost his primary to a Trump-endorsed candidate over Bowers’ refusal, as he described it, “to overthrow the vote of the people of Arizona.”
- Yesterday, abortion trigger bans in Texas, Tennessee, and Idaho went into effect, putting even more restrictive measures into place. Republicans in all three of these states have already passed abortion bans, but the new measures will further restrict the ability of millions of Americans to make personal health care decisions. The battle for abortion rights is happening in the states right now, and as Republicans work to abolish this right, Democrats must focus down ballot to fight back.
- As South Carolina Republicans push a dangerous and unpopular abortion ban that will put lives in danger, South Carolina Representative Spencer Wetmore went on MSNBC last weekend to sound the alarm. The bill, which is on its way to the House floor, currently stands as a total abortion ban with no exceptions for rape or incest. At least one Republican in the state had a change of heart after hearing the devastating consequences of his vote for an earlier abortion ban — we encourage his GOP colleagues across the country to follow his lead, listen to Democrats like Representative Wetmore and their constituents, and end their heartless attacks on bodily autonomy.
- Bills targeting classroom discussion on race and LGBTQ+ issues skyrocketed this year, increasing by 250 percent since 2021. 137 bills were proposed in the 2022 legislative session, highlighting the GOP’s willingness to erase accurate history, representation, and equality in classrooms across the nation. As millions of kids go back to school this month, state Democrats are focused on making sure their teachers are paid fairly and that students have access to the supplies they need. But across the aisle, the GOP continues to underfund schools, put LGBTQ+ kids at risk, erase the history and representation of people of color, and insert politics into our classrooms.
- $120,000! That’s how much conservative activists were willing to spend in order to initiate a recount of the blow-out Kansas vote to protect abortion access. Unsurprisingly, maxed-out GOP credit cards did little to change the wide margin of Kansas voters who rejected an attempt to undermine reproductive rights. The GOP’s obsession with election conspiracies and needless recounts reiterates their reluctance to accept the full will of the people. It’s truly disturbing the lengths they are willing to go to in order to push their radical agenda on all of us. To quote Rusty Bowers, feels a little fascist!
- Pennsylvania Representative Dan Frankel is receiving an onslaught of anti-Semitic threats from individuals on the social media site Gab after calling out Senator Doug Mastriano’s financial ties to the far-right site. Representative Frankel knows all too well the dangers of the violence, hate speech, and anti-Semitism festering on Gab; he represents the Tree of Life Synagogue that was attacked by an anti-Semite who posted on Gab in the moments before the shooting. Republicans have long been enabling hate speech and violence with their extreme rhetoric. Now, the GOP has leading party figures like Mastriano cutting $5,000 checks for “consulting” to sites that fan the flames of violent hate. Instead of cooling it with the whole instigating violence thing after Trump supporters attacked the capitol, the GOP has doubled down and is putting lives at risk.
- In Michigan, Dems deliver while Republicans make democracy quiver. This week we announced 23 Spotlight candidates from Michigan who are ready to push back against GOP extremism and fight for what matters to everyday Michiganders. While the Michigan GOP lines its ranks with conspiracy theorists, insurrectionists, and anti-abortion extremists, these Spotlight candidates from all walks of life are ready to get to work. Together, they will protect reproductive rights, fully fund public schools, and deliver affordable health care for the people of Michigan.
- While Republicans continue to attack reproductive rights, every state with a Democrat-controlled legislature has taken steps to protect abortion access. In Vermont, state lawmakers have already sent an amendment to November’s ballot that will let Vermonters vote to enshrine abortion protections in the state constitution, but wait, there’s more. Vermont Democrats are working on a pair of bills that would protect those coming to Vermont to receive care from states where abortion is outlawed and enact consumer protection restrictions on anti-abortion “crisis pregnancy centers.”
- When Democrats hold legislative power as they do in California, Democratic lawmakers address key issues that affect our day-to-day lives like gun safety, labor protections, housing affordability, and criminal justice reform. As the California legislature wraps up its legislative session at the end of this month, Democrats are working on key bills that implement a tax on gun sales and funnel the revenue into gun violence prevention programs, hold fast food corporations accountable for labor law violations by franchises, create more affordable housing, and seal records of some ex-offenders so that they aren’t barred from educational or job opportunities.