As we join together to ignore Trump’s murderous recommendation that we start hanging out in close proximity again in the not-too-distant future, I’m pleased to bring you the latest on what is—and isn’t—happening in state legislatures these days.
Because while the federal government dithers and Trump actively works to make the situation worse, states are on the front lines of managing the response to the coronavirus epidemic.
FiscalNote, a handy subscription service that tracks legislation in states, is not only tracking coronavirus-related bills, but it’s also making some of that info available for free.
And by “some,” I mean it’ll tell you how many bills have been introduced and enacted, but you need a FiscalNote login to actually see the full list of legislation or details of any of the bills.
While FiscalNote has a pretty map, the workhorse National Conference of State Legislatures has an actual list of coronavirus-related bills by state that’s updated every weekday.
Each bill’s status is listed, and each entry links back to the bill’s page on that state legislature’s website so you can read the legislation and check on votes and such yourself.
Much more useful. And it’s searchable!
This list of proposed legislation is long, but let’s take a sec to note some of the key relief measures Democratic majorities have been moving quickly to pass in some of these states:
In Maine, the Democratic-controlled legislature approved more money for the state CDC, gave Gov. Janet Mills emergency powers and access to $11 million to fight coronavirus, and improved the state’s and localities’ ability to support unemployed workers.
In Maryland, Democrats approved emergency funding to respond to the pandemic, expanded access to unemployment for those laid off because of the virus, prohibited employers from firing workers who need to quarantine, required coverage for immunizations, and prohibited price gouging.
In New Jersey, the Democratic legislature passed multiple bills providing assistance to schools, workers, and employers and giving state food banks $15 million to help meet residents’ growing needs in this time of expanding economic hardship.
In New York, lawmakers approved measures providing sick leave and job-protected leave for those affected by coronavirus.
In Washington, Democratic lawmakers approved $200 million in emergency funds to help the state fight the pandemic.
Definitely check out the full list to find out what lawmakers are doing to fight the pandemic in your state.
As the United States achieves the dubious distinction of having the most confirmed coronavirus cases in the world, it brings me no pleasure to present to you a brief accounting of GOP Lawmakers Making Things Worse.
In Pennsylvania, Republican Rep. Stephanie Borowicz has introduced a resolution in which she literally suggests that “the awful calamity of the pandemic … may be but a punishment inflicted upon us for our presumptuous sins.”
This resolution calls for March 30, 2020, to be designated “A State Day of Humiliation, Fasting and Prayer” in the hopes that this will, um, lead to the pardon of said “sins.”
One of her Democratic colleagues called the measure “the stupidest resolution I’ve ever seen a politician introduce.”
And as an erudite consumer of this newsletter, you know that’s quite the distinction.
In Colorado, after a health department covering three counties issued a stay-at-home order on Wednesday morning, six GOP lawmakers from one of those counties—including Republican leadership in both chambers—called on those counties to sever their ties with the health agency.
In the middle of a pandemic.
One of the Republicans calling the order a “heavy-handed application of governmental power” is quarantined in his second home in California until March 31 because he tested positive for coronavirus.
GOP House Leader Patrick Neville described the order as leading to a “gestapo-like mentality” and vowed to ignore it.
Now that Gov. Jared Polis has issued a statewide stay-at-home order, Neville has yet to clarify if he intends to defy that and incur the potential $1,000 fine or up to a year in jail.
Last week in this space, I wrote about the recklessly irresponsible Georgia Republican who spent eight hours in close proximity with his fellow lawmakers while waiting for his coronavirus test results (which were, by the by, positive).
In the subsequent week, five of GOP Sen. Brandon Beach’s colleagues in the legislature have also tested positive for coronavirus (though one of those is thought to be unrelated to Beach’s boneheadedness).
Amid all this nonsense, I’m genuinely pleased to report that even more legislatures have decided to adjourn for a while in response to the pandemic since my list last week:
Arizona has adjourned until April 13.
Florida adjourned sine die on March 19.
Idaho has also adjourned sine die.
Kansas has adjourned until April 27.
Michigan has adjourned until April 3.
The Ohio Senate adjourned until …Friday (March 27). The Ohio House is set to reconvene on March 31.
Oklahoma’s House and Senate are “closed” through … Friday (March 27).
Pennsylvania is “meeting” remotely.
South Carolina canceled its session this week.
South Dakota’s legislature will convene March 30 via “electronic conference.”
Welp, that’s a wrap for this week. Thanks for tuning in amid all the stress and weirdness that has really become the only constant in our lives these days. Whatever your situation is right now, you definitely deserve to spend tomorrow taking care of yourself.
And only you know what form that should take!
Maybe you’ll spend your day at work, painfully aware of how fortunate you are to be employed right now. Maybe you’ll spend the day watching kittens. Or jellyfish. Or maybe you’ll spend some time outside. Maybe you’ll do some yoga in your living room. Maybe you’ll watch some opera. Maybe you’ll drink a whole bottle of wine while video chatting with friends. Maybe you’ll call a relative you haven’t talked to in a long time. Maybe you’ll finish watching that series you’ve had on your DVR for two years.
Anyway, look after you. Not only will no one mind, but it’s really the one of the best things you can do for the many, many people who care about your wellbeing.
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