This Week in Statehouse Action: Nightmares and Statescapes edition

This Week in Statehouse Action: Nightmares and Statescapes edition

Greetings from Impeachlandia, where everything feels somehow like a bad dream AND deja vu.

Also, the weather sucks.

But as we wait for most Republicans in the U.S. Senate to let Trump off the hook for inciting a murderous riot at the U.S. Capitol, here are some happenings across the country that you might have missed or might not have the energy to pay attention to unless it’s all tidily (… okay that’s overselling my organization method here for sure) gathered in one place or [insert pandemic-related limitation here].

Brief Lives: In Virginia, the legislative session is just past its halfway point, which means that on one’s introducing or voting on new legislation and each chamber is only considering bills from the other.

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But it’s also an election year in the commonwealth (House and gov/LG/AG), so it’s an extra-short session with extra-high stakes, too.

Here’s where some key issues stand among the legislature’s still-fresh (they’re only a year old, after all) Democratic majorities:

  • Both the House and Senate have passed legislation to remove the ban on abortion coverage on the state’s healthcare exchange.
  • Both chambers have passed measures that would make Virginia the first state in the South to end capital punishment.

Not-so-fun-fact: Since 1608, Virginia has executed almost 1,400 people.

  • The House and Senate both passed the Virginia Voting Rights Act, which will protect voters from suppression, intimidation, and discrimination based on their race, ethnicity or first language. (And yes, Gov. Northam will sign it.)
  • Both chambers gave first approval to a proposed constitutional amendment that would repeal Virginia’s 2006 amendment that defines marriage as between a man and a woman.
    • By the by, proposed constitutional amendments have to pass the legislature in consecutive years and then be approved by voters in a statewide referendum.
  • The House and Senate both passed legislation that would eliminate most mandatory minimum sentences, which are historically discriminatory and result in disproportionately lengthy prison sentences for people of color.
  • Each chamber has given first approval to proposed constitutional amendments to allow people convicted of felonies to vote.
    • The House resolution would restore rights automatically after a voter completes their sentence.
    • The Senate resolution would allow people convicted of felonies to vote, except while incarcerated.
      • These differences will have to be resolved and approved in a single proposed constitutional amendment this year, which will then have to pass again next year before being approved by voters in a statewide referendum.

The Kindly Ones: The 2020 presidential election is still being fought in the GOP-controlled Arizona legislature, and things are … ugly.

  • In the state Senate, where Republicans have a narrow 16-14 majority, a surprise GOP defection this week derailed the chamber’s attempt to hold members of the (also GOP-controlled) Maricopa County Board of Supervisors in contempt for refusing to turn over ballots and election machines.
    • This is all, of course, part of state Republicans’ attempt to demonstrate that Joe Biden didn’t legitimately win Arizona last November. (He did, though.)
  • The Maricopa Board has refused to comply with this spurious request from a Senate committee, maintaining that the ballots are secret under law and the state constitution and tabulation machines can’t be compromised by allowing uncertified people to examine them.
  • Incensed by the Maricopa Board’s refused to bend to their will, Arizona senators attempted to hold the Board in contempt this week for refusing to comply with the subpoenas issued by the chamber.
  • Senate Republicans moved forward with a vote to hold the Board in contempt on Monday night, but in a surprise move, Republican Sen. Paul Boyer sided against his GOP colleagues, and the vote failed on a 15-15 tie.

But his fellow Republican senators were pissed. They spent the subsequent hour publicly railing against him on the Senate floor.

  • One even issued what can easily—especially in light of Jan. 6’s events at the U.S. Capitol—be seen as an outright threat, calling on the public to retaliate against Boyer.
    • After learning of her colleague’s vote, GOP Sen. Kelly Townsend announced, “If you say you’re going to vote along with your caucus and do not, your word is never going to be trusted again. So now it’s in the hands of the public and I’m understanding that several groups, that are independent, formed a coalition to take on this on their own.”
      • Townsend added, “We have someone who has reneged on his word and now he’s going to have to go into the hands of the public … public, do what you got to do.”
  • Boyer, understandably, interpreted Townsend’s statements as threats and calls for retribution.

In other Arizona/presidential election-related news, one of the most outspoken Republican state representatives pushing for the legislature to overturn the election results and hand the state’s electors to Trump was apparently paid for his trouble.

  • You see, GOP Rep. Mark Finchem owns a little outfit called “Mrk Finchem PLLC” (though he failed to list it in his required financial disclosures to the state).
  • The Trump campaign paid Mrk Finchem PLLC over $6,000 in December for “recount: legal consulting.”
    • By the by, Finchem does not have a law degree.
      • But this didn’t stop him from calling for the legislature to convene and appoint presidential electors of its choosing.
  • Finchem was also one of the participants in the violent events in DC on Jan. 6.

Fables and Deceptions: Speaking of the violence at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, Michigan GOP Senate Leader Mike Shirkey would like you to know that it was a “hoax.”

  • In a recorded conversation about the violence at the Capitol he had with Republican leaders last week, Shirkey said that he believes the Trump-incited seditious insurrection “was all staged” and “wasn’t Trump people. That’s been a hoax from day one. That was all prearranged.”
  • After a recording of his comments was made public, Shirkey sort of apologized.
    • Tuesday: “I regret the words I chose, and I apologize for my insensitive comments.”
      • Shirkey didn’t actually specify which words he regretted or for which comments he was apologizing.
  • But it turns out … none of them!
    • On Wednesday, the Senate camera feed picked up a quiet conversation between Shirkey and the Democratic lieutenant governor in which Shirkey was extremely less than contrite.
      • “I frankly don’t take back any of the points I was trying to make” but rather “some of the words I chose,” he said.
      • Further, the attack on the Capitol was “very real, but the assignment of cause—that was planned weeks and months in advance.”

Keep in mind, this is the same guy who likes to say super racist things about the COVID-19 pandemic and is a Michigan militia stan.

Endless Nights: Here’s a little bit of good news, though!

  • Not only does Alaska finally have a functioning state legislature, but a Democratic-led coalition is running the state House!
    • Technically, the 40-seat chamber only has 15 Democrats and 21 Republicans, but deep devisions within the GOP and a handful of independents led to a series of 20-20 votes over the past several weeks as Republicans repeatedly tried to elect one of their own as speaker.
    • More than three weeks since the legislative session convened, the 15 Democrats, three independents, and a Republican who’s previously been a part of the Democratic-led Majority Coalition won a fourth independent to their side.
    • This switch finally gave the Majority Coalition the votes to elect that moderate Republican, Louise Stutes, as House speaker on a 21-19 vote.
      • Thursday’s maneuvering and vote came as a pleasant surprise to many in the Democratic-led alliance (and frankly, to me, too).

Welp, that’s a wrap for this week.

Maybe you have a long weekend ahead of you.

You should consider using it to catch some extra zzzzzs.

It’s good for you. And maybe you’ll have a fun dream.

You might be soaring through the clouds.

Or making out with your crush.

Or reunited with a long-lost pet.

… honestly, most things your subconscious is going to cook up are going to be better than [[waves hands]] all this, right?

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