This Week in Statehouse Action: Sign o’ the Crimes edition

This Week in Statehouse Action: Sign o’ the Crimes edition

While Biden was driving a cool truck and congressional Republicans decided they’re against a commission to investigate the deadly Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, GOP lawmakers in GOP-controlled legislatures were partying like it’s 1999 … by which I mean they were busy passing a slew of retrogressive bills that have no place in the 21st century.

Eye Hate U: Statehouse Republicans have been incredibly eager this year to demonstrate their hatred and contempt for transgender Americans, but Tennessee lawmakers took things to a whole new level this week.

Campaign Action

  • GOP Gov. Bill Lee signed a bill we’ve seen in several other Republican-controlled legislatures: Specifically, a measure banning gender-confirming medical treatment for transgender kids (making the Volunteer State the second after Arkansas to make this state law).
    • This is after Republicans in Tennessee already banned transgender girls from playing on women’s sports teams and prohibited transgender students and employees from using bathrooms or locker rooms that don’t conform with the gender they were assigned at birth.

Not-so-fun-fact: This “bathroom bill” was the first to be signed into law in five years, according to the Human Rights Campaign.

  • But these hateful Republicans weren’t even close to done with their legislative bullying of transgender Tennesseans.
    • Lee also signed a “don’t say gay” bill into law, which will require parents to specifically opt their kids in to any instruction in school relating to HIV/AIDS, sexual orientation, or gender identity.
      • And this isn’t just in sex ed—teachers can’t talk about the gay rights movement or the fight for marriage equality or, like, anything that’s even related to LGBTQ matters in History class or wherever else it might be relevant.
  • But somehow, it gets worse.
    • Lee also signed into law this week a measure requiring public government facilities and private businesses to post signs if they allow transgender patrons to use multiperson bathrooms, locker rooms, or changing rooms associated with their gender identity.
      • This new law, which is the first of its kind in the United States, even spells out what these awful, humiliating signs must say: “This facility maintains a policy of allowing the use of restrooms by either biological sex, regardless of the designation on the restroom.”
    • But on top of being hateful, this new law is just … lazy and messy.
      • It fails to spell out fines or penalties for failure post these signs, so enforcing this new law is going to be … interesting.
        • … as are the constitutional lawsuits that will certainly arise from it.

Let’s Go Crazy: With a 6-3 conservative majority secured on the U.S. Supreme Court, Republicans in state legislatures have been going hog wild this year with new limits on legal abortion.

  • The newest of these was signed recently in Texas.
    • The new Texas law pulls the state in line with a number of other GOP-trifecta jurisdictions that ban abortion after the detection of a “fetal heartbeat,” sometimes as early as six weeks into a pregnancy (and before many women even realize they’re pregnant).
      • This law, which goes into effect on Sept. 1, does not include exceptions for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest.
      • It does, however, include an exception for (ill-defined, frankly) “medical emergencies.”
    • The Texas law also opens people up to abusive legal action by allowing citizens to sue anyone—not just doctors—they believe may have somehow helped a pregnant person violate the ban.
  • Other states that have enacted new laws this year banning abortion as early as six weeks into a pregnancy are Idaho, Oklahoma, and South Carolina.
    • Arkansas went and basically straight-up banned abortion, period (the only meaningful exception is to save the life of the mother).
  • Most of these new bans either haven’t gone into effect yet or are already tied up in legal proceedings.
    • But just this week, SCOTUS took up a case concerning a 2018 Mississippi law that bans abortion at 15 weeks “except in a medical emergency or in the case of a severe fetal abnormality”—a development that has reproductive freedom proponents legitimately worried.
      • That “15 weeks” metric means that the Mississippi law applies even before the fetus is “viable” (capable of surviving outside the uterus), which makes this case (Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization) an appealing vehicle to the 6-3 conservative majority I mentioned above to overturn existing precedent that an abortion patient gets to make the final decision whether to “terminate her pregnancy before viability.”
    • Unless at least two conservative justices surprise the snot out of … well, everyone, this case potentially provides SCOTUS with a vehicle to overrule Roe v. Wade in its entirety and permit outright bans on abortion.
  • And if bans on abortion were to become constitutional, the healthcare landscape in the United State would change overnight … literally.
    • According to the Guttmacher Institute, eight states retain pre-Roe abortion bans in their code:
      • Alabama
      • Arizona
      • Arkansas
      • Michigan
      • Mississippi
      • Oklahoma
      • West Virginia
      • Wisconsin.
    • Another 10 states have laws on their books that would trigger automatic bans on abortion if Roe were overturned:
      • Arkansas
      • Idaho
      • Kentucky
      • Louisiana
      • Mississippi
      • Missouri
      • North Dakota
      • South Dakota
      • Tennessee
      • Utah.

And as an erudite consumer of this missive, you probably don’t need me to point out that the thing that all 18 of these states have in common is a GOP-controlled legislature.

  • On the flip side, 15 states and the District of Columbia (which should be a state, of course) have laws on their books that explicitly protect the right to obtain an abortion:
    • California
    • Connecticut
    • Delaware
    • Hawaii
    • Illinois
    • Maine
    • Maryland
    • Massachusetts
    • Nevada
    • New Mexico
    • New York
    • Oregon
    • Rhode Island
    • Vermont
    • Washington.

you get three guesses as to what those 15 states have in common but the first two don’t count

I Would Die 4 U: Oh, and just a few weeks after GOP lawmakers in South Carolina were spouting bullshit “value of life” talking points to justify the state’s new above-mentioned abortion ban, they got busy passing a new law that forces death row inmates to choose either the electric chair or a firing squad as their method of execution if lethal injection drugs are unavailable (which they increasingly are not).

Not-so-fun fact: Three other GOP-controlled states use firing squads as a method of execution: Mississippi, Oklahoma, and Utah.

  • South Carolina is one of just eight states that still uses electrocution to murder inmates.
    • But because lethal injection drugs are almost impossible to come by these days (pharmaceutical companies aren’t wild about their products being used for murder), other states that still have the death penalty may follow suit.

Thieves in the Temple: And now for your weekly update on the Cyber Ninja election “audit” debacle in sunny Arizona.

  • A quick background refresher for any intermittent readers out there:
    • The GOP-majority Arizona Senate is mad that Joe Biden got more votes in Maricopa County (which includes Phoenix) than Donald Trump did, so they demanded that county supervisors turn over millions of ballots and hundreds of voting machines for an “audit.”
    • Maricopa County hired credentialed, reputable firms to conduct two legitimate audits, which found that the election was secure and that votes were correctly and properly counted.
    • Obviously this wasn’t the outcome the Senate wanted, so they cast about and hired a firm that’s seriously called called Cyber Ninjas—which has no experience or expertise in election audits and is run by a guy who posted a bunch of stolen-election conspiracy theories on a Twitter account that he just happened to delete in January.
  • Anyway, things are going … poorly.
    • My favorite development of the week is this amazing firsthand account of the audit disaster from Jennifer Morrell, a national expert on post-election audits who was invited to act as an independent observer by Arizona’s secretary of state.
      • It’s just … wow from start to finish.

Some highlights:

The audit observers hired by Cyber Ninjas, in orange T-shirts, followed me wherever I went and reported random things about me they found suspicious. Several times someone asked to test my pen, to ensure it really had red ink. Once, they even demanded that I empty my pockets, in which I carried that pen and a pair of reading glasses. I was allowed only to ask procedural questions of the Cyber Ninjas attorney; I couldn’t talk to anyone else performing the work.

The process itself seems to … not invite, but really just beg for mistakes:

I was stunned to see spinning conveyor wheels, whizzing hundreds of ballots past “counters,” who struggled to mark, on a tally sheet, each voter’s selection for the presidential and Senate races. They had only a few seconds to record what they saw. Occasionally, I saw a counter look up, realize they missed a ballot and then grab the wheel to stop it.

And despite the fact that actual equipment exists for doing election audits, the Cyber Ninja auditors are kind of just … doing what they want with what they want.

At the forensics tables, auditors took a photo of each ballot using a camera suspended by a frame, then passed the ballot to someone operating a lightbox with four microscope cameras attached. This was a huge deviation from the norm. Usually, all equipment that election officials use to handle a ballot—from creating to scanning to tallying it—has been federally tested and certified; often, states will conduct further tests before their jurisdictions accept the machines. It jarred me to see volunteers using this untested, uncertified equipment on ballots, claiming that the images would be used at some point in the future for an electronic re-tally.

  • Morrell was also distraught about shifting procedures—they would change “almost daily,” despite the fact that the consistency required by a legitimate audit should preclude any shifts in practices in the middle of the process.

This is not an audit.

  • Also, now Maricopa County has to buy new voting machines.
    • Because this “Cyber Ninjas” firm is actually a bunch of pro-Trump conservatives doing Tae Bo in footie pajamas, Secretary of State Katie Hobbs has “grave concerns regarding the the security and integrity of these machines,” saying that the chain of custody had been irrevocably “compromised.”
      • Consequently, she’s decided that any voting machines that have been in Cyber Ninjas’ spectacularly incapable hands are no longer safe to use in future elections, which seems extremely fair.
  • Additionally, the GOP-controlled Maricopa County Board of Supervisors is now publicly feuding with the GOP-controlled Arizona state Senate over this debacle, so that’s fun and will no doubt lead to a constructive resolutio

… sorry I’m laughing too hard to finish writing that sentence

Stay tuned!

America: And finally, let’s wrap with a little bit of good special election news.

Welp, that’s a wrap for this week. Time to don a Raspberry Beret and peel out in my Little Red Corvette (lol jk it’s an old Corolla).

Go on, though—U Got the Look, so rock those Diamonds and Pearls and, if you’re vaccinated, find somebody to Kiss.

Regardless, you should go ahead and Gett Off early. Just print this out and show it to your boss, she’ll probably say, “Take Me With You.”

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