This Week in Statehouse Action: Taxation Without Fair Representation edition

This Week in Statehouse Action: Taxation Without Fair Representation edition

In a normal (or at least non-pandemic) world, April 15 would be tax day.

But things are still far from normal, and you still have over a month (May 17) to get right with the IRS.

No one really likes to pay taxes (income or otherwise), but they pay for a lot of stuff.

… including, to a point, most state legislators’ salaries.

So what are we getting for our money these days?

Filing Status: Republicans, having finally abandoned their crusade against same-sex marriage, have found a new group to bully: transgender youth.

Campaign Action

If it seems like there’s new bad news to report on this front almost every week, that’s because … well, there is.

  • GOP lawmakers in both Tennessee and Arizona have sent bills to their respective governors that will require that parents specifically permit their kids to be taught about 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.

Remember Tennessee’s “Don’t Say Gay” bills from the long-ago time of 2012-2013? This is the same thing with a different haircut.

  • Meanwhile, yet another bill that would ban transgender girls from participating in school sports consistent with their gender identity has passed the GOP-controlled North Dakota legislature and awaits the governor’s signature.
  • A bill banning trans girls from women’s sport is advancing in Florida, too, and this one would force a transgender kid to prove their assigned-at-birth sex via any of several invasive medical tests—including “an examination of their reproductive anatomy.”
  • Lawmakers in Texas are considering legislation that would classify gender-affirming medical treatment as “child abuse” and could result in transgender kids being taken away from parents who seek this crucial health care for their children.

Remember, though, that this is all performative moral panic bullshit designed to gin up the GOP’s base and attempt to put Democrats who stand up for the transgender community on the defensive.

Yes, many Republicans legitimately question transgender folks’ right to even exist, and that’s extremely awful.

But the ones who are trying to legislate the transgender community into the shadows (if not out of existence altogether) are many of the same folks who fought desperately against same-sex marriage for years.

They lost that fight. So they’re picking a new one—this time with a group of folks they perceive as having less political clout.

Literally, kids. They’re going after kids.

Republicans are bullying kids via state law.

They’re using their legislative power to tell trans kids that they don’t matter, and worse—that they shouldn’t even exist.

Eventually, this fight will be as politically toxic for the GOP as marriage equality became.

But how many people have to suffer—have their very existence debated by people who make laws—before this comes to pass?

Adjusted Gross Income: Some states that pass these transgender sports bans will actually face consequences, which is … something, I guess.

So this is an actual threat.

A statement with teeth.

… unlike a certain splashy, public statement signed by hundreds of top-level corporate executives and companies that appeared in the New York Times and Washington Post earlier this week.

In it, execs from companies like Merck and Google proclaimed their opposition to “any discriminatory legislation” that makes casting a ballot more difficult.

Merck’s chief executive was actually one of the leaders who organized the whole effort.

Too bad his company donated almost $100,000 to supporters of voter suppression bills in the 2020 election cycle alone.

Unless these companies are prepared to refuse to donate money to GOP state lawmakers and the organizations who support the electeds who write, pass, sign, implement, and defend voter suppression bills (including the Republican State Leadership Committee, the Republican Governors Association, and the Republican Attorneys General Association), this statement is a self-congratulatory waste of ink.

In that vein, wrote a fews weeks ago in this space about how some Georgia companies conveniently neglected to express their opposition to that state’s voter suppression legislation until it became law, despite the fact that it had been under consideration—and in the news—for months.

Those companies include two of Georgia’s biggest: Delta Airlines and Coca-Cola.

Those companies also happened to be significant contributors to many of the lawmakers responsible for Georgia’s new voter suppression law.

But let’s be real: These companies don’t necessarily intend to specifically fund voter suppression.

They just are, because that’s what Republicans in state legislatures do.

Even if horrified corporations decided to shut off the money spigot for state-level GOPers, though, Republicans wouldn’t be hurting for cash to support their voter suppression efforts.

The hard truth of the matter is that the GOP’s well-moneyed network of interest groups and nonprofits would be there to fill that void ( … should it appear, which it likely will not).

In fact, these groups are already making Republican voter suppression efforts well worth their while.

And while these groups may not typically focus on issues of ballot box access and so-called “election security,” it just makes sense for them to make this investment now.

Because of Donald Trump and his GOP enablers, faith in the integrity of our elections is low among Republicans, and the politicians of a party whose base is a diminishing share of the population (read: old and white) are capitalizing on this golden opportunity to erect barriers to the ballot box for folks it deems unlikely to vote for them.

Fewer voters unlikely to vote for Republicans = more Republicans getting elected despite the actual preference of the actual electorate.

And for groups like FRC and Heritage, the only way their agenda items—which are increasingly unpopular among actual Americans—have any chance of becoming policy is by continuing to elect GOP members of state legislatures who are likely to support them.

It’s more of the down-ballot long game at which Republicans have excelled for the entire past decade.

And as if these new voting restrictions weren’t bad enough, we’re staring down the barrel of the next round of redistricting.

And in the majority of states, GOP fingers are on that trigger—and they’re itchy.

Exemptions: Okay, let’s wrap this with an iota of positive news.

  • Last Friday, the Wisconsin state Supreme Court rejected an effort to purge 72,000 voters from the rolls.
    • Even more remarkably, the ruling was 5-2, with two of the court’s four conservative justices siding with the three progressives.
  • The case stems from a GOP effort to purge 232,000 voters from state rolls before the 2020 elections (an appeals court had blocked the effort from proceeding last year).
    • That list of voters has since dwindled to 72,000 after the remainder updated their registrations or were removed for other reasons. 
  • Although the state law in question requires voters suspected of moving to be removed from the rolls within 30 days if they fail to respond to a single notification, the court’s ruling clarified that the requirement only applies to local clerksnot the state’s Elections Commission.
  • Consequently, state election officials can’t be required to purge thousands of voters ahead of each future election—which was the Republican plaintiffs’ goal after their attempt to cull the electorate in advance of November 2020 failed.

Yay!

Welp, that’s a wrap for this week. Hope your non-tax Tax Day was full of the joys of procrastination.

But just thinking about doing taxes is stressful, right? So you deserve to call it a week, enjoy a beverage of your choice, unwind a bit.

Just maybe make sure you know where your W-2 is before you let your boss know you’re taking the day.

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