This Week in Statehouse Action: Too Cool For School edition

This Week in Statehouse Action: Too Cool For School edition

Welcome back!

… to school or work or a crushing sense of existential dread or whatever, everyone’s living their own life.

But most schools in most places are back in (some sort of) session, which affects pretty much everybody in one way or another.

No more/back to babysitting your kid as they sit in front of a computer screen for hours on end? School’d!

Fully vaxxed and back to class as a teacher or education support staff? School’d!

Ticket in a school zone because you forgot what time it was and didn’t reduce your speed? School’d! (Also please slow down!)

Stuck behind a bus as its driver ferries kids safely to and from campus? School’d!

A hardworking student trying to navigate classes and social circles and extracurriculars after a year+ of just, like, not? School’d!

Until recently, state law in Virginia prevented school systems from starting classes before Labor Day. We called it the “Kings Dominion law,” since Labor Day is the last day the park (and Busch Gardens Williamsburg) operates daily. This requirement was generally thought of as a tourism boost (and a boost to attractions that depend on the underpaid high schoolers who work there).

But, like many things in Virginia in recent years, this has changed.

And many of those changed things would not be changed things at all but for the new Democratic majorities the Commonwealth elected to the state House and Senate in 2019.

Campaign Action

Perhaps you’re wondering, “What is this, history class? It’s 2021 ffs!”

Gold star for you! Because it is 2021! Which means it’s an election year in Virginia!

bonus star if you pointed out that it’s always an election year in Virginia

All 100 seats in the House of Delegates are on the ballot this November, and now that Labor Day is behind us, that sprint to Election Day is unofficially under way.

The Future’s So Bright I Gotta Wear Shades: Obviously those 100 House seats aren’t the only things on the ballot in Virginia this fall.

The Commonwealth is also electing a new (… sorta, probably) governor, lieutenant governor, and attorney general (though that one is also unlikely to be “new,” since incumbent Mark Herring is generally favored to win a third term).

Terry McAuliffe is vying to be the second governor ever elected twice in Virginia (popularly elected, anyway—old versions of the state constitution had the legislature selecting the governor and no prohibition on successive terms).

If he wins, he’ll have a Senate with a (narrow) Democratic majority and … well, will he have a Democratic House?

Maybe! Probably?

But also maybe not!

Democrats have a five-seat majority in the chamber (55 D/45 R), which seems kind of comfortable, but considering that Democrats flipped the House a scant two years ago, isn’t really.

Because of Census delays, these elections are being held in the same districts they were in 2019, so at least incumbents don’t have to worry about introducing themselves to a new set of voters.

Of those 100 House districts, only eight are uncontested (by a major-party candidate): Six (unwinnable) GOP seats and two (probably unwinnable) Dem seats.

But as the majority party in the House, Democrats are playing defense for the first time in decades.

It’s an unfamiliar place for them to be, but if fundraising is any indicator (and it is, though absolutely not dispositive), Virginia House Dems appear in a strong place to keep those majorities.

Finance reports for the past two months will drop in just a few days, though, and I’ll have more thoughts about Virginia Democrats’ down-ballot endeavors then.

But cash money notwithstanding, an interesting new wrinkle in Virginia’s 2021 elections was delivered by none other than Texas Republicans.

Be Chrool To Your Scuel: As an erudite consumer of this missive, you’ve likely been aware of the terrible Texas anti-abortion law that took effect last week for a few months now.

Obviously so-called “fetal heartbeat” laws are bad (and deceitfully named—at six weeks, there’s no actual fetus yet, much less a heart to beat), but the Texas law has an especially cruel twist embedded in it.

The new law 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.

That means any rando in Texas who believes a woman has obtained an abortion can sue the Uber driver who took her to the appointment, the office worker who scheduled the procedure, someone who sent a link to an abortion information website to their unwillingly pregnant friend, a reproductive rights activist from another state who donates to a fund that helps a Texas woman get the abortion to which she is constitutionally entitled …

Hell, some Texas asshole can sue you if they decide you “intend” to help a woman get an abortion, even if you never actually do anything to assist.

It absolutely beggars belief.

But it’s now actual Texas law (hopefully, with more legal action pending, not for very long), and the days of Roe v. Wade, which constitutionally guarantees the right to obtain an abortion but allows states to impose more restrictions as a pregnancy advances through trimesters and a fetus (NOT an embryo, which is what we’re talking about at six weeks) becomes more likely to survive outside of a woman’s body, may be numbered.

It’s scary.

But fear can be a really great motivator.

And because Virginians don’t have to dig especially far into their memory banks to recall a time when Old Dominion GOPers eagerly sought ways to make obtaining a safe, legal abortion as difficult as possible, that fear is absolutely going to come into play in this November’s elections.

Will it also motivate Republicans? Maybe. But they’re not frightened the way many people with uteruses are right now.

School’s Out: Kentucky may have a Democratic governor, but with his vetoes able to be overridden by a simple majority vote of the GOP-controlled legislature (House: 25 D/75 R, Senate: 9 D/29 R), it doesn’t matter as much as it ought to.

That Republican legislature passed a bill Thursday to eliminate the state board of education’s mask mandate for public schools; the decision about whether teachers and students are required to wear masks will be up to localities. (Yes, the gov will veto it, but it won’t matter, as explained above.)

Republicans passed this measure one day after Kentucky hit a record-high COVID-19 positivity rate and reported record COVID-19-related hospitalizations. Gov. Beshear is sending hundreds of National Guard troops to hospitals across the state to help overburdened facilities and staff. Only about 49.5% of state residents are vaccinated.

Kentucky Republicans’ new policy is going to lead directly to the deaths of kids and teachers. Ipso facto murder.

res ipsa loquitur? I just met her

… sorry.

Until next time, y’all, much love!

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