This Week in Statehouse Action: Whistle-pig edition

This Week in Statehouse Action: Whistle-pig edition

Okay, campers, rise and shine!

Groundhog Day is a smidge behind us now, but that does nothing to mitigate the general sense of deja vu pervading action in statehouses these days.

Take, for instance, Wisconsin.

I wrote in this space last week about how Republican lawmakers in Wisconsin were in a rush to pass a resolution that would eliminate Democratic Gov. Tony Evers’ statewide mask mandate.

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… that is, they were until they realized that ditching this anti-coronavirus measure could cost the state millions of dollars in federal food aid during the pandemic.

So, after the GOP-controlled Senate passed the measure, Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos slammed on the brakes to evaluate potential “financial issues” that could arise from eliminating the governor’s mask requirement.

After several days of back-and-forth between the chambers as Republican leaders attempted to settle on language they hoped would prevent Wisconsin from losing crucial federal funds, the Assembly just went ahead Thursday and passed the version the Senate had already signed off on (low-income food assistance be damned, I guess).

The anti-mask resolution—the sole remaining statewide anti-COVID-19 measure, by the by, after months of litigation and legislation by Republicans—would have gone into effect Friday.

But Evers wasted no time responding to the Assembly’s vote to end the mask mandate on Thursday; his office immediately dropped a new emergency health order requiring masks be worn statewide.

At least Wisconsin Republicans are being honest about why they want to eliminate the mask mandate: It’s not about masks at all. It’s about power and the GOP’s drive to strip the Democratic governor of as much of it as possible.

In other mask-related news …

In Iowa, where Republican House Speaker Pat Grassley (Chuck’s grandson, by the by) has repeatedly claimed that he can’t require lawmakers to take the meager mitigation measure of wearing masks on the House floor, one Democrat decided take advantage of his apparent reluctance to enforce attire rules.

Rep. Beth Wessel-Kroeschell has been wearing jeans to session all week.

After all, she reasoned, “if they can enforce a denim dress code they can also enforce a mask mandate.”

The House’s anti-jeans rule has been in place for some time, and there’s no evidence that wearing denim on one’s legs endangers the health or wellbeing of those around you.

Not wearing a mask during a deadly pandemic, on the other hand, demonstrably places people’s health and lives in danger.

Democrats attempted to add a mask requirement and other COVID-19 safety measures to the House rules that include that denim ban, but the Republican majority refused to approve them.

As of Thursday, seven Democratic House members are in quarantine because of either testing positive for, potential exposure to, or being medically at high risk for coronavirus.

Iowa’s GOP-controlled legislature has thus far refused to let lawmaker participate in the legislative process remotely/virtually, so these members are functionally unable to do their jobs as they safeguard their own health and the lives of their colleagues.

Because of Wessel-Kroeschell’s dangerous denim-wearing ways, Speaker Grassley refused to recognize her on the House floor for debate or speeches or to do anything besides cast votes.

has anyone actually been harmed by Levi’s

Last week in this space, I wrote about the growing trend of Republicans introducing voter suppression bills in states across the country.

And yes, that’s still happening (more on that later).

But another troubling trend is emerging as sessions get underway nationwide.

Specifically, GOP lawmakers are pushing bills designed to suppress public demonstrations and protests.

According to a new study by Pew, Republican lawmakers in 22 states are considering legislation that would increase penalties for protesters who break laws. Some of these proposals would actually provide some legal protections to people who injure protesters.

Civil rights groups are correctly concerned that increasing penalties for things that are already illegal and making those increases apply only to those participating in demonstrations would have a chilling effect on pubic protests and could be disproportionately used against people of color by law enforcement.

Some of these measures, like a proposed bill in Florida, could give police broad discretion to declare a gathering a “riot” and charge participants with felonies, and others include provisions prohibiting cuts to police funding.

Such bills are obviously unnecessary (there’s no legitimate point in creating new penalties for things that are already illegal unless those penalties apply to everyone who does those illegal things, not just people engaged in protests), and Republicans proposing these measures are not shy about tying them to last summer’s widespread protests against police racism and violence.

Okay, time for some good news.

Virginia is making real progress on ending the death penalty in the commonwealth!

On Wednesday, the full (Democratic-majority) state Senate passed a bill eliminating capital punishment.

A similar measure cleared a House committee this week.

With at least one of these death penalty-ending bills passing a chamber before this Friday’s “crossover” deadline (the date by which all bills originating in one chamber must pass and “cross over” to be considered in the other chamber), Virginia may finally lose its status as the second-most murdery state in the nation (with 113 people executed since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976, Virginia trails only Texas in executions).

file under Don’t Let The Door Hit You: After a month or so of tough talk, Republican Texas state Rep. Kyle Biedermann has made good on his bloviating about pushing for the Lone Star State’s secession from the United States.

On Friday, Biedermann officially filed HB-1359, which would create a “Texit” referendum that, if approved by voters, would establish a committee to develop a plan for secession.

Biedermann, by the by, is one of the state lawmakers who attended the seditionist rally in Washington, D.C., that immediately preceded the violent attack on the U.S. Capitol.

I know you’re just shocked, SHOCKED

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