This Week in Statehouse Action: Good Grief edition

This Week in Statehouse Action: Good Grief edition

The pandemic situation is gradually improving (scary variants notwithstanding), but pretty much everything else is bad and getting worse.

I feel a little bad about sharing my sadness and dread here, but I’m always going to be honest with you about Statehouse Action.

You’re Not Elected, Charlie Brown: Another week, another slew of voter suppression bills from GOP state legislators.

Campaign Action

Last week, I wrote in this space about a new anti-democratic omnibus elections bill just introduced in the Georgia House that would

  • Prohibit early voting on Sundays (targeting “Souls to the Polls” events organized by many Black churches),
  • Create a new photo ID requirement for absentee ballots
  • Shrink the window for voters requesting an absentee ballot and limiting the time frame during which county officials can mail them out
  • Limit the number of secure ballot drop boxes and limit the days and times they can be used to the days and times early voting takes place (which kind of defeats the point, which is … well, the point)
  • … and more!

Not to be outdone on the voter suppression front, Republicans in the Georgia Senate (all but three GOP members cosponsored it) dropped their own omnibus elections bill this week.

  • SB 241 would
    • Require that voters have an approved excuse to vote absentee/by mail (Georgia has offered no-excuse absentee voting without incident since 2005)
    • Create a new photo ID requirement for absentee/mail-in ballots
    • Empower a county’s “legislative delegation” to remove local election officials from their posts
    • Ban the use of mobile voting facilities (with exceptions for “emergencies”).

The GOP-controlled Iowa legislature has passed a new law that would

  • Reduce the number of early voting days in the state from 29 to 20 and
  • Steal an hour of voting from Iowans by moving up poll closing time from 9 p.m. to 8 p.m.
    • The measure also forbids election officials to mail absentee ballot applications to any voter who doesn’t specifically request one.

In Arizona, bills are moving forward that would

  • Kill the state’s permanent early voting list (despite the fact that they may have requested to be sent a mail-in ballot in every election, if a voter skips four consecutive elections—including primaries, so that’s actually two elections for independents—they’ll be removed from the list).
  • Shorten the vote-by-mail period by requiring counties send out ballots 22 days ahead of an election (instead of the current 27 days).
    • Also, a GOP state senator has introduced a constitutional amendment that would require the legislature to convene a special session on the Monday after a presidential election to “review or investigate” the results.
      • The amendment also vests sole authority to appoint presidential electors with the state legislature.

In Missouri, the GOP-controlled legislature is moving ahead with its effort to replace the 2016 photo ID law that the Missouri Supreme Court gutted last year with a brand new one.

Play It Again, Charlie Brown: Let’s face it: Being a Republican lawmaker in Oregon has got to be pretty tough.

After all, you’re stuck in the superminority in both the state House (37 D/23 R) and Senate (18 D/12 R), which means you both can’t effectively advance your conservative agenda and are far short of the votes needed to block Democrats’ bills.

What to do?

  • Well, you could look for ways to find common ground with Democrats on some of your issues, or
  • You could work to sell Oregon voters on your legislative agenda and priorities and so you could win more elections.

Alas, the preferred method of Oregon Republicans fight Democratic power has clearly become taking their ball and going home, so to speak.

  • Traditionally, legislative walkouts/boycotts are sparingly used by lawmakers to object and call attention to something specifically odious (happy 10 year anniversary of the Wisconsin walkout, by the by!).
    • In Oregon, however, Republicans resort to this extreme measure with some regularity.
      • In fact, their walkout this week marks the fourth time in three years they’ve refused to do their jobs instead of engage in meaningful debate with their Democratic counterparts.
    • In past years, the state Senate denied the chamber a voting quorum (two-thirds of members) to block landmark environmental legislation.
    • This week, though, Senate Republicans stayed home because they’re mad at Democratic Gov. Kate Brown.
      • Just after Democrats attempted to gavel in session on Thursday, the Senate GOP caucus sent Brown a letter with a list of demands, including that she open schools, change how vaccines are being administered, and demonstrate “more urgency” regarding the state’s economic recovery.
        • … never mind that their demands all concern executive actions, which are extremely not the legislature’s purview.

As of this writing, there’s no word on when Republicans will end their impotent tantrum and actually get to doing the people’s business in Salem.

Someday You’ll Find Her, Charlie Brown: …an endeavor that would be made easier with the widespread use of facial recognition technology.

Bad news for Chuck, though, if he’s trying to use facial recognition to find someone in Virginia: both the state House and Senate have unanimously passed a measure banning use of the technology by local law enforcement.

  • The legislation was the result of a local newspaper’s investigation into the Norfolk Police Department’s use of Clearview AI’s controversial facial recognition tech.
    • In late 2019 and into early 2020, NPD used Clearview in about 20 investigations, resulting in nine arrests, without knowledge or consent of Norfolk’s mayor and most of the city council.

Unfortunately, the new law will not apply to the state police, which claims it does not use facial recognition technology and has no plans to do so.

It’s The Girl In the Red Truck, Charlie Brown: … and the blue truck and green car and any other method of conveyance women are using to get to their state capitols this year.

In 2020, a record number of women were elected to state legislatures.

  • Women currently make up about 30% of lawmakers nationwide, up from 25% in 2018.
    • But even better than raw numbers is the fact that women are wielding real power—the authority to set agendas and use their leverage to shape legislation and get bills passed.
      • According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 87 women currently serve in leadership roles nationwide—speaker of the House, president of the Senate, speaker pro tempore, Senate president pro tempore, or majority or minority leader.
  • Approximately 2,259 women are serving in state legislatures this year.
    • 1,509 are Democrats,
    • 729 are Republicans,
    • seven belong to a third party, and
    • 14 are technically nonpartisan because they serve in Nebraska’s unicameral, ostensibly party-free legislature.
  • Nevada leads the nation in women representation, with more than half of its lawmakers—60.3%—being women.
    • West Virginia, at 12% women lawmakers, comes in dead last.

Welp, that’s a wrap for this week.

And speaking of wrap … If you can do it safely, maybe wrap your arms around someone you love today.

Or if a hug isn’t in the cards, just let them know how important they are to you.

Stuff’s still kind of on fire these days, so signaling to someone you care about that they’re a priority despite [[waves hands]] everything has special resonance right now.

And you making it all the way to the end here? That has special resonance, too.

Take care of yourself.

You’re important, and we need you.

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