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The Friday Five - April 15, 2016

The Friday Five - April 15, 2016

Each day, the DLCC’s experts comb through statehouse political news across the country to stay on top of the latest developments. Here are five stories that may have flown under your radar this week.

1. Planned Parenthood, DFL legislators denounce bill to restrict state funding to some clinics

Minnesota Democrats put up a strong defense of women’s healthcare this week by launching fierce criticism of the GOP’s new bill to cut funding to Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood Minnesota President Sarah Stoesz dubbed the bill “one of the most aggressive attacks in recent memory” on women’s health resources. She further explained that it would force 15 of the 18 Planned Parenthood facilities in Minnesota to shut down and limit services to 45,000 people. Democratic legislators pointed out how inappropriate it was for Republicans to push such as bill with so many other issues facing the state. Governor Mark Dayton has promised to veto this legislation should it come to his desk. Republicans, such as bill sponsor Kathy Lohmer, have tried to defend the bill by saying women could access Planned Parenthood’s non-abortion related services in other facilities. This is a claim often repeated by conservatives, but it has led to some strange suggestions for alternatives across the country. For example, Florida Republicans who defunded Planned Parenthood provided a list of alternative facilities for women to access care. Half of these were K-12 public schools.

2. For immigration policy, Indiana Senate panel looks to Trump adviser on the Mexico wall

Apparently the Indiana GOP has no problem being the party of the anti-immigrant zealot Donald Trump. In downballot elections, Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric is mobilizing citizens against Republican candidates. Some Republican candidates have even denounced Trump publicly in order to avoid a backlash at the polls. These concerns did not seem to matter to Republican lawmakers in Indiana this week. A Republican-controlled Indiana Senate committee on immigration will be taking testimony from Kris Kobach, the Kansas Secretary of State and the infamous adviser to Trump’s plan to stop illegal immigration with a wall on the U.S.-Mexican border. Dale Wilcox, executive director of the Immigration Reform Law Institute, will also testify. The fact that Wilcox’s organization helped create the draconian immigration laws in Arizona and Alabama did not deter Republican Committee Chair Mike Delph from calling upon him. Democrats have noticed the clear agenda behind this committee, and Senate Democratic Leader Tim Lanane summed up the committee as “a sounding board for anti-immigration policies”.

3. Bill Allowing Automatic Voter Registration Passes VT Legislature

Vermont's majority-Democratic state legislature passed a law this week allowing automatic voter registration. The bill allows for a simplified voter registration process for election registration at the Department of Motor Vehicles and allows voting eligible Vermonters to be registered automatically. This law comes as a part of a multi-state trend in favor of automatic voter registration to boost voter turnout in elections. Other states -- such as Oregon and California -- have previously adopted this policy. This move also comes in direct contrast to Republican-led efforts to create voter identification requirements, which often suppress minority votes and result in lower turnout. Just last week, an ex-Republican staffer revealed that Wisconsin Republican leaders privately admitted to supporting the state’s voter identification requirement because it could suppress the vote of populations that usually do not vote Republican.

4. Democrats: Ban guns, allow signs in Michigan Capitol

“The only way you can get a sign into the Capitol is if it’s painted on the side of a gun, and I don’t think that makes much sense,” Michigan Democratic Representative Jeremy Moss said this week. He and fellow Democrat Robert Whittenberg introduced legislation to overturn the state capitol’s ban on carrying signs and introduce a ban on carrying firearms in the capitol building. The bill would bring Michigan’s create a parallel between state law and federal law, which prohibits the carrying of firearms in federal buildings. The sponsors also say that allowing sign-carrying would remove a burdensome restriction on the First Amendment’s right to free speech. The day of the bill’s introduction into the state legislature saw thousands of open-carry supporters flocking to the statehouse, a place where children often take field trips with their schools. 

5. Trial on NC legislative districts begins; expected to last a week

Legal action initiated by a group of North Carolina voters against the Republican-orchestrated 2011 legislative gerrymandering resulted in a trial this week. The case, now in front of a three-judge federal panel, alleges that the new lines for nine state House districts and 19 Senate districts were drawn based on considerations of the racial makeup of the areas. Specifically, Republicans are being accused of crafted the districts to decrease the electoral power of African-Americans, who have historically voted for Democrats. The Republicans do not have a strong track record in avoiding such charges. Judges had previously rejected their congressional district maps because of the same concerns.