Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee

The Friday Five -- February 26, 2016

The Friday Five -- February 26, 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. Tech CEO: May cut Ga. investment over ‘religious liberty’ bill

    For Georgia Republicans, anti-gay bigotry has resulted in the potential for serious economic consequences. Republicans in the state Senate recently passed the “First Amendment Defense Act,” which gives business owners the right to refuse service to members of the gay community if it violates their religious beliefs. In response, the chief of Saleforce, Marc Benioff, has threatened to reduce his investment in Georgia. The threat has weight, because Salesforce already employs more than 400 employees in the state. Supporters of the Senate bill, including its sponsor Bill Kirk, have attempted to portray the legislation as being about ensuring equal protection for the state’s Christian population -- an ideological farce they may come to regret. This type of legislation has a history of attracting financial backlash, such as that threatened by Mr. Benioff. Republicans in Indiana attempted to pass a similar piece of legislation last year. Massive protests and business boycotts of the state forced a serious revision of the bill. It remains to be seen how many other companies will follow the example of Salesforce and hold the Georgia Republicans to account for their bigotry.

  2. Legislators could return early to address transgender issue

    Republican leadership in North Carolina has thrown concerns about local governance to the winds and hit the panic button in response to the possibility of members of the transgender community using the bathroom in Charlotte. On Monday, the city council elected to allow individuals to use the bathroom the matches their gender identity. Even before this legislation was signed, Republican Governor Pat McCrory warned of retaliation from the state legislature out of "concerns" that the measure would allow sexual predators to enter bathrooms. When the city council didn't back down, the Republican state House Speaker denounced the “radical actions” of the city government. Republican leaders are now considering calling a special session of the legislature to pass legislation nullifying the council’s decision. At no point during this “crisis” have Republican leaders brought forward a single case of this type of ordinance actually allowing someone to get away with sexual harassment. On the contrary, the communities that have so far enacted this type of legislation have not seen any spike in cases of sexual assault or harassment. Somehow, a phony threat will cause instant action from Republicans, but not the presence of actual LGTB discrimination.

  3. Senate approves voucher plan decried as ‘the end of public education in Arizona’

    Uninterested in listening to something as inconsequential (to them, apparently) as popular opinion, Republican lawmakers in Arizona plowed ahead this week with a bill that eliminated virtually all former restrictions on charter school funding in the state. The people of Arizona were set to vote on Proposition 123, which would have substantially increased state funding for education. However, GOP state Senators preempted that referendum by striking any preexisting restrictions on the number of “empowerment scholarship accounts” the state issues. These public funds which allow students to attend a private or parochial school had formerly been limited to no more than 5,500 a year. Senate Democrats also expressed concern because the program expanded through the legislation already has serious problems with fraud related to the Department of Education’s struggle to keep track of the funds. This did not seem to bother Republican supporters of the bill, such as Senator Debbie Lesko, who shrugged off concerns about stealing funding from public schooling by remarking that the law would cut public spending. No reason to let a little mismanagement get in the way of some good old fashioned privatization.

  4. Virginia’s voter ID law challenged in federal trial

    Activists and the state Democratic Party initiated legal proceedings against a Virginia photo identification voting requirement that disproportionately disenfranchises the poor, racial minorities, and young voters. The law was originally passed in 2013, after President Obama won the state in the presidential elections of 2008 and 2012. Before those elections, Democratic presidential candidates had not carried the state in 40 years, and those elections saw larger number of racial minorities come out to vote. Coincidentally, the period following these Democratic wins coincided with a sudden concern about voting fraud from Republicans. While they claimed to see voter fraud everywhere, the Republicans in the legislature were apparently unaware of the large numbers of Virginians who do not have the photo identification necessary to vote. In 2014, the state had about 197,000 people lacking photo identification. The litigants challenging the law have noted that many of the individuals lacking the proper identification were young, people of color, or of lesser financial means. These groups are all key supporters for the Democratic Party in the state, so their denial at the ballot box is a huge win for Republicans. 

  5. Democrats ponder end-run around GOP stall on coal bill

    Republicans in the Oregon state Senate decided to show their "dedication" to responsibly governing their state by refusing to show up to work on Wednesday. Republicans had criticized legislation that would allow the state to switch to renewable fuels, claiming that this would have harmful effects on the state economy. The bill had successfully passed the state House of Representatives and was set for a full Senate vote.  Trying to slow the pro-environment legislatio at all costs, Republicans simply did not show up for the vote set to have occurred this Wednesday, denying the Democratic majority the quorum required to act on that bill -- or any other. This Republican stunt caps off a session of reportedly unprecedented GOP obstructionism, and Democratic leaders such as Senator Lee Beyer have remarked that they have never seen such outrageous behavior from their opposition. After perhaps realizing the futility and harmfulness of their refusal to even do their jobs, Senate Republicans returned to the chamber on Thursday.