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.
Top Ga. lawmaker criticized for Klan comments
Georgia state Rep. Tommy Benton (R) offered some shocking historical revisionism in interviews with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution this week, declaring that the Ku Klux Klan wasn't so bad. Rep. Benton argues that the KKK “was not so much a racist thing but a vigilante thing to keep law and order," and that "it made a lot of people straighten up." He must have forgotten to mention that the specific body of "law" the KKK was most concerned with enforcing was racist Jim Crow segregation, and the Klan's most infamous method of "enforcement" very nearly made Georgia the lynching capitol of Americabetween 1882 and 1968.
This lawmaker compared dead Oregon occupier LaVoy Finicum to Moses and Jesus
The occupation of an Oregon national park facility by armed, anti-government militia members took a deadly turn this week when a militia spokesperson was shot and killed in a highway standoff with the FBI. That night, at least one Nevada assemblywoman -- surprisingly, not "vocal" Bundy supporter Michele Fiore -- was already declaring the man a martyr and even comparing him to Moses and Jesus. Assemblywoman Shelly Shelton (R) made the comments at on her Facebook page, though she declined to list the biblical verses in which Christ urged his followers to "kill and be killed" to advance their agenda, as some leaders of the militia declared from the very beginning. In an unrelated matter, Nevada Democrats are out-raising Republicans pretty much across the board in top targeted legislative races, which include Shelton's very blue Assembly district.
Kansas lawmakers weigh giving anti-discrimination protections to gun dealers
As the eighth gun-friendliest state in America (according to Guns & Ammo), Kansas is not thought of as the kind of place where "discriminat[ion] against gun dealers and manufacturers" would be common. Nevertheless, Kansas Republicans have teed up legislation that would extend nondiscrimination protections to sellers of firearms. During a hearing on the measure, representatives of Equality Kansas and Planned Parenthood suggested adding protections for LGBT citizens and abortion providers as well, since they do experience the sort of discrimination Republicans claim to oppose (including, incidentally, at the hands of the Kansas legislature). But until Kansas abortion clinics start selling guns on the side, Republicans insist that this specific bill will address only the imaginary discrimination faced by Smith & Wesson.
Republicans’ push for vote on tax cuts, welfare changes may not make Maine ballot
In a surprising turn of events, there are "signs that Republicans are short on signatures" for a ballot measure designed to decimate Maine's social safety net by slashing the state's income tax nearly in half, while simultaneously enacting many of GOP Governor Paul LePage's horrendously counter-productive welfare proposals. Republicans only needed 61,123 valid signatures statewide, which they've had months to collect. It's clear that even if Maine Republicans squeeze in enough signatures by Monday's deadline, support and enthusiasm for this initiative simply aren't there.
The striking lack of diversity in state legislatures
A new report from the New American Leaders Project highlights the "striking" lack of diversity in America's state legislatures, at least compared the population as a whole. While 38% of Americans identify with a minority group, only 17% of Congress and 14% of state legislators can say the same. But as the DLCC's Carolyn Fiddler explained to the Washington Post, it's also clear which party is -- and is not -- contributing to a solution. Overall, 33% of Democratic state legislators are minorities, compared to only 5% of Republicans. Democrats are not quite at parity (yet), but we are getting closer. Diving deeper, nearly 80% of all Latino state legislators are Democrats, as are the overwhelming majority of African American legislators. As for why Republicans have so much trouble nominating and electing non-white candidates, many theories abound. For instance, did we mention that a Georgia state legislator just said the KKK wasn't that bad?