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.
Michigan Senate Democratic Leader Jim Ananich was "on fire" after hearing GOP Governor Rick Snyder and EPA administrator Regina McCarthy testify at a congressional hearing on Thursday, and he is hopeful that the investigation will lead to justice and solutions for those affected by the Flint water crisis. He and other Democrats criticized the governor’s slow response to the crisis and for refusing help from the federal government. While Sen. Ananich acknowledged that the EPA should have reacted more quickly, he still believes that “99.9%” of the blame lies on the shoulders of the governor. Other Democrats, such as Represenatative Phil Phelps, were pleased to see Gov. Snyder responding to questions from Congress but also hoped for more progress towards solutions to the problem. In contrast, Republicans placed the blame almost entirely on the EPA and tried to claim that Governor Snyder took “responsibility” for the crisis. However, emails from within the Snyder administration show that the governor had been informed of issues with the city’s water supply as early as July of 2015. Gov. Snyder's administration refused to admit that Flint faced a contaminated water crisis until October of that year.
The Democratic-majority Vermont Senate voted overwhelmingly this week to ban so-called “conversion therapy,” a controversial tecnique that seeks to somehow turn young homosexuals into heterosexuals. The bill will make would make use of the procedure by a medical professional “unprofessional conduct” subject to discipline from the state regulatory board. This move is a step forward for LGTB youth, as it affirms that sexual orientation is not a disease to be cured. Rather, studies show that conversion therapy is ineffective and psychologically harmful to the patient.
Activists for LGTB rights are fighting back against the hateful attempts of Republican lawmakers in North Carolina to roll back Charlotte’s newly-passed protections for the transgender community. The ordinance in question allows transgender individuals to use the bathroom of the gender they identify with. Republican leaders have reacted with transphobic hysteria, claiming that this measure will lead to threats to civilian safety, such as sexual assault. However, evidence points to the fact that protections for transgender rights do not lead to an increase in safety threats. The activists held a press conference to demand that the state legislature not call a special session to nullify the city’s decision. Members of the transgender community talked about their experiences with discrimination and how important it is for the city ordinance to remain in effect. Indeed, a study in San Francisco found that 50% of the transgender community had faced bathroom harassment. In response to the passionate protest, Senate Leader Phil Berger scoffed that the protestors were just a “political correctness mob,” ignoring the issue of transgender rights entirely.
As an extension of their apparent war against transparency, Republicans in the Indiana state legislature completely cut public input out of the discussion on passing a recent abortion restriction. The measure in question would prevent women from having an abortion because of the possibility of the child being born with a disability. However, the Republican-controlled state legislature did not allow for any public testimony on the issue, nor did they even allow a House committee to review the bill. The means of the bill’s passage offended even anti-choice Republicans. According to Rep. Sean Eberhart, who describes himself as "as pro-life as they come," “Today is a perfect example of a bunch of middle-aged guys sitting in this room making decisions about what we think is best for women.” Rep. Sharon Negele sponsored a bill to impose restrictions on Indiana’s Planned Parenthood last year, and even she admitted, “The bill does nothing to save innocent lives. There’s no education, there’s no funding. It’s just penalties.”
The state of Georgia is already seeing negative reactions to the Republican-controlled legislature’s so-called “religious freedom” bill. Republican lawmakers have tried to paint the bill as a compromise that will protect people of faith as well as prevent discrimination against the LGTB community. However, Democrats opposed the bill because its language codifies protections for those who discriminate in employment and service. A similar bill passed in Indiana last year and resulted in a massive backlash, with many businesses boycotting the state until the bill was revised. A similar reaction is building in Georgia. Business leaders, such as William Plate of the Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau, are already expressing concern that the economy of Atlanta is in jeopardy because of the bill. Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed has reported that he has been in contact with many other members of the business community who are considering not holding events in the city because of the law. However, gay rights activists are encouraged by the words of Georgia’s governor, Nathan Deal, who broke with his own party to express disappointment in the bill and may yet veto it.