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.
Maryland Democrats achieved a milestone in reproductive health this week with the passage of the Contraceptive Equity Act. The law expands on the contraception benefits made available through the Affordable Care Act, and it makes Maryland the first state to require insurance companies to cover over-the-counter emergency contraceptives at no cost and the first state to prohibit out-of-pocket costs for vasectomies. Democratic Delegate Ariana Kelly was the force behind the bill, managing to earn the support of insurance companies and overcome the opposition of Republican legislators. Leaders of reproductive health organizations, such as Planned Parenthood, touted the bill as groundbreaking.
Kansas Republicans have opted to halt cooperation with federal regulations meant to curb greenhouse gas emissions and combat climate change. The GOP-controlled state legislature passed a measure, which was quickly signed into law by GOP Governor Sam Brownback, that prohibits any state agency from drafting action in accordance with EPA carbon emission regulations. Gov. Brownback’s opposition to climate change action fits with the goals of his wealthy backers. In fact, the Koch brothers, whose interests in the fossil fuel industry are no secret, have given more money to Sam Brownback than to any other politician. While Kansas Republicans may deny climate change, the dire consequences for Kansas remain; Kansas State University scholars found that wheat production, a mainstay of Kansas’s economy, will drop off dramatically as global temperatures rise.
This week, Democrats in Massachusetts set the bar for the rest of the nation by passing civil rights legislation to protect the transgender community from discrimination. The bill passed the Democratic-majority state Senate, with the only four votes against the bill coming from Republicans. Massachusetts had already implemented anti-discrimination protections for the transgender community in areas such as housing and employment, but the new legislation extends these protections to include public accommodation. The Republican arguments against the bill hinged on recycled conservative scare tactics about supposed privacy and threats to public safety. The same overblown concerns were raised by Republicans in support of HB2, the North Carolina legislation that restricts transgender residents’ access to public accommodations such as bathrooms. The next step for the bill will be the House of Representatives, where over two-thirds of the chamber must approve the measure in order to override a possible veto from Republican Governor Charlie Baker.
This week, the Republican-dominated Missouri House passed a version of the controversial and reckless “Stand Your Ground” law. The bill, which would allow individuals to use deadly force in a public place, even if they were not under an immediate threat, drew criticism from Democrats as “legalized murder.” Senate Democrats have managed to filibuster this legislation for the time being, but Republicans are attempting to tie their colleagues’ hands by attaching other key civil rights measures to the bill. This type of legislation has been supported by many state Republicans who believe it will protect lives and reduce crime. However, critics have noted that these types of laws are unfairly applied, with a person much more likely to be prosecuted if their shooting victim was white. The American Bar Association also found that these laws have failed in their main objective of protecting citizens. An ABA study found that states with “Stand Your Ground Laws” have more homicides than those without them.
Donald Trump, the bombastic presumptive Republican nominee, has not only created a crisis in national Republican Party leadership, but also for Republicans at the state level. Democrats see an opportunity to seize control of state legislative chambers across the country as Trump’s presence at the top of the ticket taints down-ballot Republican candidates. The Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee has announced that it will be targeting 11 chambers in 13 states where Republican legislators hold a majority. Even former Colorado Republican Party Chairman Ryan Call has acknowledged the danger of Trump’s candidacy and noted that those who endorse Trump are hesitant to mention his name on the campaign trail. Democrats are working to tie their Republican opponents to Trump. In this volatile election season, Trump’s toxicity will help Democrats to gain ground in state chambers nationwide.