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.
The Republican-controlled South Carolina state legislature severely restricted women’s rights this week by passing a ban on all abortions after 19 weeks (without exceptions for cases of rape or incest). Opponents of the bill argue that the bill is not only extreme, but also unconstitutional. Courts in three different states have already blocked 20-week abortion bans. The new law would likely only serve to drain taxpayer dollars as the state defends the measure in court. As Democratic state Rep. James Smith put it, “Wouldn't it be interesting if we take dollar-for-dollar the money we're going to spend litigating unconstitutional bills and put it into something that makes a difference in South Carolina?"
This week, the Oklahoma legislature continued the Republican war on women as GOP lawmakers passed a controversial measure making abortion a felony in the state. The bill makes performing an abortion punishable by up to three years in prison and would prevent any physician who performs an abortion from obtaining or renewing a medical license in Oklahoma. Unsurprisingly, the state’s medical association strongly opposed the bill, and abortion rights groups have denounced the bill as unconstitutional. The bill’s passage has conveniently diverted attention from Republican-induced budget failures and has rallied the right-wing base.
A report from Wisconsin’s nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau has provided details on just how often the Republican Party restricted the actions of local government. The report, released at the request of Democratic Assistant Assembly Minority Leader Katrina Shankland, reveals that Wisconsin Republicans used their majority to pass 128 different pieces of legislation that curtailed the authority of local governments since 2011. For example, when Milwaukee voters passed a referendum requiring certain businesses to provide paid sick leave, the legislature passed a law nullifying it. This analysis reveals that the Republican Party’s actual policy positions undermine the GOP’s message of “small government” and philosophy of opposition to government overreach.
Republican Gov. Doug Ducey and his allies in the Arizona legislature authorized a brazen partisan power grab this week. Ducey signed into law a Republican measure increasing the number of justices on the state Supreme Court from five to seven. Ducey justified the increase by arguing the expansion will create a more efficient judiciary. However, many criticize the move as a way for Ducey to stack the court with Republican-leaning judges. Even current Chief Justice Scott Bales attacked the move, arguing that there was no need for more judges and that the court is already short on funding. Democrats also criticized the move for costing taxpayers an additional $1 million. Ducey has already nominated right-wing lawyer Clint Bolick to the court, who previously served as a litigator for the Goldwater Institute, a conservative think tank linked to the American Legislative Exchange Council.
This fall’s legislative elections in Maine present Democrats with an opportunity to take back the upper chamber. Democrats have previously capitalized on presidential-year turnout and won majorities in the both chambers of the Maine legislature during presidential cycles. In 2016, presidential elections may bring an even more pronounced boost to Democratic chances as Trump’s toxicity at the top of the Republican ticket spreads down the ballot. Additionally, Democrats have a registration advantage in many of the open Senate districts on the 2016 ballot.