Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee

State of the States (Week of March 14th, 2016)

State of the States (Week of March 14th, 2016)

The Week of March 14th, 2016

TABLE OF CONTENTS

KEY QUOTES

"Basically, he told us he had suffered worse crimes than us – and he was talking to a rape survivor, a woman whose daughter had been raped, murdered and set on fire, as well as a man who had lost 18 years of his life in prison for a crime he did not commit."

-Kentucky Senate committee witness Michelle Kuiper, responding to comments by Senate Majority Caucus Chair Dan Seum (R) at a hearing for a bill to collect DNA samples from suspects arrested on felony charges. Seum complained that government "intrusion" he's experienced "has done more damage" to him than the criminals who victimized the assembled witnesses.

"We welcome you into the chamber."

-Kentucky Speaker of the House Greg Stumbo (D), after a ceremony swearing in three new Democrats and one new Republican after last week's special elections resulted in Democrats gaining a seat in the chamber.

STORIES OF THE WEEK

North Carolina Exemplifies National Battles Over Voting Laws

Richard Fausset (New York Times)
March 10, 2016

The purest distillation of the nation’s wars over voting rules and legislative gerrymandering is playing out in North Carolina.

A high-profile lawsuit is taking on a voter identification law and other voting changes. There are four other suits challenging North Carolina’s congressional or state legislative districts on racial grounds. Three more allege unconstitutional gerrymandering of local races. And on March 4, a new law changing how judges are elected was struck down by a three-judge state panel.

When voters go to the polls for the North Carolina primaries on Tuesday, any votes for congressional candidates will not count because a federal panel threw out the state’s congressional map in February. A separate congressional primary will be held June 7.

States around the nation are embroiled in legal battles over voting requirements, district lines and the rules governing elections. But North Carolina feels like the center. It is a place where hyperpartisanship, the focus on voting rules after the disputed election of President George W. Bush in 2000 and the Supreme Court’s dismantling of a crucial section of the Voting Rights Act have created an incessant state of combat over the way elections are conducted.

“It’s not a pretty time for democracy in North Carolina,” said Bob Phillips, the executive director of Common Cause North Carolina, a nonpartisan government watchdog group.

North Carolina is the rare swing state in the South where Democrats and Republicans are evenly matched, and where major elections are often settled by precious handfuls of votes. Nonetheless, under the 2011 maps drawn by the Legislature, Republicans control 10 of the 13 congressional seats. It is also where the memory of Jim Crow lingers — literacy tests were administered to voters here until the 1970s — and where Democrats lost control of both houses of the General Assembly in 2010 for the first time in more than a century.

Now, almost everything about voting in North Carolina can seem as if it is up for grabs.

[Read more]

After epic 39-hour filibuster, Missouri Senate passes bill criticized as anti-gay

Sandhya Somashekhar (Washington Post)
March 9, 2016

For 39 hours, seven Democrats in the Missouri Senate kept up a filibuster aimed at drawing attention to, and ultimately killing, a religious freedom bill that critics called anti-gay.

On Wednesday morning, they were finally cut short. The chamber’s Republican majority voted to end the filibuster and voted in favor of the bill, which if enacted would permit religious organizations and certain others to refrain from activities viewed as condoning or participating in same-sex marriage.

It is the latest and perhaps most dramatic example of the extraordinary opposition being stoked by religious liberties bills, which have proliferated in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last year legalizing same-sex marriage nationally. Social conservatives say the bills are necessary to protect faith-based organizations and faith-driven businesses from being forced to condone a practice that clashes with their religion.

But such measures have been met with fierce opposition by gay rights supporters and others, including prominent businesses that warn it could harm commerce by painting the state as bigoted. They point to the example of Indiana, which took a hit to its reputation last year after the legislature passed its own religious protection law.

So far, that lesson appears to be reverberating nationally as several states have recently rejected bills painted as anti-gay or anti-transgender. Last week, South Dakota’s Republican governor vetoed a bill that would have required schoolchildren to use the bathroom that matched with their biological sex, which critics said was discriminatory against transgender students.

Also last week, the West Virginia legislature voted down a religious liberties bill after a backlash from employers including Marriott and AT&T. And in Georgia, a religious freedom bill faced dismal prospects after the state’s Republican governor suggested he would not support it in its original form.

[Read more]

COMING UP...

March 15

Special Election - Pennsylvania HD-57
Special Election - Pennsylvania HD-192
Special Election - Pennsylvania HD-200

March 29

Special Election - Georgia HD-162
Special Election - Maine SD-32

April 5

Special Election - California HD-31

April 9

Special Election - Louisiana HD-29

April 12

Special Election - Alabama HD-80

April 19

Special Election - New York SD-09
Special Election - New York HD-59
Special Election - New York HD-62
Special Election - New York HD-65

April 26

Special Election - Pennsylvania SD-09

LEGISLATIVE BULLETIN

Abortion

WV: Legislators override Tomblin’s veto, restrict common second-trimester abortions - The Daily Athenaeum

Health Care

CO: Colorado study says Medicaid expansion is a boon to state economy - Denver Post

OK: State's budget crisis may incapacitate Medicaid program, officials say - The Oklahoman

Labor

AZ: Arizona Has a Plan to Get Revenge on Its Pro-Worker Cities - Bloomberg News

NM: Martinez complains about ‘petty union politics’ in veto message - Las Cruces Sun‑News

Redistricting

NC: Redistricting or gerrymandering? N.C. dispute embodies national debate - Christian Science Monitor

US: Few of the South’s congressional districts look competitive - Southern Political Report

US: It's Time to Abolish the Electoral College - Huffington Post

Voting Rights

AZ: Gov. Doug Ducey signs bill banning ballot collection - Arizona Republic

IA: Iowa Supreme Court To Consider Challenge To Felon Voting Law - Iowa Public Radio

OR: Oregon adds 15,502 voters since 'Motor Voter' law began Jan. 1 - KTVZ News

WV: West Virginia lawmakers OK voter ID bill - Parkersburg News and Sentinel

CAMPAIGN UPDATES

AZ: Former Jerome Mayor Challenges State Sen. Sylvia Allen - Payson Roundup

FL: Rep. Rodriguez declares run for hotly contested Miami seat held by Sen. Diaz de la Portilla - Miami Herald

NV: Election 2016: An early look at who’s favored in Nevada — and who’s not - Las Vegas Sun

NY: Poll shows candidates virtually tied in Nassau Senate election - Politico New York

NY: In 49th, it's 'institution' against fresh Democrat - Albany Times-Union

UT: Political ‘death penalty’ gains final approval in Utah house - Salt Lake Tribune

WI: Republican overreach? - BizTimes Milwaukee

EXTREME VOICES

KS: Kansas conservatives advance bill on impeachment of judges - Associated Press

KY: Senator’s comments to rape victim provokes Kentucky Democratic Party’s ire - The State Journal

NH: Rochester state representative may lose his seat - Foster's Daily Democrat

PA: Amid furor of Porngate, Eakin resigns from high court - Philadelphia Inquirer

CONTACT

Carolyn Fiddler
National Communications Director
Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee
fiddler@dlcc.org