Thirteen city mayors from across the state of Michigan are fighting back against a Republican sponsored bill that would force individuals to use facilities that corresponds to their biological sex instead of their gender identity. The mayors released a statement criticizing the bill (SB 993 and HB 5717) as dangerous and discriminatory. The bills would preempt nondiscrimination ordinances passed locally that allow transgender individuals to access facilities coinciding with their gender identity. The sponsor of the Senate bill, Republican state Senator Tom Casperson, is apparently undeterred by the backlash in North Carolina over similar legislation.
Minnesota Republicans are looking to pass state legislation that would preempt local laws requiring paid sick leave for employees and bar minimum wage increases above the state level. One Minnesota business group announced it will file a lawsuit against the city of Minneapolis over its newly passed ordinance guaranteeing employee paid sick leave. Republican lawmakers, acting on behalf of big business interests, are now threatening to not return for a special legislative session unless the preemption law is discussed. The threat jeopardizes the completion of funding agreements for transportation and construction projects, which was the main purpose of convening the special session.
Legislation passed by Arizona Republicans banning early ballot collections is threatening to disenfranchise Latinos and diminish their turnout. The law, passed earlier this year, makes it a felony to collect someone else’s ballot (with exceptions for family members and those who live in the same household) and is punishable by up to a year in prison and a $150,000 fine. Advocacy organizations such as the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law argue that this law and other discriminatory changes to voting laws would not have been possible without the elimination of the pre-clearance requirement from the Voting Rights Act. Latino voter empowerment groups have denounced the law and express concern that it will diminish Latino turnout. Over 300,000 Latino citizens use early voting, up from 91,000 in 2010. Lower Latino turnout could benefit Republican electoral prospects because the demographic tends to lean Democratic.
Pennsylvania Democratic Representative Brian Sims gave an impassioned speech on behalf of a bill he is co-sponsoring, known as the Pennsylvania Fairness Act. The act would update the state’s nondiscrimination law to include sexual orientation, gender identity, and expression to ensure all Pennsylvanians receive equal employment and housing opportunities and more. The bill has broad support from the business community as well as Pennsylvania’s general population. Sims, who is openly gay, talked at length about the urgency of passing this legislation given recent attacks on the LGBT community, such as the mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando. As he explained, “in Pennsylvania, you beat us in the streets when we hold hands. In Orlando, you kill us when we gather together.” The bill passed its first hurdle and made it out of the Senate’s Urban Affairs and Housing Committee.
Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach is preparing to throw out thousands of votes for state and local elections from individuals who did not provide proof of citizenship when registering to vote at motor vehicle offices. His plan is to issue only provisional ballots to these more than 50,000 voters during the upcoming elections as part of a “two-tiered election system.” Kobach’s plan is in response to a federal court order requiring Kansas to allow these voters to cast ballots in at least the federal races. However, the ACLU of Kansas noted that a January decision from a District judge specifically forbade Kobach from creating a bifurcated voter registration system, so voters covered by the federal order should be added to the voter rolls and issued a regular ballot.