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This Week in Statehouse Action: Lousy Smarch Weather edition
Or is it an unhappy March?
Let’s be real, it’s too soon to tell.
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But one source of joy for many is now against the law in … well, I guess we shouldn’t expect too much from a state that had a statue of notorious Confederate general, slave trader, and Klu Klux Klan grand wizard Nathan Bedford Forrest in its capitol building until mid-2021.
Still, though, it’s a little tough to wrap my head around the fact that this is where we are now.
Are These Idiots Getting Louder Or Dumber?
Welp, it happened: Tennessee is officially the first state with a law on the books outlawing drag shows.
This week, GOP Gov. Bill Lee signed a bill banning drag performances in public spaces.
[[glares in I Told You So]]
Banning drag performances is awful on its face, obviously, but this new law has some terrifyingly broad language that puts a substantial swath of the LGBTQ community in danger of being arrested for just … well, being.
The measure specifically lists “male or female impersonators” among illegal drag performers, which an uneducated person or cop could easily misdefine as transgender folks.
If it weren’t so diabolical, it’d almost be a clever way to effectively criminalize being trans.
Also, just in case you think these state lawmakers actually give a rat’s ass about the nonexistent ill effects drag shows allegedly have on minors, a sneaky little amendment was added as the bill wound its way through the legislature that reveals the new law’s actual target: LGTBQ Tennesseeans.
July 1 is the default date for new state laws to go into effect.
But SB3 was quietly tweaked to take effect on April 1, which means that this hateful law will be enforceable ahead of Pride month in June.
But signing this drag show ban into law wasn’t the only terrible thing Gov. Lee and his GOP allies in the legislature did to LGBTQ Tennesseans this week.
The Volunteer State is now the latest to outlaw lifesaving gender-affirming health care for transgender youth.
By the by, this one takes effect July 1.
Tennessee will become the eighth state to ban this specific kind of medical care, joining Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, Mississippi, South Dakota, and Utah.
But if you think Republicans are going to confine their anti-transgender crusade to kids, think again.
Five states – Kansas, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Tennessee – are also considering bills targeting gender-affirming care for adults.
The Kansas measure bans gender-affirming care into legal adulthood–age 21, specifically.
A Mississippi bill does basically the same thing (thankfully, it’s dead for the year).
In Oklahoma, a measure would prohibit insurance companies from covering such treatments.
A separate bill would just outright ban gender-affirming care for anyone younger than 26.
South Carolina is considering a measure that would not only ban gender-affirming healthcare for anyone under 21, but it would also block the state’s Medicaid program from covering any such treatment or procedures and require schools to forcibly out transgender students to their parents.
In Tennessee, a bill would prohibit the state’s Medicaid program from working with any insurance company that covers gender-affirming care.
Don’t Blame Me, I Voted For Kodos
Florida’s legislative session kicks off next week, so … yeah, hide.
Early indicators point to a total shitshow.
Take, for instance, the fascist little bill introduced by Republican Sen. Blaise Ingoglia.
I can only imagine his expression of self-satisfied glee as he filed SB1248 – which he smugly titled “The Ultimate Cancel Act” – to require the state election board to “immediately cancel” the filings of a political party whose platform had “previously advocated for, or been in support of, slavery or involuntary servitude.”
He could have just said “Democrats,” but I guess that wasn’t precious enough for him.
As an erudite consumer of the missive – or, like, as a person who remembers literally anything from US History class – you’re no doubt aware that most members of the Democratic Party, as it existed in the 1800s, used to be big fans of slavery.
It was bad, it was wrong, and it was well over 100 years ago.
And if Ingoglia isn’t aware that the Democratic and Republican parties switched positions on racial equity in the mid-20th century, Florida’s schools clearly didn’t need Ron DeSantis to ruin them; they already weren’t teaching real history.
Anyway, this petty piece of legislation would allow a canceled political party to re-register with the Florida State Department — but that party would be forced to change its name to something “substantially different from the name of any other party previously registered.”
Honestly, Florida Dems should just roll with this and rename themselves the Real Republican Party – a troll for a troll is the new eye for an eye.
And this bill is absolutely a troll – Ingoglia admitted as much himself.
In a press release about the legislation, Ingoglia attacked Democrats and “leftist activists” who he claims have been “trying to ‘cancel’ people and companies for things they have said or done in the past,” including “the removal of statues and memorials, and the renaming of buildings … Using this standard, it would be hypocritical not to cancel the Democrat [sic] Party itself for the same reason.”
Troll or no, the concept of eliminating opposing political parties is a clear hallmark of fascism (he’s been dead a long time, but does no one remember Mussolini?).
Another fascism flag? Silencing opposition media.
And GOP state Sen. Jason Brodeur would like to do his part – and he fancies he’s found a clever workaround for that pesky First Amendment stuff.
Brodeur is introducing SB1316, which would force “bloggers” – defined as “a person … that submits a blog post to a blog which is subsequently published” — who write about Gov. Ron DeSantis, any other member of Florida’s executive branch, or legislators to register and report like lobbyists (who are paid to influence lawmaking, not inform the public about it).
“Bloggers” who publish “blog posts” to “blogs” (HEY BRODEUR THE AUGHTS CALLED AND LAUGHED AT YOU) concerning any of these public officials would have to submit monthly reports disclosing how much they were paid for their … blogging.
The bill explicitly exempts “the website of a newspaper or other similar publication” and, presumably, those who write for them from this requirement, but the line between blogging and journalism blurred to meaninglessness long long ago, which is why we describe most bloggers as independent journalists now.
In fact, I bet Brodeur was inspired–at least in part–to draft this anti-free press bill by Jason Garcia, who wrote a fun analysis last year about the lawmaker’s shady financial dealings.
By the by, if Brodeur’s name rings a bell, it may be because of a pretty big election scandal he was implicated in last year.
Brodeur allegedly knew about a GOP-backed scheme to run a “ghost candidate” in his 2020 state Senate race with the express goal of siphoning progressive votes away from his Democratic opponent.
But Brodeur’s not the only Florida lawmaker looking to gag the media.
Last month, Republican Rep. Alex Andrade introduced legislation that would make it way easier to successfully sue media outlets for defamation – nevermind pesky Supreme Court rulings on First Amendment rights like New York Times v. Sullivan.
The measure would also strip reporters of the legal right to keep their sources confidential.
Abortions For Some, Tiny American Flags for Others!
Wisconsin’s state Supreme Court election is just over five weeks away, and the current 4-3 conservative majority court helpfully just reminded everyone how important it is to flip that margin to a 4-3 progressive majority.
I mean, not that we needed another reason.
In the next year or so, the court will hear and rule on a case that will either uphold or strike down Wisconsin’s abortion ban, and it has and will continue to hear cases on voting rights, workers’ rights, public school funding, gun safety, and more.
But this week, the four conservative justices overrode their three progressive colleagues to reappoint James Troupis to the Wisconsin Judicial Conduct Advisory Committee.
And this is why it matters:
James Troupis represented Trump’s attempt to invalidate and flip Wisconsin’s 2020 presidential election results.
Troupis was, in fact, among the first to be looped into the Trump campaign’s broad efforts to overturn the 2020 election results by deploying slates of fake Republican electors to multiple states.
I mean, it really doesn’t seem cool to have someone who actively worked to undermine democracy on the committee that renders formal advisory opinions on how judges ought to behave.
So Wisconsin’s judicial system is stuck with this guy for another six years, but Wisconsinites might not be stuck with that 4-3 conservative majority too much longer.
Or they might! Who knows?
Progressive Judge Janet Protasiewicz is definitely ahead in one aspect of this race, though: ad spending.
According to AdImpact, Protasiewicz's ad bookings for the April 4 election have hit a whopping $6.4 million.
But even wilder is the fact that her conservative opponent, former Justice Dan Kelly, hasn't spent or reserved any TV ad spending at this point.
His pals at Fair Courts America (which is funded by conservative megadonors Richard and Elizabeth Uihlein) have placed just $180,000 in broadcast ad reservations as of this writing.
The TV ad rehashes familiar conservative attacks on Protasiewicz, accusing her of being soft on criminals and such.
But Fair Courts America also sprung for an online ad, which is being served to Wisconsinites via Facebook, and this one is antisemitic as hell.
The web ad invokes George Soros and calls him the “mastermind behind America’s crime wave.”
It goes on to claim that Soros “dumped over $40 million into placing radical activists in our justice system … Today, one in five Americans lives in territory controlled by a Soros-funded prosecutor.”
Truly ugly stuff.
And with five weeks to go, it’s only going to get uglier.
Everything’s Coming Up Milhouse
Okay, I can’t let you go out like that, so here’s a little good news to end on.
Pennsylvania’s newly Democratic-controlled House has a history-making new Speaker!
As an erudite consumer of this missive, you may recall that, waaaaaaay back in January, the Pennsylvania House became a hotbed of drama after a death and two resignations denied Democrats the tiny technical majority they’d won in the November elections, when they picked up the 12 House seats they needed to flip the chamber.
After Democrats claimed a 102-101 majority in the chamber following the election, they’d declared Rep. Joanna McClinton their speaker-designee.
McClinton would have made history not only as Pennsylvania’s first woman speaker, but also as the state’s first Black woman speaker.
But with Democrats’ hard-won majority knocked back to just 99 members in the new year because of two resignations and a death, Republicans had the numbers to go down in a blaze of sour grapes – that is, to deny a Democrat the speakership.
Some wacky antics ensued; here’s the short version:
A Republican representative nominated Rep. Mark Rozzi, a moderate Democrat who wasn’t really on anyone’s radar as House Speaker.
He was confirmed via a bipartisan vote, with 16 Republicans supporting his bid.
Rozzi pledged to not caucus with either party, to hire staff from both sides of the aisle, and to preside over the chamber as an “independent speaker.”
But Republicans claim Rozzi promised to change his party registration to independent, thus technically denying Democrats majority control of the chamber (after the special elections to fill those three empty seats, the chamber would be 101-101-1).
Rozzi, however, averred that, while he was serious about exercising his role as speaker in a nonpartisan way, he had no plans to change parties.
The Republicans who supported him for the speakership were PISSED, and they proceeded to throw a weeks-long tantrum, in which time no chamber rules were adopted, so no actual legislating could take place.
But then those vacant seats were won by Democrats in a Feb. 7 special election, and the matter of the majority was finally fully settled.
But a new question emerged: Would Rozzi keep the speakership, or would he defer to McClinton?
That question was answered this week … and then some.
On the final day of Black History Month, Democratic Rep. Joanna McClinton was elected the first woman and the second Black Speaker of the Pennsylvania House with the backing of all 102 Democrats and zero Republicans.
After happily giving up the gavel on Tuesday to trigger the election, Rozzi went on to excoriate his GOP colleagues, saying that he understood that they were trying to use him when they helped elect him Speaker, so he decided to make them “pay for it.”
“They tried to manipulate, hoodwink, snooker the members of this General Assembly by electing me, thinking that I would do their bidding for them,” he said. “That I would turn against my party.”
McClinton is opting for a higher rhetorical road.
“The majority will no longer silence the minority party,” she said after clinching the speakership – a naked allusion to the treatment the Democrats endured from the Republican majority over the last decade.
Fun times ahead, no doubt
You’re such a champ for hanging in. May all your disgraces be private, and for you, they’re always saying “Boo-urns.”
And remember: We must move forward, not backward; upward, not forward; and always twirling, twirling, twirling towards freedom!
Beats welcoming our new insect overlords, anyway.
*programming note: This Week in Statehouse Action will be taking the next two weeks off, but I’m always here for your thoughts, comments, questions, questions that are actually comments, pasta recipes, gripes, and/or general angst about the universe.
Be well, and see you in a bit!
Thanks for reading This Week in Statehouse Action! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.