Saturday, April 9, 2016

Ban Everything edition

So much to talk about, so little time. To me, my Statehouse Action!

One Shining Moment... is about how long last night's pro-labor ruling in Wisconsin will stand, unfortunately. A circuit court judge ruled the state's new "right to work" law violates the Wisconsin constitution. This ruling is a big win for workers and for unions, but it's destined to be overturned by the state's solidly-Republican Supreme Court (which became a little more solidly Republican this past Tuesday, incidentally). 

Speaking of Wisconsin...

LOL the VoteWisconsin is one of the most effectively-gerrymandered states in the nation (e.g. in 2012, Democrats running for state Assembly won more votes than their GOP counterparts statewide [52%!], but they only won 39 of 99 seats). 
  • Also, some Republicans admitted publicly that Wisconsin's voter ID law was passed by GOP lawmakers in 2011 with the actual, literal intent to suppress minority and college student turnout and help Republicans get elected. But we knew that, yes?

If you can't beat them, kick them the hell out: In the continuation of a troubling trend I noted early this year, yet another GOP-controlled legislative chamber is booting reporters.
  • On Thursday, the Arizona state House banned reporters from the chamber floor -- access the media has enjoyed for at least 34 years (probably longer). 
    • To return to the House floor, reporters will have to submit to extensive background checks, which will include not just reporters' criminal and civil histories, but also their prior addresses and driving records. (Seriously, driving records??)
  • Arizona House Republicans' sudden crackdown on media access is anything but random. In fact, this new restriction appears to be targeting one reporter in particular -- a reporter who's written multiple stories critical of the GOP Speaker. 
    • In fact, earlier this year, he wrote about the Speaker's extensive travel on the state's dime for purposes apparently unrelated to his duties as an elected official (the Speaker later reimbursed the state more than $12,000). 
    • That reporter, Hank Stephenson, happens to have a conviction of second degree trespass lurking in his history (from a "bar fight").
  • Along with the invasive background check requirement, GOP House leadership also unveiled a list of specific prior offenses which would disqualify a reporter from House floor privileges. The list includes any felony within the past ten years or any misdemeanor within the past five. 
  • This list includes some exceptions, but trespass is not one of them.  
    • House Republicans claim this new ban is a result of security concerns, rather than petty retribution. Okay!
  • You'll be shocked, SHOCKED to know that those other GOP media bans smacked of petty retribution, too.
    • In Missouri, the Republican-controlled Senate voted in early January to banish reporters from their table near the front of the chamber. (A section of the upper gallery is being renovated to accommodate the media, so nice!
      • After initially trying to claim the change was needed to accommodate more staffers, the GOP Senate President Pro Tem admitted that he's still sore about reporters tweeting about conversations between lawmakers on the chamber floor last year.
    • Just a couple of weeks later, reporters in Virginia attempted to take their customary place at tables near the Senate dais as session kicked off, only to be shunted to the Senate gallery at the behest of GOP Senate Majority Leader Tommy Norment. But why?
    • After weeks of negotiating, Virginia Senate reporters were again granted access to the floor, but in diminished fashion
      • Instead of two tables that seated eight reporters total, the press returned to the Senate floor with six little leaf desks (like the ones you used to have to put up with in school) that no longer have access to electrical outlets for laptops and such. 

It's time for Chaps-free bathrooms: No, I'm not talking about the leg protectors. 
  • My favorite GOP-lawmaker-by-day-internet-televangelist-by-night enjoyed a little attention from the Daily Show on Wednesday. Hooray!
    • Colorado state Rep. Gordon Klingenschmitt is a recurring figure in my column (seriously, I don't even have to check the spelling of his last name any more), earning ire and derision on topics ranging from abortion to Islam
      • On TDS, Rep. Klingenschmitt, who (un)enlightens the masses via his "Pray in Jesus Name" YouTube channel on weekends, slipped into his Dr. Chaps persona on camera to discuss his deeply bigoted transphobia. The segment is worth a watch if you haven't seen it. 
  • Also, KlingenChaps believes transgender people are possessed by demons. Seems legit.

Okay, so NOW you're mad? The hubbub in North Carolina over the GOP-controlled legislature's bathroom freakout has garnered quite a bit of attention, as has the backlash from businesses objecting to HB2, the state's newly-passed law that permits anti-LGBT discrimination and guts local government control. 
  • Over 120 companies have publicly expressed opposition to the new law, and a slew of corporate executives signed onto a letter calling on Gov. McCrory and the legislature to repeal the measure during the upcoming session. 
    • Fun fact! At least 36 of those companies have given money to groups that helped elect the GOP lawmakers responsible for HB2. The RSLC and the RGA have raked in $10.8 million from these businesses in recent election cycles. Reportedly,
Companies that have criticized HB2 have donated over $4.3 million to the RSLC since the 2010 election cycle. They include Citigroup (nearly $893,000), Pfizer (over $654,000), Google (nearly $312,000), Bank of America (over $239,000), Dow Chemical (nearly $221,000), Facebook (nearly $165,000), and SAS Institute (nearly $152,000). PayPal, which contributed $399 to the RSLC in that period, has announced that it is canceling plans to open a global operations center in Charlotte in protest of the law.
  • A sizable chunk of RSLC money flowing into the state's elections was shunted through Real Jobs N.C., a North Carolina-based super PAC. 
In the 2012 cycle, RSLC contributed $300,000 to Real Jobs...Real Jobs helped 11 Republicans win open seats, retain seats, or take out a Democratic incumbent. All remain in the General Assembly, and nine voted for HB2.

For example, Real Jobs spent over $17,000 in 2012 to help elect Bob Steinburg, a Republican representing Eastern North Carolina's House District 1 and a primary sponsor of HB2. The super PAC also spent over $49,000 benefiting Republican Rep. Michael Speciale of New Bern and more than $16,000 helping Republican Rep. Michele Presnell of Burnsville, both of whom co-sponsored HB2.
While scaling back its election spending in 2014, Real Jobs still spent close to $35,000 helping re-elect GOP Sen. Chad Barefoot of Wake County, who voted for HB2. The RSLC contributed $25,000 to Real Jobs that year.

Maybe let's just ban bathrooms: A Michigan Republican wants in on this hot potty action. 
  • When the legislature reconvenes in April, GOP Sen. Tom Casperson plans to introduce a bill requiring students to "only use bathrooms and locker rooms matching their birth" sex.
    • The bill is intended as a preemptive strike against the state Department of Education, which is drafting totally optional suggestions for supporting LGBT youth in schools. 

Ban racially-charged language! ....hey, wait, that's a good thing. 
  • The Democratic-majority Colorado House of Representatives has passed a bill that would strike the term "illegal alien" in state laws and replace it with with "undocumented worker" or "foreign national."
    • Will the bill make it through the GOP-controlled state Senate? We'll see...

BTW, #PeriodsforPence is one of the best things happening on the internet right now. (It's a creative backlash to the heinous anti-choice law signed by Indiana Gov. Pence last month, which, among other things, requires miscarried or aborted fetuses be cremated or interred.)

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