Thursday, May 9, 2019

Dear Mama edition

Happy almost Mother’s Day!
While many of us will take a pause this weekend to thank maternal figures in our lives, Republicans in state legislatures are busy doing things their moms are probably pretty ashamed of.
I mean, I know +my+ mom would be pretty embarrassed of me if I went around trying to keep people from voting or exercising their right to determine what they do with their own bodies or trying to throw student activists in jail or …
Well, you get the idea.
Mama Tried: … presumably, to teach her Republican Tennessee sons to not be garbage humans.
But woof did she fail.
  • A fews weeks ago, I wrote in this spaceabout the heinous anti-voter registration bill making its way through the Volunteer State legislature.
  • In case you’ve forgotten just how bad this new law is, allow me to refresh your recollection.
    • The law would fine community groups conducting voter registration drives that turn in incomplete applications.
      • The fine, a civil penalty, would be levied against groups who file 100 or more so-called “deficient” voter registration forms, starting at $150 in each county were a “violation” occurred.
        • A person or group that filed more more than 500 incomplete applications could be fined up to $10,000.
      • And as if that weren’t sufficient discouragement for folks looking to register voters, this bill also criminalizes the practice of setting a minimum goal of registration forms for workers to collect. Violators could face a fine of up to $2,500 and a year in jail.
    • This law creates some of the most aggressive voter registration penalties in the country.
      • Tennessee already ranks 45th out of 50 states in terms of its voter registration rate, so suppressing registration even further seems pretty bonkers.
        • … until you remember that Tennessee is run by Republicans and that Republicans really can’t stand things like “expanding the electorate” and “more people voting.”
      • Several groups that champion ballot box access, including NAACP and ACLU, are already suing over the new law.
But that’s not the only bullshit afoot in Tennessee.
  • Because it sure looks like the House speaker’s office tried to frame a black activistfor violating a no-contact order with the express purpose of getting him thrown in jail.
    • Also, Speaker Glen Casada’s chief of staff seems to be racist as hell.
      • And otherwise pretty awful.
  • Justin Jones is a Vanderbilt divinity student who’s been pushing GOP leadership on issues related to voting rights, as well as the removal of Confederate Gen. and KKK grand wizard Nathan Bedford Forrest’s bust from the statehouse.
    • Former GOP House Speaker Beth Harwell routinely met with Jones and his fellow activists to hear their concerns.
    • No such meetings have happened under Casada’s leadership.
  • In late February, Jones was arrested after someone threw a cup into the speaker’s own personal elevator.
  • Jones was released on bond on the condition he have no contact with Casada.
    • He’s obeyed the order and hasn’t set foot in the capitol for the past few months.
  • But Speaker Casada’s chief of staff, Cade Cothren, seems to really want to take away Jones’ freedom.
    • Why else would he have shared a copy of an email with the DA purporting to show that Jones sent this email to Cothren and copied Casada after he’d been released on bond, thus violating the no-contact order?
      • The thing is, Jones has a copy of his original email, and that email shows that it was sent before this arrest or the subsequent no-contact order.
      • Confronted with evidence of the doctored date on the email shared with the DA’s office, the speaker’s office claims there was a lag in terms of when the email was delivered vs. when it was sent due to “a security issue.”
        • Thankfully, the DA has stopped trying to throw Jones in jail over the issue.
  • Cothren’s apparently earned the ire of someone else, though.
    • A “former acquaintance” shared text messages from Cothren with a Tennessee TV station that demonstrate Cothren’s outright racist sentiments.
  • But wait—there’s more!
    • Cothren first tried to claim the texts had been fabricated, but when that TV station confronted him with texts from that same acquaintance in which he bragged about snorting cocaine in his legislative offices, he admitted they were real.
      • Casada, for his part, stood by his man, claiming that Cothren came to him about his personal struggles, including a drug problem, a few years ago and is working towards “redemption.”
  • But that was last week.
    • Over the weekend, still more incriminating texts surfaced.
    • This batch had Cothren:
      • Soliciting nude photos and oral sex from an intern
      • Seeking sex with a lobbyist
      • Referring to various women in demeaning or sexually explicit ways
      • And so forth, and so on.
        • And Speaker Casada—who was married at the time (gee, wonder why that didn’t last)—participated in some of these text exchanges, making gross comments about touching and intercourse with women.
    • After the article on these texts ran in The Tennessean on Monday, Cothren fell on his sword and resigned that night.
Fun fact! Cothren was pulling in almost $200,000 per year of taxpayer-funded salary!
Mama Said Knock You Out: … of voting eligibility right after you finally got it back, according to Florida Republicans.
  • You may recall that, last November, Floridians voted by a landslide (65-35) to approve a 2018 constitutional amendment to restore voting rights for as many as 1.4 million citizens who had fully completed their felony sentences.
  • But because we all know by now that Republicans just can’t stand it when more people vote, Republican legislators have sent GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis a bill (that he’s pledged to signthat would try to keep the vast majority of those citizens disenfranchised.
  • How?
    • By being sneaky, duplicitous bastards and imposing a measure straight out of the Jim Crow playbook: poll taxes, basically. The measure would require the payment of not just restitution, but also all court-related fines and “user fees” courts impose on defendants upon conviction.
      • These user fees are charged for such things as
        • applying for a public defender
        • receiving medical treatment in jail
        • participating in drug abuse treatment programs.
      • Those who receive probation face “surcharges” for
        • halfway house supervision and room-and-board
        • electronic monitoring
        • drug testing.
      • Convicted defendants are also charged fees to fund court costs and crime prevention programs.
      • And all this is on top of the up to $500,000 in criminal fines many face.
      • Many individuals convicted of felonies can never fully repay these exorbitant fees.
        • Finding employment post-incarceration is challenging enough, and few can afford to remit massive chunks of their pay back to the state.
    • Florida's felony disenfranchisement system itself is a remnant of Jim Crow: It was given its modern form shortly after the Civil War as part of a way of keeping black citizens from voting in a state that was nearly one-half black at the time.
  • By demanding that citizens pay all court fines and fees, Republicans could effectively roll back most of the 2018 amendment.
    • The potential impact of the Republicans’ diabolical policy is thus:
      • Of the 1.4 million Floridians who regained the right to vote via Amendment 4, over 1.1 million people would lose that right—and they’d be disproportionately black.
Mama Told Me (Not To Come): … look I’m sorry but Republicans keep pushing laws imposing their bullshit will on women’s bodies so yeah they should keep it in their damn pants until they butt out of our private and medical decisions. In the meantime, I’ll make unfortunate sex puns.
  • We’ve all heard about the unconstitutional abortion ban Republican Gov. Kemp just signed in Georgia (no, it is NOT a “heartbeat bill”; that’s just a garbage euphemism for “banning abortion before most women have any damn reason to know they’re even pregnant and journalists should stop using it), so I really don’t feel the need to flog it here.
  • But maybe not everyone’s heard about a bill in Ohio that would ban most forms of birth control.
    • It's a popular one, too—one fifth of the members of the state House (do I even need to tell you they’re all Republicans?) have signed on to House Bill 182, which would prevent most insurance companies from providing medical coverage for abortion procedures (including in cases of rape or incest).
    • Oh, and it also lays out a medically impossible procedure, because its very much non-doctor author thinks that life-threatening ectopic pregnancies (where a fertilized egg implants outside the uterus and will absolutely kill a woman if not removed) can just be plucked out of wherever they happen to be and re-implanted inside of the uterus.
      • Which is extremely not a thing.
    • Oh, and it also bans birth control that could stop a fertilized egg from implanting.
      • Which includes the pill, IUDs, and most other forms of birth control that aren’t, like, condoms.
  • The bill has had its first committee hearing.
    • Oh, and in case you’d forgotten, Ohio already has its very own six-week abortion ban.
Read the rest of this week's edition here.
Sign up to have This Week in Statehouse Action delivered hot and fresh to your inbox each week here.

No comments:

Post a Comment