Teachers continue striking and marching on the capitals in Oklahoma and Kentucky, states are taking action on gun control, Sinclair media got caught forcing their “fake news” promos on networks, and we learned that Americans protested in unprecedented numbers in the last year. There are also many state legislatures in session and therefore a lot of great action taking place at state levels that I could not possibly cover all of it in this blog, so I encourage you to check out what is going on in your state. Those of you from New York may notice I have not included the merging of the Independent Democratic Committee (“IDC”) back into the Democratic caucus, as a positive thing, I feel very mixed about this and I’m not calling it a real win, I leave it to you to decide for yourself. With all that being said, my highlights for this week are;
- #TeacherWalkout Thousands of teachers marched on state capitals in Oklahoma and Kentucky, closing down schools, and demanding pay increases and better funding for schools. Teachers in Oklahoma said the legislation raising average salaries by about $6,100 a year is insufficient to bring them on par with teachers in other states and are striking for a more livable wage.
- #BlueWave2018 Judge Rebecca Dallet, a liberal-aligned and democratic party backed candidate, won election to the Wisconsin state Supreme Court, the first time a liberal candidate has been elected to a seat on the Wisconsin Supreme Court since 1995. Voters in the state also soundly rejected a proposal to eliminate the state treasurer.
- #LoveTrumpsBadParenting One Maryland House member helped to pass a bill prohibiting “gay conversion therapy” on minors, like the one she was threatened with as a child by her Maryland State Senator father, who voted against the ban; the governor has expressed support for the legislation.
- #FairElections A U.S. District Judge ruled that Texas was in violation of the National Voter Registration Act which requires states to give residents the opportunity to register to vote when they apply for or renew their driver’s licenses.
- #LoveisLove Costa Rica elected Carlos Alvarado Quesada for President, who campaigned on a liberal, pro-gay marriage platform and Epsy Campbell Barr for Vice President the first woman of African descent to be elected vice president not just in Costa Rica, but anywhere in North or South America.
IN OTHER ELECTION WINS Sandra Cano (D) won a special election for the Rhode Island senate and Sydney Kamlager (D) won a special election for a seat in the California Assembly, maintaining those seats in democratic control.
🧕🏻STANDING UP FOR IMMIGRANTS are jurors, San Gabriel, and Washington State. The San Gabriel City Council voted to approve a “safe cities” resolution affirming the city’s commitment to its immigrant population. A jury awarded nearly $17 million to a former Ford engineer who sued the automaker for discrimination after supervisors repeatedly harassed him over his Middle Eastern background and accent. On a related note, Washington state will now officially observe March 31 as Cesar Chavez Day.
⚖️ FIGHTING FOR AND WINNING ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL JUSTICE ALL OVER THE COUNTRY starting with the amazing Oklahoma teachers seizing every floor of the state Capitol during their ongoing strike for more education funding. The Pittsburgh Mayor issued an order providing nonunion employees who are victims of domestic violence with access to paid sick leave. Alabama became the final state to enact a consumer data breach notification law. Iowa passed a new law that expands mental health services in the state. The Arizona legislature send a bill to the governor setting 16 as the minimum age for marriage, with some exceptions, in a state that currently has no minimum, hope the Governor thinks it’s okay to stop 10 year olds from marrying. The Interior Dept. backed off from a plant to substantially raise the entrance fee for national parks after more than 100,000 people commented against the proposed hikes. A judge denied OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma’s request to dismiss a Washington State lawsuit against them over the state’s opioid epidemic.
TACKLING DISCRIMINATION ON SO MANY FRONTS A federal judge ruled the EPA violated the law by allowing five separate civil rights complaints to “languish for decades” in violation of its own rules in cases involving complaints filed over heavy industrial operations, landfills, or hazardous waste facilities located in minority communities. A Judge in California threatened to block anti-camping laws to force Orange County to come up with a solution to the areas growing homeless population.
👩🏾⚖️CRIMINAL JUSTICE REFORM makes progress in states and cities. The spread of marijuana decriminalization continues with Berkeley enacting a law banning the use of city resources or funds to aid the enforcement of drug laws related to marijuana on a federal level and the Albuquerque City Council made possession of one ounce or less of marijuana and drug paraphernalia a civil infraction with a fine of $25 instead of a criminal violation. Nashville adopted broader guidelines for granting pretrial release to defendants without bail to allow more people to be released who cannot afford bail. Massachusetts passed a major criminal reform package which includes massive changes such as; 1) raising the minimum age someone can be held criminally responsible to 12, 2) adding ability to pay as a factor in determining bail, 3)increased used of diversion programs, 4) easier to seal criminal records for crimes committed under 21, 5) restrictions on the use of solitary confinement, 6) allowing compassionate for medical reasons for prisoners who pose no safety risk, and 7)elimination of mandatory sentencing minimums for low level drug crimes (except for opioids)
🌎SAVING THE ENVIRONMENT by any means possible is a real thing in fourteen states that filed suit accusing the EPA of failing to issue regulations for curbing emissions of methane, a greenhouse pollutant, from oil and gas operations as required under the Clean Air Act. The Virginia Governor signed an executive order directing the Virginia Dept. of Environmental Quality to updates its regulations, strengthen enforcement of environmental standards, identify the causes of permitting delays, and improve transparency. New Jersey joined eight other states in the Clean Car Initiative, a cooperative effort to bolster the sale of zero-emission vehicles. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission denied a request by Atlantic Coast Pipeline to cut down trees for the pipeline’s construction during migratory bird season. Colombia’s highest court ruled the government must take urgent action to protect its Amazon rainforest and stem rising deforestation. Scientists provided new fuel for the banning plastic bag movement with newly released research showing a 30% drop in plastic bags on the seabed floor in areas close to Norway, Germany, France, and Ireland a few years after policies placing fees and bans on plastic bags in some European countries were implemented.
👩#MeToo AND WOMEN’S RIGHTS The recently passed NYS budget bill included some small in number, but big in impact provisions, which include mandated free feminine hygiene products in public schools, health insurance coverage of donor breast milk, and baby changing stations in all renovated buildings. The Supreme Court rejected an appeal by abortion opponents of a ruling blocking the release of videos that they allege exposes illegal sales of aborted fetal tissue after a judge found no evidence of such activity in the video.
🗽BECAUSE MONUMENTS AND NAMES MATTER to the people who see them. Portraits of congressional icons Louis Stokes and Stephanie Tubbs Jones will be permanently showcased at the Cleveland Public Library. The San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted to name San Francisco International Airport Terminal 1 in honor of Harvey Milk, the first openly gay elected official in America. Denmark unveiled its first public monument to a black woman, which celebrates Mary Thomas, a 19th-century rebel who led the largest labor revolt in Danish colonial history in St Croix. The U.S. Supreme Court turned down an appeal of a decision that ended the placement of a cross on public land in Michigan.
REAL GUN CONTROL HAPPENED IN A NUMBER OF STATES, CITIES, BACKED BY SUPPORTIVE COURT DECISIONS. Vermont Gov. announced he will sign sweeping gun control measures passed by the legislature that include a ban on bump stocks, limits on the size of magazines, the expansion of background checks on buyers and raising the purchase age. A bill banning bump stocks in Maryland was passed and sent to the governor to sign. Deerfield (IL) Village Board voted to ban assault weapons along with high-capacity magazines, including the AR-15. The courts rules that a Missouri law preventing gun ownership by felons was upheld by the Missouri Supreme Court and a U.S. District Judge upheld Massachusetts’s ban on assault weapons. And down in Tennessee a bill to arm school teachers failed to pass.
🏳️🌈LGBTQ PROGRESS IN MANY STATES, PUERTO RICO, AND COLUMBIA A federal court struck down a policy in Puerto Rico that prohibits transgender people born there from amending the gender marker on their birth certificates and ordered officials to allow those corrections. The Mississippi Supreme court reversed a lower court ruling denying parental rights to the non-biological parent of a child born during the marriage of sex couples. A transgender Iowa boy will be allowed to attend an American Legion Boy’s high school program, after the state board first denied him acceptance into the program when he was nominated by his local post. Colombia elected its first two openly LGBTQ national politicians, one to the country’s Senate and one to the House of Representatives. The ACLU is suing the Ohio Department of Health on behalf of transgender individuals to compel the state to allow them to change their birth certificates to reflect their gender identity. A kindergarten teacher who faced heated criticism from conservatives after she read a book about a transgender child to her class was named teacher of the year by the California Charter Schools Association.
🕫🗳️VOTING RIGHTS AND MOBILIZATION on the right track. Anchorage’s first ever vote-by-mail election resulted in the highest ever voter turnout in the city’s history. A judge ordered Maine’s secretary of state to continue to move forward with implementing ranked-choice voting for the June primaries. A U.S. District Judge ordered North Dakota to expand the allowable voter ID Native Americans can use when voting to include tribal documents and eliminated the requirement that those documents include residential street addresses, which aren’t always assigned on reservations.
ELECTION RELATED NEWS Tennessee democrats say they have candidates running for 112 out of the 117 state legislature seats up for election in 2018, their largest slate of challengers in years. There are now 17 states and 7 cities suing the Census Bureau to try to remove the new citizenship question from the 2020 census.
📰FREE SPEECH, FREEDOM OF THE PRESS AND THE FIGHT AGAINST “FAKE NEWS” Facebook users who sued the Maryland Gov. for blocking them on his official Facebook page after leaving critical comments reached a settlement that provides for a payment of $65,000 to the users and more importantly, a revised social media policy for the governor’s official social media accounts that limits who can be blocked and sets up an appeal process for those who think their comments have been improperly deleted. Sinclair news is facing backlash against their fake news and pro-trump agenda with ads running on their own stations against them, boycotts by celebrities, staff resignations, and politicians refusing to run ads on their stations. And on a side note, “The Rachel Maddow Show” scored the highest ratings in cable news in March, beating out “Hannity.”
💓STOPPING THE SPREAD OF HATE Dayanna Volitich, a middle school teacher who hosted a white supremacist podcast resigned after being identified publicly as the person behind the podcast. The anti-transgender Anchorage Alaska Ballot initiative, defining “sex” based on “original birth certificate” and restricting restroom usage in municipal buildings was defeated by voters. A bill in Tennessee that would have provided state funded defense of school systems if they were sued after adopting anti-transgender bathrooms/locker room policies died in committee. The Maryland legislature sent a bill to the governor that strengthens the state’s hate crime law to include groups of people and require more wide-ranging data collection. An outside the box thinking activists sent elected officials in Ocean Springs Mississippi packages with white sheets and a note that says “I wasn’t quite sure of your size so consider this a do it yourself kit. The other option of course, being to grow a spine, publicly denounce the Klan and take down the flag.”
👩🎓BREAKING BARRIERS A record number of 309 women from the two major parties have filed to run for the U.S. House, topping the previous record of 298 in 2012 using data going back to 1992. The Seattle school board picks its first ever Native American superintendent. The University of Tulsa named Janet K. Levit provost, she is the first woman to serve as UT provost. The White Mountain Apache Tribe elected their first-ever tribal chairwoman. Gloria Reyes was elect to the Madison Metropolitan School District Board, becoming the first Latina to serve on the board. Ellen Stofan was named director of the Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum and will be the first woman to hold this position. Jean Bye became the first female president of American Foundry Society, NYU’s Tandon School of Engineering named its first woman dean.
🙂FOR YOUR INFORMATION A federal judge sentenced Alex van der Zwaan to 30 days in prison for lying to federal investigators in the first criminal sentence to result from Mueller’s investigation. The creator of “Will & Grace,” will donate a copy of “A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo” to every elementary school in Indiana, Pence’s home state. An Oklahoma teacher received $444,000 in supplies after posting a picture of a broken chair to highlight the lack of resources and conditions in her classroom.
🧟ANOTHER ONE BITES THE DUST Out the revolving door of the White House this week we have, DJ Gribbin lead infrastructure policy adviser. Top political appointees at agencies departing due to scandals are Samantha Dravis, at the EPA and Todd Johnson at the Dept. of Defense (I can’t even say I care or am surprised at whatever they did wrong). Also leaving sooner than expected is Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-TX) who resigned effective Friday, instead of serving out the rest of his term.
Blog note: Next week’s roundup will be posted on Thursday 4-12-18 instead of the usual Sunday 4-15-18 to allow for a four day vacation from this madness. The next one after that will come out on the usual Sunday 4-22-18.