A white-collar unionization wave is hitting legislative chambers in Democratic-leaning states across the nation. Frustrated by low pay and long hours, state house staffers in Massachusetts, California, New York and Washington state are seeking to organize. They hope to join their counterparts in Oregon, who became the first in the nation to unionize in 2021. The organizing effort in state capitols mirrors a similar push in Congress. In May, the Democratically-controlled U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution giving congressional staffers the legal right to negotiate over salaries, schedules, pay disparities, promotion policies and other workplace issues without the threat of retaliation. Since then, aides to eight progressive lawmakers have unionized.
Climate action advocate Bill McKibben welcomed a development he called "a gift to the planet" after Maine state lawmakers on Tuesday passed a groundbreaking bill committing the state to divesting its assets from the fossil fuel industry. LD 99—"An Act to Require the State to Divest Itself of Assets Invested in the Fossil Fuel Industry"—cleared the state Senate Tuesday in a 19-13 vote. It passed the House last week over the objections of Republicans like state Rep. Michael Lemelin (R-88), who asserted that lowering carbon emissions will kill trees. The legislation calls on the state treasury and state retirement system not to make any further investments in the fossil fuel industry and sets a 2026 deadline for fossil fuel divestment.
It was April 1, and Jestin Dupree had driven more than 400 miles from the Fort Peck Indian Reservation in northeastern Montana to the state’s capital, Helena, to testify against legislation that could be used to jail environmental protesters. For years, his tribe had been protesting the Keystone XL pipeline, which was to cross the Missouri River, their main source of water. Their efforts seemed to be vindicated when the project was cancelled by President Joe Biden during his first day in office. Montana’s new legislation, however, would allow environmental protesters to be jailed for up to 18 months if they obstruct operations at oil and gas facilities — and up to 30 years if they damage equipment. It seemed to be a direct rebuke to the Indigenous activism that had helped stop Keystone XL.
Cambridge, MA - The Massachusetts House of Representatives on Wednesday rejected an amendment to the state budget which would have Massachusetts adopt the IHRA definition of antisemitism, a definition that equates criticism of Israel with antisemitism, within its law on religious discrimination The problem amendment, called “Condemnation of Antisemitism and Adoption of IHRA Definition”, was submitted by Rep. Howitt (R. Seekonk) as amendment #300 to the state budget bill, H.4000. With only two days to respond before the amendment was considered, Jewish Voice for Peace- Boston, Massachusetts Peace Action, the Alliance for Water Justice in Palestine, and the Unitarian-Universalists for Justice in the Middle East mobilized quickly and contacted representatives and Palestinian rights supporters.
Bills targeting the transgender community have stalled all over the country this week as legislators debate the effects these laws will have on trans youth. 2021 has marked an onslaught of hate in state legislative sessions across the country as Republicans sponsored bills that seek to limit trans youth’s access to gender affirming health care as well as prohibit their ability to participate in school sports. While several have passed, multiple bills in at least six states have been set aside or gotten veto threats from governors this week. In Missouri, after a contentious debate between Republicans and Democrats, the state house agreed to put a proposal on hold that would require athletes to participate on sports teams based on the sex written on their birth certificate.
Tallahassee, Fla. - This morning, just days after the Republican-led Florida Senate voted to pass an unprecedented, costly and racially charged bill (House Bill 1) to censor protest, preempt local policing budgets and preserve symbols of white supremacy, Governor DeSantis is signing it into law. The bill passed despite widespread opposition by Floridians of all political ideologies and diverse sectors, after Governor DeSantis made it his number one legislative priority and lobbied behind doors to make sure it passed both Chambers as early as possible. The new law, which does nothing more than silence dissent and criminalize peaceful protestors, will disproportionately censor, incarcerate, and kill Black Floridians simply exercising their constitutional rights, setting a dangerous precedent of criminalization and repression.
On March 3, Missouri father Brandon Boulware begged lawmakers not to pass a bill that would ban his transgender daughter from participation in her dance squad, volleyball, and tennis teams. To date, a video of his testimony shared by the American Civil Liberties Union has impressively drawn more than 7.5 million views. But visibility alone has been no match for the tide of anti-trans legislation introduced over the past three months. The Missouri bill that Boulware testified against is just one of the more than 100 bills introduced around the country targeting trans people’s ability to update our identification documents to accurately reflect our gender, play sports in school, and access health care.
A committee within the Kentucky State Senate has advanced a bill that would make insulting a police officer a misdemeanor crime. The proposal, which is part of a larger bill that includes a number of other provisions related to criminalizing activists’ behavior during uprisings and protest events, comes in the same week as the one-year anniversary of the police-perpetrated killing of Breonna Taylor, which, along with other unjust killings of Black Americans by police, prompted a number of uprisings over the course of the past year. The portion of the bill that would criminalize statements made to police officers would amend the state statute on “disorderly conduct” in public spaces. Any person who “accosts, insults, taunts, or challenges a law enforcement officer with offensive or derisive words, or by gestures or other physical contact, that would have a direct tendency to provoke a violent response” in public would be guilty of disorderly conduct in the second degree, if the bill becomes law.
Nearly 550 collegiate athletes from across the nation signed onto a letter sent to the NCAA on Wednesday demanding that the association stop holding championships and events in states that have passed or are considering passing laws that effectively ban transgender women and girls—and, in at least one case, trans boys and men—from participating in youth and college sports aligned with their gender identity. Idaho passed such a bill last year, while ones in Mississippi and South Dakota are awaiting governors’ signatures. Similar laws in other states are expected to follow. “We, the undersigned NCAA student-athletes, are extremely frustrated and disappointed by the lack of action taken by the NCAA to recognize the dangers of hosting events in states that create a hostile environment for student-athletes,” the letter opened. Addressing NCAA President Mark Emmert and the NCAA Board of Governors, it continued...
While the Equality Act that passed recently in the House is getting attention, the critical struggle for the rights of transgender people is taking place in state legislatures. This year, 26 states have legislation that would criminalize the provision of gender-affirming care to youth, ban transgender students from participating in athletics and more. This is an increase from 20 states last year. These bills are being pushed through by conservative Christian groups. Clearing the FOG speaks with Chase Strangio, a lawyer with the ACLU LGBT project, who is tracking the bills and working to stop them. We discuss what these anti-transgender rights bills would do, where they are imminent and what people can do to stop them.
Just over two months into the new year, 2021 has already seen a flurry of public banking activity. Sixteen new bills to form publicly-owned banks or facilitate their formation were introduced in eight U.S. states in January and February. Two bills for a state-owned bank were introduced in New Mexico, two in Massachusetts, two in New York, one each in Oregon and Hawaii, and Washington State’s Public Bank Bill was re-introduced as a “Substitution.” Bills for city-owned banks were introduced in Philadelphia and San Francisco, and bills facilitating the formation of public banks or for a feasibility study were introduced in New York, Oregon (three bills), and Hawaii. In addition, California is expected to introduce a bill for a state-owned bank later this year, and New Jersey is moving forward with a strong commitment from its governor to implement one.
Dawn Goodwin spent her 50th birthday among towering pines and yellow birches whose tree rings make her lifespan seem like a child’s in comparison. But on that cool, overcast Saturday in December, the growling of construction trucks and chainsaws drowned out the natural soundscape of gushing freshwater and wind whispering between pine needles on the banks of the Mississippi River. Goodwin was at this river crossing near Palisade, Minnesota, to protest the construction of the energy company Enbridge’s Line 3 pipeline, a $9.3 billion project to carry tar-sands oil ― one of the dirtiest varieties of crude oil ― from Joliette, North Dakota, to a terminal facility in Clearbrook, Minnesota. From there, it’s distributed to refineries. Goodwin winced as workers felled a mighty spruce while clearing a 50-foot berth for the pipeline, its sappy rings laid bare as its crown thudded to the ground.
For almost a decade, advocates in Missouri have been lobbying their legislators to expand Medicaid coverage in the red state. Since the Supreme Court ruled in 2012 that the Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act was optional, 36 states plus Washington, D.C., have adopted and implemented the expansion. In those states where coverage has not been expanded, the decision has come at a devastating cost to Americans who fall into the "coverage gap," advocates said. "When the Affordable Care Act was originally passed, folks who were making up to 138% of the federal poverty level were supposed to be on Medicaid.
As COVID-19 numbers soared across the country this spring, tribal nations began closing their reservation boundaries to non-residents. The Cheyenne River Sioux and Oglala Sioux erected checkpoints on roads entering their reservations in order to protect their citizens, even as the state of South Dakota refused to require masks or mandate social distance. By early May, South Dakota Gov. Kirsti Noem, R, explicitly told the tribes to remove their checkpoints or face the consequences. Cheyenne River Sioux Tribal Chairman Harold Frazier declined, saying that doing so would “seriously undermine our ability to protect everyone on the reservation.”