The Dirty Thirty – March 2012 Edition
On March 14, 2011 we first published a list of thirty pieces of Republican legislation “that Republicans are using to destroy America” and called it “The Dirty Thirty.” That original list has been updated several times and grown significantly although the list is incomplete, given there have been a thousand bills alone restricting a woman’s right to abortion. If most of the laws directed toward Women’s Reproductive Rights seem petty and punitive, well…they are. In fact, the goal of Republican legislation seems increasingly to be this: to punish the rest of us for not being like them.
Some readers have objected to the use of the term “war” in this series of articles but I believe in calling things for what they are and there is no other way to describe the sustained legislative attack on women’s reproductive rights, marriage equality, the environment, education, children, the poor and unemployed and the middle class. The chart below from the Guttmacher Institute is illustrative of my point:
There are over 20 new items on the newest list, including several 2011 items previously excluded, and also new pieces of 2012 legislation. An effort has also been made to provide updated news on the fate of various pieces of legislation and a new category, “Doomsday Legislation”, has been added thanks to continued Republican insanity.
(As always, new items and categories in red).
The War on Women’s Reproductive Rights
Despite an electorate that is overwhelmingly pro-choice, there is no doubt that the GOP’s first goal is to deprive women of their reproductive rights and to frame that argument not as one of health but religion. It is in fact so important an issue to the GOP that out of some 40,000 laws of all types enacted in 2011, as RMuse wrote here recently, “there were nearly 1,000 bills in state legislatures to restrict a woman’s right to legal abortion services” (up from 950 in 2010). Alternet lists the 10 worst states in which to be a woman. The lone piece of good news was the unexpected sanity of Mississippi voters.
o A recent report from the Guttmacher Institute details the extent of 2011’s war on Women’s Reproductive Rights. The report states,
- By almost any measure, issues related to reproductive health and rights at the state level received unprecedented attention in 2011. In the 50 states combined, legislators introduced more than 1,100 reproductive health and rights-related provisions, a sharp increase from the 950 introduced in 2010. By year’s end, 135 of these provisions had been enacted in 36 states, an increase from the 89 enacted in 2010 and the 77 enacted in 2009. (Note: This analysis refers to reproductive health and rights-related “provisions,” rather than bills or laws, since bills introduced and eventually enacted in the states contain multiple relevant provisions.)
- Fully 68% of these new provisions—92 in 24 states—-restrict access to abortion services, a striking increase from last year, when 26% of new provisions restricted abortion. The 92 new abortion restrictions enacted in 2011 shattered the previous record of 34 adopted in 2005.
- Abortion restrictions took many forms:
- bans (6 states),
- waiting periods (3 states),
- ultrasound 5 states),
- insurance coverage (3 states joined the existing 5 with such restrictions),
- clinic regulations (4 states),
- medication abortion (7 states).
Republican legislators have introduced a wide array of laws designed to either outlaw abortion outright or to discourage it by making ridiculous and sometimes humiliating requirements of women who might consider having a pregnancy terminated. These include so-called TRAP (Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers) regulations.
- Republicans in the House proposed a bill (HR 1179) called “Respect for Rights of Conscience Act of 2011.” The bill, introduced by Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb), allows health care providers and pharmacists to deny birth control to women if it conflicts with their religious or moral convictions. The Senate is expected to vote on its version of HR 1179 during the week of February 27 where it is known as S. 1467, whose primary sponsor is Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) and has become an amendment to Transportation Authorization Bill S. 1813. The Blunt Amendment was defeated in the Senate on a narrow vote of 51 to 48 on March 1, 2012.
- In Texas, Rep. George Lavender, R-Texarkana, has proposed a bill (House Bill 2988) that would prevent any abortion except in cases of rape, incest or the life of the mother.
- In Georgia, a bill, the “Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act” (SB 209) sponsored by Sen. Barry Loudermilk, R-Cassville, would close all abortion clinics in the state and require abortions to be performed in hospitals. This bill was tabled by the rules committee on March 11, 2011.
- South Dakota wants to require “spiritual” counseling (House Bill 1217) at religious centers before allowing an abortion to take place. The bill was signed into law in March 2011 and challenged in court by Planned Parenthood and the ACLU in May. We still haven’t heard what the courts will decide in this case (though a federal judge has suspended most of the law in the interim) and Republicans aren’t waiting to find out. The South Dakota House of Representatives approved a bill on February 13 sponsored by Rep. Roger Hunt, R-Brandon that changes counseling requirements. Women seeking abortions will still have to wait 72 hours and endure spiritual counseling but now requires those counselors be licensed. The consulting doctor will now have to decide if it is likely the woman will develop mental health problems as a result of the abortion. As a side note, in both 2006 and 2008 voters rejected attempts to outlaw most abortions.
- Also in South Dakota, H.B. 1166, which was enacted in 2005, was, says RHRealityCheck.org, billed as an “informed consent law,” but what it really mandated was misinformation, requiring doctors “to tell a woman seeking an abortion that she faces an ‘increased risk of suicide ideation and suicide,’ a claim for which there is absolutely no scientific or medical evidence.” On September 2, 2011, “Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals threw out important provisions of a South Dakota law that literally forced doctors to lie to their patients.”
- The Texas State House of Representatives has passed the Sonogram Bill (HB 15), a measure requiring women to get a sonogram before ending a pregnancy, forcing even victims of rape to have a sonogram at least 24 hours before the procedure. Gov. Rick Perry has signed the bill into law, which takes effect September 1, 2011. There are exceptions in cases of rape and incest. As Planned Parenthood reports: “While a woman can opt-out of seeing the sonogram image and hearing the heart tone, she cannot opt-out of a medically unnecessary sonogram, nor can she opt-out of the fetal description except within very narrow parameters for situations of rape, incest, judicial bypasses, and fetal anomalies.”
- Also from Texas, the passage of SB 257, passed by House and Senate on May 5, 2011 and signed by the governor on May 17, 2011 provides for “Choose Life” license plates. As explained by Planned Parenthood: “The state will now produce “Choose Life” license plates and distribute revenue from the sale of the plates to anti-choice groups such as crisis pregnancy centers (CPC). The “Alternative to Abortion” program currently receives $4 million dollars a year in taxpayer money through the Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) that is distributed to CPCs. CPC are unregulated anti-choice organizations that do not provide any medical services and are known to spend nearly half of the tax dollars they receive on advertising and administrative costs, not client services.”
- Georgia State Representative Bobby Franklin has introduced a bill that would not only make abortion illegal but would make miscarriages illegal.
- Indiana (House Bill 1210) wants to force doctors to lie to women about abortion causing breast cancer despite medical evidence to the contrary in order to discourage women from having abortions
- Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) introduced a bill in the U.S. House of Representatives, the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act,” (HR 3) that would limit the rape exemption for abortion to “forcible rape” which would have defined many rapes, for example, statutory rape of a minor, as non-forcible and therefore not covered by federal assistance. Mother Jones has reported another aspect of this legislation, that the IRS would be turned into abortion-cops: “Were this to become law, people could end up in an audit, the subject of which could be abortion, rape, and incest,” says Christopher Bergin, the head of Tax Analysts, a nonpartisan, not-for-profit tax policy group. “If you pass the law like this, the IRS would be required to enforce it.”
- Representative Joe Pitts (R-PA) introduced a bill (HR 358 – the “Protect Life Act”) would allow states to deny insurance coverage for birth control meaning hospitals could deny abortion procedures and transport to a facility that would provide a woman with an abortion even if failure to provide an abortion would mean the death of the woman. The “Let Women Die Act” passed the House on 10/13/11.
- Louisiana State Rep. John LaBruzzo, R-Metairie, in what he calls a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade, wants to make both women and doctors who have and perform abortions guilty of the crime of “feticide”. This “personhood amendment” (House Bill 587)would make no exceptions for cases of danger to the health of the mother, incest or rape but would for “medically necessary” abortions.
Feticide is currently punishable by 5 to 15 years in prison. LaBruzzo once wanted to pay poor women $1,000 to have their tubes tied because he was afraid they were “reproducing at a faster rate than more affluent, better-educated people who presumably pay more tax revenue to the government,” says Nola.com….
- Update: HB 587 became HB 645 on May 25, 2011 and to the relief of sane people everywhere eventually derailed in the state House.
- The U.S. House of Representatives passed (by a 234-182 vote) an amendment sponsored by Virginia Foxx (R-NC) prohibiting teaching hospitals from receiving federal funding if they teach doctors how to perform abortions. Unfortunately, as a result of this legislation new physicians will not receive the training needed to save women’s lives. As Correntewire.com… puts it, “234 members of the House voted to ban the teaching of medical procedures that are vital in saving the lives of women who have miscarried, or have complications that endanger their health, or who aren’t even pregnant.”
- In Ohio, Janet Porter’s “Heartbeat Bill” criminalizing abortion and which was backed by Newt Gingrich and Michele Bachmann, passed the Ohio State House on June 28, 2011. “It prohibits abortions after only about six weeks, a time when many women do not yet even know they are pregnant,” said Armond Budish, leader of the Democratic caucus in the House. The bill is currently being held up in the Senate. See the latest update on Porter’s antics at Right Wing Watch.
- Also in Ohio, The state budget, approved June 28, 2011 by the Senate, bars state hospitals from performing abortions.
- Mother Jones reports that “Every abortion provider in the state of Kansas has been denied a license to continue operating as of July 1 .” This is the result, according to Mother Jones, of passage in April of a law “directing the Kansas Department of Health and Environment to author new facility standards for abortion clinics, which the staunchly anti-abortion GOP governor, Sam Brownback, signed into law on May 16.” It turns out that if you want to know how these new rules were developed, you can’t, because the Republicans don’t want to tell you, and won’t.
- On July 1, 2011 a budget impasse shut down the government of the state of Minnesota. The Republican majorities in the house and senate refuse to negotiate in good faith, insisting that a list of social issues be included in the budget, including abortion restrictions.
- In Arizona, the House of Representatives passed House Bill 2443 sponsored by Republican Rep. Steve Montenegro, on February 21, 2011. The bill, if passed into law, would criminalize abortions being performed because of the race or sex of the fetus. Montenegro claims that “there are targeted communities that the abortion industry targets.” If made law, HB 2443 would require that “women seeking abortions in Arizona will have to sign a statement declaring that race or sex was not the reason they sought the procedure.”
- In Illinois Rep. Darlene Senger, R-Naperville in March 2011 submitted a bill – anti-abortion legislation mind, which would require clinics that perform more than 50 abortions a year to meet the same regulatory requirements as other medical outpatient surgery clinics – to the House Agriculture and Conservation Committee. Why, you ask? Because the agriculture committee is dominated by conservative downstate Democrats and Republicans. And guess what? They passed it: unanimously.
- In Florida, during a debate about a bill “that would prohibit governments from deducting union dues from a worker’s paycheck,” Rep. Scott Randolph (D-Orlando) said “if my wife’s uterus was incorporate” the legislature “would be talking about deregulating.” Rep. Randolph was then taken to task for using the word “uterus” by the House leadership, which said that the word was “language that would be considered inappropriate for children and other guests.”
- In Florida Republicans passed House Bill 501 redistributes funds from “Choose Life” license plates to the Ocala-based Choose Life, Inc, which the Florida Association of Planned Parenthood Affiliates says will “result in more funds being given to ‘crisis pregnancy centers,’ anti-abortion organizations that falsely market themselves as professional health facilities.”
- In Virginia, RH Reality Check reports that “Governor Bob McDonnell found time to issue regulations for first trimester abortion providers that go well beyond any existing regulations seen in other states, including South Carolina, according to the Virginia Coalition to Protect Women’s Health.” Apparently, these “draft” regulations ” (SB 924) were formulated under an emergency process that bypasses public review and comment periods and standard economic assessments for new regulations and is undemocratic on its face.” They will be put into effect up to 18 months to 2 years in advance of any permanent regulations. In a blatant attempt to eliminate first trimester abortions, reports RH Reality Check, the regulations “contain what can only be called ridiculous mandates for abortion providers, such as requiring specific sizes of rooms and lengths of hallways which have nothing to do with either patient care or safety.” See also the article in Mother Jones about how these new rules would affect the Falls Church Planned Parenthood Clinic.
- In the U.S. House the Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act (PRENDA) otherwise known as HR 3541, is being called a “civil rights” bill by its Republican sponsors. Under this bill, physicians would be banned from performing abortions based on the race of the fetus, something that does not happen anyway, apparently, since nobody could offer any evidence that it did.
- WRAL.com… reports that “A Cabarrus County lawmaker wants to bring back public hangings in North Carolina as a deterrent to crime, and he says doctors who perform abortions should be in the line to the gallows.” According to WRAL, “Republican Rep. Larry Pittman, who was appointed to the District 82 House seat in October, expressed his views in an email sent Wednesday to every member of the General Assembly.” Pittman said in his email: “If murderers (and I would include abortionists, rapists, and kidnappers, as well) are actually executed, it will at least have the deterrent effect upon them. For my money, we should go back to public hangings, which would be more of a deterrent to others, as well.” Pittman calls himself a pastor and says he didn’t mean to send the email to everybody, only to Rep. Tim Moore, R-Cleveland. Republicans need to learn to be careful around demon-technology.
- In Iowa, House File 2298, introduced by Rep. Kim Pearson, R-Pleasant Hill, would criminalize all abortions, including those resulting from rape and incest and would make no exceptions for the life of the mother when put at risk by her pregnancy. The punishment for ending a life (excepting of course the life of a mother) would be life in prison and women who miscarry will face criminal investigation.
- In Georgia, Senate Bill 434, sponsored by Sen. Judson Hill, R-Marietta, (he proposed calling it the “Federal Abortion Mandate Opt-Out Act”) would ban healthcare providers from covering abortion except in cases where the mother’s life is endangered.
- Also in Georgia, Senate Bill 438, sponsored by Sen. Mike Crane (R-Newman), would “provide that no health insurance plan for employees of the state shall offer coverage for abortion services.”
- Again in Georgia, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported on February 15, 2012, “A bill to limit abortions is also being considered in the House. House Bill 954, sponsored by Rep. Doug McKillip, R-Athens, was filed last week and is what is commonly referred to as a ‘fetal pain’ bill. It says that a fetus can react to pain at 20 weeks, and it seeks to outlaw abortions at or past 20 weeks of pregnancy.”
- Kansas Republicans have unleashed a blitzkrieg on women’s reproductive rights. A Kansas house subcommittee will began considering a bill Wednesday that draws inspiration from anti-abortion laws in Texas, Oklahoma and Arizona. Reports HuffPo: “The bill includes provisions similar to those found in other state laws now facing federal lawsuits, including Texas’ requirement that the mother hear the fetal heartbeat, and Oklahoma’s mandate that mothers be told about a potential risk of breast cancer with an abortion. It also would replicate Arizona’s provision prohibiting tax deductions for abortion-related groups.” Women would also have to undergo a sonogram before having an abortion. The bill’s sponsor is Kansas’ House Federal and State Affairs Committee. The Kansas City Star reports that “The bill is one of four abortion-related measures pending in the Legislature.”
- Think Progress reports that “In the escalating war on women’s rights in statehouse across the country, Iowa state Rep. Kim Pearson (R) may have just dropped the biggest bomb yet.” House File 2298 introduces the crime of “Fetacide”: “Any person who intentionally terminates a human pregnancy, with the knowledge and voluntary onsent of the pregnant person, after the end of the second trimester of the pregnancy where death of the fetus results, commits feticide. Feticide is a class “C” “A” felony. Any person who attempts to intentionally terminate a human pregnancy, with the knowledge and voluntary consent of the pregnant person, after the end of the second trimester of the pregnancy where death of the fetus does not result, commits attempted feticide. Attempted feticide is a class “D” “B” felony.” A class A felony is punishable by life in prison, class B by 25 years. Keep in mind abortion is legal in the United States (see Roe v. Wade).
- Louisiana seems intent on following the general Republican practice of taking extreme stances against abortion. Case in point: a new piece of legislation (SB 330), filed March 1, 2012 by Sen. Rick Ward III, D-Maringouin, would outlaw abortion by anyone but a licensed physician and label any abortion performed “by any individual who is not a physician licensed by the state of Louisiana” would be deemed a brand new crime: “dismemberment” (“aggravated criminal abortion by dismemberment” to be precise). Violators, reports Nola.com…, “would face a prison term of one to five years, a fine of $5,000 to $50,000 or a jail sentence and a fine.” The bill “defines a physician as someone who holds a medical or an osteopathic degree from a medical college in ‘good standing with the Louisiana State Board of Medical Examiners’ and has a license, permit, certification or registration issued by the board to practice medicine in the state.”
- Also in Louisiana, reports Planned Parenthood, “House Concurrent Resolution 54, by Rep. Frank Hoffman (West Monroe – R), aimed to encourage Congress to defund Planned Parenthood, but was tied up in Senate Finance at the close of the [2011 legislative] session” which ended June 23, 2011. Hoffman claims, reports Nola.com…, that “that giving the organization federal funding for services such as screenings for breast and cervical cancer indirectly helps Planned Parenthood provide abortions.”
- A last item from Louisiana: On July 6, 2011, Gov. Bobby Jindal signed into law Rep. Frank Hoffman’s HB 636. As Planned Parenthood reports: “HB 636 requires Abortion providers to post coercion prevention/abortion alternative signs and gives DHH the authority to develop a new abortion alternatives website. Visitors to the website will not receive comprehensive information about pregnancy options; agencies that provide comprehensive pregnancy options education or provide abortion care will not be allowed to post information on the site.”
o Legalizing the Murder of Abortion Doctors
- South Dakota flirted with a law to make the murder of an abortion doctor legal as self-defense
- When South Dakota was forced to drop the idea of murdering abortion doctors, Nebraska and Iowa picked up the idea
- A total of 37 states mandate abstinence education while contraception falls increasingly under attack by Republican legislatures.
- According to the Guttmacher Report, “Mississippi, which had long mandated abstinence education, adopted provisions that make it more difficult for a school district to include other subjects, such as contraception, in order to offer a more comprehensive curriculum. A district will now need to get specific permission to do so from the state department of education.”
- According to the Guttmacher Report, “A new requirement enacted in North Dakota mandates that the health education provided in the state include information on the benefits of abstinence “until and within marriage.”
In 2011 the trend in anti-abortion legislation was passage of laws that would give fertilized eggs the rights of “personhood” – in other words, fertilized eggs would have the same rights as you or me – a blatant ploy to attack women’s reproductive rights. Florida, Montana and Ohio will have “personhood” on the ballot in 2012 and according to CNN “efforts in at least five other states are in the planning stages.” Mississippi has just rejected one such extremist measure and Colorado and South Dakota have also rejected them. In 2012, mandatory ultrasounds have become the rage. However, Republican legislators seem to be realizing that voters aren’t exactly jumping on the bandwagon.
- In Iowa a pregnant woman was arrested for falling down a flight of stairs. Yes, for falling down a flight of stairs. You see, following a fight on the phone with her husband, Christine Taylor fell down a flight of stairs. Like any responsible pregnant woman would, she went to the hospital to check on the fetus – and was arrested thanks to one of the many state laws that grant fetuses rights separate from the mother. Iowa has a “feticide” law that pertains to the second trimester and beyond, and since Taylor confessed that she had contemplated abortion but had chosen to have the baby, the nurse and doctor at the hospital decided to phone the police and accuse her of trying to terminate her pregnancy illegally. She was fortunate not to be charged with a crime – for falling down the stairs.
- Nebraska banned abortions after 20 weeks on the unscientific grounds that fetuses feel pain at that gestational age. Shortly thereafter, Danielle Deaver discovered at 22 weeks she had a pregnancy that could not result in a living baby. Yet Nebraska law denied her an abortion. Nebraska is not alone, and Deaver will not be alone. Legislators in 12 other states — Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, New Mexico and Oregon — are considering similar laws. But banning abortion could not save Deaver’s fetus: With undeveloped lungs, the baby likely would never survive outside the womb, and because all the amniotic fluid had drained, the tiny growing fetus slowly would be crushed by the uterus walls. On Dec. 8, Deaver delivered 1-pound, 10-ounce Elizabeth, who, as doctors had predicted, lived for only 15 minutes outside the womb.
- Idaho is the latest state, inspired by Nebraska’s example, to put such a law on the books. Senate Bill 1165 bans abortion after 20 weeks but leaves no loophole even for cases of rape. Their justification? The bill’s House sponsor, state Rep. Brent Crane, R-Nampa, told legislators that the “hand of the Almighty” was at work. “His ways are higher than our ways,” Crane said. “He has the ability to take difficult, tragic, horrific circumstances and then turn them into wonderful examples. And Rep. Shannon McMillan, R-Silverton says, “Is not the child of that rape or incest also a victim?” asked “It didn’t ask to be here. It was here under violent circumstances perhaps, but that was through no fault of its own.”[...]
- On February 11, 2011, the North Dakota House of Representatives passed House Bill 1450; a bill which seeking to define a fertilized egg as a human being. As Planned Parenthood reports, “HB 1450 is backed by a national activist group, Personhood USA, working to make North Dakota the epicenter of a heated national debate.”
- The Oklahoma House of Representatives voted 94 to 2 to a ban on abortion’s later than 20 weeks of gestation similar to Nebraska’s in what it called the “Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act.” Bill 1888 was signed into law in April 2011 by Republican governor Mary Fallin, who signed every anti-abortion bill that came to her desk in 2011. Oklahoma became the third state “to restrict abortions on the basis of fetal pain” (joining Kansas and Nebraska) reported the Oklahoman at the time.
- A personhood bill in Louisiana sponsored by Republican State Rep. John LaBruzzo that would have banned all abortions in the state was defeated when a House vote sent it to the House Appropriations Committee, which shelved the measure. This is not the end, however, as this fall a referendum on a personhood amendment.
- Ohio has joined the personhood amendment sweepstakes. Personhood Ohio is gathering signatures to add an abortion ban to the state’s constitution in 2012, defining as a person even fertilization of an egg. Even a fertilized egg apparently as inalienable rights. The measure would not only ban abortion, but contraception. Personhood Ohio hasn’t announced any plans to see to the caring of all the resultant births.
- In Virginia, State Del. C Todd Gilbert (R-Woodstock) described abortion as nothing more than a “lifestyle convenience” for women during a debate in support of a bill (SB 484) that would require women to receive trans-vaginal ultrasounds before obtaining an abortion. The patient will be shown not only an image of the fetus but the audio of its heartbeat. The Virginia House of Delegates passed the bill, making Virginia the seventh state to require such ultrasounds. Texas and Iowa are also considering such measures. A recent development is the sudden opposition by Governor Bob McDonnell to the trans-vaginal ultrasound provision. The bill now mandates external ultrasound. The bill will now go back to the Senate.
- In Mississippi, a ballot initiative, Measure 26 (The Personhood Amendment), would have, if passed (it fortunately did not) defined zygotes, embryos—even a fertilized egg—as a person. Women would have been unable to have an abortion even in the case of rape or incest – even if her life is in danger, and IUDs, birth control pills and other forms of contraception would have become illegal. Update: Mississippi tried it again: House Concurrent Resolution 61 aka “The Right to Life Amendment of 2012,” (HC 61) would “provide that the right to life is the paramount and most fundamental right of a person; to provide that the world ‘person’ applies to all human beings from conception to natural death.” TPM reports that the bill “was co-authored by three Republicans and one Democrat.” Fortunately, this bill died in committee on March 6, 2012; for the time being, women’s reproductive rights will enjoy a reprieve in Mississippi.
- In California, conservatives are peddling the “California Human Rights Amendment”. It is okay to condemn people after they’re born but you must let them be born first. This latest personhood gimmick claims the “inherent human rights, dignity and worth of all human beings from the beginning of their biological development as human beings” but its real goal is to make abortion illegal – even in cases of rape or incest (“regardless of the means by which they were procreated”), or fetal anomaly. In other words, taking away women’s reproductive rights is a promotion of human rights.
- In the U.S. House of Representatives, the Sanctity of Human Life Act (HR 212) proposed by Rep. Paul Broun’s (R-Ga.) “includes” reports Mother Jones, “language that directly parallels that of the Mississippi personhood amendment.” According to HR 212, “the life of each human being begins with fertilization, cloning, or its functional equivalent…at which time every human being shall have all the legal and constitutional attributes and privileges of personhood.”
- In Florida, Personhood Florida, with support from Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council (FRC), is moving forward with a petition to put a personhood amendment on the 2014 general election ballot.
- In Oklahoma, eggs are about to become people. The bill (HJR- 1067) introduced on January 12, 2012, bears a resemblance to the recently rejected Mississippi law (see Measure 26 above, this category). Republican Rep. Mike Reynolds, the author of the bill, says it won’t apply to miscarriages or to cases where the mother’s life is threatened, but no exceptions are made for rape or incest (though he claims there are), and it would ban birth control and in vitro that “kills a person.” If approved by the legislature, the bill will appear on the ballot in November. The legislature convenes on February 6. Oklahoma requires only a simple majority in both House and Senate.
- In Virginia, a bill to establish Personhood (HB-1) was introduced on January 18, 2012 stating that “The life of each human being begins at conception.” Introduced by Robert Marshall (R-Prince William), a Republican member of the Virginia House of Delegates, HB-1 is also based on Mississippi’s failed Measure 26. The bill passed out of committee on February 10 and went to the House for a vote on February 14, 2012 passing on a vote of 66 to 32.
- In Wisconsin, AJR-77, which would legally define “personhood” from the moment of fertilization and outlaw all abortion in Wisconsin, was introduced on November 16, 2011. It’s chief sponsor is Republican Andre Jacque. A Planned Parenthood press release dated January 26 states: “AJR 77 a Constitutional Amendment to outlaw abortion, IVF services, stem cell research, and birth control which was so extreme it failed to pass in the most conservative state in the nation- Mississippi. “
- Kansas has also gotten into the Personhood Act by way of HCR5029, which states that, “the state of Kansas shall hereby guarantee the inalienable rights, equal protection and due process of law of every human being from the beginning of the biological development of that human being, including fertilization.” The bill was introduced by 25 state House members. Including one Democrat. The bill requires a two-third majority vote in both House and Senate to appear on the ballot in August.
- In Alabama, State Sen. Phil Williams (R-Madison) pre-filed a personhood bill for the Feb. 2012 legislative back in December of 2011. SB-5, yet another bill taking after Mississippi’s Measure 26, would define humans as persons “from the moment of fertilization and implantation into the womb.”
- In Pennsylvania, The “Women’s Right to Know Act” House Bill 1077, which was authored by state Rep. Kathy Rapp (R), is being called even more restrictive than Virginia’s transvaginal ultrasound bill. Raw Story reports: “The bill faces a vote in the full Pennsylvania state house in mid-March, when the legislature is back in session. A petition at SignOn.org… has collected nearly 15,000 signatures opposing the legislation.” In keeping with the Republican practice of trying to slip legislation past the public, no public hearing was held. The bill does offer exceptions for victims of rape and incest.
- Utah was all set to jump on board the vaginal ultrasound bandwagon but as the Spokesman reports, “Idaho Senate Assistant Majority Leader Chuck Winder, R-Meridian, said the original version of his [mandatory ultrasound] bill specifically mentioned that procedure, but he removed it. ‘It didn’t require it, but in my opinion it was confusing … so we took it out,’ Winder said.” However, the Idaho Statesman reports: “But Sara Kiesler, a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest, said the measure would still require transvaginal exams, though the explicit reference to the procedure has been excised.” The revised draft will leave it up to the patient and doctor “whether to employ an abdominal or transvaginal sonogram to the patient and her provider.” Says Winder: “That’ll be up to the physician and the patient as to what they want to do,” admitting the invasive procedure “went too far.”
- In Alabama, Republican Clay Scofield (R-Huntsville) has introduced a mandatory ultrasound proposal for women seeking abortions. According to the Montgomery Advertiser: “Physicians who failed to administer the ultrasound prior to an abortion or an attempted abortion could face up to 10 years in prison and a $15,000 fine. In addition, the law would allow the woman, the father of the fetus or the grandparents to sue the physician for “actual and punitive damages.” Scofield stated that the whole point of the procedure was to make the woman uncomfortable, essentially, to punish her for her decision to have an abortion. The unsurprising backlash over his words has caused him, publically, at least, to rethink his position: “I want to offer legislation that will simultaneously protect life and show respect and compassion towards women.” Given his lie that the ultrasound would not be a vaginal probe, his words should be taken with a grain of salt. The Alabama bill allows no exceptions in case of rape or incest.
Republicans have tried to define contraception not as a health but as a religious issue, claiming that the availability of contraception is a violation of their religious beliefs.
- The Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives is attacking the Department of Health and Human Services new guidelines that require insurance companies to cover contraceptive services free of charge. Committee Chairman Rep. Joe Pitts (R-PA) claims the new rules do not protect religious groups who object to contraception. He claims the government is taking, “coercive actions to force people to abandon their religious principles.” As part of the Republican War on Women, Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) has introduced a bill, the Respect for Rights of Conscience Act of 2011, which would allow providers to throw women under the bus on religious grounds.
- In Utah, 45 Republicans voted for state Rep. Bill Wright’s (R) HB363 which, as Raw Story reports, “would effectively ban comprehensive education about human sexuality, forcing schools to teach abstinence or nothing at all.” Eleven Republicans and 17 Democrats opposed the bill, in defense of which Wright stated, “We’ve been culturally watered down to think we have to teach about sex, about having sex and how to get away with it, which is intellectually dishonest. Why don’t we just be honest with them upfront that sex outside marriage is devastating?”
o Taxing AbortionsThe newest rage, direct from 13th Century Kansas, seeks to squeeze profit from abortions by taxing them.
- In Kansas, H.B. 2598 would levy a sales tax of 6.5% on all abortion procedures, reports RawStory: ““Why not slap a $100, $200, $300 tax on an abortion?” Troy Newman, president of Operation Rescue, the largest anti-abortion advocacy group in Kansas, asked Raw Story on Friday. “I’m completely against most forms of taxation, but abortion is such an abhorrent procedure, I would like to see it wiped out with a $2,000 or $3,000 tax on every abortion that happens in Kansas.” HB 2598, punitive in nature like all GOP anti-choice legislation, would give doctors immunity from malpractice, do away with tax credits, and like Indiana’s law, force doctors to lie to patients about non-existent risks of breast cancer. It would also force women to listen to the heartbeat of the fetus before undergoing an abortion. RawStory underscores the financial burdeon created by this monstrous (68 page) bill, saying that it “could also make late term abortions to save the life of a mother, which can run up to $20,000, wholly cost prohibitive, even for middle class women.” This would effectively make this bill a “kill the mother” bill, a theme that runs through much of the GOP’s anti-choice legislation. Rick Perry crony Governor Brownback plans to sign the bill into law if passed.
Yes, you read that correctly. And no, there are no human fetuses in food. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have laws against them being there – if you’re a Republican, that is. The Associated Press reports that Oklahoma State Senator Ralph Shortey, infamous for authoring failed bills, has proposed a bill “that would ban the use of aborted human fetuses in food, despite conceding that he’s unaware of any company using such a practice,” and even Republican Sen. Brian Crain, a self-professed “pro-lifer” and the chairman of the Senate Human Services Committee says, “I’d hate to think we’re going to spend our time coming up with possibilities of things we need to stop.” The FDA, of course, says it is “not aware of this particular concern.” Ridiculous as it sounds, the bill does also outlaw stem cell research.
The War on Church and State
o Americans United for Separation of Church and State (au.org…) reveals that “officials in May Minette, Ala., have crossed a constitutional line by creating a program that allows low-level offenders to choose between fines and jail or going to church for a year.” 56 churches have agreed to take part in the program, which is being called “Operation Restore Our Community.”
o Rep. Randy Forbes (R-VA), the founder and chairman of the Congressional Prayer Caucus, is responsible for sponsoring legislation to reaffirm that “In God We Trust” is our national motto, claiming “As our nation faces challenging times, it is appropriate for Members of Congress and our nation—like our predecessors—to firmly declare our trust in God, believing that it will sustain us for generations to come.” The bill passed 396-9. Zero jobs were created by this incredible and unconstitutional waste of time. The Senate had already wastefully reaffirmed the motto in 2006.
o The South Dakota legislature is promoting “biblical instruction” in public schools, passing a nonbinding resolution by a vote of 55 to 15 in the House and 25-10 in the Senate, that “encourages school districts to voluntarily provide instruction that makes students familiar with the content, character, and narratives of the Bible.” The resolution’s sponsor, Rep. Steve Hickey (R), is, no surprise, a pastor.
o The race to the thirteenth century seems unlikely to end before Election Day 2012. In Georgia, “A copy of the Ten Commandments could be posted in all Georgia government buildings and schools under a bill passed unanimously Tuesday by House lawmakers” reports the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The bill (sponsored by Rep. Tommy Benton, R-Jefferson) passed by a vote of 161-0 and will now go to the state Senate. The influence of David Barton is plainly visible in Benton’s dishonest rationale: “If you look at the law of the United States, we have a lot of laws that are based on the Christian and Jewish Ten Commandments, so I felt that was a very appropriate item to be put in there,” This isn’t true at all. Our laws are based on English Common Law which has pagan but no biblical influences. The Ten Commandments have nothing to do with American law, invalidating the claim that there are non-religious reasons for posting the Ten Commandments.
o In Florida, on the same day it passed legislation against Sharia law, the Florida legislature said that student-led public school prayer was perfectly acceptable, allowing students to deliver “inspirational messages” at school events, slapping down Sharia law with one hand and lifting up the equally dangerous Mosaic law with the other. According to the Miami Herald, “The bill’s backers say Gov. Rick Scott has told them he would sign the legislation. The bill passed the Florida House on a 88-27 vote. Sadly, a handful of Democrats joined Republicans in voting for the bill, including Rep. Daphne Campbell, a Miami Democrat. The ACLU and the ADL both stand ready to challenge the bill despite Republican claims that it will “stand legal muster.”
The War on Special Supplemental Nutritional Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC)
o Having ensured that children will be born through their anti-abortion legislation, House Republicans have now ensured those children will be deprived of proper nutrition once they come into the world, ensuring that 300,000 millionaires will have more money in their pockets at the expense of nearly 500,000 women and children. Republicans on the House Appropriations Committee approved the appropriations bill which reduces WIC funding from $6.73 billion this year to $5.90 billion in 2012. The bill will also cut $38 million from the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSIP), as well as $63 million from the Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAB). If the Republicans had been truly interested in slashing the federal budget they could have saved more money by ending tax cuts for the rich or slashing subsidies to the oil companies. Instead they starve the infants and elderly. Why do I say that? WIC could be fully funded at the cost of just one week of Bush’s tax cuts for millionaires. According to the Center for American Progress, “one day’s worth of millionaire tax cuts would feed needy families for a year.”
The War on National Public Radio (NPR)
o The Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives voted to defund NPR: “It is time for American citizens to stop funding an organization that can stand on its own feet,” said Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colo., the sponsor. The real reason, of course, is that NPR is seen as a bastion of liberalism and it’s voice stands in stark contrast to the propaganda-laden broadcasts from FOX News. The Free Press and Freedom of Speech are the staunch enemies of fascism, and so NPR has to go. Only the “official” voice must be heard. The President is against defunding NPR and Seven Republicans broke ranks to vote against the bill. It is unlikely to pass muster in the Democratic-controlled Senate.
The War on Desegregation
No, you didn’t read that wrong. Republicans are actually waging war on desegregation in the seeming belief that you can never turn the clock back too far.
o In Minnesota, the Education Finance Committee is readying a funding bill that will eliminate the goal of desegregated schools. On page 53 of the legislation is a complete repeal of the school integration section of the Minnesota Administrative rules. In defense, Pat Garofalo (R-Farmington), chair of the committee, claims the goal is to change the focus to academic achievement from diversity of the student body.
o In Wake County, North Carolina, the school board eliminated integration bussing. According to the Washington Post, the Tea Party-backed school board (funded, says Robert Greenwald and Brave New Foundation, by the Koch brothers), has pledged to “say no to the social engineers!” and “abolished the policy behind one of the nation’s most celebrated integration efforts.” Says one Tea Party board member, John Tedesco: “This is Raleigh in 2010, not Selma, Alabama, in the 1960s – my life is integrated. We need new paradigms.” A paradigm, apparently, of “back to the 50s.”
The War on High-Speed Rail
o Gas prices are rising and President Obama wants to improve the nation’s infrastructure through the introduction of high-speed rail corridors in areas where they would be particularly effective, and linking the Midwest’s population centers with those of the East Coast. The Republicans and Tea Party are opposed.
- In Wisconsin, Governor Walker rejected an $810 million federal grant for a high-speed rail line between Milwaukee and Madison, declaring the project “dead.”
- In Ohio, Governor John Kasich turned down nearly $400 million from the Department of Transportation for a high-speed rail line between Cleveland and Cincinnati.
- In Florida, Governor Rick Scott—siding with his backers in the Tea Party—rejected $2.4 billion in Department of Transportation funds for a rail line between Tampa and Orlando
To demonstrate how serious the GOP is about depriving a segment of Americans of their constitutional rights, conservative activist Alan Caruba called Obama’s DOMA decision an act of “societal suicide” in a column titled, “America’s Gay White House.” So the equality guaranteed by the Constitution is societal suicide? The New York Times reports: “Voters in Minnesota and North Carolina will decide in November whether to enact constitutional bans on same-sex marriage. Such bans already exist in about 30 states.”
- The Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives wants to defend DOMA (the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act) in court despite the unconstitutionality of the law according to the DOJ’s own review. As Nancy Pelosi has asked John Boehner, how much will that cost?
- The Indiana Senate Judiciary Committee considered but did not take a vote on House Joint Resolution 6 (HJR-6), the proposed amendment to the state constitution that would define marriage as between one man and one woman and prohibit the state from enacting civil unions or domestic partnerships for same-sex couples.
- In Tennessee, Senate Bill 49, the “Don’t Say Gay” bill would bar discussion of homosexuality until high school; the bill would make it a crime for teachers to mention it.
- The North Carolina Senate is about to debate a constitutional amendment that would ban marriage equality. Reprehensibly, the GOP tried to hide this fact by pretending HB 61 (Speaker/Pro Tem Term Limits) was a proposal to limit the tenure of Senate and House leaders but on Friday it was reported by WRAL that HB 61 is actually the anti-gay marriage bill. The legislature’s website has carefully hidden the true content of the bill.’
- In Oklahoma, a bill authored by Rep. Mike Reynolds, R-Oklahoma City, (House Bill 2195) would re-institute DADT in the Oklahoma National Guard even though DADT was repealed in 2011. Reynolds wants to take Oklahoma back in time to 2009 (at least it’s not 1609 though that might be next). A similar bill last year in the Virginia House of Representatives was killed in committee.
- As the New York Times reports, “Gov. Sam Brownback created the Office of the Repealer to recommend the elimination of out-of-date, unreasonable and burdensome state laws that build up in any bureaucracy over time.” One law that surprisingly didn’t make the cut under the administration of the only governor to attend Rick Perry’s The Response was (cue stunned silence): “That would be the “criminal sodomy” statute, which prohibits same-sex couples from engaging in oral or anal sex. The law was rendered unenforceable nearly a decade ago by a United States Supreme Court ruling, but it remains enshrined in the state’s legal code.”
- On January 25, 2012, Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-KS) introduced legislation to keep same-sex couples from getting married on military installations. The bill is called the Military Religious Freedom Protection Act (HR 3828), and it would ensure “that our military facilities are not used in contravention to the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which states that marriage is between one man and one woman only.” Irony abounds in Hueskamp’s claim that “Military installations exist to carry out the national defense of our nation, not to facilitate a narrow social agenda.”
- In New Hampshire, where same-sex marriages were approved in 2009, there is a movement underway to repeal those rights (when did inalienable rights become something you can repeal?). The New York Times reports that “A repeal bill appears to have a good chance of passing in the State House and Senate, which are both controlled by Republicans.” Governor John Lynch, a democrat, has promised to veto any such bill if it passes. As the Times says, “Based on party lines, House and Senate Republicans both have veto-proof majorities.” Unsurprisingly, Republicans in the legislature are swimming against the currents of history. Says the Times, “In a recent poll by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center, 59 percent of respondents were either strongly or somewhat opposed to repealing the law, while 32 percent said they supported repeal.”
- South Dakota tried to discriminate against same-sex couples by excluding them from coverage in an amendment to a piece of domestic abuse legislation (SB 141), proposed by Senator Deb Peters (R-9/Hartford). The amendment was proposed by Rep. Mark Venner (R-24/Pierre). The amendment revised Senator Peters’ definition of “one or more partners in an intimate relationship.” to specify that couples had to be of opposite sex, passed the House on a 35-33 vote but was killed by the South Dakota Senate on March 1, 2012.
o Republicans oppose net neutrality. They want corporations to control the internet to better their profits and to control the message getting out. A free press has always been fascism’s most potent enemy; it is no wonder they want to strangle it. At a Communications and Technology Subcommittee Hearing “House Republicans pushed for a resolution to eliminate ‘net neutrality’ rules recently adopted by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).” Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR) introduced H. J. Res. 37 which would prohibit the FCC from regulating the Internet. Republicans claim net neutrality rules amount to a government takeover of the Internet; what they really amount to is protection against a corporate takeover of the Internet. To counter this move, Al Franken (D-MN) has said he will introduce legislation that will make violations of net neutrality illegal.
o The “Stop Online Piracy Act” or SOPA (HR 3261) would give, says FreePress.net…, “corporations the power to blacklist websites at will. And it violates the due process rights of the thousands of Internet users who could see their sites disappear… for a “crime” as innocent as posting a video of themselves singing along to a favorite song.” FreePress.net… reports that, “A Senate version of SOPA, called the Protect IP Act, passed committee approval in the spring following a massive push by brazen film and music industry lobbyists.”
o They are calling it a “resolution of disapproval” (of the FCC). In the U.S. Senate, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) introduced S.J. Resolution 6, which is supported by the Tea Party and corporations (of course) would, in the words of FreePress.net…, “remove the FCC’s ability to protect free speech online, and place a few large companies in charge of deciding what consumers can or can’t do on the Internet. Undoing the FCC’s rules is akin to putting BP in charge of protecting our oceans or Goldman Sachs in charge of protecting the nation’s economy.”
The War on Obama: Birthers and Anti-Obama Legislation
o The Republican and Tea Parties are determined that President Obama should be a one-term president, and that meanwhile, punitive damages should be assessed against him for having the audacity as a black man to not only run for president, but to win.
- In Tennessee, state Sen. Mae Beavers has introduced SB 1091, a bill that would require presidential candidates to present a “long-form” birth certificate in order to be on the ballot in that state. Nearly a dozen states have had similar anti-Obama legislation aimed at making President Obama a one-term president, including – unsurprisingly – Arizona – as well as Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Texas, Connecticut, Indiana, Nebraska, Tennessee, Montana, and Maine, and Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-Louisiana) has promised to sign one of these bills as well. Mae Beavers admits she has no idea what a “long-form” birth certificate even is. She “hasn’t looked into it yet.” Keep in mind, all these proposals will cost the taxpayers money at a time when the GOP claims we’re too poor to even educate our children.
- The Arizona State Senate passed a bill HB 2177 that forces presidential candidates to submit extensive paperwork to prove they’re American citizens, including, the New York Times reports, “a sworn affidavit stating citizenship and age; a long-form birth certificate showing date and place of birth, name of hospital and doctor, and witness signatures; and a sworn statement listing a candidate’s places of residence for the last 14 years.”
- Rep. Steve Womack, R-Ark., proposed legislation to eliminate funding for the president’s Teleprompter. He later withdrew the proposal citing as a reason the inability “to get an estimate on how much it would save.” Womack told FOX News, “We’re asking people to do more with less. And I think the president ought to lead by example. He is already a very gifted speaker. And I think that’s one platform he could do without,” Interestingly and tellingly, he didn’t suggest putting aside his own government funded healthcare program. “I think we made our point,” Womack said. Yes, you did. You proved you’re a petty-minded hypocrite.
- Rep. Randy Neugebauer (R-Texas), proposed legislation “to strip funding for the alteration, repair or improvement of the executive residence of the White House and instead divert that amount to deficit reduction.” Because letting the White House fall down sends a powerful message to other countries.
The War on Unions and Collective Bargaining/War on Middle Class
This is more than an attack on unions, teachers, the public sector and collective bargaining and it is far from being the budget/deficit issue Republicans claim. It is, as Noam Chomsky writes, an attack on democracy itself.
o Class Warfare
Examples of Republican hostility to average working- and middle class Americans are many. Rep. Tom Emmer, the 2010 Republican candidate for governor in Minnesota announced that many waitstaff made six figure salaries at their jobs, a statement that he quickly had to back away from as false. Do you know many waiters and waitresses making better than minimum wage? I don’t. It’s no wonder Democrat Mark Dayton won.
Drug-testing of welfare recipients is the latest Republican stroke of genius to deflect attention from actually creating jobs and attacking non-problems. The San Francisco Chronicle reports that “Nearly two dozen states are considering similar legislation. The issue has come up in the Republican presidential campaign, with front-runner Mitt Romney saying it’s an “excellent idea.” The Huffington Post labels it a “trend with no traction” and points out that “two months into the state legislative session, not a single welfare drug testing bill has passed into law.”
- In Georgia a new bill (HB 385) would raise taxes on things like Girl Scout Cookies, groceries and gasoline but would lower tax rates on corporate income, from 6 percent this year to just 4 percent in 2014.
- Also in Georgia, the new craze – drug testing welfare recipients – brings us the Social Responsibility and Accountability Act (SB 292), approved by the Senate on March 7, 2012. BetterGeorgia.com… reports that “Republican State Senator John Albers, one of the sponsors of the bill says that the aim is to stop welfare recipients from using illegal drugs. Apparently, only Republican politicians should be allowed to do that. The state’s own estimates show that the drug test program may not save a dime and could cost $84,500 per year.” Go GOP! Cut that spending! Create jobs! ‘Atta Boy! From ChicagoTribune.com…: “Two states, Michigan and Florida, have adopted similar legislation, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. The Michigan Court of Appeals in 2003 ruled that state’s law unconstitutional. Florida’s law has been temporarily blocked by a federal lawsuit.”
- In Wyoming, a similar drug testing bill was killed by the Senate by a 17-13 vote on March 6, 2012.
- In Virginia, in a rare display of common sense by Republican legislators, another such scheme was killed because of the cost. The House version of the bill (HB 73) “substance abuse screening and assessment of public assistance applicants and recipients” won’t be considered now until 2013 as a result of a February 6, 2012 House Subcommittee recommendation, and the Senate’s version (SB 6) suffered the same fate on February 27, 2012. As HuffPo puts it, “Virginia decided that spending $1.3 million in the first year of implementation to create a drug testing program was just too much for a program that was projected to save the state only $229,165 in its first year.”
- Republicans voted to end a program “that helped low-income families weatherize their homes and permanently reduce their energy bills”
- Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R-MI) has proposed some tax changes that are corporate-friendly and middle-class hostile. The Michigan League for Human Services reports that “Business taxes would be cut by 86 percent from an estimated $2.1 billion in FY 2011 to $292.7 million in FY 2013, the first full year of the proposed tax changes…Taxes on individuals from the state income tax would rise by $1.7 billion or nearly 31 percent, from an estimated $5.75 billion in FY 2011 to $7.5 billion in FY 2013, the first full year of the tax changes.”
- The Raw Story reported on March 17, 2011 that “Congressman Dave Camp (R-MI), the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, said he hopes to cut the tax rate for the richest individuals and corporations to 25 percent to help spur job growth.” Right, Dave; that must be why rich industrialists like the Koch Brothers (who increased their wealth by $9 billion last year) continue to lay off employees claiming the economic downturn has hit them. Hint to Dave: Wealth does not trickle down – it goes in the Koch Brothers’ bank accounts.
- “Minnesota GOP wants it to be illegal to carry cash if you’re poor” reports City Pages – “A bill introduced by Rep. Kurt Daudt (R-Crown) would prohibit people who use EBT cards–government assistance on plastic–from withdrawing cash at ATMs with the cards, except for $20 per month.”
- Florida has a new law on the books requiring welfare recipients to undergo drug tests because Governor Rick Scott says it’s “unfair for Florida taxpayers to subsidize drug addiction.” He claims “It’s the right thing for taxpayers. It’s the right thing for citizens of this state that need public assistance. We don’t want to waste tax dollars. And also, we want to give people an incentive to not use drugs.” Because only rich people whose taxes the rest of us are paying should be allowed to use drugs. Update: implementation of this law is currently being blocked by a federal lawsuit (the ACLU won the preliminary ruling). The State of Florida has appealed the decision and the ACLU has filed a response to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals.
- In the U.S. House of Representatives, Rep. Charles Boustany Jr. (R-La.), has the dubious honor of being the chief sponsor of the “strip-club loophole bill”, which, reports The Hill, “would require states to prevent welfare recipients from accessing or spending their benefits at strip clubs, casinos and liquor stores.” Not that Boustany is apparently at all interested in creating jobs so these people don’t have to be welfare recipients in the first place. The bill passed the House 395-27 on February 1, 2012. Another nonexistent problem solved.
- In Louisiana, Rep. John LaBruzzo, famous for his attempts to pay poor women to have their tubes tied so they can’t outbreed white folks like him and to ban abortion, also came up with a scheme, reports Nola.com… (House Bill 7), “to randomly test a fifth of the state’s welfare recipientsfor the use of illegal drugs.” It was approved by a Senate committee on June 15, 2011 and as the Nola.com… editorial remarks, “makes no more sense now than it did when he failed to get it through the Louisiana Legislature in 2009 and 2010” because “Statistics show that people who receive welfare are no more likely to use illegal drugs than those who don’t.” You have to give the man credit for being consistently bigoted and racist (as well as misogynist – in other words, a good Republican), however. The Senate failed to approve consideration of the bill on June 21, 2011 by a vote of 20-12. But the madness does not end here, as Nola.com… goes on to report: “Earlier in the session the lawmaker drafted House Bill 460, a companion bill that would allow Louisianians to donate all or part of their state income tax refunds toward the funding of these drug tests. A portion of those donations — as if there would really be donations — would be used to defend the bill against lawsuits challenging its constitutionality.”
A Tea Party-led movement is afoot to attack collective bargaining and public sector pay as responsible for our nation’s economic woes even though the problem is clearly Wall Street. Fights are going on in several Republican-controlled states:
o Right to Work Laws
According to the New York Times, “Twenty-two states, mainly in the South and the West, have long had “right to work” laws forbidding contracts that require workers to pay union dues. After a decade in which business has ignored the issue, Republicans in more than 10 states over the last year have begun pushing similar laws.” The Republican claim that unions weaken economic and job growth is disproved by the facts on the ground, as the Times points out: “In fact, six of the 10 states with the highest unemployment have right-to-work laws. North Carolina, a right-to-work state, has a private sector unionization rate of 1.8 percent, the lowest in the nation. It also has the sixth highest unemployment rate: 10 percent.” Currently, says the Wall Street Journal, “At least nine states have right-to-work legislation pending, including Michigan.”
- In Indiana, on January 25, 2012, the Indiana House passed a bill, the Wall Street Journal reports, that “ would ban contracts requiring employees to pay union dues,” The bill will now go to the Republican controlled senate with its 37-13 GOP majority. It could be law by February 1. As the WSJ points out, “Indiana would become the 23rd right-to-work state in the nation, and the first in the industrial Midwest, home to many of the nation’s manufacturing jobs and a traditional bastion of organized labor.” Despite RTW states having higher unemployment, Gov. Mitch Daniels insists the law will somehow create jobs. Daniels isn’t about to mention Oklahoma, where the same rhetoric was used to support RTW legislation in 2001. Says the Nation: “In the ten years since Oklahoma adopted RTW, the number of manufacturing jobs in the state has fallen by about one-third.” The “right to work for less” bill was passed by the Indiana State Senate on February 1, 2012 and signed into law that afternoon by Governor Mitch Daniels. Update: Reuters is reporting (March 6, 2012) that “Opponents of Indiana’s new ‘right to work’ law have withdrawn a request for a court order to block the anti-union measure after the state said it will not enforce it retroactively. But opponents of the law said on Monday they will press on with their larger legal challenge and may seek a preliminary injunction against the measure on other grounds in federal court in the coming weeks.”
- Here’s a new one: in Georgia, a new bill – Senate Bill 469 – would, writes AlterNet, impose “felony penalties for ‘criminal trespass’ and, unbelievably, ‘conspiracy to commit criminal trespass’–the punishment being a $10,000 fine or a year in jail, or possibly both” in order to curtail picketing of workplaces. It could also affect anyone else wanting to publically protest or picket for reasons of activism.
- New Hampshire is voting on a right to work law this week. The new piece of legislation, House Bill 1677, “relative to choice as to whether to join a union and eliminating the duty of a public employee labor organization to represent employees who elect not to join or to pay dues or fees to the employee organization,” is sponsored by Smith, Rep. D.J. Bettencourt, the House Republican Leader from Salem, and Sen. Jim Forsythe, R-Strafford. The same bill (as HB 474) was defeated last year when Gov. John Lynch’s veto withstood an attempt to overturn it by a vote 240-139 in the state legislature.
- In South Carolina, Governor Nikki Haley, saying,
“Unions are not needed, wanted or welcome in South Carolina,”
introduced with state Rep. Bill Sandifer, R-Oconee, a new bill in the
State House of Representatives that, reports The State:
- Require S.C. employers to display a poster in the workplace, alerting workers that they do not have to be union members in order to work. State law already gives workers the right to turn down union membership.
- Increase civil penalties for those who violate the state’s right-to-work laws
- Allow workers to resign their union membership and stop paying dues at any time. Currently, union members have to wait a year.
- Require unions to file financial information with the state. Unions already must file some of that information with the federal government.
- Also in South Carolina, Gov. Haley signed an executive order on January 24, 2012, that prohibits workers who are on strike from receiving unemployment benefits. Of course, that was already state law but maybe she just likes redundancy, waste, and spending money the state can’t afford to spend.
- The Commodity Futures Trading Commission, tasked with overseeing derivative swaps and financial instruments, would lose $56.8 billion in the House budget. President Obama did not want to cut the CFTC at all; he wanted to increase its funding, and for good reason following the irresponsibility on Wall Street that led to the Great Recession of 2008.
- Reuters reports that “Congressional Republicans on Wednesday will stage their first outright challenge to 2010′s Dodd-Frank financial regulation reforms with a fistful of bills favoring private equity firms, derivatives end-users and corporate CEOs.” This legislation “would repeal or amend parts of the laws approved after the severe 2007-2009 financial crisis.” Unsuccessful at defunding these important economic protections the Republicans have resorted to voting them away.
o Nobody hates an immigrant like the Republican Party – except for the Tea Party. Anti-immigration legislation, though bad enough in Arizona, has reached new lows in Arizona and Texas. But not only in those states (and the Arizona measures listed below were voted down on March 17, 2011): Kansas State Representative Virgil Peck, a Republican, in a recent legislative budget hearing said, “It looks like to me if shooting these immigrating feral hogs works maybe we have found a [solution] to our illegal immigration problem.”
- Texas Department of Agriculture sets up border vigilante website to promote and support (sometimes violent) vigilantism
- In Texas, more than 60 anti-immigration bills have been filed this legislative session including requiring birth certificates to enroll in public schools and allowing police officers to act as immigration agents
- In Texas, “Tea Party favorite Debbie Riddle (I kid you not) (R-TX) introduced House Bill 2012 into the Texas State House, a bill that would jail folks who hire undocumented workers but would exempt anyone who hires “the help” for their homes, thereby effectively legalizing slavery for illegal immigrants..”
- Louisiana, Tennessee, South Carolina and Georgia have laws which “require businesses to enroll in the federal E-Verify program to ensure that employees are eligible to work in the United States.”
- Several Texas cities have laws making English the official language.
- In Arizona, Senate Bill 1222 would require public-housing operators to evict anyone who allows an illegal immigrant to live with them, as well as require proof of legal status to receive any public benefits.
- In Arizona, SB 1012 would allow the Arizona Department of Public Safety to conduct fingerprint-background checks on only individuals who can prove that they are U.S. citizens or legally eligible to work in the state. The state-issued fingerprint-clearance cards are required for a variety of jobs and work permits.
- In Arizona, Senate Concurrent Resolution 1035 would ask voters to change the state Constitution to prohibit any state official or agency from using a language other than English for official communications. Individuals could ask that communications be conducted in a second language, but the state doesn’t have to adhere to the request.
- In Arizona, the full Senate is also expected to vote in the coming days or weeks on broader immigration-related measures, including SB 1611, which makes several changes to immigration law, including preventing children not born in the U.S. from attending school, prohibiting illegal immigrants from driving or buying a car, and denying illegal immigrants the ability to obtain a marriage license in Arizona.
- Other bills in Arizona include SB 1405, which would require hospitals to check the legal status of a patient if he or she was unable to show proof of health insurance, and SB 1308 and SB 1309 – the “birthright citizenship” measures.
- In Georgia, anti-immigration law HB 87, that was written to bring Arizona’s anti-immigrant SB 1070 to the state. HB 87 would “restrict immigrants’ access to public benefits and mandate the adoption of E-Verify, the controversial federal employment verification database.”
- Alabama has passed an immigration law more restrictive even than Arizona (SB 1070), becoming the fifth state to pass strict anti-immigration legislation. The bill, HB 56, called the “Beason-Hammon Alabama Taxpayer and Citizen Protection Act” because it is claimed illegal aliens cost Alabama tax payers $300 million per year, has been called a “ draconian immigration enforcement scheme.” See the Southern Poverty Law Center’s up-to-date report on the consequences of this legislation here.
o Republican Sen. Mike Lee of Utah said that Congressional laws banning child labor are forbidden by the US Constitution despite the fact that the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 was unanimously upheld by the Supreme Court in 1941 (United States v. Darby Lumber). (A similar movement is underway in Missouri where State Sen. Jane Cunningham (R) has introduced a bill [S.B. 222] to minimize child labor laws)
The War on the Right to Vote
o The Republican Party has a long history of disenfranchising voters. If you don’t have a viable platform all that’s left is ensuring that those who would otherwise vote against you can’t vote. President Clinton has compared Republican anti-voting laws to Jim Crow. Rolling Stone reports, “In a systematic campaign orchestrated by the American Legislative Exchange Council – and funded in part by David and Charles Koch, the billionaire brothers who bankrolled the Tea Party – 38 states introduced legislation this year designed to impede voters at every step of the electoral process.” To add insult to injury, Right Wing Watch is reporting that “Robert Knight of the far-right American Civil Rights Union appeared yesterday on VCY America’sCrosstalk to discuss so-called voter fraud problems, where he accused people who oppose restrictions on voting rights such as voter ID laws of being “racist”!!!
- The Democratic Governor’s Association reports that “New laws in Ohio and Texas, passed by Republican-led Houses and backed by Republican governors, are set to disenfranchise millions of voters. Twenty other states are gearing up to follow suit.”
- Florida Republicans have also moved to disenfranchise voters. HB 1355 was passed by the state senate by a 25-13 vote. The House passage followed on a 77-38 party-line vote. The bill will make it more difficult to vote if you move (aimed at college students who vote Democratic) and will also limit early voting (another strength for Democrats) by curtailing early voting from 14 days to eight. The bill has been signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott, a harsh critic of President Obama.
- A similar bill (Voter ID Bill (AB-7) requiring Wisconsin voters to show photo ID in order to vote passed Wisconsin state Senate in May and was signed into law by Governor Scott Walker. Update: On March 5, 2012, Dane County Judge David Flanagan granted a temporary injunction barring enforcement of what he called an “extremely broad and largely needless” impairment of the right to vote, which would have taken effect on April 3, 2012.
- In Pennsylvania, Republicans, led by Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi (R-Delaware) conceived an idea to create a permanent Electoral College majority. The current system gives the state’s electoral votes to whoever wins the state. Redistricting in 2012 leaves Pennsylvania with 20 electoral votes and the votes in those districts would, like the districts themselves, remain permanently Republican.
- Kansas and Alabama require voters to provide proof of citizenship before voting.
- Maine repealed Election Day voter registration.
- A total of five states – Florida, Georgia, Ohio, Tennessee and West Virginia – have reduced early voting periods.
- And, as Rolling Stone reports, “six states controlled by Republican governors and legislatures – Alabama, Kansas, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin – will require voters to produce a government-issued ID before casting ballots. More than 10 percent of U.S. citizens lack such identification, and the numbers are even higher among constituencies that traditionally lean Democratic – including 18 percent of young voters and 25 percent of African-Americans.”
- Florida and Iowa now bar ex-felons from voting. The Orlando Sentinel reported in July: “According to a letter opposing the rule change from the American Civil Liberties Union and several legal defense groups, Florida has become one of only four states to bar ex-felons from voting for life unless they get clemency from the governor. They estimate that at least 13 percent of voting-age African-Americans have lost the right to vote this way.” And people wonder why blacks vote Democrat. Another case of giving rights to fetus’ (see PRENDA under anti-abortion laws above) but taking them away from they grow up.
The War on Islam/Islamophobia
At least 20 states are making attempts to ban foreign laws, not always naming Islam but always directed at the world’s second largest religion. As is all too often the case since 2010, Republicans are attacking a non-existent problem while ignoring America’s real problems.
o Islamophobia has become institutionalized in the Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives as Rep. Peter King (R – N.Y.), is begins his McCarthy-esque “investigation of radical Islam”
o The states of Missouri , South Carolina and Oklahoma are all attempting to ban the alleged “creeping influence” of Sharia Law. Needless to say, most of the opponents of Sharia Law are strongly in favor of its exact equivalent, Mosaic Law – otherwise known as the Ten Commandments. The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld a lower court’s ruling and injunction blocking implementation of the so-called “Save Our State” amendment. Raw Story reports that “A South Carolina state House panel will consider a bill…that aims to ban any foreign laws, including Sharia law… Courts blocked a similar law in Oklahoma last month because they said it would invalidate certain legal contracts between Muslims, who often incorporate references to Islamic prophetic traditions in their agreements.”
o Alabama proposed a law to ban Sharia law this spring, introduced by State Sen. Cam Ward (R). According to Right Wing Watch: “The Anniston Star reports that the bill’s sponsor, Republican State Senator Gerald Allen, admits that he doesn’t know of any court cases in Alabama or anywhere in the U.S. using Sharia law to make decisions. Allen’s staff lifted the legislation’s description of Sharia law from Wikipedia, and the senator admits he doesn’t even know what it is.” As for attacking non-existent problems, ThinkProgress points out that “According to the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, less than half of a percent of Alabamians are Muslim.”
o Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA) told the Values Voters Summit in 2010 that he wants a federal law to ban Sharia law.
o Oklahoma passed an anti-Sharia law last year, the “Save Our State” amendment, which was supported by 70 percent of voters but was blocked by a federal judge on First Amendment grounds. Rep. Sally Kern (R) introduced a new anti-Sharia bill in 20100 - House Bill 1552 – designed to be less objectionable to courts.
o In Florida, HB 1209 (introduced on January 10, 2012), titled Application of Foreign Law in Certain Cases, which bans the use of “foreign law” passed the Florida House on March 1, 2012 by a vote of 92-24. The foreign law in question is Sharia law. The law may have the unforeseen consequence of voiding divorces mediated through Jewish tribunals,” which naturally has Jewish groups in an uproar, to add to the chorus from civil liberties groups. Of course, there is no demonstrated threat from Sharia law in Florida, though Mosaic law is most definitely proving itself dangerous.
The War on the Federal Government (Tentherism)
o In Arizona, the State Senate introduced SB 1433 which “proposed nothing less than the creation of a 12-person body tasked with studying federal laws and nullifying any and all of those it deemed unconstitutional.” The bill (which failed to pass) would have applied to both existing and any new legislation. This was essentially a secession act.
o In Virginia, Robert G. Marshall (R), a Tea Partier, proposed Joint House Resolution No. 557 “Establishing a joint subcommittee to study whether the Commonwealth should adopt a currency to serve as an alternative to the currency distributed by the Federal Reserve System in the event of a major breakdown of the Federal Reserve System.”
o In Georgia, “Constitutional Tender Act” (HB 3)sponsored by Rep. Bobby Franklin (R) would override federal monetary regulations, stating, “Pre-1965 silver coins, silver eagles, and gold eagles shall be the exclusive medium which the state shall use to make any payments whatsoever to any person or entity, whether private or governmental.” TPM reports: “Lawmakers in Montana, Missouri, Colorado, Idaho, Indiana, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Utah, and Washington have proposed legislation, mostly in 2009, to include gold and silver in its accepted currency forms.”
o Also in Georgia, as reported here by Rmuse, “five state senators including Majority Leader Chip Rogers (R) and senate President Pro Tempore Tommie Williams (R) introduced legislation that allows Georgia and its citizens to ignore any federal law Republicans do not want not follow. The legislation ignores the Constitution’s Supremacy Clause that clearly states, “The Laws of the United States which shall be made under the authority of the United States shall be the supreme law of the land,” and it is the reason states do not have the right to ignore federal laws.”
o Montana’s “Sheriffs First Act,” SB 114, sponsored by Sen. Greg Hinkle, R-Thompson Falls, would give precedence to local sheriff’s over any federal agent in their counties; According to the Helena Independent Record: “The bill says that if a sheriff claims that a federal agent acted without permission (with a few exceptions) the county attorney “must” — on pain of possible recall or charges of official misconduct — prosecute the federal agent for a crime such as kidnapping, trespassing or theft.”
o In Kentucky. Senate Natural Resources and Energy Chairman Brandon Smith, R-Hazard proposed Senate Joint Resolution 99 “declaring Kentucky a sanctuary state from the regulatory overreach of the United States Environmental Protection Agency against coal operators and the coal industry in Kentucky; proscribe enforcement of federal conductivity standards; require state agency to set conductivity standard that allows for coal mining and protects health, safety, and environment; declare state agency to have jurisdiction over water quality standards; proscribe collection of fines and penalties for standards in excess of federal requirements…”
The War on Gun Control
o Reuters reports that Ohio’s Republican Governor John Kasich has signed into law “a bill that allows gun owners in the state to carry concealed weapons into bars and other places where alcohol is served.” The law also allows gun owners to go armed into shopping malls.
o The U.S. House of Representatives wants to undermine state gun controls by forcing each state to honor the gun-carrying permits of other states. H.R. 822 the National Right-to-Carry Reciprocity Act of 2011 “would require all states to allow out-of-state visitors to carry concealed firearms as long as the laws of the visitors’’ home states allow them to do so” which would override protections that other states citizens want. So much for Republicans opposing the federal government riding roughshod over states rights. If it’s something the GOP wants, the feds can lord it all they want. Congress rejected a similar law in 2009. It may surprise no one that the sponsor is Rep. Clifford Stearns (R-FL): read on below.
o In Florida, a new law passed in June 2011 by the Republican-controlled legislature (of course), mandates penalties against local communities and officials for not dropping their gun control laws in obedience to a 1987 act that, as the New York Times reports, “allowed the state to pre-empt the whole field of gun and ammunition controls” but which since then has been largely ignored. The deadline is now October 1. From the Daytona Beach News-Journal: State Rep. Fred Costello said the strong language in the new law — 790.33 of the Florida Statues — assumes full control of all gun regulation. No local government can override state laws or make more restrictive laws regarding guns. “The bottom line is, although some will disagree, that criminals will have guns anywhere, so it is arguably better for legal, law-abiding citizens to also be able to have guns to give the bad guys pause,” said Costello, R-Ormond Beach.
o In 2009, Tennessee State Representative Curry Todd (R-Collierville) sponsored a bill to allow guns in bars for the purposes of “self-defense” (a category of catastrophically stupid all on its own), the so-called “guns in bars” bill. Todd, actually a college graduate, has also, reports the Nashville City Paper, “compared pregnant illegal immigrants to ‘reproducing rats.’” In the Department of Irony, the same Nashville source reports that “Todd was picked up by Metro Police and charged with DUI and possession of a handgun while under the influence” on October 11, 2011. By the way, the bill passed the House 66-23.
o In Virginia, July 1, 2010 meant you could carry a gun into a bar or restaurant. The only restriction is that you can’t drink alcohol while you do so. Despite pleas from state police chiefs that it was a recipe for disaster, Governor Bob McDonnell said passage of SB334 was all about upholding the second amendment rights of good ole boys to pack heat.
o The State of Virginia wants guns, lots of guns, in the hands of pretty much anybody, or so we can conclude from Gov. Bob McDonnell signing of a law repealing the state’s 1993 gun purchase limit. McDonnell cites as his excuse his “duty to protect the Second Amendment” – but not, apparently, the lives of his fellow Virginians, or as the New York Times points out, those of other states. As is usual with Republican legislation in this era, McDonnell’s action flies in the face of what the people actually want, a recent poll showing 66 percent of Virginians favored limiting gun sales.
The War on Consumers
o In the U.S. House of Representatives, H.R. 1315, sponsored by Rep. Sean Duffy (R-Wis.), would block the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s new rules and replace the single director chosen by President Obama with a five-member commission answerable to the Republicans and big business, like a fox guarding a hen-house.
The War on Democracy
o Michigan passed a Financial Martial Law bill, which essentially established a Republican dictatorship in place of democracy by turning over to unelected emergency managers the powers to supersede legally elected local governments without oversight from those legally constituted local governments.
The War on Jobs
o House Democrats have demonstrated that in their first 202+ days in office, House Republicans have not only failed to deliver even one job creation bill, they have passed legislation to kill 1.9 million jobs.
- H.R. 1. According to Mark Zandi this legislation amounts to -700,000 jobs
- H.R. 2. According to the Council of Economic Advisors this legislation amounts to -300,000 jobs
- H.Con.Res. 34. According to Mark Zandi, this legislation amounts to -900,000 jobs
The War on Science, the Environment and Health
“Rep. Joe Barton claimed that there was “no medical negative” from mercury, sulfur dioxide or other toxic air pollutants. This appalling statement flies in the face of years of scientific research and blatantly ignores the EPA’s finding that roughly one in twelve – and as many as one in six – women of childbearing age have unsafe levels of mercury in their bodies.” – From the League of Conservation Voters.
The Republican view of global warming is epitomized by the words of Rick Santorum, who said the other day: “This climate science of man-made global warming is not climate science, it was political science.”
o Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives kills climate committee, the Select Committee on Global Warming. Not only that, but as Care2 reports, “House Republicans on the Energy and Commerce Committee demonstrated their commitment to science denial…by unanimously voting down three separate amendments offered by Democrats to reaffirm basic facts about climate science. They then unanimously voted to pass the Upton-Inhofe bill to repeal the Environmental Protection Agency’s scientific endangerment finding on greenhouse pollution.” In other words, they have legislated that climate-change does not exist. They have legislated it out of existence.
o The House budget for 2011 would have taken $126 million away from the National Weather Service. This is, of course, the agency within the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration that prepares and warns us of nasty life-threatening and property-destroying things like tsunamis, hurricanes, blizzards, floods and fires. Keep in mind, the House wants to continue to subsidize the oil industry that gouges you at the pumps each week and is increasing profits hand over fist. But dying in a tornado you didn’t know about is just fine.
o Republicans oppose energy saving lightbulbs, citing the evils of government interference. In a case of Republican cannibalism, Republican lawmakers want to repeal a 2007 U.S. law (signed by President George W. Bush) which phases out the old incandescent light bulbs in favor of alternative energy-saving bulbs (that use 25%-30% less energy than standard incandescent). With typical ignorance of the facts, Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) blames the Obama Administration
o Senator Rand Paul blames the administration and the Department of Energy for the fact that his toilet doesn’t work, telling Energy Department official Kathleen Hogan that it’s her fault (the EPA says if we replaced our old toilets we “could save nearly 2 billion gallons per day across the country—that’s nearly 11 gallons per toilet in your home every day”
o Republicans in the House (House CR or continuing resolution) voted to cut $1.6 billion from the National Institutes of Health or NIH (5% below the president’s 2011 request and $638 million, or 2%, below current levels), which would do untold damage to cancer research and probably result in cuts to Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s research, and cause job losses.
o The Republicans launch a stealth attack on endangered species, showing they love animals at least as much as the middle class.
o The Tea Party in at least a dozen states has come up with a radical, states-rights-centered proposal to attack healthcare reform: the health care compact would allow, Mother Jones reports, “them to seize control of and administer virtually all federal health care programs operating in their states and exempt them from the requirements of the health care law.”
o The House Judiciary Committee is looking at the Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act (H.R. 10), a bill that would undermine the public protections most crucial to our health, safety, environment and economy
o Republicans (and 12 Democrats from coal states) in the U.S. House of Representatives have passed (on July 14, 2011) the “Clean Water Cooperative Federalism Act of 2011″ which rolls back the Clean Water Act of 1972, eliminating federal oversight on water standards and returning it to the states.
o Michele Bachmann, running as Republican candidate for the presidency in 2012 says, “I pledge to you I’m not a talker. I’m a doer…. And I guarantee you the EPA will have doors locked and lights turned off and they will only be about conservation.” She promises, “It will be a new day and a new sheriff in Washington, D.C.”
o In Georgia, SB 61, in the words of Jim Galloway, declared “Georgia’s sovereign authority over incandescent light bulbs that do not cross state lines.” The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Barry Loudermilk, R-Cassville, said he wasn’t going to let the federal government do to light bulbs what they did to toilets.
o Rep. John Sullivan (R-OK), second ranking member of the GOP-led Energy and Power Subcommittee, introduced legislation (H.R. 1705)– called the TRAIN Act in the U.S. House of Representatives on May 4, 2011 to create a committee to do a cost-benefit analyses of 10 EPA regulations which are designed to curb pollution. Sullivan says Congress needs “an honest accounting of how much the Environmental Protection Agency’s regulatory train wreck is costing our economy and American consumers.” Democrats like Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) are right to demand to know how much the bill itself would cost Americans. The TRAIN act was passed by the House on 9/23/11.
o In Florida, Governor Rick Scott says that Florida doesn’t need “a lot more anthropologists in this state” and that “It’s a great degree if people want to get it. But we don’t need them here.” He apparently feels that “science, technology, engineering and math degrees” are where money should be spent, apparently ignorant of the fact that anthropology is a science. Perhaps somebody should have spent more money on Rick Scott’s education?
o It’s not just the House but the Senate as well. Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn proposed in September that federal funding for bike and pedestrian projects be stripped from the Transportation Bill then under consideration.
o Coburn failed as a result of public outcry but Senator Rand Paul now wants to use money allocated for bike and pedestrian projects to bridge repair – he says the bridges are a priority (so why aren’t they allocating money for it?) but since 2007, 2,800 cyclists and 20,000 pedestrians have died in this country.
o In a really bizarre end-run around environmental protections, Republicans in the House (who else?) are pushing Utah Republican Rep. Rob Bishop’s National Security and Federal Lands Protection Act, which, the Texas Tribune says, “would prevent the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Secretary of the Interior from enacting environmental regulations that hinder the operations of the CBP on public lands within 100 miles of the U.S. border.” Argues Paul Spitler of the Wilderness Society: “There are literally no checks on the agency. They would have unfettered access and control to do whatever they choose; there would be no oversight in Congress.” So much for small, non-intrusive government.
o Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced Monday that the Obama administration will be extending the Grand Canyon uranium-mining ban for 20 years. House Republicans are of course up in arms. One in twelve Americans depend on the Colorado River for drinking water so what better reason to pollute it by inviting in foreign-owned mining operations? They have introduced legislation, H.R. 3155 sponsored by Trent Franks (R-AZ), aka the Northern Arizona Mining Continuity Act of 2011, that would nullify the administration’s decision if it passed in the next 60 days.
o The Alliance for Natural Health points out that “In 2008, the National Institutes of Health required that all federally funded research publications be made openly available.” After all, the taxpayers paid for the research; they should be able to read it without paying again. But this very un-Republican act has angered “the Association of American Publishers (AAP).” As ANH reports: “The trade group liked the old rules, where they could sell the tax-funded research back to the taxpayers. So the AAP got two members of Congress, Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) and Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), to introduce HR 3699, the Research Works Act, just before the end of 2011.”
“This bill would prevent the NIH or any other agency from causing or even allowing private-sector research work to be disseminated online without prior consent of both the publisher and the study authors—even if the funding came from our tax dollars […] This is about access to peer-reviewed scientific information—research that we pay for with our tax money. If this bill passes, Americans who want to read the results of federally funded research will have to buy access to each journal article individually—at a cost of $15 or $30 apiece. In other words, as the New York Times recently noted, taxpayers who already paid for the research would have to pay again to read the results.”
o In the U.S. Senate, Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO) is attacking the Affordable Care Act by introducing an amendment (the Blunt Amendment) to a transportation bill that would give, in the words of the National Women’s Law Center, “virtually limitless and unprecedented license to any employer or insurance plan, religious or not, to exclude any health service, no matter how essential, in the health services they cover.” The Blunt Amendment was defeated in the Senate on a narrow vote of 51 to 48 on March 1, 2012.
The War on Education/Historical Revisionism
o “War on Evolution/Creationism/Intelligent Design”
- Creationism and its non-science version known as “Creation Science” or Intelligent Design are invading our school curriculums and dumbing-down the most scientifically advanced nation in the world to a Bronze Age level. The National Center for Science Education reports that of nine of these anti-science bills have been introduced around the country in 2011, including Texas, Florida and Tennessee.
- In Oklahoma, Rep. Josh Brecheen introduced an anti-evolution bill which fortunately died in committee. Senate Bill 554 would have required “every publicly funded Oklahoma school to teach the debate of creation vs. evolution.” The problem for Rep. Brecheen is that in science, there is no debate. Brecheen calls evolution the “religion” of evolution, which is an ironic label from a believer in creationism.
- In Florida, Senate Bill 1854 calls for educators to “teach efficiently and faithfully… a thorough presentation and critical analysis of the scientific theory of evolution.” Florida state Sen. Stephen Wise (a Republican), chairman of the Senate Education Committee (who failed in a similar attempt in 2009) told the Florida Times-Union in 2009, “If you’re going to teach evolution then you’ve got to teach the other side so you can have critical thinking.”
- Science Advisor April 7, 2011: “In a 70-28 vote today, the Tennessee House of Representatives passed HB 368, a bill that encourages science teachers to explore controversial topics without fear of reprisal. Critics say the measure will enable K-12 teachers to present intelligent design and creationism as acceptable alternatives to evolution in the classroom.”
- In Indiana, the GOP-controlled Senate Education Committee passed by a vote of 8-2 on Wednesday Senate Bill 89, which would allow local school districts to “require the teaching of various theories concerning the origin of life, including creation science.” In other words, creationism. This was the second attempt by the bill’s sponsor, Republican Sen. Dennis Kruse, head of the Indiana State Senate’s Education Committee to get such legislation passed.
o Some 90 Tennessee counties have now adopted resolutions claiming that the Ten Commandments are the basis of the American legal system, despite the clear and incontrovertible evidence that the American legal system is based on English common-law (that is to say, ancient Pagan Germanic law) and on Pagan Roman law, which is to say, civil law.
o Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval has proposed to cut teacher pay by 12 percent to 20 percent
o In Michigan, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives is considering punitive legislation against teachers that would prohibit them (and other public employees, those nasty collective bargainers) from using a publicly-owned email service to send political messages. HB 4052, adopted by the House Oversight, Reform and Ethics Committee would mandate a $10,000 fine for an organization and a $1,000 fine and one-year imprisonment for an individual for violating the law. The Michigan Education Association correctly defines this act as “political payback.”
o In Alabama, state Senator Shadrack McGill (R) is claiming that raising teacher’s pay Is a violation of a biblical principle. “It’s a Biblical principle. If you double a teacher’s pay scale, you’ll attract people who aren’t called to teach. To go in and raise someone’s child for eight hours a day, or many people’s children for eight hours a day, requires a calling. It better be a calling in your life. I know I wouldn’t want to do it, OK? “And these teachers that are called to teach, regardless of the pay scale, they would teach. It’s just in them to do. It’s the ability that God give ‘em. “ As ThinkProgress puts it: “McGill found justification in the Bible for not increasing teacher pay, but he evidently found nothing in scripture preventing him from approving a 67 percent pay increase for legislators in 2007, which increased annual salaries for the part-time legislators from $30,710 to $49,500. He said that the higher pay helped to stop corruption.” ThinkProgress goes on to point out the following fact: “Currently, a part-time legislator in Alabama is making more than a full-time teacher with a Master’s degree and 15 years of experience.” Taking McGill’s words to their logical conclusion then, being a politician is not something God wants people to do.
o De-funding Head Start
- In Frederick County, Maryland, the Board of County Commissioners voted to end the county’s contribution to Head Start, cutting funding for the program by more than 50 percent. Two of the Republican officials justified their decision by arguing that women should be married and staying at home with their kids, which would make the program unnecessary.
- Saying that the country is broke and we need to tighten our belts, Senate Republicans vote to cut the Head Start budget by $2 billion, or nearly a quarter of President Obama’s $8.2 billion 2011 budget request (the program’s current funding is $7.2 billion) but voted to continue $4 billion worth of subsidies to Big Oil (Exxon, etc). Exxon’s profits went up 53% in the last quarter of 2010. The Head Start funding cut will have the following effects:
- 218,000 children from low income families will lose Head Start/Early Head Start services;
- 16,000 Head Start/Early Head Start classrooms will close;
- 55,000 Head Start/Early Head Start teachers and staff will lose their jobs;
- 150,000 low-income families and their children will lose assistance in paying for child care.
The Republicans spent much of the past two years shutting down the United States government over one issue or another. It would take an entire article to account for all their underhanded attempts to hold government hostage. One example will suffice.
o House Republicans decided that the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) was funding abortions (it wasn’t as proven by its steering document). but because they insisted that their fantasy was true, they threatened to shut down the government over a policy rider banning funding to the UNFPA.
The War on Anti-Bullying Laws
The Republican Party maintains that the true victims of bullying are the bullies themselves. Anti-bullying law have been called “a Trojan Horse to sneak [homosexual activists'] special rights agenda into law” (the Michigan Family Association), would “promote acceptance of homosexuality.” (Minnesota Family Council) or that “bullying prevention is being “hijacked by activists” who are “politicizing or sexualizing the issue” (Focus on the Family). Apparently, however, it’s quite all right for religious activists to hijack bullying prevention. Currently, 47 states have anti-bullying laws.
o In November 2011, the Michigan State Senate passed a “license to bully” bill (SB 137) which allows bulling by those who have a “sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction.” In full: “This section does not prohibit a statement of a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction of a school employee, school volunteer, pupil, or a pupil and parent or guardian.” The language was eventually stripped from the bill.
o A similar attempt to okay religious-based bullying is now underfoot in Tennessee, which is promoting its own “license to bully” bill, HB 1153: “‘Creating a hostile educational environment’ shall not be construed to include discomfort and unpleasantness that can accompany the expression of a viewpoint or belief that is unpopular, not shared by other students, or not shared by teachers or school officials.” The bill goes on to say that “The policy shall not be construed or interpreted to infringe upon the First Amendment rights of students and shall not prohibit their expression of religious, philosophical, or political views; provided, that such expression does not include a threat of physical harm to a student or damage to a student’s property.” The bill’s agenda is made abundantly clear by the following:”Harassment, intimidation, or bullying prevention task forces, programs, and other initiatives formed by school districts, including any curriculum adopted for such purposes, shall not include materials or training that explicitly or implicitly promote a political agenda, make the characteristics of the victim the focus rather than the conduct of the person engaged in harassment, intimidation, or bullying, or teach or suggest that certain beliefs or viewpoints are discriminatory when an act or practice based on such belief or viewpoint is not a discriminatory practice as defined in 4-21-102(4).”
o Ever wonder what happens in the event of a complete collapse of the federal government, including currency and military? Well, naturally, Republicans think about such things when they go to their happy places. Witness Wyoming’s close call with a so-called doomsday bill.
- Remarkably, House Bill 85, as the Wyoming bill is known, passed its first vote in the Wyoming House on February 24, 2012. As The Blaze reports: “If advanced, the ‘Doomsday Bill’ would create a state-run government task force that would explore and handle energy supplies, food shortages and other needs related to a potential nationwide governmental collapse.” Fortunately, sanity prevailed, Trib.com… reporting that the vote failed on February 28 by a margin of 30-27 after an aircraft carrier amendment was included, exposing the silliness of the whole plan. According to Trib.com…, the task force established would have included “state lawmakers, the director of the Wyoming Department of Homeland Security, the Wyoming attorney general and the Wyoming National Guard’s adjutant general, among others.” The aircraft carrier amendment was proposed by Republican Rep. Kermit Brown and mandated establishment of a task force to investigate “conditions under which the state of Wyoming should implement a draft, raise a standing army, marine corps, navy and air force and acquire strike aircraft and an aircraft carrier.” Brown said the carrier amendment was meant to inject “a little bit of humor into the bill,” but the bill’s sponsor, Republican state Rep. David Miller, thinks it killed it instead.
This particular piece of legislation from Indiana may seem a minor annoyance to some, but it represents a far greater threat to America than it might seem. It also goes to show that Wisconsin and Michigan Tea Partiers have nothing on their Hoosier brethren.
o State Sen. Vaneta Becker (R) has proposed legislation that would not improve math or science skills, or indeed, anything having to do with education, but which would introduce, reports the Indianapolis Star, “’performance standards’for singing and playing ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ at any event sponsored by public schools and state universities.” Also affected would be private schools receiving state or local scholarship funds, including vouchers. The GOP and it’s Tea Party allies claim to be all for small and unintrusive government, but the new law would require performers “to sign a contract agreeing to follow the guidelines. Musicians — whether amateur or professional — would be fined $25 if it were deemed they failed to meet the appropriate standards.” Additionally, “schools to maintain audio recordings of all performances for two years and develop a procedure for dealing with complaints if a musician is alleged to have strayed from the approved lyrical or melodic guidelines.”
You’ve pushed us white folks too far!
This piece of legislation deserved a category of its own. If you’ve ever doubted that Republicans and Tea Partiers are wasting everyone’s time and money rather than trying to fix what’s wrong with America, doubt no longer:
o Never happy with “political correctness” the Republicans in the North Dakota legislature passed a piece of legislation, House Bill 1263, which was signed into law Gov. Jack Dalrymple, which prohibits the University of North Dakota from changing their 90-year-old Native American nickname — the Fighting Sioux – in compliance with the NCAA’s policy on mascots “deemed hostile or abusive toward Native Americans.”