State of the States - Dec 2021
So far eighteen states have finished redrawing their congressional maps, according to FiveThirtyEight. Some states continue to grapple with redistricting, whether it’s finalizing and adopting legislative maps or lawsuits challenging proposed maps.
Around the country, a variety of hot-button issues have dominated the news, such as voting restrictions, taxes, funding, abortion limits, and gun control. While many legislative sessions will begin in the new year after the holidays, December is still proving to be busy!
Take a look at the latest news in legislation as we wrap up this year and head into 2022:
Gov. Asa Hutchinson called the state legislature back into session, with a beginning date of Dec. 7, to focus primarily on the tax cut plan. The package would reduce the state’s top income tax rate from 5.9% to 4.9%, and include corporate tax cuts and a low-income tax credit.
California’s redistricting commission released draft congressional and legislative maps on Nov. 10, which is expected to reshape the state’s political landscape. The commission has until Dec. 27 to finalize the maps.
Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill on Nov. 18 against coronavirus vaccination mandates on workers. Florida is the first state with a law that imposes fines on businesses and hospitals that require COVID-19 vaccination without exemptions or alternatives. On Nov. 29, the Florida House released proposed congressional and state house maps.
On Nov. 23, the state’s new congressional map was signed into law by Gov. J.B. Pritzker. The final version bolsters Democratic gains in the state and puts pressure on several incumbent Republicans.
Redistricting is at the center of the state’s special session that started on Dec. 6. Republicans argue that the proposed maps still strongly favor Democrats. The General Assembly will also select a new state treasurer and vote on parole reform, immigration, and public transit.
Gov. Charlie Baker is reviewing a $4 billion spending bill, which directs money from the state’s piece of the American Rescue Plan Act and Fiscal Year 2021 surplus funds to assist with economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. The governor has also signed a bill mandating genocide and human rights education for middle and high school students.
The state senate unanimously approved $3.3 billion in water infrastructure spending on Dec. 2 to replace lead pipes, repair aging dams, and send money to a Detroit-area system that has struggled with flooding. Next, the House will consider the massive influx of federal aid that’s expected in 2022 because of the infrastructure bill and pandemic rescue law.
State legislators who oppose legal abortion are preparing a list of restriction bills for the 2022 General Assembly, which convenes in January. The proposals include requiring women to have an ultrasound before an abortion and raising criminal penalties for illegal abortions. The U.S. Supreme Court’s conservative majority signaled on Dec. 1 that they would allow states new abortion limits and may even overturn the nationwide law.
A state judge has blocked House Bill 102, which would allow more people to carry guns on public college campuses. The state’s constitution gives the Board of Regents the authority to regulate the university system. Its current policy bans firearm possession on campuses, with exceptions for law enforcement and security officers.
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham called the state legislature into a special session on Dec. 6 to finalize and approve new legislative district maps. Another priority will be appropriating federal COVID-relief funding from the American Rescue Plan Act. However, there has been controversy over Grisham’s spending a portion of the funds.
Gov. Roy Cooper has vetoed legislation that would prohibit the counting of mail-in absentee ballots received after Election Day, even if the envelopes are postmarked on or before that date. The state’s current law allows officials to count envelopes postmarked by the primary or general election date if they’re received within a three-day grace period.
The Ohio Supreme Court will hold hearings on three lawsuits that challenge the constitutionality of legislative maps that were passed strictly with Republican votes. New legislation has been proposed to exempt any Ohio college graduates who take a full-time job in the state from state income tax for up to three years.
Gov. Tom Wolf vetoed new gun legislation on Dec. 2 that would have allowed people to carry a firearm openly or concealed without a permit. The bill would have also eliminated a law that applies only to Philadelphia, which requires gun owners to get a permit to openly carry a firearm in the city.
The U.S. Justice of Department (DOJ) filed a lawsuit on Dec. 6 that the legislative maps adopted by Texas Republicans violate the Voting Rights Act. According to the DOJ, the maps fail to recognize growth in the Latino population and discriminate against Black voters.
Gov. Tony Evers vetoed five anti-abortion bills on Dec. 3, just a couple of days after the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in a case that could limit, or even end, abortion rights. A group tied to former President Donald Trump is working to bypass the governor to alter voting laws in the swing state.
State of the States Summary
Redistricting continues to be a focus for many states and will be debated in highly contested states like Maryland, Texas, Ohio, and Wisconsin. In addition to legislative maps, social issues like gun control and abortion rights are being divided along party lines. Lastly, the COVID-19 pandemic still poses questions and challenges to legislators, from vaccination mandates to relief fund appropriations.