State of the States - May'22
The redistricting process continues to be rocky, taking a couple of steps back in the past several weeks. In April, 40 states had completed their maps, but that number dropped to 39 states (excluding the six states with one congressional district). Five states — Florida, Kansas, Missouri, New Hampshire, and New York — don’t have congressional maps due to courts striking them down or political stalemates.
The nation was rocked by two mass shootings this month. The first incident was at a New York grocery that killed 10 people and injured three. The second was at a Texas elementary school that took the lives of 21 people, 19 of whom were children. These recent tragedies are calling gun laws into question and stirring up demands for reform. Other issues have made headlines as well, such as abortion, hair discrimination, tax cuts, and clean energy.
State lawmakers passed legislation that prohibits Alaska school districts from adopting dress codes that bar students from wearing hairstyles associated with race or from wearing traditional tribal regalia at graduation ceremonies. The U.S. House in March passed similar legislation, the CROWN Act, that prohibits discrimination on the basis of hair texture and hairstyles.
Civil rights organizations filed a lawsuit against the state’s new congressional map. The plaintiffs argue that the new districts violate the state’s constitution — namely the Fair Districts Amendment — since they favor Republicans by a more than 2-to-1 margin and dilute the voting power of racial minorities. A judge ruled that the map is unconstitutional in the preliminary injunction hearing on May 11.
Kansas Secretary of State Scott Schwab has appealed a lower court decision that struck down the state’s congressional map as unconstitutional. On May 16, the Kansas Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on the appeal. Gov. Laura Kelly signed into law on May 11 a plan that phases out the state’s grocery sales tax over three years.
Louisiana’s House of Representatives is debating a bill to make women who get an abortion subject to criminal homicide prosecution. Gov. John Bel Edwards, an anti-abortion supporter, has said he’d veto it, and Louisiana Right to Life and the Louisiana Conference of Catholic Bishops are also against the bill.
The state House passed a new proposed map on May 9 in an attempt to avoid court intervention and break a stalemate with the state Senate before the May 13 deadline. However, Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft has said that even if the new map is approved by the deadline, it may be too late to implement for the August primary elections without causing problems.
A group of state Democrats has filed a lawsuit challenging the congressional maps that were signed into law by Gov. Chris Sununu on May 6. The plaintiffs allege that the new boundaries unfairly favor Republicans and violate the state’s constitution.
Gov. Phil Murphy proposed new legislation on May 11 that would expand abortion access and require insurance companies to pay for the procedure. Four months ago, Murphy signed into law a bill guaranteeing abortion rights.
On May 14, a racially motivated shooting occurred at a supermarket in Buffalo, NY where 10 black people were killed and three were injured. Judge Patrick McAllister upheld the state’s new redistricting maps on May 11 because he ruled that there wasn’t enough time to change them before the June primaries. Previous court rulings struck down the new maps favored by Democrats because they failed to follow an anti-gerrymandering constitutional process.
On May 24, a gunman opened fire at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas near San Antonio, killing 19 children and two teachers. Later that day, President Joe Biden again called on Congress to pass gun reform legislation.
Gov. Phil Scott vetoed a clean heat standard bill, which would help Vermont reduce emissions from heating buildings to meet the state’s climate change commitments. Scott said that he vetoed the legislation because it doesn’t include details on the costs and impacts.
State of the States Summary
Both parties have been accused of gerrymandered districts, which has led to courts striking down approved maps in Florida, Kansas, and New York. New Hampshire’s maps, which were recently signed into law, now face a lawsuit from state Democrats, while Missouri lawmakers struggle to meet the redistricting deadline. However, the biggest news in May is the two mass shooting tragedies, further intensifying demands for gun law reform.
Furthermore, multiple states are considering bills that further oppose or support abortion, like Louisiana and New Jersey respectively. Kansas lawmakers seek to provide inflation relief by signing a bill that phases out grocery sales taxes, and Vermont’s governor vetoes a clean heat standard bill for not providing enough details.
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