New laws keep blue and red states away
SACRAMENTO — After the governor of Texas ordered state agencies to investigate parents for child abuse if they provide certain medical treatments to their transgender children, California lawmakers proposed legislation making the state a haven for transgender youth and their families.
When Idaho proposed an abortion ban that allows relatives to sue anyone who helps terminate a pregnancy after six weeks, neighboring Oregon approved $15 million to help defray abortion costs for patients at the hospital. out of state.
As Republican activists aggressively pursue conservative social policies in state legislatures across the country, liberal states are taking defensive action. Spurred on by a U.S. Supreme Court that is set to soon upend a range of longstanding rights, including the constitutional right to abortion, left-wing lawmakers from Washington to Vermont have begun expanding access abortion, strengthen the right to vote, and speak out against laws in conservative states targeting LGBTQ minors.
The wave of actions, particularly in the West, intensifies the already stark differences between life in liberal and conservative-ruled parts of the country. And it is a sign of the consequences when state governments are increasingly controlled by single parties. Control of the legislative chambers is now split between parties in a single state – Minnesota – compared to 15 states 30 years ago.
“We’re becoming more and more polarized and fragmented, so blue states and red states become not just a little bit different but radically different,” said Jon Michaels, a law professor who studies government at the University of California to Los Angeles.
Americans have split into opposing partisan camps for at least a generation, increasingly choosing to live with like-minded neighbors, while legislatures, through gerrymandering, reinforce their states’ political identities by cementing the one-party system.
“As states get more red or blue, it’s politically easier for them to pass laws,” said Ryan D. Enos, a Harvard political scientist who studies partisan segregation. “Does it create a feedback loop where more sorting happens? This is the part we don’t know yet.
With about 30 legislatures in Republican hands, conservative lawmakers, in many cases working with common legislative language, began enacting a tsunami of restrictions that for years were blocked by moderate Democrats and Republicans at the federal level. . A recent wave of anti-abortion bills, for example, was the largest since the landmark 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade.
Similar measures have recently targeted LGBTQ protections and voting rights. In Florida and Texas, “election police” teams have been created to crack down on the rare crime of voter fraud, a consequence of specious claims by former President Donald J. Trump after his defeat in the 2020 presidential election.
Carrying concealed weapons without a permit is now legal in almost half of the country. “Bounties” laws — enforced not by governments, which can be sued in federal court, but by rewards to private citizens for suing — have proliferated on issues ranging from classroom speech to vaccinations since the US Supreme Court refused to overturn the legal tactic in Texas.
The moves, in an election year, have raised questions about the extent to which they are performative, as opposed to substantial. Some Republican bills are bold on the face of it but vaguely worded. Some seem designed largely to energize grassroots voters.
Many, however, send a strong cultural message. And the divisions will widen further, said Peverill Squire, an expert on state legislatures at the University of Missouri, if the Supreme Court grants states more power over issues such as abortion and voting, as it did so when she declared in 2019 that partisan gerrymandering was beyond federal jurisdiction.
Some legal analysts also say the planned rollback of abortion rights could throw a host of other privacy rights into turmoil at the state level, from contraception to health care. Meanwhile, entrenched partisanship, which has previously stymied federal decision-making, could stall attempts to impose tough national standards on Congress.
“We are potentially entering a new era of state-centric policymaking,” said Karthick Ramakrishnan, professor of public policy and political science at the University of California, Riverside. “We may be heading towards a future where you could have conservative states and progressive states deciding that they better push their own visions of what government should be.”
In recent weeks, several states, including Colorado and Vermont, have decided to codify a right to abortion. More – Maryland and Washington, for example – have expanded access or legal protection in anticipation of out-of-state patients.
But no state has been as aggressive as California in finding alternatives to Republican legislation.
A set of pending California bills would expand access to abortions in California and protect abortion providers from lawsuits outside the state. Another proposal would thwart the enforcement of foreign court judgments removing children from the care of parents who provide them with gender-affirming health services.
Yet another would impose a ban on ghost weapons and assault weapons with a California version of Texas’ recent six-week abortion ban, with $10,000 bounties to encourage private citizen lawsuits against anyone selling , distributes or manufactures these types of firearms.
In a “state of the state” address last month, Governor Gavin Newsom conducted more than half a dozen sweeps in Florida and Texas, comparing expanded sick leave, family leave and California’s Medicaid coverage during the pandemic with the highest Covid-19 death rate in the two Republican-led states, and alluding to states “where they ban the books” and “where you can sue.” your history teacher for teaching history”.
After Disney World employees protested the company’s initial reluctance to condemn Florida’s bill that opponents call “Don’t Say Gay”, Mr. Newsom suggested that Disney cancel the relocation of some 2,000 West Coast positions to a new Florida campus, say on twitter that “the door is open to bring those jobs back to California – the state that truly represents the values of your workers.”
Dan Schnur, a former Republican strategist who now teaches political science at the University of Southern California and the University of California, Berkeley, said that without strong Republican opposition, Mr Newsom used Texas governors and of Florida as straw men.
“It’s an effective way to strengthen yourself at home and elevate your name in Democratic presidential conversations,” Schnur said.
Conservatives in California and elsewhere have criticized the governor for fueling division.
A spokeswoman for Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida, who is a Republican presidential candidate, noted in an email that Disneyland has been closed three times longer than Disney World during the pandemic, and that hundreds of thousands of Americans moved to Florida between April 2020 and July. 2021 as hundreds of thousands left California. Mr. Newsom, she wrote, “does a better job as a U-Haul salesperson.”
“California politicians do not have veto power over laws passed in Florida,” spokeswoman Christina Pushaw added. “Governor. Newsom should be focused on fixing the problems in his own state.
The office of Texas Governor Greg Abbott — who in 2018 coined the slogan “Don’t California My Texas” — did not respond to emails and calls seeking comment.
In an interview, Newsom noted that California had been grappling for decades with cultural and demographic shifts that are only now hitting other parts of the country, including early battles over issues such as gay rights. and immigration. “I’m very concerned about what’s going on and whether or not it’s well understood by the majority, not just the American people but people in my own party,” he said.
“We are not going to sit idly by and neutrally watch the progress of the 20th century fade away,” he added, decrying the “taste for demonization” and an “anti-democratic” slant in the recent policies to restrict LGBTQ voting and protections.
“If you don’t say anything, you’re complicit,” Mr Newsom said. “You have to face these guys and push back.”
California’s position has broad implications. Although US census figures showed stalled growth in the state in 2020, its population of nearly 40 million is the largest in the country, comprising one in nine US residents.
“In a world where the federal government has abdicated some of its core responsibilities, states like California need to figure out what their responsibilities are,” said UCLA professor Michaels. “The difficult question is: where does it end?”
For example, he noted, the fallout could mean that federal rights that generations have taken for granted may only be available to those who can afford to uproot their lives and move to the states that guarantee them. .
“It’s easy for Governor Newsom to say to struggling Alabamians, ‘I feel your pain,’ but so what? ‘Come rent a studio in San Francisco for $4,000 a month?’ »
Violette Augustine, 37 years old, an artist, art teacher and single parent in Dallas, worries about the limits of the interstate refuge. For months, she said, she considered leaving Texas with her trans daughter, a kindergarten student, to a state where she didn’t constantly fear for their safety. When Mr. Abbott and the Texas Attorney General ordered the state to investigate parents of transgender children for possible child abuse, his plan solidified.
A call on GoFundMe raised some $23,000, and she recently traveled to Los Angeles, staying at a hotel in the heart of the city’s Koreatown and meeting with leaders of a community group that describes itself as ” radically inclusive” of LGBTQ families.
“The town itself felt like a haven,” Ms Augustine said. But, she added, her $60,000 salary, which allows her to rent a house in Texas, would barely cover a California apartment: “We’re going to have to downsize.
Michael Wines contributed report.