All Politics Is Local

All Politics Is Local

Alexis ChapmanWednesday,10 February 2016

As the presidential primary circus departs New Hampshire and all eyes turn to Nevada and South Carolina it can be easy to forget that there are other things happening in politics in this country right now. A lot of things. Bills are being introduced and passed and challenged and none of it has anything to do with the current or future President because it’s happening at the state and local level. In fact, the vast majority of legislation happens at the state and local level. John Oliver did a fun segment on this in 2014 and to give you a more current idea of the discrepancy, in 2015 President Obama signed just over 100 bills, meanwhile last year states passed 153 bills just relating to immigration, 47 bills restricting abortion, 94 bills on campaign finance, and literally thousands of other bills on things like taxes, education, roads, and law enforcement. 2016 will have it’s own batch of good, bad, and insane legislation so here are just a few of the things that are going on in a state near you.

On Feb 4 Michigan’s Senate advanced SB219 a bill that’s supposed to prevent animal abuse, but for some reason also contains language which would make certain kinds of sex a felony, even if the participants are consenting adults.

Today the West Virginia House will be hearing HB4012, which will make it harder to enforce the law if doing so interferes with someone’s religious freedom. Similar bills that could functionally legalize religiously motivated discrimination caused a lot of public outcry last year when they were passed in Arkansas and Indiana.

In New York state S6378A recently passed the Senate and will be heard by the Assembly. This bill would mandate that the state create a list of anyone who is boycotting an ally of the U.S. and then prohibit the state from investing or contracting with anyone on that list. The whole idea of government blacklists seems to come from a different era but this is going on right now.

New Hampshire’s state legislature just voted no on HR552 to allow people to pay their taxes with bitcoin. It’s not surprising that NH doesn’t want to accept taxes in unregulated highly volatile crypto-currency; what is surprising is that the bill got a lot of support this year and the sponsoring legislator says he intends to keep introducing it until it passes, so look for this one again next year.

In Utah the Senate is considering a HB73 to legalize medical marijuana. The Mormon Church’s opposition to the bill will be a challenge but as of today it’s still alive.

On Feb. 8, California bill AB1681 was referred to committees. It mandates that any smartphone made after 1/1/17 and sold in CA must be able to be decrypted and unlocked by its manufacturer or operating system provider. This would enable law enforcement to make manufacturers and providers unlock phones if there is a warrant for information in the phone. And it would mean that a lot of big companies like Apple and Google might have to choose between weakening the level of encryption they have or not selling in California.

In Tennessee if SB1677 passes, then women will be able to get birth control pills and patches over the counter directly from their pharmacists without needing to visit a doctor.

These are just a few interesting bills from a few states. Even if your state isn’t mentioned here, there is a good chance your legislature has considered or even passed laws similar to the ones above. And there is a 100% chance that you have laws and bills in your state that are just as important as the ones above. The politics that is quietly going on in our state legislatures can affect us at least as much as the presidential election that is loudly going on everywhere else. And you have the power to affect these laws. In most states it takes less than 5 minutes to submit testimony online, not to mention that you are in charge of electing the people who are writing and voting on these bills. So when you go to the elections to vote for president don’t forget to pay attention to all the other boxes on your ballot. Your vote for president is important and it counts, but it might count more if we got rid of the electoral college; the president probably isn’t going to do that, but your state legislature might.

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Image Credit: Steven Depolo on Flickr

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