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This article is part of a series highlighting the legislative accomplishments of Sister District alumni. Additional resources:
Sister District — Legislative Accomplishments Overview and Data
Sister District Alums — Greatest Hits from Successful 2018 Legislative Sessions
Sister District Alums — Feeding the Policy and Leadership Pipelines
In 2017 and 2018, Sister District supported 16 candidates for state legislature in Delaware, Washington, Virginia and Florida. 15 were victorious. These newly minted legislators went on to the 2018 legislative session. Bills were introduced, debates were had, and some made it through both chambers and were signed into law by the Governor.
This article focuses on proposed bills that failed to pass. Why bother? See the end of the article for more — but to eat dessert first: sometimes, as Morrissey says, “these things take time.” Introducing bills creates opportunities to respond to feedback, tweak, and reintroduce next session.
At a broader level, a policy window is coming at the federal level — when it opens, Democrats will need to be able to point to the policies we want, and that have already proven effective. We can start to get there by seeding the ideas for the policies we want. This means introducing bills, and bringing progressive policies into the range of ideas tolerated — and demanded — by the public. Even if these bills didn’t pass this year, they are incremental steps that are building the progressive policy pipeline.
Below, we provide a quick reminder about why states matter, and then we highlight some of great progressive legislation introduced by Sister District alums in their sessions this year.
A central premise of Sister District is that states matter. While the reasons are many, there are three right at the core:
1) Redistricting. In most states, the state legislature draws electoral district lines just once every 10 years after the census. When those lines are drawn to strategically favor the party in power (this is gerrymandering), this affects the balance of power in both the state legislature and in Congress. The GOP currently controls more than ⅔ of all state legislative chambers. The next census is in 2020 — which means that this year, we’ll be electing most of the state legislators who will be in office the next time redistricting happens. So the 2018 state elections will have consequences that will last for the next ten years.
2) Policy Pipeline. State legislatures are proving grounds for progressive policy. States are “laboratories for democracy,” and policies move from state to state, and from state to federal. Successful, progressive state policies will serve as the building blocks for the positive vision of America that we want to advance. A policy window of opportunity will eventually open at the federal level — progressives need to be ready with policies that have been tested and proven.
3) Leadership Pipeline. State legislatures are training grounds for the next generation of national leaders. Half of all presidents (including Obama) started as state legislators. In our current Congress, 44 Senators and 220 House members formerly served as state legislators. Successful, proven state leaders will serve as the farm team for the next crop of national candidates and leaders. When a leadership window of opportunity opens up at the federal level, progressives need to be ready — with leaders who have learned in the states.
Sister District Alums — Chief Patrons / Authors of Bill:
Below are just a few progressive bills introduced by our 15 Sister District legislators, but not passed. The below highlights bills for which our legislators were Chief Patron, and which have now been enacted into law.
Elizabeth Guzman (VA-HOD31): HB971 — Adds discrimination based on gender identity as an unlawful housing practice under the Virginia Fair Housing Law.
David Reid (VA-HOD31): HB476 — free tuition and fees (including room and board) for students at public universities and colleges who intend to pursue a community service career.
Kathleen Murphy (VA-HOD34): HB651 — Provides that it is a Class 6 felony for a person who is subject to a permanent protective order (i.e., a protective order with a maximum duration of two years) to possess a firearm while the order is in effect. Under current law, only a person subject to a permanent protective order for family abuse is prohibited from possessing a firearm while the order is in effect.
Kathy Tran (VA-HOD42): HB1329 — Prohibits any state agency maintaining an information system that includes personal information from disseminating to federal government authorities information concerning the religious preferences and affiliations of data subjects for the purpose of compiling a list, registry, or database of individuals based on religious affiliation, national origin, or ethnicity.