Newly Emboldened GOP Legislatures Waste No Time With Conservative Agenda

Jeff Curry

As Donald Trump won the White House in November, Republicans also gained power in state legislatures and won governorships, giving GOP state lawmakers the power and momentum to start the year by introducing a slew of conservative legislation.

In 25 states, Republicans control both the legislature and the governorship, allowing GOP lawmakers to easily push through their agendas.

In particular, four states swung to complete Republican control in the November election, with the GOP winning the Kentucky and Iowa legislatures and the governorships in Missouri and New Hampshire. With their newfound control of state government and the momentum of Trump's election to the White House, Republican lawmakers in those states have already gotten started on legislation pushing pet conservative issues.

Kentucky

In Kentucky, Republican lawmakers have already introduced two bills targeting unions. The first is a right-to-work bill, which would eliminate mandatory union dues. Lawmakers also introduced a bill that would repeal the state's prevailing wage law for construction workers, which requires Kentucky officials to determine how much construction workers are paid for publicly-funded projects. The prevailing wage is typically the same wage that union workers earn. Both bills have already passed in the Kentucky state House and now head to the state Senate.

The bills targeting unions prompted hundreds of union workers to protest in the state legislative building on Wednesday as Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin (R) testified in a committee hearing about the legislation. At one point protesters shouted at Bevin in a hallway as he attempted to engage with them.

Republican lawmakers in Kentucky are also pushing anti-abortion measures. The state Senate has passed a bill that would ban abortion after 20 weeks, and the state House has approved legislation that would require doctors to show women their ultrasound and let them listen to the fetal heartbeat if possible before performing an abortion. The House legislation would allow women to refuse to look at the ultrasound or listen to the fetal heartbeat.

Iowa

With new control over the state legislature, Republicans in Iowa are pushing for several pieces of conservative legislation. The Republican secretary of state has called for a voter ID law.

"As I have stated many times, protecting the integrity of our elections is my top priority and this legislation will help us do that,” Secretary of State Paul Pate said in a statement. “I want to make it easy to vote, but hard to cheat. If you don’t have an ID, we will send you a new voter registration card to use at the polls. This bill streamlines the system to make checking in easier and quicker. It will reduce waiting times at the polls, ensure every eligible Iowan is able to cast a ballot, and ensures their ballot will count.”

Republican legislators have also said they will rework the state law regarding collective bargaining, and they are eyeing legislation to defund Planned Parenthood and restrict abortion access.

Missouri

With Republican Eric Greitens (pictured above) set to take office as governor, Republican lawmakers are ready to introduce right-to-work legislation. The speaker of the state House said he would soon introduce a right-to-work bill, and the president of the state Senate has also said such legislation would be a top priority.

"Look at the states around us that are growing and prospering,” Senate President Pro Tem Ron Richard said of plans to push right-to-work legislation. “We are going to send this on a calendar and we are going to pass it.”

GOP legislators in the state have also introduced 14 anti-abortion measures. The bills include a personhood bill, legislation restricting fetal tissue research, and a measure requiring women to choose how to dispose of their fetal remains.

New Hampshire

In New Hampshire, the election of Republican Gov. Chris Sununu (pictured being sworn in) will allow the Republican legislature there to push several conservative measures. Sununu mentioned in his inaugural address his hope of passing right-to-work legislation, and the state House majority leader has sponsored a bill to nix mandatory union fees. Republican lawmakers are also expected to consider conceal carry legislation, a measure to expand school choice, and changes to election law.

Beyond the four states above, Republicans legislators in several other states have also introduced a string of conservative measures. Six states are considering bills that would regulate bathroom use by transgender individuals, with lawmakers in Texas and Virginia introducing measures this week. Several Republican legislatures will also consider voter ID bills and anti-abortion measures.

One Indiana Republican, concerned about Sharia law, has filed a bill barring judges from using foreign law as a legal standard in civil cases. And Georgia Republicans have introduced several measures targeting immigrants and refugees, including a bill that would keep the state from accepting federal funds for refugee resettlement.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Caitlin MacNeal is a News Writer based in Washington, D.C. Before joining TPM, Caitlin interned and wrote for the Huffington Post, the Sunlight Foundation and Slate. She is a graduate of Georgetown University.
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