This week, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned an Arizona law passed in 2004 requiring that voters prove their United States citizenship in order to register to vote. The Court ruled in a 7-2 decision authored by Justice Antonin Scalia that states could not impose additional requirements for registration beyond those included in the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (also called the "motor voter" law).
With more and more sessions drawing to a close, the latest count shows 15 states that have rejected expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, 20 that have agreed to comply with the law and expand coverage, and the rest still debating expansion. In many states -- including Florida and Ohio -- that debate is playing out in a contentious intramural fight among conservatives themselves. Conservative governors supporting expansion are running into opposition from ideologically opposed lawmakers in their own party, as the political debate over Medicaid increasingly appears to be taking place entirely on one side of the aisle:
With the debate in D.C. currently centered around exactly how much more federal budget austerity to enact, and with the budget sequester threatening 750,000 jobs nationwide looking more and more likely to go into effect March 1st, the jobless also continue to be under attack in the states. This week, one state signed devastating cuts to their unemployment insurance system into law, another advanced a restructuring of their system that would endanger their federal funding, and efforts to ban employer discrimination against the jobless ran into the veto pen of a billionaire big-city mayor:
In the coming weeks, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in two high-profile challenges affecting states directly: Shelby County v. Holder, a challenge to the constitutionality of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, as well as two cases on same-sex marriage. Arguments in the Voting Rights Act case are scheduled for February 27th, while arguments in the two marriage cases, Hollingsworth v. Perry and United States v. Windsor, are set for late March. States and the Obama administration are already filing briefs in advance of both cases. At the same time, efforts to advance marriage equality continued this week in state legislatures including Minnesota and New Jersey:
With a Supreme Court decision and a presidential election now come and gone, conservatives in many states seem to be having second thoughts about their opposition to the Affordable Care Act. Meanwhile, progressive lawmakers in Iowa and Michigan signaled they were set to introduce legislation on Medicaid expansion:
Last week, a federal district court in Phoenix issued a mixed ruling on Arizona’s anti-immigrant SB 1070. Immigrant communities declared partial victory with Judge Susan Bolton's decision to strike down the portion of the law that makes it a crime to drive, live with, or engage in everyday activities with an undocumented individual. This means Arizonans of good faith who interact with or provide spiritual support to an undocumented friend or neighbor no longer have to worry about getting slapped with criminal penalties or arrest. Several SB 1070 copycats — including laws in Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina — feature similar provisions which have also been blocked by federal courts.
Yesterday afternoon, the California State Senate affirmed their state’s commitment to smart and cost-effective immigration enforcement by passing the TRUST Act (AB 1081) by a 21-13 vote. The bill’s focus on maintaining trust with community members statewide by prioritizing violent and serious criminals instead of casting a wide, expensive, and counter-productive dragnet has spurred many to call it the “anti-Arizona.” Introduced by Assemblymember Tom Ammiano, a member of PSN’s affiliated State Legislators for Progressive Immigration Policy, the legislation seeks to clarify the relationship between local jurisdictions and the federal Department of Homeland Security’s Secure Communities (S-Comm) program.