State legislatures making progress on major issues that are still stuck in Congress
State legislatures around the country have made significant progress passing bills on issues such as immigration, policing and healthcare, even as Republicans in Congress and President Trump have struggled to make similar progress at the federal level.
“States are coming up with innovative ways to address immigration issues — in education, healthcare, and economic development — that the federal government seems to ignore,” state Sen. Rene Garcia, R-Fla., said last week.
As expected, the states aren’t all seeing these issues as Trump sees them. Several Republican legislatures, for example, have introduced or passed bills prohibiting sanctuary policies and backing law enforcement, but others controlled by Democrats have pushed their own views on issues like healthcare.
California and New York, for example, have advanced legislation in at least one chamber of their state legislatures to examine the impacts of a single-payer healthcare system.
Still, many states with Republican majorities are managing to make progress on these issues in a way Trump supports, even as he struggles at the federal level to make similar progress.
For example, state bills related to immigration have proliferated. According to a report from the National Conference of State Legislatures, states enacted 90 percent more laws tied to immigration in the first six months of 2017 as compared with the first half of 2016.
Some say that increase is due to the unilateral executive branch action Trump was able to take without the help of Congress and inaction by federal lawmakers. Trump’s action and his rhetoric have been credited with a significant drop in attempted illegal border crossings in the first few months since he took office.
Specifically, state legislators in 47 states enacted 133 laws and 195 resolutions related to immigration from January to June. Only Alaska, Massachusetts and North Carolina did not enact immigration-related laws.
The common issues covered by the state laws were sanctuary policies, refugees, education and civics, and in-state tuition, according to NCSL’s report.
Some states, including Texas and Mississippi, enacted laws banning sanctuary cities and counties, while others, such as Vermont, passed a law prohibiting state and local law enforcement from sharing information with the federal government regarding a resident’s immigration status.
In addition to immigration, roughly a dozen states this year have passed laws intended to increase protections for law enforcement, which are called “Blue Lives Matter” bills, which increase the penalties for assaulting or resisting a police officer.
“One of Donald Trump’s pillars is strengthening and supporting law enforcement,” Ronnie Lampard, director of the American Legislative Exchange Council’s task force on criminal justice reform, told the Washington Examiner. “This is how many states have acted on this, and as a result, many states have passed laws protecting or providing sentencing enhancements and creating protections.”
“You have Republicans that control a lot of the states and are in the same party as the president,” Lampard continued. “They recognize this is an issue the president campaigned on and traditionally Republicans have favored.”