Update - Legislative Advocacy 2021
There are only 4 weeks remaining in the 2021 Legislative session before it adjourns on April 30. The last day for regular committee meetings is April 20.
To date, the House has passed the following bills that
• limit academic freedom of expression in state colleges and universities (HB 233),
• permit firearms on schools affiliated with religious institutions (HB 259),
• require 1-2 minutes of silence in public schools (HB 529) and,
• curb free speech and dissent (HB 1).
Both houses have passed and sent to the Governor a bill that shields private companies and health care providers from liability for any negligence resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic (SB 72/HB 7).
Action Alerts will be forthcoming opposing their companion bills in the Senate and urging the Governor to veto as none of these bills are consistent with UU values, principles and purposes.
Other bills are advancing in both Chambers that
• threaten the safety and well being of LGBTQI students (SB 582/HB 241, SB 2012/HB 1475)
• expand voucher programs that divert funds from public education to unregulated private schools (SB 48/HB 7045)
• change mail-in ballot protocols, voting days, identification requirements, signature checking, and more to make it more difficult for people of color and/or those with health problems or low income to exercise their right to vote. (SB 90/HB 7041)
• pre-empt enactment of local laws and regulations to the state.
A few bills requiring de-escalation and competency training for law enforcement officers and prison sentencing reforms are slowly progressing through their Senate committee assignments. However, their companion bills along with other bills on criminal justice reform, gun safety, curbing excessive use of force and accountability of law enforcement officers are languishing in the house Criminal Justice committee and Senate Criminal Justice and Judiciary committees.
The final four weeks of this session will be devoted to enacting a budget agreeable to both Chambers which includes where to spend the anticipated $12 billion in Federal American Rescue Plan funding needed to balance the budget. Meanwhile funding for public education, prison management, environmental protection, re-employment compensation and public health is at risk due to shortfalls in sales tax revenues and reluctance to eliminate corporate tax breaks.
To break this cycle of neglect and disregard for public safety and human and civil rights, Unitarian Universalists must partner with members of other progressive organizations, develop relationships with their State Legislators and respond to Action Alerts.