National News Roundup: Year 5, Week 10 (March 21–27)
It feels like we’re entering a new phase of so many things this week–new vaccine realities; new political battlegrounds; new food restrictions (okay, maybe that last one is just if you’re Jewish). There’s change in the air, and not all of it is good. I’ll do my best to keep folks informed.
Standard standing reminders still apply: I am no journalist, though I play one in your inbox or browser, so I’m mostly summarizing the news within my area of expertise. NNR summaries often contain some detailed analysis that’s outside my expertise–I’m a lawyer, not a dropoff box!–but all offroad adventures are marked with an asterisk. And, of course, for the things that are within my lane, I’m offering context that shouldn’t be considered legal advice. Okay, I think that’s about it for the disclaimers. Onward to the news!
Cleanup in Aisle 45:
We continue to get updates on Election Rejection, and I’m legitimately mad that I have a new story for you on this. Here’s what I have for you:
- New Voting Suppression Laws. When it became apparent that no voter fraud evidence was forthcoming, a lot of states began a coordinated push to restrict voter access, and some of those toxic plans are starting to bear fetid fruit. At the time that I type this, over 250 voter suppression bills have been introduced in 45 different states. Though there have been a few earlier bills passed, we need to talk about the bill that passed in Georgia this week specifically, and there are a few different reasons for that: 1) It is particularly comprehensive, imposing limitations on early voting, runoff elections, dropoff boxes, voter transportation, and voter identification methods; 2) It is particularly onerous, including draconic provisions such as criminal consequences for giving voters food and water while they wait in line; and 3) A Black legislator was arrested for attempting to witness the bill’s signature. Needless to say, Democrats are not impressed, and lawsuits are already being filed.
We are continuing to track stories on the Biden Rebuilding fronts as well. Here’s what has happened in the past week:
- Dismantling the Deportation Machine? President Biden made the decision this week to name former prosecutor Kamala Harris the point person at the border, noting that she will be working with Northern Triangle countries to address root causes of destabilization. I can’t say I’m thrilled about having a former prosecutor in charge of this, but he also authorized border agents to begin releasing detainees without court dates and moving unaccompanied minors out of CBP centers, so it remains pretty hard to see a pattern in this administration’s approach.
- Confirmation Tango (Still). We had a few more interesting appointments this week. On the labor end of things, former Boston mayor Marty Walsh was confirmed as the next Secretary of Labor, which in this Bostonian’s opinion is mostly interesting because it cleared the way for Kim Janey to serve as Boston’s first-everBlack or female mayor. And Rachel Levine was confirmed as Assistant Health Secretary, making her the first openly transgender person to ever hold a Cabinet level position.
Your New Normal:
- Congressional Updates. The filibuster fight continues for another week in the Senate, with newly-enraged Democrats reiterating that voting rights need to be protected in the face of the Georgian law mentioned above. In the House, Democrats introduced legislation regarding mail delivery to block the current Postmaster General’s ten-year plan. Congress is also likely to consider more gun legislation at President Biden’s urging after yet another mass shooting in Boulder brings us to seven mass shootings in one week–but more on that below.
- State of the COVID-19. COVID news is a mixed bag for another week. On the one hand: 1) Infection rates are rising again, likely because we’re reopening too quicklyand testing less despite most locations having less than 25% total vaccination rate; 2) AstraZeneca was in the news for sketchiness regarding its efficacy study; and 3) Dr. Deborah Binx let us know just how many deaths were preventable in the last year. But on the other hand: 1) Studies are beginning to test vaccine efficacy in children; 2) Moderna and Pfizer are both found 90% effective in real-life conditions; 3) the Biden administration estimates that 200 million doses will become available by April 30; and 4) Experts are beginning to discuss travel and documentation protocols for vaccinated people.
- Gun Violence Updates. As I mentioned above, there was yet another mass shooting in Boulder on Tuesday, which resulted in ten deadand occurred immediately on the heels of a judge tossing out responsible gun legislation in the state. This was followed within four days by a mass shooting on Virginia Beach, which brings us to three mass shootings in a two-week period. In addition to the proposed legislation being introduced in Congress, President Biden is considering executive orders as a response. The Boulder suspect is currently being held without bail.
- Bills Targeting Trans Youth. A growing number of states are passing laws that prohibit trans kids from playing school sports because something something transphobia and sexism–apparently, y’know, it wouldn’t be fair to the cis girls because obviously they would lose if a trans girl were allowed to compete with them. (Thanks for the vote of confidence in AFAB athletes, GOP; it’s a great sprinkle on the toxic sundae.) With Tennessee and Arkansas both passing bills this week, we’re now up to four states with this newly-passed garbage on the books. But Arkansas really went the extra hate mile, because it also passed the first law to completely ban access to gender-affirming care for all minors in the state–do not pass Go, do not collect $200, it is now illegal in Arkansas to give kids reversible hormone blockers. The bill is stunning in its pointless cruelty; most states already restrict irreversible procedures for minors and trans kids are at unique risk of suicide especially if left without access to treatment. We have a clear medical understanding of what helps trans kids thrive, and this manifestly is not it.
- Recent Racial Equity Resilience. Though it was a bad week for transgender rights, we did see some promising racial equity developments. In Illinois, a city named Evanston became the first city in the U.S. to offer reparations to its Black residents. And a recent Supreme Court case expanded citizens‘ ability to sue police for use of excessive force, which has a lot of positive implications for moving away from qualified immunity doctrine in that context. The timing is good, because this week also marks the beginning of Derek Chauvin’s trial for the murder of George Floyd.
So that’s what I have for this week, and it was rougher than I might have hoped. For making it through, you deserve this doggo outlaw and a more consistently improved government. I’ll be back next week with more restructured and improved news, and I hope you will be back as well–but in the meantime, feel free to ping the National News Roundup ask box, which is there for your constructive comments. Send me questions! Send me feedback! Send me kosher for Passover ice cream!