When a new issue pops up in legislatures across the country, it tends to follow certain phases: It starts out as a novel curiosity, something lawmakers aren’t sure they want to get involved in. Then a few states pass a bill, and more states get interested in following suit.
Once a critical mass of states act, we enter the next phase: Litigation, when those hurt by a law begin testing its merits in court.
That’s where we are now with two types of laws that have swept the nation.
The first set of laws are those barring gender-affirming care for transgender minors. Judges in four states have struck down those laws, and on strikingly similar grounds, citing the Equal Protection Clause, the Due Process Clause and the First Amendment.
Another suit was filed this week in Georgia, just ahead of a gender-affirming care ban set to take effect this weekend. More challenges are in the pipeline.
The second set of laws are those requiring more age verification for social media networks. A coalition of tech groups sued Arkansas this week over a law requiring kids to get a parent’s permission to set up a social media account, and the adult entertainment industry has sued two states over age verification laws, with more to come.
More often than not, the initial round of lawsuits challenging a new type of law succeeds, forcing legislators to go back to the drawing board to make tweaks that please the court. Transgender advocates know the conservative focus on rolling back their rights won’t abate any time soon, and tech firms have their own plans for what might become a decade of legislative and legal wrangling.
Behold, the cycle of legislative life.
Here are eight things you might have missed in the states this week:
TECHNOLOGY: States are racing to pass incentive packages to win new semiconductor manufacturing plants and businesses as the federal government prepares to dole out $39 billion in manufacturing incentives. Texas, Oregon, Kansas, Ohio, New York have all approved new incentives or tax credits aimed at luring plants. (Pluribus News)
GUN POLITICS: The Oregon Senate gave final approval to a measure aimed at reducing paramilitary activity that interferes with law enforcement or infringes on someone’s right to vote. (Oregonian)
This is the second law we’ve seen this year focused on paramilitary groups, after a similar measure in Illinois.
Massachusetts Rep. Michael Day (D), chair of the Joint Judiciary Committee, has introduced a measure to ban ghost guns, expand red flag laws and require those seeking a license to own a firearm to complete a training course. The bill would explicitly prohibit guns in schools, polling places and government buildings. (Boston Globe)
LGBTQ RIGHTS: Federal judges in four states have blocked bills banning gender-affirming care for transgender minors in recent weeks, setting up a pattern plaintiffs in other states can follow. Experts told us the successful suits have challenged bans on care on Equal Protection, Due Process and First Amendment grounds. (Pluribus News)
The North Carolina House gave final approval to legislation banning gender-affirming care for minors. (Raleigh News & Observer, Associated Press) Michigan lawmakers have given final approval to a bill banning conversion therapy for minors. One Republican joined Senate Democrats in voting for the bill. (Associated Press, Michigan Advance)
The Maine legislature has approved a bill allowing transgender minors to begin hormone therapy without a parent’s permission. (Maine Public Radio)
CRIMINAL JUSTICE: The Pennsylvania Senate approved legislation limiting the length of probation and preventing people from being sent back to jail for minor violations. The measure passed on a bipartisan vote. (Associated Press) Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) vetoed legislation that would reduce incarcerations over technical probation violations. The bill passed the legislature unanimously. (Orlando Sentinel)
RAILROADS: Legislators in at least a dozen states have advanced new safety requirements for railroads after the derailment in East Palestine, Ohio. Most states are limiting the length of trains, mandating trackside detectors used to identify equipment problems and requiring more notice to emergency responders about hazardous freight. (Associated Press)
EDUCATION: The Pennsylvania Senate has voted to require all high school seniors to fill out federal FAFSA forms that determine eligibility for postsecondary financial aid. Supporters of the bill say students who don’t fill out the form are missing up to $115 million in federal Pell Grants. (Harrisburg Patriot-News)
Wisconsin Republicans are advancing legislation to automatically admit the top 5% of state high school graduates into the University of Wisconsin system. The bill’s chief backer says it’s a way to keep students in Wisconsin to avoid “an institutional brain drain.” (Wisconsin Examiner)
ENVIRONMENT: Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon (R) and Colorado Gov. Jared Polis (D) signed a memorandum of understanding to create an interstate effort to develop direct air capture technologies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Wyoming companies broke ground in May on the state’s first carbon capture projects. (Casper Star Tribune)
POLITICS: Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey (R) has called lawmakers into special session July 17 to consider new congressional district lines, after the U.S. Supreme Court said previous lines violated Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. Plaintiffs in the case have submitted a dozen proposed maps, all of which create a second Black-majority district targeting U.S. Rep. Barry Moore (R). (Pluribus News)
The U.S. Supreme Court has lifted a hold on litigation challenging Louisiana’s U.S. House district lines, likely forcing the state to draw a second Black-majority district. A District Court judge ruled in 2022 that Louisiana’s maps violated the Voting Rights Act, but that decision had been on hold until the Alabama case was resolved. (Associated Press)
Friday marked the end of California Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon’s (D) seven years in the top job, as he surrendered the gavel to Assemblyman Robert Rivas (D). (Los Angeles Times)
Don’t miss our interview with Rivas earlier this month, when he talked extensively about healing the wounds the internecine battle for the speakership opened.