Why Are States So Important? Focus On: SDP Alumni Doing Good

Photo by classicwoodworks.us

While our federal officials rant, tweet, spin, lie, blandish, and otherwise fail to govern, SDP candidates are quietly getting down to business at the state level. From the big issues to the local nuts-and-bolts, take a look at what our four SDP MA&RI winners have been doing to make the world a better place:

 Stephanie Hansen (DE – Senate District 10)
Our Very First Sister Race! In her first session, she sponsored/co-sponsored 217 pieces of successful legislation, many relating to the state’s severe opioid crisis. These include expanding healthcare coverage for inpatient alcohol and drug dependency, loosening restrictions on non-opioid treatments, and coordinating data on opioid prescriptions. Her proposal to impose fees on drug manufacturers and apply the revenue toward addiction treatment is still under deliberation.

Other achievements include legislation improving indoor environment and air quality in schools; combatting workplace sexual harassment; prohibiting lead paint on outdoor structures; and establishing a state Native Species Commission (once an environmental lawyer, always an environmental lawyer).

 Margaret Good (FL – House District 72)
Good is addressing head-on the (GOP) elephant in the room: guns. Since the 2016 Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando, the state has endured 51 mass shootings; the day after her election, the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting erupted. She successfully cosponsored legislation to provide first responders with workers’ compensation benefits for PTSD, and has held numerous Town Halls and Q&A sessions with constituents.

Given the state’s GOP trifecta of Republican-controlled House, Senate, and Governorship, state Democrats face an uphill battle. Good sponsored a number of environmental bills to protect Florida’s fragile coastline and ecosystem, but none made it out of committee. Expanding Medicaid, a Democratic priority, would benefit about 660,000 low-income residents, but Republicans have nixed the idea for the past three years. Good is running for re-election this November: donate here to help her keep up the Good fight!

 Jennifer Carroll Foy (VA – House District 02)
Foy says she gets legislative inspiration from her work as a public defender, so it makes sense that several of this first-time legislator’s successful bills address the criminal justice system – raising the threshold for grand larceny, for example, to prevent “a small mistake from permanently tainting someone with a felony charge.” By the same token, she’d like to reduce the punishment for suspended drivers unable to pay their court-ordered fines (this bill is still in committee).

Foy makes a point of being accessible to constituents, and says that two pieces of education-related legislation – one mandating school testing accommodations for English Language Learners, one allowing qualified ELL students to substitute computer-coding for foreign language classes – were inspired by a local teacher. Other achievements include legislation streamlining the adoption process; extending eligibility for high school equivalency programs; and tightening permitting regulations for coal-ash disposal sites.

Shout-out to women: she’s proposed a sales-tax exemption for menstrual products, and has sponsored a resolution to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment. Click here to hear her in her own words.

 John Bell (VA – House District 87)
Of all his achievements, Bell is perhaps proudest of a group effort: after four years of stonewalling, the VA legislature voted last May to expand Medicaid to up to 400,000 low-income residents. A retired Air Force Major, Bell has successfully sponsored or co-sponsored veteran-related legislation, from tax modifications to employment opportunities to license plates. He decries Virginia’s lax gun laws (e.g. no background checks at gun shows) and his obstructionist Republican colleagues (74 pieces of gun-safety legislation proposed during the recent legislative session; zero passed), and serves as a regional co-chair for Safe Virginia Initiatives, a House Democratic gun-safety coalition. As a member of the House Appropriations Committee, he increased transportation funding, and expedited raises to teachers, sheriff’s deputies, and state employees.

Other achievements include legislation increasing criminal zoning violation fines; streamlining background checks; reducing construction expenses; requiring alternative pain management prescription coverage for patients with opioid addictions (still in committee); and, best of all, allowing dogs in wineries. Cheers! Click here for our interview with him.

It’s heartening, right? While our orange-haired Nero tweets, humane and sensible state legislators are quietly saving the country. Read more about SDP alumni, check out our current Sister Races, and let’s build that blue groundswell… state by state.

– Juliet Eastland