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Evening Wrap

Your daily analysis of trending topics in state government. The snark is nonpartisan.

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Wait, what?

The double take is a mainstay of modern American politics, where the absurdity is so ubiquitous that “Wait, what?” might as well be our national slogan. Congress is spending its time dissing socialism! State Republicans are weirdly obsessed with drag shows! Chinese spy balloons are just drifting around our airspace, waiting to be shot down! It is hard to keep track of the ridiculousness (these stories are all from the last five days)! I lost my train of thought like 14 times in this paragraph alone!

Lapses and lags

A quick recap to start us off: In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, Congress approved a sweeping relief bill to shore up the sizable gaps in the American health-care system. Among the bill’s provisions was the so-called “continuous coverage” rule, which allocated extra funding to state-administered Medicaid programs in exchange for ensuring uninterrupted enrollment for recipients until the conclusion of the federal public health emergency.

Always watching

Some background, for anyone living under a rock (a prescient choice, in these nefarious inflatable times): Federal officials confirmed Thursday that the military had been monitoring a suspected Chinese surveillance balloon hovering over Montana, home to more than 100 intercontinental ballistic missile silos. Defense leaders said they had considered shooting it down, but opted against it for fear that the resulting debris could injure people on the ground.

Great work, everyone

Scientists generally describe the opioid crisis in three waves: Prescription opioids, heroin, and synthetic alternatives like fentanyl. Addiction to the pain-relieving drugs began to surge in the late 1990s, thanks in large part to Purdue Pharma, the family-owned pharmaceutical company that developed and aggressively (and dishonestly) marketed OxyContin. The steadily rising rates of overdose and addiction eventually prompted the company to release an “abuse-deterrent” version of the drug featuring a special coating that was designed to limit patients’ ability to take more than their prescribed doses. 

Beautifully visible

What is now a nationwide assault on LGBTQ+ rights began as these things tend to begin: With a single bill. That legislation, filed in Idaho in February 2020 as the “Fairness in Women’s Sports Act,” barred transgender girls and women from participating in girls’ and women’s athletics. Its lead sponsor was state Rep. Barbara Ehardt, a Republican and former collegiate basketball player and coach, who said the policy was designed to protect athletic opportunities for (cisgender) women. She’d come up with the idea after hearing about transgender girls winning track meets in Connecticut.

A free-for-all, by design

It’s been seven months since the fall of Roe v. Wade, and abortion access remains a mess of uneven access, ongoing legal battles and ever-evolving policies that continue to spark confusion for providers and patients across the country. The chaos is a predictable feature of the post-Roe world, where 50 individual governments are forced to regulate one extremely complex and controversial issue. It’s political free-for-all, and it’s by design.

Economic climate change

There’s arguably no Republican who threads the climate-change needle better than Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, who coasted to re-election on a platform that did not include (or acknowledge) climate change. That’s despite his own years-long effort to make the Peach State a national leader in electric vehicle production, a goal he’s framed as an economic development push to “expand Georgia’s role as a world-renowned hub for global commerce.”

Hot dogs are part of baseball

Believe it or not, we’re going to kick off today’s newsletter with an example of lawmakers using their power to advance, rather than attack, democracy. (I know, right?) That distinction goes to Democrats in New Mexico, who said they planned to reintroduce a sweeping proposal to improve voting access for Indigenous people, restore voting rights to convicted felons, expand the use of absentee ballots and implement automatic voter registration, Source New Mexico reported.

Making the rules up as they go

Ideally, the power of democracy lies in the people, who have ultimate say via their votes. But democracy has never really lived up to its own hype. In the early days of American democracy, that power of voting was restricted to white male landowners, who have since employed a number of creative strategies to claw back that power after extending it to women and people of color. And for the most part, it worked. Decades of voter suppression and partisan gerrymandering have steadily diminished the voice, and power, of the general public. We know the problem, but we still can’t seem to fix it.

Kids, man

Roughly 75 million Americans are under the age of 18, which sounds like a lot until you realize those kids are outnumbered four to one by adults. And those adults control everything. Occasionally, they’ll let kids weigh in, but more often, adults are too busy talking to (or over) each other to pay attention to anyone else. And there’s not much young people can do about that. Sure, kids can be loud (...so loud), but at some point, the size of the megaphone matters less than the size of the crowd.

Just when I'm awake, it's fine

You can trace the GOP’s all-out war on schools back to at least the 1990s, when Christian nationalists infiltrated the GOP with their anti-public education agenda in tow. It began quietly, with support for publicly funded charter schools, pushback against sex education and routine resistance against federal oversight.

Long live Roe

I almost opened today’s newsletter by writing that Sunday would have marked the 50th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, had it not been overturned last June. But that’s incorrect. Roe happened, whether opponents of abortion like it or not — the same way that abortions happen (and will continue to happen) regardless of the success or failure of attempts to ban them. Abortion has always existed. Abortion will always exist. Roe is dead. Long live Roe.