By: Ashley Rose
Following the 2022 Midterm election, the previously democratically led Congress experienced a flip in the House of Representatives as a Republican majority won the election. While the U.S. Senate held a Democratic majority, the House of Representatives saw a shift in the majority party, which instituted a split in congressional majority. This is historically known to create limitations on how many bills are passed at state and national levels, as well as what types of bills are written and brought to the senate floor.
Here is a breakdown of a few of the partisan state-level senate bills that are gaining national traction.
Florida joins southern states with abortion bans – SB 300
On April 14, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed a six-week abortion ban into law. NPR reported that the Republican-dominated Florida Senate introduced this bill a few weeks into 2023, and it quickly gained support from Governor DeSantis.
This law contains minimal exceptions, including considerations for saving the life of the mother. Furthermore, individuals with pregnancies caused through incest or rape my be provided with an abortion up until the 15-week point if they have proof of a restraining order filed against their assailant.
Florida is one of the last southern states to put a stricter ban on abortion, as Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi have banned abortion at any stage of pregnancy, while Georgia has already implemented a similar six-week ban.
Tennessee anti-transgender and anti-Drag laws – SB 3
In early March of this year, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee signed two laws, both of which directly targeted minority groups.
The first bill resulted in a total ban on gender-affirming health care for transgender children. This includes medication such as puberty blockers and reversible hormone treatments that are used to treat gender dysphoria.
The second law signed into action by Governor Lee prohibits “adult-oriented” entertainment, known as Tennessee Senate Bill 3. The Tennessean reported that SB 3 was filed following public outrage regarding Drag queens making public appearances, including locations such as public libraries, coffee shops and schools. Both men and women are prohibited from participating in “obscene behaviors” in front of minors or in certain public locations.
A sponsor of this bill, Representative Chris Todd referred to the display of Drag shows in the presence of minors as equal to “child abuse.” He suggested that Drag performers are inappropriate for spaces where children gather.
The bill also references the prohibition of “male or female impersonators,” which has caused discussion in the transgender community, as the phrase is not defined in the bill. Because of this, some transgender activists have raised concerns about whether this bill would prevent transgender people from publicly expressing themselves.
Ban of TikTok in Montana – SB 419
Montana has made history as being the first U.S. State to pass legislation banning TikTok on all personal devices. As of April 14, this bill was approved by the senate and sent to Montana Governor Greg Gianforte’s desk, where legislators expect him to sign it into law.
This legislation was passed in the Montana House with a 54-43 vote, leaving a small majority to win. If Governor Gianforte signs this bill into place, it will go into effect in January 2024. Gianforte has already instituted a ban of TikTok on all government-owned devices following the investigation of China’s usage of data from the application.
Utah book ban – HB 464
The Utah House of Representatives, among many other states in the U.S., is seeking to censor what books are available in public schools and classroom settings. This bill ensures that if a parent is uncomfortable with the lesson material a teacher is providing for their child, the book material would be subject to review and approval by the school board. The bill also notes that a book must be removed from shelves while it is reviewed.
The goal of this bill is to avoid sharing sensitive materials in classrooms where children may not understand the maturity of the context. This ban encourages the removal of books that highlight sexuality in any light, including heterosexual and homosexual relationships.