State Legislatures Serve Up Tricks, Not Treats, This Halloween


by Samantha Kappalman, photos courtesy of woodleywonderworks and rxb

In celebration of All Hallows Eve, we present five of the most haunting tales from the crypt – state legislatures – of legislation that passed this year. In next week’s elections and 2012 elections, it is hoped that voters will recall these losses with horror and not allow Halloween to come early again.

1) In a move meant to frighten minorities, college students, the poor and the disabled away from voting booths, seven states now have strict photo ID laws:

Voters must show a photo ID in order to vote.  Voters who are unable to show photo ID at the polls are permitted to vote a provisional ballot, which is counted only if the voter returns to election officials within several days after the election to show a photo ID.  At the beginning of 2011, there were just two states–Georgia and Indiana–with strict photo ID laws.  Two states–Kansas and Wisconsin–passed new strict photo ID laws this year, and three states with non-photo ID laws–South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas–amended them to make them strict photo ID laws. None of these new laws is in effect yet, although they likely will be before the 2012 elections. (Source: National Conference of State Legislatures)

Ohio voters decided to fight back against their legislature’s fiendish attempt to limit access to the voting booth.

2) Democracy? What’s that?

Seventh grade civics teachers for decades will whisper the ghostly tale of how Governor Rick Snyder took an axe to democracy when he signed Michigan’s “Financial Martial Law” – HB 4214 – into law in March. This legislation gives financial managers appointed by Snyder unilateral and unchecked powers over communities and school districts in financial distress.

3) Bottom lines or food stamps?

This past legislative session, several states attempted to pass legislation to reduce unemployment benefits, but Florida passed the scariest bill of them all. It ties reducing unemployment benefits to corporate taxes and the state’s unemployment rate. HB 7005 cuts unemployment benefits from 26 weeks to 23 weeks and reduces the amount in taxes that corporations have to pay per employee into the unemployment fund. The effect of this legislation on Florida’s already shaky economy could be disastrous.

4) Not only did Wisconsin legislators and the governor strip state workers of collective bargaining rights, they also loosened child labor laws.

To add to scary stories told around the fire at scout camp, the Joint Finance Committee in Wisconsin (without benefit of a public hearing) eliminated decades of protections on children in the workplace. According to the Wisconsin Council on Children and Families,

The JFC amendment, which is now law, eliminates the restriction that 16- and 17-year-olds cannot work more than 8 hours per day, nor more than 6 days or 40 hours per week. It removes any restrictions on their total hours, but adds a prohibition against permitting a minor to be employed during the hours when the minor is required to attend school.

In addition, the JFC amendment removes the former standard that children under age 16 cannot be employed (except on farms and in domestic service) for more than 24 hours per week. Instead, it allows young children to work up to 40 hours per week, but not more than 3 hours on a school day or 18 hours during a school week.

5) Some legislatures passed so many pieces of terrifying legislation, that we can’t highlight just one.

According to Alternet, Arizona wins the craziest legislature of the year award.

It should come as no shocker that Arizona tops this list. The number of times the legislature alone makes it on the national radar, not even touching on Gov. Jan Brewer, makes it a leader in state-level extremism. And it seems that Arizona also sets the agenda for extremists in other states. Numerous states attempted to copy Arizona’s SB1070 immigration racial profiling bill, but most of them didn’t pass it. Arizona not only passed it first, the state is trying to up the ante by attempting to launch state “compacts” with its neighbors to override federal immigration law. And it doesn’t end with immigration: Arizona has proposed or passed a long line of bills that other states are copying.

Want anti-union legislation? Check. What about a full-scale assault on federalism and the powers of the national government? Arizona leads the way. A government official gets shot in your state and what do you do? Vote to allow concealed weapons on college campuses. Don’t like ethnic studies classes and believe crazy theories about a Mexican takeover of the U.S.? Arizona is for you.

Want a legislator ranting on the floor about bisexual high school principals? Done. Want another legislator saying the earth is only 6,000 years old? Arizona wins again. Want a birther bill passed through the legislature? All you had to do was ask.

Oh yeah, and the Arizona legislature (and governor) cut back on a transplant program that actually led to two people dying. When your state starts killing people who aren’t on death row, then you can challenge Arizona, which has the worst legislature in the United States.”

Let us know in the comments below what your nominee is for “scariest legislation of the year.”

Reader Comments

  1. Oklahoma is leading the way in high stakes testing for our kids. Our Republican state has passed a law that takes effect this year. Any third grade student making an unsatisfactory on ONE year end test will be retained AND they can be retained a second year also. This is mostly going to impact special education and low IQ students who are doing all they can to make it through school. Most of them will give up and never finish high school. Way to go republicans- you’ve guaranteed an increase in our high school drop -out rate!!!!!

  2. Arizona does take the cake! You didn’t even mention the legislation they passed so our union does cannot be withheld from our paychecks! They are truly the worst legislature in the US!

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