Targeting the worst anti-vaxxer lawmakers

It’s long been clear, thanks to their humanity-dooming inaction on climate change, that Republicans either don’t believe in science or just don’t care about it. Since the rise of birtherism and accelerating with the sickening ascent of Donald Trump, it also became apparent that modern Republicans don’t care much about truth, either — blatant lies and conspiracy theories are now the lifeblood of all GOP discourse.

That has created the perfect storm for the anti-vaccination movement, a parade of malicious absurdity led by cynical goblin lawmakers and paranoid fringe-right lunatics. A rise of parents who have not vaccinated their children has led to a rash of measles outbreaks, with Washington State suffering in particular, and instead of acknowledging this as a public health crisis, these goons have been working overtime to make it worse.

Malicious far-right lawmakers are pushing bills in legislatures nationwide that would weaken vaccination requirements and cater to the paranoid and religious nuts that are their base. The idea that vaccinations cause autism and other disorders has long been discredited, but that hasn’t stopped them from weaponizing the suggestion and pairing it with their deep state conspiracy theories to undermine the health of children. While YouTube and Facebook have pledged to take down anti-vaxxer propaganda, we need to work to take down the lawmakers pushing to turn that spook nonsense into crippling public policy.

With that in mind, here’s a look at some of the most blatant and awful anti-vaxxer lawmakers. This list can and will be updated as more of them come to the forefront.

Arizona:

State Sen. Kelly Townsend (R-HD-6) is one of the most pernicious and unhinged legislators in office today. The two-term Republican pairs absurd public statements that read like InfoWars headlines with vicious legislation that read like Breitbart wishlists. Among other distinguished positions she has staked out, Townsend is a sworn enemy of teachers and rape victims (and, sidenote, is very confused by furries). Earlier this month, she ramped up her attacks on vaccinations, calling them communist plots and comparing them to concentration camp tattoos. It’s all insane.

While Townsend is the most vocal anti-vax voice in the Arizona legislature, two of her colleagues are taking concrete action, pushing several bills that would loosen child vaccination requirements in the state.

State Rep. Nancy Barto (R-HD-15) is sponsoring three bills in the State House of Representatives that would, among other things, add religious exemptions to vaccination requirements, allow parents to skip required education about the risks of not vaccinating their children, and require medical providers to give parents a detailed ingredient list. That last part is generally considered by experts as counterproductive and fuel for conspiracy theories. Barto is a first-term legislator who squeaked out a victory in 2018, meaning she could be ripe for a flip in 2020.

State Sen. Paul Boyer (R-SD-20), meanwhile, is sponsoring similar bills in the State Senate. He’s also a first-termer (he previously served in the State House) who won his race by less than four points, making him a prime target for 2020, as well.

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Unlike Scott Walker, new Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers has a soul

We focus on winning elections, and a lot of times, it feels more like team sports or a fight based on abstract principles. But these races matter — just look at what’s happening in Wisconsin, New Mexico, and several other newly blue (or purple) states.

Wisconsin:

Democratic Gov. Tony Evers unveiled his first budget and it did not disappoint. It’s loaded with progressive priorities, from a raised minimum wage and increased public school funding to automatic voter registration and nonpartisan redistricting reform. It would also fully expand Medicaid, decriminalize small amounts of marijuana, freeze school vouchers, and undo Scott Walker’s signature Right to Work For Less law, which nearly caused the lifelong government succubus to be recalled during his first term.

Even though Democrats won a vast majority of votes in November, the GOP’s egregious gerrymander helped the party keep control of the state legislature, which means that this ambitious budget will have to be scaled back. Republicans have vowed to ignore the funding levels and begin working from their paltry austerity budgets of the past few years, but Evers has laid down some bold markers, and there’s a lot he can do without GOP support.

Fully expanding Medicaid is particularly notable, because Scott Walker refused to do so for six years out of sheer malignant principle. He slightly expanded eligibility, but refused to take it to the point at which the state (and working people) would get hundreds of millions of dollars from the federal government. That’s what we call being a spiteful jerk.

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Womp womp: Tony Evers says he was totally misunderstood and will follow Republican laws

There are two types of Democrats: Those that talk tough, and those that are actually willing to fight. There are far too many of the former already, and unfortunately, we know that at the very least, new Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers does not belong in the latter camp.

Yesterday, the newly elected governor drew cheers and many, many upvotes when he said that he would be ignoring at least some of the ridiculous, restrictive laws passed by Republicans during a dirty lame-duck session last month. He had won a lawsuit against the power-grab that Republicans had enacted against him when he was the state’s school superintendent, so this didn’t seem like that unusual a statement for him.

Turns out, when he said that he expected to be sued, he didn’t mean for non-compliance. Instead, he says he was suggesting that outside groups might sue the state (ie him) to lift the restrictions on his power (something he’d welcome, but won’t do himself). Via the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:

“I have no intent of breaking the law,” Evers told reporters at a news conference Thursday.

The incoming Democratic governor said he believed he would be sued not by detractors trying to force him to follow the laws passed in a lame-duck session but by supporters who want to get him out from under the laws. Provisions of those laws will limit his ability to write state rules and oversee economic development.

“I personally have reviewed (the new laws) and reviewed them with attorneys and other legal staff,” Evers said. “We haven’t decided what to do personally. It’s just that in my experience that when this happens, it likely will happen from the outside.”

This comes after (expected) Republican backlash to his comments. Perhaps he’s trying to make peace before the legislative session, or maybe not show his hand (or,  pull it back, as it were). Either way, he will follow the laws, he says,  until a court strikes them down.

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New Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers (D) plans to ignore lame-duck power grab, tells Republicans: Sue me

Tony Evers has seen this before. When he was Wisconsin’s state schools superintendent, the GOP-controlled legislature and Gov. Scott Walker tried to limit his powers. He sued them over it, and the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled in his favor. So after deposing Walker in November’s gubernatorial election, he’s not surprised that the GOP came after him again, passing a sheaf of last-minute laws in a lame-duck session that would severely restrict his ability to do his job and fulfill the promises he made to voters.

So, once again, he plans to rely on the courts to protect his right to do the job to which he was democratically elected. Via Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:

He suggested he wouldn’t go along with parts of those wide-ranging measures but wouldn’t specify which ones. The new laws limit his authority over state rules, require him to get permission from lawmakers to adjust public benefits programs and diminish his say over the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp.

“Having gone through this in my previous job as state superintendent, I think it’s more likely that I will be sued because I’m now the chief executive of the state,” Evers said of a potential legal fight over the lame-duck legislation “Same thing happened when I was state superintendent — I was sued. So that’s where I anticipate most of the action to be.”

Evers didn’t specify which restrictions he would ignore, but he did lay out an ambitious first budget and agenda which can give us a few clues. According to the Journal-Sentinel report, he is aiming to “expand health insurance coverage under the ACA; allow illegal immigrants to qualify for driver’s cards; give immigrants who came to the state illegally as children the chance to pay in-state tuition; and allow property taxes to rise by more than they have in the past.”

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Virginia State Senator Dick Black, an unrepentant bigot monster, won’t run for re-election

State Senator Dick Black, who met with Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad in 2016 and has been a monstrous enemy of women and LGBTQ people, has announced that he is retiring from the Virginia State Senate at the end of his term.

It’s hard to overemphasize how awful Black, who represents Virginia’s 13th State Senate district, has been while in office. He backs dictators, is an unhinged conspiracy theoristrampantly homophobic, and viciously anti-choice. (For his greatest hits, check out Blue Virginia’s post from last summer.) The fact that he’s leaving is in and of itself great news, even before you get to the political opportunity offered by his exit.

Black’s district has backed Democrats for state and national office of late, with Tim Kaine beating Black’s fellow alt-right bigot Corey Stewart by 19% and Ralph Northam winning the governor’s race by 11% there. Some argue that he’s a better target than a boring, moderate Republican, but he won his race in 2015 after saying some pretty awful stuff, so this time around, Democrats won’t have to worry about whatever blinding spell he cast over his constituents.

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