Each Friday—well at least most Fridays—I'm going to sum up the big news happening in states around the country. To make it more interesting, I'm naming a State of the Week where the biggest news came from. See something that's missing? Tell me: firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @RaRapoport.
And this week's state of the week is ... Washington!
Gay marriage moves forward
It's not law yet, but Washington's state Senate passed legislation to recognize same-sex marriages. The bill now goes to the state House, where it's expected to pass, and then to the governor, who already announced her support for the measure. While many state legislatures are considering similar bills, Washington's effort is by far the most likely to be fruitful. But the good news for gay-rights advocates hardly means they can relax. Opponents are already organizing against the measure, hoping to put it on a state referendum this fall.
Right-to-Work Enters the Union Stronghold
Moving at lightning speed, Indiana's "right to work" legislation passed through the state House Saturday and was law by Wednesday night. The law, which prevents mandatory union membership and prohibits unions from collecting dues from non-members, has a crippling effect on organized labor, and Indiana is the first state in the Rust Belt to pass the measure. While the Hoosier State was not a union stronghold like Ohio or Michigan, it nonetheless has been a part of the country's labor base, and the new law marks a major turning point in labor relations.
Indiana Republicans in both the state House and Senate—as well as Governor Mitch Daniels—were all eager to have everything tied up before this weekend's Super Bowl. Some pro-union advocates hoped to use the game—which is taking place in Indianapolis—to highlight the battle by striking or slowing down some of the game's auxiliary festivities. But the AFL-CIO has already promised it will not cause hold-ups on the big day.
Undocumented Students Facing an Uphill Battle
Rick Perry faced Republican wrath when he defended his move to let undocumented students attend Texas colleges for in-state rates. Now, around the country, states are heading in the opposite direction. Georgia is considering legislation that would bar undocumented students from attending any public colleges in the state. In Rhode Island, lawmakers may reverse the state's existing policy, which allows in-state tuition for undocumented students who are seeking legal status and graduated from Rhode Island high schools. Meanwhile, in Florida, students who are U.S. citizens and state residents but whose parents are not cannot get a tuition break—and a state Senate panel just voted to keep it that way. Nice.
- And you thought Wisconsin's public employees had a fight on their hands! Now it looks like Arizona will become a battleground as Republican lawmakers hope to crush public employee unions.
- Haven't been following the Texas redistricting saga? No worries—it will be at least a month before a panel of federal judges rules if the state's maps violated the Voting Rights Act. In the meantime, it's looking less and less likely that the Lone Star State will have its primaries by early April.
- In Florida, a bill allowing student volunteers to deliver "inspirational messages" has ignited the debate over prayer in school.
- In a rather candid moment, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie described the bills the Democratic Legislature sent to his desk during a lame-duck session as "a pile of crap." Shockingly, Democrats disagreed with the characterization.