Greetings, stay-at-home squad!
Another week, another slew of Republican state legislators deciding that our lives are expendable in the name of … uh … supposedly helping the economy by spending money we don’t have because coronavirus-related job losses are north of 26 million?
Yeah, I don’t really follow, either.
I also struggle to comprehend the pro-coronavirus rallies that are continuing to pop up across the country.
I mean, I don’t struggle to comprehend how they’re happening.
It’s well established at this point that there’s nothing “grassroots” about these dangerous demonstrations.
FreedomWorks and Tea Party Patriots—national right-wing organizations that also organized and funded the conservative “Tea Party” protests in the long-ago time of 2009—have emerged as two leading forces behind the small but noisy groups descending on various state capitols to wave their Trump flags, carry their assault rifles, and generally violate social distancing and face-covering guidelines.
And the biggest Facebook groups pushing these protests that aren’t tied to these well-funded national groups are actually the work of four brothers who are already established conservative scam artists.
Chris, Ben, Aaron, and Matthew Dorr have been running anti-gun safety and anti-reproductive rights online groups that bring in hundreds of thousands of dollars annually.
Antagonizing conservative groups and politicians they regard as insufficiently right-wing and
Bilking their supporters through paid memberships or selling the email lists they build in the process.
The Dorr brothers are organizing pro-coronavirus protests in Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.
Fun fact! Earlier this year, Minnesota Republicans got so fed up with the Dorr brothers’ antics that the state party, House caucus, and Senate caucus launched a joint website—mnscammersexposed.com—seeking to draw attention to the men’s ongoing grift.
One capital city upon which these pro-coronavirus ghouls descended this week was Richmond—just as Virginia lawmakers returned to town for the annual veto session.
Even as the disease demonstrators circled the capitol, yelling and honking their horns and being generally unsafe and obnoxious, state House and Senate members managed to convene, debate, and cast votes while observing social distancing guidelines.
The 100-member House of Delegates met in a large tent set up on capitol grounds.
The 40-member state Senate met couple of miles away in a large event space at the Science Museum of Virginia.
One especially salient issue was the fate of Virginia’s minimum wage increase, which was slated to increase from $7.25/hour to $9.50/hour on Jan. 1, 2021.
Northam amended the bill to delay the increase to May 1, 2021—a move that disappointed many Democrats and drew calls from Republicans to eliminate the hike altogether, never mind that many workers deemed “essential” in this crisis earn at or barely above minimum wage.
But, worried that Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam would veto the increase outright if they didn’t acquiesce, most Democrats ultimately supported the change over some grumbles within their caucus.
Future increases in the state minimum wage—it’s set to increase to $15/hour by 2026—won’t be affected by the change.
One measure Democrats supported taking effect sooner than originally planned was a 36% cap on payday loans.
Virginia currently has notoriously weak consumer lending laws, allowing triple-digit interest rates.
The effective date for the cap (and other reforms) was moved up six months, from July 1, 2021, to Jan. 1, 2021, in an effort to protect consumers already facing potential financial dire straights because of the economic effects of the coronavirus crisis.
Some Republicans balked and expressed concern that payday lenders may be forced to shut their doors, but of course Republicans would be sympathetic to what’s effectively legalized loan-sharking.
One of the grosser aspects of these astroturfed pro-coronavirus protests is the emerging role Republican lawmakers are playing in them.
Sometimes they participate.
Sometimes they express their support from the statehouse.
Sometimes they express their support as private citizens who also just happen to be people who make laws.
Take Virginia, for example, since we’re talking about it.
Two GOP state senators have filed a lawsuit challenging Northam’s authority to close gyms and fitness centers as “nonessential businesses” to fight the spread of COVID-19.
Republican Sens. Ryan McDougle and Bill Stanley are representing the owner of Virginia’s Gold’s Gym ( … of course) facilities.
But really they’re using the suit as a vehicle to proclaim that Northam exceeded his constitutional authority by issuing the executive order that shuttered dine-in restaurants, theaters, barbers, salons, gyms, theaters, bowling alleys, and other nonessential facilities.
This executive order also closed schools across the commonwealth and prohibited gatherings of more than 10 people.
Ignoring the widely-known and well-established science concerning the extreme communicability of COVID-19, McDougle and Stanley claim that Northam violated existing state law regarding the quarantine and isolation of people believed to be carrying a “communicable disease of public health threat.”
Up in Wisconsin, GOP lawmakers aren’t even using a grumpy conservative business owner as cover. They’re just straight-up suing to suspend Democratic Gov. Tony Evers’ stay-at-home order.
Citing a supposed “public outcry” over the order as the number of COVID-19 cases in the state “decrease or remain flat,” Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald eagerly elided the fact that the Wisconsin’s coronavirus infection rate has flattened as a result of the ongoing implementation of the stay-at-home order they’re trying to toss.
But we can’t let the ongoing coronavirus crisis distract us from what Republicans are ultimately trying to accomplish with this lawsuit to overturn an executive order: further erosion of the governor’s authority.
As we already know from their willingness to use a deadly pandemic as a voter suppression tactic earlier this month, Wisconsin Republicans don’t seem to mind putting innocent people’s lives and health at risk in their ongoing efforts to undermine democracy.
Republican lawmakers in Montana are calling on Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock to lift the state’s stay-at-home order and let county governments implement them, should they choose to.
But Bullock can point to next-door South Dakota’s much higher number of cases per capita to indicate what would happen without such a statewide order.
In Pennsylvania, where the GOP-controlled legislature recently tried to overturn Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf’s stay-at-home order via legislation, a number of Republican lawmakers were among pro-coronavirus protesters at the capitol this week.
After reportedly demonstrating little regard for social distancing or protective facewear while participating in the dangerous demonstration, the GOPers proceeded to their respective chambers, where they carelessly joined the few lawmakers not participating remotely.
And because there is no bottom, Idaho Republican state Rep. Heather Scott compared workers deemed “nonessential” to Jews in Nazi Germany, calling Republican Gov. Brad Little “Little Hitler.”
… any bets on which state’s lawmakers make the next Nazi comparison?
Welp, that’s a wrap for this week.
Congrats on making it through another one!
Just think of all the people you didn’t get infected by or didn’t infect by being a responsible human and staying home this week as much as possible. I (and all the other Not Irresponsible Assholes) are immensely grateful to you for it.
And yeah, I know it’s hard. I know it’s weird. I know it’s lonely. I know it sucks a little more each day.
But don’t give up. We need you.
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