In the four million square miles known as America, it's easy to forget that Washington, D.C. is just a sliver. While most of the attention is focused on the noisy rectangle that holds our nation's capital, a lot of incredible things are happening outside the District -- especially on the issues we care about. From life and election reform to sports and gender, the states are teed up for a record year. So while the president might not be pushing good policy, take heart. Your locally-elected leaders are more than making up for it!
Like a lot of conservatives, FRC's Quena González knows the temptation is to be discouraged by what's happening on the federal level. But as radical as Democrats in Washington have been, they're only part of the story. Believe it or not, conservatives are having an enormous impact in the early days of the 2022 local legislative session. We're talking about a record number of abortion-related ballot measures, quadruple the number of election reform bills, and a grassroots education uprising unlike any other. FRC's team is tracking more than 1,000 bills in the states right now, and hundreds of them could stop the Left's extremism in its tracks.
Of course, at the top of everyone's minds right now is the abortion issue. Nationally, González explained on "Washington Watch," we're seeing the influence of Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization trickle down. The case, as most people know, was heard before U.S. Supreme Court several weeks ago and has the potential to overturn Roe v. Wade and return the question of abortion back to the states.
"This is the first time in a generation that we've seen this opportunity. We don't know how the Supreme Court will react," Quena said, "and neither do the state legislatures. But the states aren't waiting." There's "a lot" of pro-life action at the state level, he pointed out. "And I would say if you're on the pro-abortion side, at the state level, you're very much on the defensive these days... We're seeing state after state pick up that [pro-life] mantle and begin to really whittle away at abortion in their state." There's so much enthusiasm over the issue that 2022 could break the record for the most abortion-related ballot initiatives ever. As it stands, states will vote on more than they have in 36 years.
But it's not just the life movement that's motivating people. Since the mess of November 2020, conservatives have been more keyed up about election reform than almost any other issue. And that shows, experts say, in the record wave of bills in the legislatures. As of January 14 (and there are almost certainly more now), at least 27 states have "introduced, pre-filed, or carried over 250 bills" aimed at safeguarding our elections. That's more than quadruple the number of proposals last year (75).
Among other things, leaders are trying to eliminate ballot drop boxes, abolish no-excuse absentee voting, strengthen voter ID laws, move election administration to the legislatures, make it easier to audit elections, outlaw third-party donations, and more. FRC's vice president for FRC Action, Brent Keilen, thinks "This should be a great encouragement to all voters who want to make sure their votes will be fairly counted as they go to the polls in 2022."
Another interesting twist in the states is the intense reaction to transgender politics. In Washington, D.C., González pointed out, it takes a really brave member of Congress to speak out on sexual orientation and gender identity -- but that's not the case in the states. "I think because [local leaders are] closer to the people and sometimes closer to the problem, there seems to be an upwelling of courage, in my view, in the last few years, to address some of the ways in which the ideologically-driven agenda of the Left has impacted women. And we certainly see this in women's sports bills that are being introduced all across the country-well over a dozen at this point, as well as bans on gender transition procedures being performed on young people." More states, he says, are watching children as young as six use hormones and puberty blockers and saying, "Not in our state."
A lot of people might be aware that Arkansas overrode the governor's veto on a gender transition ban for minors a few months ago. "But what they may not know is that 19 other states introduced that legislation last year," Quena said, "and we are on a good clip this year to see just as many states introduce the same type of bill this year to protect the children of their state. And again, this is an example of where our viewers and listeners need to be vocal and need to support these laws."
The biggest mistake conservatives can make, González argued, is to think of your state in terms of red or blue. People don't speak up because they think they know where their state stands. If it's a Republican-leaning state, they think state leaders have things covered. If they're in a liberal state, they think their involvement won't make a dent. Both approaches are wrong. "Trust me," González said, "there are good and bad bills moving right now in your state that need your voice of opposition or support -- no matter where you live."
To make sure you're up-to-date on the debates in your state, sign up for FRC's action alerts here. We'll make sure you have all the information you need to weigh in on key policies at the community and state level.