The federal legislative branch never gets much done during an election year, but the same can’t be said for the 50 state governments scattered around the country. These pride-filled, self-described laboratories of democracy have been busy passing legislation both consequential and odd, alarming and amusing. Or just doing other weird/depressing stuff. Here’s a taste of the … more out-of-the-ordinary things that have happened in state politics around the country this month.
Missouri: State Legislator Grammar Cop Takes On Capitol
State Rep. Tracy McCreery just couldn’t take it anymore, which is why she introduced HR1220 earlier this month. "NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED," the resolution ends, "that we, the members of the Missouri House of Representatives, Ninety-eighth General Assembly, hereby urge the members of the Missouri House of Representatives to use the word ‘fiscal’ instead of ‘physical’ when referring to fiscal matters."
Is this really such a problem in Missouri that passing a resolution is necessary? McCreery, who’s been in the House since 2011, says yes. "I wish I could say that I was just trying to be funny," she told MTV News, "but I just snapped one day at work after someone mispronounced ‘fiscal’ for the 1,000th time. I figured this was the healthiest way to vent."
Since Democrats are in the minority, she’s not sure that the resolution will ever get a vote. Regardless of whether her quest to stop colleagues from breaking grammar laws succeeds, she says that the resolution got a pretty good reaction already. A few lobbyists at the Capitol, many of whom have been around far longer than those making the laws, told her it was "the best resolution of the year."
West Virginia: The Curious Case of the Ill-Timed Stomach Bug
After Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin signed a bill legalizing raw milk, a few delegates celebrated by drinking the unpasteurized nectar of the gods. When those same legislators became mysteriously ill shortly after, they insisted that the fickle cow juice wasn’t to blame. The guy who sponsored the legislation "caught me in the hallway, offered a cup to me, and you want to try to be a gentleman," one of the sick politicians told a local TV station. "I had a small sip and walked away and tossed the rest of it." Delegate Scott Cadle, said milk distributor, told the Charleston Gazette-Mail, "There’s nobody up there that got sick off that milk. It’s just bad timing, I guess." He stayed home sick shortly after the bill became law, saying he caught the stomach bug, like many of his colleagues.
Rhode Island: Seals of Approval
The state legislature is currently deciding whether to name the harbor seal Rhode Island’s official state mammal. The bill’s sponsor told the AP that "fellow lawmakers have greeted his bill positively and he isn't worried about detractors who might consider it a waste of time."
Alabama: Disgruntled Employee Episode Magically Turns Into Sex Scandal
Earlier this week, Spencer Collier, head of the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency, was fired. He is clearly not happy about this development, and is retaliating by trying to take the governor down with him by getting him mired in a sex scandal. Gov. Robert Bentley, whose 50-year marriage ended last fall, has denied that he had a relationship with one of his top advisers — but Collier says one of his underlings saw text messages on the governor’s cell phone, which Bentley accidentally dropped at an event, to prove it. The fired law enforcement official also said he heard a tape a few years ago that, per the Birmingham News, featured the governor making "improper comments about [said adviser’s] ‘breasts and behind.’" That video allegedly came from a member of Bentley’s family who had hoped to stage an affair intervention.
No one is fessing up to anything yet, so who knows what the heck is going on here. Bentley did say in a press conference on Wednesday, "At times in the past, have I said things that I should not have said? Absolutely, that’s what I’m saying today."
New Hampshire: Cold Weather > Prudes
The state legislature decided not to make women who "free the nipple" in the "Live Free or Die" state criminals. Before killing the bill that would have banned female public nudity, a few state lawmakers argued that women would start going to Little League games topless if allowed, and that if women were going to go topless, they should be OK with men grabbing or staring. The House Criminal Justice and Public Safety decided this was a stupid bill: "In a state with an average temperature of only 46 degrees, the risk of rampant nudity seems rather low."
Arizona: Wonder Woman 2016
At the beginning of March, AZ Powergirl announced that she was running for the state legislature with the Green Party. According to KPNX, she "might be the first person whose full-time job is cosplayer to run for office in Arizona." Cara Nicole Trujillo mostly dresses up as superheroes, and she wants to work in politics because there are limits to how much you can help the community when you just look like Wonder Woman. The election is in May.
Illinois: Staple Guns and Politics Don’t Mix Well
Earlier this month, Bob Zwolinski lost a state House Democratic primary to incumbent Rep. Cynthia Soto. A week before that, he had to go to the ER to get a staple removed from his forehead. Soto’s daughter was one of the two people charged in the attack, which allegedly took place outside Zwolinski's campaign office. Soto and a twentysomething man were allegedly putting up campaign posters outside Zwolinski's headquarters, "and then a melee ensued," he told the Washington Post. He accused his attackers of hitting him with a beer bottle before or after they used a staple gun on him.
The attorney for those charged told reporters that the whole thing was a media stunt orchestrated by Zwolinski after he lost. He added, "If he's going around saying a girl's beating him up, that's sad, too. Maybe it's good he lost the race."
During the bond hearing, Judge Maria Kuriakos Ciesil was very confused about how the simple act of putting up campaign posters ended so violently anyway: "I'm really sad at how this whole election process is going. … It's really sad this is going on. It's an embarrassment to our entire country."
New York: Last Stand Against Mixed Martial Arts Ends
On Tuesday, the state legislature legalized professional mixed martial arts, a mash-up of judo, wrestling, and kickboxing. Before then, New York was the only state left in the whole country where the sport was banned. Supporters of the ban deemed the sport, which often leaves participants bloody and sometimes concussed, too violent. However, people in New York were still doing MMA even with the ban, so legislators decided to legalize it so they could regulate it. The state will be able to make money off it now, too; the Ultimate Fighting Championship has been eager to host matches at Madison Square Garden.
Not everyone is happy about the rule change. Manhattan Assemblyman Daniel O'Donnell, the brother of Rosie O’Donnell, wanted to keep the ban. "Well, I should really like it," O’Donnell, who is gay, said on the Assembly floor. "You have two nearly naked, hot men trying to dominate each other. That’s gay porn with a different ending."
Tennessee: March Maizeness
Earlier this week, the Tennessee state Senate and House faced off in its annual corn shucking competition. The House won for the third year in a row after shelling 16 pounds of corn. Along with glory, the winning team also got to hold on to the trophy, shaped like a gold corn sheller.
Utah: Resolutions Are Easy, Old Men; Governing’s Harder
On March 16, Democratic state Sen. Jim Dabakis dressed up like King George, and Republican state Rep. Ken Ivory got made up as Alexander Hamilton. Together, the unlikely pair convinced their colleagues to pass a resolution honoring "Lin-Manuel Miranda for his contributions to art and civics education through his composition of the musical Hamilton."
"There are not a lot of things that my friend Representative Ivory and I agree on," Dabakis said. "We're suing each other."
The text of the resolution is immensely cheesy, and heavily quotes from the musical: "NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Legislature of the state of Utah, the Governor concurring therein, are not ‘throwin' away [our] shot’ to express our gratitude to Lin-Manuel Miranda, sir, and recognize that Utah, America, and the world ‘has its eyes on you’ for your exemplary contributions to the arts and education by "placing [us all] in the narrative’ of our rich American history with Hamilton, the man and the musical."
The resolution passed unanimously in the House — perhaps because Ivory's fellow legislators just wanted him to stop rapping.
A few senators were against the resolution; the Salt Lake Tribune reports that state Sen. Margaret Dayton "voted against the resolution, worrying it could encourage young children to listen to inappropriate songs."
Texas: Misinformed Candidate Vows to Raise State of Misinformed Students
It seems likely that Mary Lou Bruner will be on the Texas State Board of Education by the end of the year, which means she’ll be able to influence what ends up in the textbooks read by the state’s students. Mary Lou Bruner thinks that "Obama has a soft spot for homosexuals because of the years he spent as a male prostitute in his twenties. That is how he paid for his drugs." She also thinks, "School shootings started after the schools started teaching evolution." During the Republican primary for the open seat earlier this month, she got more votes than anyone else running, and will face off against her top rival in a runoff on May 24. Given the makeup of the district, the winner of the GOP primary will likely be the victor this fall.
That’s it for March. Tune in next month to see if the silliness gets even worse the closer we get to Election Day (this seems likely).