2016 finally ended (yay!), but that meant 2017 had to inevitably start and make everything worse (boo!). Anyway, that also means it’s time for our first state news roundup of the Trump administration. Since our new president has fit an entire year’s worth of news into his first week in office, we decided to focus mostly on local reactions to what’s happening at the federal level — with a few turns into the absurd for the sake of our collective sanity.
Waiting for Refugees
Following Trump’s new executive order banning many Muslims from coming to the U.S., some legal residents will face extensive security checks when returning home, and some refugees won’t be able to come to the United States at all. That has left many cities across the country wondering what to do now that the plans they’ve made for welcoming Syrians are doomed to never see completion.
At least 64 people were approved to go to Utah before the ban was signed. “They’re crying and saying, ‘They’re not terrorists,’” one refugee who’s been helping others come to Utah for years told the Salt Lake Tribune. “‘Why is the U.S. government not helping us?’” The University of Alaska Fairbanks thinks that six of its students might be affected. Although Saudi Arabia isn’t on the list of countries affected by Trump’s executive order, Saudi students at the University of Montana are still worried about leaving the U.S. in case that changes. A woman in Lexington, North Carolina, doesn’t know when she’ll see her husband again. A wheelchair-bound man injured after doing work for the Army in Iraq was stuck at Fort Worth for 15 hours.
Rutland, Vermont, welcomed its first two Syrian refugee families earlier this month. They might also be the last two. In Austin, Texas, volunteers excited about the possibility of helping newcomers now have expectant stuffed animals that they no longer have plans for. “It was a shock,” one resettlement coordinator said in Toledo, Ohio, “because it was all talk before, but I never thought it was going to be reality.” Of course, plenty of people still think the ban is a good idea. The Washington Post talked to Christian Syrians in Pennsylvania who said, “Trump is right, in a way, to do what he’s doing. This country is going into a disaster.”
On Tuesday, Washington state’s attorney general became the first to sue Trump over the order. Others will likely join soon.
Apparently You Can Get Fired for Talking Like Trump
Several local officials are out of a job after saying awful things online about those participating in the Women’s March. Nebraska state representative Bill Kintner resigned after retweeting something that said the women at the march were too ugly to bother sexually assaulting — a line of reasoning once deployed by the current president. Kintner, who survived a cybersex scandal before being defeated by a tweet, said the tweet was “misconstrued,” and tried to make his farewell address into a cri de coeur for the politically incorrect. “Everything you say can and will be used against you, and every time you make a mistake they’re going to beat the living tar out of you,” he complained. “They’re going to pick you up and whack you on the head. They're going to take it for all the political gain they can get. It’s a blood sport game and that’s why people don’t like politics.” People also don’t like politics because it’s filled with powerful people making jokes about grabbing people by the pussy. Dathan Paterno, author of Desperately Seeking Parents, resigned from the school board in Park Ridge, Illinois, after tweeting about “vagina screechers.”
In Indiana, two lawmakers who posted offensive things on Facebook will not be demoted. One — who had also posted, “Wanna know who loves you more your wife or your dog? Lock them both in your trunk and see who’s happy to see you when you let them out” last month — joked about a picture of a woman getting pepper-sprayed with the line “PARTICIPATION TROPHIES. NOW IN LIQUID FORM.” The Indiana house speaker has apparently started giving out social media training to colleagues. The advice basically consists of, “You’re not Donald Trump,” which, to be honest, seems like a low bar to clear.
This Month in Unexpected Headlines
And now for something completely different: the Wall Street Journal highlighted a story in Auburn, Kentucky, with the headline, “When Horse Diapers and Freedom of Religion Collide.”
Yield for Drivers
A state representative who lives near the Standing Rock protest site in North Dakota and is unhappy about activists blocking the road introduced legislation that would erase any penalties for “unintentionally” running over pedestrians. This bill, which one local columnist said could inspire a new tourism tagline — “North Dakota — Legendarily Easy for Legally Killing People” — has not gone anywhere yet. A similarly controversial bill proposed this month has already been withdrawn. It would have — we swear we’re not joking — declared that all digital devices, from computers to smart fridges to cell phones, are “pornographic vending machines.” If users wanted to access “obscene material” they would have to pay a deactivation fee. For the brief time it was considered, a local attorney called it a “national embarrassment.”
Voters Say “More Transparency, Please,” Politicians Say, “Hmm, No Thanks”
After the 2014 midterms, South Dakota legislators tried to reverse the will of the people by passing a law to change a successful ballot measure that had raised the minimum wage. They failed. Now the same legislators would like to repeal a successful ballot measure on ethics reform that passed only two months ago. In other words, the state legislature might get rid of a law that voters thought was necessary to make state politics less corrupt, because — surprise — the politicians don’t think they need oversight. The initiative is on hold anyway; lawmakers challenged the rules before trying to repeal them, and the state court is currently looking things over. Meanwhile, the Republican state representatives trying to replace the ethics reform have been dealing with frequent calls to their offices. A handful of other states have specific guidelines preventing the legislative branch from getting rid of a law they don’t like only moments after voters call for it. South Dakota might want to look into that.