It's almost summer, but our radar for weird or just plain bad state politics never goes on vacation. Here is a taste of the latest headshake-inducing news to come out of our 50 state capitols.
How to overpower watery creatures 101
Several Michigan residents seem to be determined to declare war on those who call the state's lakes and waterways home, judging from a random cross section of stories from this month. A man named Hal Hutchinson is trying to repeal a 1929 law keeping him from hunting frogs with a spear and flashlight, because, as he puts it, “it’s a tremendous sport if you like to get muddy and traipse around farm ponds.” The Detroit Free Press notes that “nobody’s quite sure why the law is in place.”
Whatever the reason, the stakes are high, and the future of Michigan's children is at stake. As Hutchinson told the state Senate Natural Resources Committee, “We can either have youth gigging frogs with artificial light, or we can have them smoking reefer out behind the garage.”
Meanwhile, giant pets that were probably once small enough to flush down the toilet are growing up into toothy beasts terrorizing lakes and streams in the state, probably because they were the type of young fish who chose reefer over frog-stabbing. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources heard from one person who caught a South American redtail catfish that was nearly 2 feet long and destined to have an incredibly sucky winter. This pestilence of aquatic rats is not a unique problem to Michigan; one expert in Minnesota said earlier this year, “We want to kill Dory.”
And it all might be the government's fault. As the New York Times notes, “The United States government played a large role in [popularizing the pet], according to Katrina Gulliver, a historian who has chronicled the goldfish. For decades in the late 1800s, the newly established Commission on Fisheries gave goldfish to Washington, D.C., residents as a publicity stunt, handing out as many as 20,000 fish in some years.”
In other news, you can now hunt feral hogs by hot-air balloon in Texas.
Texas is busy making life worse for most of its residents
Texas’s elected officials are done legislating for the year, but they found myriad ways to make life worse for many of the state’s citizens before the month ended. Officials in the state have already sued Texas for passing SB4, legislation that allows law enforcement to question anybody being detained about immigration status — basically a racial-profiling measure — and penalizes elected officials who refuse to comply with ICE.
When a large number of protesters gathered at the capitol, one state representative reportedly said, “I called ICE — fuck them,” a remark that nearly incited a fistfight between legislators, and led to said representative writing a Facebook post in which he said of a colleague, “I made it clear that if he attempted to, in his words, ‘get me,’ I would shoot him in self defense. I am currently under DPS protection.”
The law goes into effect on September 1.
Around the same time, the Texas House approved an anti-trans bathroom bill, although the Senate, which already passed a slightly different bill prohibiting transgender students from using the restroom of their choice, didn't join them, keeping the legislation dead. At least for now.
Both branches of the state legislature have been passing anti-abortion bills like mad. One measure was included in an animal cruelty bill by a politician who said he “cannot, will not, and shall not allow the Texas House to place a higher value to a pet over the life of a human being.” Another could send a person driving someone to an abortion clinic to jail. Meanwhile, activists have gone to the state capitol dressed as Atwoodian handmaids to protest the legislation, yelling “shame” when a bill passes. While the Supreme Court overturned one of the state's abortion provider requirements last year, which required clinics to adhere to near-impossible hospital-like standards, only two of the locations that closed because of the law have reopened.
“These statues are not just stone and metal”
New Orleans mayor Mitch Landrieu has tried to explain, as eloquently as possible, why monuments honoring Confederate figures needed to fall. "There is a difference,” he said in a speech earlier this month, explaining why his city's statues commemorating the Civil War had been removed, “between remembrance of history and reverence of it. ... These statues are not just stone and metal. They are not just innocent remembrances of a benign history. These monuments purposefully celebrate a fictional, sanitized Confederacy; ignoring the death, ignoring the enslavement, and the terror that it actually stood for.”
Given that our country is pockmarked with places that defend the side that lost the Civil War, there are still plenty of people trying to bring bad history back from the dead. One Mississippi state representative wrote on Facebook, the official library of the future for ill-thought-out opinions of the past, “If the, and I use this term extremely loosely, 'leadership' of Louisiana wishes to, in a Nazi-ish fashion, burn books or destroy historical monuments of OUR HISTORY, they should be LYNCHED!”
Just a normal month in Florida politics
That is the state's lieutenant governor. He just killed a 15-foot python with a pocket knife.
That is Tampa's mayor. He just joked about pointing machine guns at reporters and watching them “cry like little girls.”
Thanks for tuning in to this month in Florida.
This month in unexpected headlines
Courtesy of the Chicago Tribune: “Alderman, victimized by squirrel, still fighting trash-seeking furry rodents.”
Additionally, this month in things that people never expected to do for their political beliefs: “Don't compare the hair: Alaska lawmaker's look-alike turns to bleach after abortion controversy.”
And last but not least: “Happy birthday to the Minnesota driver's license lady.”