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Trump rattles statehouse order

SACRAMENTO — In state capitals from Albany to Sacramento, and in Democratic and Republican-controlled statehouses, President Donald Trump is emerging as a central organizing principle for both parties.

For governors and lawmakers traditionally focused within their own borders, the opening of legislative sessions this month— and the fierce intensity of the debate surrounding Trump’s executive action banning Muslim immigration from select countries— is laying bare political fault lines that the president is already recasting outside of Washington D.C., a testament to his deeply polarizing style of governance and to the impact he is having on the policymaking agenda.

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“This morning, it’s hard for me to keep my thoughts just on California,” said Gov. Jerry Brown in a defiant State of the State address last week, a speech that marked a thematic departure from his previous offerings.

The Democratic governor vowed to resist Trump on issues ranging from health care to climate change and immigration. And within hours of Trump announcing his order to start building a U.S.-Mexico border wall, the state’s Democratic legislative leaders scrambled to fast-track legislation to provide legal assistance to immigrants facing deportation and to restrict local law enforcement agencies’ cooperation with immigration enforcement.

“We will not spend a single cent nor lift a finger to aid his efforts,” Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León told reporters at the Capitol.

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown pledged Oregon “will not retreat" on America's civil rights.

Lamenting “rhetoric questioning the very citizenship and civil rights of Americans,” Oregon Gov. Kate Brown pledged Oregon “will not retreat.” | AP Photo

While Brown lit into Trump on Tuesday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo was already girding against the president on the opposite coast, rolling out his own legislative agenda and announcing measures to safeguard access to free contraception and medically necessary abortion in New York.

“These regulatory actions will help ensure that whatever happens at the federal level, women in our state will have cost-free access to reproductive health care and we hope these actions serve as a model for equality across the nation,” Cuomo said in a statement.

In other Democratic states, governors delivering annual addresses this month adopted an uncommonly solemn tone. Lamenting “rhetoric questioning the very citizenship and civil rights of Americans,” Oregon Gov. Kate Brown pledged Oregon “will not retreat.” Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo urged residents amid “uncertainty all around us,” to “hold on to our founding covenant: That there’s a place here for everybody. No matter what your gender or your race or your creed or where you’re from or who you love, there’s a place for you here.”

Anxious Democrats in Oregon and Colorado, meanwhile, moved forward with bills related to climate change and immigration, while Republicans emboldened by the presidential election proposed legislation to restrict abortion access in Kentucky and Missouri and to curb protests in Minnesota, Indiana, Iowa and other states. In Minnesota and Virginia, two states Trump lost, GOP state legislators introduced measures that would allocate those states’ electoral votes by congressional district — a change that would have netted 11 additional electoral votes for Trump had it been in place in 2016.

In the nation’s largest cities, protests sparked by Trump’s election have increased pressure on governors and lawmakers to respond forcefully to the president’s policies, while upcoming elections in many states have presented Democrats a common foil.

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Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo urged residents amid “uncertainty all around us,” to “hold on to our founding covenant: That there’s a place here for everybody.” | AP Photo

“Everything this guy is doing, it’s gold for organizing,” Joe Salazar, a Democratic state lawmaker from suburban Denver, said after arriving at a local community meeting Wednesday to find a standing room-only crowd.

Salazar, who said he decided before the election to prepare legislation to protect undocumented immigrants from deportation because he feared Trump might win, observed, “For the first time, it’s going to bring all these people together as one to stand up against the federal overreach and the idiocy of his presidency.”

In California, where several high-profile Democrats already are raising millions of dollars for the 2018 election to succeed Brown, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom was soliciting donations off of Trump’s inauguration within days of the Jan. 20 event. He wrote to prospective donors, “Republicans in Washington are already coming after our health care, fair wages, education and equality — issues Californians have paved the way on. I need you with me — right now — to show we’re not wasting a second before fighting back.”

The sea change in Republican-controlled capitals has been equally dramatic, with Trump’s inauguration met by jubilation after eight years of President Barack Obama. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott told Fox News that he is seeking legislation to “remove from office” any officeholder who promotes so-called “sanctuary” cities, while Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback cast Trump’s plan to repeal the federal healthcare overhaul as a vindication of his own state’s decision to reject Obama’s Medicaid expansion.

“The new Congress and administration in Washington are setting to work repealing and replacing Obamacare even as I speak, dramatically re-writing the Medicaid program,” Brownback said in his State of the State address. “Promises of limitless ‘free’ money from Washington to cover expanded populations were never going to be kept, but that reality might now arrive sooner than later. For states who took the expansion path, the reckoning could be severe.”

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Texas Gov. Greg Abbott told Fox News this week that he is seeking legislation to “remove from office” any officeholder who promotes so-called “sanctuary” cities. | AP Photo

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert, a Republican who was critical of Trump last year, nevertheless praised the administration in his State of the State address on Wednesday, believing Trump will seek to shift control from the federal government to states on issues ranging from education and transportation to health care, natural resources and public lands.

“Last week I was in Washington, D.C.,” he said. “Having just returned from the inauguration, I can attest that if there is one message that is clear from the new administration, it is that power will be returned to the people and to the states.”

Yet repeal of the federal health care overhaul could cripple some state budgets or leave millions of Americans uninsured, and several Republican governors of states that expanded Medicaid have urged Congress to approach the law with caution.

The effect of orders that Trump has articulated in the early days of his presidency have already been felt in many states — 16 Democratic state attorneys general on Sunday condemned Trump’s executive action banning Muslim immigration from select countries. In New York, Cuomo’s administration said Thursday that it had withdrawn a request to provide Medicaid coverage to prison inmates, while Trump’s withdrawal of the United States from the Trans-Pacific Partnership spurred unrest among agriculture and other industry interests throughout the United States. In California, legislative leaders hired former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to assist with potential legal challenges to Trump’s policies, including on immigration and climate change.

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Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback cast President Donald Trump’s plan to repeal the federal healthcare overhaul as a vindication of his own state’s decision to reject Obama’s Medicaid expansion. | AP Photo

The political effect of Trump’s election has been on vivid display, too. In Ohio, the state GOP ousted the party chairman who had rankled the president during the election season despite his record of success. And just hours after Brown finished his address in California, the popular Republican governor of Massachusetts crafted an allusion that served to distance himself from a president who lost his state by about 27 percentage points.

“It’s one thing to stand in a corner and shout insults at your opponents,” Gov. Charlie Baker said in his State of the Commonwealth speech. “It’s quite another to climb into the arena and fight for common ground.”

Baker is expected to seek re-election in 2018, and he has taken criticism for not attending the women’s march in Boston after Trump’s inauguration. On Saturday, the GOP governor’s office issued a statement denouncing the travel ban from select countries and followed up Sunday with a longer statement condemning the ban.

“Trump is certainly a mine field for Republican governors who didn’t back him to navigate,” said Rob Gray, a Massachusetts-based strategist who has advised Baker. “If you are a bipartisan, moderate Republican governor in a blue state, Trump’s daily action or tweets can suddenly become a political spear that you have to dodge and divert attention from your agenda or the state political issues you’d rather be talking about.”

At the same time, Gray said that in a re-election campaign, Trump could prove helpful to a moderate Republican, too.

“Baker featured his moderate credentials and reinforced them with voters by making anti-Trump allusions in his State of the State,” Gray said. “Nobody really knows how Trump’s going to govern, so it may be in your political and policy interests to speak out against Trump. But at the same time, states are dependent on federal funding and other resources. Will that criticism cause you to have problems with the federal agencies? Every governor is certainly asking themselves that question.”

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Source: POLITICO – TOP Stories

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