Not Just The Presidential Election

Some state legislation you might have missed during election day.

Overlooking the obvious transition of the White House from red to blue, the 2020 election also included the passing of some monumental bills, and opportunity for racial and gender inclusion. 

For starters, a record number of women will be seated in the 117th U.S. Congress. At least 131 women will represent the people in 2021. However, the victory for women does not end there. Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will not only be the first female elected to the role, but also the first person of color. 

State legislatures were also a major topic for discussion in what is being called “Election Week.” Only 38 state initiatives were voted on on election day, which is significantly lower than that of the 2016 election, but these smaller numbers still carried great weight. 

The legalization of marijuana has swept over many states in the past 5 years, with New Jersey, South Dakota, Montana, Arizona and even Mississippi joining the ranks in 2021. This brings the total number of states allowing medical cannabis to 36. Fifteen states are now also allowing recreational use of marijuana. 

Oregon made some large-scale changes to their drug laws. The state legalized the possession of small amounts of harder drugs such as cocaine and heroin in hopes to lower the prison space occupied by people with drug offenses. Instead, the state is choosing to allocate its money from taxes on marijuana sales to treatment centers for people struggling with addiction. Oregon believes that this will take big strides to improve the mental health of the citizens and protect underprivileged communities from the disproportional impact of drug charges and imprisonment. They also legalized psilocybin with the restriction that the person in possession must be at the age of 21 or older. This drug is often used in anxiety treatments and its legalization hopes to support those struggling with mental illness.

While the West was enacting social changes, Florida made more financial changes. Florida passed a pro-labor constitutional amendment which plans to raise the minimum wage to $15/hour by the year 2026. This passed by a slim margin, needing 60 percent of the votes and receiving 61. The current rate is $8.56 in Florida, but this will rise to $10 in September and increase by $1 every following September until 2026.

California Labor laws have changed for the worse if you work for Uber, Lyft or DoorDash. Workers and drivers are no longer protected through state regulations and benefits, as California now considers them private contractors.

Mississippi officially has a new flag design, containing a magnolia flower and the phrase “In God We Trust.” The state can now officially replace their flag as most of the country has deemed the earlier Confederate imagery unacceptable and divisive. 

Finally, abortion laws were placed in front of many Americans last week. While Colorado failed to ban abortion after 22 weeks, Louisiana also passed anti-abortion legislation, not through action, but through verbage. Their State Constitution now contained the preface that “Nothing in this constitution shall be construed to secure or protect a right to abortion, or require the funding of abortion.”