While Trump Forces Historic Shutdown, Democratic Governors Are Setting Bold Agendas

The Democrats
9 min readJan 19, 2019

While President Trump presides over the longest federal government shutdown in history, Democratic governors are showing real leadership and introducing bold new agendas for their states. From plans to implement universal pre-K and affordable housing, to fighting climate change and voter suppression, Democratic governors are bringing bold visions and sensible solutions currently missing from the White House. See below:

CALIFORNIA: It’s a big deal: Newsom’s housing budget explained

“From major funding increases for affordable housing to his threat to take away any city’s transportation dollars if it doesn’t meet its housing quota, Newsom’s plans match the audacious ambitions he outlined in the campaign. ‘We are not playing small ball with housing,’ said Newsom. ”

COLORADO: In first State of the State speech, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis outlines ambitious policy agenda

“He called his plan to offer free, full-day kindergarten across the state his top priority in the 2019 session and said his plan included expanding preschool to underserved communities. He called his plan the ‘single biggest expansion’ of early childhood education in state history. And he outlined his goal to follow: full-day preschool for every child in Colorado.”

CONNECTICUT: Lamont plan would provide state-backed bank loans to unpaid federal workers
“Gov. Ned Lamont announced a plan Tuesday that would provide interest-free bank loans to federal workers who aren’t eligible for unemployment checks during the government shutdown. Details of the plan, which requires legislative approval, have not been worked out, but Lamont said the public-private partnership with Webster Bank will provide loans guaranteed by the state. The Connecticut Bankers Association supports the proposal, which may add more banks in coming days. Lamont said he would work closely with the General Assembly to win approval for his plan.”

DELAWARE: Governor Carney Announces $60 Million Opportunity Funding Initiative for Disadvantaged Students
“Governor John Carney, Delaware Education Secretary Susan Bunting, and education advocates on Tuesday announced a three-year, $60 million Opportunity Funding initiative to target resources toward Delaware’s most disadvantaged students. This program, for the first time in Delaware, will provide weighted funding for low-income and English learner students in schools across Delaware. Every Delaware school district and charter will receive a per-pupil appropriation for each English learner and low-income student they educate.”

HAWAII: Gov. Ige released budget proposal for next two fiscal years

“The Governor says part of that money would go towards building girls locker rooms on campuses as a way to close the gender equity gap in athletics. The State’s pre-kindergarten program would get 22 more classes and additional staff to operate. Ige’s budget also puts more than $160 million towards higher education programs in Hawaii. ‘Education has always been the foundation of our community and quality education in our public schools has always been one of my top priorities,’ Ige said.”

ILLINOIS: Gov. J.B. Pritzker signs law requiring state licensing of Illinois gun dealers

“The proposal Pritzker signed into law requires gun stores to get state licenses, a move that supporters contend could reduce gun violence because federal regulators are stretched too thin to adequately handle all the shops operating in Illinois. Pritzker called it ‘a long-overdue step to do more to prevent gun violence, to make sure guns don’t fall into the wrong hands, to make sure that we license gun shops just like restaurants and other businesses, and deter straw purchases, so that we can prevent someone from buying a gun for someone who is not legally allowed to own a gun.’”

KANSAS: Kansas governor expands ban on anti-LGBT bias to contractors

“Kansas’ new Democratic governor on Tuesday reinstated a ban on anti-LGBT bias in state agencies’ employment decisions that a Republican predecessor had repealed, and she also expanded the policy to cover government contractors. Gov. Laura Kelly’s executive order was her first official action since taking office Monday and fulfilled a promise she made repeatedly during her successful campaign last year. It bars state agencies from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity when hiring workers or deciding whether to promote, discipline or fire them.”

LOUISIANA: Governor Edwards releases 2019 agenda

“Louisiana governor John Bel Edwards recently released his 2019 agenda and he’s got big plans this election year. Edwards has his sites set on teacher pay raises. In the 2015–2016 school year, Louisiana teachers averaged $49,745; that’s compared to $50,955-the average of southern states. ‘We can’t afford not to give a raise to our teachers and I’ve targeted $1000 per teacher and $500 per support person,’ says Edwards.”

MAINE: Mills: Maine’s Medicaid Expansion Now Underway, As More Than 500 New Recipients Enrolled

“More than 500 Mainers now have coverage under Medicaid expansion. Gov. Janet Mills made the announcement Thursday morning, a week after she officially took office and pledged to expand the health care program that voters approved by referendum more than a year ago.”

MICHIGAN: Gretchen Whitmer Becomes Michigan’s 49th Governor

“Whitmer renewed her call for ‘building bridges’ at a time when ‘too many people want to separate and divide us by building walls.’ Without mentioning President Donald Trump or the partial federal government shutdown, she said Michigan must not be “paralyzed by partisanship” and its leaders should work together to provide a national blueprint for rebuilding infrastructure and addressing America’s literacy crisis.

‘None of us can afford to compromise Michigan’s economic future because we won’t compromise with one another,’ she said after being sworn in by state Supreme Court Justice Elizabeth Clement, a fellow East Lansing resident.”

MINNESOTA: Gov. Tim Walz’s first official action: creating a ‘Diversity, Inclusion and Equity’ council

“The first official action of Gov. Tim Walz’s administration was to renew a promise the state will strive to be more equitable and inclusive and for the first time making geography a focus of those efforts. ‘In Minnesota, we all know we are better off when we are in it together,’ Walz said. ‘The state must be a leader in ensuring everyone has an opportunity to thrive.’ Walz signed an executive order creating the “One Minnesota Council on Diversity, Inclusion and Equity” on Wednesday at the Capitol.”

MONTANA: Gov. Bullock Says Medicaid Expansion Good For Montana Businesses

“The governor says Medicaid expansion gives employers the benefit of having a healthier workforce enter their insurance pool. It can save them the expense of providing health coverage or paying a federal tax penalty. Businesses with 50 or more employees which don’t provide health insurance must pay the penalty. […] Bullock, and the Democratic minority of both chambers of the Legislature, are pushing for public support for the program as some Republican leaders are calling for big changes.”

NEVADA: Governor Sisolak Calls For More Education Funds, Gun Control In Address

“The speech, which lasted about 45 minutes, laid out a legislative agenda that called for increased spending for public education as well as healthcare. The new governor’s proposals call for lawmakers to increase the state’s minimum wage, increase pay for state employees and teachers by three percent while at the same time putting more money into the state’s rainy day fund, all without raising taxes.”

NEW JERSEY: NJ governor calls for expansion of voting rights

“New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) on Tuesday used his State of the State address to call for expanding voting rights to younger residents and felons. […] ‘Let’s open the doors to our democracy even wider,’ he said. ‘Let’s work together to allow residents to register to vote online and at the polls on Election Day. Let’s enact true early, in-person voting for our residents. Let’s allow 17-year olds to register and vote in our June primaries if they will turn 18 by the November general election.’”

NEW MEXICO: Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham gives first State of the State address

“Lujan Grisham wants to invest $500 million more dollars in education. The money would go toward teacher pay raises, a school supply fund and adding pre-k slots. ‘We need our educators, who are truly the best in the nation, to know this state will support them and treat them with the respect they deserve and have always deserved,’ Lujan Grisham said. ‘This is the session, this is the year, this is the moment we put New Mexico on the path to universal pre-k for every New Mexico child.’”

NEW YORK: New York lawmakers approve election reforms, including early voting

“The bills are expected to be signed into law by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who commended the legislature for taking ‘quick action’ on the issue, soon. […] ‘At a time when the federal government is doing everything it can to disenfranchise voters, we are taking action to make it easier for New Yorkers to participate in the democratic process and crack down on corporate influences in our election,’ Cuomo said in a statement on Monday.”

NORTH CAROLINA: Teacher diversity among Cooper’s top education priorities

“‘I strongly believe our state government, our law enforcement, our education system ought to look like the people that it serves and protects. Each one of you at this table has been a role model for many kids, and it is important for us to have a diversity of teachers to reflect the diversity of students we have at our public schools.’ said Governor Roy Cooper.”

OREGON: Gov. Kate Brown Demands Big Educational And Environmental Changes

“Her inauguration speech urged lawmakers to move quickly to address the state’s housing crisis. She mentioned her proposal to spend $400 million on housing. She’s also pushing a $20 million bonding package to speed up the construction of 200 units of permanent housing to target people who are currently homeless. […] The governor also hopes this legislative session, which begins in full next week, is an opportunity for lawmakers to make broad, systemic changes to the state’s often-failing public schools.”

PENNSYLVANIA: Wolf starts term with call to work on challenges
“Gov. Tom Wolf is starting his second term by asking the state’s residents to work together to make Pennsylvania a better place… Wolf plans to push for policies to fight climate change, improve public education, fix inequities in Pennsylvania’s criminal justice system and make voting easier and more secure.”

RHODE ISLAND: Raimondo makes her case for pre-K investment
“If school can start for 4-year-olds in the year before kindergarten, Gov. Gina Raimondo said the benefits will be valuable. ‘It is a fact, proven over and over again, that investment in pre-K means kids do better in school. They graduate high school at a higher rate. They get good jobs and and they commit fewer crimes,’ she said Wednesday during a news conference at the Nathanael Greene Elementary School in Pawtucket.”

VIRGINIA: Ralph Northam column: Improving the quality of life for state employees

“Behind these many tangible expressions of my commitment to our state workforce resides an even greater commitment: to honor and improve the lives of those who protect us, educate our children, preserve our natural resources, grow our economy, build and maintain our transportation systems, develop our workforce, and ensure that our most vulnerable citizens have access to the best services and benefits available to them. My administration will continue to identify opportunities to enrich the lives of those who choose careers in public service. The commonwealth was founded on public service, and our state employees work together each day to make Virginia a better place for all of us to work and live.”

WASHINGTON: When it comes to climate change, it’s ‘Washington’s hour to shine,’ Inslee says during annual address

“Inslee stressed the importance of tackling climate change in Washington. Policies he proposes would steeply cut emissions and help the state transition to 100 percent clean electricity by 2035, Inslee said. […] Mental health was Inslee’s second talking point, and one that will see a lot of action this session. He said that helping people before they reach crisis instead of reacting to the crisis is the transformation the state needs in order to help those who are suffering.”

WISCONSIN: Tony Evers signs executive orders related to Medicaid expansion, pre-existing conditions

“Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers signed two executive orders related to health care access and insurance coverage on Tuesday, his office announced. One order calls on the state Department of Health Services to develop a plan to expand Medicaid eligibility ‘to ensure that more Wisconsinites have access to affordable, quality healthcare, while saving Wisconsin taxpayer dollars.’”

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