Delaware Could Become First State with Statehouse Workers Union

The Delaware State Capitol.

The Delaware State Capitol. Shutterstock

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STATE AND LOCAL ROUNDUP | Temporary gun ban in Virginia capitol … Idaho lawmakers press for LGBTQ protections … California may purchase land for a new state park.

The majority of legislative staff in the Delaware state Senate and House of Representatives announced their intention to unionize this week. If the effort succeeds, it would make the state the first to have a legislative worker union. The union is meant to include Democratic, Republican, and independent staffers and would be affiliated with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. In a statement, the workers said that they aim “to to create the first fully-inclusive state legislative union that cuts across partisan lines in the history of the United States—a historic step forward for public service workers across the country.” The group is now requesting voluntary recognition from state legislative leaders. House Minority Leader Danny Short and Senate Minority Leader Gerald Hocker, both Republicans, said they weren’t aware of the intent to unionize in advance of the announcement. “We recognize the right of our employees to collectively organize … There are still many questions which need to be answered regarding this proposal,” they said in a joint statement. State Senate Democrats released a statement saying they have “a lengthy record of supporting the rights of workers to collectively bargain for better wages and working conditions.” Organizing committee member and Delaware Senate Democratic deputy communications director Dylan McDowell said that he hopes the move will inspire other efforts in the state. “It’s an important chance for the First State to make the first move here. Not just the state legislative staff, but hoping that workers in Delaware unionize no matter where they work and it’s a chance to lead by example,” he said. [American Prospect; Associated Press]

TEMPORARY GUN BAN | Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam will declare a temporary emergency to ban all weapons from Capitol Square in advance of a gun rights rally that will happen at the state capitol next week. The move comes after state lawmakers banned guns inside the Capitol and legislative office building; that ban did not include Capitol grounds where the rally will be held. The ban on the grounds is the result of reports of inflammatory online postings from pro-gun and militias that plan to attend the rally on Monday, and fears that violence will break out on the scale of the 2017 white nationalist protests in Charlottesville that left one person dead. Phillip Van Cleave, the organizer of the rally, said that the event will still proceed. "Hell no he's not going to stop it with that little act. The governor has touched the third rail. He has motivated people to drive across the state and from other states to come protect our rights,” Van Cleave said. Michelle Sandler with Virginia Moms Demand Action said that the rally isn’t indicative of a state-wide condemnation of gun control measures. "Virginians made their voices heard in November when they voted overwhelmingly for candidates who ran on promises to pass common-sense gun safety laws. The extremist armed militias heading to Richmond next Monday are not representative of the majority of Virginians,” she said. [USA TODAY; WRIC]

LGBTQ PROTECTIONS | For the 14th year in a row, Democratic lawmakers in Idaho introduced a bill to add sexual orientation and gender to the state’s Human Rights Act. Lawmakers say the addition would protect LGBTQ people from housing and employment discrimination. State Sen. Maryanne Jordan introduced the bill, known as “Add the Words,” referring to the inclusion of sexual orientation and gender discrimination to the state code. "Idahoans and their families are desperate for the legislature to Add the Words. While several cities across Idaho that have ordinances prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, all citizens should be protected from being kicked out of their home or being fired from their job regardless of their gender or who they love,” she said. The bill has gained little support from Republicans in prior years that it has been introduced, as some lawmakers say that barring discrimination against people of a certain gender identity or sexual orientation would infringe on religious freedom. [KTVB; Idaho Statesman]

STATE PARK | A 51,000-acre cattle ranch in California is up for sale for the first time in 85 years and some state lawmakers are urging Gov. Gavin Newsom to purchase the land for a state park. Last week, Newsom proposed spending $20 million to open the state’s first new state park in over a decade, but did not specify a site. The ranch is located east of San Francisco, and the lawmakers from the Bay Area wrote to Newsom about the potential to buy the site. “This is a matter of urgent concern because this irreplaceable property is for sale now, and non-profit conservation groups have assembled funding commitments that could finance more than half the cost,” the lawmakers wrote. The Nature Conservancy and The Trust for Public Lands have already secured $30 million for the purchase of the land. Lawmakers have encouraged Newsom to “move quickly” following reports that several other buyers had expressed interest. Todd Renfrew, the broker for the sale, said that the owners want to sell the property whole and have seen interest from national and international buyers. “They want whoever buys the ranch to keep it whole. So far, I’ve shown the property to 14 prospective buyers. Most of them want to remain confidential, but several are qualified to buy the whole thing,” Renfrew said. [Los Angeles Times; Santa Cruz Sentinel]

‘RACIST’ NEWSPAPER | The mayor of Hialeah, Florida, a city neighboring Miami, accused the Miami Herald of being “racist” and “anti-Cuban” for its coverage of a police investigation into charges against a Hialeah police officer arrested on charges of sexual abuse. Police sergeant Jesús Menocal, Jr. was indicted late last year by federal prosecutors for allegedly detaining two women, one of whom was a minor, and sexually abusing them. He was fired after his arrest and pleaded not guilty. Mayor Carlos Hernández said that the newspaper’s coverage, which exposed the investigation after public records requests for Menocal’s file, was biased. “The Herald’s never been a friend of Hialeah, they’ll never be a friend of Hialeah. They don’t care about our city, they don’t care about our people. It’s a racist newspaper. Anti-Hialeah, anti-Cuban,” Hernández said. Aminda Marqués González, a Cuban woman who is the executive editor of the Herald, said that the mayor was trying to “divert attention from the city’s lack of accountability.” [Miami Herald]

Emma Coleman is the assistant editor for Route Fifty.

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