State Democratic officials spent much of President Donald Trump's first year in office revolting against his agenda — challenging him on immigration, climate change, net neutrality, marijuana legalization and more.
But this week, as part of a concerted effort to be viewed as more than just part of the anti-Trump "Resistance," lawmakers in all 50 states are going on offense. Over the course of the week, they've unveiled rafts of progressive legislation, held town halls, delivered speeches and staged rallies, all aimed at moving the ball forward on an array of economic and domestic priorities.
"Legislatures still want to be a part of the resistance, but much more than last year, they're really focusing on the things that are priorities for their constituents," said Sam Munger, director for strategic engagement of the State Innovation Exchange (SIX), a progressive policy shop.
SIX, which organized the initiative with the help of more than two dozen nonprofits, dubbed it "#FightingForFamilies Week of Action." At least 100 bills — including proposals to expand paid family leave and medical leave, increase the minimum wage and provide affordable community college — are expected to be introduced during legislative sessions in Statehouses across the U.S., the group said.
Coming a week after Trump's first State of the Union address — when the president pointed to tax cuts passed at the close of last year, along with his deregulation push — the effort is "still meant to stand in contrast with Trump's agenda" but the focus, Munger said, is on "sharing a vision."
That vision includes addressing issues like education, equal pay and infrastructure.
Democratic legislators in at least five states rolled out comprehensive agendas that aim to increase government accountability and boost funding for education initiatives like universal pre-K. Lawmakers in 12 states, including Colorado, Hawaii, North Carolina, Ohio and Virginia, are offering measures that would expand paid leave.
"Voters crave a different approach," Munger said, pointing to Democratic wins last November in the gubernatorial and House of Delegates races in Virginia, the gubernatorial race in New Jersey, and in the Senate race in Alabama in December.
Meanwhile, legislators in at least 12 states are holding news conferences or rallies at Statehouses across the country, including in Denver this week, to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the federal Family Medical Leave Act, and push for their own stronger state-paid family and medical leave laws.
Legislators in Connecticut and Rhode Island will focus on equal pay and infrastructure, while lawmakers in at Colorado, Florida, Maine, Michigan and Virginia, among other states, have been holding town halls and tele-town halls on similar issues designed to show what Democrats stand for — not against.
"In 2017, progressives were still largely wrapping their heads around Trump. Questions like, 'Who would he be, how did this happen, and how do we fight back?'" Munger said.
"This year, he's a known quantity," he added. "And now we need to become one, too."