Ep. 21 Show Page

Listen to “Ep. 21 Every State Legislature Impacts All of Us, with Melissa Walker, Head of Giving Circles at The States Project” on Spreaker.


Our guests are joined by Melissa Walker, whose career path shifted from publishing to politics after she attended an event with NY State Senator Daniel Squadron. She saw the importance of state legislatures and how decisions made in state capitals ripple outward and impact all of us. Hear how this happens and what you can do about it!

All episodes begin and end with the 2017 single “Rise” by rock group Betty (www.hellobetty.com)
All episodes are produced by Amy Yoder (www.alyoder.com)
Additional support provided by Cary and Logan at Broussard Global.

The Hosts Start by Sharing What They’re Pissed About

Carol is pissed that Russia’s Vladimir Putin is threatening nuclear war. President Biden said we’re as close to Armageddon as we were in the sixty years ago during the Cuban Missile Crisis, and world leaders at the United Nations seem to be helpless.

Betty is pissed about the Supreme Court heedlessly catalyzed chaos in June. The Dobbs decision, which overturned Roe v. Wade, caused interjurisdiction issues between states. She calls for protected access to things like telemedicine so that those who live in states with abortion bans can access the abortion pill. While the ACLU in New York is taking steps to make an amendment to the state’s constitution, that’s a process that will take years. Betty wants to see more done at the state and federal levels in upcoming legislative sessions – which is why Nov. 8th is so important.

Sherrye is pissed that Republicans might take control of the House of Representatives and the damage that they would do to if they did seize control. They’ll investigate the findings of the January 6th committee, impeach President Biden, not vote for the ERA, not protect voting rights, not protect same-sex marriage, not alleviate climate change. What they will do is pass a federal ban on abortion.

Find out more about the Equal Rights Amendment in Episode 1, Episode 11, and Episode 20.

To make sure those things don’t happen, make sure you’re registered to vote and make a voting plan.

Carol Gives a Shout-Out to the Supreme Court

Despite the addition of Justice Ketjani Brown-Jackson, it’s not looking good over there. Voting rights, LGBTQ rights, and the environment are all on the docket. Take a look at this article to see a more in-depth breakdown of what’s on the docket at the highest court in the land.

First Step: Know Who Represents You

Use Openstates.org to find who your state senators and representatives are!

The States Project: From Publishing to Politics

The author of 10 novels, our guest Melissa Walker pivoted her career in December of 2016, when she attended a holiday dinner with Daniel Squadron. She saw that everything that she cared about within the political realm wasn’t happening in Washington D.C. but rather in the state capitals. Some quick examples of highly impactful issues that start at the state level:

  • The bathroom bill in NC
  • Stand your Ground laws in FL
  • Flint water crisis in MI

At that dinner, Daniel Squadron said this: It is often cheaper to change the balance of power in a state chamber than it is to win a single congressional seat.

From there, Melissa and three other children’s book authors began Giving Circles, which helped shift power in states where the margins were close. This was the birth of the States Project.

In 2017, they supported 10 candidates in Virginia. Nine of them won their seats. The next year, Virginia’s state legislature had enough votes to expand Medicaid – 400,000 people got health care who hadn’t had it before. Carol also points out that Virginia was the 38th state to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment. Those nine extra votes made a very really difference, and the States Project has continued its work since then.

Looking Ahead to the Election of 2024

Melissa showcases exactly how critical state legislatures are in a much wider context. It is state legislatures that draw districting lines which determine who goes to the US Capitol (see Episode 8 for a discussion on gerrymandering).

While the Supreme Court is the highest court in the land, they don’t write laws. They rule on laws, many of which come from the state legislatures. It was a Mississippi law that took down Roe v. Wade, and if it had failed, there were 16 other cases lined up.

State legislatures decide on voting rights. But additionally, right-wing extremists are attempting to validate a dangerous fringe legal theory called the Independent State Legislature Doctrine, which argues that state lawmakers have complete and total control over federal elections.

Election-denying state lawmakers could ignore their voters and award presidential electors to the candidates of their choice in 2024. Every swing state in the country currently has a right-wing majority in power.

Keep a watch on the case Moore vs. Harper, which is slated to go before the Supreme Court.

The Path to Action

The State Project finds the tipping-point seats in the state legislatures. With the help of their Giving Circles, they help these candidates fund the brass tacks of running a strong campaign. The involvement of everyday people bringing their friends and family together makes a huge impact. These races are usually very, very close, and it’s important to make sure that everyone can get out to vote and that those key candidates can run effective campaigns.

How To Start a Giving Circle

Statesproject.org > Our States

There’s no minimum to start a giving circle, and you don’t need to live in these key states in order to make an impact in those areas. Remember, state legislatures ultimately impact all of us.

The States Project has a fundraising deadline of October 17th, so join or start a Giving Circle today!

After this giving deadline, the States Project will use funds to help ensure that candidates can get on the ground and knock on doors themselves. This can make a huge difference in switching those swing areas.

Giving Circle dollars are 100% out the door to the state that the Giving Circle chooses.

Email gcteam@statesproject.org to find out more!

Melissa Walker

Melissa Walker, Head of Giving Circles at The States Project

Melissa is the author of 10 novels for young adults and children. A former magazine editor, she now enjoys gathering people together to share stories about how they can pool their resources and change the balance of power in state legislatures. She is a graduate of Vassar College who hails from Chapel Hill, NC, and her work has appeared in publications including The New York Times and Teen Vogue.

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